Skip to content

Sign up for a chance to win an exquisite rosary!


Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes


Japan, called in the language of the country Nihon or Nippon (Land of the Rising Sun), and Dai Nihon or Dai Nippon (Great Japan), is situated north-west of the Pacific Ocean and east of the Asiatic Continent. It lies between 199°20' and 156°32' E. long. (meridian of Greenwich) and between 21°62' and 50°56' N. lat. It consists of six large islands, Honshiu or Hondo, Kinsui, Shikoku, Hokkaido (Yezo), Taiwan or Formosa, and the southern part of Karafu (Sakhalin). There are besides about six hundred small islands, among which Sado, Oki, Tsushima, Iki, Awaji, and the four archipelagos of the Pescadores, Chishima (Kuriles), Ogasawara, Shima (Bonin), and Okinawa (Riu-kin) deserve mention. The word Japan is the collective name of the whole territory, exclusive of Formosa and Karafuto. The total area amounts to 162,655 sq. miles.

On 31 March, 1908, the total population of Japan was 49,092,000 inhabitants; that of Formosa 3,155,005; and that of the Ainus (aborigines) 17,632. The population is divided according to castes into the Kwazoku (nobles), heads of families, 902; members of families, about 4600; Shizoku (former knights or Samurai), heads of families 439,194; members of families 1,728,650; Heimin (private citizens), heads of families, 8,285,448; members of families 47,358,760. The number of the population increases rapidly. In 1876 it was 34,338,000; in 1886, 38,507,000; in 1896, 42,708,000; in 1907, 49,092,000, of which 24,839,000 were men, and 24,252,000 were women. The density is 415 to the sq. mile, exclusive of Hokkaido, where it is twenty-three to the square mile. Number of married persons, 16,458,308; births in the year 1907, 1,599,231; children born living, 1,457,039; children born dead, 142,092; illegitimate births: boys, 60,445, girls, 60,702. Number of marriages, 361,260; divorces, 60,179; deaths, 1,012,855. Recipients of passports to foreign countries, 43,627; Japanese resident abroad, the civil condition of whom is registered at the consulate, 234,134; in China, 34,006; in Corea, 81,754; in the United States 20,080; in Hawaii and the Philippines, 73,974; in Europe, 694; the remainder in various countries. Number of foreigners resident in Japan, 18,908; Chinese, 12,273; Coreans, 459; Englishmen, 2293; Americans from the United States, 1624; Germans 664; French, 498; Russians, 194; Portuguese, 197; the remainder belong to various nationalities.

Face Mask with Cross BOGO 50% OFF


Seas and Straits

The seas which surround Japan are the Pacific Ocean on the east, the Sea of Okhotsk on the North, the Sea of Japan on the west, and the China Sea on the south. The straits separating the principal islands are the Strait of Soya, or La Pérouse between Hokkaido and the Sakhalin, the strait of Tsugaru between the Great Island Honshiu and Hokkaido, and the Strait of Shimonoseki between Honshiu and Kiusiu.

Coasts, Gulfs, and Bays

The coasts are very irregular, the gulfs and bays are very numerous. On the Pacific Ocean are the gulfs of Sagami and Tosa, the bays of Tokio, Suruga, Ise, Omi, Tsuchiura, Seto, etc; on the Sea of Japan, the Bay of Fukuoaka, Wakasa, Kagoshima. Yatsushiro, Amagusa, Shimabara, etc.


The largest lake is Biwa, which is about 180 miles in circumference, 36 1/2 miles long, and 12 1/2 miles wide. According to tradition Lake Biwa was formed by an earthquake in 286 B.C. Renowned for the beauty of its scenery, its praises have often been sung by poets. After Lake Biwa, the best known are Lake Suwa in Shinano, Lake Hakone, on the summit of the mountain of the same name, Lake Chiusenji in Shimotsuke, west of Nikko, 15 1/2 miles in circumference, 4375 feet above sea-level. The cascade of Kegon, one of the most beautiful and renowned of Japan, is on this lake.


The slopes of the mountains being so close to the sea, the watercourse are not very long. They are for the most part only torrents, few of them capable of carrying boats, but they are utilized for rafting and thus supplement the roads. Only 15 are 40 ri or more long, the longest being 110 ri in length. (The ri is almost equal to 2 1/2 miles).


In Japan the mountains cover two-thirds of the surface of the soil. The country is traversed by two chains of mountains, one a part of Sakhalin Island, the other south-east of China crossing Formosa. These two chains meet in the middle of the Great Island (Honshiu), dividing it into two parts which present striking contrasts as much from the political as from the geographical point of view. The highest peaks are situated at the intersection of these two chains, about the thirty-fifth parallel, which has caused tourists to give them the name of the Japanese Alps. The highest are Niitake in Formosa (12,850 feet), and Fuji (12,395 feet) in Honshiu. This last mountain must have been formed by the same earthquake which hollowed out Lake Biwa (286 B.C.). It is a volcano subject at times to terrible eruptions. On account of its regular outline and its majestic beauty it has furnished an inexhaustible source of inspiration to Japanese artists, poets, painters, etc.

