An American Scholar Honors a Debt

My specialty is Meiji-Taisho political/constitutional history and began on deciphering letter and other documents written in sosho (the calligraphic style) thirty years ago. The Kensei-shiryoshitsu (Modern Japanese Political History Material Room), National Diet Library is the nonpareil repository of these materials. Mr. Horiuchi Hiroo, Assistant Director of Modern Japanese Political Documents Division, has been unfailingly helpful and professional in advising me for over a decade. When this project was undertaken, he suggested that I be asked to check the Anglophone translator's rendition of the commentaries describing the primary documents, given the possibility that he is not a specialist in the subject. I was honored to be asked, and indeed, nearly all of the documents were familiar to me.

I hasten to add that the completion held for me a special significance. It enabled me to repay my debt to the Kenseishiryoshitsu and its successive personal for helping me grow and mature in my specialization over the span of these decades.The factual errors, though not a few, were easily caught. It dawned on me after a few pages, however, it would be necessary to compare every line of English rendition with the Japanese version. This I did after which I asked Mr. Horiuchi, who sat next to me as I explained my emendations, to check for possible errors on my part. This was an arduous, painstaking, time consuming process, but Mr. Horiuchi gamely persisted, in fact, insisted that he should do so.

We believe that we have had some success in this joint effort, granting that some infelicities may be caught by the sharp-eyed. Moreover, non-Japanese reader may, at certain spots sense a lack of a smoothly flowing narrative. This is due to the constraint of space imposed on the Japanese commentaries that in turn required leaving out transitional facts or events to explain the specific documents in question. If, however, the reader can come to grasp the basic thrust of the totality represented by, the documents and commentaries, this exercise may be judged a success. If brief, the basic thrust is that from the immediate post-Meiji Restoration years, the Japanese themselves were actively, purposefully, and gradually creating, in this imperfect world peopled by less then perfect human beings, a relatively pluralistic, open, inclusive political system of checks and balances, subject to changes by an increasingly vocal electorate. These were digressions and even setbacks along the way, but it is this indigenously created and developed system, including a lively movement for female enfranchisement, that enabled Japan to quickly regain its political footing, after its devastating defeat in 1945.

George Akita

Professor emeritus

Department of History

University of Hawaii

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