History of Japan

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

Premodern history

Japan has been inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of the archipelago appears in a Chinese chronicle finished in the 2nd century. Between the 4th and 9th centuries, the various tribes of Japan unified under the Jamato emperor, with the Imperial Court based in Miaco. Beginning in the 12th century, political power was held by a series of military dictators (xogun) and feudal lords (daimio), and enforced by a class of warrior nobility (samurai).

Azutxi-Momojama period (1568-1603)

Tojotomi Hidejoxi and Oda Nobunaga, two prominent Japanese warlords, sought to reunify and strengthen Japan after the decline of the Ashikaga regime. After Nobunaga’s suicide in 1582, Hidejoxi completed the unification of Japan. He centralized many Japanese institutions, persecuted Christians, and modernized the economy. In the 1590s, Japan invaded Corea but ultimately failed.

In the aftermath of the Warring States era, one of Hidejoxi’s son’s regents, Tocugawa Iejasu - the only former ally of the Oda clan in Hidejoxi’s inner circle - sought to unify Japan under his rule. After the Battle of Sequigahara, Tocugawa managed to consolidate his rule by 1603.

Early Edo period (1603-1673)

The first seventy years of the Edo period were defined by martial rule and the formation of the post-Hidejoxi political order in Japan. The state had extensive interactions with the Dutch, Chinese pirates, pro-Confucianists, and the Japanese Christian movement.

Early years and Sacocu

Tocugawa was deeply concerned about stability and instituted protectionist, centralizing, and systematic policies to ensure national prosperity. The votality of Japanese politics, the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, Dutch entry into East Asia, and several other potential threats led to the gradual institution of the Sacocu doctrine [鎖国, lit. locked nation].

From 1633 to 1636, the Japanese state passed the Four Sacocu Ordinances: to ban Japanese migration, construct Desjima, limiting foreign maritime trade, and expulsion of Portuguese traders.

Ximabara Rebellion (1637)

At the time, Japan had an estimated 300,000 Christians. Many of these Christians were peasant farmers and the lower classes, who embraced the faith in opposition to oppressive feudal lords. The Ximabara rebellion, led by the teenage convert Amacusa Xiro, erupted in southern Japan after a raise in taxes. After a few months, it was successfully suppressed with the murder of over 25,000 Catholics and conversions of several more. Many of these Catholics publicly abandoned the faith and became crypto-Christians.

Dutch influence in Japan

In 1641, the Dutch took over the former Portuguese trading post at Nagasaqui. They created Desjima island in order to conduct trade with the Japanese. Over a period of time, the Japanese became deeply interested in Dutch culture and science, eventually creating the academic school of Rangacu (蘭学, lit. Dutch studies).

The Ceian Affair and the Djōō Massacre

In 1651 and 1652,  two incidents occurred where rōnin attempted to overthrow the Tocugawa state. The Ceian Affair largely failed and ended with the suicide of mastermind Jui Xoseçu. A year later in 1652, Beçuqui Xozaemon planned to kill government officials at a memorial service in Edo. A few officials were killed, including Abe Tadaqui and Kuzo Hirojuqui, before the assailants were put down. Chief advisor Sacai Tadaquijo was injured. It is theorized that security was inadequate in Edo that day due to the arrival of the Fukienese from China.

The Hirado Agreement

After the 1652 Battle of Chiangtung Bridge, Koxinga and the Fukien resistance were defeated by the Qing. Many refugees fled to the Loetsjoes, southeast Asia, and most notably, Japan. Koxinga himself settled in Hirado with permission from the Xogunate, after glorifying his own samurai ancestry through his Japanese mother. He went by the name Tagawa Fukumaçu and became an active member of Japanese society while maintaining his Ming loyalist roots. Koxinga was granted freedom of movement in Quiuxu for a month, before it being revoked due to security concerns - he was officially confined to the Hirado lordship thereafter.

