Bakumatsu (幕末)

Bakumatsu, one of the Japanese periodization, refers to the final years of the Edo period when the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) ruling a county came to an end. The period extends from 1853 when the Black Ships arrived in Japan to 1869 when the Boshin War ended.
Customarily, the final days of the Kamakura bakufu or the Muromachi bakufu are not called 'bakumatsu.'

Though the duration of the Bakumatsu is not strictly defined, it generally refers to the period from 1853, when the squadron, called the Black Ships, led by Commodore Matthew Perry, consisting of the four US Naval ships Susquehanna, Saratoga, Mississippi, and Plymouth, arrived off the shore of Uraga near Edo (current Tokyo), to 1867, when Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA returned power to the Emperor, ending the central governance under the Tokugawa shogunate, allowing the start of the Meiji period in 1868. Other major events, including the return of political power to the Emperor by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867, the end of Hakodate War in 1869, and Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) in 1871, could also be counted as ground-breaking events.

The bakumatsu can be described as the period in which the feudal system characteristic of the shogunage by the head of the Tokugawa family collapsed, or the period in which the social structure dramatically changed as the country abolished the long-held closed-door policy and started trading with foreign countries, eventually becoming a member of the global capitalist market economy.

The process of the change was described in many works of literature, such as "Yoakemae" (Before the Dawn), a long novel written by Toson SHIMAZAKI.

In the field of political history, there are two different views on the bakumatsu period, one of which sees it as a normal transitional period, and another which views the period as a unique state of governance, separate from the previous system.

The thoughts of this period are characterized by explanation and criticizm of the long-held rational of the feudal system, and the search for a new vision of the country to replace the old system. In addition, there was a significant trend to seek a new interpretation of the source of authority or power, such as the Emperor and Shogun.

Among them, the philosophical movement called 'Sonno Joi' (slogan advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners) is said to be the most influential. New images of the nation and the emperor were built up in relation to the trend.

Political history of Bakumatsu
Conclusion of treaties and a succession struggle for the next shogun (1853 – 1858)
In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry's four-ship squadron, which was sent by the United States, arrived off the shore of Uraga, with an official letter from the President of the United States to urge Japan to open the country. Masahiro ABE, the head of roju (member of shogun's council of elders) (the lord of Bingofukuyama domain), asked a broad range of people, including a coastal defense officer Nariakira TOKUGAWA (the lord of Mito domain), Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA (the lord of Echizen domain), Nariakira SHIMIZU (the lord of Satsuma domain), and other various kinds of lords across the country, as well as ordinary people, about how they should respond to the situation. During the turmoil, Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA, the seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), died. His son Iesada TOKUGAWA became the thirteenth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.

At the New Year of 1854, Perry and his squadron visited again to urge Japan to open the country. After the negotiation with senior officials of the Shogunate, including the plenipotentiary official Fukusai HAYASHI, a treaty (the convention of Kanagawa, or the America-Japan Treaty of Amity and Friendship) was concluded, ending Japan's closed-door policy, the so-called "Sakoku" system. In the same year, the treaty was concluded between Toshiakira KAWAJI and Evfimiy Vasil'evich Putyatin of the Russian Empire. Under the treaty between Japan and the US, consulates could be placed if needed, as well as opening Shimoda and Hakodate ports to supply fuel and water for ships; the United States then sent Townsend HARRIS to Shimoda. The purpose of sending Harris was to conclude a treaty of commerce.

After the death of Abe, Masayoshi HOTTA, who assumed the position of the head of roju, thought the conclusion of the treaty would be inevitable due to pressure from Harris and the surrounding situation in which the Qing dynasty was defeated in the second Opium war, and started work in Kyoto, through Naohisa KUJO, Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor), to get imperial permission from the Emperor Komei. However, Hotta could not get permission primarily because the Emperor Komei strongly objected to the ideas of allowing foreigners to come into Japan and concluding a commercial treaty, though he did give permission for supplying fuel and water in mercy, and also because many aristocrats including Tomomi IWAKURA criticized Kujo for his attitude towards the shogunate (see the incident that 88 high-ranking aristocrats went on a sit-in protest).

