Meiji Chronology

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Topics: Japan treaded through a compendium of contemporary world thought which fashioned the Meiji Era's modernity.

Chronology of Some Significant Factors in Japanese History

1641Tokugawa Iemitsu issues Sakoku

17th end of century, Sakura Sogōrō, kabuki, ghost, peasant martyr

1720, a wave of Western influence began with the spread of rangaku throughout the country.

1820s, revolts near Osaka.

1853 "kaikoku, Matthew Perry. Bakumatsu Period begins; Yoshida Shōin tried to sneak aboard the returning ship, imprisoned at least twice, tried to lead a revolt, took over father’s Shoka Sonjuku school.

1854 Kamagawa treaty, Matthew Perry.

1858 Ii Naosuke, a bakufu official who signed treaties with the Western powers, began to round up sonnō-jōi rebels in Kyoto, Edo, and eventually the provinces.

1860, Fukuzawa Yukichi went to San Francisco sent by Bakufu.

1866 Shindatsu Uprising

1866 Satsuma-Chōshū Alliance Saigō Takamori, the leader of the Satsuma domain, and Kido Takayoshi, the leader of the Chōshū domain.

1867, fall, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, steps down amidst opposition, the "restoration" (Taisei Hōkan) of imperial rule, although Yoshinobu retained considerable power.

1868 April 6, The five-article Charter Oath is announced and taken by the Emperor. This could be called modern Japan's first constitution as it lays out the new Meiji government's basic (and very vague) policies. The Junior and Senior Councils of State are modified (DT).

1868, the Boshin War, forces from Chōshū and Satsuma defeated the ex-shogun's army and forced the Emperor to strip Yoshinobu of all power.

1886, The Meiji period denotes the 45-year reign of Emperor Meiji, running from 8 September 1868 (in the Gregorian calendar, 23 October 1868) to 30 July 1912.

1868, Yonaoshi Uprisings in Aizu.

1868, The Emperor''s Charter Oath. (5) main points.

1868 September, Edo is renamed Tōkyō (Eastern Capital) and established as the capital city.

1868 June, The Councils of State are completely revamped. The supreme governing body is now a single Council of State, consisting of an Upper and Lower House for deliberations, an Office of the President of the Council, and five Departments of State (Shintō Religion, War, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Justice). The system is not modeled on any western system, but rather on the administrative system established in Japan in 701, with most of the same offices and titles. However, the entire system undergoes several modifications until 1871, and then a final modification in 1889 (DT).

1868-1870, The Meiji government arrests over 3000 christians in Kyūshū in their attempt to stamp out Christianity and exalt Shintō (DT).

1869 March, The emperor is moved to Tōkyō and the city is made the seat of government. The daimyō of Satsuma, Chōshū, Tosa, and Hizen return their domains to the Emperor. Most of the other daimyō do likewise by the end of the year. To encourage this surrender, the government grants the daimyō one-half of their revenue (DT).

1869 July, Daimyō who have returned their domains to the emperor are appointed as governors of the domains they once ruled (DT).

1869, March, The emperor is moved to Tōkyō and the city is made the seat of government. The daimyō of Satsuma, Chōshū, Tosa, and Hizen return their domains to the Emperor. Most of the other daimyō do likewise by the end of the year. To encourage this surrender, the government grants the daimyō one-half of their revenue. (David Turkington, see link)

1871, A Ministry of Education is established which encourages Western learning and begins the process of building a national system of education.

1871, December 23, Iwakura Mission, two year trip, the mission sailed from Yokohama, bound for San Francisco. From there it continued to Washington, D.C., then to Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Prussia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, (then through the east). Mainly ceremonial.

1873 The ban on Christianity is officially lifted although many Buddhists, Shintōists and Confucianists allied in an all-out anti-Christian campaign (DT).

1873, September 1873 When the Iwakura Mission returns to Japan, they find that Saigo Takamori, Itagaki Taisuke (of Tosa), Goto, and others are making plans to invade Korea and Formosa. The plan to invade Korea is overruled by Iwakura, Kido, and Okubo. Saigo and Itagaki leave the government in protest (along with Goto, Eto, and others). The plan to invade Formosa is not overruled and Kido resigns in protest for that (DT).

1874 January, An unsuccessful assassination attempt is made against Iwakura for his role in reducing the status and income of the samurai (DT).

1874 Itagaki returns to Tosa and founds the "Freedom and People's Rights" movement (Jiyu Minken Undo) and the Aikok Koto (Public Party of Patriots).

1875, ("An Outline of a Theory of Civilization") published in 1875, in which he details his own theory of civilization.

1875 A Press Law is enacted which implements censorship and severely restricts political criticism of the government (DT).

1876 Government cancels ex-daimyo stipends. The daimyo paid off with government bonds (which, of course, would have no value if the central government fails)(DT).

1876 Samurai are denied the right to wear swords (DT).

1877 January, Close to 80,000 samurai in Satsuma, led by Saigo Takamori, begin a rebellion uprising (Seinan Rebellion, Seinan no eki). The government puts it down after almost nine months of fighting and Saigo commits seppuku. The important point coming from the government victory is that a national army consisting of non-samurai could defeat the elite samurai from Satsuma. The government no longer need fear an armed samurai uprising (DT).

1879, Prefectural Assemblies are instituted and replace the previous (and discredited) Assembly of Provincial Officials. While they still hold no real power, they do teach local authorities needed administrative skills. Okinawa is incorporated into the state and becomes Okinawa Prefecture (DT).

