The disappearance of Samurais in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate

If you knew a little knowledge about Japanese history, you could find more interest in anime or drama. Many Japanese works tend to back Japanese history especially the Warring States period(戦国時代) or the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate(幕末). This time I will focus the latter. Anyway, Let’s look in. Ah, if you refer this site, please pay attention. History may change and there are various views of history.

Quick look at the contents

1 Sakamoto Ryoma

2 the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate

2.1 The Tokugawa shogunate

2.2 turbulent times at the end of the Edo period

2.3 light introduction of some people and Shinsengumi

3 movement to overthrow the shogunate

3.1 two domains movement

3.2 union to overthrow the shogunate

3.3 Teradaya event and Ryoma

3.4 Oumiya event and Ryouma’s death

4 The Meiji Restoration

4.1 the day broke down the shogunate

4.2 new government and disappearance of samurai

5 afterword

5.1 notes

6 reference

1 Sakamoto Ryoma

At first, let’s decide main character. No story is no sense. This time focusing famous hero Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬 in Japanese)Sakamoto(坂本) is surname. Ryou(龍) means dragon, ma(馬) means horse in Kanzi. Almost Japanese people know him・・・maybe.

(left Sakamoto Ryoma…1*, upper right Location…2*, center Family Line…3*, lower right Sakamoto Otome…4*)

Another name was Sakamoto Naonari (坂本直柔) He was born in Tosa(土佐), now Kouti prefecture in 1835. He is the youngest of four children in his family. Why he is so famous? Because he contributes to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate. And he created Kaientai (海援隊) produced a large number of competent people.

Below digressions↓

When it comes to kouti prefecture I remind sea food! They were very delicious! (≧▽≦) anyway, though he left many contribution to Japan, it is said when childhood he wet his bed.Σ(・ω・ノ)ノ! he adored his sister Sakamoto Otome (坂本乙女). He lost his mother when he was little. So, she took care of him. Also, Ryoma left many letters addressed to Otome.

(Letter addressed to Otome…4*)

2 the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate

2.1 The Tokugawa shogunate

Shogunate is difficult to explain what it is. Many people can understand shogun, but shogunate is a little different from it. Shogunate is administrative institutions by samurai or shogun. Translate shogunate into Japanese, it express Bakuhu(幕府). Anyway, this time focus on the Tokugawa Shogunate.

(Left Tokugawa Ieyasu …1* Right Tokugawa Yoshinobu…1*)

The Tokugawa Shogunate was created by Tokugawa Ieyasu(徳川家康). The Tokugawa Shogunate is also said the Edo Shogunate(江戸幕府). It had continued for 265 years until 1867. While 265 years, the first shogun was Ieyasu, the last, the fifteenth shogun was Tokugawa Yoshinobu (徳川慶喜). So, there were 15 shoguns. The 265 years are said Edo period(江戸時代)

Below digressions↓

Yoshinobu is famous for last shogun. But his terms as shogun was only 2 years 1866~1867.(;゚Д゚) Though he had a clear mind naturally, he was defeated successor conflict. After shogunate was overthrow, he changed political life to absorbed in his hobbies.

(Past Tokugawa shoguns. Their surnames were Tokugawa(徳川))

2.2 turbulent times at the end of the Edo period

Many events happened in that period. This time, focusing on famous events. Shortly, after around 1800, the Tokugawa Shogunate was wasted.

(Left Osio Heihatiro, Right go up in flames in Osaka)…8*

Overture the collapse. Around 1833~1839 great famine was happened. It is said great Tempo famine(天保の大飢饉). Famine caused revolt and riot by farmer. In that time one man rose up in Osaka. He was Osio Heihatiro(大塩平八郎) In 1837 though he was officer of Tokugawa Shogunate, he gathered people to start revolt. it is said Osio Heihatiro revolt(大塩平八郎の乱). Nevertheless, the revolt was ended only a half day, it caused a stir. All parts of the country farmers were encouraged to start riot.

(Left Matthew Calbraith Perry, Right war ship arrival)…9*

In 1853 and 1854 Perry arrival at Uraga(浦賀). Though in that time Shogunate did national isolation policy(鎖国), Perry demanded opening of Japan to the world. Shogunate was accepted this suggestion and made unequal treaty.

Below digressions↓

This event and meeting Kawada Shoryu(河田小龍) was familied with the western studying make Ryoma change his thought. He began to take action to change the Japan.