14KT Gold Sale

Although very mountainous the country is not devoid of valleys, the principal ones being those of Etchigo, Sendai, and Quanto, with Tokio and Yokohama, and a population of 6,000,000 souls, of Mino and Awari (1,150,000 souls ), of Kinai, with Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe (2,600,000 souls ), of Tsukusi in Kiusiu. The oil mines of this valley furnish 67% of the total production of the mines of Japan.


Three chains of volcanoes exist in Japan. The Kuriles, Fuji, and Kirishima contain 200 volcanoes, of which 100 are still active. The principal ones are Tarumi, Noboribetsu, Komagatake, Agatsuma, Bandai, Kausatsu, Kaimon, Sakaurajima, Fuji, Kirishima, Asama, and Aso. This last, situated north-east of Higo, numbers five peaks, the highest of which reaches an altitude of nearly one mile. It is perhaps the largest volcano in the world, its craters having an extent of 15 miles from north to south, 10 miles from east to west. It was in eruption in 1884, 1889, and 1896.


Their number is proportionate to that of volcanoes. From 1883 to 1897 there were 17,750, that is 1365 per year, nearly 3 1/2 per day. From 1596 to 1877 Japan was visited by 100 more or less disastrous earthquakes. According to minute researchers made by a commission of scholars, the number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions which have caused more or less damage from the beginning of historic times to the present day must equal 2006. One of the most terrible was that of 1855 at Tokio, in which more than 100,000 persons perished and the greater part of the city was destroyed.

Mineral Springs

As compensation for the damage caused by the volcanoes Japan has a large number of mineral springs. There are at least 100 which, because of ease of access and their medicinal qualities, are much frequented.

Climate, Typhoons

During the cold season, which begins in October and ends in April, Japan is visited by the north and the west wind, the atmospheric pressure being lower on the Pacific Ocean than on the continent. The contrary is true from May to October, because the wind then comes from the south and east. This difference in atmospheric pressure gives rise to numerous typhoons, which often cause great disasters. To mention only that of 1902, the number of persons killed equalled 3639, vessels lost 3244, houses destroyed or damaged, 695,062. Total loss, 29,742,081 yen.

Rain, Snow

Japan is one of the most rainy countries in the world. The average yearly rainfall is about 61 inches. The average number of rainy or snowy days per year is 150. There are 89 meteorological stations, where six observations are made daily, at two, six, and ten o'clock, morning and evening (135° E. of Greenwich time).

We ask you, humbly: don't scroll away.

Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you.

Help Now >


Dynasty (Teishitshu)

The form of the Japanese Government is an hereditary and constitutional monarchy. A single dynasty has reigned in Japan since the foundation of the empire. The present emperor is the one hundred and twenty-second descendant of Jimmu Tenno, first emperor of Japan. His own name is Mitsuhito; he has no family name since he is supposed to be descended directly from the race of gods. Born 3 November, 1852, he succeeded his father, Komei Tenno, 13 Feb., 1867, and was crowned 12 Oct., 1868. On 28 December the same year he married the Princess Haruko, third daughter of Kuge Ichijo Tadaka, a noble of the first rank, b. 28 May, 1850. Yoshihito Hiyu no miya, son of the emperor, b. 31 August, 1879, was proclaimed heir apparent on 31 August, 1887. On 10 May, 1900, he married Sadako, fourth daughter of Duke Kujo, by whom he has three sons.

Branches of the Imperial Family (Kozuko)

There are fourteen branches of the imperial family : Fushimi, Arisugawa, Jan-in, Higashi-Fushimi, Kwacho, Yamashina, Kaya, Kuni, Nashimoto, Kita-Shirakawa, Komatsu, Takeda, Asaka, Higashi-Kuni. The first four families have the title of Shinno (princes of the blood), and constitute the four branches from whom must be chosen the heir to the throne, if the emperor die without issue. The others have the title O (princes). The first, when they are of age, have by right a seat in the house of Peers. The others may only sit there by order of the emperor. These last may also succeed a nobleman or be adopted by him. All are by right a portion of the imperial household. They may be neither arrested nor summoned before a court without the command of the emperor, nor marry without his permission, nor ally themselves with any save the family designated by him. If they commit an act unworthy of their rank the emperor has the right to punish them, and even deprive them of their title of prince. If they are wasteful of their property, they may be interdicted and forced to submit to the appointment of an administrator of their property.

Estates of the Crown

According to the present data the crown possesses 12,135 acres of built land, representing a value of 62,090,830 yen; 5, 272,745 acres of forest valued at 123,809,642 yen; 300,770 acres of diverse territory estimated at 2,319,808 yen. Its bonds and stocks represent a gross sum of 30,000,000 yen, while the amount of its treasure is unknown.

