Restoration of Imperial Rule (Japan) (王政復古 (日本))

The Restoration of Imperial Rule was a coup planned by the anti-Shogunate group in January 3, 1868, which began with their declaration of 'Direct rule by the emperor.'
It is also known as the Decree for the Restoration of Imperial Rule.


The traditional authority of the Imperial Court was restored as a result of various events including the signing of commercial treaties with foreign countries, and the policy of kobu-gattai (reconciliation between the Imperial Court and the Shogunate) was adopted through cooperation between the Shogunate and Court. However on the other hand there was also anti-Bakufu sentiment such as the Sonno Joi ha (supporters of the doctorine of restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians) and movements to overthrow the Shogunate using armed forces.

On November 9 1967, under the advice of Tosa Domain, the 15th Shogun Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA brought news to the court of the Taisei Hokan (Restoration of Imperial rule based on the principle of parliamentary regime) which received Imperial sanction the following day. Thereby power maintained by the Edo Shogunate (Tokugawa Shogunate Family) for 264 years was returned to the Imperial Court. Because of this move, whilst the anti-Shogunate group lost their justification to attack the Shogunate, the Tokugawa family intended to gain entry into the administration unified by the name of the Emperor and continue their control of power.

In order to create a new parliamentary regime, the Imperial Court ordered Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA and Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA, members of the Tokugawa clan, Hisamitsu SHIMAZU of the Satsuma Domain, Toyoshige YAMAUCHI of the Tosa Domain, Munenari DATE of the Uwajima Domain, Nagamichi ASANO of the Hiroshima (Aki) Domain, Naomasa NABESHIMA of the Hizen Domain and Shigemasa IKEDA of the Okayama Domain (Yoshinobu's own brother) to come to Kyoto.

On the other hand, in order to prevent establishment of an Imperial Government centered on Tokugawa under the sponsorship of Nijo and the Imperial Prince, members of the anti-Shogunate group including Tomomi IWAKURA, a noble, and Toshimichi OKUBO of the Satsuma Domain manipulated the 15-year-old Emperor Meiji, expelled pro-Tokugawa members of the court such as Nariyuki NIJO (the Imperial Regent) and Imperial Prince Kuninomiya Asahiko (Kuninomiya after the Meiji Restoration) and planned a coup to seize control of the Imperial Court. Okubo and others ignored an instruction to postpone a secret Imperial command to attack the Shogunate, saying it could no longer be justified since the Taisei Hokan, encouraged the domains to send their troops to Kyoto and arranged an alliance of three domains, Satsuma, Choshu and Aki, for the dispatch of troops for the purpose of overthrowing the Shogunate with military force.

Although the original D-day was set for January 2, 1868, Shojiro GOTO of Tosa Domain - on the side of the parliamentary regime - requested January 4, thus they made a compromise and postponed one day to January 3, 1868.

Iwakura gathered important retainers of the alliance domains of Satsuma, Tosa, Aki, Owari, and Echizen to his residence on the night of January 2, 1868 (the eve of D-day), declared his commitment to the restoration of Imperial rule and requested their cooperation. A Court Council session was also held by Regent Nijo that night until morning, where it was decided that Mori and his son be reinstated and allowed to enter Kyoto, those Tosho family members (hereditary lineage of Court nobles occupying relatively high ranks) who were punished by the Emperor, including Tomomi IWAKURA, be pardoned and released from home arrest and return to secular life, and that five nobles in Kyushu be pardoned. This was the last Court Council under the old regime.

Decree for the Restoration of Imperial Rule

On January 3, 1868, after the Court Council ended and the participant court nobles left the room, soldiers of Satsuma and other domains who had been waiting outside, went to stand guard at the nine gates of Kyoto Imperial Palace. The Domain soldiers strictly controlled entry to the palace, even refusing entry to the shocked Regent Nijo and Imperial Prince Asahiko. Despite this, the recently pardoned Tomomi IWAKURA and others entered the Palace, and Emperor Meiji issued the Decree for the Restoration of Imperial Rule in the Palace's the study room.

The Decree contains the following:
Imperial sanction of the resignation of the Shogun (proposed by Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA on November 9, 1867;

Abolition of Kyoto shugoshoku (Military Governor of Kyoto) and Kyoto shoshidai (Kyoto Deputy);

Abolition of the Edo Shogunate;

Abolition of roles of regent and chief advisor;

Establishment of the Three Posts, including president, gijo, and sanyo (councilor). Although the decree asserted 'restoration' of Imperial rule, it intended to completely change the traditional organization of the Imperial Court including Sessho (regent) and Kanpaku (chief adviser), expel senior court nobles, nip the possibility of the Tokugawa dominating the new government in the bud, and establish a new government to be lead by some of the court nobles including Iwakura and the major members of Satsuma and Choshu Domains under the name of the direct rule by the Emperor.

The following people were assigned to the three major governmental posts.

President: Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito
Gijo: Imperial Prince Komatsunomiya Akihito, Imperial Prince Yamashinanomiya Akira, Tadayasu NAKAYAMA, Sanenaru OGIMACHISANJO, Tsuneyuki NAKAMIKADO, Tadayoshi SHIMAZU, Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA, Nagakoto ASANO, Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA, and Toyoshige YAMAUCHI
Sanyo: Tomomi IWAKURA, Shigetomi OHARA, Hirofusa MADENOKOJI, Nobuatsu NAGATANI, and Saneyana HASHIMOTO

The Three Post system was abolished by the Seitaisho (Constitution) of 1868, and replaced by the Dajokan (Great Council of State) System.