The youthful Lord of Hirado, Maçura Xigenobu, was worried about Hirado’s economy due to Western trade being limited to Desjima. His father, the late Lord Tacanobu, was a baptized Catholic and he noticed how the Fukianese community often syncretised Christian, folk, and Buddhist traditions. In the autumn of 1653, the Lord secretly confirmed an agreement with Koxinga and his close ally, the Italian Dominican missionary Vittorio Riccio (who lived in between Amoy, Desjima, and Hirado). The agreement, called the Verboten Collaboratie in Dutch, entailed:

  1. Riccio would recruit opportunistic traders in Desjima to form an illegal goods-smuggling system between Hirado, Formosa, Desjima, and Corea.
  2. The Fukianese pirates would staff this endeavor.
  3. Covertly profiting from Corean trade in the Çuxima Domain, cooperating with collaborationist Dutch traders in Poesjan and Tsjedjoe.
  4. Covertly profiting from Loetsjoean trade, especially sulfur, in the Saçuma Domain, cooperating with the Fukianese Cheng Cai who lived in Loetsjoe.
  5. While disobeying the Proclamation of Ceian, smuggle in luxury goods for peasants such as alcohol.

This agreement was safe until the final months of 1654, when smuggling activities were found out by the Nagasaqui secret police. Two Fukienese men, Vittorio Riccio, and seven Japanese men were arrested. Koxinga was not implicated and the Fukienese men were deported to Formosa as servants. The Japanese men received appropriate punishments, while Riccio was imprisoned near Nagasaqui.

Meirequi era (1655-1658)

The Meirequi era was defined by the Ōmura Rebellion, the Great Fire of Edo, and a key shift in the balance of power in Japanese politics.

8th of October Incident

In 1655, the Ōmura Lord Suminaga exposed a group of several hidden Christians living on the shores of Ōmura Bay. The Lord, responsible for the imprisoned missionary Vittorio Riccio, had the local Magistrate sentence him to crucifixion for the crime of proselytization and illegal goods smuggling.

The execution of Riccio and 27 Japanese Catholics took place on the 8th of October, when the area was crowded due to the Autumn Festival in nearby Nagasaqui. This day was intentionally chosen as a warning to the peasantry. Seconds after the execution, an arquebus fired three shots at the Lord and his family. The Lord’s 29-year-old brother Hidetaca Minagawa was killed. Hidetaca’s assassin was never found.

After word spread, agitation spread north to Hirado and south to Amacusa within days. Over the next three months, local domains engaged in skirmishes across Quiuxu and arrested some 2,000 people. By 1656, it had morphed into a full-scale revolt that centered around the eponymous Ōmura Bay.

Ōmura Rebellion (1656-1658)

At the outset of the main insurgency, Inoue Masaxige, Governor of Txicugo, led a sizable Tocugawa force towards the rebellion while intelligence director Masamori Nakane dispatched agents to the region to quell local insurgencies. Intense battles lasted for a few months before sporadic and guerrilla warfare became more prevalent.

The conflict engulfed almost all of Quiuxu, spilling over into Txugocu, Xicocu, and even a few Corean and Loetsjoe islands. Around 45,000 people were killed or disappeared due to warfare.

Several structures were damaged, including the castles of Cuxima and Saga. Mirroring the Siege of Hara Castle twenty years ago during the Ximabara Rebellion, the insurgents besieged Cuxima Castle - home of the Ōmura lords -  in the summer of 1657. Eventually the castle fell, and the Lord of Ōmura was burned at the stake in an act that shocked the nation.

An epidemic was reported near the town of Cumamoto ten months into the conflict. It spread as far as Hita, killing less than 4,000, before it was contained by local authorities. A few cases were also documented in Hiroxima and Imabari, but it is unclear if these are isolated incidents.

The rebel army still held a considerable area in 1658. However, there were thousands of casualties and a lack of ammunition, sulfur, and medical supplies put a strain on the insurgents. Additionally, the Xogunate had to devote an unsustainable number of resources to fighting the rebels, leading them to instead switch to a war of attrition. War was still raging on when the Meirequi Putsch occurred in the capital, Edo.