1880 Village, Town, and City Ward Assemblies are assembled.

1880 The first translation of the New Testament into Japanese is completed (DT).

1881, Itagaki Taisuke created the Liberal Party (Jiyuto) together with Numa Morikazu in 1881, which, along with the Rikken Kaishinto (Constitutional Progressive Party), led the nationwide popular discontent of 1880-1884.

1882, 1882 Okuma Shigenobu established the Rikken Kaishinto (Constitutional Progressive Party), which called for a British-style constitutional democracy. In response, government bureaucrats, local government officials, and other conservatives established the Rikken Teiseito (Imperial Rule Party), a pro-government party, in 1882. Numerous political demonstrations followed, some of them violent, resulting in further government restrictions. The restrictions hindered the political parties and led to divisions within and among them. The Jiyuto, which had opposed the Kaishinto, was disbanded in 1884, and Okuma resigned as Kaishinto president.

1882 April, In preparation for writing a draft constitution, Itō, with a large staff, goes overseas to tour several constitutional systems of government - spending most of his time in Germany studying the system of Bizmark (DT).

1882, The government divides Shintō into 'State Shintō,' which is allowed to use the title jinja for it's shrines, and 'Sect Shintō,' which must use the title kyōkai (church) or kyōha (sect). In addition, the former received state privileges and financial subsidies while the later didn't. Also, Sect Shintō establishments were forbidden from using torii (DT).

1884, Chichibu Uprising, 3000 participants +, economic peasants against wealthy peasants and debt collectors. – sever response by the oligarchs, sending police.

1886, short experimented and included aspectal hybrid European statist system which featured German influence.

1889, Japan's first Western/Eastern-style constitution

1889, Meiji Constitution (1889), a set of education laws, most notably the Imperial Rescript on Education (1890), which set obedience as the goal of education, and the Civil Code (1891).

Education for the masses was to include an exoteric doctrine of the Emperor whereby the Emperor was promoted as an infallible, mystical being. Myths, such as the unbroken line of Emperors springing from the Sun Goddess,35 were invented from fragments of traditional folk beliefs, Shintō religion and newly minted notions.

1890 First Diet

1890s industrialists opposed to factory legislation. "Warm-heartedness," "beautiful customs” and “harmony” contrasted with western commercial competition.

1890s. the period of choosing cultures, which ones were the best? Does modernity, as a global interrelated discourse dedifferentiate us with concerns of self-preservation?

1894-1895, First Sino-Japanese War.

1895, March, The Chinese send out peace overtures to the Japanese.

1896, 1890's a remarkable turnaround from feudal to commercial industry with 210 of 258 such businesses ran by Japanese in 1896.

1896 The Reform Party (Kaishintō) and other minor parties merge to form the Progressive Party (Shimpotō) (DT).

1898, A government order forbids teachers and priests of Sect Shintō establishments from teaching within the compounds of State Shintō shrines (DT).

1898, The Liberal Party (Jiyutō) and Progressive Party (Shimpotō) merge to form the Constitutional Party (Kenseitō). (Now, instead of two parties, there was one party is two factions) (DT).

1900 October, Itō Hirobumi forms the Seiyukai political party (by merging his followers with those of Itagaki) and becomes its party president. Leaders of Kenseitō dissolve their party. Some members join the Seiyukai while other members form the Kenseihontō (True Kensei Party) (DT).

1901 (PARTY) The first Social Democratic Party is formed. Five of the six founders are Christians.

1891, A commercial legal code, with strong German elements, goes into effect.

May 6, 1891 Matsukata Masayoshi becomes Prime Minister. (DT)

October 28, 1891 An earthquake rocks Gifu Prefecture killing or injuring over 25,000 people.

1891 December, The first Diet is dissolved after the government is unable to get the budget passed, but the administration remains in power (although disliked throughout the country for its strong arm tactics).

1892 February, Following the dissolution of the Diet, new elections are held and a new Diet is formed. The government, however, still fails to get a majority.

1892 August 8, Unable to work with the Diet, the cabinet resigns. Itō Hirobumi becomes Prime Minister again in an attempt to restore order.

1892 November, A new Diet session opens but the battle between it and the govenrment continues.

1893 February, The Lower House submits an address to the emperor accusing the cabinet of misconduct. The cabinet, gets the emperor to issue a message which tells both sides to work together, but is, in effect, a rebuke of the Diet

1893 December, After another Diet appeal to the emperor, and another negative imperial reply issued on behalf of the cabinet, the Diet is dissolved.

1893 A civil legal code, with strong French elements, goes into effect. While it did recognize some individual rights, the code still makes the household the legal unit. All Japanese are registered as either the head of a household or the subordinate to a head.

1894, March General elections are held (/DT)

1904 February 10, Japan declares war on Russia over the issue of control of Korea and control of the Liaotung peninsula in China (DT).

1904, The Shrine Bureau, a part of the Home Ministry bureaucrats between 1904―1921 promoted the ideological function of the shrines in unifying sentiment of the people in the spirit of “reverence for the gods and respect for the ancestors” (Keishin sūso) (Gluck, Carol) 141)

1905 August, Britain and Japan renegotiate the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and Britain acknowledges Japan's control of Korea (DT)

1905 Late, Japan sends Itō Hirobumi to Korea to begin the process of making Korea a protectorate (DT).

1907, August 1, Japan finalizes complete control of Korean forces and dissolve them, and force a signing of agreement with gives them complete control of all government ministries.

1909 Itō is assassinated by a Korean while in Manchuria for his role in making Korea a protectorate (DT).

1912, death of Emperor Meiji; Emperor Taishō took the throne, thus beginning the Taishō Period.

