In this article, we will analyze one of the most famous eras in Japan, the famous Edo Period ruled by the Tokugawa. In this article, we will thoroughly analyze that period and how it affected Japan and the world in its long history.
What do we need to know about the Edo Period?
It was in the Edo period that Japan entered an era of peace and national isolation. It was during this period that traders were limited, Christianity was suppressed, the social hierarchy dominated and stabilized the country. The Edo period is famous for the Samurai, for its commercial and agricultural growth, for the art of the kabuki and bunraku theater, for its education and urban population.
The Edo period, also known as the Tokugawa period, is a period of japan history which was ruled by the Shoguns of the Tokugawa family, from March 24, 1603 to May 3, 1868. This period marks the government of the Tokugawa Shogunate (or Edo Shogunate) which was officially established on March 24, 1603 by the first Tokugawa Ieyasu shogun.
To clarify, the term Mushroom, (shōgun - 将軍) is literally Commander of the army. This was a military title and distinction during that time in Japan. It was awarded by the Emperor himself. The Shogunate, on the other hand, was a feudal regime until the modern age, similar to feudalism. In addition to being a rural owner, the shogun was a military chief who was second only to the Emperor.
The Japanese name is Bakufu (幕府) literally means “government tent” (a military control), originally it is the home of a shogun, but it ended up being used in Japanese to describe the military dictatorship, exercised by the shoguns.
Now that we have clarified these terms, we can go back to the main topic. The period ended with the Meiji Restoration on May 3, 1868, the restoration of the tenno (emperor) government by the fifteenth and last Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. The Edo period is also known to mark the beginning of Japan's modern period.
Oda Nobunaga and the reunification of Japan
During the Sengoku period (from the 15th to the 17th century), Japan suffered from gigantic political instability. Civil wars over land and power among the Daimians caused bloody waves. These wars contributed to the weakening of the central power of the Muromachi Shogunate, leaving each one to its own devices, making it completely difficult for the country to unite.
Japan's reunification began to take shape with the Oda Nobunaga campaign. He dominated Owari province in 1559, then marched on the capital of Kyoto in 1568, restoring the power of the royal court (symbolically).
By dominating Kyoto, Nobunaga continues to eliminate his opponents, even a Buddhist sect called Ikko-ikki, destroying a monastery in 1575. With the introduction of firearms in the country, Nobunaga manages to defeat enemy peoples like the Takeda clan.
The Death of Oda Nobunaga
In 1582, Nobunaga is killed by one of his friends, Akechi Mitsuhide, who takes advantage and usurps his master's place. Until General Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was fighting alongside Nobunaga, quickly destroyed this rebellion, Mitsuhide's forces were eliminated and power recovered.
With the support of Nobunaga's faithful, and the union of several Daimians, Hideyoshi continued with the reunification campaign, conquered the provinces of Kyushu and Shikoku, and finally defeated the last resistance, the Hojo family, which controlled Kanto. As a result, Japan's military unification was completed.
Edo Period - Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Ieyasu was instrumental in the rise of the new bakufu and the main beneficiary of the achievements of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Always powerful, Ieyasu profited from his move to the wealthy Kanto area. He maintained 2.5 million koku of land and a new headquarters in Edo (future Tokyo), a strategically located castle city, and gained another two million koku of land and thirty-eight vassals under his control.
By destroying the forces that supported Hideyori in the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa, without rivals at that level, managed to expand his dominance throughout Japan, receiving the title of shogun from the Emperor in 1603, thus establishing the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Edo Period - What is a koku?
The koku (石) is a unit of volume in Japan. 3.6 koku is equivalent to one cubic meter. The koku is historically described as an amount of rice sufficient to feed a person throughout the year. (The measure equivalent to one person per day is masu). In 1891 a koku was changed and equaled to 240100/1331 liters, which is equivalent to 180.39 liters.
After Hideyoshi's death, power was again sought by feudals. Ieyasu moved quickly to gain control of Japan and the Toyotomi family. He used his military and political power.
Edo Period - Tokugawa Shogunate
The Edo period is also called Tokugawa, it brought 200 years of stability to Japan. The system was called bakuhan, a combination of the terms bakufu and han (domains or feuds). In bakuhan, daimyos had regional authority and the national mushroom, this new system was very bureaucratic and complex.