After news of the Putsch reached Quiuxu, the area gradually stabilized over the next two years as willpower and resources declined. The Battle of Uresino was a pivotal defeat for the rebels. After the battle, Koxinga was pursued by a high-ranking retainer to the Lord of Txoxu. Near the fishing town of Sasebo, Koxinga was killed. His Japanese-raised brother and ally, Tagawa Xitxizaemon, buried him in his birthplace of Hirado and defended the Hirado domain from Tocugawa incursions.

25,000 rebels and criminals were arrested, exiled, and/or executed by the Tocugawa state. An estimated total of 106,000 rebels and their affiliates  were active at one point or another over the span of three years.

Meirequi Putsch

Many details of the Putsch were purged in later records, though commentaries and diary entries on the event do exist. Many samurai,  rōnin, and disgruntled scholars conspired to overthrow the current ministerial administration in order to restore peace. It is said that the Lord of Wacajama and brother of the Xogun, Tocugawa Jorinobu, played an important role in supporting the Putsch.

Great Fire of Edo

In March 1657, a conflagration began that destroyed much of the Japanese capital and killed 100,000 people.  Some blamed the fire on Christian rebellion, while others said new Buddhist sects committed arson. The fire created a divide in the city’s society - those who blamed the marginalized and those who blamed the state.

Sendai Disturbances

Hasequra Çunenobu, grandson of Hasequra Çunenaga, began stirring up civil disobedience against the Date clan in Sendai in 1658. The area had historically been the epicenter of Christianity in northern Japan. The Lord of Sendai, Date Çunemune, was infamously a drunkard and unpopular among the aristocracy. His incompetence and indiscriminate persecutions of Christians and peasants  allowed for the demonstrations to turn into a mutiny. The overpopulated and outdated bureaucracy of the Sendai domain sparked a series of intra-aristocrat conflicts. Eventually, Tamura Munejoxi - relative of the Date clan - took control of Sendai in 1660 and maintained a version of the status quo until the ascension of the young lord Date Çunamura in 1680.

Letter from Empress Anne Wang

The now-Catholic Zhu family of the Ming, surviving in southwestern China, had sent a letter written by Empress Anne Wang to the Chinese and Japanese Christians in Quiuxu via an empathetic Cantonese trader in 1656 to request rescue before the imminent Qing conquest of Kunming.

In 1662 a contingent of Ming loyalists and Christians reached Kunming via the Loetsjoe kingdom and Macao. At that point, the only survivors were Empress Maria Ma and Crown Prince Constantine Zhu. Empress Anne had died mere weeks before their rescue. They were protected for a few years before eventually returning to mainland China under different names, concealing their identity until the late 18th century.

Documentation of events

The events of the Meirequi era were documented well by Hajaxi Razan, a Japanese Confucian philosopher. After his death in 1657, his son Hajaxi Gaho and the wider Hajaxi clan compiled a detailed account and analysis of the era’s events, which were used during the Canbun Reforms.

The Canbun Reforms

After national order was restored in 1660, a series of edicts and policies were enacted during the twelve-year Canbun era.

A cuius regio, eius religio system

Each Japanese family, part of a wider baçu, had to register with a local Buddhist temple since the start of the Tocugawa era - for purposes of administration and social control. In ordinances passed in 1663 and 1668, handpicked loyal domains with a (semi-)Christian aristocracy could allow for families to instead register with local churches. This allowed for churches to be centers of community life, for the public display of faith to become normalized, and for Christian institutions to assimilate into Japanese life under pressure from the locals. A majority of the domains and fiefdoms who chose to give churches such a position were located in Quiuxu and the Tohocu area. In Japanese, it was known as Xusō Hansō (主宗藩宗, lit. Lord’s faith, fief’s faith).