1911, end of the Meiji.

1915, End of Carol Gluck’s Ideologies of confusion period.

1920s, The stylish moga (modern girl) of the 1920s represented bourgeois women's challenge to established gender norms (35 Vlastos, Stephen).

1930, conservative policies, according to a liberalists’ viewpoint, implemented



Tokugawa later period and the events that lead to the change

Complexities of motions which lead to a significant change and end the Tokugawan shogunate and restore the emperor to the throne of power, albeit a relevance to no real change in power structures themselves.

Conrad Totman's notes from later part of book of some key events that lead to motions to significantly change the socio-political infrastructures of Japan.\

Deepening Entanglements
Factional Feuding and Foreign Affairs
Mizuno Tadakuni and Bakufu Reform
Restoring Normalcy, 1843–1852
Foreign Contacts and Bakufu Responses
Military Strengthening and Coastal Defense
The Politics of Defending the Realm

Tokugawa Iemitsu in the 1641 closed the country in a policy called, Sakoku, “ Closed Country,” And this remained a policy to 1853, despite a few exceptions, mainly local and regional, and sometimes illegal. Still during this intermittent period foreigners came to the shores of Japan looking for relations; most of the times they were only asking for local trade, and were denied, according to law. Yet, off the shores of Japan, great fishing and whaling enticed foreigners to come and do business in close quartered waters. Sometimes there ships or vessels would need repairs, or their men and ships would need supplies, and other times a shipwreck created a knowledge that the local populations looked on with amassment, they understood they were not alone in the world.

1801-1810 Russians pillaged Ezo, but only achieved a local awareness and discussion. It had terrorized only the locals there and was not widely disseminated around the realm as a real threat to the commoners. But as the years wore on, and commoners saw boats arriving on shores, talk about a foreign take over had begun slowly to enter the discourse and finally capturing the attention of the folks in the upper-echelons of Tokugawan society. This fostered a negative response by the Bakufu who thought that people were causing trouble to upset the general population to cause trouble for the central government. Intrigue and witch-hunt’s lessened a positive general moral, but it did set up the ability to tackle a real threat that would eventually come in the 1850s.

Tokugawa Nariaki, a Mito Daimyo, became the first daimyo to over step his bounds by telling the Bakufu they needed a “renovation.” Nariaki was joined by others which came into political-like party, and the Bakufu finally in 1844 stripped Nariaki of his domain. By the 1950s, and the Americans coming, he gained new followers and influence for his ideas of renovations of the Edo system.

People were weary of foreign influence from the first foreign involvements during the a kaikoku period of the “1650s and 1660s, when Christians and Fujufuse Buddhists” were thrown out and two prominent Japanese were persecuted, Kumazawa Banzan and Yamaga Soko.


In 1824, Englishmen were detained, they were whaling, and were shipwrecked. After detaining the men, a Japanese misconstrued an investigation and it was thought the English had conquest plans, and they were spies. The Bakufu, after learning of this made a call to expel any foreign suspicious ships the following year.

The discussion that arose took on a different spectrum then just speaking upon barbarians invasions. Discussion arose about foreigner’s disrupting the culture: domestic demoralization, disorder, and decay. Some thought to welcome them peacefully, and this would lessen any aggression on their side, and others believed any cultural contamination would lead to a disintegration of control of the whole realm.

The intellectuals and people in power argued that harking back to the Kaikoku era of the 17th century with Christianity influencing people it would lead the “ stupid commoners” one said, to become alienated from the rulers and susceptible to Christianity of the barbarian’s way of their culture. These writing describe how foreign involvement issue was becoming intertwined in the ideology and through domestic politics.

Therefore, Reform was needed, if the foreigners were to be stopped of their potential influencing of the commoners. But how and who? Surely, some leaders said this was blown out of proportion, and was an islolated incident, in which this case was, but it got people thinking of the issues of a possible forced entry into the country by foreigners.

Still, problems at home exacerbated the whole scene the country’s stability; “Japan again was experiencing crop failures and proliferating peasant protests. The bakufu again was devaluing coins, to the detriment of monetary order, and tensions between Edo and certain daimyo were rising as conflicts over commercial policy became more pronounced.”

“Knowledge of Dutch learning became increasingly dangerous, especially if it led one to a favorable view of foreigners, and some of the most accomplished Dutch scholars of the day fell prey to vilification and denunciation.”

Maps, conspiracies of Russian spies and spies of Dutch filled the ears of the Bakufu during the period up the 1830s. A few ships were driving away by gunfire, one American vessel, but the Tempo Famine, and other domestic problems turn the heads of the bakufu toward the internal problems besetting them.


To the famine, the bakufu response was inadequate and instances of riots, smashing, protest marches, flight (migration) inundated the city. Like early famines this one caused protests by the poor and the desperate. One, in 1837, was a ronin expressing outrage at social injustice and elite irresponsibility. Another ronin uprising was a plot in 1651 of men promoting their own interests, but both showed current conditions, personal situations, and individual outlooks which could produce riskladen ventures.

Another aspect of old traditional domestic issues was the fact that Osaka was loosing its preeminence as the commercial capital of the Tokugawa. Chonindo, had shifted to the countryside a little more every decade, and the Tempo famine exacerbated the flight of the people from the city. We can see a causal breakdown ever so slightly by these compounded problems of nature, suspicions, and economic shifting which all play a toll on the reactionary decisions of the bakufu.

