Talk:History of Japan
Late Edo period (1673-1754)
|Late Edo period|
|Monarch(s)||Reigen (1658-1691) |
|Leader(s)||Çunaxige (1663-1687) |
The last eighty years of the Edo period was defined by the introduction of civil governance, Dutch and Russian interference in Japanese politics, and the rapid decline of the Tocugawa xogunate leading to the 1754 crisis.
By the late 17th century, the strong xogunal order established by Tocugawa Iejasu was collapsing. New social and economic problems destabilized the Tocugawa government. Tax revenues began to decline, with the state's need for revenue outstripping its capacity to tax its populace. Commerce and agricultural productivity began to grow exponentially, soon reaching unparalleled heights. The rise of the Russians in the north and the Dutch in the south jeopardized national security at the time when the military class was distanced from power and increasingly impoverished.
From the xogunate's perspective, these new realities began to threaten the citizen's loyalty to the samurai class. Two political factions, the Traditionalists and the Radicals, arose in order to address these new issues. The xogun's personal authority steadily declined from its apex during Çunajoxi reign. Senior fudai families, collateral Tocugawa branches, the Imperial Court at Miaco, as well as several emerging commercial families began to exert their power.
Political state of affairs
Six xoguns reigned during the Late Edo period, nominally under four Emperors (excluding Emperor Nagazano, who possessed political power in the mid-to-late 1750s). They were the last six of a total ten Tocugawa xoguns.
Xogun Çunaxige, coming into power in 1663 after the premature death of xogun Ieçuna, was de facto under the control of senior feudal lords, most notably Sacai Tadaquijo, who was Tairō and the chief political mastermind for his entire tenure. He was succeeded by the headstrong authoritarian Çunajoxi, who operated on a strict Neo-Confucian ideology and often used state violence to achieve his goals, attempting to restore the personal authority of the xogun and craft the 'ideal imperial state'.
With the son of Çunaxige, Ienobu, killed in 1698, Joximichi of the Owari branch was installed as xogun. He attempted to exercise Tocugawa power through the gentler method of ideological persuasion, a policy today known as 'coercion & consent'. However, his policies - enacted as part of the Cioho Reforms - eventually fell through, giving way to his successor Iehiro. Iehiro largely ventured to emulate the governing style and aims of Çunajoxi, merely leading to further social and economic disarray in Japan.
Quijohime, a political radical from the Owari branch, deposed Iehiro in 1741, criticizing his conservatism and excessive frugality in the political treatise Onchi seijo. However, his laissez-faire economic policies failed and his social policy was rejected by the ruling classes, eventually leading to his fall in 1745. He was replaced by Iejuqui from the tranquil Qui branch of the family; he attempted to stabilize the government, mirroring the subtlety of Joximichi's reign. However, several daimio began to defy the central government for the first time in 150 years, triggering the collapse of absolute and unequivocal Tocugawa rule.
|Çunaxige||Hidetada||Traditionalist||Authoritarianism||Interventionism||Son of third xogun Iemiçu (1623-1651)|
|Joximichi||Owari||Moderate||'Coercion & consent'||Great-nephew of Çunajoxi through sister Chijohime|
|Iehiro||Hidetada||Traditionalist||Authoritarianism||Interventionism||Grandson of Çunaxige|
|Quijohime||Owari||Radical||'Benevolent ruler'||Laissez-faire||Half-brother of Joximichi|
|Iejuqui||Qui||Moderate||'Coercion & consent'||Descendant of first xogun Iejasu (1600-1616)|
In 1687, Çunajoxi was installed as xogun, succeeding his politically weak brother, Çunaxige. He was a staunch neo-Confucian, believing in meritocracy, authoritarianism, and the relentless centralisation of Japan. He was known to European observers as the 'Louis XIV of Japan', owing to his extreme policies in defiance of the wishes of the court. Under his government the country experienced wealth, and, though the samurai were treated harshly, there were no large-scale riots or political plots.
He also was the first to use the office of Grand Chamberlain (sobajonin) in order to bypass the Senior Councillors (rodju). This antagonized the rodju, who subsequentially lost much of their authority they gained during the tenure of the fourth xogun Ieçuna. Çunajoxi ended his thirty-year reign in 1717 when he passed away at the age of 71. His adopted son and heir presumptive, Tocugawa Çunetomo, was ignored by numerous lords in favor of Tocugawa Joximichi of the Owari branch.
The Cencocu Regulations
The Cencocu Regulations (堅国) were a series of measures undertaken by Çunajoxi and his administration in order to increase the personal authority of the xogun, mitigate the negative effects of the Canbun Reforms of the 17th century (including low mine output and the large expenses of the Meirequi era), and to reinforce the government's status quo.
- The 1663 Edict prioritizing the continuation of the main Tocugawa-Hidetada line over the maintenance of absolute authority was repealed, enabling xoguns to exert their authority in both the public and private realms (political and civil societies) of Japan.
- While never formally being patronized by the state, the Hajashi school of neo-Confucianism continued to be sponsored. In turn, it led to a decline in Christian and Buddhist influence in the government that was facilitated in the 1660s.
