JAPAN: Memoirs of a Secret Empire
Commanding shoguns and fierce samurai warriors, exotic geisha and exquisite artisans—all were part of a Japanese renaissance between the 16th and 19th centuries when Japan went from chaos and violence to a land of ritual refinement and peace. But stability came at a price: for nearly 250 years, Japan was a land closed to the Western world, ruled by the shogun under his absolute power and control. Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire brings to life the unknown story of a mysterious empire, its relationship with the West, and the forging of a nation that would emerge as one of the most important countries in the world.
Welcome to Edo
After becoming supreme ruler in the late 16th century, Tokugawa Ieyasu moved Japan's capitol to Edo, (now known as Tokyo) transforming the sleepy fishing village into the country's premier political and economic center. Ieyasu and his heirs forced the country's daimyo lords to finance the expansion of Edo, and to live in the city during part of every other year. The new construction of the city and the vast number of samurai in need of goods and pleasurable pursuits lured merchants, craftsmen and entertainers from all over Japan, and by the 17th century, the population had surpassed a million, making Edo one of the largest cities in the world.
For almost three hundred years, Japan's shoguns maintained domestic peace while they isolated the country from Western influence. In Edo, a diverse population flourished amidst a cultural and economic renaissance. Meet the people of Edo!
There were five major highways in Japan during the Tokugawa Era, and the Tokaido (Eastern Sea Road) was the busiest and most important. Partly due to Sankin Kotai, which forced the country's daimyo lords to journey to Edo every other year, the roads bustled with elaborate daimyo processions, samurai warriors, masterless samurai (ronin), monks and various other travelers. Along the roadside, merchants and tradesmen set up shops and inns to cater to their needs.
1543—Birth of Tokugawa Ieyasu
The son of a minor daimyo warlord, Tokugawa Ieyasu gradually rose to prominence after establishing strategic alliances with powerful leaders such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1600, he emerged as the most powerful warlord in Japan after the Battle of Sekigahara. Awarded the title of Shogun, he established his government in Edo (now Tokyo) and founded the Shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 260 years.
1543—Portuguese Arrive in Japan
Blown off course during a storm, Portuguese traders shipwrecked near Tangeshima island off the southern coast of Japan. Intrigued by the Portuguese firearms, the local daimyo warlord bought two guns from the European sailors and commissioned his swordsmith to make copies. The daimyo then asked the Portuguese for shooting lessons.
1549—Jesuit Missionaries Settle in Japan
Eager for more firearms, the Japanese warlords welcomed trade with the Portuguese. Along with trade, the Portuguese brought Christian missionaries, and in 1549, Francis Xavier established Japan's first mission at Kagoshima. Jesuit missionary Luis Frois arrived later and wrote Historia de Japan, which covered the years 1549-1593. The book provided most of the known information about contemporary Japan at that time.
1561—Ieyasu Becomes Allies with Oda Nobunaga
Ieyasu joined forces with the fearless warlord Oda Nobunaga and began expanding his territorial holdings. A marriage was arranged between Ieyasu's eldest son and Nobunaga's daughter to strengthen their alliance. But in 1579, Ieyasu's son was discovered plotting against Nobunaga. To prove his loyalty to Nobunaga, Ieyasu forced his beloved son to commit suicide.
1568—Oda Nobunaga Attempts to Unify Japan
Oda Nobunaga was the first to attempt the unification of Japan. Known for his ruthless use of power, his vision was to bring all of Japan "under a single sword". Nobunaga's most significant step towards unifying the country was the destruction of the Buddhist monastery of Mt. Hiei, whose warrior monks had played a significant role in the political and military course of Japan. Nobunaga saw them as a threat to the future stability of Japan. After destroying the Mt. Hiei monastery, he hunted down and slaughtered the fleeing Hiei monks, regardless of their innocence or age.
1575—Battle of Nagashino
Oda Nobunaga was quick to embrace Western innovations—firearms, in particular. At the Battle of Nagashino, he instituted new offensive and defensive tactics with guns which changed Japanese warfare forever. A great military strategist, he built massive stone forts that would resist the new firearms, and he strengthened his warships with iron-cladding. He also instituted a specialized warrior class, appointing his retainers to positions based on ability rather than family connection.