Attempts by British settlers in the Bonins to have London claim the islands as a colony made no progress


The first plot was that of Oshio Heihachiro in Osaka

For decades Osaka had been growing poorer as it lost business and population, and when the Tenpo[*] famine overtook the city in 1837, Oshio petitioned that reserve rice be given out. The city magistrate (machi bugyo[*] ) rejected the request, so Oshio sold his library and prepared to act. He gave some of the proceeds to the poor and used some to buy a small cannon, a few shoulder arms, and several hundred swords. He then drafted a summons to revolt, addressed it to villagers and village officials in nearby provinces, and had it distributed. The summons denounced officialdom for corruption and extravagance, for abusive taxation, for shipping rice from Osaka to Edo even when it was scarce and dear, and for failing to punish merchants guilty of exploitative accumulation of wealth and land. These conditions being intolerable, he called for a rebellion:

First we shall execute those officials who torment and harass those who are lowly. Next we shall execute those rich merchants in the city of Osaka who are accustomed to the life of luxury. Then we shall uncover gold and silver coins and other valuables they hoard as well as bags of rice kept hidden in their storage houses. They will be distributed to those who do not own fields or . . . have a hard time supporting fathers, mothers, wives and other members of the family.[15] .

He sold his library, bought a cannon, petitioned the offices and surrounding villages, and about 20 men, some samurai set fire to merchant houses. However, many villagers didn’t respond to his call, but he went along anywhy and revolted, some carring banners.

“"Save the People" and "The Great Shrine of the Goddess Amaterasu," torched houses of officials and merchants as they went. The fires raged, but despite the monetary enticement, few villagers responded, and the townsfolk who joined turned to looting instead of challenging authority.”

Word of Oshio's revolt raced across the country

But was it headed?

That of Oshio served at the time primarily to ravage much of Osaka and secondarily to alarm many samurai. To later generations, it exemplified the activist potential of Oyomei political thought and transmuted a frustrated ex-official into a daimyojin[*] , a quasi-mythical hero. That of Ikuta seems to have caused almost not a ripple, perhaps because its immediate impact was so dwarfed by the disaster in Osaka. Because the revolts accompanied the hardship and disorder of the Tenpo famine, however, they surely contributed to the reform efforts that proliferated during the next several years.

Since everything emanates from Edo, and the domains are directly involved with Edo, when the daimyo saw that Edo was having difficulties, especially after the Tempo famin, they decided to takes steps in their own futures and directions.

Satsuma restructured their economics by han debt forgiveness, and Choshu “sumptuary regulations to discourage luxury and establishing more schools in which han samurai could improve their martial skills and study the civil arts. As in Satsuma, however, the core of his effort was fiscal.”

Frugality and renegotiating debt played good part of the reform polices of the late 1930s.

Mito Domain Crisis.

As Satsuma and Choshu recovered somewhat, at Mito, the domain faced serious problems of short cash. Tempo had reeked havoc, and the treasury was depleted.

What was the problem? Mito was a Tokugawa main domain under Edo rule.

“Mito was located northeast of Edo in a less productive region and off the main arteries of trade. Secondly, while Satsuma and Choshu as tozama han”

They had prestige in keeping the Japan history, and promoting the Tokugawa system. However, when money went tight, they pressed the peasantry for more work and more production. In 25 years the domain had lost 70,000 people, due in part to natural causes of famine. outlawed infanticide and paid villagers to rear more children, tried tobacco monopolies, and borrowing money from samurai while giving them an ideology of frugality, all which didn’t work out in the long run.

“Mito's broader obligations as a sanke lord were reinforced by proponents of Mitogaku, whose concerns, as noted in chapter 19, embraced a wide array of issues. These included the thorny question of the proper relationship of emperor and shogun, the legitimacy of the Tokugawa order, the proper roles of lord, vassal, and commoner, the basic principles of good governance, the best means of handling foreigners, and Japan's rightful place in the world.”

Mito promoted Sonno Joi, and taught it in schools called Mitogaku. In all this the foreign problem was not forgotten as all these troubles took place.

Issues of health curriculum in schools, and regional schools were promoted at the end of the 1930s. “enhancing public virtue, by which he meant the peoples' diligence and obedience to han authority, so as to yield the desired "unity between ruler and subject.”

Still at the other end of the social problem, the peasant didn’t like the wealthy peasants as they survived better, and lived better during all this chaos. The reforms of Mito did not solve any of these issues. The ideals of reform in the backs of the minds of certain individuals were a real concern to the longevity of this particular governmental system, based on Jinsei.

So we have class disparity, migration, fiscal and social problems caused by the famines, and we have fear and suspicion making people conspiracies to a foreign takeover, all which worried the bakafu and caused them stress.

“This last theme, the belief that uncontrolled dissemination of rangaku was intolerable because it would allow the introduction of Christianity or other harmful ideas, was one on which proponents of diverse viewpoints agreed. Most regarded the managed adoption of practical European learning as desirable, but its entry had to be regulated at the gate.”


Fearing Rangaku studies would increase foreign culture, most notably Christianity restrictions of books and information was regulated by the incoming bakufu court.

In 1841, “news began reaching Nagasaki of British attacks on China, and by year's end Edo knew that China had lost the Opium War.”

A new shogun : “The tension among officials was exacerbated by the rising tide of ideological rhetoric that warned of the dangers presented by policy failure. Oshio's rebellion gave advocates of Ch'eng-Chu Confucianism, as taught in the Shoheizaka[*] gakumonjo, reason to fear Oyomei[*] thought as expounded by "reckless" activists. Hirata Atsutane's emperor-oriented kokugaku views, which had inspired Ikuta Yorozu, generated so much distrust among orthodox Shinto[*] scholars and others in Edo that he was ordered out of the city in 1841. And from Mito came unwelcome admonitions about Ezo and armaments, warnings to stand firm against all foreigners who approached Japan, and advice to close Dejima to keep the metal in and mischief out.”