Domains’ commercial rights

Several domains leveraged their power against the central government to gain policy concessions. In the wake of the British monarch Henrietta’s dramatic policy shift towards the Dutch, the Hirado domain requested to be the host of a British trading post to revitalize their economy. In 1669, under the ordinance of Sir John Banks, the East India Company established a half-kilometer post on Hirado Island. In practice, it often acted as an intermediary between Desjima and Poesjan.

Meanwhile on the eastern coast, the Sendai domain petitioned the government in order to become the main base for Japanese expeditions to New Spain. Its desired status was granted in 1667, and it became the main Japanese port of call for Pacific voyages arriving in Asia. This dramatically increased the revenue of the Date clan and ensured their dominance in the area.

Social changes

Xenophobia and otherisation largely increased due to the Meirequi era. The people of southern Quiuxu were often referred to as the Hajato, Japan’s own ‘southern barbarians’. Confucian scholars in the service of the Tocugawa state often commented on how uncivilized the Hajato were, and pointed to the Ōmura Rebellion as proof. As a result, numerous Confucian institutes were constructed in cities such as Fuquoca, Nagasaqui, and Hinata.

The Tocugawa government also intensified their patronage of the Xuxi school of Neo-Confucianism, which they used to justify their centralization and reformist measures. The Hajaxi family, devout Confucians, became increasingly influential in Tocugawa society and led the implementation of Confucian practices in everyday life.

Late Edo period (1673-1754)

The last eighty years of the Edo period was defined by the introduction of civil governance, Dutch and Russian incursions into Japanese politics, and the 1754 succession crisis. The two most notable imperial eras of the period were Genroqu and Cioho.

Taquexima dispute

The islands of Taquexima and Maçuxima, both uninhabited since 1438, became a major focus of Corea-Japan relations in the late 17th century. Japanese from Oqui entered into a serious dispute with Corean fishermen in the 1690s, when they abducted two Coreans and brought them to Japan to protest their fishing rights. Petrus Hoekstra, a VOC employee in Poesjan, reported the diplomatic dispute to officials in Desjima in 1694 and advocated Dutch intervention.

After several aristocrats and sailors under the Lord of Tottori ignored a Tocugawa ban on fishing near Taquexima, Hoekstra wrote to a Poesjan magistrate, saying that “...the audacious Japanese attitude is an insult to the nation… the Wa-djin must be disciplined…”. When negotiations resumed in 1696 through the Lord of Çuxima, an Dutch ship accompanying the Corean delegation intentionally veered off course, heading towards the Maçuxima and Oqui isles.  

The Dutch ship, manned by Petrus Hoekstra, fired upon Japanese sailors as they headed towards Taquexima (Oelloeng-to) and threatened to personally report the Tottori estate for disobedience against the Xogun. A Japanese sailor from Oqui was captured and brought back to Corea, where he later was coerced to testify to the corruption in the Tottori domain. As a result, the Tottori domain was placed under the authority of the Lord of Tottori’s rival, the Lord of Okajama, due to the former being incompetent and having no children to succeed him.

The Dutch Rush

The Taquexima incident was the first official instance of Dutch intercession in Corean political affairs. It contributed to the generally positive Corean perspective of the Dutch, which eventually led to the Corean state allowing the formation of the Dutch territory at Poesjan in 1710. Hoekstra became the first administrator of the territory and remained influential until his death in 1719. He was known in Japan for his harsh policy on Japanese traders and the dismissal of a petition to expand Poesjan’s immigrant quarters.

Rapid expansion of Dutch influence in Asia was regarded negatively by other European powers. The French named the phenomenon the poussée-hollandais, or ‘Dutch Rush’ in English.

Arrival of the Russians

The Dutch established a trading colony, similar in nature to Macao, in the Corean port city of Poesjan in 1710. Explorers employed by Russia saw an opportunity in this and launched an expedition in 1739, establishing a basic commercial relationship. A Japanese studies school was founded in Irkutsk, and was staffed by descendants of Japanese fishermen.