1577—Joao Rodrigues Arrives in Japan
Born in Portugal in 1561, Joao Rodrigues was a cabin boy on a Portuguese ship and arrived in Japan at the age of 15. He became a Jesuit missionary in 1577. Possessing an ear for language, Rodgrigues was soon able to speak Japanese fluently, which earned the nickname, "the interpreter." He served in that role for both Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Living in Japan for 33 years, he wrote a book considered one of the era's key historical chronicles of Japan, Historia da Igreja do Japao ("This Land of Japan"). He also wrote a book on Japanese grammar that helped other missionaries master the difficult Japanese language.
Oda Nobunaga was ultimately attacked by a disgruntled general from his inner circle, although it was unknown whether Nobunaga was assassinated or committed suicide. Jesuit missionary Joao Rodrigues wrote: "Some say he cut his belly, while others believe that he set fire to the palace and perished in the flames." Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Nobunaga's trusted aides, quickly avenged the suspected murder, presenting the traitor's head to Nobunaga's grave. Hideyoshi soon emerged as the next ruling military leader of Japan.
1584—Toyotomi Hideyoshi Becomes Supreme Commander
Hideyoshi's response to the assassination of Nobunaga gave him a place of special importance and he quickly assumed the role of Japan's ruler. He and Tokugawa became uneasy allies. Born of peasant stock, little is known of Hideyoshi's life prior to 1570. Short and thinly proportioned, he cut an odd figure; the tactless Nobunaga had referred to him as Saru (monkey) and the "bald rat". However, using guile and manipulation, he rose through the ranks. Famous for his unsophisticated and garish aesthetic, Hideyoshi built a gold tea room in his Osaka castle.
1587—Japanese Peasantry Disarmed
In the "Sword Hunt" of 1593, Toyotomi Hideyoshi forbade the peasant class from possessing weapons including swords, guns, and knives. He hoped to prevent revolts and to distinguish Japan's classes with only the samurai allowed to carry two swords.
1587—Christian Persecution Begins
Because he valued trade with European merchants, Hideyoshi initially welcomed the Christian missionaries. By 1587, he had become worried that Christianity's growing influence would threaten his control of Japan. He therefore issued an edict outlawing Christianity and expelling the missionaries. However, the edict was ineffective and Franciscans continued to enter the country. The Jesuits remained active in Western Japan.
1590—Ieyasu Moves Headquarters to Edo
After a few skirmishes, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu formed an uneasy alliance. Hideyoshi rewarded Ieyasu with eight provinces located in the Kanto plain and ordered him to move his headquarters to Edo, a swampy, backwater castle town far from the center of Japanese politics. Ieyasu felt compelled to agree to the arrangement and the two generals urinated together to seal the agreement.
1597—Hideyoshi Executes 26 Christians
In 1597, Hideyoshi intensified the persecution of Christians in Japan. As a warning, he had 24 Christians arrested in Kyoto, among them 19 Japanese and two young boys. The prisoners' left ears were chopped off and they were paraded through Kyoto's streets and surrounding countryside while onlookers taunted and tortured them. Arriving in Nagasaki, all 24 prisoners, plus two Jesuits who had come to defend them, were chained to crosses and crucified. Stabbed with spears and left to hang for 80 days, none of the captured Christians recanted or denounced their faith. Learning of their deaths two years later, Pope Pius the IX declared them martyrs. Hideyoshi unintentionally inspired Christians around Japan; new converts were recruited and Nagasaki became the center of Christian activity.
On his deathbed, Hideyoshi asked Ieyasu to serve as one of five regents designated to rule Japan until Hideyoshi's beloved son, Hideyori, came of age. A year later, Ieyasu moved into Osaka Castle, Hideyori's stronghold, a move that antagonized his fellow regents.
1600—William Adams Arrives in Japan
Japan's first visitor from England, William Adams was a pilot on the Liefde, a Dutch vessel that shipwrecked off southern Japan. The only one of 24 survivors coherent enough to greet the Japanese boarding party, Adams was taken to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the country's strongest daimyo. Luckily for Adams, Ieyasu was interested in his knowledge of shipbuilding and navigation, and Adams became the daimyo's trusted interpreter and commercial agent. He was awarded the samurai privilege of wearing two swords.
