Reformation Of The Shogunate Government (幕政改革)

Reformation of the shogunate government refers to the reforms of the financial, political, and other systems implemented under the Edo "bakufu" (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Commonly, Kyoho Reforms, Kansei Reforms, and Tenpo Reforms are called Three Big Reforms under the Edo bakufu, and besides, large-scale financial and institutional reforms were implemented many times.

Period of establishment of the shogunate and domain system

The reigns of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA (the first Shogun), Hidetada TOKUGAWA (the second Shogun), and Iemitsu TOKUGAWA (the third Shogun) fell under the period of establishment of the Edo bakufu, so various policies during this period were done for setting up the regime rather than implementing reforms, so these policies are not included in the reforms of the shogunate government. The basic framework of the shogunate and domain system in the Edo period was created under the rule of Ieyasu and Hidetada - as a shogun or an "ogosho" (a title of honor given to the former shogun).
And the contents were as follows :
Firstly, they established the system for controlling "daimyo" (Japanese territorial lord), such as "Buke Shohatto" (Decree for the Military Houses), "Sankinkotai" (the system under which feudal lords in the Edo period were required to spend every other year in residence in Edo), and "kaieki" (forfeiture of a rank and properties of a samurai);
secondly, they took control of farmers and peasants with "shumon aratame" (originally, an inquisition for suppressing Christianity, but later, it became like a general research on residents), and took religious policies as well, such as a ban of Christianity and issuance of "Jiin Shohatto" (the regulations for Buddhist temples in the Edo period);
besides, they issued "Kinchu Narabini Kuge Shohatto" (a set of regulations applied to the emperor and the Kyoto nobles) for controlling the Imperial Court, and established the policy that forbade private people to trade with foreign countries through a series of so-called the Decrees of Seclusion, and they also set the precedent that "fudai daimyo" (Japanese territorial lords in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) monopolized the politics of the Edo bakufu. In this way, the basic political system was built and roughly completed during the reign of the third Shogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA. In the reign of the next fourth Shogun Ietsuna TOKUGAWA, the politics was stable thanks to the competent "roju" (member of shogun's council of elders), such as Nobutsuna MATSUDAIRA and Tadakatsu SAKAI (the feudal lord of the Obama Domain, Wakasa Province).

Tsunayoshi's politics and the Shotoku Reforms

In spite of being stable, the politics of the Edo bakufu was far from perfect, so various contradictions inherent in the regime became problematic year by year. Particularly, the financial crisis came early for various causes, such as depletion of gold and silver mines under direct control of the Edo bakufu, outflow of gold and silver from Nagasaki that resulted from a deficit in trade with foreign countries, and expense for reconstruction projects after disasters, including the Great Fire of Meireki, some big earthquakes, and eruption of Mt. Fuji. This situation compelled the fifth Shogun Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA to implement a financial reform, so he tried to do it by selecting Shigehide OGIWARA as kanjo bugyo (commissioner of finance) - incidentally, Tsunayoshi waved the banner of ideological ideas by adopting Confucianism into his politics. Ogiwara tentatively resolved the financial crisis by reminting an old coin into "Genroku koban" (the oval gold coin minted in the Genroku era) - he reduced the percentage of gold in the old coin, and increased the number of coins in circulation as a whole - but as a result, his policy caused inflation and a surge of commodity prices in the Genroku era. In addition to the financial reform, Shorui-Awaremi-no-rei (ordinances of animal protection) is known to have been implemented during this era.

The sixth Shogun Ienobu TOKUGAWA had been formerly the feudal lord of Kofu Domain, and so, in order to carry out his reforms, he promoted Akifusa MANABE and a scholar Hakuseki ARAI, both of whom had had achievements in political reforms in the Kofu Domain, to his grand chamberlain and personal staff respectively. The reform led by Manabe and Arai is called the Shotoku Reforms after the name of the era that the reform was implemented. Tsunayoshi's policies were denied in the reforms, so, for example, Shorui-Awaremi-no-rei (ordinances of animal protection) was revoked, "kanjo ginmiyaku" (a post to support kanjo bugyo) was newly established, and the financial contradiction in the Tsunayoshi age was tried to resolve by issuing Shotoku gold and silver coins as a deflationary policy, but the reforms ended halfway on the road after Ienobu and his successor Ietsugu TOKUGAWA (the seventh Shogun) died young.

