Japan has undergone sweeping change twice in its modern history. Each time the imperial house served to help bridge the transition, although in different ways. In the 1860s every effort was made to emphasize the break with the immediate past, albeit in the name of a more ancient continuity. In the 1940s, on the other hand, close continuity with the recent past of Meiji was emphasized. The ability of the imperial institution to absorb and assimilate very different, in fact contradictory, changes, is my point of departure.