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 if you can't get Japanese support in your browser.

御 名 御 璽