- November 03 2015
Japanese History In Manga ~ Meiji Restoration(2) The way to the restoration of Imperial Rule ~
In Part1, we began the story of Perry’s Black Ship Visit and his demand to open the country. After his visit, Japan’s politics split between “the supporter of Bakufu (Shogunate) who wanted to open the country” and “Anti-Shogunate the supporter of Emperor who did not want to open the country.”
Coming up next on this article, let’s see how Japan created a brand new country with going through its strong conflicts and struggles.
Choshu Conquest and Tokugawa Iemochi’s sudden death
The Choshu Conquest was the battle between the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by the shogun) and the Choshu clan, and was fought twice in the latter half of the Edo period.
The Edo bakufu were led by Tokugawa Iemochi and especially regarded the “Choshu clan” as dangerous radicals. Tokugawa Iemochi tried to conquer the Choshu clan twice, however during his second conquest, the Bakufu’s momentum began to fall apart and he did not get any support from other clans.
Furthermore, things got worse on the Bakufu side when Tokugawa Iemochi unexpectedly succumbed to illness during the Choshu campaign. To make matters worse for the Bakufu, the Choshu clan got huge support from the powerful Satsuma clan. The Satsuma imported weapons from abroad (Mainly Britain) and allied itself with the Choshu clan. This increased Choshu power and led to a string of decisive victories. It became clear that the war was now unwinnable for the Bakufu and its pro-shogunate forces.
“Toubaku no Micchoku (the secret Imperial command to attack the shogunate) and the just in time “Taiseihoukan (the Restoration of Imperial rule) “
This conflict was the worst crisis since the Edo Bakufu started. After Tokugawa Iemochi’s death, “Tokugawa Yoshinobu” succeeded him on the throne of Shogun. Tokugawa Yoshinobu was a tactical politician, and therefore thought it was not a good idea to continue the battles against Anti-Shogunate groups. Finally, Yoshinobu decided to return the real power to Emperor. This decision is known as Taiseihoukan (the restoration of imperial rule).
At the same time, the Satsuma and Choshu clans issued Toubaku no Micchoku (the secret Imperial command of attacking the shogunate). However, Tokugawa Yoshinobu already knew of the plan, so he took the initiative and issued Taiseihoukan as quickly as possible to head off the bloodshed. Yoshinobu thought that was the best way for both to keep his title and integrate Anti-Shogunate groups into the post-conflict government.
Taiseihokan’s formal declaration and implementation took place in Nijo castle, now a famous sightseeing spot in Kyoto. Nijo castle held symbolic importance since it was where Tokugawa Ieyasu declared the beginning of Edo Bakufu in the first years of the 17th century. This is why Nijojo castle renown its name for its important historical moment of Edo period.
The endless conflicts and the outbreak of the Boshin War
Soon after Taiseihoukan, Tokugawa Yoshinobu and some of the main leaders from each clan gathered in the Imperial court; but the Choshu and Satsuma clans were not happy at all. They thought if Tokugawa Yoshinobu remained the power behind the Japanese government, nothing would move Japan forward.
The Choshu and Satsuma clans masterminded a coup d'etat against the Tokugawa Bakufu and took control of the Imperial court. Then, they proclaimed the revival of Emperor.
They also demanded Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s resignation as shogun and the returning of the political power to Emperor. Moreover, they expelled the shogun from all land previously owned by the Tokugawa family.
Of course for the Tokugawa group’s vassal, the demands of the Anti-Shogunate groups’ were not acceptable at all and they raged about, “How dare they be so insolent!” No one listened to Tokugawa Yoshinobu as he had pushed to end the war peacefully when his side was at its weakest. Unfortunately, Yoshinobu’s pleas did not resonate and the war started between the newly organized Imperial Army (Choshu and Satsuma clans) and the former Edo Bakufu Army. This historical movement is called the Boshin War.
The conflict began at Fushimi in Kyoto. The New Government Army had 5,000 soldiers, while the former Edo Bakufu Army had 15,000 soldiers. Seemingly, Edo Bakufu had the advantage since they commanded three times more troops than the New Government, but it turned out many of the Bakufu soldiers flinched from the dignified “Emperor’s Flag” flown by the Imperial Army (New Government).
Moreover, Tokugawa Yoshinobu did not want to be the enemy of the Emperor, so he fled to Edo with his attendants during the war. After that, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was officially recognized as an enemy of Emperor and eventually captured. Yoshinobu was held for disciplinary confinement in Tokyo Ueno.
(Some people say Yoshinobu was a coward, but others argue that his decisions and movements were because of his wisdom and power to see into the future. In the latter camp’s opinion, Yoshinobu wanted to see Japan avoid further meaningless war and concentrate on forging a new government.)
Boshin War moves towards to the north
The New Government became emboldened by the victory in Kyoto. They were planning to attack Edo and began preparations. But Edo was home to one million people and if war came to them, it would cause large-scale suffering and weaken the national power of Japan at a critical moment globally.
So, a senior statesman of Bakufu; Katsu Kaishu and a senior statesman of the New Government; Saigo Takamori held a meeting and made the decision for the bloodless surrender of Edo Castle.
Edo castle (The emperor’s palace): Tokyo
Although soon after the surrender, the war continued to rise up north to Hokkaido.
Enomoto Takeaki, a member of Edo Bakufu, calculated that the war against the New Government in the Tohoku region would lead to defeat. So he went to Hakodate in Hokkaido with Shinsengumi Hijikata Toshizo. They fought around Goryokaku but in the end Hijikata’s solders were mostly dead and battered by the Hokkaido winter. The Boshin War ended soon after with the surrender of the former Edo Bakufu Army.
The hero Hijikata Sanzo of “Shinsengumi” was faithful and brave as he fought for Edo Bakufu until the end even when he knew hope for his cause was lost. The lives and stories of the Boshin War are tragic and dramatic, so it has been a constant source for popular historical dramas among Japanese people and its tales are beloved. You will find countless representation of Shinsengumi in movies, TV dramas, Manga, and more.
Sakura at Goryokaku: Hakodate, Hokkaido / http://www.club-t.com/
Emperor declares Charter Oath of Five Articles
Finally, there were no people opposing the New Government in Japan. At last, the Emperor declared “Gokajyo no Goseimon (Charter Oath of Five Articles).” This Oath was the basic policy to create a new Japan and it was their intention to announce his message that “Emperor will leads the country and will build a better nation.”
Emperor: “Let’s break old habits and embrace the merits of foreign countries. The whole population must now cooperate with each other! We will hold a parliament (diet) and discuss our differences. We will listen to our people and implement policy around a consensus.”
And thus, after these long conflicts, Japan began to start creating a new country conducted under its New Governement. Coming up soon is the last chapter: Japanese History In Manga ~Meiji Restoration (3) Modernism Cracked The Door ~