Chapter 1: RIKYO continued


Toward the end of his life, Hideyoshi became obsessed with securing succession for his son Hideyori. In his last years, he repeatedly demanded loyalty oaths from the nation's five great barons: Ieyasu Tokugawa, Terumoto Mori, Kagekatsu Uesugi, Toshiie Maeda and Hideie Ukita, each a claimant of imperial descent.

Hideyori was only five years old when his father died. The five great barons, along with five of Toyotomi's retainers, were authorized to govern during the child's youth. For reasons as much to do with ambition as protection of the usurper Hideyori, Hideyoshi's chief retainer, Mitsunari Ishida, raised an army supported by Mori and Ukita and faced down the less loyal forces of Tokugawa on the plains of Sekigahara in 1600. The great battle ended in a decisive victory for Tokugawa and brought a quick end to the illegitimate house of Toyotomi. Thus, the ancestral hierarchy of the ruling class, as derived from the Kojiki, was purified.

Ieyasu Tokugawa was an alleged descendent of Emperor Seiwa (858-8876 A.D.) and the Minamoto clan. He had originally entered into an alliance with Nobunaga and then Hideyoshi. Three years after Ieyasu's victory at Sekigahara, Goyozei (the Emperor who had created the family of Toyotomi) declared Ieyasu, Shogun of Japan (1603-1605). This was a title of supreme authority that was once again conferred upon an heir of Seiwa Genji Chieftain, Yoritomo Minamoto.

With an unwavering belief in heredity as the foundation of social order, Ieyasu and his immediate heirs established a Draconian government, known in modern times as the Baku-Han Regime. It consisted of an eleven-member Supreme Council of Elders, made up of warlords from the three branches of the Tokugawa family. Under the Council were Cabinet superintendents (Bugyo), who ruled all matters of state. Below them were the district warrior chiefs (Shoshidai) and provincial administrators (Daikan). The nation was divided into 250 princely fiefs and the people were divided into four classes: Samurai, agricultural, artisan and merchant, in descending order of status.

A severe classificationist, Ieyasu and his immediate heirs, Hidetada and Iemitsu, authorized the Baku-Han to legislate a set of rankings and decorum for each class. The social order created was so pervasive that it spanned the entire realm of human existence. While one could move up or down within one's class, one could not escape that class. If one were born a farmer, one stayed a farmer and so did one's heirs.

Within the array of ranks, no matter how far down the hierarchy, the level of individual or family prestige was measured in koku. The area of land capable of producing five bushels of rice was equal to one koku. Ten koku, on average, required 2.5 acres of land.[4] Though subject to variation throughout the Tokugawa era, one koku was roughly equal in exchange to five gold coins. A gold coin was called a koban and weighed approximately seventeen grams.

With heredity, class and koku as measures of human worth, Baku-Han officials began their classification with the feudal lords. Called Daimyo, these lords were divided into three groups. The nobles of the Tokugawa family were entitled Shinpan Daimyo. Beneath them were the 176 lords who had been loyal to Tokugawa before the battle of Sekigahara. They were called Fudai Daimyo. The lowest ranking went to the eighty-six warlords who submitted to Tokugawa after defeat at Sekigahara. They were labeled Tozama Daimyo.[5] Only the Shinpan Daimyo and the Fudai Daimyo could hold office in the Baku-Han.

The Daimyo were further classified into: Kokushu or Kunimochi, governors of large territories; Joshu, lords with a castle; and Ryoshu, lords not allowed to possess a castle. Each had his own army of retainers. Just to be a Daimyo, a net worth of 10,000 koku was required.

Under the protracted rule of Tokugawa, Tanaka's provincial heritage can be measured clearly. Echigo was divided into seven fiefs as of 1664 and the feudal lord of each fief ruled as a vassal of the Tokugawa Shogun. Futada hamlet belonged to the Hori clan (Shiiya fief) and was only worth 5,500 koku in 1664. Futada was a detached territory. Hori's main castle was in Kazusa (Chiba Prefecture).

