2022 Volume 73 Issue 1 Pages 1_143-1_165
The present article analyzes how relations between imperial court and political leadership were structured preceding the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution, with a focus on the period following Itō Hirobumi’s constitutional research in Europe.
Relations between court and politics during this time were based on a principle of mutual non-interference, forbidding intervention by members of the imperial court (including imperial household ministry officials) in the political decision-making process (political involvement by the court), as well as interference by the political leadership in court affairs (political utilization of the court). This principle was established at Itō’s initiative, based on his own past experience with a politicized court, L. v. Stein’s theory of constitutional monarchy, and Yanagiwara Sakimitsu’s theory of the imperial court as an institution.
Itō was ultimately concerned to strengthen the function of the imperial house as a focus for national integration, which can be seen as a rationale for constitutional monarchy. De-politicization of the imperial court was key to realizing this purpose. Itō’s way of conceiving relations between court and politics was thus central to political modernization in Meiji Japan as a (constitutionally monarchical) nation-state — in conjunction with redefinition of civil-military relations and recasting the role of the bureaucracy.