Following Japan's Meiji Restoration of the late 1800's, the Imperial government sought to solidify its position in a climate of increasing Westernization, especially in the field of education. The Imperial Rescript on Education (教育勅語 Kyôiku Chokugo) was signed by Emperor Meiji on October 30, 1890. It was distributed to every school in the Japanese Empire, along with a portrait of the Emperor that was to be kept hidden from view. The Rescript pushed traditional ideals of Confucianism, and in many ways was the beginning of Japan's fascism movement that reached its peak in the 1930's and 1940's.
Know ye, Our subjects:

Our Imperial Ancestors have founded Our Empire on a basis broad and everlasting and have deeply and firmly implanted virtue; Our subjects ever united in loyalty and filial piety have from generation to generation illustrated the beauty thereof. This is the glory of the fundamental character of Our Empire, and herein also lies the source of Our education.

Ye, Our subjects, be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters; as husbands and wives be harmonious, as friends true; bear yourselves in modesty and moderation; extend your benevolence to all; pursue learning and cultivate arts, and thereby develop intellectual faculties and perfect moral powers; furthermore advance public good and promote common interests; always respect the Constitution and observe the laws; should emergency arise, offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth.

So shall ye not only be Our good and faithful subjects, but render illustrious the best traditions of your forefathers. The Way here set forth is indeed the teaching bequeathed by Our Imperial Ancestors, to be observed alike by Their Descendants and the subjects, infallible for all ages and true in all places.It is Our wish to lay it to heart in all reverence, in common with you, Our subjects, that we may thus attain to the same virtue.

October 30, 1890 (23 Meiji)

Signed and sealed


Here is the text in Japanese bungo, which will be more or less illegible (but perhaps interesting) to students of modern Japanese. Line breaks are as they appeared in the original (which was actually written vertically, something that is impossible to replicate in E2... you'll just have to use your imagination). You will need Unicode support to read the characters. An image version is available at http://www.sun-inet.or.jp/~hba7615n/tyokugo05.htm if you can't get Japanese support in your browser.

朕惟フニ我カ皇祖皇宗國ヲ肇ムルコト宏遠ニ徳ヲ樹ツルコト
深厚ナリ我カ臣民克ク忠ニ克ク孝ニ億兆心ヲ一ニシテ世世厥ノ美
ヲ濟セルハ此レ我ガ國軆ノ精華ニシテ教育ノ淵源亦實ニ此ニ
存ス爾臣民父母ニ孝ニ兄弟ニ友ニ夫婦相和シ朋友相信シ
恭儉己レヲ持シ博愛衆ニ及ホシ學ヲ修メ業ヲ習ヒ以テ智能
ヲ啓發シ徳器ヲ成就シ進テ公益ヲ廣ノ世務ヲ開キ常ニ國
憲ヲ重ジ國法ニ遵ヒ一旦緩急アレハ義勇公ニ奉ジ以テ天壌
無窮ノ皇運ヲ扶翼スヘシ是ノ如キハ獨リ朕カ忠良ノ臣民タ
ルノミナラズ又以テ爾祖先ノ遺風ヲ顕彰スルニ足ラン
斯ノ道ハ實ニ我カ皇祖皇宗ノ遺訓ニシテ子孫臣民ノ倶ニ遵
守スヘキ所之ヲ古今ニ通シテ謬ラス之ヲ中外ニ施シテ悖ラス
朕爾臣民ト倶ニ挙挙服膺シテ咸其徳ヲ一ニセンコトヲ庶
幾フ
明治二十三年十月三十日
御 名 御 璽

Below is the text of the Imperial Rescript on Education (教育勅語)both in the original 文語体 bungotai (literary Japanese) version, followed by the official 口語体 kougotai (vernacular) rendition. For ease of comparison, the text is presented line by line.

1 (文) 朕惟フニ我カ皇祖皇宗國ヲ肇ムルコト宏遠ニ德ヲ樹ツルコト深厚ナリ

Chin omou ni waga kouso kouso kuni wo hajimuru koto kouen ni toku wo tatsuru koto shinkou nari.