Meanwhile, public opinion was divided in two about the next shogun because Shogun Iesada was in poor health and had no children. Two groups, the Nanki group that backed Iemochi TOKUGAWA, the lord of Kishu domain, and the Hitotsubashi group that backed Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, head of the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa family, opposed each other and intensified their activities in Edo and Kyoto to get an upper hand in politics, including the issue of whether Japan should ratify the treaties with foreign nations (the succession struggle over the heir of Shogun). Many lower-ranking samurai, for example, Sanai HASHIMOTO (a feudal retainer of Echizen) and Takamori SAIGO (a feudal retainer of Satsuma) for the Hitotsubashi group, and Shuzen NAGANO (a feudal retainer of Hikone) for the Nanki group, played important roles in those activities. Nariakira SHIMAZU tried going to Edo with his soldiers to settle the disputes, but he passed away just before he could put his plan into effect.

The Ansei Purge and the Sakuradamon Incident (1858 - 1860)
In April 1858, Naosuke II, the lord of the Hikone clan, assumed the position of Tairo (Chief Minister) and tried to decisively settle the disputes over the treaties and the struggle for succession. That is to say, In June of that year, just after the assuming the position of Tairo, Naosuke II, without permission of the emperor, allowed Kiyonao INOUE and Tadanari IWASE to conclude the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan with Harris. The treaty was unequal, granting consular jurisdiction and tariff autonomy to the US, and imposing on Japan a necessity to provide most favored nation status to the US; moreover, similar treaties were concluded with Britain, France, the Netherland, and Russia; eventually those treaties were called the Ansei treaties with five nations. In May Yoshitomi from the Kishu clan was appointed as heir to the Shogun. Yoshitomi changed his name to Iemochi and moved to Edo-jo Castle, assuming the role of shogun in October.

The decisive actions of Ii, provoked a stream of criticism, including action taken by Nariaki TOKUGAWA (the lord of the Mito clan) and Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA (the lord of the Owari clan), who went to Edo-jo Castle to protest, but they were in fact punished by II for not gaining permission to enter the castle beforehand. Also, under the direction of Ii, roju Akikatsu MANABE (the lord of the Sabae clan) cracked down on the activities of the Hitotsubashi group in Kyoto. As a result of this, Sanai HASHIMOTO, Unbin UMEDA and Mikisaburo RAI were executed, while Shoin YOSHIDA, who operated "Shokason-juku", a private school of the Choshu clan (in Hagi), was also executed for planning to assassinate Akikatsu MANABE. Those political crackdowns are called "Ansei no taigoku" (The Ansei Purge). Among others, an incident in which the imperial court sent an imperial order directly to the Mito clan (Boshin no Micchoku) made Ii and the cabinet officials of the shogunate stay alert, and they clamped down on the Mito clan severely.

The Ansei purge provoked severe reactions from the former Hitotsubashi group and Joi-ha (supporters of expulsion of the foreigners). Some roshi (masterless samurai) of the Mito and Satsuma clans resented the repeated crackdowns of the bakufu government and started to plan an assassination, and on March 24, 1860, successfully attacked and killed Ii, who was about to enter Edo-jo Castle, in the outer field of the Sakurada-mon Gate (the Sakuradamon Incident). Due to the assassination of its top official, the authority of the bakufu government crumbled.

Uniting the imperial court and the shogunate and the rise of Sonno Joi ha (supporters of the doctorine of restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians) (1860 – 1863)
After opening the country to start trading with foreign countries, a lot of gold coins flowed out of the country because of the difference in the value of gold and silver between Japan and its trading partners. In responce to the situation the government issued Manen oval gold coins, but the low quality of the coins led to steep inflation, triggering severe criticism of the unequal treaty and opening of the country and a growing anti-foreigner movement, provoking the rampant killing of Westerners in many places in the country. In addition, the idea of restoring power to the emperor, found in the study of Japanese classical literature, combined with the idea of expelling foreigners, eventually forming 'Sonno Joi' Movement (the Movement advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners) as a tool to revoke the bakufu government.

After the death of Ii, Hirokane KUZE (the lord of the Sekiyado clan) and Nobumasa ANDO (the lord of the Iwakitaira clan), both senior councilors, led the government, trying to unite the Imperial Court and the Shogunate (kobu-gattai [integration of the imperial court and the shogunate]), in order to restore the power of the bakufu government. They arranged the marriage of Iemochi, the newly appointed shogun, and Imperial Princess Kazunomiya Chikako, sister of the Emperor Komei. It was not easy for the marriage to proceed because Kazunomiya was engaged to Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito, and her brother Emperor Komei did not want to send her to the Kanto region, a place where foreigners lived, but eventually the emperor, who was not opposed to the idea of kobu-gattai, approved the marriage to Iemochi, as recommended by Tomomi IWAKURA. However, this provoked rage from those who advocated restoring power to the emperor, because the bakufu government still tried to use the emperor to fortify the power of the government, and roju Ando was attacked outside Sakashita-mon Gate, got severely injured, and eventually lost his power (the Sakashitamongai incident).

