29| Bakumatsu Period History 1781 – 1868 (幕末歴史 )

 

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

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 circle on the middle timeline above.  However, political history does not divide the Edo period and the Bakumatsu period.  There is not a clear-cut date for the Bakumatsu period.

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) in 1573 and the time when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun in 1603 or when Tokugawa Iyeyasu won the battle against Toyotomi Hideyori (Hideyoshi’s son) at Osaka Summer Campaign in 1615.   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 reunite 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 time, 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 -1842), with 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 the 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.  Those political groups fought chaotically, and 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. 

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.

25| Edo Period History 1603 – 1867  (江戸時代歴史)

edo Period with Momoym
The circle above indicates where we discuss in this chapter.

Between the Sengoku period (戦国時代) and the Edo period (江戸時代) on political history, there was the time called the Azuchi Momoyama period (安土桃山).  It was from around 1573 to 1614, as shown in the third (bottom) timeline above.  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) played central roles in politics.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won the battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600 and defeated Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi had already been deceased by then), Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (将軍) in 1603.  This is the beginning of the Edo Period (江戸).  In sword history, as you see in the middle timeline above, the Edo period comes right after the Sengoku period.

At the end of the Sengoku period and during the Azuchi Momoyama period, the  economy grew a lot, and new culture flourished.  The gorgeous and spectacular art, such as paintings, architecture, interior designs, and handicrafts, were created.  The tea ceremony was developed by Sen No Rikyu (千の利休), and Kabuki also began to be performed around this time.  It was somewhat similar to the European Renaissance. Strangely, this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.

Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  That was the time of the exploration to the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland, and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was based on the real people’s stories, William Adams and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹ at the time.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo Station today.  On my yearly visit to Japan, I stay at a hotel near Tokyo Station.  I often pass in front of “Yan Yoosten’s” statue.   It is located inside the Tokyo Station, underground in the middle of the bustling shopping area.  It can be very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another statue of him outside the Station.

Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his full name) as his advisers, and he acquired information on Europe from them.  Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu treated them well.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲) after his name, Jan Joosten.  William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in the Miura area.  This place is approximately one hour and a half south by train from Tokyo today.  The records of these two people are well kept and can be found easily.

Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Although Christianity became popular and widely spread in the early Azuchi Momoyama period, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it later.  After the Meiji Era (1868), a religious restriction was lifted.

The Edo period began when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (1603).  It lasted until the Meiji (明治) Restoration in 1868.  Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) was the only entity that governed the country during the Edo period.  The emperors existed, but the political power was shifted to the Tokugawa Bakufu.

Gradually, ports for the European ships were limited.  Eventually, Spaniards were not allowed to come to Japan, then Portuguese.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, a port town called Dejima in Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture was the only place in Japan that opened for foreigners to do business with the Japanese.  From Europe, only the Dutch were allowed to come.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

During the Azuchi Momoyama period and the early part of the Edo period, many European ships visited Japan.  Strangely, many of them shipwrecked near the shores around Japan.  One of the reasons is that Japan is a volcanic island.  Even if the sea’s surface does not show anything sticking up from the water, there are many obstacles underneath, such as underwater mountains and massive hidden reefs.  The Europeans did not have the waterway information that was common to the Japanese seamen.

Additional stories to share just for a fun

Another reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo traveled to China, he heard from Chinese people that there was a small island country further to the east.  The land was wealthy, and the emperors’ palace was made of gold and silver.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (in late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard in China about the island country, Japan.  Even though he had never visited Japan himself.  The book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they came to Japan to find gold.

Yes, Japan produced a large amount of gold.  But for the Europeans, it was too late.  By then, most of the gold was mined by the Fujiwara family in the Oh-shu area (奥州 Northern part of Japan).  The area includes today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi prefectures, where the big Tsunami hit in 2011.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi also owned many gold mines but already mined as much as possible with the skills they had then.  Japan used to have many gold and silver mines all over the country.  Those mines were already exhausted, and only a few were left for mining today.

Throughout history, there have been facts and rumors about “Maizo-kin: 埋蔵金.”  Maizo-kin is the gold buried or hidden by the people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy Daimyos and merchants.  Without having today’s banks’ vault, burying in secret places is the only way to store gold then.  Several Maizo-kins have been found, including one in the middle of Tokyo, Ginza.  There are still several big ones that haven’t been found yet.  Those are said to be Hideyoshi Maizo-kin, Tokugawa Bakufu Maizo-kin, and a few more big onesAlthough several maps indicated the locations of the Maizo-kin, those maps were fake, of course.  Today, whenever the ground is dug to build a large building structure, people start talking about a possible discovery of a big Maizo-kin.

Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries until the Meiji Restoration time.  Because the exchange rate between gold and silver was much cheaper in Japan compared to the rest of the world.  Today, we still mine gold on a small scale.

It is said that the name of the country, Japan, comes from Marco Polo’s book.  He called Japan “Chipangu,” which means “gold country” in his book.*²   “From “Chipangu” to “Zipang” to “Jipang,” it eventually evolved to “Japan.”  Japanese don’t call the country Japan but “Nihon” or “Nippon” (日本).

ヤン ヨーステン Jan Joosten van Lodenstijn https://www.weblio.jp

                                       Or Jan Joosten van Londensteyn 

*² Wikipedia “Names of Japan” or Check (Click) right to go to the link Jipangu 

26 map of Cipangu1492

Cipangu described in the 1492 Martin Beham globe.  From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository (Names of Japan)