Crown Laws

In the Constitution is inserted a collection of laws known as the Code of the Imperial House ( Koshitsu Tempan ), in twelve chapters, which govern the Crown. This code regulates the succession to the throne, and the coronation ceremonies, fixes the majority of the emperor, the prince imperial, and the various members of the imperial family. It contains laws concerning the regency, the family council, the governor to be assigned to an emperor in his minority, the expenses of the court, possible disputes between members of the emperor's family, the disciplinary measures to be taken against delinquents.

Free Online Catholic Classes for Anyone, Anywhere - Click Here
Ministry of the Imperial Household

The reform of Kaikwa has created a Kunaikwan (government of the palace), which in 1702 was changed into the Kunaisho (ministry of the palace). The minister had the title of Kunaikyo and was charged with the collection of imposts (in the provinces), with the possession of the Crown, etc. He had eight ministers under his jurisdiction. After the Restoration, the Kunaisho was retained, but underwent two modifications, one in 1870, the other in 1889. To-day the Kunaisho is charged with the affairs of the emperor's household. A minister is at the head charged with the general administration and all the employés of the ministry are under his immediate jurisdiction. He has control of the nobility, regulates the civil and religious ceremonies, distributes the favours, presents, or rewards of the emperor, notifies those interested of the decrees raising them to a dignity or an office, and is the executor of all the regulations of the imperial household. He is assisted by a vice-minister and fifteen councillors, all chosen by the emperor. The chief of these are the chamberlain, the keeper of the seal, the empress's steward, the master of ceremonies, the director of the bureau of domains, and the director of the bureau of nobility. The number of employés of the imperial household is 2534; salaries, 1,003,805 yen.


In Japan there are six orders of decoration conferred as award of merit : (1) Order of the Chrysanthemum ( Kikuwasho ), created in 1876, reserved to sovereigns and members of princely families ; (2) Order of Paulownia ( Tokwasho ), created in 1876, granted to princes and very exalted personages; (3) Order of the Rising Sun ( Kyokujitsusho ), created in 1875, created for civil and military services; (4) Order of the Sacred Treasure ( Zuihosho ), created in 1888 to reward civil and military services; 8 classes; (5) Order of the Crown ( Hokwonsho ), created in 1888, reserved to women ; 8 classes; (6) Order of the Golden Kite ( Kinshisho ), created in 1890, rewards extraordinary military feats, and entitles to a pension. In recognition of meritorious deeds which, however, do not deserve a decoration, the Government awards certificates, medals, and cups of gold, silver, or wood. The number of Japanese thus decorated or rewarded reaches into the millions. On 31 March, 1908, the number of persons decorated and entitled to a pension was 70,822. Pensions furnished by the government, 9,0630,000 yen. Number of decorations distributed in 1903, 3914; in 1905, 36,357; in 1907, 37,602, not counting the decoration of the Golden Kite. Decorations of the Golden Kite in 1904, 2316; in 1905, 27,649; in 1906, 73,810; in 1907, 1,305,018. This shower of decorations was caused by the war with Russia. The number of foreigners decorated by the Japanese was, on 31 March, 1907, 417, and that of Japanese decorated by foreign governments, 542.

LIVE Lessons @ Catholic Online School

'Live Lessons' with Zoom on Catholic Online School

Professor Connolly: Monday-Friday @ 9am (PDT) / 12pm (EDT)
Deacon Frederick Bartels: Tuesday-Friday @ 10am (PDT) / 1pm (EDT)

LIVE Lessons Curriculum

Titles of Nobility

The class of nobles ( Kwasoku ) comprises the ancient nobles of the court ( Kuge ), the ancient lords of the provinces ( Daimio ), and those who have been ennobled since the Restoration, or the new nobility ( Shin-Kwasoku ). Graduated titles were created in 1884 for these nobles of various degrees, in Japanese, Ko, Ko, Haku, Shi , and Dan , corresponding to duke, marquess, count, viscount, and baron. Nobility is hereditary, and on 31 March, 1908, this class consisted of 15 dukes (Ko), 36 marquesses (Ko), 100 counts (Haku), 375 viscounts (Shi), and 376 barons (Dan), that is, 902 families comprising 4600 members, which form the Japanese aristocracy.

Rank at Court

Besides the titles of nobility there are purely honorary dignities, forming a sort of court hierarchy. This hierarchy was established in Japan in the reign of the Empress Suiko (A.D. 603). In 682 the number of degrees was raised to forty-eight; in 702 it was fixed at thirty. At the Restoration this hierarchy was retained but very much simplified. At present there are eight degrees each, except for the first, being divided into two, which gives a total of fifteen. These titles or dignities ( I-Kai or Kurai ) are awarded to nobles, to functionaries of high rank, or to citizens who, while not belonging to these classes, have rendered signal service to the nation. These dignities carry with them certain rights, e.g., that of assisting at the emperor's reception on a certain day of the year. They are conferred only on Japanese. The number of persons honoured with these titles was, in 1907, 50,906, among them 113 women.