In the economically declining Dewa province, the Jonezawa and Xonai domains, ruled by the Uesugi and Sacai respectively, competed for a head start in Russian trade relations. Both fought over the key port of Sacata. The Lord of Jonezawa won militarily, but failed to establish relations with the Russians due to infighting and corruption in the Uesugi family. Mori Toxima, a guard employed by the Uesugi, defected to the Sacai family and offered his skills. The Lord of Xonai’s relatives in Obama offered to lend him the port of Maizuru, which was granted to the Sacai in 1666.

1755 marked the year in which Russian merchants began routinely trading in Maizuru, threatening Dutch monopolies. The Russo-Japanese Trading Company (RYT)  formed in 1756. The Lord of Xonai also owned the trading post of Texio in northwestern Ezo, which became a port of call for Russian traders.

Cioho Reforms

Xogun Tocugawa Joximune introduced a series of separate reforms and policies starting in 1716 in order to restore the financial well-being of the state and consolidate Tocugawa supremacy. Several controls and restrictions were imposed on Japanese society in an effort to increase çu (sophistication). Joximune’s former regent, the Lord of Owari Tocugawa Joximichi, actively criticized the xogunate’s new reforms, creating an intense polarization in the court and undermining the authority of the Xogun.

Disastrous taxation reform

Increasing revenue in the traditional manner had failed due to the absence of new land surveys and weakening of xogunal authority in the countryside, leading to thousands of cocu being unreported to the state. In the government, two factions emerged with differing opinions on raising revenue: one advocating land reclamation with the help of the Dutch, while the other supporting a more income-based tax system (comononari). The Xogun eventually decided on an income-based tax system after strong Confucian opposition to utilizing Dutch technological knowledge.

This attempted reform led to extensive peasant revolts, led by village leaders. A policy where if the lords donated an additional 2% of taxes to the state, they would be able to live in their domains for half the year instead of residing in the capital every day. Domain officials had to travel to Osaca or Edo to exchange rice for money in order to pay taxes, creating a financial crisis and a shortage of coins.

Foreign interference and merchants

Several domains were in debt since the mid-17th century. Lords took loans from merchants and businessmen and often couldn’t pay them back, leading to several lawsuits against samurai families. In 1720, the state passed the Mutual Settlement Ordinance which relieved the samurai of their debts owed to Japanese merchants. However, it did not cover loans (often obtained illegally) taken from foreign merchants - most notably Dutchmen, Chinese, and a few Coreans. Lords and retainers had to cut costs and increase taxes to secretly pay back these debts, not drawing the attention of the Xogun. This increased the dissatisfaction of the peasantry and stalled important infrastructure projects.

Confiscation and oppression of domains

Several domains considered disobedient and corrupt - hiding rice, allowing foreign merchants, incompetent governance, et cetera - had segments of their territory reassigned or were outright abolished. This resulted in a large number of disgruntled rōnin (masterless samurai) across the country seeking revenge and new economic opportunities.

Horequi Coup

The domains of the cadet branches of the Tocugawa family - the Owari, Ki, and Mito - were valued at 1.6 million cocu. The current Xogun was from the Ki family. The Owari and Mito branches, embarrassed and dissatisfied with his rule, collaborated to overthrow him and install Tocugawa Muneharu of the Owari family as Xogun with Mito Confucianism as the state ideology.

In 1750, the Mito-Owari coalition successfully deposed Xogun Joximune. Joximune died shortly after. Xogun Muneharu declared and implemented the articles of his political manifesto, the Ontxi seijo. However, huge budget deficits and political opposition arose and decimated widespread efforts at reform. Four years later in 1754, he was assassinated with no male heir. His death is considered as the end of true Tocugawa rule. Despite his short rule, Muneharu’s ideas and policies were the basis for the establishment of modern Japan.

Maruoca-Odawara period (1754-1809)

Maruoca Castle and Odawara Castle, belonging to the Sacai and Sajama clans respectively, gave their name to this era, mimicking the naming of the Azutxi-Momojama period. The events of this timeframe have an abundance of foreign interventions which had disastrous consequences.