Meanwhile, a policy that recommended improving Japan's navigational skills to communicate with foreign nations, advocated by Uta NAGAI of Choshu clan, was approved by both the imperial court and the bakufu, and emerged as a tool to unite the court and the shogunate. Nagai was asked to negotiate with the imperial court by roju Kuze and Ando, even though he was from baishin (indirect vassal). However, Kogoro KATSURA (later Koin KIDO) and Genzui KUSAKA from the Choshu clan, and people of Sonno Joi ha, such as Izumi MAKI of Kurume, firmly opposed this policy because they thought it would lead to a restrengthening of the bakufu's power, and thus they brought down Nagai, and the Choshu clan returned to the radical Sonno Joi philosophy of restoring power to the emperor and expelling foreigners.

In the same period, Hisamitsu SHIMAZU, brother of the former lord and father of the current lord of the Satsuma clan, went to Kyoto with his troops, aiming to help the reformation of the government and fulfill the dying wish of his brother. Some members of Hisamitsu's clan who advocated sonjo party (royalists) misunderstood Hisamitsu's action as preparation to overthrow the bakufu, but they were suppressed by Hisamitsu (See the Teradaya incident), and his efforts with the Court worked, and Shigenori OHARA was sent as an imperial messenger to the bakufu. The bakufu side was not yet strong enough to resist that messenger, and had to accept the reformation, including personnel affairs such as appointing Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, who lost his standing during the Ansei purge, as a guardian of the shogun, Shungaku MATSUDAIRA as Seiji sosai shoku (roughly, director-general of political affairs), and Katamori MATSUDAIRA (the lord of the Aizu clan) as Kyoto shugoshiki (post of provincial constable) (See Bunkyu Reform). Meantime, on their way back to Satsuma, Hisamitsu's troops attacked British people who tried to cross the procession of the lord of the Satsuma clan in the village of Namamugi (the Namamugi incident).

During this period, radical court nobles who advocated Sonno Joi ha such as Sanemi SANJO and Kintomo ANENOKOJI acted as if they were leaders of the country, using the influence of the Choshu clan to further press a government which had already yielded to the imperial messenger, and ordered the shogun to go to Kyoto, while they petitioned the emperor to grant an imperial order to expel foreigners. Shogun Iemochi, who could not resist their requirement, finally visited Kyoto in 1863 and was the first shogun to be forced to do so in 200 years (the previous time being the visit made by the 3rd shogun Iemistsu), and was forced to promise to expel foreigners, this coming May 10.

On the agreed date of May 10, under the direction of Genzui KUSAKA and others, the Choshu clan attacked foreign vessels crossing the Kanmon Channel with gunfire. However, the foreign vessels fought back at the end of the same month and occupied the gun battery in Choshu (the Battles of Shimonoseki); actually, this incident provided a good opportunity for the Choshu clan to reconsider how difficult it would be to expel foreigners. In the meantime, Shinsaku TAKASUGI, a member of the Choshu clan, lamented their weak troops and started to form new groups to include ordinary, non-samurai class people, such as Kihei-tai (a cavalry squad), which could help the Choshu clan.

Also, war broke out between the Satsuma clan and Britain on July 2, after negotiations over compensation for damage caused by the Namamugi incident turned sour (Anglo-Satsuma War). The Satsuma clan fought well but they lost a part of the city, and found expelling foreigners nearly impossible.

The thwarted ambition of sonjo party (1863 - 1864)
During this period, public order in Kyoto deteriorated because groups of people who advocated Sonno Joi ha gathered there from across the country and assassinated members of the opposition, insisting that it was a punishment from heaven. In the meantime, Kintomo ANEGAKOJI, who was regarded as a leader of sonjo party, was assassinated (the Sakuheimon incident); some groups that had worked for kobu-gattai, including the Satsuma clan, were suspected to be responsible for the incident and for a while their authority fell. Understanding that the Emperor Komei was worried about the emergence of sonjo party and the resulting confused political circumstances of the imperial court and of the shogunate, Imperial Prince Kuninomiya Asahiko secretly ordered the Aizu and Satsuma clans to expel the Choshu clan. On August 18, 1863 the Aizu and Satsuma clans took control of the gate of the Imperial court, and carried out a coup forcing the Choshu clan and seven nobles, including Sanjo, to retreat to Choshu, successfully crushing the power of those sonjo party related to the Choshu clan (Coup of August 18, the exile of the seven nobles from Kyoto).

