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(2)The Drafting and lssuance of the Imperial Rescript on Education

The Meiji Constitution provided the structure for Japan in the political realm. On another level, the Imperial Rescript on Education (Kyoiku ni kansuru Chokugo) was issued to provide a structure for national morality. As was noted in the previous chapter, in 1879 the Imperial Will on the Great Principles of Education (Kyogaku Seishi) had been prepared, but from about 1882 with the emergency of the treaty revision problem, Western thought once again seemed to dominate many policy discussions and in the areas of education this resulted in major doubts about previous policies. Various disputants presented their own ideas with respect to educational policy, and the so-called "confusion of moral education" prevailed. In 1882 Fukuzawa Yukichi published his anti-Confucian tract entitled What Way for Moral Education (Tokuiku Ikan) and argued the need for a new morality for the new age. Kato Hiroyuki, in his 1887 tract Debating the Direction for Moral Education (Tokuiku Hohoron), indicated a policy of moral educationn based on religion while Nose Sakae (1852-1895), in his 1890 work Debating the Stabilization of Moral Education (Tokuiku Chinteiron), insisted that moral education ought to be based on certain ethical theories. In contrast, Naito Chiso (1826-1902) published his thoughts in a work entitled Putting Forward the Fundamental Polity of the Nation (Kokutai Hakki) in which he argued that the foundation of moral education ought to be determined by the Imperial House. In addition, Motoda Nagazane, in his Theory of National Education (Kokkyoron), insisted on a clarification of moral education according to ancestral teachings, and in so doing, clarified the developments in his thinking since the earlier Imperial Will on the Great Principles of Education. Nishimura Shigeki presented an argument for a compilation of moral writings by Imperial command and said that the foundation of moral education ought to be built up by the Imperial House. In addition, he called for an agency called the Meirin'in to be established within the Ministry of the Imperial Household to make clear the moral obligations of the various members of the nation. He also argued that the Imperial will should be followed in establishing a policy for moral education. Mori Arinori, the Minister of Education, rejected Confucianism and argued that moral education in the schools ought to be taught on the basis of ethics.

The various conflicting opinions expressed by national leaders concerning moral education resulted in considerable confusion. The debate was also taken up by educators in the local areas, and this finally led them to demand that their prefectural governors give them clear guidelines concerning the appropriate approach for moral education. As a consequence, in February, 1890, at the conference of prefectural governors a proposal indicating the desire for such a policy statement from the central educational authorities was drafted and presented to the Cabinet. This proposal was received and debated by the Cabinet and finally delivered to Emperor Meiji (Meiji Tenno). According to the later recollections of Education Minister Yoshikawa Akimasa (1841-1920), Emperor Meiji gave an order to the previous Education Minister Enomoto Takeaki (1836-1908) to compile a collection of proverbs which could become the basis for the moral education of the people. In May, 1890, Yoshikawa Akimasa was appointed Minister of Education, and on the occasion of his investiture ceremony, he was specifically ordered to proceed with this compilation by Emperor Meiji.

While the initial policy had been to compile proverbs for moral education, it was later decided to present the message in the form of an imperial rescript. The first draft was entrusted to Nakamura Masanao (1832-1891), though the final text was a combination of many revisions by Motoda Nagazane, then Privy Councillor (Sumitsu Komonkan), in collaboration with Inoue Kowashi (1844-1895), then Director General of the Legislation Bureau under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister. Motoda Nagazane, after participating in the draft of the Imperial Rescript on Education reported the meaning of the issuance and the state of affairs at that time in a letter to Prime Minister Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922):

In recollection, as a consequence of not having determined the goal of education after the Meiji Restoration, the direction of the people was on the verge of becoming inconsistent and disrupted. Although in education we owe much to a wise and virtuous consideration of the Emperor and the efforts of various others, there have been not a few people yet who became confused pending the determination of this direction. Now thanks to the efforts of our virtuous Emperor, the chief aim of education leading our people has been clarified by this Imperial Rescript on Education. Even in the distant future when the immortal Constitution of the Empire of Japan would possibly be amended in response to the trend of the times, this chief aim of education shall continue uninterrupted and without doubt.

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