1600—Battle of Sekigahara
Over 160,000 warriors participated in the battle that would unify Japan under the rule of the Tokugawa shoguns. In fewer than six hours, Tokugawa Ieyasu achieved victory over Ishida Misunari and took control of Japan.
1603—Ieyasu Moves Capital to Edo
In 1603, the emperor awarded Tokugawa Ieyasu the title of Shogun, the "barbarian-subduing generalissimo." Ieyasu now had the authority to rule Japan in all military matters. Under his rule, Edo (modern-day Tokyo) became the seat of government and the most important city in Japan. Ieyasu ordered Japan's daimyo warlords to supply labor and materials to build his new castle and to expand the city.
1605—Hidetada Becomes Second Shogun
Japan's second shogun was Ieyasu's third son, Hidetada, a military general who fought in the sieges of Osaka Castle and skirmishes leading up to the Battle of Sekigahara. Hidetada was officially appointed as shogun in 1605, guaranteeing shogunal succession in the Tokugawa family at a time when Japan's emperor had not fully recognized dynastic claims. Despite Hidetada's promotion, Ieyasu continued to rule under the title Ogoshosama (his retired majesty) until 1616. Following his father's death, Hidetada assumed power, and by arranging the marriage of his daughter to the emperor, further strengthened the power of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
1606—Anti-Christian Decrees Proclaimed
1610—Missionaries Expelled From Japan
Apprehensive about the spread of Christianity, Ieyasu expelled all Portuguese and Spanish missionaries, among them Joao Rodrigues.
1611—Dutch Set Up Factory at Hirado
Established in 1602, the Dutch East India Company sent two merchant ships to Japan in 1611. After obtaining a license from the Shogunate allowing them to trade in Japan, they set up the first Dutch trading house in Hirado.
1614—Ieyasu Prohibits Christian Activity
To maintain political stability, Ieyasu issued the Christian Expulsion Edict prohibiting all Christian activity among Japanese. The shogun also limited foreign trade to Hirado and Nagasaki.
1614—Siege of Osaka Castle
After rumors circulated that Hideyoshi's heir, Hideyori, intended to rebel against Ieyasu, a clash became imminent. Ieyasu insisted the Shogunate had been insulted by an inscription on a bell at temple constructed by Hideyori. With war looming, Hideyori appealed to the daimyos for help; when no one responded, he opened his doors to thousands of ronin. Ieyasu's troops were initially unable to penetrate the outer defenses of Osaka Castle, Japan's strongest fortress. However, after Tokugawa's troops fired their cannons near the quarters of Hideyori's mother, she convinced her son to negotiate. Ieyasu offered a peaceful solution that allowed Hideyori to maintain his holdings and forces. Hideyori agreed, ordering his followers to lay down their arms. After a great show of withdrawing his armies, Ieyasu treacherously ordered Osaka Castle's outer moats be filled in, thereby weakening the fortress's defenses.
1615—Fall of Osaka Castle
After declaring peace with Ieyasu, Hideyori's commanders attempted to clear out Osaka Castle's moats, filled in by Tokugawa's forces. They built stockades, recruited ronin, and raised money from the provinces. But Ieyasu soon put his armies back in motion. In June 1615, with Ieyasu's son Hidetada in supreme command, the Tokugawa armies poured through the gates of Osaka Castle and burned it to the ground. As their forces were slaughtered, Hideyori and his mother committed suicide. Ieyasu completed his victory by ordering the execution of Hideyori's infant son, ending the threat of Toyotomi rule in Japan once and for all.
1616—Death of Ieyasu
After Osaka Castle's fall, Ieyasu returned home to Suruga and embarked on a hawking tour. Falling ill, he summoned his family and advised them to prepare for his death. Ieyesu was determined that the Tokugawa line should remain in power, and his dynasty seemed secure. Hidetada had been shogun for 12 years and his son, Iemitsu, was a spirited boy of twelve. If another heir became necessary, there were three other branches of the Tokugawa family—the Owari Tokugawa, Kii Tokugawa and the Mito Tokugawa. With the daimyo war-weary and ready to enjoy a life of peace, Tokugawa hegemony seemed assured.
1620—William Adams Dies
Adams, the first Englishman to set foot on Japanese soil, fell ill and died May 16, 1620 at the age of 56. He had been the Shogunate's revered trade advisor.