Ranking below the Daimyo were their Samurai retainers. Under Hideyoshi, the Samurai became an hereditary warrior caste due to Hideyoshi's confiscation of weapons from the peasantry. Under Tokugawa, the Samurai were given a specialized function quite above a normal military duties. They were sub-divided into an array of grades, with a corresponding stipend that was paid in koku by their Daimyo master. The highest level of Samurai was the Hatamoto, guardians of the Shogun's camp; Hatamoto in itself had three levels of degree. The lowest level of Samurai was the Ashigaru, foot soldiers in the escort of the Daimyo.

At its zenith, the Samurai class never totaled more than seven percent of the population. Even at that size they created enormous problems for the Baku-Han and the agricultural class. Like the old princes of Fujiwara, their non-productive status was a severe drain on the economy and their over-population was a problem from the very beginning of the Tokugawa era.

Vast numbers of Samurai were displaced after the battle of Sekigahara. These homeless warriors wandered the countryside in search of a master capable of providing a stipend. Called Ronin, they magnified a unique paradox in Ieyasu's social creation a nation of stable peace ruled by a warrior class. To address this social problem, in 1615, the Baku-Han issued a set of rules for decorum in military houses (Buke-Shohatto) and expanded the role of the Samurai from one of performing simple military functions to providing moral education for the Japanese people.

Consequently, a new, literate form of warrior was fostered and a variety of educational institutions were erected. Studies in martial arts took on philosophical depth and were accompanied by research into literature, religion and art. What emerged was a highly ethical, yet violent, civil servant charged with raising the intellectual life of the society.

The impact of the Samurai culture on the manners and virtues of the Japanese people over the two-and-a-half centuries of Tokugawa rule was tremendous. A brief synopsis of the complex system of mores followed by the Samurai class is worthy of notice.

The Baku-Han had decreed that a Samurai was one who did not work but who lead by example. The set of ethics developed for their leadership was Bushido, a combination of Zen Buddhism and the twelfth-century philosophy of Chu Hsi. As an ideal, Bushido represented a moral combination of honor, purity, loyalty, modesty, frugality, self-sacrifice, refined manners, a sense of shame and the machismo of martial spirit. The philosophical core of Bushido revolved around the relationship between the master and the warrior. Absolute loyalty and obedience to the master was considered superior to all other ethics or obligations. Even though Bushido has long since died as a system, it is still very much alive in modern times as a virtue.

The classic proverb of the Samurai was: Bushi wa kuwanedo, takayoji. (The Samurai has not eaten, yet he uses a toothpick.)[6] Standards such as those held in Bushido were not expected of the general population. What was expected was acquiescence to the precepts of wa, on, ninjo and giri.

Wa is defined as the spiritual well-being necessary to keep man and nature right with the universe. The primary means for achieving this balance is obedience to the rules of on, ninjo and giri.

On is a set of five obligations incurred at birth. In order of importance: the first obligation is to the Emperor for giving the gifts of nation and culture; the second is to one's parents for the gifts of life, guidance and support; the third is to one's master for providing a livelihood; the fourth is to one's teachers; and the fifth is to one's friends and contacts. On can never be repaid fully.

Ninjo is creating and nuturing personal loyalties. It is also the consideration of others' feelings. Ninjo promotes the avoidance of conflict in interpersonal relationships.

Giri is a subset of obligations and indebtedness that must be repaid with a mathematical equivalence and is subject to ninjo guidelines. Giri encompasses six basic duties:

  1. Duty to superiors; repaid by diligence and loyalty.
  2. Duty to parents, brothers and sisters; repaid by obedience and appropriate behavior.
  3. Duty to all relatives and ancestors; repaid by loyalty and homage.
  4. Duty to non-related persons due to an on received in the form of a gift or favor; repaid by returning the gift in kind.
  5. Duty to clear one's reputation; repaid by a form of vendetta.
  6. Duty to observe all social proprieties; repaid by acting in accordance with the rules of manner, showing respect to others and retarding displays of emotion.[7]

The entire spectrum of obligations was incorporated in the rules of subservience, which in turn defined behavior within each rank of each social class. Specialized forms of language were developed for every inter-rank communication gradations of high-form language for those above and gradations of low-form language for those below.

