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37 min



1600 - 1868

Edo Period

Words: nono umasy

Between 1603 and 1867, Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate and its 300 provincial daimyo. This time period is known as the Edo era. The Edo era, which followed the anarchy of the Sengoku period, was marked by economic expansion, rigid social laws, isolationist foreign policy, a steady population, never-ending peace, and widespread appreciation of the arts and culture. The era gets its name from Edo (now Tokyo), where Tokugawa Ieyasu established the shogunate in full on March 24, 1603. The Meiji Restoration and the Boshin War, which gave Japan its imperial status back, marked the end of the era.


Edo Period Timeline




1600 Jan 1

Prologue

Japan

Prologue


Ieyasu's victory over the western daimyo at the Battle of Sekigahara (October 21, 1600, or in the Japanese calendar on the 15th day of the ninth month of the fifth year of the Keichō era) gave him control of all Japan. He rapidly abolished numerous enemy daimyo houses, reduced others, such as that of the Toyotomi, and redistributed the spoils of war to his family and allies. 


1600 Jan 1 - 1635

Red Seal Trade

South China Sea

Red Seal Trade
Sueyoshi red seal ship in 1633, with foreign pilots and sailors. Kiyomizu-dera Ema (絵馬) painting, Kyoto.
Red Seal TradeRed Seal TradeRed Seal TradeRed Seal Trade


The Red Seal system appears from at least 1592, under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, date of the first known mention of the system in a document. The first actually preserved Shuinjō (Red Seal Permit) is dated to 1604, under Tokugawa Ieyasu, first ruler of Tokugawa Japan. Tokugawa issued red-sealed permits to his favourite feudal lords and principal merchants who were interested in foreign trade. By doing so, he was able to control Japanese traders and reduce Japanese piracy in the South Sea. His seal also guaranteed the protection of the ships, since he vowed to pursue any pirate or nation who would violate it.


Besides Japanese traders, 12 European and 11 Chinese residents, including William Adams and Jan Joosten, are known to have received permits. At one point after 1621, Jan Joosten is recorded to have possessed 10 Red Seal Ships for commerce.


Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English ships and Asian rulers basically protected Japanese red seal ships, since they had diplomatic relations with the Japanese shōgun. Only Ming China had nothing to do with this practice, because the Empire officially prohibited Japanese ships from entering Chinese ports. (But Ming officials were not able to stop Chinese smugglers from setting sail to Japan.)


In 1635, the Tokugawa Shogunate officially prohibited their citizens from overseas travel (similar to the much later Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907), thus ending the period of red-seal trade. This action caused the Dutch East India Company to become the sole officially sanctioned party for European trades, with Batavia as its Asian headquarters.


1603 Mar 24

Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes shogun

Tokyo, Japan

Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes shogun
Tokugawa Ieyasu | ©Kanō Tan'yū


The Edo period starts after Tokugawa Ieyasu received from Emperor Go-Yōzei the title of shōgun. The town of Edo became the de facto capital of Japan and center of political power. This was after Tokugawa Ieyasu established the bakufu headquarters in Edo. Kyoto remained the formal capital of the country.


1605 Feb 3

Ieyasu abdicates in favor of his third son

Tokyo, Japan

Ieyasu abdicates in favor of his third son
Tokugawa Hidetada


To avoid his predecessor's fate, Ieyasu established a dynastic pattern soon after becoming shogun by abdicating in favor of Hidetada in 1605. Ieyasu gets the title of ogosho, retired shogun and retained significant power until his death in 1616.  Ieyasu retired to Sunpu Castle in Sunpu, but he also supervised the building of Edo Castle, a massive construction project which lasted for the rest of Ieyasu's life. The result was the largest castle in all of Japan, the costs for building the castle being borne by all the other daimyo, while Ieyasu reaped all the benefits.


After Ieyasu's death in 1616, Hidetada took control of the bakufu. He strengthened the Tokugawa hold on power by improving relations with the Imperial court. To this end he married his daughter Kazuko to Emperor Go-Mizunoo. The product of that marriage, a girl, eventually succeeded to the throne of Japan to become Empress Meishō. The city of Edo was also heavily developed under his reign.


1609 Mar 1 - 1609 May

Invasion of Ryukyu

Okinawa, Japan

The Shimazu Invasion of Ryukyu | ©The Shogunate


The invasion of Ryukyu by forces of the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma took place from March to May of 1609, and marked the beginning of the Ryukyu Kingdom's status as a vassal state under the Satsuma domain. The invasion force was met with stiff resistance from the Ryukyuan military on all but one island during the campaign. Ryukyu would remain a vassal state under Satsuma, alongside its already long-established tributary relationship with China, until it was formally annexed by Japan in 1879 as the Okinawa Prefecture.


1610 Jan 3 - 1610 Jan 6

Nossa Senhora da Graça incident

Nagasaki Bay, Japan

Nossa Senhora da Graça incident
Nanban Ship, Kano Naizen


The Nossa Senhora da Graça incident was a four-day naval battle between a Portuguese carrack and Japanese samurai junks belonging to the Arima clan near the waters of Nagasaki in 1610. The richly laden "great ship of commerce", famed as the "black ship" by the Japanese, sank after its captain André Pessoa set the gunpowder storage on fire as the vessel was overrun by samurai. This desperate and fatal resistance impressed the Japanese at the time, and memories of the event persisted even into the 19th century.


1613 Jan 1 - 1620

Hasekura Tsunenaga

Europe

Hasekura Tsunenaga
Hasekura in Rome
Hasekura Tsunenaga


Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga was a kirishitan Japanese samurai and retainer of Date Masamune, the daimyō of Sendai. He was of Japanese imperial descent with ancestral ties to Emperor Kanmu.


In the years 1613 through 1620, Hasekura headed the Keichō Embassy, a diplomatic mission to Pope Paul V. He visited New Spain and various other ports-of-call in Europe on the way. On the return trip, Hasekura and his companions re-traced their route across New Spain in 1619, sailing from Acapulco for Manila, and then sailing north to Japan in 1620. He is considered the first Japanese ambassador in the Americas and in Spain, despite other less well-known and less well-documented missions preceding his mission.


Although Hasekura's embassy was cordially received in Spain and Rome, it happened at a time when Japan was moving toward the suppression of Christianity. European monarchs refused the trade agreements Hasekura had been seeking. He returned to Japan in 1620 and died of illness a year later, his embassy seemingly ending with few results in an increasingly isolationist Japan. Japan's next embassy to Europe would not occur until more than 200 years later, following two centuries of isolation, with the "First Japanese Embassy to Europe" in 1862.