Meiwa Restoration

A series of disturbances plagued Japan after the diminution of xogunal power in the 1750s and 1760s. A riot broke out on Nacasendo highway due to high taxes, amassing 250,000 peasants. Several fires broke out in Edo and Osaca, while hordes of samurai and merchant guilds vied for supremacy. The Lord of Xinano-Nigita was overthrown and a peasant republic ruled the domain for several months.

Several samurai, lords, & scholars, dissatisfied with the current state of the nation, conspired with the powerful Emperor Momozono to gradually restore de facto imperial rule on the islands. The movement was supported by the proto-nationalist Mito School of Confucianism, the Comagawa martial arts school, and several merchant and peasant associations.

Several domains de jure recognized and revered imperial rule by 1759, yet de facto operated independently. The imperial court only had true power in the Three Cities (Osaca, Miaco, and Edo), which had newly appointed civilian administrations enacting policies in accordance with Mito Confucianism and the benevolent ideology of Tocugawa Muneharu. Imperial rule was nominally recognized until 1803, when the Sacai xogunate murdered the sitting Emperor.

Saçuma loses the Loetsjoe

A 1771 çunami devastated the Loetsjoe kingdom, an island monarchy subject to China and the Lord of Saçuma simultaneously. Several officials in Dutch Formosa privately encouraged interference and annexation of the Loetsjoe kingdom in order to prevent piracy (as many pirates sought refuge in Oquinawa), control key shipping lanes, and to control the sulfur trade. From 1772, Dutch ships began to obstruct Loetsjoean shipping lanes. During a Dutch embassy to the capital of Sjoeri in 1775, a Dutch official was forcibly installed in Jema County to ‘assist with reconstruction’ after the çunami.

The Dutch launched an invasion in 1779, first taking Jema County and the city of Ishigatsjie. By the end of the year, King Xo Boqu accepted an EIC protectorate. Many senior officials were ousted from their positions and were replaced by Loetsjoean traitors, Coreans, and Dutchmen. The sulfur-producing island of Torixima was annexed directly by Formosa. In 1783, the native Criminal Code was reformed and replaced with a legal system fusing Loetsjoean, Chinese, and Dutch law.

In response, the Saçuma domain launched expeditions against the Formosans over the next few decades, all of which failed to bring Loetsjoe back under their rule. The Saçuma had previously relied on the sugar industry in the Amami islands, trade route profits, and other forms of maritime business. By the end of the century, their annual revenue was 400,000 cocu - a 45% decrease from 1750. As a consequence, the Lords increased revenue by sponsoring Confucian institutes in Cagoxima and establishing tea and sweet potato plantations. A large number of samurai and peasants also illegally emigrated overseas and were employed by the Dutch East India Company.

In 1807, the Ximazu family of Saçuma would be assigned the Cumamoto lordship, which had previously belonged to the Hosocawa clan. Consequentially, the Ximazu now reigned over approximately half of Quiuxu. With their revenue totalling over 1,000,000 cocu, they became one of the most powerful domains in the new xogunate.

Lake Kusuri Ainu revolt

Ainu began fleeing south to Kunashir and the Apasiri area in 1770, when Russia began taking over fishing grounds in the northern Kurils. The sudden influx of Russian traders and the northern Ainu to Ezo created tensions on the island. The Maçumae clan, responsible for most of Ezo, alerted the officials in Edo of a possible Russian naval invasion. The economic and social strain put on the Ainu culminated in a revolt in 1773, starting in the lakeside village of Tescaca and fueled by 3,000 Ainu soldiers. Russian mercenaries were hired by Ainu chieftains, bringing with them European military techniques.

Eventually in 1775, the Tocugawa central administration decided to directly rule Ezo in place of indirect rule via the Maçumae clan. Thousands of Japanese soldiers contained the rebellion and the Russian mercenaries to the rural north of Ezo, massacring or expelling Ainu populations in the south. As the Maçumae lost their power, they started to look for allies elsewhere. They became friendly towards the Russians and their various Japanese allies - such as the rising Sacai clan.