It is Our belief that Our Imperial ancestors built our Country on a broad and lasting basis of Virtue.

(口)私(明治天皇)が思うには、皇祖天照大神と歴代の天皇が国を始められたのは、遙か昔のことであり、代々の天皇の御徳は深く厚いものである。

Watakushi (Meiji Tennou) ga omou ni wa, kouso Amaterasu ookami to rekidai no tennou ga kuni wo hajimerareta no wa, haruka mukashi no koto de ari, daidai no tennou no go-toku wa fukaku atsui mono de aru.

2 (文) 我カ臣民克ク忠ニ克ク孝ニ億兆心ヲ一ニシテ世世厥ノ美ヲ濟セルハ此レ我カ國體ノ精華ニシテ教育ノ淵源亦實ニ此ニ存ス

Waga shimin yoku chuu ni yoku kou ni okuchou kokoro wo ichi ni shite yoyoso no bi wo naseru wa kore waga kokutai no seika ni shite kyouiku no engen mata jitsu ni koko ni zonsu.

Our Subjects shall act with the utmost loyalty and filial piety, striving towards unity of spirit; the fundamental glory of Our Country has always been rooted in the inculcation of these virtues, which form the true basis of all education.

(口)我が臣民も、よく忠孝につとめ、すべての国民が心をひとつにして、これまで忠孝の美徳を発揮してきたのは、日本の国柄の最もすぐれたところで、教育の根元もまた実にここにある。

Waga shimin mo, yoku chuukou ni tsutome, subete no kokumin ga kokoro wo hitotsu ni shite, kore made chuukou no bitoku wo hakki shite kita no wa, Nihon no kunigara no mottomo sugureta tokoro de, kyouiku no kongen mo mata jitsu ni koko ni aru.

3 (文) 爾臣民父母ニ孝ニ兄弟ニ友ニ夫婦相和シ朋友相信シ恭儉己レヲ持シ博愛衆ニ及ホシ學ヲ修メ業ヲ習ヒ以テ智能ヲ啓發シ德器ヲ成就シ進テ公益ヲ廣メ世務ヲ開キ常ニ國憲ヲ重シ國法ニ遵ヒ一旦緩急アレハ義勇公ニ奉シ以テ天壤無窮ノ皇運ヲ扶翼スヘシ

Nanji shinmin fubo ni kou ni kyoudai ni yuu ni fuufu aiwa shi houdai aishinji kyouken onore wo jishi hakuaishuu ni oyoboshi gaku wo osame gyou wo narai motte chinou wo keihatsu shi tokki wo joujuu shi susunde koueki wo hirome seimu wo hiraki tsune ni kokken wo omonji kokuhou ni shitagai ittan kankyuu areba giyuukou ni houji motte tenjoumukyuu no kouun wo fuyoku subeshi.

Subjects, show piety to your parents, friendship to your brothers, be harmonious in marriage and trusting of your fellows. Eschew self-indulgence. Be altruistic toward others. Immerse yourselves in your studies, dedicate yourselves to learning your vocations. Hone your knowledge and abilities in the public interest. Go forth to do worldly work, always obeying the Constitution and the laws. Be ready to serve the Country with courage and sacrifice in time of need, and to come to the defence of the destiny of the Royal Family, immortal in heaven and on Earth.