The rules of subservience developed from the Six Kinships of Confucius. Under its order of loyalties, the older is always master of the younger, man is master of woman, the lord is master of the subject, the father is master of the son, the husband is master of the wife, and the brother is master of the sister.

For females, the rules were particularity strict. Females could not eat with males, and after the age of seven could not sit together with their brothers. A female was subject to three obediences: to her parents as a child, to her husband when married, and to her sons when old. Her marriage was arranged by her parents and she could be divorced and left stranded for baring no children, contracting a disease, behaving emotionally, or being out of harmony with her in-laws.

When the Samurai failed to indoctrinate the lower classes by leading a life of proper decorum, they relied on Ieyasu's Constitution of the Warrior as an educational tool. Promulgated around 1650, it was later revised and entitled the Code of 100 Articles. As a modifier of behavior, Article 44 is of particular interest:

"A Samurai may kill a member of the lower class who has behaved offensively to him. Authorities do not require notification, the Samurai being given permission to cut down [the offender] and leave without further ado."[8]

The Code was applicable to every gradation of the Samurai class. As one of the most unique features of the Tokugawa era, Article 44 had a tendency to breed passivity among the peasant classes. Concerning self-regulatory rules within the Samurai community, the Code offered Article 51:

"A man must not live under the same sky as one who has injured his lord or his father. Notice must be given to authorities of the intention to kill an offender and permission will be granted so long as there is no delay or rioting involved."[9]

As a result of the imposition of Ieyasu's Codes, the nation's great armies no longer marched up and down the archipelago. The Baku-Han, together with the individual Daimyo, established a bureaucratic super-structure over the nation. Strict laws were imposed on the lower classes in an effort to stimulate productivity. Farmers and traders were not allowed to travel outside their fief without a certificate of approval. Visitors to a community had to be registered with local officials. Peasants were forbidden from changing their professions.

It was the express intention of the Baku-Han to create an efficient society by remolding the Japanese character in every detail, even by restricting the type of clothing people wore. Legislation made a crime for the peasantry to wear silk; only cotton or hemp were permitted.

In theory only, the agricultural class ranked second in the social hierarchy. While farm families lived in regimented villages of approximately fifty households, the merchants and artisans enjoyed the more fluid environment of Daimyo castle towns. The attitude of the Baku-Han toward the farmer was bluntly stated by Ieyasu's advisor, Masanobu Honda:

"The peasant is the foundation of the state and must be governed with care. He must be allowed neither too much, nor too little, but just enough rice to live on and keep for seed in the following year. The remainder must be taken from him in tax."[10]

During the Tokugawa era, the tax rates varied between 40 and 60 percent of the peasants' production. One of the most striking examples of the degree to which the Baku-Han attempted to control the lives of cultivators is the Edict of 1649, known as Keian no Ofuregaki. To select but a handful of its tenets:

"Peasants are people without sense or forethought. Therefore, they must not give rice to their wives and children at harvest time, but must save food for the future. They should eat millet, vegetables, and other coarse food instead of rice. Even the fallen leaves of plants should be saved as food against famine."

"The husband must work in the fields, the wife must work at the loom. Both must do night work. However good-looking a wife may be, if she neglects her household duties by drinking tea or sightseeing or rambling on the hillsides, she must be divorced."

"Farm work must be done with the greatest diligence. Planting must be neat, all weeds must be removed on the borders of both wet and dry fields. Beans or similar foodstuffs are to be grown, however small the space."

"Peasants must rise early and cut grass before cultivating the fields. In the evening they are to make straw rope or straw bags, all such work to be done with great care."[11]

To enforce this level of control, the Daimyo adopted a mutual surveillance system called Gonin-gumi (Group of Five Households). Each family within the group was held responsible for the actions and decorum of the other four. If one did poorly, they all were punished by the village headman, who, in turn, faced discipline from the rural agents of the Daimyo. By the laws of Tokugawa, penalties ranged from community censure to decapitation, depending on the severity of the infraction.