Leaving various ideas, such as reinforcing the power of the bakufu, and the alliance of major clans, as they were, a council meeting was held on December 1863 by Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, Shungaku MATSUDAIRA, Katamori MATSUDAIRA, Munenari DATE (the lord of Uwajima clan), and Hisamitsu SHIMAZU to discuss the condition of the port of Kanagawa, the treatment of the Choshu clan, and strengthening the defences of the port of Osaka, but it failed as early as in March 1864, when Shungaku and Hisamitsu became upset with Yoshino TOKUGAWA, a guardian of the shogun, who was not cooperative at all. The councilors' meeting system survived for only a few months. After the collapse, Yoshinobu, who was appointed as Kinri goshuei sotoku (director-general to guard Imperial Palace) and director of protection of the sea around Osaka, along with the brothers Katamori MATSUDAIRA (the lord of the Aizu clan), Kyoto shugoshiki, and Sadaaki MATSUDAIRA (the lord of the Kuwana clan), Kyoto shoshidai (representative of shoshi), became semi-independent from the cabinet officials of the shogunate (Ichikaiso Government).

Various radical sonjo party across the country tried to use force at the time, but all attempts fell through. In August 1868, the Tenchu-gumi incident was caused in Yamato Province by Tadamitsu NAKAYAMA, Kugyo (the top court officials), Torataro YOSHIMURA, Kurata IKEUCHI (the Tosa clan), Keido MATSUMOTO (the Mikawa Kariya clan), Tesseki FUJIMOTO (the Okayama clan), and Zennosuke NIGORI, a powerful landlord in Kawachi Province, and this rapidly led to Nobuyoshi SAWA (one of the seven court nobles who were exiled from Kyoto in the previous year) and Kuniomi HIRANO (the Fukuoka clan) causing the Ikuno incident in Tajima Province. From the current point of view, those incidents are significant because they were the first military actions attempting to overthrow the bakufu, but all of them failed miserably.

Sonno-Joi forces gradually waned in the Tosa clan as the Tosakino Party, a loyalist clique of Tosa led by Zuisan TAKECHI, was suppressed (Toyo YOSHIDA, an administrator of the clan, was assassinated the year before).

In Mito domain, Tengu-to party, whose members included Koshiro FUJITA and Kounsai TAKEDA, raised an army in Mt. Tsukuba in March 1864. Another incident involved the pursuit and destruction of the bakufu's army, as demanded by Mito domain (See the Tengu Party War).

Under these circumstances, in Choshu domain, which had been the center of the Sonno Joi Movement but started to wane after the Coup of August 18 in the previous year, debate began over a proposed move to Kyoto. In the meantime, Shinsengumi (a group who guarded Kyoto during the end of Tokugawa Shogunate), under the control of the Aizu clan and in charge of protecting Kyoto at the time, killed several supporters of sonjo party, including members of the Choshu clan in the Ikedaya incident; this added fuel to the debate in Choshu domain and the Choshu troops finally moved to Kyoto. They clashed with armies of the bakufu, Aizu, and Satsuma, who were defending Kyoto, and a battle extending to the Imperial Palace developed (the Kinmon incident). Because of this battle, the Choshu clan were expelled from Kyoto as rebels, and the bakufu dispatched the army to try and conquer them. In addition, Britain, France, the US, and the Netherlands sent a combined Far East squadron to attack Shimonoseki, in retaliation against the Choshu clan's attacks on foreign vessels in the previous year. The Choshu clan lost due to their inferior equipment, and got into trouble (the Battles of Shimonoseki).