1623—Tokugawa Iemitsu Becomes 3rd Shogun
Ieyasu solidified the unification of Japan, but it was his grandson, Iemitsu, who laid the governing foundation for the Shogunate's 250-year rule. Iemitsu was the eldest, legitimate son of Hidetada, the second shogun. Hidetada had wanted his second son to become shogun, but thanks to the intervention of a wet nurse, Ieyasu designated Iemitsu as the preferred heir (after Hidetada's death, Iemitsu forced his younger brother to commit suicide).
1633—Shogunate Forbids Overseas Travel
In 1633, Iemitsu cracked down on overseas travel. Foreign ships were only permitted to enter Nagasaki Harbor, and Japanese ships had to be certified to travel abroad. Two years later certification was revoked, and all of Japan's ships were forbidden to leave the country. Japanese seamen could no longer work on foreign ships; those who disobeyed were executed.
1635—Daimyo Lords Required to Reside Alternate Years in Edo
Shogun Iemitsu instituted Sankin Kotai or Alternate Attendance, which forced Japan's daimyo lords to reside in Edo during part of every other year. When not in Edo, the daimyo were required to leave their wives and family behind as hostages. Consequently, the daimyo spent considerable sums of money maintaining elaborate residences in Edo which housed their families and hundreds of samurai retainers. The processions from their domains to Edo were grand affairs of pomp and circumstance with hundreds or even thousands of guards, aides, advisors and servants. The policy effectively curtailed the power of the daimyo, depleting their treasuries and leaving little money for armies.
Taxed near to starvation, peasants on the Shimabara Peninsula near Nagasaki revolted against the local daimyo, swarming into the abandoned Hara Castle. The uprising soon transformed into a Christian revolt. More than 40,000 rebels barricaded themselves along with their wives and children, holding off advancing government troops for over four months. Running out of provisions and weapons, the peasants finally surrendered only to be slaughtered by Iemitsu's troops.
1639—Shogunate Bans Portuguese Ships
After the Shimabara Rebellion, Iemitsu increasingly viewed Chritianity as a threat to the stability of Japan. He banned Portugese ships from Japan's shores and expelled all foreigners. The only exceptions were made for Dutch and Chinese traders.
1641—Dutch Confined to Dejima Island
Because the Dutch had never attempted to spread Christianity, the shogun exempted them from the ban on foreigners. But they were ordered to move from Hirado to Dejima, an artificial island in Nagasaki harbor which had been originally planned for the Portuguese. Together with the Chinese, the Dutch dominated foreign trade with Japan; they also became the main source of information about Europe.
1651—Tokugawa Ietsuna Becomes 4th Shogun
Ietsuna, the eldest son of Iemitsu, became shogun at the age of ten following his father's death. Frequently ill, Ietsuna relied on members of his father's entourage, and ultimately was little more than a figurehead shogun. Still, Ietsuna's 30-year reign was a transitional period that solidified the Tokugawa family's rule of Japan.
1657—Great Edo Fire
Edo's many wooden buildings and narrow alleys made it prone to fire, and the city's many blazes were called the "flowers of Edo." The most destructive was the Meirike fire of 1657. Beginning in a small temple in Edo's northern section, the blaze was carried by flying sparks across moats and canals, demolishing dozens of daimyo estates near Edo castle. As winds shifted, the flames spread to the merchant quarters along the Sumida River; elsewhere, a cooking fire from a samurai residence fed the inferno. Before the blaze was contained, most of Edo Castle had burned and 100,000 souls perished.
1680—Tokugawa Tsunayoshi Cecomes 5th Shogun
The fourth son of Tokugawa Iemitsu, Tsunayoshi was initially not in line for succession. However, Tsunayoshi served ably as daimyo of Tatebayashi, and Ietsuna, on his deathbed, adopted Tsunayoshi so that he could legally become shogun. Characterized by lavish spending and spiraling prices, Tsunayoshi's reign coincided with the Genroku Era, Edo's cultural renaissance. Tsunayoshi made his court a center of Chinese and Buddhist studies, and issued various edicts on "Compassion for Living." Among them was the death penalty for killing a dog. This earned Tsunayoshi much ridicule, and he became known as the "dog shogun."
