The first decade of the Meiji era, 1868-77, was a period of bewildering experiment in political forms for the nation-state emerging in Japan. The administrative structure of the new central government underwent a kaleidoscopic series of forms ranging from the direct copy of an eighth-century Japanese pattern to a system modelled on the American doctrine of separation of powers. First in Kyoto and later in Tokyo, during the 1870's and 1880's, government departments rapidly divested themselves of ancient nomenclature derived from China and assumed the forms of European administration as the Japanese tried increasingly to demonstrate that they knew how to run a government in western fashion.

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