The Satsuma-Choshu Alliance and anti-shogunate movement (1864 – 1866)
An order to conquer the rebellious Choshu forces was issued, and Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA (the lord of Owari) was appointed as commander-in-chief, and Takamori SAIGO (a feudal retainer of Satsuma), as military staff, but Saigo tried to avoid the military conflict, understanding the disadvantages of the conflict after discussions with Kaishu KATSU, who served for the bakufu. Even in Choshu domain, the Joi movement, in which lower ranked samurai gathered at Shokason-juku played a central role, gradually lost its support after the defeat of the battles of Shimonoseki, and saw the emergence of Zokuron-ha (a kind of conservatism that allows acknowledgement of fealty to the bakufu), supported by the hereditary vassals including Tota MUKUNASHI. In the end, the first conquest of Choshu was avoided because Choshu accepted the conditions to surrender, proposed by Saigo, including an execution of responsible persons, and absolute allegiance to the bakufu. However, in the end of same year, during the purge of former Joi supporters, Shinsaku TAKASUGI and others rallied various troops, and raised an army at Chofu Kozan-ji Temple. At the beginning of the next year, they attacked Hagi-jo Castle where the central figures of the clan stayed and restored the principle of the clan to 'anti-bakufu', rejecting the conservatism that acknowledged fealty to the bakufu.

Due to this reconversion, the bakufu got increasingly frustrated with Choshu, which didn't perform the duties agreed as conditions to surrender, and Shogun Iemochi again visited Kyoto on the back of insistence from hardliners such as roju Nagayuki OGASAWARA (heir to Karatsu clan) and Tadamasa OGURI, kanjo bugyo (commissioner of financeof the bakufu), to discuss the conquering of Choshu. Meanwhile, a combined fleet led by Harry PARKES, a British diplomat, arrived offshore of Hyogo (current Kobe Port), which was designated as a port by the Ansei treaty, but was not opened because the imperial court refused to give permission. Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, who was in charge of protecting the sea around the Osaka region, had senior councilors negotiate with the foreign squadron, while promoting activities to get permission from the emperor, but things became complicated with the order to dismiss the two senior councilors, Masato ABE and Takahiro MATSUMAE, who had decided to open Hyogo port on their own authority, making the bakufu side suspicious of Yoshinobu. Yoshinobu successfully led the court to give consent by holding a meeting consisting of members of clans based in Kyoto regarding the issue of opening Hyogo port and the permission for that, creating public opinion strong enough to persuade even the emperor (the opening of Hyogo port was delayed).

The Satsuma clan gradually became uncooperative towards the bakufu in those movements, and tried to cooperate with Choshu instead. These two clans grew closer through the work of Ryoma SAKAMOTO, a roshi of Tosa, who was under the protection of the Satsuma clan, and Shintaro NAKAOKA who had followed Sanetomi SANJO, also a roshi of Tosa, who stayed in Shimonoseki. After some cooperative work, such as when Satsuma purchased weapons for the Choshu clan, who were officially regarded as a rebels and could not purchase them, both signed the secretive agreement to form an alliance at the Satsuma clan's residence in the presence of Takayoshi KIDO and Saigo in Kyoto in January 1866.

The bakufu issued the second order to conquer Choshu in Feburary of that year. The war started in June, and the troops of Choshu, better-equipped after the cooperation with Satsuma and trained in Western military theories by Masujiro OMURA, overwhelmed the bakufu. The bakufu lost many battles across the country, and Iemochi died of disease at Osaka-jo Castle on July 20. Yoshinobu, who succeeded as head of the Tokugawa family, at first showed the will to participate in the battle himself, but he changed his position and tried to make peace, ending the second attempt to conquer Choshu when Kaishu KATSU from the bakufu side, and Masaomi HIROSAWA and Kaoru INOUE from the Choshu side concluded the armistice in Hiroshima.

Returning the power to the Emperor and restoring the Imperial rule (1866 – 1867)
Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, who succeeded Iemochi as head of the TOKUGAWA family, was suspicious whether the bakufu would be loyal to him and refused to assume the position of seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"). Five months later, on December 5, he accepted his appointment as Shogun. However, in the same month the Emperor Komei suddenly died of smallpox. Imperial Prince Mutsuhito became the emperor (the Emperor Meiji).

In 1867, Takamori SAIGO and Toshimichi OKUBO of Satsuma, who groped for the union of major domains to take the initiative in the political situation, urged Hisamitsu SHIMAZU, Shungaku MATSUDAIRA, Munee DATE and Yodo YAMANOUCH (the former lord of the Tosa domain) to come to Kyoto to discuss the port of Hyogo and the treatment of Choshu with Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, but the four great members, lacking solidarity, were overwhelmed by Yoshinobu's political smartness, and could not make a respectable showing. In May, the long-awaited imperial approval to open Hyogo port was given after an all-night meeting of many noble figures, including Nariyuki NIJO, Sessho (regent), allowing Yoshinobu to seize the initiative.

