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

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 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 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 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 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’s 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 was 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 literally the last part of the Edo Bakufu.

The previous chapter (Chapter 25 Edo Period History) explained that the Edo Bakufu closed the country to the outside world for most of the Edo period.  The only place in Japan that had 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 open it up for trades.  In 1853, Commodore Perry from the U.S. appeared with four huge 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 the one in China, the Opium War(1840 -42), caused by England.  The pressures to open the county were building up and surrounding us.  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 us to open the country.  These warships scared the Japanese and excelled in the significant 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 the Edo Castle in Edo, and the Meiji Emperor moved in.  The Meiji Shin Seifu (Meiji new government) was established centering the Meiji Emperor, and the control of 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 (江戸時代歴史1603 – 1867)

0-timeline - size 24 edo Period        The circle indicates where we are discussing 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 decorations, 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 his 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 of 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 well treated them.  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, 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), religious restriction was lifted.

The Edo period began when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (1603).  It last until the Meiji (明治) Restoration in 1868.  During the Edo period, Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity that governed the country.  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.  This country 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 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 a few years back.  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 gold buried or hidden by the people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy daimyos and merchants.  Without 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 big building structure, people start talking about a possible discovery of 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 compare to the rest of the world.  Today, we still mine gold on a small scale because It needs to be dug deep, and mining costs may be too high.

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

26 map of Cipangu1492

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

22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史)

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The above timeline shows two red circles.  In political history, the Sengoku period (戦国時代) is a part of the Muromachi (室町) period, which is shown on the third line.   However, in the sword history, we separate the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (Warring States period), shown on the centerline.  In sword history, we divide the time this way because, in those two periods, the sword style changed, and the environment of sword making also changed.

After the Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) had started (discussed in 20|Muromachi Period History(室町歴史) , the beautiful capital city, Kyoto (京都 ) was in a devastating condition.  The shogun’s (将軍) power reached only to the very limited small area.  The rest of the country was divided into 30 or so small independent states.  The heads of those independent states were called Shugo Daimyo (守護大名).  They were initially government officials, who had been appointed and sent there by the central government.  Also, powerful local samurais often became the head of those states.  They fought against each other to take over other’s land.  During the Sengoku period, vassals would kill his master and stole his domain, or farmers would revolt against their lords.  A state like this is called “Gekoku-jo (lower class samurai could overthrow the superior).”

This is the time of the Warring States called the Sengoku period.  The head of a state was called Sengoku Daimyo (戦国大名: warlord).  The Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, powerful states defeated less powerful ones after long hard battles and gained more territory.  Thirty or so small countries became 20, then ten and so on.  Eventually, a few dominant Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each daimyo of those states tried to fight his way up to Kyoto and unite the country.  The first one who almost succeeded was Oda Nobunaga (織田信長).  However, he was killed by his vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), but shortly after, Akechi was killed by his colleague, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉)

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated Akechi Mitsuhide and his troop and a few more significant warlords, he almost completed uniting Japan.  Yet, Hideyoshi had one more rival to deal with to complete his job.  That was Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康).  Now, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu were the last contenders for the top position.  Both knew that their opponents were smart and able.  Any wrong move on either part would be a fatal mistake.  So, they decided to keep an amicable co-existing relationship on the surface for a while.  Though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to make Tokugawa Ieyasu his vassal, Tokugawa Ieyasu somehow maneuvered to avoid that.  In the mind of Tokugawa Iyeyasu, since he was younger than Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he knew that he could just wait until Hideyoshi‘s natural death.  At that time, he could destroy Hideyoshi’s heir.  And that happened eventually.  

After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought Hideyoshi’s vassals and won at the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600.  Then, in 1615, at the battle of the Osaka Natsu-no-Jin (大阪夏の陣), Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori’s army.  After this, the Toyotomi clan ceased to exist entirely, then the Edo (江戸) period started.  The period is called the Edo period because Tokugawa Ieyasu lived in Edo, current Tokyo (東京). 