- Several sumptuary edicts were passed in order to regulate consumption and enforce social hierarchies. Çunajoxi was concerned that the social hierarchy established in the 17th century was collapsing and was intent on reinforcing class divides, especially with maintaining a distinct samurai identity.
- The Laws for the Examination of Sects were enforced, strengthening military control over population by providing the government with a register of persons.
Corean fishermen |
Dutch East India Company
Tottori Estate |
Tocugawa government |
|Commanders and leaders|
|Petrus Hoekstra||Iqueda Joxinobu||Hoxu Amenomori|
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 Poesan 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 confiscated by the central government and reassigned to the Lord of Ocajama.
The Cioho Reforms
Xogun Tocugawa Çunajoxi introduced a series of reforms and policies (1716-1728) in order to restore the financial well-being of the state, control the market economy, and assert the moral authority of the samurai class. He aimed to 'return to Iejasu's legacy' through moral injunctions and institutional interventions. Çunajoxi largely rejected controlling activities of merchants through existing institutions and insisted upon an authoritarian policy with heavy state intervention.
Upon Çunajoxi's death the following year, his successor Joximichi vowed to carry on the program. Xogun Joximichi, the great-nephew of Çunajoxi through his sister Chijohime, became xogun in 1717 despite his female-line descent. While maintaining much of his predecessor's ideology, Joximichi aimed to mix coercion and consent to control the townspeople, questioning previous punitive policies. However, his moderate approach is considered a failure due to several factors including polarization of social classes, the negative reputation of the liberal Canbun Reforms, indiscriminately harsh implementation, and heightened anxiety surrounding Russia and the Netherlands.
Coercion and consent
Joximichi aimed to control the commercial economy while granting freedoms and autonomy to the townspeople, such as giving them an opportunity to state their opinions publicly with petition boxes. However, due to the absence of new land surveys and failure of commercial registration to bring the economy under institutional control, Joximichi implemented a vastly unpopular annual taxation system (djixi). This led to civil unrest and a sharper divide between the samurai class and elite townspeople (who had acted as indirect economic auxiliaries of the state), leading to economic disarray and a rise in unsupervised commerce.
Debt and debasements
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.
Joximichi also pursued currency debasements like his predecessors Çunajoxi and Çunaxige in order to offset expenditures and to finance resultant budget deficits. This expansion of the money supply was designed to counterbalance the loss of coins that flowed out of Nagasaqui, Maizuru, Cagoxima, and other export terminals. These debasements triggered inflation, a shortage of silver, and anxiety about Japan's economic future, leading to an economic crisis.
Samurai identity crisis
Traditionally, samurai were subject to a number of restrictions which came into question during the Late Edo period and the rise of commerce. Social mobility was severely restricted due to geneaology and geography, they were expected to be public examples of morality, were banned from engaging directly with commerce, and were caught between identifying with the local culture of his domain or the larger central political system.
Jamamoto Çunetomo (1659-1721) of the Nabexima estates in Quiuxu viewed himself as a 'private samurai', identifiying with his domain and shunning the traditional roles of the Edo samurai. This contrasted with the idealistic 'public samurai' of Çunajoxi and Joximichi's policies. Frustration surrounding this identity crisis would contribute to many senior families becoming disillusioned with the Tocugawa regime in the mid-18th century.
Coxi era (1728-1745)
The Coxi era of Emperor Nagazono was defined by the 1732 Crop Failures and subsequent civil unrest, several frugality ordinances, the Russian expedition of 1739, the creation of the Public Law Code, and the the Coxi Takeover of 1741, giving way to the brief tenure of xogun Quijohime.
Civil unrest and the government
Crop failures and locust infestations in the early 1730s triggered famines and across Japan, especially in the capital Quinqui region. Xogun Iehiro was determined to use this oppurtunity to further the central state's powers, assuming emergency powers and stripping local daimio lords of their political and economic powers. This decision is considered pivotal, as it jeopardized national security by alienating the various daimio, which Edo relied on for defense, particularly against foreign powers. Several domains abandoned their military responsibilites - for example, the Nagaoca estate refused to conduct its coast guard duties around Sado Island, leaving the area vulnerable to Russian incursions.
Peasant riots (uchicowaxi) fomented in Edo and Osaca starting in 1733, with rice merchants and government offices being attacked. This was accompanied by numerous civil demonstrations by the farming and mining communities. Many demonstrators were denouncing the entire political and social order, foreshadowing the rise of xogun Quijohime eight years later.
In response to the establishment of Dutch Poesjan, explorers employed by Russia launched an expedition in 1739, establishing a basic commercial relationship with northern Japanese domains. A school of Japanese studies 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 contested the key port of Sacata. The Lord of Jonezawa won militarily, but failed to establish relations with the Russians due to infighting and corruption within the Uesugi family. Mori Toxima, a guard employed by the Uesugi family, defected to the Sacai family. The Lord of Xonai’s relative, the Lord of 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) was formed in 1756. The Lord of Xonai also ruled over the trading post of Texio in northwestern Ezo, which became an important port of call for Russian traders.