2.3 light introduction of some people and Shinsengumi

(Left Sakuma Syozan…1*, Right Yoshida Syoin…1*)

Sakuma Shozan(佐久間象山) was born in Shinano(信濃 now Nagano prefecture). He was familiar with Western. He taught gunnery and martial study to Yoshida Syoin, Katukaisyu. He was assassinated by people advocated exclusionism (攘夷者)(I will explain later)

Yoshida Shoin(吉田松陰) was born in Tyosyu(長州 now Yamaguti prefecture). He was clever and bright child. When Perry arrived at Uraga, He planned to stow away to go abroad. But this attempt was failed. He was caught by shogunate. When he was 26 years old, he was released. He is famous for Shokasonzyuku(松下村塾) which brought up leaders led Japan in the end of Edo era and Meizi era. For example Takasugi Shinsaku(高杉晋作) and Itou hirobumi(伊藤博文)

(Left Katsukaisyu …1* Right Takasugi Shinsaku…1*)

Takasugi Shinsaku(高杉晋作)was born in Tyosyu. It is said he was not good at studying he was quick witted. Maybe hearing the name Shinsaku makes you think Kiheitai(奇兵隊). Kiheitai was military composed samurai to former. This military feature was the merit system. Their tactics were elusive guerrilla troops. Shinsaku and Kiheitai contributed to overthrow the shogunate. But What gets up must come down. He was died by tuberculosis. 

Katsukaisyu(勝海舟) was important person for Ryoma. He took Ryoma as pupil. He taught his pupils sail navigation. also, he played important role for the Tokugawa shogunate top executive when The bloodless surrender of Edo castle(江戸城無血開城)

Below digressions↓

Katsukaisyu was first Japanese who crossed the Pacific ocean as Kanrin ship (咸臨丸) captain. This achievement was young age for him. But people may not know his life after shogunate ended. When shogunate fell, its officers were downsized. Katsu made every effort to save their lives. Besides he was bitter critic. He criticized new government policies.

(Left Hizikata Toshizo, Upper left Kondo Isami, Lower center Saito Hazime, Next to Hazime Nagakura Shinpati, Right Okita Souzi)…4*

Though school textbooks sometimes omit this organization, Shinsengumi is famous because of certain anime. Shinsengumi was originally groups of lordless samurai and farmer. The name Shinnsengumi was given by Aidu(会津)( now Hukushima prefecture) feudal lord. Chief was Kondo isami(近藤勇). Semi chief was Hizikata Tosizo(土方歳三). Other members were Okita souzi(沖田総司), Nagakura Shinpati(永倉新八), Saito Hazime(斎藤一), Harada Sanosuke(原田佐之助),Shimada Kai(島田魁). Kondo, Hizikata, Okita were famous and popular people died in young age. Whether it is the case or not, each person stick to their beliefs to live.

Below digressions↓(CAUTION!! TOO LONG. I recommend not to read)

When you heard Shinsengumi, what do you image? I think sword, haori(羽織), mayonnaise, sharp tongue and so on. Toshizo had nickname “semi chief from hell” established their rules. If you break this rules, bloody purge like seppuku(切腹) wait you.\(゜ロ\)(/ロ゜)/ In fact, their dead consist people were killed in war was 6, victims of purge were 40+several. There were no rules without exception. Victims of purge include president of Shinsengumi Yamanami keisuke(山南敬助) Though he feared as semi chief from hell, it is said he was popular among women. He was fashionable and good-looking person. (;゚Д゚) He was defeated despite his strenuous effort in Boshin war(戊辰戦争). Sword and spear period had already ended. He was died by bullet. At 35 years old.

Isami respected justice. He is leader known for his generous and virtue. He was born in countryside as former child not samurai, exceled at sword. He rose to the post of shogunate official, though class system existed. But, after shogunate fell, his status made no meaning. He also fought in Boshin war, but there was no way of latest weapons. Finally, he was caught and executed. Strangely enough, at 35 years old same as Toshizou age. Different from Toshizo and Isami, there are a few historical materials about Souzi. There is not his picture, so you don’t know his appearance in detail. It is said he was best swordplayer in Shinsengumi. But there are different views about best swordplayer was Nagakura Shinpati. Whether or not, he exceled sword. Though he has unequaled skills in battle, he took good care of his neighbor children. Unexpectedly, he was kind man.( ̄д ̄) But, best swordplayer couldn’t win disease. He was died by tuberculosis. Shinpati was one survived this turbulent period. He left important historical record about Shinsengumi called Shinsengumitenmatsuki(新選組顛末記)

Of course, women were play significant part.

