Maria Cărbune

The Imperial Bureau of Poetry and the Making of Emperor Meiji. Shaping national identity through modern waka poetry.

The Imperial Bureau of Poetry (Outadokoro 御歌所) was a literary and political organization in Japan between 1869-1945 that enjoyed great influence in the literary circles. In my dissertation, I examine the literary and socio-political impact of Outadokoro’s undertakings between 1869 and 1912 as pertaining to both the fields of political mythology and of modern waka court poetry. The Outadokoro was restored in 1869 in the Imperial Household Ministry as a part of the new Meiji government´s attempt to legitimize their rule through the symbolism of the imperial house by reviving institutes, court rituals and titles patented after those of the Nara period, when imperial prestige was allegedly at its highest.

The poets of Outadokoro were of diverse backgrounds rooted in Kokugaku national learning, Confucian and Shintō studies, and were highly active in literary and political fields. They fulfilled the role of custodians of the imperial image by publishing thousands of imperial poems in widely circulating newspapers, school textbooks and New Year’s karuta card games, providing the Emperor Meiji and his court with literary criticism and guidance and shaping the poetical canon of the early Meiji period. The wide-ranging influence of Outadokoro is reflected in their revival of the annual imperial poetry competition, Utakai Hajime, which under their tutelage was gradually opened for participation to commoners, as the competition was used to bridge the distance between the mystical, secluded Emperor Meiji and his emerging unified people.

My research project focuses on the Outadokoro’s instrumentalization of waka poetry as one of the of nation-building tools through which the political myth of the Emperor Meiji as a descendant of an unbroken line of emperors and of Amaterasu Omikami, was reinforced and disseminated to the nation’s subjects, so that the institution of the emperor came to serve as the metaphysical and mythical core of the national family.


  • Since 2018, PhD candidate at Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, with a scholarship of the The German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)
  • 2017 M.A. Japanese Studies at the Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen. Title of M.A. thesis: "Urashima Tarō or the Manifold Transformation of a Literary Motif"
  • 2013 B.A. Japanese Studies with a minor in German Studies at the University of Bucharest.
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Letzte Änderung: 04.03.2024
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