30| Bakumatsu Period History (幕末)1781 – 1868

30 Bakumatsu timeline
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 center timeline above.  However, political history does not divide the Edo period and the Bakumatsu period.  It is not clear cut to divide the time.  The AzuchiMomoyam 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) at 1573 and the time when Tokugawa Iyeyasu killed Toyotomi Hideyori, (Hideyoshi’s son) at Osaka Winter War at 1614.   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, society was flourished culturally and economically.  After a long period of wartime, people could finally see the country is almost united and the peaceful society ahead.  The story of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Iyeyasu is the most popular story for Japanese.  Often the stories around this time are depicted on TV programs and in movies.  The Edo period was the time the Tokugawa family ruled Japan.

Tokugawa’s government is called the Tokugawa Bakufu.   Throughout the Edo period, the direct line of the Tokugawa family, usually the firstborn son, became a shogun.  Yet the emperor co-existed at the same time.  They did not have political power, however, the emperor’s family had some status their own as an emperor.  During the Edo period, it was a very peaceful time.  Unlike the previous time, there were no wars.  Yet, the long last Edo period (last approximately 260 years) became stagnated, started to show the ruling structure problems and financial problems in the latter part.  This is the Bakumatsu (幕末) time, which means literally the latter part of the Edo Bakufu.  As I explained in a previous chapter (Chapter 26 Edo Period History), Japan closed the country to the outside world.  The only place Japan could contact with foreign countries was the place called Dejima in Nagasaki area (Southern part of Japan).  During the Bakumatsu period, several European ships came to Japan asking, more liked demanding us to open ports for water and other supplies for their whaling ships.  Also, some countries wanted to trade with us.   Those countries were like England, Russia, America, and France, etc.  In 1853, Commodore Perry from the U.S. appeared with four big warships at a port called Uraga (浦賀: Kanagawa prefecture now) demanding us to open the ports for water, fuel, and other supplies for the U.S. whaling ships.  At the end of the Bakumatsu time, Tokugawa Bakufu was facing the political and economic difficulty in governing the country.  Also, intellectual people were afraid that we may get into trouble like the one in China, the Opium War(1840 -42) caused by England.  Russian government sent us the messenger officially to open up for trades (1792).  The pressures to open the county were building up and surrounding us.  It became obvious that Japan could no longer continue to close the country.  The time like this, Commodore Perry appeared at Uraga and demanded us to open the country.  These four big warships scared Japanese and excelled in the big anti-Bakufu movement.  The Meiji Revolution was ready to happen, and  Perry’s warships were the last blow.

Tokugawa Bakufu made treaties with several countries and opened a few ports for trades.   The Bakufu’s authority was lost, Japan was divided into several different political groups and they fought chaotically, the Meiji Restoration movement continued.  In 1868, the Tokugawa Bakufu moved out of the Edo castle in Edo (now Tokyo), and the Meiji Emperor moved into there.  The Meiji Shin Seifu (Meiji new government) started center around the Meiji Emperor and the Tokugawa Bakufu ended.

Commodore-Perry-Visit-Kanagawa-1854       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.