Artisans, as a class, lived lives as regimented as those of farmers. Only the highly skilled urban artists, clothiers, coinsmiths, swordsmiths and castle carpenters fared well. As the first in line within the feudal trickle-down economy, they received direct residuals from the tax coffers of the Daimyo. Subject to a myriad of ranks, those engaged in the production of handicrafts developed a harsh apprenticeship system. Some artisans, such as armorers, achieved a level of etiquette which rivaled that of the Samurai.

Merchants and shopkeepers occupied the bottom of the social scale. Initially they were hampered by restrictions on travel and trade, but later the increase in urban population as well as the need for greater cooperation between fiefs, led to the creation of guilds, and restrictions were lifted. Through the formation of guilds, which required official sanction from the Baku-Han, a nationwide network of commerce was established. It met important needs of both the Tokugawa Government and the local Daimyo. Tokugawa officials needed a convenient way to exchange for gold the tax revenue they received in rice. The Daimyo needed a central location at which to exchange their provincial goods for the goods of other provinces and thereby enhance the self-sufficiency of their fief. Both the Daimyo and the Tokugawa lords were motivated to support the guilds by a desire to increase the splendor of their lives.

The Baku-Han designated the city of Osaka as the principle port of exchange. There, great rice warehouses were established and a central currency was promoted. Rice warehouses became brokers and then lenders, trading on rice futures. The sanction of specific trade guilds, such as silk and sugar, soon followed. Next were the shipping guilds which improved the flow of merchandise and the carpentry guilds which enabled large-scale construction. Osaka quickly became the country's main center of commerce and its population of sellers, buyers and middlemen steadily grew.

By the 1680s, the Osaka market was thriving. Virtually absent from it, however, were the European traders who had been so successful in the Osaka-Tokyo area at the beginning of the Tokugawa era. During the early 1600s, the Portuguese and their Jesuit missionaries had held many posts in western Japan. The Dutch were invited in 1609 and the British in 1613. But Ieyasu and the Baku-Han soon foresaw a problem with continued foreign presence in the country.

As legend has it, a Spanish sea captain made the fatal boast that trade and religion were a prelude to conquest.[12] Ieyasu had plenty of reason to believe this, as European delegations were busy carving up the Ming Dynasty in China, and as for Spanish intentions, less than half a century had passed since they had annexed the Philippines. He took the sea captain's words as a bad omen in accordance with the Bushido maxim: "To know and to act are one in the same."

In 1605, Ieyasu resigned as Shogun and the reign of his son Hidetada, the second Shogun (1605-1623), began. It was a cosmetic transfer of power, however, and Ieyasu as Ogosho (retired Shogun) still made all the final decisions. One of his decisions had far-reaching effects on foreign presence in Japan. In 1612, Ieyasu issued an edict against Christianity and his heirs followed up with a mass extermination of all Japanese Christians. Carrying the matter to its greatest extreme was Hidetada's son, Iemitsu, the third Shogun (16231651). He issued four edicts (in 1624, 1633, 1635 and 1639) that closed the country to foreigners, with the exception of Chinese traders and a Dutch delegation on Dejima.

Dejima was a 600-foot-long, 125-foot-wide, artificial island built in the harbor of Nagasaki and connected to the city by a single bridge. A small delegation of Dutch traders was set up on the island and kept under constant guard. Any unauthorized contact with a foreigner by a Japanese national was punished by summary execution. The Dutch were allowed one trip a year to the Shogunate capital at Edo (Tokyo) for the purpose of giving gifts. The Dejima settlers, from the beginning, were subject to a daily body count by local authorities. Europeans were effectively cut out of Japanese commerce during the majority of Tokugawa rule.

If a generation can be measured in increments of thirty years, nine generations of Japanese grew up under the byzantine social mores of the Tokugawa era. A clarification of all that had gone before conformity, passivity, propriety, group harmony, hierarchical acquiescence and xenophobia was the legacy of Ieyasu, the first Shogun, and the Samurai class. It was a social indoctrination exercised at sword point.