(Left Atsuhime …1* Right Tsuda Umeko…5*)

Atsuhime(篤姫) was born in Satsuma domain Shimadu(島津) family. She marry into Tokugawa Iesada(徳川家定)as his legal wife. After 1 year and 9 months from marriage, Iesada was died and Tokugawa Iemoti(徳川家茂) become to shogun. So she enter the Buddhist priest, changing her name Tensyoin(天璋院). After the shogunate fell, she made full effort to save Tokugawa family. 

Tsuda Umeko(津田梅子) was women educator born in Edo. When she was 8 years old. She went abroad to America. She majored in biology in university, becoming first woman published paper on chemistry in Japan. Also she created women English linguistics private school(女子英学塾) now Tsuda university(津田塾大学). 

Below digressions↓

2024 new 5000-yen bill picture will be Tsuda Umeko. (・∀・) Now 5000-yen bill picture is Higuti Itiyou(樋口一葉)

(Left Oyama Sutematsu…4* Right Kusumoto Ine…4*)

Oyama Sutematsu(大山捨松) was intellectual who represent Meizi era, born in Aizu domain. When she was 12 years old, she went abroad to America with Tsuda umeko and so on. She contributed the Red Cross, patriot ladies organization(愛国婦人会). Also, she contributed women education.

Kusumoto Ine(楠本イネ) was first woman obstetrician, known for Holland Oine(オランダお稲) Her father was Siebold (シーボルト), mother was Otaki(お滝). Otaki was prostitute, you don’t know whether it relate or not, her mother repeated divorce and remarriage.

Below digressions↓

Ine’s daughter was Kusumoto Takako(楠本高子). She wanted to become to obstetrician like Ine, but she gave up doctor’s dream. Siebold was doctor taught Dutch studies in Nagasaki(長崎) also He researched Japanese vegetation, geograph, climate.and so on. 1882 He was punished with banshment from Japan(Siebold eventシーボルト事件) because He got items not allowed to take out of Japan and he attenpted to bring back them to his country.

(Left Kusumoto Takako…4* Right Philipp Franz von Siebold…4*)

3 movement to overthrow the shogunate

3.1 two domains movement

This item is very long and complex… The two domains mainly did action to overthrow the Shogunate.

(Upper Left Satsuei war…10* Lower Left Namamugi village…11* Right location Satsuma…2*)

1862 in Namamugi(生麦)(now Kanagawa prefecture), Satsuma(薩摩)(now Kagoshima prefecture)samurai killed a British is said Namamugi event(生麦事件). This caused their anger and next year 1863 Britain took retaliatory attack to Satsuma domain(Satsuei war 薩英戦争). Satsuma domain were given extensive damage, and war ended. Satuma learned their military power and did paradigm shift. They thought it is better to trade with British. As a result, they gain economic power and military power.

(Upper Left Kinmon event…12*, Lower Left gun battery was occupied by union…12*, Right location Tyosyu…2*)

Tyosyu(長州 now Yamaguti prefecture) was spread exclusionism(攘夷論). Exclusionism means exclude of foreigners. 1863 exclusionism caused terrible event. They bombarded to foreign ships(Shimonoseki attack event 下関砲撃事件). Next 1864 British, France, America, Holland, four country fleet revenged Tyosyu. military power difference was clear. This event change Tyosyu thought not exclusionism but overthrow the shogunate. 1863 in Kyoto, event was happened(August 18th political turmoil 八月十八日の政変). This event is too difficult to explain in English… From point of result, Tyosyu and Aizu domain gained imperial court. Besides Tyosyu and Satsuma were remained source of trouble. Shortly, their relationship was bad.

Ikedaya event and August 18th political turmoil as cause, Kinmon event(禁門の変) happened. Main purpose was to gain Tyosyu military influence. In that time imperial court was in Kyoto. So, shogunate include Satsuma and Aizu conflict with Tyosyu. Tyosyu was defeated in front of about 10 times troop strength. Kyoto was burned to the ground in the war fire.