So with the Opium war victory by the British it scared the bakufu into immediate reform.

“A Dutch report said the British were still angry that the Morrison had been fired on in 1837. With China subdued, a British fleet was about to visit to "inquire into the 'misconduct' of Japan, even at risk of war."[30] That report sent consternation through the bakufu, raising doubts about the prudence of its ninennaku uchiharai law. After intense debate, Edo moved to reduce its exposure:

In 1825 it was ordered that foreign vessels should be driven away without hesitation. However, as befits the current comprehensive reforms, in which we are recreating the policies of the Kyoho[*] and Kansei eras, . . . in the event that foreigners, through storm-damage or shipwreck, come seeking food, fuel, or water, the shogun does not consider it a fitting response to other nations that they should be driven away indiscriminately.[31]

Henceforth fuel, food, and water were to be provided peaceably to any vessel that requested them, the vessel to be informed that it should then promptly depart. Only if it lingered were cannon to be employed. “

Reforms of Edo: outlawed commercial monopolies in daimyo domains. This angered many daimyo and samurai, and the merchants. Choshu was particularly agree at this decision.

The Tempo reforms had caused factional fighting and did little so solve any deep economic problems.

Restoring Normalcy, 1843–1852

Favorable weather helped the general climate, but increasing foreign contact asking for trade and the China circumstance, the rumored threats of retaliation made things no better off for the leaders of Edo.

Fears Erupt into coastal fortifications increasing the amount of bakufu money to smelt cannons and put them in and around ports which cost a lot of money they didn’t have.

1840s: “the Opium War treaties had expanded commercial, diplomatic, and military activity in the waters off Japan, and an unprecedented number of European and American vessels reached Japan and the Ryukyus” (in Japanese meaning "southwest islands", pronounced "Luchu" in Okinawan, are a chain of Japanese islands in the western Pacific Ocean at the eastern limit of the East China Sea. They stretch southwest from the island of Kyūshū to Taiwan.)

“numerous occasions when foreign ships were sighted offshore or approached Japanese ports during the 1840s, two were of particular consequence. In 1844 the Dutch warship Palembang brought a message from King William II. Two years later French and American warships arrived, seeking to establish formal relations. The visits spurred measures of coastal defense and led to more intense debates about foreign policy.” “in 1846. They were seeking trade and other forms of contact, and news of the two most important requests reached Edo almost simultaneously that summer. One was a request for trade in the Ryukyus, which French Admiral Jean-Baptiste Cecille submitted from there. The other was a request by American Commander James Biddle, whose two ships, "one, a formidable 74-gun ship of the line," anchored off Uraga, to arrange American access to Japanese ports”

Satsuma was responsible in the Ryukyus, and carried out valued trade with the Chinese, and now needed to understand the ramifications of the French.

Conclusion, no one persisted, and there was peace for six years.

“As matters worked out, Biddle left peacefully, if unhappily. And Cecille did not insist, so Shimazu made no new arrangements. During the next six years no foreign powers chose to pursue the issue forcefully, so "normalcy" prevailed in foreign affairs.”

Coastal Defense did not stop in the 1940s – Now cannonry, sea-worthy ships, arm Japan – let’s go!

“Since the 1790s Japan's leaders had responded to foreign scares with attempts to strengthen coastal defenses, but most such efforts were seen as temporary deployments.“ During the 1840s it was serious.

New Weapons for the coast and Satsuma and Kyushu benefited – they were most autonomous domanially.

Mito since the 1930 had cast cannonry from western technology, and was militant to arm Japan. So Kyushu and Satsuma directly benefited.

daimyo on Kyushu generally were the most interested in new weaponry: they were among the least impoverished, had strong traditions of domanial autonomy, and were nearest to Nagasaki, Dutch learning, and the escalating danger from the south. Satsuma began to strengthen its military capacity from the late 1830s on, and during the 1840s it adopted some of Shuhan's techniques and began purchasing and trying to produce European-style cannon and firearms.”

Edo urged and fiscal problems emerged, so domains took it as a sign to keep their monopolies going to supply themselves.

“in the late summer of 1845, his administration urged han to pursue military strengthening, and by 1850 they were bringing many more men to Edo for training and deployment. By then daimyo were also flooding the bakufu with reports of their energetic enterprises. But much was verbal rearmament, bushels of politically prudent rhetoric enveloping a tiny core of real deeds. On balance that core was thoroughly inadequate to the dangers then looming beyond the horizon.”

The Politics of Defending the Realm
During the decade after Mizuno Tadakuni's resignation, the key figures in Japan's political life were Abe Masahiro and Tokugawa Nariaki, and the issues that dominated their relationship were the growing foreign threat and the condition of Mito. For both men the foreign threat was important because it touched the larger issue of Japan's well-being. Mito was important to Nariaki for obvious reasons; it was important to Abe because Mito was a key prop—or a key threat—to the bakufu, and hence himself.

Nariaki's energetic reform program of the 1830s had generated much resistance within Mito because such policies as changing military systems and relocating city samurai to the hinterland disrupted lives and

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threatened interests and values. In the manner customary to bakuhan politics, those opposing Nariaki in Mito sought allies in the bakufu, and his persistent and abrasive lobbying at Edo gave them ample candidates. Tadakuni tried to manage him by exiling him to Mito in 1841, but that move only improved his capacity to pursue reform, further aggravating tensions within the han.

