More than “Western”
The Meiji Restoration of 1868 and allied downfall of the shogunate heralded a new role for Japan’s emperor; while somewhat distanced from actual political power, the emperor was visibly reinstated as sovereign ruler. A significant aspect of this role was played out at imperial banquets where the Meiji Emperor engaged with foreign dignitaries and Japanese elites. The opening years of Japan’s Meiji era were a time of flux in which social and political territories were reorganized, as feudal domains gave way to prefectures administered by bureaucrats. Even so, as Susan Hanley has argued, there was significant stability in people’s way of life, with change occurring only gradually for many. A painted depiction of a banquet held to mark the Promulgation of Japan’s Constitution on February 11, 1889, reveals the extent of the investment made in court dining in the first half of the Meiji era.