Kyoho Reforms

The eighth Shogun Yoshimune TOKUGAWA came from the Kishu Tokugawa family (a branch of Tokugawa family), so he had the courage to lead the political reforms without hesitation toward "fudai daimyo," who had led politics of the Edo bakufu until then. The reforms led by Shogun Yoshimune himself is called Kyoho Reforms (from A.D. 1716 to 1745). He directed his attention toward stabilizing the rice price more than anything else. As goods distribution and a monetary economy developed, the rice price, which served as a standard of other commodities' price, continued falling throughout the Edo period, so people then said that rice price was low while other commodities' was high. And this directly led to the poverty of "hatamoto" (direct retainers of the Edo bakufu) and lower-ranking samurai whose stipends were based on a rice harvest. Therefore, while controlling people's consumption with sumptuary decrees, Yoshimune implemented many rice-related reforms, such as development of new rice fields for increasing the rice harvest, adoption of "Jomen ho" (the taxation system whose rate was determined by calculating the average rice harvest over the past 5, 10, or 20 years) for stabilizing the income of the Edo bakufu, issuance of "Agemai-rei" (the decree ordering 'daimyo' to pay 100 koku rice for every 10 thousand koku it had), and permission for Dojima Rice Exchange, so Yoshimune was given a nickname of "Rice Shogun." Also, he set a complaints box for the public, and introduced meritocracy by adopting "Ashidaka system" (the system which took talented people into bakufu, who had been unable to assume the important posts until then owing to their low stipends). And moreover, he implemented various reforms, such as renewing Edo city through establishing local fire brigades and Koishikawa Hospital, mitigating prohibition of Western knowledge through various measures (lifting an embargo on the import of Western books translated into Chinese characters, permitting cultivation of sweet potatoes, and so on), and handling matters about merchants (issuing Mutual Settlement Decree on money matters, permitting "kabu nakama" [a kind of cartel formed by wholesalers and other merchants], and so on). Thanks to the reforms, the financial condition of the Edo bakufu turned for the better, and in 1744, the income of bakufu reached its peak throughout the Edo period, but Yoshimune's change of tax rate and thorough frugality policy caused frequent uprisings and destructive riots of discontented peasants and merchants. This shows that the Edo bakufu then became unable to resolve its financial contradictions if it continued depending on rice harvest.

Tanuma period

Despite Yoshimune's Kyoho Reforms, a budget deficit of the Edo bakufu was far from a thorough resolution, so it was carried over to the reign of the next ninth Shogun Ieshige TOKUGAWA. And it was Okitsugu TANUMA who got promoted from the grand chamberlain to "roju," and who took the initiative in reconstructing the bakufu finance from the last days of Ieshige's reign to the next tenth Shogun Ieharu TOKUGAWA's one; incidentally, the reforms of politics after that were mostly led by "roju."
The period that Tanuma led the political reforms is called the Tanuma period (from 1760s to around 1786)
Tanuma tried to reconstruct finance of the Edo bakufu by reducing its conventional dependence on agriculture and implementing mercantilistic reforms. He aggressively pushed forward his reforms, such as collecting business taxes and forced contribution in exchange for promoting "kabu nakama," doing reclamation works of Inba-numa Lake and Tega-numa Lake with merchants' funds, and promoting trade with foreign countries at Nagasaki - particularly through production increase of goods for export, including "tawara mono" (goods in straw bags), thereby succeeding in reconstruction of bakufu finance. He also implemented foreign policy reforms, such as promoting Western learning, surveying "Ezochi" (the Ainu-dwelling area in the Matsumae Domain) proposed by Heisuke KUDO and others, and seeking trade with the Russian Empire via the Ainu. Meanwhile, his mercantilism is said to have caused prevalence of mammonism and graft, and this began to meet a resentment of "fudai daimyo," including Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA, who put a high value on physiocracy that the Edo bakufu conventionally had taken. And Okitsugu repeatedly met with misfortunes, such as the assassination of his son Okitomo TANUMA, failure of the reclamation work of Inba-numa Lake, eruption of Mt. Asama, the Tenmei Famine, and the death of the Shogun Ieharu who supported Okitsugu, so he lost his position and his politics came to an end. However, a series of reforms implemented by Okitsugu can be said to have been no less important than so-called Three Big Reforms.