*The Sengoku period is often depicted in TV dramas and movies.  People who lived through the Sengoku period had a tough time, but it was the most exciting time for making TV shows and movies.  The life of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and, Tokugawa Ieyasu is the most favorite story in Japan.  Especially the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi is one of the most popular ones.  His background was a poor farmer, but he eventually became the top ruler of Japan.  That is one fascinating success story.

23 Toyotomi_hideyoshi

20|Muromachi Period History(室町歴史)    

0-timeline - size 24 Muromach
                     The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The Muromachi period began after Ashikaga Takauji  (足利尊氏) and several other prominent leaders ended the Nanboku-cho period.  (discussed in 17|Nanboku-cho Period History (1333-1393).

The grandson of Ashikaga Takauji, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満:often called Shogun Yoshimitsu), built a new beautiful palace at Muromachi (室町) area in Kyoto.  The palace became the center of the government called the Muromachi Bakufu (室町幕府Muromachi Government).   This is the beginning of the Muromachi period.  Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built the famous “Kinkaku-Ji Temple* (Golden Pavilion)” in Kyoto as his second house.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple* (金閣寺: Golden Pavillion) —————-Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) built Kinkaku-Ji Temple in 1397.   Later, it became Rinzai-Shu (臨済宗) school Buddhist temple, but it was initially created as the second house for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and a state guesthouse.  Today, it is designated as a world heritage site.  This temple was burnt down by an arsonist in 1950 but was rebuilt in 1955.  The novelist Mishima Yukio wrote the novel “Kinkaku-Ji” related to the Golden Pavillion and the arsonist.  The famous quote in the book is, “The Ho-oh (A mythic golden bird, a Chinese version phoenix) on the roof of the Kinkaku-Ji Temple is stationary, but it flies through the time eternally.”

In the Muromachi period, the emperor’s power became declined.  The Shogun (将軍) held all the political power.  Little by little, several groups of samurai who were officially appointed as a Shugo Daimyo (守護大名: high-ranking officials) started to gain political and economic power by holding the critical positions in the Muromachi Bakufu.  They also owned a large land.  A couple of powerful Shugo Daimyo were the Hosokawa (細川) family and the Yamana (山名) family.

The Ashikaga family made a great effort to make the Muromachi Bakufu sound and robust through politics.  The beginning of the Muromachi period was peaceful and prosperous.  Yet by the time Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政) became the 8th Shogun, the Ashikaga Bakufu became corrupted very severely.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not pay much attention to his job, governing the country as a shogun.  Instead, he was chasing women (his mother had to scold him for that), spent a large amount of money on building the Silver Pavilion called “Ginkaku-Ji Temple (銀閣寺) and retreated himself there.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not have an heir.  Therefore, his brother, Yoshimi (義視), was named as the next Shogun.

However, later, Yoshimasa’s wife Hino Tomiko (日野富子)* had a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Now, brother Yoshimi (義視) allied with a family of a high-ranking official, the Hosokawa’s (細川) while the son, Yoshihisa, tied with another powerful family, the Yamana’s (山名), and several other smaller groups of samurais allied with either side and the war broke out.  This war is called Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) in 1467. It spread out all over the country and continued for 11years.

Hino Tomiko (日野富子)*——————The wife of Shogun Yoshimasa.  She took advantage of her political privileges to make a large amount of money by investing in the rice commodity market to control the price of rice and sold with a high profit.  Then she loans the money to the high ranking officials with high interest.  The corruption reached an uncontrollable level.

As a result of Onin-no-Ran, beautiful Kyoto was burnt down to ashes.  The authority of the Muromachi Bakufu only reached the vicinity of the small surrounding area of Kyoto.  Onin-no-Ran caused the next period called the Sengoku period (戦国時代 ), that is the Warring States period.  During the Sengoku period, Japan was divided into 30 or so small independent countries and fought each other until Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Iyeyasu united Japan as one country.  See the above timeline.

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

 The photo was taken in May 2019, a family trip to Kyoto