Grades of Civil Functionaries and Military Officials

The former are called Bunkwan and the latter Bukwan . Both are divided into four classes, Shinnin, Chokunin, Sonin , and Hannin . The Shinnin, who form the highest class, receive their investiture from the hand of the emperor himself. The decree of promotion bears the seal of the empire and is countersigned by the president of the council. The Chokunin are appointed by a decree of the emperor, bearing the seal of the empire. The Sonin are appointed by the cabinet upon presentation by the ministers. The Hannin are appointed by their respective ministers. Civil and military officials of the rank of Shinnin, 46; civil officials of the rank of Chokunin, 307; Sonin, 7015; Hannin, 51,952. Army and navy: all the generals and admirals have the rank of Chokunin, all the other officers have that of Sonin, and all non-commissioned officers that of Hannin. For the number see subtitles Army; Navy . The Shinnin number 46 civil or military officials. The statistics for the Shinnin make no distinction between civil and military officials for this exalted degree only.


On his succession to the throne the emperor promised to establish a national Assembly for the purpose of discussing the affairs of the country. Although proceeding from the free will of the sovereign, the project of a Constitution, before being put into execution, encountered many obstacles and provoked violent conflicts between the Government and the democratic party. The various phases of these conflicts may be summarized as follows: In 1873 Itagaki and his followers addressed a petition to the Government in which they called upon it to carry out the sovereign's wishes, and in 1880 a campaign was organized throughout the country for the promotion of the rights of the people. In 1881 Itagaki and his followers organized the Liberal Party and vigorously urged forward the movement in favour of the establishment of a parliament. In the same year the emperor promised to promulgate the Constitution within ten years. Finally on 11 February, 1889, the constitution was promulgated and the Diet was convoked in November of the next year.

Prerogatives of the Emperor

The chief rights accorded to the emperor in the Constitution are: to convoke, open, close, and suspend the Parliament; to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies; to issue ordinances which have the force of law, in urgent circumstances when the diet is not sitting and on condition that they be submitted to it in the next session, to give orders for the execution of the laws to maintain peace and promote the welfare of the people, to assume command of the forces of sea and land and to regulate the organization of both these services, to declare war, make peace, conclude treaties, proclaim a state of siege, to grant titles of nobility, rank at court, decorations, and other honorary titles, to declare amnesty, to commute penalties, and to rehabilitate.

Rights of the People

The rights granted to the people are as follows: Every Japanese subject without distinction of class may be promoted to any civil or military rank or public office. No Japanese subject may be arrested, held, or punished except according to law. Except in cases provided for by law, every Japanese dwelling is inviolable and is not subject to any domiciliary visit. Secrecy of mailed letters and rights of property are inviolable. The Constitution further grants liberty of religious belief in all that is not prejudicial to peace and order and the duties of a subject, freedom of speech, of the press, of public assembly, of association, and the right to present petitions in a respectful manner.

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

For the management of state affairs the emperor employs several ministers, at the present time nine in number, viz., ministers of foreign affairs, of the interior, of justice, of finance, of war, of the navy, of public instruction, of agriculture and commerce, and of communications.

Privy Council (Sumitsu-in)

The emperor is also assisted by a privy council created in 1888 and composed of a president, vice-president, and fifteen members chosen from among the highest functionaries of at least forty years of age. The president of the cabinet and all the members are councillors ex officio. The privy council gives its opinions concerning questions submitted by the emperor, but is not entitled to make proposals, to decide as last resort, nor to exercise executive power. It gives advice with regard to treaties to be concluded with other powers, in urgent cases, in quarrels which may arise between the Government and the Chambers, in fine in all circumstances in which the supreme power is expected to intervene.


The emperor shares legislative power with two large political bodies, the Chamber of Peers and the Chamber of Deputies. The chamber of Peers enjoys certain privileges. The emperor may suspend but not dissolve it. The duration of the commission of peers is seven years, that of deputies four years. The peers, being appointed by the emperor or by right of birth, are such for life. All the deputies must be re-elected every four years. The chambers discuss and vote on selected laws the budget, taxes, etc., but their decisions do not go into effect until they have received the sanction of the emperor.

The Chamber of Peers is composed of the members of the imperial family, of all dukes and marquesses over twenty-five, of a certain number of counts, viscounts, and barons who have attained their twenty-fifth year and who are elected by their peers, of members aged at least thirty appointed for life by the emperor because of their services or learning, and lastly of forty-five members aged at least thirty, elected from among the fifteen most influential citizens of each district which returns them. Their election must be confirmed by the emperor. The number of these two categories must not exceed that of the members of the nobility. In 1908 the Chamber of Peers was composed as follows: members of the imperial family, 13; dukes, 10; marquesses 28; counts 17; viscounts, 69; barons, 55; appointed for life by the emperor, 124; chosen from amongst the citizens paying the largest taxes, 45. Total, 361. In the upper chamber there is no political party properly so called; the peers are merely divided into groups, generally composed of members of the same class.