The Tokugawa also had unprecedented power over the emperor and everyone else below him. The Tokugawa helped the imperial family recover their past glories by rebuilding their palaces and donating land. As a guarantee of a link between the imperial clan and the Tokugawa family, Ieyasu's granddaughter became an imperial consort in 1619.
Political reforms in the Edo period
A code of laws was established to regulate the houses of the daimyos. The code encompassed private conduct, marriage, dress, and types of weapons and number of troops allowed; mandatory rotary residence between Edo and the han (feud) from year to year (the Sankin kotai system); it prohibited the construction of ships capable of navigating in the open sea; banned Christianity; and stipulated that bakufu regulations were national law.
Although daimyos were not officially taxed, they were regularly taxed with contributions for logistical and military support and for public works such as castles, roads, bridges, and palaces. The various regulations and levies not only strengthened the Tokugawa, but also depleted the wealth of the daimyos, thereby weakening them as a threat to the central administration.
Foreign trade during the Edo period
Ieyasu encouraged foreign trade, but did not trust foreigners. He wanted to make Edo a big port city, favoring its ports, but from the moment he observed that Europeans favored ports in Kyushu and that China had rejected his plans to establish official trade, he acted to take control of trade and allowed only certain ports to handle specific types of goods.
The Christian problem was, as a result, a problem of controlling both the Christian Daimians in Kyushu and their trade with Europeans. In 1612, the shogun's servants and residents on Tokugawa lands were ordered to repudiate Christianity.
More restrictions came in 1616 (the restriction of trade with foreigners can only be carried out in Nagasaki and Hirado, an island northwest of Kyushu), 1622 (the execution of 120 missionaries and converts), 1624 (the expulsion of the Spanish), and 1629 (the execution of thousands of Christians).
Finally, in 1635, a decree prohibited any Japanese from traveling outside Japan or, if anyone left, from ever returning. In 1636 the Dutch were restricted to Dejima, a small artificial island - not officially Japanese soil - in the Nagasaki cove.
Edo Period - Shogunate x Christianity
The shogunate regarded Christianity as a great destabilizer, resulting in the persecution of Catholicism. Between 1637-1638) the Shimabara Rebellion took place, in which samurai and Catholic villagers rebelled against the bakufu. Until Edo asked the Dutch boats for help and bombed the rebel fortress, thus marking the end of the Christian movement.
In 1650, Christianity was almost completely eradicated, any external influence on Japan's politics, religiosity and economics ended. Only China and the Dutch Company of the Indies had the right to visit Japan during this period, for commercial purposes only, and they could only go to the port of Dejima in Nagasaki, otherwise it was death.
After that incident, the Portuguese were expelled, members of the Portuguese diplomatic mission were executed, all subjects were ordered to register in Buddhist or shinto temples, and the Dutch and Chinese were restricted to a specific piece of Nagasaki.
Development of the Edo period
Economic development during the Edo period included a huge increase in urbanization, in the shipment of goods, in the expansion of domestic, industrial and artisanal trade. The construction trade grew, along with banking and merchant associations. The authorities of the Hans managed agricultural production and rural handicrafts as he grew.
In the 18th century, Edo already had a population that exceeded one million inhabitants, while Osaka and Kyoto had about 400 thousand inhabitants. Many other castle cities have also grown. Osaka and Kyoto became centers for the production of handicrafts and commerce, while Edo was the center of urban supplies and goods.
In the Edo Period, Japan studied Western sciences and techniques (an act called rangaku or Dutch studies) through the books and information that Dutch traders brought to Dejima. Geography, natural sciences, medicine, astronomy, languages, arts, physical sciences, electrical and mechanical sciences were studied by the Japanese for development in several areas.
Neo-Confucianism was the main development of the Tokugawa period. Confucian studies were kept active among Buddhist clerics but expanded to a secular view of man and society. Ethical humanism, rationalism, and neo-Confucian doctrine were attractive to government officials. In the 17th century, neoconfucionismo was the dominant philosophy in Japan and contributed to the school development kokugaku (of thought).
