The red circle above indicate the time we discuss in this chapter
The Bakumatsu period is the last part of the Edo period on sword history. See the red circle on the middle timeline above. However, the Bakumatsu period is within the Edo period by political history. There is not a clear-cut date when the Bakumatsu time starts from.
The Azuchi–Momoyam period (安土桃山) is between the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) deposed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (将軍足利義昭) in 1573 and the time when Tokugawa Iyeyasu killed Toyotomi Hideyori (Hideyoshi’s son) at Osaka Winter Campaign in 1614 or when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun in 1603. The Azuchi-Momoyama period was a short period when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), and Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康) were maneuvering the intricate political struggles. During this time, the country flourished culturally and economically. After a long wartime period, people finally saw the country getting reunited and the peaceful life waiting ahead.
The stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Iyeyasu have been the most popular stories for the Japanese. Often the stories around this time are depicted on TV programs and in movies. The Edo period was the time when the Tokugawa family ruled Japan.
The Tokugawa government was called the Tokugawa Bakufu. Throughout the Edo period, the Tokugawa family’s direct line, usually the firstborn sons, became the shogun. Yet, the emperors co-existed at the same time. Even though they did not have political power, the emperor’s family still held imperial status.
During the Edo period, it was a very peaceful time. Unlike the previous period, there were no wars. Yet, later in the period, the long-last Edo period (last approximately 260 years) became stagnated and began showing structural and financial problems in the ruling. This is the Bakumatsu (幕末) time, which means the last part of the Edo Bakufu.
In the previous chapter, Chapter 25, Edo Period History explained that the Edo Bakufu closed the country to the outside world for most of the era. The only place in Japan with access to foreign countries was Dejima in Nagasaki (Southern part of Japan). During the Bakumatsu period, several European ships came to Japan asking (more like demanding) Japan to open ports for water and other whaling ships’ supplies. Also, some countries wanted to trade with Japan. Those countries were England, Russia, America, and France, etc.
In 1792, the Russian government sent an official messenger to Japan demanding it to open up for trades. In 1853, Commodore Perry from the U.S. appeared with four massive warships at a port called Uraga (浦賀: Kanagawa prefecture now) and demanded Japan to open ports for water, fuel, and other supplies for the U.S. whaling ships.
At the end of the Bakumatsu time, the Tokugawa Bakufu faced political and financial difficulties governing the country. Also, intellectual people were afraid that Japan might get into trouble like China, the Opium War(1840 -42), caused by England. The pressures to open the county were building up. It became apparent that Japan could no longer continue to close the country. In such a time, Commodore Perry appeared at Uraga with four huge black warships that demanded Japan to open the country. These warships scared the Japanese and excelled the big wave of anti-Bakufu movement. The Meiji Revolution was ready to happen, and Perry’s warships were the last blow.
Tokugawa Bakufu made treaties with several foreign countries and opened a few ports for trades. The Bakufu’s authority was lost, and Japan was divided into several different political groups. While they fought chaotically, the Meiji Restoration movement continued. In 1868, the Tokugawa Bafuku moved out of the Edo Castle in Edo (now Tokyo), and the Meiji Emperor moved in. The Meiji Shin Seifu (Meiji new government) was established centering the Meiji Emperor, and the Tokugawa Bakufu ended.
File:Commodore-Perry-Visit-Kanagawa-1854.jpg From ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/黒船 Public Domain
Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s visit of Kanagawa, near the site of present-day Yokohama on March 8, 1854. Lithography. New York: E. Brown, Jr.