Attempt to create a civil code
Throughout Tocugawa history, the Buque xohatto - a series of brief articles outlining conduct between the xogun and the daimios - was the most significant legal document. Taking inspiration from the administration of colonial Tauland, Iehiro ordered a committee be formed in order to investigate the formation of a code. This committee, led by Goto Morixima, traveled to New Hague in 1738 in order to explore the concept of a European-style legal code.
In 1740, the Public Law Code (民法), a fragmentary compilation of laws, was presented to the xogun. The draft code attempted to explain the authorities of the xogun and the local domains, preserve old customs and traditions, and lay down groundwork for the true centralization of the state inspired by the Confucian Tang Code of China. Its progress was halted in the following months due to civil unrest and bureaucratic incompetence, effectively disestablishing the committee.
The Coxi Takeover
Popular protests erupted once more in 1741. The lack of proper civil infrastructure in Edo during the previous decades triggered the Coxi Fire, which accelerated social unrest in the city and incited panic in the central government. The knowledge that the state would punish officials who permitted further riots to occur gave the rioters unprecedented bargaining power. The keepers of Edo Castle (rusui) and the Senior Councillors (rodju) would eventually succumb to a coalition of lords and merchants politically aligned with Quijohime (who had just arrived in the capital from Nagoja). Having lost confidence in xogun Iehiro, the government pressured him to resign, leaving the office to Quijohime.
Quijohime was briefly challenged by Tocugawa Munezane of the Mito branch. However, Quijohime delegitimized him by pointing out that the Mito family was a late addition to the core gosanque houses, and therefore Mito family members were legally not eligible to become xogun. Several scholars agreed with this interpretation of the xogunal geneaology, ending Munezane's prospects to the office. Eventually, Quijohime was installed as xogun in the July of 1741, beginning his four-year reign.
Despite his benevolent rule and ideal of a virtuous lord (jūtoquin‐dono), Quijohime's failure to properly maintain a ruling administration and to alleviate fiscal problems eventually lead to his downfall four years after his ascension. Bankruptcy due to excessive spending on relief measures, removal of sumptuary and conservative fiscal policies, moral outrage of several officials and public figures following new social policies, & unrepaired relations with several daimio and samurai highlighted his tenure.
In 1745, several Senior Councillors (rodju), the Junior Councillors (wacadoxijori), and numerous lords conspired to force Quijohime's resignation. In May of the same year, several Captains of the Bodyguard (xoimban) and the Edo City Magistrates (Edomachi bugio) succeeded in ousting Quijohime from office. In a panic, Tocugawa Iejuqui from the blissful Qui branch of the family was appointed xogun.
Collapse of Pax Tocugawa
From the Qui branch of the Tocugawa family, xogun Iejuqui's nine-year administration (1745-1754) attempted to maintain stability after Quijohime's deposition. However, his tenure saw the breakdown of the baquhan teisei system that had prevailed in Japan since the early 1600s.
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 Azuchi-Momojama period. The events of this timeframe have an abundance of foreign interventions which had disastrous consequences.
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 Go-Tacacawa 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. Imperial rule was nominally recognized until 1803, when the Sacai family murdered the reigning Emperor Canacami.
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.
Sacai Tadamichi, 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 Tadamichi 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 Tadamichi as the new Xogun. The Tairō, rebranded in Western records as the ‘Chancellor of Japan’, was occupied by the Xogun’s cousin, Sacai Chikaçu.
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 Sorachi 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.
Imperial period (1895-1936)
|Imperial Court||Sacai xogunate|
A new Constitution
The Quigai Constitution (己亥憲法, quigai quenpō) was adopted by the Japanese government in 1899. It established the Japanese States-General, consolidated the existence of a judiciary, and defined the role and powers of the Emperor and the Chancellor. While recognized as a democratizing force in Japanese history, the Constitution granted the Emperor (and the imperial family at large) significant executive authority, particularly over the judicial branch and the military.
Conflict over the Loestjoes
In 1895, Tauland formally abolished the Loetsjoean monarchy, ending over a century of autonomy. The Satsuma lords maintained claims on Loetsjoe since Tauland's seizure of the islands in the late 18th century - claims which were carried into the new Japanese government. New Hague began enacting assimilation policies the same year, mandating the use of Dutch in schools, encouraging Tau emigration to the cities of Isjigaci and Nafa, and enabled large corporations to operate on the islands.
This provoked a negative response from the Japanese public and the state, with Empress Sacuramachi issuing a statement on the matter in 1898; "...the Tau, are actively stripping away the ancient culture of Loetsjoe. I implore New Hague to cease their incessant interference with the people of the King of Tsjoozan...". The year after, the Loestjoe Standoff would occur, when both nations would utilize their navies in order to intimidate the other. It was soon followed by a quick diplomatic agreement in favour of Japanese fishermen.
On the tenth anniversary of the abolition of the kingdom, Japan officially renewed its claims to the Loetsjoe archipelago in 1905, sparking a diplomatic crisis with Tauland. While no significant violence occured after 1900, Japan would insist upon its claims periodically, citing historical reasons and concern for the indigenous culture of the area.