1614 Nov 8 - 1615 Jun

Siege of Osaka

Osaka Castle, 1 Osakajo, Chuo

Siege of Osaka | © The Shogunate
Siege of OsakaSiege of Osaka


In 1614, the Toyotomi clan rebuilt Osaka Castle. Tensions began to grow between the Tokugawa and the Toyotomi clans, and only increased when Toyotomi began to gather a force of rōnin and enemies of the shogunate in Osaka. Ieyasu, despite having passed the title of Shōgun to his son in 1605, nevertheless maintained significant influence.


The Tokugawa forces, with a huge army led by Ieyasu and shōgun Hidetada, laid siege to Osaka Castle in what is now known as "the Winter Siege of Osaka". Eventually, the Tokugawa were able to force negotiations and an armistice after directed cannon fire threatened Hideyori's mother, Yodo-dono. However, once the treaty was agreed, the Tokugawa filled the castle's outer moats with sand so his troops could walk across. Through this ploy, the Tokugawa gained a huge tract of land through negotiation and deception that they could not through siege and combat. Ieyasu returned to Sunpu Castle, but after Toyotomi Hideyori refused another order to leave Osaka, Ieyasu and his allied army of 155,000 soldiers attacked Osaka Castle again in "the Summer Siege of Osaka".


Finally, in late 1615, Osaka Castle fell and nearly all the defenders were killed, including Hideyori, his mother (Toyotomi Hideyoshi's widow, Yodo-dono), and his infant son. His wife, Senhime (a granddaughter of Ieyasu), pleaded to save Hideyori and Yodo-dono's lives. Ieyasu refused and either required them to commit ritual suicide, or killed both of them. Eventually, Senhime was sent back to Tokugawa alive. With the Toyotomi line finally extinguished, no threats remained to the Tokugawa clan's domination of Japan.


1623 Jan 1 - 1651

Tokugawa Iemitsu

Japan

Tokugawa Iemitsu
Tokugawa Iemitsu


Tokugawa Iemitsu was the third shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty. He was the eldest son of Tokugawa Hidetada with Oeyo, and the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Lady Kasuga was his wet nurse, who acted as his political adviser and was at the forefront of shogunate negotiations with the Imperial court. Iemitsu ruled from 1623 to 1651; during this period he crucified Christians, expelled all Europeans from Japan and closed the borders of the country, a foreign politics policy that continued for over 200 years after its institution. It is debatable whether Iemitsu can be considered a kinslayer for making his younger brother Tadanaga commit suicide by seppuku.


1635 Jan 1

Sankin-kōtai

Japan

Sankin-kōtai
Sankin-kōtai


Toyotomi Hideyoshi had earlier established a similar practice of requiring his feudal lords to keep their wives and heirs at Osaka Castle or the nearby vicinity as hostages to ensure their loyalty. Following the Battle of Sekigahara and the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, this practice was continued at the new capital of Edo as a matter of custom. It was made compulsory for the tozama daimyōs in 1635, and for the fudai daimyōs from 1642. Aside from an eight-year period under the rule of Tokugawa Yoshimune, the law remained in force until 1862.


The sankin-kōtai system forced daimyōs to reside in Edo in alternating sequence, spending a certain amount of time in Edo, and a certain amount of time in their home provinces. It is often said that one of the key goals of this policy was to prevent the daimyōs from amassing too much wealth or power by separating them from their home provinces, and by forcing them to regularly devote a sizable sum to funding the immense travel expenses associated with the journey (along with a large entourage) to and from Edo. The system also involved the daimyōs' wives and heirs remaining in Edo, disconnected from their lord and from their home province, serving essentially as hostages who might be harmed or killed if the daimyōs were to plot rebellion against the shogunate.


With hundreds of daimyōs entering or leaving Edo each year, processions were almost daily occurrences in the shogunal capital. The main routes to the provinces were the kaidō. Special lodgings, the honjin, were available to daimyōs during their travels. The frequent travel of the daimyo encouraged road building and the construction of inns and facilities along the routes, generating economic activity.


King Louis XIV of France instituted a similar practice upon the completion of his palace at Versailles, requiring the French nobility, particularly the ancient Noblesse d'épée ("nobility of the sword") to spend six months of each year at the palace, for reasons similar to those of the Japanese shōguns. The nobles were expected to assist the king in his daily duties and state and personal functions, including meals, parties, and, for the privileged, rising from and getting into bed, bathing, and going to church.


1635 Jan 1

Policy of Japanese National Seclusion

Nagasaki, Japan

Policy of Japanese National Seclusion
An Important Nanban Six-Fold Screen Depicting the Arrival of a Portuguese Ship for Trade


Anti-European attitudes began under Hideyoshi, whose suspicion of the Europeans first began with their intimidating appearance; their armed ships and sophisticated military power produced doubt and distrust, and following the conquest of the Philippines by the Spanish, Hideyoshi was convinced they were not to be trusted. The true motives of the Europeans came quickly into question.


The Sakoku Edict of 1635 was a Japanese decree intended to eliminate foreign influence, enforced by strict government rules and regulations to impose these ideas. It was the third of a series issued by Tokugawa Iemitsu, shōgun of Japan from 1623 to 1651. The Edict of 1635 is considered a prime example of the Japanese desire for seclusion. The Edict of 1635 was written to the two commissioners of Nagasaki, a port city located in southwestern Japan. Only Nagasaki Island is open, and only to traders from the Netherlands.


The key points of the Edict of 1635 included:


  • The Japanese were to be kept within Japan’s own boundaries. Strict rules were set to prevent them from leaving the country. Anyone caught trying to leave the country, or anyone who managed to leave and then returned from abroad, was to be executed. Europeans who entered Japan illegally would face the death penalty too.
  • Catholicism was strictly forbidden. Those found practicing the Christian faith were subject to investigation, and anyone associated with Catholicism would be punished. To encourage the search for those who still followed Christianity, rewards were given to those who were willing to turn them in. Prevention of missionary activity was also stressed by the edict; no missionary was allowed to enter, and if apprehended by the government, he would face imprisonment.
  • Trade restrictions and strict limitations on goods were set to limit the ports open to trade, and the merchants who would be allowed to engage in trade. Relations with the Portuguese were cut off entirely; Chinese merchants and those of the Dutch East India Company were restricted to enclaves in Nagasaki. Trade was also conducted with China through the semi-independent vassal kingdom of the Ryukyus, with Korea via the Tsushima Domain, and also with the Ainu people through the Matsumae Domain.

1637 Dec 17 - 1638 Apr 15

Shimabara Rebellion

Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan

Shimabara Rebellion
Shimabara Rebellion


The Shimabara Rebellion was an uprising that occurred in the Shimabara Domain of the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan from 17 December 1637 to 15 April 1638.


