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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
1896, 1890's a remarkable turnaround from feudal to commercial
industry with 210 of 258 such businesses ran by Japanese in
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
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
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
1930, conservative policies, according to a liberalists’
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
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
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. .
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
“"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.
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
“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
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
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
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." 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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
― 537 ―
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 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
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
7. Why are you promoting repairs of the Toshogu[*] ?
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.
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
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. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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