Under the first eight Tokugawa Shoguns, productivity rose by sheer force of martial spirit. The Baku-Han was a self-generating entity pillared by elaborate networks of spies capable of securing obedience at every level of society. This was the inheritance of the ninth Shogun, Ieshige (1745-1760), but neither he nor his son, Ieharu, could sustain it. The Spartan-like discipline that Ieyasu had passed on to society, he was unable to impart to his children's children. Ieshige and Ieharu were beset by corruption, natural disasters, periods of famine and the emergence of the mercantile class, and their feeblemindedness in dealing with these issues set the stage for the downfall of the rule of Tokugawa.

Okitsugu Tanuma

Born the son of an unremarkable Hatamoto Samurai in 1719, Okitsugu Tanuma rose to power on the coattails of Ieshige. At the age of fourteen, for the stipend of 17 koku, Tanuma entered into the service of Yoshimune, Ieshige's father and the eighth Shogun (1684-1751). By age 16, he had become one of the pages for the young Ieshige.

Ieshige, nicknamed the "Bed-wetting Shogun," took power in 1745, after his father died. While not retarded, he suffered chronic ill-health. His ability to speak is said to have been so flawed that he required an interpreter. The Chamberlains served as a kind of executive cabinet in his personal service. Until Ieshige, Chamberlains had been a minor force in government, but his general disinterest in affairs of state altered their function. The Chamberlains became the direct go-betweens for the Shogun and the Baku-Han's Supreme Council of Elders.

Tanuma was a man of insatiable ambition. During Ieshige's rule, he carefully developed his position at the palace by gaining Ieshige's trust and by making Ieshige's son, Ieharu, dependent upon him. Only a few years after Ieshige's elevation to Shogun, Tanuma was appointed Sobashu (chamberlain) in the family apartments and was given the responsibility of looking after Ieshige's son. In 1758, thirteen years into his rule, Ieshige awarded Tanuma a stipend of 10,000 koku and the castle of Sagara. He was now ranked as a Daimyo. Tanuma's new position brought him in direct contact with the Baku-Han Regents. Thereafter, he awaited Ieshige's death. In 1760, when Ieshige died and Ieharu became Shogun, Tanuma's bid for power began to take form.

Unlike his father, Ieharu suffered no physical impediments. His only flaw was a blind belief in Tanuma's ability. By vesting a great deal of authority in the office of Chamberlain, Ieshige and Ieharu had unwittingly set the stage for Tanuma. In 1767, Tanuma was promoted to the rank of Sobayonin (Independent Senior Chamberlin) with a stipend of 20,000 koku. Two years after that his stipend was raised to 25,000 koku which qualified him to become a Roju (Supervisor of All Government Affairs).

The great Daimyo of the Council of Roju were not a monolithic whole, but rather an intercompetitive group. Each member was in want of Shogunal dispensation for pet projects. Tanuma controlled access to the Shogun and was in need of gold. By accepting bribes, he won a place on the Council of Roju at age 54 . He was officially appointed by Ieharu in 1772. Through a cunning use of court concubines, whom he married off into honorable families and blackmail, he secured a position of dominance. Once in control of the Baku-Han, he was able to accept bribes on a national scale. For the next decade he monopolized political power by means of graft and institutionalized corruption in government. He appointed his son, Okitomo, to the rank of Wakadoshiyori (Assistant to Members of the Council of Roju) in 1783. The next year, Okitomo was stabbed to death in the castle of Edo.

Tanuma was alleged to have said, "Gold and silver are treasures more precious than life. A man whose wish to serve is so strong that he offers bribes for an appointment shows thereby that his intentions are loyal."[13] As a kind Roju mob boss, Tanuma and his entourage set up shop at his private residence, where they could freely receive and dispense favors. People of varying ranks, who could have never hoped for an audience with a Roju, came in droves. It was all very unusual for this time in history.

Drought in the Ou district of northern Japan, the burning of Edo (Tokyo), floods in Kyushu and Kyoto, a volcanic eruption in Kagoshima and a nationwide plague that claimed half-a-million lives, were all but a prelude to the Tenmei Famine. Caused by cold weather, the famine began in 1782 and lasted for six years. An estimated one million people died. It was a catastrophe that pitted fief against fief in a race to survive. The famine caused peasant food riots throughout the country, as Daimyo attempted to stay financially afloat by imposing additional taxes on the peasants. While Tanuma ordered brutal crackdowns in some Daimyo fiefs, he greeted farmers' riots with general disinterest.