Matsukura Katsuie, the daimyō of the Shimabara Domain, enforced unpopular policies set by his father Matsukura Shigemasa that drastically raised taxes to construct the new Shimabara Castle and violently prohibited Christianity. In December 1637, an alliance of local rōnin and mostly Catholic peasants led by Amakusa Shirō rebelled against the Tokugawa shogunate due to discontent over Katsuie's policies. The Tokugawa Shogunate sent a force of over 125,000 troops supported by the Dutch to suppress the rebels and defeated them after a lengthy siege against their stronghold at Hara Castle in Minamishimabara.


Following the successful suppression of the rebellion, Shirō and an estimated 37,000 rebels and sympathizers were executed by beheading, and the Portuguese traders suspected of helping them were expelled from Japan. Katsuie was investigated for misruling, and was eventually beheaded in Edo, becoming the only daimyō to be executed during the Edo period. The Shimabara Domain was given to Kōriki Tadafusa. Japan's policies of national seclusion and persecution of Christianity were tightened until the Bakumatsu in the 1850s.


Shimabara Rebellion is often portrayed as a Christian rebellion against violent suppression by Matsukura Katsuie. However the main academic understanding is that the rebellion was mainly against Matsukura's misgovernance by peasants, with Christians later joining the rebellion. The Shimabara Rebellion was the largest civil conflict in Japan during the Edo period, and was one of only a handful of instances of serious unrest during the relatively peaceful period of the Tokugawa shogunate's rule.


1640 Jan 1 - 1643 Jan

Kan'ei Great Famine

Japan

Kan'ei Great Famine


The Kan'ei Great Famine was a famine which affected Japan during the reign of Empress Meishō in the Edo period. The estimated number of deaths due to starvation is between 50,000 and 100,000. It happened due to a combination of government over-spending, Rinderpest epizootic, volcanic eruptions and extreme weather.


The Bakufu government used the practices learned during the Kan'ei Great Famine for the management of the later famines, most notably during the Tenpō famine in 1833. Also, together with the expulsion of Christianity from Japan, the Kan'ei Great Famine set a template for how the Bakufu would address country-wide problems, bypassing daimyō. The governing structures of several clans were streamlined. Finally, greater protection of peasants from arbitrary taxes of local lords was implemented.


1651 Jan 1 - 1680

Tokugawa Ietsuna

Japan

Tokugawa Ietsuna
Tokugawa Ietsuna


Tokugawa Iemitsu died in early 1651, at the age of forty-seven. After his death, the Tokugawa dynasty was at major risk. Ietsuna, the heir, was only ten years old. Nonetheless, despite his age, Minamoto no Ietsuna became shogun in Kei'an 4 (1651). Until he came of age, five regents were to rule in his place, but Shogun Ietsuna nevertheless assumed a role as formal head of the bakufu bureaucracy.


The first thing that Shogun Ietsuna and the regency had to address was the rōnin (masterless samurai). During the reign of Shogun Iemitsu, two samurai, Yui Shōsetsu and Marubashi Chūya, had been planning an uprising in which the city of Edo would be burned to the ground and, amidst the confusion, Edo Castle would be raided and the shōgun, other members of the Tokugawa and high officials would be executed. Similar occurrences would happen in Kyoto and Osaka. Shosetsu was himself of humble birth and he saw Toyotomi Hideyoshi as his idol. Nonetheless, the plan was discovered after the death of Iemitsu, and Ietsuna's regents were brutal in suppressing the rebellion, which came to be known as the Keian Uprising or the "Tosa Conspiracy". Chuya was brutally executed along with his family and Shosetsu's family. Shosetsu chose to commit seppuku rather than being captured.


In 1652, about 800 rōnin led a small disturbance on Sado Island, and this was also brutally suppressed. But for the most part, the remainder of Ietsuna's rule was not disturbed anymore by the rōnin as the government became more civilian-oriented. Though Ietsuna proved to be an able leader, affairs were largely controlled by the regents his father had appointed, even after Ietsuna was declared old enough to rule in his own right.


1669 Jan 1 - 1672

Shakushain's revolt

Hokkaido, Japan

Shakushain's revolt


Shakushain's revolt was an Ainu rebellion against Japanese authority on Hokkaidō between 1669 and 1672. It was led by Ainu chieftain Shakushain against the Matsumae clan, who represented Japanese trading and governmental interests in the area of Hokkaidō then controlled by the Japanese (Yamato people).


The war began as a fight for resources between Shakushain's people and a rival Ainu clan in the Shibuchari River (Shizunai River) basin of what is now Shinhidaka, Hokkaidō. The war developed into a last try by the Ainu to keep their political independence and regain control over the terms of their trade relations with the Yamato people.


1680 Jan 1 - 1709

Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

Japan

Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
Tokugawa Tsunayoshi | ©Tosa Mitsuoki


In 1682, shōgun Tsunayoshi ordered his censors and police to raise the living standard of the people. Soon, prostitution was banned, waitresses could not be employed in tea houses, and rare and expensive fabrics were banned. Most probably, smuggling began as a practice in Japan soon after Tsunayoshi's authoritarian laws came into effect.


Nonetheless, due again to maternal advice, Tsunayoshi became very religious, promoting the Neo-Confucianism of Zhu Xi. In 1682, he read to the daimyōs an exposition of the "Great Learning", which became an annual tradition at the shōgun's court. He soon began to lecture even more, and in 1690 lectured about Neo-Confucian work to Shinto and Buddhist daimyōs, and even to envoys from the court of Emperor Higashiyama in Kyoto. He also was interested in several Chinese works, namely The Great Learning (Da Xue) and The Classic of Filial Piety (Xiao Jing). Tsunayoshi also loved art and Noh theater.


Owing to religious fundamentalism, Tsunayoshi sought protection for living beings in the later parts of his rule. In the 1690s and first decade of the 1700s, Tsunayoshi, who was born in the Year of the Dog, thought he should take several measures concerning dogs. A collection of edicts released daily, known as the Edicts on Compassion for Living Things, told the populace, among other things, to protect dogs, since in Edo there were many stray and diseased dogs walking around the city. In 1695, there were so many dogs that Edo began to smell horribly. Finally, the issue was taken to an extreme, as over 50,000 dogs were deported to kennels in the suburbs of the city where they would be housed. They were apparently fed rice and fish at the expense of the taxpaying citizens of Edo.


For the latter part of Tsunayoshi's reign, he was advised by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu. It was a golden era of classic Japanese art, known as the Genroku era.