Kansei Reforms

It was Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA who aided the 11th Shogun Ienari TOKUGAWA in its early reign as "roju." He implemented Kansei Reforms (from 1787 to 1793) to tighten the loose atmosphere in the Tanuma period, and his policies were continued by his Kansei senior vassals until 1817. Sadanobu, the grandson of the eighth Shogun Yoshimune, regarded Yoshimune's reforms as ideal ones, so he encouraged frugality, watched over public morals, and drew up an extremely reduced budget in order to put an end to inflation from the Tanuma period. In nature, Sadanobu's reforms were the complete denial of the Tanuma period. So he reversed Tanuma's mercantilistic policy, which is exemplified by his order of disbandment of "kabu nakama." On the other hand, he implemented various conservative policies, such as compelling "daimyo" to take "kakoimai" (rice storage system in case of emergency), issuing "Kyurikino-rei" (the decree that forced peasants flowing into Edo to return to their hometowns) and "Kien-rei" (the decree to relieve 'hatamoto' and 'gokenin' [an immediate vassal of the shogunate] from their economic difficulties). Also, he restarted cracking down on Western learning, put the publication of books under his control, and tightened public morals. In the academic field, he issued "Kansei Igaku no Kin" (Prohibition of heterodoxies in the Kansei era) and authorized "Shushigaku" (Neo-Confucianism) as the official study, nationalized "Shoheizaka Gakumonsho" (or called 'Shoheiko,' which had been the private school of the Hayashi family), and took other measures to encourage literary and military arts. In the field of foreign policy, he was a hawk, for he prohibited the sale of books written by Shihei HAYASHI about the need to protect "Ezochi" from the Russian Empire and punished Shihei, and bluntly rejected the request for trade of Adam Kirillovich Laksman, the Russian who saw Kodayu DAIKOKUYA - Kodayu had been drifted away to Russia by accident - back to Japan. In the field of urban renewal, he issued the above-mentioned "Kyurikino-rei," established "Ninsoku Yoseba" (the facilities to support self-sustenance of a criminal of a minor offence or a person likely to commit a crime), and took other measures as well. But people could not catch up with the Sadanobu's high ideal, partly because his reforms as a whole favored samurai while being strict on merchants and peasants. And his abandonment of mercantilistic policy turned bakufu finance, which had been healthy in the Tanuma period, for the worse once again, and the finance was degraded to the level that was not reversible merely by a sumptuary decree or the like. In the end, his reforms failed to win the hearts of the people, and also earned Ienari's displeasure in "Songo ikken" (Songo Incident) and others, so he resigned "roju" after only six years from the start of his reforms. However, Nobuaki MATSUDAIRA (the feudal lord of the Mikawa Yoshida Domain), who took the side of Sadanobu in the Edo bakufu, succeeded Sadanobu as chief "roju." The bakufu politics became led by Nobuaki and other "roju" promoted by Sadanobu (such as Ujinori TODA and Tadakazu HONDA), who are called "Kansei senior vassals." Kansei Reforms were substantially continued by these people. But Nobuaki died in 1817, and other vassals retired around then, which put an end to the reforms.

Tenpo Reforms

After Nobuaki MATSUDAIRA died, Ienari himself came to the center stage of the administration as a shogun (and later, as an "ogosho"). But in reality, his aide Tadaakira MIZUNO, who assumed "roju," monopolized bakufu politics, so graft became rampant more than any other time, let alone in the Tanuma period (cf. the section of "Ogosho period"). After Tadaakira MIZUNO and Ogosho Ienari died, the 12th Shogun Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA became keen on the reforms of bakufu politics. And it was Tadakuni MIZUNO, who belonged to the same family as Tadaakira, that led the reforms as "roju." The reforms led by Tadakuni is called Tenpo Reforms (from 1841 to 1843). Tadakuni promoted practical bureaucrats, such as Hidetatsu EGAWA, Kagemoto TOYAMA, and Yozo TORII, but the very contents of the reforms could be said just the revival of Kansei Reforms after the Tanuma period, so they lacked novelty. Tadakuni's major reforms were, for example, control of people's consumption through tightening public morals and implementing a sumptuary decree strictly, issuance of "Hitogaeshi-rei" (the decree to force peasants dwelling in urban areas to return to their hometowns), an order on "kabu nakama" to disband itself, and issuance of "Kien-rei." In foreign policy, he revised the decree issued in Ogosho period which ordered expelling foreign vessels, newly issued the decree that permitted providing foreign vessels with fuel and water in order to avoid an unnecessary war, and tried to build national defense by having Egawa and Shuhan TAKASHIMA introduce Western artillery. In the background of his foreign policy, there seems to have been a sense of crisis aroused by Opium Wars (waged and won by Britain, and after this China became like a colony of Western countries) that broke out in Qing dynasty China around then. But Yozo TORII, the vassal trusted most by Mizuno, hated Western learning and carried out "Bansha no Goku" (Imprisonment of scholars of Western learning), which caused discord within the administration. A number of reforms did not lead to healthy finance, and strict implementation of a sumptuary decree earned the public resentment, so the moving force of the reforms declined rapidly. In addition, "Agechi-rei" (the decree he was going to implement for national defense, whose contents were to take away the territory of 'daimyo' and 'hatamoto' in Edo and Osaka) caused fierce resistance of "daimyo" and merchants, so Shogun Ieyoshi himself was made withdraw the decree and Mizuno lost his position, when Tenpo Reforms ended with a span of just two years. In the next year, the complication of foreign policy pushed him up to "roju" once again, but the distrust toward him from the cabinet officials of the shogunate and from "daimyo" was so strong that he was forced to resign in a year.