1682—Saikaku Publishes First Books
Merchant turned writer Ihara Saikaku captured the imagination of the Edo society that emerged with its expanding and wealthy merchant class. One of the first to write about ordinary people, Saikaku's writings appealed to commoners as well as the idle samurai. Ironic and irreverent, Saikaku wrote in the vernacular of the day. His first novel, A Man Who Loved Love, was published in 1682, illustrated with Saikaku's own prints. A bawdy tale of a male traveler's amorous experiences with both sexes, it sold more than 1,000 copies in the first printing. The book was the first of a new genre known as ukiyo-zoshi (meaning "a tale of the floating world") that combined images with the written word.
1688—Start of Japanese Edo Renaissance
During the Genroku period, a cultural renaissance in Japan, both aristocratic and common arts flourished. Although ostentatious displays of wealth had been prohibited, vast amounts of time and money were spent at theaters, brothels and teahouses in Edo's pleasure districts. As a new urban culture developed in Edo, various art forms flourished including Kabuki theater, Ukiyo e and Bunraku puppet theater.
1690—Englebert Kaempfer Arrives in Japan
Sent by the Dutch East India Company to provide medical care on Dejima Island, German-born Englebert Kaempfer (1651 1716) spent two years in Japan, much of it gathering information about the isolated kingdom. During one of two trips to Edo, Kaempfer met with Shogun Tsunayoshi, and through the help of a young interpreter, unearthed many details of Japanese life. Published posthumously in 1727, Kaempfer's History of Japan provided vivid descriptions of Japanese life, and the book became an immediate best-seller, available in English, Dutch, French and Russian. It remained the Western world's principal reference on Japan for over two hundred years.
1701—Incident of the 47 Ronin
Sparking an affair that captures the imagination of Japanese to this day, Lord Asano, a young daimyo from a small rural domain was insulted by a court official during a visit to Edo Castle. Furious, the daimyo, drew his sword against the official, Kira Yoshinaka, wounding him. Shogun Tsunayoshi declared Asano's behavior was unacceptable within the castle grounds and ordered him to commit suicide. The shogun then transferred Asano's domain to another family clan. Asano's samurai retainers were now ronin and vowed revenge. To fool the authorities, they pretended to abandon their samurai honor and began living degenerately. Then, one snowy night, they broke into Kira's mansion, decapitated him, and paraded his head through the streets of Edo. Arriving at the burial spot of their beloved Asano, the ronin washed Kira's head, placed it before their fallen leader's tomb, and then turned themselves over to the authorities. Confucian scholars and government officials debated the dilemma for over a year: the 47 ronin had obeyed their samurai code of honor, yet they had challenged the shogun's authority. The public, meanwhile, embraced the ronin as heroes for embodying the traditional warrior codes. But Tsunayoshi, issuing the final ruling, ordered the 47 ronin to commit suicide. Depicting the incident of the 47 ronin, Chushingura ("The Treasury of the Loyal Retainers"), continues to be the most popular dramatization in Japanese theater.
1709—Tokugawa Ienobu Becomes 6th Shogun
Ienobu succeeded his brother, Tsunayoshi, after being formally adopted. Ienobu was also the brother of Ietsuna, the fourth shogun.
1713—Tokugawa Ietsugu Becomes 7th Shogun
Ietsugu became shogun at the age of 4, succeeding his father, Ienobu, whose political advisors remained active. He died at the age of seven
1716—Tokugawa Yoshimune Becomes 8th Shogun
A member of the Kii branch of the Tokugawa family, Yoshimune was the great grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu. His mother was of such low rank she was forbidden to rear her son. One of the most forceful and capable of the 15 shoguns, Yoshimune rejected the luxurious lifestyles of his predecessors. He ate only brown rice and vegetables and wore plain clothes. He often went hunting dressed in cotton and straw sandals. Known for mixing with commoners, Yoshimune tried to free himself from the conventions that kept the shogun confined to the castle. The 8th shogun also had an academic bent: His compilation of legal precedents and support for scientific experimentation helped lead to the relaxation of the ban on Western books.
1716—Ban Lifted on Imported Books
To counter an economic depression, Shogun Yoshimune instituted the Kyoho Reforms that lifted the import ban on western books. The measures were enacted, in part, to mollify the Dutch on Dejima Island, who were increasingly frustrated by the limitations placed upon commerce.