 St. Benedict Home Blessing Door Hanger  BOGO 50% OFF

The Chamber of Deputies is composed of two kinds of members, the first returned by the cities having at least 30,000 inhabitants, the others by the districts. Each city and department forms an independent district. To be an elector it is necessary to have attained the age of twenty-five and to pay a minimum of ten yen in direct contribution. One may be a deputy without paying the contribution but it is necessary to have attained at least thirty. Those who are neither eligible or electors are outlaws, bankrupts, those whose property has been confiscated, those who have lost civil rights or who have been sentenced to prison, soldiers in active service, pupils in the public or private schools, professors in the primary schools, ministers of any religion whatever, contractors of government work, officials charged with intervening in the elections, the employés of the ministry of the imperial household, judges, attorneys, collectors, police employés, and general councillors. At present the deputies are divided into four parties: (1) the Government Party ( Seiyukwai ), which in 1900 replaced the old Liberal Party of Itagaki (1881); (2) the Progressive Party ( Shimpoto ), or opposition (1882), more or less divided in sentiment; (3), the United Party, formed of old imperialists, opportunists, and deserters from the Progressive Party; (4) the New Association ( Yushinkwai ) or Advanced Party, among whom there are a number of Socialists. The number of deputies (end of March, 1908), 379; number of electors, 1,583,676; number who cast their votes, 1,353,301; unable to write the candidate's name 3338. Number of deputies in Governmental Party, 167; Progressives, 94; United Party, 68; New Association, 36; nobles (former Samurai), commoners, 273.

Diplomatic Corps in Foreign Lands

Embassies, 7, viz. to England, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Russia. Legations, 8; to Spain, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, China, Siam, Mexico, Brazil. Staff, 90.


Consuls general, 11; consuls and vice-consuls, 31; staff, 365. Civil officials and employees of the Government, 152,159; annual salaries, 44,787,112 yen; government engineers, 9492; employees under their supervision, 17,941, total 27,458; salaries, 9,638,546 yen. Tax bureaus, 18; staff, 8443; annual salaries 2,122,561 yen.

Pensions and Grants

Pensions and grants to retired officials, widows, or orphans ; persons assisted or pensioned, 206,860. Total amount: 15,847,280 yen.


Japan is divided into ten large regions comprising eighty-eight provinces. There are: (1) Kinai (or Go Kinai) 5 provinces; (2) Tokaido, 15 provinces; (3) Tosando, 13 provinces; (4) San-indo, 8 provinces; (5) Hokurokudo, 7 provinces; (6) Sanyodo, 8 provinces; (7) Nankaido, 6 provinces; (8) Saikaido, 8 provinces; (9) Hokkaido, 10 provinces; (10) Taiwan, 3 provinces.

Before the Restoration Japan was divided into fiefs ( han ) administered by daimios. The han established by degrees in the course of the twelfth century were regularly organized by Yoritomo (1192-99). Under the Ashikaga it was no longer the will of the emperor or the shogun but the force of arms which designated the rulers. Tokugawa Ieyasu estimated the number of han at more than 300. They were divided into three classes, according to the importance of their revenues, the Dai-han (large fiefs) being worth upwards of 400,000 koku of rice, the Chu-han (medium fiefs), from 100,000 to 400,000 koku, and the Sho-han (small fiefs), upwards of 100,000 koku.

After the Restoration Japan was divided into departments ( ken ) and prefectures ( fu ). The number of these varied several times. To-day for the convenience of the administration the country is divided into three fu , 43 ken , and two special governments ( cho ), those of Hokkaido and Formosa, comprising altogether 660 districts ( gun or kori ), 63 municipalities ( shi ), 1138 towns ( cho or machi ), and 11,801 villages ( son or mura ). The three fu (prefectures) are Tokio. Osaka, and Kyoto. Among the municipalities sixteen have more than 50,000 inhabitants and less than 100,000, three more than 100,000 and less than 200,000, and six a population exceeding 200,000. These six cities are Tokio, 1,811,655 inhabitants, Osaka, 995,945, Kyoto, 380,568, Yokohama, 326,065, Nagoya, 288,369, and Kobe, 285,002.

At the head of each department is a prefect assisted by a council of prefecture, which represents the central government, while the general council represents the rights and interests of the people. The general council exercises over the finances of the department a control similar to that which the parliament exercises over the finances of the State. They regulate the distribution of taxes and vote on the needs of the departments. All the citizens residing in a department and who pay a direct yearly tax of three yen have the right to vote for the election of councillors. Payment of a tax of ten yen is necessary for eligibility. The term of office is four years. At the head of each district is a sub-prefect, at the head of each village or town is a mayor assisted by a council. The departments, districts, towns, and villages have a special budget administered by the general council, the district council, the municipal council, and increased by local revenues independent of the taxes raised by the Government. These departments, districts, towns, villages may contract loans with the authorization of the minister of finance. For loans payable in less than three years they are not obliged to secure this authorization. For the financial year 1907-08 the total of the budgets for the department and municipalities were as follows: receipts, 173,004,523 yen; expenditures, 166,614,817 yen; fund for public relief, 34,884,370; total amount of debt, 89,266, 115 yen. Ten years earlier (1897) the receipts amounted to 100,588,000 yen; expenses, 88,817,000 yen; debt, 16,350,000 yen.