The infighting that surrounded the collapse of Tadakuni's reform did not improve Nariaki's standing at Edo, and in 1844 actions by him and his vassals added to bakufu displeasure. A basic policy in shogunal control of daimyo was keeping wives and heirs hostage at Edo, but when Nariaki was exiled to Mito in 1841, his retainers asked that his wife be allowed to join him. The request was rejected out of hand, but in early 1844 they made it again. While bakufu leaders mulled that over, Nariaki had his men put on display in Edo a sampling of Mito military equipment. That implicit rebuke to bakufu defense efforts evidently proved too much. Edo leaders curtly denied the petition regarding his wife and put Abe in charge of an inquiry. He instructed Mito leaders to answer the following questions:

1. We have heard that you are casting guns. In what way are you using them?
2. We hear that your han finances are in difficulty. How has this come about? Is it necessary for someone to go into the han to scrutinize affairs?
3. What is your intention in the Matsumae affair?
4. Why are you collecting unemployed warriors [ronin]?
5. What is the meaning of the destruction of Buddhist temples?
6. How high are the walls about the Kodokan[*] [the new school in Mito castle]? What construction is going on in the Kodokan grounds?
7. Why are you promoting repairs of the Toshogu[*] ?[38]

Rarely had bakufu leaders addressed such damning questions to a daimyo; they hearkened back to those Ieyasu directed to Toyotomi Hideyori in 1614. The implicit queries were clear: Are you preparing to rebel and claim the shogunal title? Will it be necessary to seize the han to rectify affairs?

The questions were largely rhetorical. Even before Mito could answer, the bakufu summoned Nariaki to Edo and took actions commensurate with its suspicions. It ordered him to retire in favor of his twelve-year-old son, Yoshiatsu, and placed him under house arrest in his secondary mansion at Komagome. It put Mito in the hands of a three- man regency composed of daimyo from branch han, and with bakufu approval the regents conducted a purge that ousted Fujita Toko[*] and dozens of Nariaki's other supporters from office. The draconian measures stopped Nariaki's reform. But they silenced him only for a moment, and they enraged his followers and deepened their antipathy for Edo.

When Abe emerged as leader of the bakufu in 1845, he thus found himself allied with Nariaki's enemies at Mito. Within months, however, as he became more involved in defense work, it became apparent that his was the poorer choice of sides, and he began the awkward task of rebuilding and rearranging Edo-Mito relations by rebuilding his own relationship to Nariaki.

It was a difficult task, because Nariaki was uncompromising. When the self-assured, hard-driving, and high-ranking ex-daimyo, who was in his forties, wrote to the cautious, conciliatory, and lower-ranking roju[*] , who was in his twenties, the elder saw little need for subservience or restraint. Calling the issues as he saw them, Nariaki began writing Abe from the latter part of 1845, after Abe was placed in charge of coastal defenses. He complained about Mito's leaders, about bakufu disregard of sanke opinion, and about the handling of foreign affairs. He argued that the 1825 uchiharai law should be restored, criticized Abe for allowing castaways to be landed at Uraga, faulted his handling of the King William letter, warned of Dutch perfidy, and reiterated his arguments about building large ships, casting cannon, and strengthening Ezo defenses.[39]

In 1846, Nariaki evidently discovered that Abe had not rejected the French request for Ryukyuan[*] trade, and he wrote to complain. His criticism of that matter, in which Abe was clearly vulnerable to attack, prodded the young roju to begin conciliating the former Mito lord. Abe contended that defenses must be strengthened before the uchiharai policy could be restored but that such an outcome was desirable in principle. It was Abe's first substantive response to Nariaki's letters, and within a few months the latter modified his position enough to fit Abe's suggested sequence. The two thus found a basis for political collaboration in the notion that defense preparation must be pursued so that someday uchiharai could be revived.

One reason Abe wished Nariaki's support was that the imperial court was becoming alarmed at the growing foreign presence. About three months after the Biddle and Cecille visits, and one month after Abe wrote Nariaki, the court, prodded by Nariaki, sent a notice to Edo in which it "warned about the repeated arrival of ships, urged military and civil training, stressed the need for coastal defense, and cautioned the bakufu to prevent any stain on the national honor." To quiet courtly fears, Abe instructed the Kyoto deputy (shoshidai ) to inform the court of the foreign ship situation and to assure it that all was well. Abe's promotion of defense work during the next several years appeased the court, but he realized that having Nariaki in his corner helped. In 1850 he implemented another stratagem for using Mito to cement Edo-Kyoto ties by executing the ceremonial steps through which a young Kyoto woman was adopted by the shogun for subsequent presentation as a bride to the young Mito lord, Yoshiatsu. Abe also addressed the question of control in Mito. Step by step, he moved to restore Nariaki's influence in the han, hoping in the process to heal the factional divisions and establish closer Mito-Edo ties. In 1849, after Yoshiatsu came of age, Abe dissolved the regency. He criticized members of the ruling faction for abuses of power, gradually released Nariaki's loyalists from confinement, and eventually readmitted them to active political roles. The divisions in the han were so bitter, however, that by 1851 he believed the best he could do was to ease out the ruling faction and allow Nariaki and his supporters to resume control. By the end of 1852, the process was complete. Nariaki was back in power, Yoshiatsu was reluctantly obedient to his will, and Fujita Toko[*] and others were again staffing the han government. But whereas Edo and Mito had been bitterly at odds a decade earlier, Abe and Nariaki had developed a sufficiently amicable relationship for the latter's considerable reputation among the daimyo to strengthen Abe and the bakufu rather than to weaken them. How long the honeymoon would last depended mainly on how the foreign threat developed. In the autumn of 1852, the Dutch delivered a report that an American delegate was planning to visit Japan the following year. But the Dutch had warned of British visits in 1842 and again in 1844 and neither had materialized. Evidently the Dutch had cried wolf too often; the report elicited no expression of concern in Edo.