1745—Tokugawa Ieshige Becomes 9th Shogun
The eldest son of Tokugawa Yoshimune, Ieshige was chronically ill and suffered from a speech defect. Skilled at chess (about which he wrote a book), Ieshige had little interest in governing, and the aging Yoshimune continued to rule during his son's first two years in office. Ieshige's reign lasted from 1745 1760.
1753—Ukiyoe Artist Kitagawa Utamaro is Born
Kitagawa Utamaro (1753 1808) is regarded as one of the foremost painters of the bijinga genre, prints that depict beautiful women. Beginning his career as an illustrator for a major publisher, Utamaro gained popularity in 1791 for his close ups of women. As publishers clamored to sell his prints, Utamaro became the leading ukiyo-e artist of his day. But in 1804, the government ruled that one of Utamaro's prints was offensive. Jailed and forbidden to paint, he died two years later.
1760—Tokugawa Ieharu Becomes 10th Shogun
Ieharu, the eldest son of Tokugawa Ieshige, ruled Japan from 1760-1786. Widely ridiculed, he was unable to assert authority and many believed he was leading the country to ruin.
1774—First Japanese Book on Western Anatomy Published
Granted permission to observe the dissection of an executed woman, a small group of Edo scholars realized their understanding of human anatomy (based on Chinese theory) was wrong. What they witnessed corresponded closely to a Dutch book on anatomy owned by one of the scholars, Dr. Sugita Genpaku. Although the ban on Western books had been lifted years earlier, very few books on Western medicine were available. Genpaku was so impressed by the book he immediately committed himself to learn Dutch so that he could translate it into Japanese for further study. Published in 1774, the book helped usher in a period known as Dutch Learning.
1782—Famine Devastates Japan.
One of the worst famines of the Edo period, the Temme Famine lasted from 1782 to 1787. Mortality estimates range widely—from 200,000 to 900,000. The famine started after unseasonable weather damaged crops; flooding, cold winds and the eruption of Mt. Asamayama (whose ash buried 25 villages) prolonged it. In many areas, high taxes had left farmers without reserves of rice. The Shogunate's efforts at relief were largely ineffectual and the destitute resorted to foraging for roots, eating cats and dogs, and even cannibalism.
1787—Tokugawa Ienari Becomes 11th Shogun
Tokugawa Ienari was the adopted son of the childless Tokugawa Ieharu, and became Shogun at age 13. He ruled for 50 years, longer than any other shogun, during a period of political stability and abundant harvests. He fathered 55 children by 40 consorts, and forged a nationwide network of kinship links through marriage, adoptions, gifts and favors.
1791—First American Ship Reaches Japan
The first American to reach Japan was John Kendrick of Boston, aboard the brigantine Lady Washington. Several American ships followed, all hired by the Dutch East India Company, from 1797-1809 during the Napolionic wars. Fearing British attacks, the Dutch often used American ships to disguise themselves and avoid hostilities.
1792—Russian Ship Lands in Japan
A Russian expedition sent by Catherine the Great, and led by Professor Adam Laxman, landed in Ezo (now Hokkaido) in 1792. The Japanese allowed the Russians to spend the winter, but not to establish trade. In 1804, an expedition led by Nicolai Petrovich Rezanov arrived in Japan to set up trade relations, but was again rebuffed. In response, the Russians raided Japanese communities in the Kurile islands. Russian traders, during the reign of Peter the Great, from 1682 1725, made numerous unsuccessful attempts to establish trade relations.
1797—Ando Hiroshige, Famous Ukiyoe Landscape Artist, Is Born.
The son of an Edo Fire Brigade member, Ando Hiroshige worked as a fireman while he studied painting under Toyohiro, a famous ukiyoe artist. Though they had little commercial value, landscapes sparked Hiroshige's interest. In 1831, he produced a series that became popular entitled "Famous Places In Edo." Two years later, he accompanied the Shogun's retinue as they traveled the Tokaido Road from Edo to Kyoto. Along the way, Hiroshige sketched "Fifty Three Stages on the Tokaido," depicting each of the 53 inspection stations. The work was quite successful, and he went on to create 30 additional series on the Tokaido theme.