For many years Japan had no legal code, the moral law and local custom taking its place. In 604, in the reign of the Empress Suiko, Shotoku Taishi promulgated a code of law in seventeen chapters borrowed from China. This is the earliest code of which mention is made in history. Later the Emperor Mamu (696-707) appointed a commission of scholars to draw up a new code, and the work was completed and promulgated in 701. It is called the code of the era of Taiho (Taiho-ryo), and save for some modifications was in force until the Restoration. At this time intercourse with foreigners and the study of laws used in European countries brought home to the Japanese the necessity of a new code, more in harmony with their new situation. With the aid of foreign legists, they undertook this work of codification, which they brought to a successful issue at the end of twenty years. The collection of laws thus drawn up form six codes: the Constitution, the civil code, the criminal code, the commercial code, and the codes of civil and criminal procedure.

For the application of this new legislation a judiciary organization was created very similar to that which exists in France. It comprises tribunals of justices of the peace ( Ku-Saibasho ), lower courts ( Chiho-Saibasho ), courts of appeals ( Koso-in ), and a court of cassation ( Taishin-in ). The Constitution published February, 1889, established the irremovability of the magistrates, who can only be suspended by special law. The tribunals number 358; courts of cassation, 1; courts of appeal, 7 (Tokio, Osaka, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Miyaga, and Hakodate ); lower courts (district courts), 49 (at least one to a department); courts of justices of the peace (sub-district courts), 301. Staff of the tribunals, 11,826; judges, 1278; attorneys, 426; registrars, 4140; wardens, 1727; lower employés and agents, 4257; bailiffs, 520; barristers, 2037. The courts of justices of the peace alone have had to judge 133,186 cases; the lower courts, 24,465; the courts of appeal, 3684; and the supreme court, 659.


The law exacts the completion of seventeen years for a man and fifteen for a woman. The consent of the parents is required for males under thirty, and for females under twenty-five. Minors must secure the consent of a guardian and of a family. No person who already had a spouse may remarry, and the penalty for so doing is two years in prison. An adulterer is forbidden to marry the partner in the sin. Marriage between blood relations is forbidden within all degrees of the direct line, and in the collateral line within the third degree inclusive. Marriage between relations (affinities) is forbidden, within all degrees in the direct line, even after divorce, but in collateral line there is no impediment. All marriages contracted through mistaken identity, fraud, or violence can be annulled with three months following their celebration. The woman may not marry till six months after the dissolution or annulment of the first marriage. Husband and wife must live together, the law not admitting separation of body. The fact of the marriage should be inscribed on the register of the civil Government, and in default of this formality the marriage does not exist before the law, and is without effect. Formerly women could not possess property but now they are accorded this right. The law regulates the conjugal partnership of goods, but husband and wife are at liberty to make a contract. The husband is obliged to provide for the support of the family and to defray the expenses of the children's education. He has the right to administer the property of his wife and to collect the profits, but he is not entitled either to sell it or to give it as security, or to lend it without consent. In Japan, marriage is always arranged by an intermediary. The law stipulates nothing with regard to the ceremony, which is left to the choice of those concerned. The peasants follow the customs of the country, the chief of which involves the exchange of cups of wine by the betrothed pair. The Buddhist or Shintoist priests ( bonzes or Kamushi ) have no share in the celebration of marriage. The Christians marry according to the rites of their religion. Politeness demands that the newly wedded pair pay a visit in the course of a month to all who assisted at the ceremony.


The Japanese law allows divorce, and this divorce annuls all the effects of marriage except the impediment of affinity. Divorce may be granted in to ways, privately, or by court sentence. The chief causes for divorce are: (1) bigamy; (2) adultery (for a woman ); (3) notorious adultery for a man; (4) crimes of forgery, petty larceny, robbery with violence, fraudulent possession, receiving a bribe, obscene acts, and all crimes involving a prison sentence of three years; (5) ill-treatment or grievous injury of the other party or of his father or mother; (6) ill-treatment or grievous injury received from the relations of the other party; (7) abandonment of one of the parties by the other with evil intent; (8) ignorance for three years of whether the other party is living or dead.


Every one may dispose of his possessions by will, provide the will is submitted to certain conditions. Those only are incapacitated of making a will who are of unsound mind or who have not attained the age of fifteen. Japanese law recognizes natural heirs and every clause injurious to their rights is null. As to form, Japanese law recognizes three kinds of wills, olographic, authentic, and secret. An olographic will ( Jihitsu-shosho ) is one which the testator writes, dates, and signs with his own hand, and to which he affixes his seal. An authentic will ( Kosei-shosho ) is dictated by the testator with formalities prescribed by law in the presence of at least two witnesses, written by a notary ( Kosho-nin ), who reads the will to the testator and the witnesses. If it is approved the testator and the witnesses should then sign it and affix their seal. The secret will ( Himitsu-shosho ) is signed and sealed by a testator and presented by him to a notary in the presence of at least two witnesses. The testator declares that it is his will and gives the name and address of him who drew it up. The notary records on the envelope the report of this presentation, whereupon the testator, the witnesses, and the notary sign and affix their seals. Besides these wills Japanese law recognizes other which have only a temporary existence and cease with the circumstances that gave rise to them, e.g., military wills, naval wills, wills made in a time of contagious disease or at the point of death, if the sick person recovers. To make an act legal every Japanese must affix his seal ( jitsun-in ) to that act. A copy ( in-kan ) should be deposited at the surrogate's office. For foreigners the signature is sufficient. The will goes into effect immediately on the death of the testator; if it is conditional, as soon as the conditions are realized. But to put it into execution, the executor must have it signed by the court. The testator may always revoke his will in whole or in part. When the same person has made two wills the second prevails. Anyone is free to reject a will made in his favour. The share reserved to the natural heirs in the direct line is one-half of the property, that of the other heirs, one-third.