Reforms in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate

Failure of Tenpo Reforms drove the Edo bakufu on the verge of collapse in both finance and regime itself. And the West frequently requested Japan to open itself, so reforms in foreign policy were called for. After Tadakuni MIZUNO lost his position, it was Toshitsura DOI, and then Masahiro ABE, who shouldered politics of the Edo bakufu.

Shogun Ieyoshi died soon after the fleet of Commodore Matthew Perry came to Japan in 1853, and Ieyoshi's successor Iesada TOKUGAWA (the 13th Shogun) was sickly, so Abe led Ansei Reforms in the midst of political confusion that resulted from conclusion of Treaty of Peace and Amity between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan in the next year. Abe opened politics of the Edo bakufu to "tozama daimyo" (a 'daimyo' who was not a hereditary vassal of the Tokugawa family), such as Nariakira SHIMAZU (the feudal lord of the Satsuma Domain), to "daimyo" of "shinpan" (relatives of the Tokugawa family), such as Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA (the feudal lord of the Echizen Domain), and to "daimyo" of "gosanke" (three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family), such as Nariaki TOKUGAWA. Abe also established Japanese Naval School in Nagasaki, but he died as young as the age of 39 in 1857.

After Abe died, Masayoshi HOTTA led the reforms of bakufu politics. But his reforms suffered setbacks, such as a conflict between bakufu and Imperial Court over Imperial permission to the treaty concluded with US, a conflict within bakufu over the successor to the sickly shogun between "Hitotsubashi group" (the group that recommended Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA [later, the 15th Shogun]) and "Nanki group" (the group that recommended Iemochi TOKUGAWA [later, the 14th Shogun]), and Naosuke Ii's assumption of "Tairo" (Chief Minister of bakufu) - Naosuke Ii was at the top of "fudai daimyo" and was against the participation of "tozama daimyo" and "gosanke" in bakufu politics. And Hotta's reforms caused Ii's "Ansei no Taigoku" (the Ansei Purge) as a reaction. However, Ii was assassinated in the Sakurada Mongai Incident, and then it was Hirochika KUZE, Nobumasa ANDO and other "roju" who took the lead in bakufu politics.

To prevent bakufu authority from declining, Ando and others tried "kobu-gattai" (integration of the Imperial Court and the shogunate) through the marriage of Shogun Iemochi TOKUGAWA and Imperial Princess Kazunomiya. However, royalists in the movement of "Sonno Joi" (19th century slogan advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners), which was then rising like a flood tide, went against "kobu-gattai," and some of them attacked Ando in the Sakashita Mongai Incident, so Ando lost his position and "kobu-gattai" came to a sudden stop. Now confusion of bakufu politics and decline of its authority became obvious to anybody.

Under the circumstances, Hisamitsu SHIMAZU (the father of the feudal lord of the Satsuma Domain) moved Imperial Court to send a messenger (Shigetomi OHARA), who urged the Edo bakufu to implement reforms (cf. Bunkyu Reform). In response, Edo bakufu newly established some positions, such as "Seiji-sosaishoku" (Chief Administrative Officer, assumed by Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA), "Shogun-kokenshoku" (Guardian of Shogun, assumed by Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA), and "Kyoto-shugoshoku" (Military Governor of Kyoto, assumed by Katamori MATSUDAIRA [the feudal lord of the Aizu Domain]). However, intervention of "tozama daimyo" and Imperial Court in politics of the Edo bakufu and their enforcement of reforms on it further decreased its authority, so its collapse became almost inevitable. In the next year, when Shogun Iemochi went to Kyoto, power of the Edo bakufu split into two - one was in Kyoto and another was in Edo - and a discord began to be seen between political leaders in Kyoto (Yoshinobu, Katamori, and others) and those who were keeping Edo safe, such as "fudai daimyo," "hatamoto," and others.

After the two Choshu Conquests ended in failure and Shogun Iemochi died from an illness, Yoshinobu became the next shogun and implemented in 1867 Keio Reforms, the last ones in the Edo period. Yoshinobu changed regulations for regime organization, in which he newly established the posts of the chief of the army, navy, internal affairs, foreign affairs, and accounting, and he also introduced French military system with help of Napoleon Ⅲ, but these were just a drop in a bucket. In November of the year, Yoshinobu carried out "Taisei Hokan" (the return of political power to the Emperor), which brought the curtain down on the history of the Edo bakufu that lasted as long as about 270 years.

[Original Japanese]