End Ch. 21 Totman

1853 Commodore Perry and the four black Ships of Change. Kaikoku

“Within this larger context of overall underestimation of the problem, one can speak of two general political postures that ran through debates from 1853 to 1868. One was an inclusivist posture that sought to rally all political participants in voluntary resistance to the foreigners. The other was an exclusivist viewpoint that said a willful leadership must hammer others into submission as essential prelude to confronting the foreigners. The former posture was dominant through 1857 in Abe Masahiro's bakufu-led response to the first wave of foreign treaties. It disintegrated in 1858 in the face of heightened foreign demands, which sharply escalated policy conflicts in Edo and led to an attempt at bakufu exclusivism directed by the forceful Ii Naosuke. That effort collapsed in early 1860 when assassins, mostly from Mito, gunned and hacked Naosuke to death.” “The next four years were marked by confusion and disorder. An inclusivist strategy known as kobugattai , or "union of court and camp," was pursued by senior figures at court, in Edo, and among the major domains. It was hobbled from the outset, however, by a tension between proponents of bakufu supremacy and daimyo dominance. Senior bakufu officials and Nariaki's son Yoshinobu, who was serving as a sort of regent to a young shogun, employed the rhetoric of kobugattai to draw daimyo and court into active support of Edo, while leaders of a few great han, Satsuma and Choshu[*] most notably, invoked it to establish the political predominance of major daimyo. By 1864 these internal tensions were pitting would-be collaborators against one another so harshly that the kobugattai effort collapsed amidst bitter recriminations. After that, exclusivism came to prevail, culminating in 1867–68 in a struggle that pitted bakufu leaders against a few key han, while most daimyo avoided entanglement until "Sat-Cho[*] " success on the battlefield revealed the prudent policy choice.


“Although the "court and camp" coalition of high-status figures disintegrated in 1864, it did succeed in riding out a wave of nativist-inspired sonn joi ("revere the emperor; expel the barbarian") rebelliousness that swept the country during the early 1860s. Edo's acquiescence to Perry's demands in 1854 had alarmed many samurai, but as long as Abe and Nariaki maintained some semblance of cooperation and as long as foreigners made no further demands, the alarm did not lead to anti-bakufu activism. Abe died, however, and Nariaki became alienated from Edo leaders. In 1857 the foreigners presented more demands, of which the most alarming was their insistence on setting up permanent legations in Edo. The new round of demands coincided with the illness and death of a childless shogun and transformed a routine question of shogunal succession into an angry struggle for control of the bakufu and, through it, control of national policy.

In the outcome, Ii Naosuke seized control and accepted the foreign demands despite an imperial order to the contrary. He also settled the shogunal succession to his own satisfaction and punished his domestic critics, Nariaki most notably but some other major lords as well, for continuing to protest. These events convinced Mitogaku scholars and nativists such as Yoshida Shoin[*] of Choshu that the bakufu as currently led must be resisted and its policy reversed.[2] In the following months, that view was sustained by Naosuke's conduct of affairs and by escalating foreign inroads. The most notable inroads were the establishment “

What was the response?

“Under these circumstances, nativist ideas that derived from Mitogaku and Hirata Atsutane's kokugaku flourished during the years 1859–64, acquiring the policy rubric sonno joi . Numerous samurai, Shinto[*] priests, and commoners all across the country, to say nothing of court nobles in Kyoto, became politically active. They were enraged by the seemingly endless foreign demands and by the failure of domestic authorities to reject them. And they were inspired by the teachings of Shoin , who was executed at Naosuke's behest for his part in antibakufu plotting.”

What was Sonno Joi motive from 1859-64?

Highly motivated, the activists pursued a nebulously conceived "imperial restoration". They intended it to subordinate bakufu leaders to the court, repudiate Edo's spineless foreign policies and domestic abuse of emperor and imperial loyalists, invigorate the samurai fighting spirit, drive the barbarians from Japan, and thus restore the pristine virtue of the imperial realm.

by 1865 key figures in all camps were becoming convinced that only basic structural change could save the realm

Real Factors of the problems of the whole society:

An unpleasant corollary followed: somebody's interests must be sacrificed. And not merely the interests, for example, of archers or swordsmen, who already were being forced to acquire unwelcome military skills, or minor servants, who were being fired so that funds could go to military strengthening, or merchants and artisans in one place, who were losing their trade to domestic or foreign competitors in another. What was at stake, the rulers were coming to understand, was the hereditary privilege of their own class and the social structure that assured it.

Now Foreigners were in the land, what happened?

the bakufu seeking French help; Satsuma and Choshu, British.

Every side of the battle-lines used Sonno Joi to their advantage.

In this escalating power struggle, the sonno joi rhetoric of imperial loyalism that had inspired the earlier rash of self-sacrificing terror and uprisings was used with calculated intent by leaders of all sides to mobilize support and discredit rivals.

1867 and the Satsuma and Choshu alliance pitted themselves again the Bakufu, and after the Restoration the Boshin war was the last stand by remaining defenders of the Tokugawa regime.

When Yoshinobu's armed forces fought Satsuma and Choshu armies for 4 days and lost. Some flee, but this was the end.