Prisons (Kangoku)

In the present penal system, prisons are divided into two chief classes, civil and military. Civil prisons comprise six categories: (1) criminal or convict prisons for those sentenced to deportation or banishment (three); (2) temporary prisons in which are confined those sentenced to deportation or banishment until such a time as they shall be transferred to their final destination (three); (3) departmental prisons for those sentenced to simple detention and compulsory labour (at least one for each department); (4) detentive prisons, destined to receive prisoners who have been indicted and accused persons until the law has decided their case; (5) houses of correction reserved for minors under twenty and for deaf-mutes; (6) jails, for those sentenced to thirty days' imprisonment by police magistrates. These jails are annexed to the police station. The prisons are under the jurisdiction of the minister of justice, who appoints the general inspectors and all the employés. Number of civil prisons in the year 1908, 56; bridewells, 92; general inspectors, 56; wardens, 620; engineers and interpreters, 29; physicians, 198; chaplains and instructors, 232; pharmacists, 42; keepers of the first class 7907; of the second class, 300; women servants, 383; employés of various kinds, 230. Total, 9997. Inmates of the penitentiary establishments at the end of 1907: detentive prisons, men, 4008; women, 203; houses of detention, men, 46,175; women, 2550; houses of correction, men, 738. women, 69. Total, 53,743. the total number of persons sentenced in 1907, men, 114,236; women, 16,748.

Police (Kaisatsu)

The police service as it exists today was organized at the beginning of the present reign according to the English system. It is divided into two main sections, the administrative police ( Gyosie Kaisatsu ), and the judiciary police ( Shiho Kaisatsu ). In the department it is subject to the prefect, at Tokio to the prefecture of police ( Keishicho ). It has its courts, which have the power to judge offenses for which the penalty does not exceed thirty days' imprisonment. On 31 March, 1908, the police department numbered: chief police stations or bureaus, 713; branch stations, 618; city station houses, 1841; rural station houses, 12,648; inspectors or superintendents ( Keibu ), 1861; police agents ( Junsa ) 33,885. Crimes, offenses, and cases in which the police have had to intervene in 1907: robberies accompanied by violence, 1239; without violence 267,030; swindlings, 28,876; total number of robberies, 297, 145. Violent deaths: suicides, 8906; murders, 1236; sudden deaths, 1387; victims of accidents and others, 14,015. Total, 25,544. Fires, involuntary, 12,462; incendiary, 858; caused by lightning or by unknown causes, 2174. Total, 15,494. Number of houses burned, 36,669. Public reunions, indoors, 587; numbers of orators, 1863; in the open air, 87; orators, 55. Total numbers of arrests made by police for crimes, offenses, or infractions of the law, 707,261.


The organization of the hygienic service dates from 1872. It began with the organization of a medical bureau, which was suspended in 1875 and replaced by a bureau of health. In 1879 a central board and local boards of public health were established and the service was extended to all the departments. In 1899 it was extended to all towns and villages and private committees were formed. The chief regulations relative to hygiene are: the cleaning of houses and drains, which should be done twice yearly under police supervision; the building and improvement of hospitals, prisons, schools, and all public institutions; the locations of cemeteries ; burial ; vaccination, etc. The hygiene service is within the jurisdiction of the police who are charged with enforcing its regulations.

Hospitals and Medical Bodies

Before the Restoration Japan had five hospitals located at Nagasaki, Saga, Fukui, Kanazawa, and Osaka. The first in point of time was Nagasaki, founded in 1861. On 31 March, 1908, the number of hospitals was 870, 5 founded by the government, 205 by the departments, and 660 by private citizens. To all these hospitals, private as well as public, is attached a force of women-nurses, who must be at least eighteen years of age and provided with a diploma. Throughout the empire there are: doctors, 38,776; midwives, 26,387; druggists, 29,318; chemists, 2370. In 1907 the number of persons inflicted with contagious disease was 71,532; typhus, 27,988; dysentery, 24,942; deaths from contagious diseases, 19,536.