1686 Jan 1

Jōkyō uprising

Azumino, Nagano, Japan

Jōkyō uprising


The Jōkyō uprising was a large-scale peasant uprising that happened in 1686 (in the third year of the Jōkyō era during the Edo period) in Azumidaira, Japan. Azumidaira at that time, was a part of the Matsumoto Domain under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate. The domain was ruled by the Mizuno clan at the time.


Numerous incidents of peasant uprising have been recorded in the Edo period, and in many cases the leaders of the uprisings were executed afterward. Those executed leaders have been admired as Gimin, non-religious martyrs, with the most famous Gimin being the possibly fictitious Sakura Sōgorō. But the Jōkyō Uprising was unique in that not only the leaders of the uprising (former or incumbent village heads, who did not personally suffer from the heavy taxes), but also a sixteen-year-old girl (subject of the book Oshyun by Ohtsubo Kazuko) who had helped her father, "the deputy ringleader", were caught and executed. On top of that, the leaders of the uprising clearly recognized what was at stake. They realized that the real issue was abuse of rights within a feudal system. Because the newly raised tax level was equivalent to a 70% tax rate; an impossible rate. The Mizunos compiled Shimpu-tōki, an official record of the Matsumoto Domain about forty years after the uprising. This Shimpu-tōki is the major and credible source of information concerning the uprising.


1712 Jan 1

Wakan Sansai Zue published

Japan

Wakan Sansai Zue published


The Wakan Sansai Zue is an illustrated Japanese leishu encyclopedia published in 1712 in the Edo period. It consists of 105 volumes in 81 books. Its compiler was Terashima, a doctor from Osaka. It describes and illustrates various activities of daily life, such as carpentry and fishing, as well as plants and animals, and constellations. It depicts the people of "different/strange lands" (ikoku) and "outer barbarian peoples". As seen from the title of the book, Terajima's idea was based on a Chinese encyclopedia, specifically the Ming work Sancai Tuhui ("Pictorial..." or "Illustrated Compendium of the Three Powers") by Wang Qi (1607), known in Japan as the Sansai Zue (三才図会). Reproductions of the Wakan Sansai Zue are still in print in Japan.


1716 Jan 1 - 1745

Tokugawa Yoshimune

Japan

Tokugawa Yoshimune
Tokugawa Yoshimune | ©Kanō Tadanobu


Yoshimune succeeded to the post of the shōgun in Shōtoku-1 (1716). His term as shōgun lasted for 30 years. Yoshimune is considered among the best of the Tokugawa shōguns. Yoshimune is known for his financial reforms. He dismissed the conservative adviser Arai Hakuseki and he began what would come to be known as the Kyōhō Reforms.


Although foreign books had been strictly forbidden since 1640, Yoshimune relaxed the rules in 1720, starting an influx of foreign books and their translations into Japan, and initiating the development of Western studies, or rangaku. Yoshimune's relaxation of the rules may have been influenced by a series of lectures delivered before him by the astronomer and philosopher Nishikawa Joken.


1720 Jan 1

Liberalization of Western knowledge

Japan

Liberalization of Western knowledge
A meeting of Japan, China, and the West, Shiba Kōkan, late 18th century.


Although most Western books were forbidden from 1640, rules were relaxed under shōgun Tokugawa Yoshimune in 1720, which started an influx of Dutch books and their translations into Japanese. One example is the 1787 publication of Morishima Chūryō’s Sayings of the Dutch, recording much knowledge received from the Dutch. The book details a vast array of topics: it includes objects such as microscopes and hot air balloons; discusses Western hospitals and the state of knowledge of illness and disease; outlines techniques for painting and printing with copper plates; it describes the makeup of static electricity generators and large ships; and it relates updated geographical knowledge.


Between 1804 and 1829, schools opened throughout the country by the Shogunate (Bakufu) as well as terakoya (temple schools) helped spread the new ideas further.


By that time, Dutch emissaries and scientists were allowed much more free access to Japanese society. The German physician Philipp Franz von Siebold, attached to the Dutch delegation, established exchanges with Japanese students. He invited Japanese scientists to show them the marvels of Western science, learning, in return, much about the Japanese and their customs. In 1824, von Siebold began a medical school in the outskirts of Nagasaki. Soon this Narutaki-juku grew into a meeting place for about fifty students from all over the country. While receiving a thorough medical education they helped with the naturalistic studies of von Siebold.


1722 Jan 1 - 1730

Kyōhō Reforms

Japan

Kyōhō Reforms
En masse Attendance of Daimyo at Edo Castle on a Festive Day from the Tokugawa Seiseiroku, National Museum of Japanese History


The Kyōhō Reforms were an array of economic and cultural policies introduced by the Tokugawa shogunate between 1722–1730 during the Edo period to improve its political and social status. These reforms were instigated by the eighth Tokugawa shōgun of Japan, Tokugawa Yoshimune, encompassing the first 20 years of his shogunate. The name Kyōhō Reforms, refers to the Kyōhō period (July 1716 – April 1736).


The reforms were aimed at making the Tokugawa shogunate financially solvent, and to some degree, to improve its political and social security. Because of the tensions between Confucian ideology and the economic reality of Tokugawa Japan (Confucian principles that money was defiling vs. the necessity for a cash economy), Yoshimune found it necessary to shelve certain Confucian principles that were hampering his reform process.


The Kyōhō Reforms included an emphasis on frugality, as well as the formation of merchant guilds that allowed greater control and taxation. The ban on Western books (minus those relating or referring to Christianity) was lifted to encourage the import of Western knowledge and technology.


The alternate attendance (sankin-kōtai) rules were relaxed. This policy was a burden on daimyōs, due to the cost of maintaining two households and moving people and goods between them, while maintaining a show of status and defending their lands when they were absent. The Kyōhō Reforms relieved this burden somewhat in an effort to gain support for the shogunate from the daimyōs.


1745 Jan 1 - 1760

Tokugawa Ieshige

Japan

Tokugawa Ieshige
Tokugawa Ieshige | ©Kanō Terunobu


Uninterested in government affairs, Ieshige left all decisions in the hands of his chamberlain, Ōoka Tadamitsu (1709–1760). He officially retired in 1760 and assumed the title of Ōgosho, appointed his first son Tokugawa Ieharu as the 10th shōgun, and died the following year. Ieshige's reign was beset by corruption, natural disasters, periods of famine and the emergence of the mercantile class, and his clumsiness in dealing with these issues greatly weakened the rule of Tokugawa.


1782 Jan 1 - 1788

Great Tenmei famine

Japan

Great Tenmei famine
Great Tenmei famine


The Great Tenmei famine was a famine which affected Japan during the Edo period. It is considered to have begun in 1782, and lasted until 1788. It was named after the Tenmei era (1781–1789), during the reign of Emperor Kōkaku. The ruling shoguns during the famine were Tokugawa Ieharu and Tokugawa Ienari. The famine was the deadliest one during the early modern period in Japan.


