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Meiwa (明和) was a Japanese era name (年号, nengō, "year name") after Hōreki and before An'ei. This period spanned the years from June 1764 through November 1772.[1] The reigning empress and emperor were Go-Sakuramachi-tennō (後桜町天皇) and Go-Momozono-tennō (後桃園天皇).[2]

Change of era

  • 1764 Meiwa gannen (明和元年): The era name became Meiwa (meaning "Bright Harmony") because of the enthronement of Empress Go-Sakuramachi.

As a cultural phenomenon, the literature of this period records concerted attempts to distill the aggregate characteristics of the inhabitants of Edo (Edokko) into a generalized thumbnail description. These traits (Edokko katagi) were put into use to draw a contrast between Edokko and those who didn't have this "sophisticated" gloss -— those not from the city, as in merchants from the Kyoto-Osaka region or samurai from distant provinces. Sometimes Edokko katagi was presented with pride; and it was used mockingly.[3]

Events of the Meiwa Era

  • 1765 (Meiwa 2): Five-momme coin issued.
  • 1766 (Meiwa 3): A planned insurrection to displace the Shōgun was thwarted.[4]
  • 1768 (Meiwa 5): Five-momme usage halted.
  • 1770 (Meiwa 7): A typhoon flattened the newly built Imperial Palace in Kyoto.[5]
  • 1770 (Meiwa 7): A great comet (Lexell's Comet) with a very long tail lit up the night skies throughout the summer and autumn.[5]
  • 1770 (Meiwa 7): Although no one could have known it at the time, this was the first of 15 consecutive years of drought in Japan.[5]
  • April 1, 1772 (Meiwa 9, 29th day of the 2nd month): "The Great Meiwa Fire"—one of the three greatest Edo fire disasters. Unofficial reports describe a swath of ashes and cinders nearly five miles wide and 15 miles (24 km) long—destroying 178 temples and shrines, 127 daimyō residences, 878 non-official residences, 8705 houses of bannermen, and 628 blocks of merchant dwellings, with estimates of over 6,000 casualties. All this devastation subsequently engendered the staggering costs of reconstruction.[5]
  • August 2, 1772 (Meiwa 9, 4th day of the 6th month): A terrible tempest hit the Kantō bringing floods and ruining crops.[5]
  • August 17, 1772 (Meiwa 9, 19th day of the 6th month): Another storm with more flooding and winds no less intense blew down an estimated 4000 houses in Edo alone.[6]
  • 1772 (Meiwa 9): At the time, it was said that "Meiwa 9 is Year of Trouble" because it was marked by an extraordinary succession of natural calamities. The pun was made linking the words "Meiwa" + "ku" (meaning "Meiwa 9") and the sound-alike word "meiwaku" (meaning "misfortune" or "annoyance").[5]
  • 1772 (Meiwa 9, 11th month): The nengō was changed to Anei (meaning "eternal tranquillity"), but this symbolic act was proved futile.[7]


  1. ^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Meiwa" Japan Encyclopedia, p. 625, p. 625, at Google Books; n.b., Louis-Frédéric is pseudonym of Louis-Frédéric Nussbaum, see Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Authority File.
  2. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, p. 419.
  3. ^ Nara, Hiroshi. (2004). The Structure of Detachment: the Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shūzō with a translation of "Iki no kōzō," p. 1.
  4. ^ Screech, T. Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822. pp. 139-145.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Hall, John. (1955). Tanuma Okitsugu, 1719-1788, p. 120.
  6. ^ Hall, p. 120.
  7. ^ Hall, p. 169.


  • Hall, John Whitney. (1955). Tanuma Okitsugu, 1719-1788: Forerunner of Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. OCLC 445621
  • Nara, Hiroshi. (2004). The Structure of Detachment: the Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shūzō with a translation of "Iki no kōzō." Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824827359; ISBN 9780824828059; OCLC 644791079
  • Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 48943301
  • Screech, Timon. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 978-0-203-09985-8; OCLC 65177072
  • Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Nihon Odai Ichiran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon. Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. OCLC 5850691.

External links

Preceded by
Era or nengō

Succeeded by