Until the Shogunate of the Tokugawa education was left entirely to the Buddhist priests. Under the Tokugawa (1603-1868) it was confided to lay teachers and during this period of 265 years the Chinese classics were the basis of instruction. But in this aristocratic country knowledge was a privilege together with nobility, and there were no public schools save for the sons of the Samurai. However, the lower classes were no wholly abandoned to ignorance. Farmers, mechanics, and merchants received an education befitting their condition in the schools connected with the temples, known as Teragoya , and in private schools. To-day freedom to learn is granted in Japan to all degrees of the social scale. Instruction is compulsory for six to twelve years, and non-religious. At the head of public instruction is a minister assisted by a board and corps of inspectors. Schools are divided into primary schools in which classes are included the infant schools and the schools for deaf-mutes and the blind, secondary schools, high schools, universities, ordinary normal schools, higher normal schools, special schools, technical schools, and various.

Primary Schools

Primary schools are divided into two classes, common and high schools. The duration of the first is six years, and as the instruction is compulsory, attendance at this school is required from six to twelve years. The certificate of completion of this term secures admittance into the secondary schools. The higher course lasts two years and is optional. Number of primary schools, 27,269; teachers, 116,070; pupils, 6,601,620; average number of children receiving instruction, 96.5%. Private schools, only 249. Infant schools, 361. Women attendants, 984; children, 32,885. Deaf-mute and blind institutions, 31; teachers, 168; pupils, 1532. The secondary schools for boys were founded as a preparation for the high schools. Graduates of these schools are qualified to obtain position under the Government, according to their abilities, without passing a preliminary examination. The duration of the course is six years. Number of schools, 281; founded by the Government and the municipalities, 228; private, 58; teachers 5336; pupils, 108,531.

Secondary Schools for Girls

The duration of the course is from four to five years at choice. To the regular courses may be added special courses for the study of foreign languages or some womanly art, and supplementary courses for pupils desiring to perfect themselves in a particular branch. These courses should not exceed two or three years. Number of schools, 114; public, 98; private, 16; teachers, 1770; pupils, 35,876.

The higher schools are a preparation for the university. The course lasts three years and is divided into three classes which differ among themselves. the instruction in each class corresponds to the career to which the pupil is destined. Number of schools, 7, all founded by the government and under its supervision. They are located at Tokio, Sendai, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Okayama. Kumamoto, and Kagoshima; teachers, 272; pupils 4888.

Imperial Universities

There are two of these, one at Tokio, and one at Kyoto. The University of Tokio comprises besides the University Hall the faculties of law, medicine, literature, science, agriculture and engineering. Japanese professors, 166; foreigners, 15; Japanese students, 5050; foreigners, 39. The University of Kyoto comprises besides the University Hall, the faculties of law, medicine, literature, science and engineering. Japanese professors, 166; foreign professors, 4; students, 1507. Besides these universities there are about forty public or private schools which assume the name of universities, but for entrance to which it is not necessary to have a diploma from the higher schools. The two most important are the university of Waseda, from 5000 to 6000 students, and that of Kei-o-gijiku, 1100 students. The former was founded by Okuma in 1882, and the second by Fukuzawa in 1865.

Normal Schools

Each department is obliged to have at least one normal school. The course is four years for boys, and three for girls. Preparatory courses and courses of pedagogy may be added according to circumstances to the regular courses. The expenses of education are defrayed by the departments, but graduates are obliged to teach for eight years. Number of normal schools, 67; teaching staff, 1112 (men, 980, women, 132); students 18,928 (boys, 14,176, girls 4752). higher normal schools : for boys, 2; teachers 212; students 2456; for girls 1; teachers, 95; students, 858.

Special Schools

Medicine and pharmacy, 10; statistics, law, political economy, 12; literature and religion, 26; other schools, 2. Total: schools,ú professors 1537; students, 27,573.

Technical Schools, and Schools Preparatory thereto

Schools of agriculture, 142; professors, 1151; students, 17,390; preparatory schools, 3785; professors, 1162; students, 149,225. Fishery schools, 11; professors, 64; students, 811; preparatory schools, 103; professors, 48; students, 3344. Schools of arts and crafts, 35; professors 599; students, 6398; supplementary schools, 155; professors, 240; students, 8365. Schools of commerce, 70; professors, 1087; students, 20,685; supplementaries, 167; professors, 225; students, 10,541. Merchant marine, 9; professors, 127; students, 2008; supplementaries, 1; professor, 1; students, 27. Schools of apprenticeship or of foremen, 326; professors, 3402; students, 51,929. Total: schools, 4804; professors, 8106; students 270,723. In 1899 the number of technical schools was 227; professors, 1245; students, 23,095. miscellaneous schools, 2092; professors, 7619; students 142,695.

Establishments Founded and Maintained by the Government

Under the jurisdiction of the minister of public instruction are: the two universities of Tokio and Kyoto, the seven high schools, the two higher normal schools for boys, and that for girls. There are besides one high school of agriculture and aboriculture (professors, 32; students, 244); five high schools of arts and crafts (professors, 139; students, 1502); four high schools of commerce (professors, 109; students, 2477); five high schools of medicine (professors 116, students, 2693); one school of foreign languages in which are taught

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.