Under these circumstances, both Satsuma and Choshu understood using armed forces would be the only way to overthrow the bakufu and started to gather the Tosa and Hiroshima clans. In the Tosa domain, Shojiro GOTO, influenced by Ryoma SAKAMOTO, was working on that task by recommending to Yodo YAMANOUCHI the effects of restoring power to the emperor as a way to avoid overthrowing the shogunate by military conflicts. Meanwhile, Okubo and Saigo of Satsuma worked with Tomomi IWAKURA, who secretly stayed in the Rakuhoku area of Kyoto, in order to receive a secret imperial command to attack the bakufu on October 14, from Tadayasu NAKAYAMA (maternal grandfather of the Emperor Meiji), Tsuneyuki NAKAMIKADO, Sanenaru OGIMACHISANJO, and others. However, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA had already accepted the way Yodo YAMAUCHI suggested, and had announced the restoration of power to the emperor in front of members of various clans of Kyoto (the petition to the Emperor was made on October 14), and the anti-shogunate group lost the legitimate reason to attack the bakufu. Here the governance by the Edo shogunate was nominally ended.

However, Yoshinobu did not immediately resign from the position of shogun (he resigned on October 24), as governance by the shogunate still remained the same with the administrative system still in effect for the time being. Some people, including Iwakura and Okubo, planned a coup to change the situation. On December 9, the Restoration of the Imperial Rule (Japan) was declared, revoking traditional titles including Shogun, Sessho, and Kanpaku, and the new government, based on direct rule by the emperor, consisting of Sosai (President), Gijo and Sanyo (Councilor), was declared to be established. In the Kogosho kaigi (a meeting), held under the guard of the Satsuma troops, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA was required to resign from the official position (Minister of the Interior) and return to the domains. Although Yodo YAMANOUCHI firmly opposed the idea, the requirement, pushed by Tomomi IWAKURA, was decided. Accepting the decision, Yoshinobu moved to Osaka-jo Castle, but the decision was not executed because of the intervention of Yodo YAMANOUCHI, Shungaku MATSUDAIRA, and Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA. Then, Saigo assembled rochi including Sozo SAGARA, provoking the bakufu. Angered by that action, the Shonai clan, in charge of keeping the peace of Edo city, and Tadamasa OGURI, kanjo bugyo (commissioner of finance of the bakufu), burned the residence of the Satsuma clan.

Due to the political instability and the inflated prices of goods in the market, many radical actions, such as "reform riots" and destructive urban riots, occurred, and "Eejanaika", an unusual movement consisting of religious celebrations and communal activities, was seen in many parts of the country.

Boshin War (1868 – 1869)
Troops of the former bakufu staying in Osaka-jo Castle were excited when they heard the residence of the Satsuma clan had been burnt down. Then, in January 1868 (changed the name of an era to Meiji in September), they finally started to march into Kyoto, raising a plan to conquer Satsuma. On January 3, battles started between the bakufu and the Satsuma clan on Toba-kaido Road and Fushimi-kaido Road (The Battle of Toba-Fushimi). In the battle, the Satsuma's army was the imperial army, with the imperial standard; thus the bakufu were regarded as rebels; as a result, by January 5, it became clear that the bakufu would lose the war, as many clans including Yodo and Tsu changed their positions and joined the imperial army. Straight after encouraging all the troops, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA escaped to Edo on the battleship Kaiyomaru. The former bakufu side fell apart. A series of battles fought in many parts of Japan from this point to the next year is called "the Boshin War" (the word Boshin comes from the name of the year 1868 designated in the oriental zodiac).

Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito was appointed as Tosei Daitokutfu (the Great Governor-General in charge of the military expedition to the east), and dispatched the expeditionary force to the east (also called the Imperial army) to the areas of Tokai-do Road, Nakasen-do Road, and Hokuriku-do Road. Meanwhile, the new government published 'Charter Oath of Five Articles,' drafted by Takachika FUKUOKA (a feudal retainer of Tosa) and Kosei YURI (a feudal retainer of Echizen), and amended by Koin KIDO of Choshu, as they needed to set the guidelines of the administration.

