Posts Tagged ‘February 3’

The Name Game

Posted in General, On This Day on February 3rd, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 4 Comments

February 3, 1867:  Mutsuhito Begins His Nameless Reign

Happy 143rd anniversary to Japan’s Emperor Mutsuhito. He actually was the Mikado when Gilbert and Sullivan wrote the operetta. Aside from not ordering ninjas to assassinate the D’Oyly Carte Company, Mutsuhito should be remembered for two remarkable achievements.

First, during his reign (1867-1912), Japan transformed itself from a feudal backwater into a world power. It mastered four centuries of industrial developments and military advances in just four decades. In 1853, during his father’s reign, Japan had capitulated to a squadron of gunboats from a third-rate power known as the United States. By 1905, after humiliating China and Russia in a series of wars, Japan was the master of East Asia. And in 1941…well, that may have been overreaching.

Second, even more remarkably, Mutsuhito never married into Queen Victoria’s family. How many royal lines can say that!

So, why haven’t you heard of Mutsuhito? Because no one calls him that. It was his name but the Japanese have a strange custom. When an Emperor dies, his reign is given an official title and the Emperor is then known only by that name. Upon his death, he and his reign were named Meiji. It means “Enlightened Rule.” And historians refer to him as that.

Remember his grandson Hirohito? Well, you shouldn’t. He now is officially known as Showa, “Enlightened Peace.”

Imagine if we applied that custom to our presidents, renaming them for their era. So our last eight presidents would be officially designated as Watergate, Pardon, Hostages, Glasnost, Kuwait, Monica, Catastrophe and Hope Cleanup.