(口)お前たち臣民は、父母に孝を尽くし、兄弟は仲良くし、夫婦は協調し、友達は信じ合い、人にはうやうやしく自分には慎み深く、誰彼となく広く人々を愛し、学問を修め業務を習い、知能を伸ばし、徳性と能力を磨き、進んで公共の利益に奉仕し、世の中のつとめに励み、常に憲法を重んじ、法律を守り、いったん国家に危急がせまれば、忠義と勇気を持って国のために働き、天地とともにきわまりない皇室の運命を助けるようにしなければならない。

Omaetachi shinmin wa, fubo ni kou wo tsukushi, kyoudai wa nakayoku shi, fuufu wa kyouchou shi, tomodachi wa shinjiai, hito ni wa uyauyashiku jibun ni wa tsutsushimibukaku, darekare to naku hiroku hitobito wo aishi, gakumon wo osame gyoumu wo narai, chinou wo nobashi, tokusei to nouryoku wo migaki, susunde koukyou no rieki ni houshi shi, yo no naka no tsutome ni hagemi, tsune ni Kenpou wo omonji, houritsu wo mamori, ittan kokka ni kikyuu ga semareba, chuugi to yuuki wo motte kuni no tame ni hataraki, tenchi to tomo ni kiwamari nai koushitsu no unmei wo tasukeru you ni shinakereba naranai.

4 (文) 是ノ如キハ獨リ朕カ忠良ノ臣民タルノミナラス又以テ爾祖先ノ遺風ヲ顯彰スルニ足ラン

Kaku no gotoki wa hitori chin ga chuuryou no shinmin taru mono narazu mata motte nanji sosen no ifuu wo kenshou suru ni taran.

These are your duties, not only as loyal subjects to Us and Our Country, but to the august tradition of your ancestors.

(口)このようにすれば、忠君の心厚い善良な私の臣民だけでなく、お前たちの祖先の残した美風を明らかに表すことにもなる。

Kono you ni sureba, chuukun no kokoroatsui zenryou na watakushi no shinmin dake de naku, omaetachi no sosen no nokoshita bifuu wo akiraka ni hyousu koto ni mo naru.

5 (文) 斯ノ道ハ實ニ我カ皇祖皇宗ノ遺訓ニシテ子孫臣民ノ倶ニ遵守スヘキ所之ヲ古今ニ通シテ謬ラス之ヲ中外ニ施シテ悖ラス

Kono michi wa jitsu ni waga kousokousou no ikun ni shite shison shinmin no tomo ni junju subeki tokoro kore wo kokon ni tsuujite ayamarazu kore wo chuugai ni hodokoshite motorazu.

These Virtues are indeed the received teachings of Our Imperial Ancestors, which shall be protected and obeyed by Our subjects and their posterity. They have been passed on, without deviation, from time immemorial, and shall be followed, both inside Our Realm and outside.

(口)この道徳は、実に私の皇祖天照大神と歴代の天皇が言い残した教えであり、その子孫・忠臣がともによく守るべきもので、昔から今までを通してあやまりがなく、これを国の内外に行っても道理に逆らうことがない。

Kono doutoku wa, jitsu ni watakushi no kouso Amaterasu ookami to rekidai no tennou ga iinokoshita oshie de ari, sono shison, chuushin ga tomo ni yoku mamoru beki mono de, mukashi kara ima made wo toushite ayamari ga naku, kore wo kuni no naigai ni itte mo douri ni sakarau koto ga nai.

6 (文) 朕爾臣民ト倶ニ拳々服膺シテ咸其德ヲ一ニセンコトヲ庶幾フ

Chin nanji shinmin to tomo ni kenken fukuyou shite mina sono toku wo kenkenfukuyou shite mina sono toku wo ichi ni senkoto wo koinegau.

It is Our deepest wish that, together with Us, Our subjects make these Virtues the highest value in their lives, emblazoning them on their hearts, so that they may never be forgotten.

(口)私はお前たち臣民とともに、心にとどめて忘れず、皆がこの美徳を第一にすることを切に希望している。

Watakushi wa omaetachi shinmin to tomo ni, kokoro ni todomete wasurezu, minna ga kono bitoku wo daiichi ni suru koto wo setsu ni kibou shiteiru.

明治二十三年十月三十日御名御璽

Meiji 23 nen 10 gatsu 30 nichi gomei goji

明治23年10月30日

Meiji 23 nen 10gatsu 30nichi

Meiji Period, Year 23, 30 October

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