1787 Jan 1 - 1793

Kansei Reforms

Japan

Kansei Reforms
Emperor Kōkaku leaving for Sentō Imperial Palace after abdicating in 1817


The Kansei Reforms were a series of reactionary policy changes and edicts which were intended to cure a range of perceived problems which had developed in mid-18th-century Tokugawa Japan. Kansei refers to the nengō that spanned the years from 1789 through 1801; with the reforms occurring during the Kansei period but between the years 1787–1793. In the end, the shogunate's interventions were only partly successful. Intervening factors like famine, floods and other disasters exacerbated some of the conditions which the shōgun intended to ameliorate.


Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759–1829) was named the shōgun's chief councilor (rōjū) in the summer of 1787; and early in the next year, he became the regent for the 11th shōgun, Tokugawa Ienari. As the chief administrative decision-maker in the bakufu hierarchy, he was in a position to effect radical change; and his initial actions represented an aggressive break with the recent past. Sadanobu's efforts were focused on strengthening the government by reversing many of the policies and practices which had become commonplace under the regime of the previous shōgun, Tokugawa Ieharu. Sadanobu increased the bakufu's rice reserves and required daimyos to do the same. He reduced expenditures in cities, set aside reserves for future famines, and encouraged peasants in cities to go back to the countryside. He tried to institute policies that promoted morality and frugality, such as prohibiting extravagant activities in the countryside and curbing unlicensed prostitution in the cities. Sadanobu also cancelled some debts owed by daimyos to the merchants.


These reform policies could be interpreted as a reactionary response to the excesses of his rōjū predecessor, Tanuma Okitsugu (1719–1788). The result was that the Tanuma-initiated, liberalizing reforms within the bakufu and the relaxation of sakoku (Japan's "closed-door" policy of strict control of foreign merchants) were reversed or blocked. Education policy was changed through the Kansei Edict of 1790 which enforced teaching of the Neo-Confucianism of Zhu Xi as the official Confucian philosophy of Japan. The decree banned certain publications and enjoined strict observance of Neo-Confucian doctrine, especially with regard to the curriculum of the official Hayashi school.


This reform movement was related to three others during the Edo period: the Kyōhō reforms (1722–30), the Tenpō reforms of 1841–43 and the Keiō reforms (1864–67).


1825 Jan 1

Edict to Repel Foreign Vessels

Japan

Edict to Repel Foreign Vessels
Japanese drawing of the Morrison, anchored in front of Uraga in 1837.


The Edict to Repel Foreign Vessels was a law promulgated by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1825 to the effect that all foreign vessels should be driven away from Japanese waters. An example of the law being put into practice was the Morrison Incident of 1837, in which an American merchant vessel attempting to use the return of Japanese castaways as leverage to initiate trading was fired upon.The law was repealed in 1842.


1833 Jan 1 - 1836

Tenpō famine

Japan

Tenpō famine
Tenpō famine


The Tenpō famine, also known as the Great Tenpō famine was a famine that affected Japan during the Edo period. Considered to have lasted from 1833 to 1837, it was named after the Tenpō era (1830–1844), during the reign of Emperor Ninkō. The ruling shōgun during the famine was Tokugawa Ienari. The famine was most severe in northern Honshū and was caused by flooding and cold weather.


The famine was one of a series of calamities that shook the faith of the people in the ruling bakufu. During the same period as the famine, there were also the Kōgo Fires of Edo (1834) and a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in the Sanriku region (1835). In the last year of the famine, Ōshio Heihachirō led a revolt in Osaka against corrupt officials, who refused to help feed the impoverished residents of the city. Another revolt sprung up in Chōshū Domain. Also in 1837, the American merchant vessel Morrison appeared off the coast of Shikoku and was driven away by coastal artillery. Those incidents made the Tokugawa bakufu look weak and powerless, and they exposed the corruption of the officials who profited while the commoners suffered.


1853 Jul 14

Arrival of the Black Ships

Japan

Arrival of the Black Ships
Arrival of the Black Ships


The Perry Expedition ("Arrival of the Black Ships") was a diplomatic and military expedition during 1853-54 to the Tokugawa Shogunate involving two separate voyages by warships of the United States Navy. The goals of this expedition included exploration, surveying, and the establishment of diplomatic relations and negotiation of trade agreements with various nations of the region; opening contact with the government of Japan was considered a top priority of the expedition, and was one of the key reasons for its inception.


The expedition was commanded by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, under orders from President Millard Fillmore. Perry’s primary goal was to force an end to Japan’s 220-year-old policy of isolation and to open Japanese ports to American trade, through the use of gunboat diplomacy if necessary. The Perry Expedition led directly to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the western Great Powers, and eventually to the collapse of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the Emperor. Following the expedition, Japan's burgeoning trade routes with the world led to the cultural trend of Japonisme, in which aspects of Japanese culture influenced art in Europe and America.


1853 Aug 1 - 1867

Decline: Bakumatsu period

Japan

Decline: Bakumatsu period
Samurai of the Chosyu clan, during the Boshin War period


By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the shogunate showed signs of weakening. The dramatic growth of agriculture that had characterized the early Edo period had ended, and the government handled the devastating Tenpō famines poorly. Peasant unrest grew and government revenues fell. The shogunate cut the pay of the already financially distressed samurai, many of whom worked side jobs to make a living. Discontented samurai were soon to play a major role in engineering the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate.


The arrival in 1853 of a fleet of American ships commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry threw Japan into turmoil. The US government aimed to end Japan's isolationist policies. The shogunate had no defense against Perry's gunboats and had to agree to his demands that American ships be permitted to acquire provisions and trade at Japanese ports. The Western powers imposed what became known as "unequal treaties" on Japan which stipulated that Japan must allow citizens of these countries to visit or reside on Japanese territory and must not levy tariffs on their imports or try them in Japanese courts.


The shogunate's failure to oppose the Western powers angered many Japanese, particularly those of the southern domains of Chōshū and Satsuma. Many samurai there, inspired by the nationalist doctrines of the kokugaku school, adopted the slogan of sonnō jōi ("revere the emperor, expel the barbarians"). The two domains went on to form an alliance. In August 1866, soon after becoming shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, struggled to maintain power as civil unrest continued. The Chōshū and Satsuma domains in 1868 convinced the young Emperor Meiji and his advisors to issue a rescript calling for an end to the Tokugawa shogunate. The armies of Chōshū and Satsuma soon marched on Edo and the ensuing Boshin War led to the fall of the shogunate.