1804—Japan Refuses Trade with Russian Ships
1825—Shogunate Bars Foreign Ships
Shogun Ienari issued Gaikokusen Uchiharai Rei, an order for repelling foreign ships and a reaffirmation of the National Seclusion policy enacted by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1639. The new order was declared in response to an increasing number of foreign ships, particularly whaling ships, which entered Japanese waters and threatened Japan's determination to prevent interaction with western nations.
1837—American Merchant Ship Fired Upon
The American merchant ship Morrison arrived in Japan ostensibly to repatriate shipwrecked Japanese sailors, but with the intent of establishing trade. The Morrison also brought missionaries. Fired upon and forced to leave, the Morrison expedition was the first of many unsuccessful attempts by American ships to enter Japanese waters.
1837—Tokugawa Ieyoshi Becomes 12th Shogun
1839—Shogunate Cracks Down on Western Scholarship
The renewal of anti-western policies was partially motivated by the arrival of the American ship Morrison, also coupled with continued attempts by Russian, European and American ships to enter Japan. Japanese scholars who criticized the seclusion policy paid a high price for their views.
1853—Tokugawa Iesada Becomes 13th Shogun
The son of Tokugawa Ieyoshi, Iesada became 13th Shogun at 29, presiding over the negotiations with American Commodore Matthew Perry. Often ill, Ieyoshi died childless five years later.
1853—Commodore Perry Demands Japan Open to Trade
American Commodore Matthew Perry led an expedition to open diplomatic and commercial relations between Japan and the United States. Forceful and arrogant, he refused to enter the foreigners' port of Nagasaki and went directly to Uraga, near the Shogun's capital. Entering Edo Bay on July 2, 1853 with 967 men on four ships (including two steam-powered vessels) mounting sixty-one guns, Perry demanded that Japan open its ports to American trade. His war ships were larger than any the Japanese had seen, and their dark hulls earned them the name of "black ships." Perry demanded negotiations on his own terms, and declared that he would return the next year to receive the Japanese response.
1854—Perry Secures Kanawaga Treaty
Perry returned earlier than expected in February 1854 with more ships and sailors to buttress his demand that Japan open up to trade. Negotiations went on for 23 days, and Japan's lack of a strong shogun coupled with decades of internal dissention gave Perry leverage: The Kanawaga Treaty provided assistance for shipwrecked American sailors, and opened two ports for coal and supplies. Although Tokugawa officials could say no agreement had been reached for trade, the treaty paved the way for diplomatic and trade missions from Europe, and the opening of Japan.
1858—Tokugawa Iemochi Becomes 14th Shogun
Iemochi, the grandson of Tokugawa Ienari, became the 14th Shogun at age 12 and reigned for eight years. He presided over a period of internal turmoil set in motion by the arrival of Commodore Perry and his American fleet. Becoming the first shogun since Iemitsu in 1634 to travel to Kyoto, Iemochi tried to strengthen the power of the Shogunate and its ties to the emperor. He ended Sankin Kotai, the system of alternate attendance in Edo, thereby weakening the shogun's control of Japan's daimyo class. Undermined by incompetent advisors, Iemochi fell ill and died childless at age 20.
1867—Tokugawa Yoshinobu Becomes 15th Shogun
Yoshinobu became the 15th and last shogun at age 30. His father, Tokugawa Nariaki, was an advisor to an earlier shogun and arranged to have Yoshinobu (then known as Keiki) adopted into a branch of the Tokugawa family in line for shogunal succession. Yoshinobu was educated as a scholar and he brought strong leadership skills and reforms to the Shogunate during the tumultuous years following the Japan's opening to the west. During his tenure, civil war erupted between those daimyo that wanted the Tokugawa family to remain in power and those who favored the emperor. After sustaining huge losses, Yoshinobu resigned his position of Shogun in the interest of uniting Japan. He spent his last years as an amateur photographer.
1868—End of the Tokugawa Shogunate/Start of Meiji Restoration
Tokugawa Yoshinobu's resignation marked the end of Tokugawa Shogunate's 268-year rule and the return of the emperor as Japan's supreme ruler. Edo was renamed Tokyo. Lasting until 1912, the Meiji Restoration, heavily influenced by Japan's opening to Europe and the United States, saw the decline of the samurai warrior class and Japan's emergence into the modern era.