Cansei Reunification

Sacai Tadamitxi, Lord of Obama and prominent member of the Sacai clan, rose to prominence as the Tairō in the imperial court in 1779. After the disaster that followed the Tenmei famine, several clans allied with the Sacai in order to reunify Japan. The Maçumae, Mito, Date, Sajama, Ximazu and Maçura - were the earliest to form an alliance with the Sacai by 1785, and would eventually become the new state’s fudai. Notably, Russian merchants and most Japanese Christian lords supported this coalition.

The Dutch, on the other hand, opposed the reunification of Japan and took measures to provide for their allies in Japan, such as the Uesugi, Maçudaira, most crucially the uber-wealthy Hosocawa clan. Hosocawa Toxiçune, of the Cumamoto lordship, became the archrival of Sacai Tadamitxi and claimed the position of Xogun for himself, based on the Hosocawa’s direct descent from Emperor Seiwa.

In 1795, the Netherlands was invaded by France in the Augustine Wars and subsequently lost their ability to project power in eastern Asia. Subsequently, the Sacai coalition hired Russian mercenaries, Yellow Sea pirates, and hordes of discontented rōnin to push for the unification of Japan under their rule. Several notable battles include the Battle of Tacaxima, the Second Siege of Nara, the Battle of Aracawa River, and the collective Battles of Hixu.

Eventually in 1808, the Sacai had established their influence over most of Japan. However, the Tocugawa clan still maintained power in Oxima after expelling the Maçumae clan from their historic territories. Northern Ezo was ruled by Ainu chiefs with small enclaves ruled by Japanese lords. Several fiefs in central and western Japan also held out, protecting their own territories as well as Desjima.

By 1809, the Sacai were able to establish order in the cities of Edo, Osaca, and Miaco. The Emperor had also recognized Sacai Tadamitxi as the new Xogun. The Tairō, rebranded in Western records as the ‘Chancellor of Japan’, was occupied by the Xogun’s cousin, Sacai Txikaçu.

Cumohama period (1809-1895)

The era’s name (meaning ‘cloud beach’) was taken from the coastal Unpin Castle, which belonged to the Lord of Obama of the Sacai clan. While Japan began to modernize during this period, the country was hampered by political unrest, economic strife, and foreign intervention.

Terms of unification

Russian betrayal & Ainu separatism

The Odawara domain was still in a state of rebellion in 1809, being ruled by the Maçudaira-loyalist Oqubo clan. A Russian flotilla under Admiral Gunin Ermilov approached the Idzu peninsula in order to expel the Oqubo from the province. Russia had established a small post in Itō in 1744 exclusively for shipbuilding purposes. After the Oqubo samurai were expelled from Idzu, Admiral Ermilov did not leave the peninsula when the Xogun ordered him to. The Sacai clan were in debt to Russian merchants and had refused to pay them back instantaneously.

A few months later, the Imperial Russian Navy seized the ports of Maizuru and Texio as well, which they had been trading at since 1755. Naval battles broke out between the Japanese and Russian fleets, with the Japanese fleet eventually succumbing to Russian demands in 1815 with the Treaty of Sunpu. In 1824, the Russians officially stated their claim on the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands. In 1825, Japan established diplomatic relations with France.

In 1835, the Sacai military captured Hacodate and executed the Tocugawa Governor of Oxima, reinstating the semi-autonomous Maçumae government on the peninsula. The Sacai army established themselves as far north as Soratxi by 1837 when Russian troops declared their support for an independent Ainu state, pushing the Japanese back down to the Oxima peninsula. Diplomatic ties were cut with Russia soon after, and a brief crisis ensued until 1844 when tensions subsided. The Russian Succession Crisis in 1868 marked a turning point in Russian foreign policy. Two years later, the Russians annexed the Ainu state as a semi-autonomous entity.

Dynastic conflict

Rise of political opposition

Imperial period (1895-1936)

See also