Consequences of the rangaku for the population
Studies in mathematics, astronomy, cartography, engineering, and medicine were also encouraged. An emphasis was placed on the quality of craftsmanship, especially in art. For the first time, urban populations had the means and free time to support a new mass culture.
The search for fun became known as ukiyo-e (“the floating world”), an ideal world of fashion and popular entertainment. Professional female artists (geishas), music, popular stories, Kabuki and bunraku (“puppet theater”), poetry, and a rich literature, and art, exemplified by the work in printing wooden blocks (known as ukiyo-e), they were all part of that flourishing culture. Literature also flourished with the notable examples of playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) and poet, essayist, and traveling writer Matsuo Basho (1644-1694).
Ukiyo-e prints began to be produced in the late 17th century, but in 1764 Harunobu produced the first polychrome print. Next-generation print designers, including Torii Kiyonaga and Utamaro, created elegant and sometimes thoughtful representations of courtesans.
In the 19th century, the dominant figure was Hiroshige, a creator of impressions of romantic and somewhat sentimental landscapes. The strange angles and shapes by which Hiroshige often represented landscapes, and the works of Kiyonaga and Utamaro, with their emphasis on flat and strong surfaces, linear contours, subsequently had a profound impact on Western artists such as Edgar Degas and Vincent van Gogh.
Religion of the Edo period
Buddhism and Shinto were very important in Tokugawa Japan. Buddhism, combined with neo-Confucianism, provided the standards for social behavior. Although not as politically powerful as it had been in the past, Buddhism was supported by the upper classes. Prohibitions against Christianity benefited Buddhism in 1640 when the bakufu ordered everyone to register at a temple.
The Tokugawa government's strict separation of society from the hans, villages, garrisons, and family home helped to reaffirm local Shinto links. Shinto provided spiritual support for the political order and was an important link between individuals and the community. Shintoism also helped to preserve a sense of national identity.
End of the Shogunate - Main reason
The end of this Edo period is called the late Tokugawa Shogunate. The end of the period and its cause is controversial, but it is believed that it was westernization and open doors for the US Navy that started the end. Matthew Calbraith Perry's armada, known to black ships by the Japanese, fired several shots with their weapons in Tokyo Bay.
Artificial islands were created to block the reach of weapons, becoming today what we know as Odaiba. The foreign intrusion helped to precipitate a complex political struggle between the bakufu and his critics, the result of Tokugawa mismanagement. The anti-Bakufu movement in the middle of the 19th century brought the Tokugawa to an end.
End of the Shogunate - Merits of the Shogunate
From the beginning, the Tokugawa tried to restrict the accumulation of wealth for families in Japan and endorsed a “back to earth” policy, in which the farmer, the ideal producer, was the “ideal citizen” to be reached in society. Despite efforts to restrict wealth, and partly due to the extraordinary period of peace, the standard of living for both urban and rural inhabitants increased significantly during the Tokugawa period.
Improvements in the means of harvesting, transportation, housing, food, and entertainment were available, as well as more time for leisure, at least for the urban population.
The literacy rate was high for a pre-industrial society, and cultural values were redefined and widely disseminated through the samurai and chonin classes. Despite the reappearance of the guilds, economic activities went well beyond the restrictive nature of the guilds, and trade spread and the money economy developed.
End of the Shogunate - Failure
A dispute broke out in the face of the political limitations that the shogu had imposed on the entrepreneurial classes. The governmental ideal of an agrarian society has failed to fit in with the reality of commercial distribution.
The great governmental bureaucracy had evolved, and had stagnated due to its discrepancies with a new social order that was constantly changing. Combined with the situation, the population had increased significantly during the first half of the Tokugawa period.
Although the rate and magnitude of growth is uncertain, there were at least 26 million citizens and approximately 4 million members of samurai families and their servants when the first census was made in 1721. Droughts, followed by decreased crop and famine, resulted in 20 great periods of famine between 1675 and 1837.
End of the Shogunate - Crisis
People's dissatisfaction grew, and by the end of the 18th century, protests over taxes and lack of food had become frequent. Families who lost their land became tenant farming families (worked on land owned by others), while poor rural people who had nowhere to live moved to cities.
As the fortunes of working families declined, others acted quickly to accumulate land, and a new and richer class of farmers emerged. Those who benefited were able to diversify their production and hire labor to support themselves, while others were left in discontent.