In Edo the hard-liners who resisted to the bitter end, such as Oguri, were denied, and Yoshinobu announced his allegiance. Finally, after a meeting between Saigo and Katsu, Edo-jo Castle was surrendered, and the Tokugawa family moved to Sunpu domain (current Shizuoka) with 700,000 koku (of rice) (a unit of volume: rice 1-koku is 180.39 liter, lumber 1-koku is 0.278 cubic meter) due to the efforts of Kaishu KATSU, who took the charge of ending the war from the Yoshinobu side, with the intervention by Tesshu YAMAOKA, and with petitions from Tenshoin and Prince Kazunomiya.

However, not all members of the bakufu were happy with the peace settlement, and some of them continued to resist in many places, particularly in the regions of northern Kanto, Hokuetsu, and southern Tohoku. They formed troops known as Shogitai, and entrenched themselves in Ueno Kanei-ji Temple in Edo, but were suppressed within a day, on May 15, by the armed force comprised of several clans and led by Masujiro OMURA (Ueno War).

Accordingly, the Aizu and Shonai clans that took the charges of keeping peace of the cities of Kyoto and Edo became the enemies of the imperial court; Aizu were willing to show allegiance but the new government still took Aizu as the enemy, forcing the surrounding clans to dispatch troops against Aizu. To address this move, an alliance was formed among clans in Mutsu, Dewa, and Echigo (in the north-eastern region of Japan), supporting Cloistered Imperial Prince Rinojinomiya Kogen, later Imperial Prince Kitashirakawanomiya Yoshihisa (also known as Tobu Emperor). Many hard battles were fought in the Echigo-Nagaoka domain (Hokuetsu War), Aizu (Aizu War), Akita (Akita War), and other parts of Japan, but the armed force of the new government won all of them.

Takeaki ENOMOTO, former vice president of the naval force of the bakufu, assembled people who lost those hard-fought battles across the country, using the bakufu's battleship, and occupied Goryokaku in Hakodate. Enomoto wanted to form a new state independent from the newly formed Meiji government and based around samurai from the previous bakufu regime, and declared that the Republic of Ezo was established, but lost the Battle of Hakodate, surrendering to the government in May 1869 and ending the Boshin War.

During this period, a plan to return land and people to the emperor was set by a petition from major clans Satsuma, Chofu, Tosa and Hizen, and was actually carried out in September, by returning land (called hanto) and people (family register) to the government, transforming the lord of domain (daimyo [Japanese feudal lord]) to chihanjis (modern-day governors), and separating vassals from each clan. In 1871, traditional feudal domains were abolished and prefectures were introduced by the Meiji government, ending the feudal system both in name and reality (Article of the Meiji Restoration).

Events concerned
See the timetable of the Bakumatsu for detailed chronological accounts.

Arrival of the Matthew PERRY squadron
Arrival of Evfimiy Vasil'evich PUTYATIN squadron
Conclusion of the Convention of Kanagawa
Conclusion of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the United States
Ansei Purge
Sakuradamon Incident
Sakashitamon Incident
Tenchu-gumi Incident
Teradaya Incident
Bunkyu Reform
Namamugi Incident
Anglo-Satsuma War
Coup of August 18
Ikedaya Incident and Kinmon Incident
First conquest of Choshu
Second conquest of Choshu
Satsuma and Choshu Alliance
Taisei Hokan and the restoration of Imperial rule (Japan)
Boshin War
Battle of Toba-Fushimi
Ueno War
Hokuetsu War
Aizu War
Hakodate War

Related Institutions

Shokansonjuku, Nagasaki Naval Training Center, Kobe Naval Operations Center, Bansho-wage Goyo (Government Office for Translation of Barbarian Books)

Ideology during bakumatsu

Regarding sovereignty

Sabaku, supporters of the bakufu

Kobu-gattai, reconciliation between the imperial court and the shogunate

Sonnoron (the thought of respecting the Emperor), Sonno-shiso (the thought of reverence for the Emperor), and Kinno (loyalty to the Emperor)

Tobaku, a position to overthrow the Shogunate

Regarding foreign affairs

Joi-ron, a principle to exclude foreigners

Kaikoku-ron, a principle to open the country


Roshigumi (an organization of masterless samurai), Shinsengumi (a group who guarded Kyoto during the end of Tokugawa Shogunate: Mibu-Roshigumi, Koyo Chinbutai [a military unit formed specially for the campaign in Kai Province], Seiheitai, Goryo-eji [guards of Imperial mausoleums]), Shincho-gumi (the Tokugawa Shogunate guard organization), Mimawari-gumi (an organization to maintain public order)