Tanaka's birthplace of Futada was the site of one such riot. In those days, Futada and thirty other hamlets belonged to the Shiiya fief, Hori clan. In 1815, Futada was incorporated into

the Ii fief. Due to financial pressures, the Shiiya began forcing their farmers to pay land tax in advance. The farmers, at great personal sacrifice, organized petition after petition and only after a period of twenty years did they secure victory. Their protest required an enormous do or die spirit. The lengthy conflict was called the Tenmei Gimin Incident. Gimin means a public spirited, self-sacrificing man. A monument to this incident stands in front of an old shrine near Tanaka's home in Nishiyama. After the incident, the Shiiya fief was placed directly under the control of the Tokugawa Government. [14]

Tanuma had two solutions to the famine. The House of Tokugawa was unable to recover from either one of them. The first was to increase agricultural and commercial production by developing the Ezo region (Hokkaido). The second was to expand business by encouraging the growth of guilds. The Ezo project proved to be too long-term to provide immediate political benefit, and business expansion developed more as a process of graft than as an efficient bulwark to government.

Tanuma's primary goal was to make himself wealthy. Perhaps the godfather of Japan's underground economy, Tanuma set up a dual tax structure. He developed the unjo tax, paid directly to government on a regular basis, and the myoga tax, paid to his agents as a thank-you gift for permission to start a new business. Until this time, the merchant class had been limited by the Daimyo network of fiefs, each with its own restrictions on travel and commercial enterprise. Business guilds of substance were in desperate need of expansion. Tanuma's new dual tax system hinged on government license brokers. Guilds willing to pay Tanuma's myoga tax prospered and grew. The system worked so well that Tanuma's brokers began licensing even the most insignificant forms of commerce, from water wheels to street prostitutes. In all, over one hundred monopolies were licensed and given exclusive control over their product. In this fashion, the wholesale copper, iron, brass and lime industries developed. The Baku-Han's coffers fattened and Tanuma accumulated fabulous wealth. In his greed, Tanuma unknowingly paved the way for the establishment of a sophisticated commercial base that would eventually profit Japanese society.

The short-term price of Tanuma's avarice was a breakdown in the Tokugawa social order. Merchants of license were, for the first time, able to begin co-opting the other classes. The Tenmei Famine left the Daimyo in need of revenue. Increasingly, they turned to merchants for advances on their peasants' rice crops. Trading in koku futures weakened their power. Even the Samurai of the Daimyo, short on stipend allowance, began to sell their birthright to merchants. As a matter of record, a man could get his son adopted by a Samurai for as little as twenty koban.[15]

Tanuma's downfall came together with the death of Ieharu in 1786. Tanuma's style of government by bribery had permeated the society. In an effort to clean things up, the new Shogun, Ienari, (1786 - 1837) dismissed him in disgrace. It is said that one of Ieharu's concubines spread the rumor around the court that Tanuma had poisoned Ieheru. The rumor was seized upon by conservative forces in the government who used it to turn Ienari against him. The new Shogun purged the government of Tanuma's supporters and instituted a variety of harsh reforms. Peasants were marshaled from the city back to farms. Rich merchants became subject to confiscation of their wealth by a bankrupt Baku-Han. Gambling was made illegal. Prostitutes were rounded up and quarantined into specific urban districts. Yet these reforms only prolonged the inevitable.

Just as Tokugawa was a brutal saga of refined mores victimized by entropy, it was also a history of exclusion. As the century turned, two groups, precluded from inception, returned to haunt the Baku-Han. One was indigenous, the Tozama Daimyo, who for two centuries had been restricted from having a voice in government; the other was external, foreign traders ambitious to open the ports of Japan.

Foreshadowing events to come, Takenouchi Shikibu, a doctor's son, left his home in Echigo to study military science in Kyoto. The imperial city had been the dormant home of the Emperor for hundreds of years. It was there that Takenouchi Shikibu proclaimed his Confucian thesis of Sonno Ron, or absolute loyalty to the Emperor. As an anti-Tokugawa concept it got him arrested, but the idea of restoring imperial government later gained momentum, particularly with court nobles and Tozama Daimyo.