Bakumatsu was the final years of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate ended. The major ideological-political divide during this period was between the pro-imperial nationalists called ishin shishi and the shogunate forces, which included the elite shinsengumi swordsmen. The turning point of the Bakumatsu was during the Boshin War and the Battle of Toba–Fushimi when pro-shogunate forces were defeated.


1854 Mar 31

End of the Sakoku (Japan's National Seclusion)

Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan

End of the Sakoku (Japan's National Seclusion)
End of the Sakoku (Japan's National Seclusion)


The Convention of Kanagawa or the Japan–US Treaty of Peace and Amity, was a treaty signed between the United States and the Tokugawa Shogunate on March 31, 1854. Signed under threat of force, it effectively meant the end of Japan's 220-year-old policy of national seclusion (sakoku) by opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American vessels. It also ensured the safety of American castaways and established the position of an American consul in Japan. The treaty precipitated the signing of similar treaties establishing diplomatic relations with other Western powers.


Internally, the treaty had far-reaching consequences. Decisions to suspend previous restrictions on military activities led to re-armament by many domains and further weakened the position of the shogun. Debate over foreign policy and popular outrage over perceived appeasement to the foreign powers was a catalyst for the sonnō jōi movement and a shift in political power from Edo back to the Imperial Court in Kyoto. The opposition of Emperor Kōmei to the treaties further lent support to the tōbaku (overthrow the shogunate) movement, and eventually to the Meiji Restoration, which affected all realms of Japanese life. Following this period came an increase in foreign trade, the rise of Japanese military might, and the later rise of Japanese economic and technological advancement. Westernization at the time was a defense mechanism, but Japan has since found a balance between Western modernity and Japanese tradition.


1855 Jan 1 - 1859

Nagasaki Naval Training Center established

Nagasaki, Japan

Nagasaki Naval Training Center established
The Nagasaki Training Center, in Nagasaki, near Dejima


The Nagasaki Naval Training Center was a naval training institute, between 1855 when it was established by the government of the Tokugawa shogunate, until 1859, when it was transferred to Tsukiji in Edo. During the Bakumatsu period, the Japanese government faced increasing incursions by ships from the Western world, intent on ending the country's two centuries of isolationist foreign policy. These efforts cumulated in the landing of United States commodore Matthew Perry in 1854, resulting in the Treaty of Kanagawa and the opening of Japan to foreign trade. The Tokugawa government decided to order modern steam warships and to build a naval training center as part of its modernization efforts to meet the perceived military threat posed by the more advanced Western navies.


Officers of the Royal Netherlands Navy were in charge of education. The curriculum was weighed towards navigation and Western science. The training institute was also equipped with Japan's first steamship, Kankō Maru given by the King of the Netherlands in 1855. It was later joined by the Kanrin Maru and the Chōyō.


The decision to terminate the School was made for political reasons, arising from the Japanese side as well as from the Dutch side. While the Netherlands feared that the other Western powers would suspect that they were helping the Japanese accumulate naval power to repulse Westerners, the Shogunate became reluctant to give samurai from traditionally anti-Tokugawa domains opportunities to learn modern naval technology. Although the Nagasaki Naval Training Center was short-lived, it had considerable direct and indirect influence on future Japanese society. The Nagasaki Naval Training Center educated many naval officers and engineers who would later become not only founders of the Imperial Japanese Navy but also promoters of Japan's shipbuilding and other industries.


1860 Jan 1

Japanese Embassy to the United States

San Francisco, CA, USA

Japanese Embassy to the United States
Kanrin Maru (circa 1860)
Japanese Embassy to the United StatesJapanese Embassy to the United StatesJapanese Embassy to the United StatesJapanese Embassy to the United StatesJapanese Embassy to the United States


The Japanese Embassy to the United States, Man'en gannen kenbei shisetsu, lit. First year of the Man'en era mission to America) was dispatched in 1860 by the Tokugawa shogunate (bakufu). Its objective was to ratify the new Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation between the United States and Japan, in addition to being Japan's first diplomatic mission to the United States since the 1854 opening of Japan by Commodore Matthew Perry.


Another significant facet of the mission was the shogunate's dispatch of a Japanese warship, the Kanrin Maru, to accompany the delegation across the Pacific and thereby demonstrate the degree to which Japan had mastered Western navigation techniques and ship technologies barely six years after ending its isolation policy of nearly 250 years.


1863 Mar 11

Order to expel barbarians

Japan

Order to expel barbarians
An 1861 image expressing the Joi (攘夷, "Expel the Barbarians") sentiment.


The Order to expel barbarians was an edict issued by the Japanese Emperor Kōmei in 1863 against the Westernization of Japan following the opening of the country by Commodore Perry in 1854. The edict was based on widespread anti-foreign and legitimist sentiment, called the Sonnō jōi  "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians" movement. Emperor Kōmei personally agreed with such sentiments, and – breaking with centuries of imperial tradition – began to take an active role in matters of state: as opportunities arose, he fulminated against the treaties and attempted to interfere in the shogunal succession.


The Shogunate had no intention of enforcing the order, and the Edict inspired attacks against the Shogunate itself as well as against foreigners in Japan. The most famous incident was the firing on foreign shipping in the Shimonoseki Strait off Chōshū Province as soon as the deadline was reached. Masterless samurai (rōnin) rallied to the cause, assassinating Shogunate officials and Westerners. The killing of the English trader Charles Lennox Richardson is sometimes considered as a result of this policy. The Tokugawa government was required to pay an indemnity of a hundred thousand British pounds for Richardson's death.


But this turned out to be the zenith of the sonnō jōi movement, since the Western powers responded to Japanese attacks on western shipping with the Bombardment of Shimonoseki. Heavy reparations had earlier been demanded from Satsuma for the murder of Charles Lennox Richardson – the Namamugi Incident. When these were not forthcoming, a squadron of Royal Navy vessels went to the Satsuma port of Kagoshima to coerce the daimyō into paying. Instead, he opened fire on the ships from his shore batteries, and the squadron retaliated. This was later referred to, inaccurately, as the Bombardment of Kagoshima. These incidents clearly showed that Japan was no match for Western military might, and that brutal confrontation could not be the solution. These events, however, also served to further weaken the shogunate, which appeared too powerless and compromising in its relations with Western powers. Ultimately the rebel provinces allied and overthrew the shogunate in the Boshin War and the subsequent Meiji Restoration.


1863 Jul 20 - 1864 Sep 6

Shimonoseki campaign

Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, Japan

Shimonoseki campaign
The bombardment of Shimonoseki by the French warship Tancrède (background) and the Admiral's flagship, Semiramis. (foreground), Jean-Baptiste Henri Durand-Brager, 1865.