End of the Shogunate - Invasions
Although Japan was able to acquire and perfect a wide variety of scientific knowledge, the rapid industrialization of the West during the 18th century created for the first time a material gap in terms of technology and armaments between Japan and the West (which did not really exist in the beginning period), forcing the government to abandon its seclusion policy, which contributed to the end of the Tokugawa regime.
Western intrusions were increasing in the early 19th century. Russian warships and trade ships invaded Karafuto (called Sakhalin under Russian and Soviet control) and the Kuril Islands, the southernmost part of what is considered by the Japanese to be the northern islands of Hokkaido.
Although the Japanese made small concessions and allowed some landings, they were still vehemently trying to keep foreigners out, sometimes using force. Rangaku has become crucial not only to understand “barbaric” foreigners, but also to use the knowledge acquired from the West to expel them.
End of the Shogunate - Despair
In 1830 there was a crisis due to widespread hunger and several natural disasters that shook the population. They were dissatisfied and rebelled against government officials and Osaka merchants in 1837. The revolt lasted only one day, but the consequences were visible.
Many sought to reform morality instead of focusing on the country's institutional problems. The shogun advisers called for martial spirituality, commercial restrictions with the West, censorship in literature, and the elimination of “luxury” in the samurai class.
Others wanted to depose the Tokugawa and support political sonno joi (honor the emperor, expel the barbarians). Despite this, the bakufu managed to stand firm despite opposition and increasing commercialization with the Westerners after the First Opium War of 1839-1842.
End of the Shogunate - Final moments of seclusion
In 1853 the United States arrived at Edo Bay demanding the opening of Japanese ports. In 1854, the Kanagawa Treaty (Peace and Friendship) was signed, which granted the opening of 2 ports to American ships. They were entitled to supplies, support for castaways and a consul's address in Shimoda in southwest Edo.
Five years later, other ports were opened to the United States due to treaties, indicating the beginning of the shogunate's decline in power. This process caused huge damage to the bakufu. Debates about the shogunate first surfaced the population, causing great criticism of the government.
End of the Shogunate - Instability and displeasure
To contain political instability, Abe tried to gain new allies to his cause by consulting the shinpan and tozama clans, much to the surprise of the fudai (clans closest to the Tokugawa), a situation that further destabilized the already weakened Bakufu.
Pro-imperialist ideals grew mainly through the spread of teaching schools, such as the Escola Mito - based on neo-Confucian and Shinto teachings - which aimed at the restoration of the imperial institution, the withdrawal of Westerners from Japan and the creation of an Empire world over the divine Yamato dynasty.
In the midst of these political and ideological conflicts, Tokugawa Nariaki was in charge of national defense in 1854. Nariaki had long embraced anti-foreign ideals and military loyalty to the Emperor, thus becoming one of the main leaders of the faction against the shogunate and in the future playing an important role in the Meiji Restoration.
End of the Shogunate - End of seclusion
In the final years of the shogunate, foreign relations increased and more concessions were made. A new treaty with the United States in 1859 allowed more ports to be opened for diplomatic representatives. In the same year, unsupervised trade was allowed in 4 more ports and the construction of foreign residences in Osaka and Edo. By the same treaty, the concept of extraterritoriality was incorporated (foreigners were subject to the laws of their respective countries, and not to Japanese law. ).
When the Iesada shogun died without leaving any heirs, Nariaki appealed to the court for the support of his son, Tokugawa Yoshinobu (or Keiki), for shogun, who was favored by the daimies of the shinpan and tozama clans.
However, the Fudai won the power struggle, instituting Tokugawa Yoshintomi in the position of shogun, arresting Nariaki and Keiki and executing Yoshida Shoin (1830 - 1859, a leading sonno-ji intellectual who had been against the American treaty and had devised a revolution against bakufu), and signed treaties with the United States and five other nations, thus ending more than 200 years of seclusion.
End of the Shogunate - Militarization
During the last years of the bakufu, extreme measures were taken to regain its political dominance, although its involvement with modernization and foreign powers made it the target of anti-Western sentiments across the country.
