Here we have a striking instance of what, in the game of Japanese state-craft may be called the checkmate move, or, in the native idiom, “Ote,” “kings hand.” It is difficult for a foreigner to fully appreciate the prestige attaching to the Mikados person a prestige never diminishing. No matter how low his actual measure of power, the meanness of his character, or the insignificance of his personal abilities, he was the Son of Heaven, his word was law, his commands omnipotent.
He was the fountain of all rank and authority. No military leader, however great is resources or ability, could win the popular heart or hope for ultimate success unless appointed by the emperor. He who held the Son of Heaven in his power was his master. Hence it was the constant aim of all the military leaders, even down to 1868, to obtain control of the imperial person.
However wicked or villainous the keeper of the Mikado, he was master of the situation. His enemies were choteki against the Son of Heaven; his own soldiers were the “kuan-gun,” or loyal army. Even might could not make right. Possession of the divine person was more than nine-tenths -- it was the whole -- of the law.
Previous article Next article
From General Nelson A. Miles
Thrilling Stories of The Russian-Japanese War, 1904