The Shimonoseki campaign refers to a series of military engagements in 1863 and 1864, fought to control the Shimonoseki Straits of Japan by joint naval forces from Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States, against the Japanese feudal domain of Chōshū, which took place off and on the coast of Shimonoseki, Japan.


1863 Sep 29 - 1864 Sep

Tenchūgumi incident

Nara Prefecture, Japan

Tenchūgumi incident


The Tenchūgumi incident was a military uprising of sonnō jōi (revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians) activists in Yamato Province, now Nara Prefecture, on 29 September 1863, during the Bakumatsu period. Emperor Kōmei had issued a dispatch to shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi to expel the foreigners from Japan in early 1863. The shōgun answered with a visit to Kyoto in April, but he rejected the demands of the Jōi faction. On September 25 the emperor announced he would travel to Yamato province, to the grave of Emperor Jimmu, the mythical founder of Japan, to announce his dedication to the Jōi cause. Following this, a group called Tenchūgumi consisting of 30 samurai and rōnin from Tosa and other fiefs marched into Yamato Province and took over the Magistrate office in Gojō. They were led by Yoshimura Toratarō. The next day, shogunate loyalists from Satsuma and Aizu reacted by expelling several imperial officials of the sonnō jōi faction from the Imperial Court in Kyoto, in the Bunkyū coup. The shogunate sent troops to quell the Tenchūgumi, and they were finally defeated in September 1864.


1864 May 1 - 1865 Jan

Mito Rebellion

Mito Castle Ruins, 2 Chome-9 S

Mito Rebellion
Mito rebellion | ©Utagawa Kuniteru III


The Mito rebellion was a civil war that occurred in the area of Mito Domain in Japan between May 1864 and January 1865. It involved an uprising and terrorist actions against the central power of the Shogunate in favour of the sonnō jōi ("Revere the emperor, expel the barbarians") policy.


A shogunal pacification force was sent to Mount Tsukuba on 17 June 1864, consisting of 700 Mito soldiers led by Ichikawa, with 3 to 5 cannons and at least 200 firearms, as well as a Tokugawa shogunate force of 3,000 men with over 600 firearms and several cannons. As the conflict escalated, on 10 October 1864 at Nakaminato, the shogunate force of 6,700 was defeated by 2000 insurgents, and several shogunal defeats followed. The insurgents were weakening, however, dwindling to about 1,000. By December 1864 they faced a new force under Tokugawa Yoshinobu (himself born in Mito) numbering over 10,000, which ultimately forced them to surrender. The uprising resulted in 1,300 dead on the rebels' side, which suffered vicious repression, including 353 executions and approximately 100 who died in captivity.


1864 Aug 20

Kinmon incident

Kyoto Imperial Palace, 3 Kyoto

Kinmon incident


In March 1863, the shishi rebels sought to take control of the Emperor to restore the Imperial household to its position of political supremacy. During what was a bloody crushing of the rebellion, the leading Chōshū clan was held responsible for its instigation. To counter the rebels' kidnapping attempt, armies of the Aizu and Satsuma domains (the latter led by Saigo Takamori) led the defense of the Imperial palace. However, during the attempt, the rebels set Kyoto on fire, starting with the residence of the Takatsukasa family, and that of a Chōshū official. The shogunate followed the incident with a retaliatory armed expedition, the First Chōshū expedition, in September 1864.


1864 Sep 1 - 1864 Nov

First Chōshū expedition

Hagi Castle Ruins, 1-1 Horiuch

First Chōshū expedition
Satsuma clan


The First Chōshū expedition was a punitive military expedition by the Tokugawa shogunate against the Chōshū Domain in September–November 1864. The expedition was in retaliation for Chōshū's role in the attack on the Kyoto Imperial Palace during the Kinmon incident in August 1864. The expedition ended in a nominal victory for the shogunate after a deal negotiated by Saigō Takamori allowed Chōshū to hand over the ringleaders of the Kinmon incident.


The conflict finally led to a compromise brokered by the Satsuma Domain at the end of 1864.Although Satsuma initially jumped on the opportunity to weaken its traditional Chōshū enemy, it soon realized that the intention of the Bakufu was first to neutralize Chōshū, and then to neutralize Satsuma. For this reason, Saigō Takamori, who was one of the Commanders of the shogunate forces, proposed to avoid fighting and instead obtain the leaders responsible for the rebellion. Chōshū was relieved to accept, as were the shogunate forces, who were not much interested in battle. Thus ended the First Chōshū expedition without a fight, as a nominal victory for the Bakufu.


1866 Jun 7

Second Chōshū expedition

Iwakuni Castle, 3 Chome Yokoya

Second Chōshū expedition
Modernized shogunal troops in the Second Chōshū Expedition


The Second Chōshū expedition was announced on 6 March 1865. The operation started on 7 June 1866 with the bombardment of Suō-Ōshima in Yamaguchi Prefecture by the Navy of the Bakufu. The expedition ended in military disaster for the shogunate troops, as Chōshū forces were modernized and organised effectively. By contrast, the shogunate army was composed of antiquated feudal forces from the Bakufu and numerous neighbouring domains, with only small elements of modernised units. Many domains put up only half-hearted efforts, and several outright refused shogunate orders to attack, notably Satsuma who had by this point entered into an alliance with Chōshū.


Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the new shōgun, managed to negotiate a ceasefire after the death of the previous shōgun, but the defeat fatally weakened the shogunate's prestige. Tokugawa military prowess was revealed to be a paper tiger, and it became apparent that the shogunate could no longer impose its will upon the domains. The disastrous campaign is often seen to have sealed the fate of the Tokugawa shogunate.


The defeat stimulated the Bakufu in making numerous reforms to modernize its administration and army. Yoshinobu's younger brother Ashitake was sent to the 1867 Paris Exposition, Western dress replaced Japanese dress at the shogunal court, and collaboration with the French was reinforced leading to the 1867 French military mission to Japan.


1866 Aug 29 - 1868

Tokugawa Yoshinobu

Japan

Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Yoshinobu in Osaka.


Prince Tokugawa Yoshinobu was the 15th and last shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He was part of a movement which aimed to reform the aging shogunate, but was ultimately unsuccessful.


Immediately upon Yoshinobu's ascension as shōgun, major changes were initiated. A massive government overhaul was undertaken to initiate reforms that would strengthen the Tokugawa government. In particular, assistance from the Second French Empire was organized, with the construction of the Yokosuka arsenal under Léonce Verny, and the dispatch of a French military mission to modernize the armies of the bakufu. The national army and navy, which had already been formed under Tokugawa command, were strengthened by the assistance of the Russians, and the Tracey Mission provided by the British Royal Navy. Equipment was also purchased from the United States. The outlook among many was that the Tokugawa Shogunate was gaining ground towards renewed strength and power; however, it fell in less than a year.