(Katura Kogorou…2*)

Shogunate suffered Kinmon event, they gave a command to 22 domains to defeat Tyosyu. (The first Tyosyu suppression 第一次長州征討) but battle didn’t happen. Tyosyu easily surrender to them. Because a series of battle cause Tyosyu destress. Then Takasugi Shinsaku, Katura Kogoro (桂小五郎 after his name was Kido Takayoshi (木戸孝允)) and so on played an active part. They rebelled and hold real political power inTyosyu.

3.2 union to overthrow the shogunate

Do you remember Tyosyu relationship with Satsuma? Although they had military power, they had bad relationship. But if they join hands, that was very powerful. Ryoma thought about that. In that time, due to August 18th political turmoil and so on, shogunate forbade Tyosyu to import weapon from foreign country. Satsuma traded with British had a lot of weapon. Tyosyu run out weapon. So, it formed supply and demand.

1866 Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro(中岡慎太郎) as mediators, they united each other.(Sattyo union 薩長同盟) This union was key to overthrow.

(Nakaoka Shintaro…2*)

Below digressions↓

It is said Sattyo union could form thanks to Nakaoka Shintaro. Maybe you think Ryoma’s main contribution was this only. (=゚ω゚)ノ …it doesn’t sound super. But two parallel lines never cross each other, he bended them and made crossing vertically. His greatness can’t express numerical value, he acted for Japanese future and create trigger to change Japan. Sound abstract, he was very hero to change Japan.

3.3 Teradaya event and Ryoma

Teradaya event(寺田屋事件) is sometimes called event Shimada Hisamitu(島田久光) murdered Satsuma samurais in 1862. But this time focus on 1866.

(Upper Left handgun…3*, Lower left Teradaya…6*, Right Narazaki Ryo…4*)

(Upper Left handgun…3*, Lower left Teradaya…6*, Right Narazaki Ryo…4*) After great contribution called Satyo union. When Ryoma stayed at Teradaya(寺田屋) , He was raid by officer. then, Narazaki Ryo(楢崎龍) did well. She sensed his danger, immediately made him escape. They barely escaped Satuma domain alive.

Below digressions↓

There is famous episode about this event. After made Satyo union, Ryoma stayed at Teradaya. In midnight Ryo take a bath and notice something unusual. There were shogunate officials. She sensed his danger and she immediately went to tell in naked! (/ω\) Though he was injured his fingers and grew weak for heavy bleeding, Ryo nursed him devotedly.

Thanks to her effort he was recovered. Then did love begin to grow up between them? Ryoma married with her. (´ω`*) Her quick thinking prevent him from danger, but it is said she did not know and no interest his job. ( ̄▽ ̄)

(Letter addressed to Otome, this is commonly known as honeymoon letter…3*)

I have never been to Kagoshima…I would like to go to there! \(゜ロ\) Anyway, it is said their honeymoon was first for Japanese. They went to Kagoshima to have a therapeutic bath in a hot spring. No relate this history. when it comes to Kyusyu’s springs, I remind Beppu spring(別府温泉) in Ooita(大分) prefecture. They are wonderful!! (≧▽≦)

3.4 Oumiya event and Ryouma’s death

(The former site of Oumiya …7*)

1867 in Kyoto at oumiya(近江屋) Ryoma and Shintaro were attacked by assassin. Ryoma was fatally wounded and died. Shintaro was suffered serious injury. After two days, He was died. Heroes too young death.

Below digressions↓

Who killed them? Well… In fact, there are variety of theories on the matter. This time, I will introduce leading theory about this matter.

It is said assassins were Kyoto patrol force(京都見廻組) was difference from Shinsengumi. The motive for the assassinate was Teradaya event. Ryoma fired their colleagues. So, for them he was criminal. They have very reason to take revenge.

However, there was a few evidences about the theory. His death is shrouded in mystery. (´・ω・`)

4 The Meiji Restoration

4.1 the day broke down the shogunate

Reach the finale.

(Upper Boshin war…14*, Left the Restoration of Imperial Rule…13*, Right Saigo Takamori…2* )

1866 Shogunate wanted to defeat Tyosyu completely so, they fight against Tyosyu with 14 domains. But…Do you remember? Thanks to union. They had in that time latest weapons. Due to their weapons and lowered shogunate soldier’s spirits, Tyosyu defeat Shogunate. (The second Tyosyu suppression 第二次長州征討)

1867 the Restoration of Imperial Rule(大政奉還). Tokugawa Yosinobu returned the political administration to Imperial court. This is end of the Shogunate.

1868 Boshin war(戊辰戦争) happened. War was former shogunate military vs new government military. Again, difference weapons quantity, former shogunate military was defeated.