The fall out and results of the restoration

Just as Ieyasu had obtained an imperial statement sanctioning his victory at Sekigahara in 1600, so the new conquerors employed an imperial decree to legitimize their seizure of power and suppression of opposition, a process they characterized as osei[*] fukko[*] . During the next few years, they consolidated their position under the nominal authority of the youthful Meiji emperor. They sorted out their membership and launched a wide array of policies designed to create a strongly centralized regime capable of preserving Japanese independence and their own supremacy. The core of their strategy was maintenance of a strong military system anchored in a vigorous economy, a policy they identified by the classic Chinese phrase, fukoku kyohei , "rich country, strong army."

So why no problems with the Americans intervening? There were occupied with the American civil war, and were too busy to care about Japan at this time.

Changes in General after the Restoration:

In scholarly arenas the impact of the political turmoil after 1853 was pronounced. Mitogaku, as noted above, remained vital during the 1850s but was ravaged by the Mito civil war of 1863–64. Kokugaku, by contrast, flourished as never before.

Kokugaku, which had been an individualistic, unofficial academic activity at the time of Motoori Norinaga, and which acquired a more explicitly political and aggressively ethnic thrust at the hands of Hirata Atsutane, blossomed during the 1850s and 1860s into a widely accepted rationale for individual action in defense of the realm and against the foreign threat. The vision of Japan and its people as the land of the gods proved so effective at winning support across class and domanial boundaries that by the mid 1860s political leaders in all camps were vigorously invoking the rhetoric to enlist followers. And the leaders of the new Meiji regime absorbed it into their official ideology and enmeshed it in the structure, protocol, and policy of the regime, transforming into state dogma what had begun as the personal vision of scholars.

Rangaku, on the other hand, fared poorly during these years, a belated victim of Britain's displacement of the Netherlands as premier global empire-builder. Because Britons and Americans presented the principal threats to Japan in the 1850s, the scholars who had struggled for years to master Dutch found their language skills irrelevant and their knowledge marginal or out of date. For many the task of master- ing an entirely new language proved overwhelming, and they fell silent, leaving others to develop the skills required by the times. Linguistic chance thus achieved what surges of anti-rangaku activism had failed to do.

As a result much of Japan's painfully accumulated knowledge of Europe was lost to public service just when it was most desperately needed, and the realm had to produce a new generation of foreign experts on a crash basis. The bakufu promoted study of several European languages, but by 1860 English was becoming the most valued despite counterblandishments by Dutchmen, Frenchmen, and Russians. In the outcome, the study of English became central to yogaku[*] , "Western" or "European" learning, the term that displaced rangaku . In the following years, students of yogaku[*] proliferated and its study advanced with startling speed.

Military matters were the primary focus of yogaku, with the bakufu and many han encouraging vassals to learn and introduce new techniques of land and sea warfare. As the 1860s advanced, both bakufu and han hired foreigners to provide instruction, and they sent delegations of diplomats and students to Europe and North America to learn and report. By 1867, senior figures at Edo and in the major domains had access to information on the governmental, economic, and social systems of Europe. That knowledge helped persuade them of the bakuhan system's obsolescence and influenced their thinking on how to reconfigure Japan. From about 1870 on, the broader exploration of European philosophy and higher arts commenced in earnest, and the process of grounding Japan's civilization in the global human experience continues today. (Totman 548)

1860s, foreigners took over a lot of trade deals as the Americans were distracted with the Civil War.

Ch. 21, Totman

Open Society or Meiji Restoration.

Renovation at Mito

1825, foreign approaches were fewer and less threatening than in preceding years. After 1836, and especially from about 1844 on, the tempo of foreign contacts accelerated, but the level of demand changed very little, still consisting of unassertive queries about trade and requests to repatriate castaways and obtain provisions.

After 1820s, domestic difficulties, including famines , created a nervous tension that escalated in a worried

“witchhunts for subversives began to destroy men, ruin careers, undermine attempts to respond thoughtfully to the crises of the day, and feed the flames of what may best be labeled ethnic paranoia and political scapegoating.

Still, the impact of foreign contacts on society at large should not be overstated. Neither before nor after 1825 did diplomatic issues elicit any general public response. Around 1806–1808, it is true, Russian pillaging in Ezo terrified ordinary people there; the Phaeton's visit threw Nagasaki into turmoil; and rumors of advancing Russians panicked Edo. But apart from that spate of frightened responses to dangers real and imagined, the general public seems rarely to have been alarmed by the foreigners' peregrinations. Many chose to be prudent and avoid contact when seamen came ashore; some surely were fascinated by their strange encounters with alien visitors.

Among more educated commoners, however, as the spread of kokugaku and Mitogaku fostered interest in Japanese history and culture, a growing number of non-officials became alarmed at the trends and forces that seemed to endanger the imperial country and its people.”

Tokugawa Nariaki, lord of Mito and leader of an ideologically inspired renovationist movement, thrust himself onto the national scene in unprecedented fashion.

Nariaki presented his advice and policy positions with such vigor and insistence that for the first time in Tokugawa history someone outside the authorized structure of control became the single most influential voice in politics. Bakufu leaders continually tried to appease, oppose, or ignore Nariaki and his vocal supporters while pursuing their own disorderly and difficult agendas, and in 1844 his persistence finally goaded Edo into stripping him of his daimyo position. His influence soon revived, however, becoming even greater during the 1850s. Indeed, the political movement that he had shaped outlasted his death in 1861, finally being devoured in the bloodshed and brutality of civil war three years later.

Takashi Fujitani, “Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan” ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

Copyright © 1999 – 2016 Michael Johnathan McDonald