Meanwhile, in southwestern Japan, the Tozama clans of Choshu and Satsuma emerged as political powers. They did so by feigning poverty with tax officials while secretly amassing wealth and by espousing anti-foreign doctrine while covertly trading for arms with European commercial interests.

After Britain defeated Chinese troops in the Opium War of 1842, European as well as American warships freely sailed Asian waters. Maritime expansion increased the need for resupply ports, and Japan was assigned strategic value by American navigators and internationalists in government. The sentiment of the times was well stated in the New York Express: "Japan has no right to bury her treasures behind her walls, and to imprison her people under the cover of loathing and ignorant superstition. She must be made to feel that she is a power on the earth; that she has means, capacities and duties; and that if she fails in all of these, and refuses to be enlightened, it is the duty of those who know her, even better than she knows herself, to force upon her the dawning of a better day."[16]

In 1853, Commander Matthew Perry sailed into the harbor of Uraga, with what the Japanese called "the black ships." His squadron consisted of two steamers, perhaps the first ever seen by the Japanese, and two sloops-of-war towed from behind. Perry politely demanded permanent port facilities, good treatment for shipwrecked sailors and a treaty of commercial trade. He then departed, with the promise to return in one year for an answer.

The Shogun's capital of Edo, like so many other cities, was easy prey to coastal bombardment. Further, a majority of the commerce between Osaka and Edo was done by shipping vulnerable to naval blockade. Faced with a dilemma of appeasement or war, the Baku-Han vacillated. In an incredible show of weakness, Tokugawa officials, for the first time, solicited Tozama and imperial opinion. The national debate reactivated Takenouchi Shikibu's old cry of Sonno Ron, which then became Sonno Joi or "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians." As a vehicle for ending Baku-Han hegemony, the concept was enthusiastically promoted by the rival clans of Choshu and Satsuma.

When Perry returned in 1854, the thirteenth Tokugawa Shogun, Iesada (1853-1858), chose a path of appeasement. The result was the Treaty of Kanagawa. It contained twelve articles, none of which favored Japanese interests. If there was profit at all, it was in limiting American facilities to just two ports. The victory was erased quickly, however, in the follow-on Treaty of 1858, in which Americans were given control over tariff regulations and access to four more ports of their choice. Aside from a restriction on commercial trade and travel to an average radius of 42,750 yards, they had almost complete liberty. The port of Niigata, in Echigo, was one of the sites selected by American officials.

Treaties signed with the United States were followed by similar arrangements with England, Holland, France and Russia. In an attempt to prevent Tokugawa from being successful in resolving the issue of foreign access to Japan, Choshu and Satsuma chieftains, independent of each other, sponsored numerous attacks on foreigners and pro-foreign Japanese. In 1863, the murder of a British subject by a Satsuma retainer resulted in bombardment of the city of Kagoshima by an English warship. Choshu shore batteries opened fire on an American vessel that same year. The incident invited a combined retaliation by U.S., British, French and Dutch warships.

Particularly distressed by Choshu belligerence, the Baku-Han summoned the armies of the Daimyo clans to join Tokugawa forces in the elimination of the troublesome clan. Most clans did not respond. After a variety of intrigues, a secret alliance between Satsuma and Choshu was concluded in January 1866. With Satsuma as a backup if needed, Choshu repelled the government troops. Tokugawa rule was finished. In 1868, the fifteenth and final Shogun, Keiki (1866-1868), resigned, and a provincial government, without a single Tokugawa member, was formed.

In Kyoto, on October 23 of the same year, a simple Shinto ceremony was held by fifteen-year-old Emperor Mutsuhito (1852-1912). From among the numerous slips of paper placed before him, the Emperor chose one marked with the representative characters for "bright" and "rule."[17] The characters, pronounced Meiji, became the symbol for the modern era of Japan.

[ Chapter 1 is continued. The next section is Meiji. ]
© Steven Hunziker.