Then new government military invade to Edo(江戸) to be end shogunate. But, shogunate’s hero Katsukaisyu(勝海舟) appeared. He talked with new government military general Saigo Takamori(西郷隆盛) and made peace. Shogunate military surrendered and open the Edo castle (The bloodless surrender of Edo castle(江戸城無血開城))

Saigo Takamori(西郷隆盛) is essential person to explain this era. He was born in Satsuma. He fulfilled his responsibility as Satsuma domain representative when Satyo union, Kinmon event and the first Tyosyu suppression. When Boshin war, he commands the new government military.

He did well as executive in the new government after meizi restoration, there were a gap among other government executive Iwakura Tomomi(岩倉具視) and Okubo Toshimiti(大久保利通). So he quitted executive and went back Kagosima(鹿児島). After lose his position, he and his pupils started seinan war(西南戦争) In the middle of the war, he was died.

4.2 new government and disappearance of samurai

There were many kinds of policies and events. Well… this site title focuses on samurai so… last thing, let’s look samurais after broke down the shogunate.

(Upper Taharazaka battle(田原坂の戦い), Lower Shiroyama battle(城山の戦い))…15*

After Meizi(明治) government established, many policies enforced. There is a piece of polices the draft system. Farmers and merchants were drafted into military.

Before Meizi era, who perform as fighter? …of course, samurais. That is, samurais lost their role.

As if to make their situations more serious. 1876 wasting swords command(廃刀令) enforced and government cut off support money to them.

What did samurais had complaints do? …riots happen. Samurais lift on influential person and rebelled against government.

Saga rebellion(佐賀の乱),Zinpuren rebellion(神風連の乱), Hagi rebellion(萩の乱),many samurais revolts happened. But all the revolts were suppressed by new government.

1877 Seinan war(西南戦争) was happened. This riot was the biggest battle and final civil war by samurais. Samurais lift on Saigo Takamori(西郷隆盛) and rebelled against new government. Samurai’s military estimated 30000~40000 people. On the other hand, new government military estimated 60000 people. In addition, they have latest weapons. Both militaries fought fierce battle. Finally, Takamori did suicide, samurai’s military defeated.

As I have explained, samurais were gradually vanished.


5 afterword

Er, thank you for reading this site. Maybe it is too long or difficult. In addition, passage doesn’t make any sense. This site features a piece of history. Many events and policies explanations omitted. For example Ansei imprisonment(安政の大獄), Seikan policy(征韓論) and so on. If you examine Japanese history, many information waits you.

Anyway, I am very happy if you show interest in history not only Japanese. History is fun.

5.1 notes

1*…日本史1200人 author入澤宣幸



4*… 「幕末ガイド」 

5*… 「国立国会図書館 津田梅子」

6*… 「寺田屋事件」

7*… 「近江屋事件」

8*… 「大塩平八郎の乱」

9*… 「黒船来航」

10*… 「薩英戦争」

11*… 「生麦事件」

12*… 「下関戦争」

13*… 「大政奉還」

14*… 「戊辰戦争」

15*… 「西南戦争」

6 reference

日本史1200人 author入澤宣幸 「幕末ガイド」 「高知県立坂本龍馬記念館」

集英社版 学習漫画 日本の歴史14 supervisor 高埜利彦

集英社版 学習漫画 日本の歴史15 supervisor 海野福寿

集英社版 学習漫画 日本の歴史 できごと事典 supervisor 岡村道雄 吉村武彦 入間田宣夫 池上裕子 高埜利彦 海野福寿 松尾尊兊 木村尚三郎

集英社版 学習漫画 日本の歴史人物事典 supervisor 岡村道雄 吉村武彦 入間田宣夫 池上裕子 高埜利彦 海野福寿 松尾尊兊 木村尚三郎

維新前夜の京をゆく新選組見聞録 author 三浦隆夫 早内高士 西村彰朗

日本女性史「人物」総覧 editor 吉成勇

NHK歴史秘話ヒストリア 江戸~幕末ヒーロー伝 NHK制作班 編  

教科書が教えない歴史人物の生き方 坂本龍馬 author 小宮宏

図説 幕末維新の歴史地図 supervisor 河合敦

Background dark cloud and thunder means turbulent era. Their name include dragon(龍) so, dragon means their strength to live. Sakamoto Ryoma and Narazaki Ryo pictures from 「幕末ガイド」.