Ou reppan domei (a coalition established by many clans in the Northern and Eastern areas of Japan), Byakkotai (suicide corps), Nihonmatsu shonentai (an army consisting of teenagers who fought in the Boshin war), the Republic of Ezo, Shogitai (group of former Tokugawa retainers opposed to the Meiji government who fought in the Battle of Ueno), Denshutai (Edo shogunate's army)

Gakuheitai (Army in Western system: Sendai domain), Raijintai (a Japanese guerilla warfare unit formed in 1868 during the Boshin War: Kuwana domain), Ryosotai (Gujo domain), Tenchugumi (the Heavenly Avenging Force), Tengu-to Party

Tosaginno-to Party, Kaientai (an association of roshi organized by Ryoma SAKAMOTO), Rikuentai Army (an association of roshi organized by Shintaro NAKAOKA), Kiheitai Army, Sekihoutai Army

Weapons in the bakumatsu period

The bakufu and other clans tried to get modern Western weapons, at first to protect the coastlines, and later to overthrow the bakufu.

However, it was difficult to produce them by themselves as there was a large technological difference between Japan, which had closed itself for quite a long time, and Western nations, so most of the weapons were purchased from foreign traders.


This was introduced to Japan during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States: Japan).

Gewehr rifle

This was a muzzle-loading, smooth-bore gun, using a different method of firing than match cord, with a Western style gunstock to be placed on a shoulder, as apposed to the Japanese style one which was held against the cheek. This type of gun was easier to use because it didn't use a match cord to light the powder, but by using the flintlock system, the accuracy of gunfire was lower than match cord guns; using the percussion lock system, the accuracy of fire and the shooting distance were almost equal to match cord guns, but guns could be used even in the rain. They were produced in Japan, too.

Jager rifle

This was a muzzle-loading rifle. By including rifling in the gun barrel, the accuracy of fire improved significantly, but it became difficult to load bullets as bullets needed to be pushed into the rifling.

Minie rifle

This was a muzzle-loading rifle made in France. Loading bullets became easier as the so-called "Minie bullet" was invented. This type of rifle was used both by the bakufu and the imperial forces as the accuracy of fire was high.

Enfield rifle

This was a muzzle-loading rifle made in Britain. In the Bakumatsu period, Minie-type rifles with the brand name "Enfield" were called Enfield rifles.

Dreyse rifle

This was a breech-loading needle-gun made in the Kingdom of Prussia. This was the first practically used breech-loading rifle in the world, but it was not powerful because the cartridge used with this rifle was made from paper that allowed a significant amount of gas to escape when the rifle was fired. This is also called as Dreyse needle-gun. This was also called the Zundnadel gun.

Chassepot rifle

This was a breech-loading rifle made in France. Napoleon the third, Emperor of France, sent the rifles to the bakufu, and they were given to the elite troops of the bakufu. This type of gun was state-of-the-art at the time, but it did not make a significant impact as it was hard for the bakufu to get the bullets specific to the rifles.

Snider rifle

This was made in Britain. It was a modified version of Minie and Enfield rifles featuring breech-loading. It used a "Boxer Patron", a prototype of the modern day cartridge made of paper and brass. It became the main rifle used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the early Meiji period.

Spencer rifle

This was a breech-loading rifle made in the US. It enabled seven shots to be fired in a row.

Armstrong Gun

This was a breech-loading rifle made of steel. It had the most powerful firing ability of its day, using steeple skull ammunition and a detonation cord loaded with powder charge. The Hizen-Saga clan used the guns and achieved great results in the Boshin War.

Yonkinsanpo (Mountain Gun used with a 4 Kg cannonball)

Yonkinyaho (Field gun used with a 4 kg cannonball)

Gatling gun

Marine vessels

Kotetsukan (Ironclad Warship)

Azumakan Warship

Western sailing ship

Kanrin Maru Warship

Shohei Maru Warship

Hoo Maru Warship

Kaiyo Maru Warship

Kaisei Maru Warship

Heishin Maru Warship

Denryu Maru Warship

Kaiten Maru Warship

Chiyodagata Maru Warship

Takao Maru Warship

Fujiyama Warship


Shinagawa Fort

Goryokaku Fortress

Shiryokaku Fortress

Tatsuoka-jo Castle

[Original Japanese]