After resigning in late 1867, he went into retirement, and largely avoided the public eye for the rest of his life.


1867 Jan 1 - 1868

Japan requests Western military training

Japan

Japan requests Western military training
French officers drilling Shōgun troops in Osaka in 1867.


Through its representative to Europe, Shibata Takenaka, the Tokugawa shogunate made a request to emperor Napoléon III with the intention of modernizing the Japanese military forces. The French military mission of 1867-1868 was one of the first foreign military training missions to Japan.


Shibata had further asked both the United Kingdom and France to deploy a military mission for training in Western warfare. Shibata was already negotiating with the French for building of the Yokosuka Shipyard. Through the Tracey Mission, the United Kingdom supported the Bakufu naval forces.


Before the Tokugawa shogunate was defeated by the Imperial troops in the Boshin War in 1868, the military mission was able to train an elite corps of shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the Denshtai, for a little over a year. Following that, the newly appointed Meiji Emperor issued an order in October 1868 for the French military mission to depart Japan.


1867 Feb 3

End of the Edo Period

Japan

End of the Edo Period
Emperor Meiji


Emperor Kōmei died at the age of 35. It's generally believed due to the smallpox epidemic. This marked the end of the Edo period. Emperor Meiji ascended the Chrysanthemum throne. This marked the start of the Meiji Period.


1868 Jan 3

Meiji Restoration

Japan

Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration


The Meiji Restoration, referred to at the time as the Honorable Restoration (御一新, Goisshin), and also known as the Meiji Renovation, Revolution, Reform, or Renewal, was a political event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji. Although there were ruling emperors before the Meiji Restoration, the events restored practical abilities and consolidated the political system under the Emperor of Japan. The goals of the restored government were expressed by the new emperor in the Charter Oath.


The Restoration led to enormous changes in Japan's political and social structure and spanned both the late Edo period (often called the Bakumatsu) and the beginning of the Meiji era, during which time Japan rapidly industrialized and adopted Western ideas and production methods.


1868 Jan 27 - 1869 Jun 27

Boshin War

Japan

Boshin War
Boshin War
Boshin WarBoshin WarBoshin WarBoshin WarBoshin War


The Boshin War, sometimes known as the Japanese Revolution or Japanese Civil War, was a civil war in Japan fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and a clique seeking to seize political power in the name of Imperial Court.


The war was founded in dissatisfaction among many nobles and young samurai with the shogunate's handling of foreigners following the opening of Japan during the prior decade. Increasing Western influence in the economy led to a decline similar to that of other Asian countries at the time. An alliance of western samurai, particularly the domains of Chōshū, Satsuma and Tosa, and court officials secured control of the Imperial Court and influenced the young Emperor Meiji. Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the sitting shōgun, realizing the futility of his situation, abdicated political power to the emperor. Yoshinobu had hoped that by doing this, the House of Tokugawa could be preserved and participate in the future government.


However, military movements by imperial forces, partisan violence in Edo, and an imperial decree promoted by Satsuma and Chōshū abolishing the House of Tokugawa led Yoshinobu to launch a military campaign to seize the emperor's court in Kyoto. The military tide rapidly turned in favour of the smaller but relatively modernized imperial faction, and, after a series of battles culminating in the surrender of Edo, Yoshinobu personally surrendered. Those loyal to the Tokugawa retreated to northern Honshū and later to Hokkaidō, where they founded the Republic of Ezo. Defeat at the Battle of Hakodate broke this last holdout and left imperial rule supreme throughout the whole of Japan, completing the military phase of the Meiji Restoration.


Around 69,000 men were mobilized during the conflict, and of these about 8,200 were killed. In the end, the victorious imperial faction abandoned its objective of expelling foreigners from Japan and instead adopted a policy of continued modernization with an eye to eventual renegotiation of the unequal treaties with the Western powers. Due to the persistence of Saigō Takamori, a prominent leader of the imperial faction, the Tokugawa loyalists were shown clemency, and many former shogunate leaders and samurai were later given positions of responsibility under the new government.


When the Boshin War began, Japan was already modernizing, following the same course of advancement as that of the industrialized Western nations. Since Western nations, especially the United Kingdom and France, were deeply involved in the country's politics, the installation of Imperial power added more turbulence to the conflict. Over time, the war has been romanticized as a "bloodless revolution", as the number of casualties was small relative to the size of Japan's population. However, conflicts soon emerged between the western samurai and the modernists in the imperial faction, which led to the bloodier Satsuma Rebellion.


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Last Updated: Fri, 21 Oct 2022 07:51:10 GMT






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Further Reading



  • Birmingham Museum of Art (2010), Birmingham Museum of Art: guide to the collection, Birmingham, Alabama: Birmingham Museum of Art, ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5
  • Beasley, William G. (1972), The Meiji Restoration, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-0815-0
  • Diamond, Jared (2005), Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-303655-6
  • Frédéric, Louis (2002), Japan Encyclopedia, Harvard University Press Reference Library, Belknap, ISBN 9780674017535
  • Flath, David (2000), The Japanese Economy, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-877504-0
  • Gordon, Andrew (2008), A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to Present (Second ed.), New York: Oxford University press, ISBN 978-0-19-533922-2, archived from the original on February 6, 2010
  • Hall, J.W.; McClain, J.L. (1991), The Cambridge History of Japan, The Cambridge History of Japan, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521223553
  • Iwao, Nagasaki (2015). "Clad in the aesthetics of tradition: from kosode to kimono". In Jackson, Anna (ed.). Kimono: the art and evolution of Japanese fashion. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 8–11. ISBN 9780500518021. OCLC 990574229.
  • Jackson, Anna (2015). "Dress in the Edo period: the evolution of fashion". In Jackson, Anna (ed.). Kimono: the art and evolution of Japanese fashion. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 20–103. ISBN 9780500518021. OCLC 990574229.
  • Jansen, Marius B. (2002), The Making of Modern Japan (Paperback ed.), Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-00991-6
  • Lewis, James Bryant (2003), Frontier Contact Between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-1301-8
  • Longstreet, Stephen; Longstreet, Ethel (1989), Yoshiwara: the pleasure quarters of old Tokyo, Yenbooks, Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing, ISBN 0-8048-1599-2
  • Seigle, Cecilia Segawa (1993), Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan, Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0-8248-1488-6
  • Totman, Conrad (2000), A history of Japan (2nd ed.), Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 9780631214472