The army and navy have been modernized. A naval training school was built in Nagasaki in the year 1855. Naval students were sent to study in Western schools for several years, thus beginning a tradition of sending future leaders to study in the West, like Admiral Enomoto. French naval engineers were hired to build a naval arsenal, like the Yokosuka and Nagasaki arsenals.
Late Tokugawa Shogunate
The late Tokugawa Shogunate or Last Shogun was the period between 1853 and 1867 during which Japan ended its foreign isolationist policy, called sakoku, and modernized itself from a feudal shogunate for the Meiji Government. This period is at the end of the Edo Era, preceding the Meiji Period.
The main ideological / political factions during the period were divided into pro-imperialist Ishin Shishi (nationalist patriots) and the shogunate forces, including the elite Shinsengumi (newly selected army corps) of swordsmen. Although the two groups were those with the greatest visible strength, many other factions tried to use Bakufu's chaos in an attempt to gain personal power.
Extremists against the West
Extremists who venerate the emperor, incited death and violence against the authorities of the bakufu, the hans (feuds) and foreigners from the west. In the Anglo-Satsuma War there was a naval retaliation that led to the creation of another 1865 concessionary trade treaty, but it was not fulfilled. Soon afterwards, a bakufu army was eliminated in an attempt to crush rebel groups in the hans of Satsuma and Choshu (1866). In 1867, the emperor died and was replaced by his son Mutsuhito.
Keiki (Tokugawa Yoshinobu) despite being reluctant, became leader and Xogum of the Tokugawa household. He tried to fix the government under the influence of the Emperor and preserve the political power of the shogun. Afraid of the power of the Satsuma and Choshu clans, other daimios supported the return of the powers of the shogun to the Emperor and to a Tokugawa council.
The Boshin War ("War of the Year of the Dragon") was a civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate government and those who favored the restoration of Emperor Meiji. The war finds its origins in the emperor's declaration of the abolition of the 200-year-old shogunate and the imposition of direct command of the imperial court.
Military movements of the imperial forces and partisan acts of violence to the empire in Edo led Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the shogun, to launch a military campaign to control the imperial court in Kyoto. The military tide quickly changed in favor of the imperial faction, which was small but relatively modernized, and after a series of battles culminating in Edo's surrender, Yoshinobu personally surrendered.
Following the Boshin War, bakufu was abolished, and Keiki was reduced to the level of a daimyo. Shogunate resistance movements continued in the north following the year 1868, and the naval forces of the bakufu, under the command of Admiral Enomoto, resisted for more than 6 months in Hokkaido, where they founded the Republic of Ezo, which had a short period of existence.
Keiki accepted the plan in late 1867 and abdicated, announcing an "Imperial restoration". But on January 3, 1868, leaders of the Hans Satsuma, Choshu, among others, took over the Imperial Palace and announced their own restoration. Political and military powers were restored to the emperor, thus ending more than 200 years of Tokugawa rule over Japan.
Conclusion and my opinion
If you ask me what the consequences of this period are for the history of Japan, I would certainly answer that it was one of the most important in history, followed by the Meiji revolution, the Edo period brought to Japan an incredible development both in the Industrial and in the philosophical part .
This statement is ironic, but this period of isolation helped a lot, with some aspects of Japan. For example, their great sense of patriotism and cooperation. After all, Japan is famous for its helpful and considerate people, in addition to its motivated and extremely disciplined workforce.
I believe, however, that it has had serious consequences, as is the case with people's seclusion and distrust of Westerners. I don't think we can judge them, because as an example we have the Second World War, that even we Brazilians are affected morally and culturally by it. Of course, its effects have diminished over time, however if we went to do a survey like our older relatives, I believe that almost all or most of them have bad impressions of it, even if they have not even been directly affected by it.
If we compare these 200 years with the Second World War, I think we can remove from this comparison a basis for knowing the effect they had on that country. However, we know that nothing lasts forever, so the effects of these two events have lessened. Anyway I believe that it does not affect as much as it did a while ago, but some of its effects are long lasting or at least more persistent.
For today everything is personal, it was a great article, however we have to take into account that we studied a period of great importance for the history of the Japanese, so I could not save words. OK, thanks to you, my dear reader, for reading this far. And any doubt, suggestion or criticism just comment, we will always be reading the comments. Don't forget to vote.