Kogosho Conference

See Kogosho Conference for details.

The first Three Post Meeting of the new system started with the attendance of Emperor Meiji in the Kogosho Room of the Imperial Palace at around 6pm on January 3, 1868.

Toyoshige YAMAUCHI and other members of the pro-parliamentary regime criticized the fact Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA was not allowed to participate in the meeting and suggested an Assembly of Feudal Lords chaired by Yoshinobu.
Iwakura and Ohara were concerned at first, but Yamauchi asked, 'What are we doing here today in the first place? Aren't some of the court nobles plotting to control the juvenile Emperor?'
Iwakura remonstrated Yamauchi about his improper comment, saying 'Everything going on is being held according to the Emperor's ideas. How dare you can use the word juvenile Emperor?'
After that Yamauchi kept silent. At this point, Yoshinobu's resignation from Minister of the Interior and the abandonment of the Shogunate's territories ("Jikan-nochi") were not yet determined, but Iwakura and his comrades listed the mistakes made by the Tokugawa Shogunate and demanded that their first step be to show their sincerity by agreeing with "Jikan-nochi." Yamauchi and his comrades strongly demanded the participation of Yoshinobu, and while both groups stuck to their own demands, Tadayasu NAKAYAMA eventually declared a pause. Michihira IWASHITA, one of the participants in the meeting, sought advice from Saigo.
Saigo encouraged Iwakura, saying 'One short sword alone can finish it.'
This event was communicated to Tosa Domain through Geishu Domain, and in the resumed meeting Yodo was docile, procedures advancing at Iwakura's pace, thus Jikan-nochi was determined.

Road to the Boshin War

On December 10, Yoshinobu declared his new title 'Uesama' (the upper lord), suggesting his intention to continue ruling the country using the mechanism of the Edo Shogunate even though the Shogun himself had been abolished. The adamant move of Satsuma and Choshu Domains spread disturbance among the representatives of many domains in Kyoto. Furthermore, those in favor of parliamentary regime including Tosa Domain attempted to regain of power, and representatives from Higo, Chikuzen, and Awa Domains requested Satsuma and Choshu to withdraw the army from the Imperial Palace on the 12th. On the 13th, Iwakura and Saigo had no choice but to propose a compromise that as long as Yoshinobu accepted Jikan-nochi he would be assigned a gijo and treated as former Minister of the Center. Through this Jikan-nochi became merely nominal, and Yoshimune met minister-counselors of six countries - USA, UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Prussia - at the Osaka Castle on the 16th and talked them into admitting noninterference in internal affairs and approving the Shogunate's rights to diplomacy, going so far as to publicly request the Imperial Court to withdraw the Decree of the Restoration of Imperial Rule on the 19th.

In response, the Imperial Court issued a statement that '徳川内府宇内之形勢ヲ察シ政権ヲ奉帰候ニ付キ、朝廷ニ於テ万機御裁決候ニ付テハ、博ク天下之公儀ヲトリ偏党ノ私ナキヲ以テ衆心ト休威ヲ同フシ、徳川祖先ノ制度美事良法ハ其侭被差置、御変更無之之候間、列藩此聖意ヲ体シ、心付候儀ハ不憚忌諱極言高論シテ救縄補正ニ力ヲ尽シ、上勤王ノ実効ヲ顕シ下民人ノ心ヲ失ナハス、皇国ヲシテ一地球中ニ冠超セシムル様淬励可致旨御沙汰候事' on January 16, 1868. This statement was practically interpreted as approving the continuation of Yoshinobu's delegation of the government under the system of the Tokugawa Shogunate and although the Decree of the Restoration of Imperial Rule was not negated, it was clearly taken as acknowledgement of Yoshinobu's contention.

However the clandestine activities of the Satsuma Domain, who felt very much threatened by this development, successfully agitated the hard-liners of the Shogunate supporters, leading to the Battle of Toba and Fushimi on January 27, 1868. The Shogunate army, unnerved by the Imperial standards used by the Satsuma forces, not only suffered a crushing defeat but were also labeled as the Emperor's enemy, despite in the end being the ones who saved the new Imperial government whose days were already numbered.

Yamauchi opposed Iwakura, saying 'This is an unjust battle caused by Satsuma and Choshu,' but as Iwakura thundered out, 'I see. In that case, why don't you side with Yoshinobu,' Yamauchi kept silent. Later Yamauchi left the army of his Tosa Domain to Taisuke ITAGAKI and acted in accordance with Satsuma and Choshu.

But as the former Shogunate's sphere of influence was still spreading out of the Kanto region, it took the Imperial Court more time to overthrow the Shogunate in any real sense. On May 3, 1868, the Imperial army secured a blood-free surrender of the Edo Castle, the headquarters of the former Edo Shogunate, in exchange for aborting an all-out attack on Edo, and this accelerated the movement of abolishing the Shogunate system. Genichiro FUKUCHI, one of the former Shogunate retainers, concluded in his book "Bakufu Suibo Ron" (The Theory of Shogunate's Decline and Fall) that the surrender of Edo Castle marked the collapse of the Edo Shogunate.

[Original Japanese]