Taisei Hokan (transfer of power back to the Emperor) (大政奉還)

Taisei Hokan is a political incident in which the 15th Shogun of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA reported to the Emperor Meiji that he would return the sovereignty to the Emperor on November 9, 1867 at the end of Edo period, and the Emperor gave the imperial sanction to the report on the next day.

In the late Edo period, there was a theory called taisei-ininron saying that the government of the country by the Edo bakufu derived from a delegation from the emperors to the Tokugawa Shogun family.

At the very end of the Edo period when the Satsuma clan and Choshu clan formed Satsuma-Choshu Alliance to promote the movement to overthrow the Shogunate, the Tosa clan, which supported the parliamentary regime theory and the Shogun's returning the sovereignty to the Emperor, submitted a petition for Taisei Hokan (proposed and planned by Ryoma SAKAMOTO in cooperation with Shojiro GOTO) to the Shogun Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA through the lord of the domain Toyoshige YAMAUCHI on October 29, 1867. On receiving this, Yoshinobu summoned 40 senior vassals during their visit to Kyoto at the Nijo-jo Castle and made an inquiry about Taisei Hokan on November 8. On November 9, he submitted 'Taisei Hokan Johyo' (the Memorial of Taisei Hokan) to the Emperor Meiji. On the next day, November 10, the Emperor gave an instruction document showing the imperial sanction for Taisei Hokan to Yoshinobu who visited the Imperial Palace, and thus Taisei Hokan was completed. On this occasion, the Emperor delegated the continuous transaction of immediate government affairs to Yoshinobu until the levy of lords meeting to decide national policy. The Emperor also admitted his shogunship for the time being. This meant that Yoshinobu continued to have practical control over political administration.

The incident happened just when court nobles of tobakuha (anti-Bakufu, crushing-the-Bakufu faction) including Tomomi IWAKURA schemed the issuance of secret Imperial command of attacking the shogunate. Yoshinobu outwitted them and voluntarily carried out Taisei Hokan, and thus removed a good cause for attacking the shogunate. On November 19, Yoshinobu also proposed to the Imperial Court that he would resign his post of Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"). As the Imperial Court at that time had no ability and system to come into power, Yoshinobu thought that the Tokugawa family could practically have control over political administration if the family, which had a power to overwhelm Kugeshu (court nobles) and domains, participated in the new government under the Emperor even if the family formally returned the power.

As expected, the Imperial Court had no ability for diplomacy and served a notice to admit that the bakufu would keep on dealing with diplomatic matters on November 18. It was the bakufu that notified postponement of the opening of Edo and the Niigata Port on December 14 and that concluded the revised trade agreement with Russia on December 23.

At that point, the court nobles of tobakuha had not held initiative in the Imperial Court. The Emperor Meiji, having succeeded to the throne on February 13, 1867 after the death of the Emperor Komei on January 30, 1867, was as young as 15 years old. Therefore, a pro-Tokugawa chancellor Nariyuki NIJO (a cousin of Yoshinobu) was inducted as regent, a post that had been in vacancy for almost 80 years. In the Imperial Court, the Gosekke (the five regent families) including the Nijo family had control over other Kugeshu. Although the Konoe family had been pro-Satsuma and the Takatsukasa family had been pro-Choshu for a while, they had turned to support the Tokugawa family by that time. Meanwhile, court nobles belonging to the radical party for Choshu including Sanetomi SANJO had been expelled from Kyoto after a coup on September 30, 1863, and few court nobles of tobakuha such as Iwakura had not been able to hold initiative in the Imperial Court due to their humble family lineage, although they were influential.

That is, the Imperial Court at that time was still led by pro-Tokugawa upper-graded court nobles such as regent Nijo and the Imperial Prince Kuninomiya Asahiko (also called Nakagawa no Miya; after Meiji Restoration, he was known as Kuni no Miya). The said secret Imperial command of attacking the shogunate was planned as emergency measures by middle- and lower-graded court nobles without initiative including Tomomi IWAKURA, and Saccho (Satsuma and Choshu), under the supposition that Yoshinobu would carry out Taisei Hokan.
(For details, see secret Imperial command of attacking the shogunate)

Under such Imperial Court, it was naturally expected that the new government after Taisei Hokan would be led by Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA. In order for Saccho and Iwakura group to obtain real power, it was necessary for them, through military uprising, to abolish regent, chancellor and other conventional posts mainly taken up by pro-Tokugawa people, to establish a new system to realize direct rule by the emperor, and to inhibit Yoshinobu from being the core of the new government by asking him to surrender the post and domains (former terriroty of the bakufu) to the Imperial Court, and this situation led to the movement of the Restoration of Imperial Rule.

Through the Meiji period to World War II, Imperial rites and festivals were often held on November 10. For example, the ceremony of the enthronement of the Emperor Showa (1928) and the commemorative ceremony for the 2,600th year of the founding of Japan (1940) were both held on November 10. This is because the restoration of the imperial rule was carried out on November 10 (the day of the sanction for Taisei Hokan).

When a president of a company, who is not from the founder's family, returns the post to the founder's family (such as the Toyota family of Toyota and the Matsushita family of Panasonic), it can be referred to as Taisei Hokan from the Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA's incident.

[Original Japanese]