A Chronology of Japanese History

Mythology
Yamato Period (300-550) & Asuka Period (550-710)
Nara Period (710-794)
Heian Period (794-1185)
Kamakura Period (1185-1333)
Muromachi Period (1338-1573)
Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600)
Edo Period (1603-1868)
Late October 1600 Ieyasu defeats his opponents at the battle of Sekigahara. He now controls virtually all of Japan, but publicly swears loyalty to Hideyori, who remains in Ōsaka Castle.
Early November 1600 Mōri Terumoto surrenders Ōsaka castle to Ieyasu, who now becomes the de facto ruler of the country. Ieyasu decides that he will reside in his castle in Edo.
Early 1600 The Dutch trading ship Liefde wrecks on the shores of Bungo and the English Pilot-Major, William Adams, is introduced to Ieyasu.
1601 Ieyasu begins confiscating land from those who didn't support him at Sekigahara and rewarding those that did. Among those that lost land, the Mōri went from lands worth 1,205,000 koku to only 369,000 koku. Remember this when we get to the mid 1800's. Ieyasu increases his wealth to vast proportions by placing Edo, Ōsaka, Kyōto, Nagasaki, Yamada, and Nara under direct Tokugawa control. (Tokugawa and fudai daimyō controlled land is now estamated worth about 17 million koku, of a national total of about 26 million koku.)
Early 1602 Ieyasu negotiates a settlement with Shimazu of Satsuma and Shimazu Tadatsune submits to Ieyasu in ceremonies at Fushimi palace. After seeing that Shimazu was well treated, other, northern, daimyō also submit peacefully.
1603 Ieyasu assumes the title of Shōgun but still makes a show of deferring to Hideyori. He installs his eldest son, Hidetada, in Edo castle and moves to Sumpu in Suruga Province (now Shizuoka and where he had been raised as a child - as a hostage). He continues the political process of consolidating his power while living in Sumpu.
1604 A bakufu edict establishes a bakufu monopoly on the sale of silk imported from China, thus beginning the bakufu's policy of governmental control of foreign trade.
1605 Ieyasu hands over the title of Shōgun to his son Hidetada but continues the process of consolidating his political power from his residence in Sumpu. As he continues to reassign the daimyō to various fiefs, he is careful to ensure that all tozama daimyō are surrounded, and watched over, by fudai daimyō.
1609 A Dutch trading post is established at Hirado.
1611 Ieyasu begins to put pressure on Hideyori to relinquish official power. He also exacts an oath of allegiance from daimyō in central and western Japan.
1611 Go-Mizunoo becomes emperor.
1612 Full persecution of the Christian faith recommences. Ieyasu exacts an oath of allegiance from the daimyō in northern Japan.
1613 An agent of the English East India Company establishes an English trading post at Hirado.
January 1614 Ieyasu issues an order which suppresses Christianity throughout the country. Churches were destroyed and many missionaries were imprisoned.
December 1614 Ieyasu begins a siege of Ōsaka castle by sending 70,000 troops under the command of Hidetada to surround the castle. The castle is supported by thousands of rōnin who come from fiefs around the country.
1615-1624 Genwa Era.
January 1615 A peace proposal is signed between Ieyasu and Hideyori but Ieyasu breaks the agreement and Hidetada begins the process of filling in the moats and tearing down the outer walls of Ōsaka castle.
May 1615 The siege of Ōsaka castle recommences.
Early June 1615 Ieyasu troops enter the inner defense areas of Ōsaka Castle. Days later the castle falls and is defeated. Hideyori commits suicide and his mother is killed by a retainer to prevent her capture. Ieyasu is now in total control of Japan.
August 1615 Ieyasu imposes 17 clause code of conduct on the military class (the Buke Shohatto). Among the prohibitions, each daimyō is restricted to the possession of one military castle or garrison headquarters. In addition, repairs or enlargements could only be made with prior approval from the bakufu and all marriages had to be approved by the shōgun. In addition, the power of the throne and of Buddhist clerics are severly limited.
June 1, 1616 Ieyasu dies and Hidetada assumes all Shōgunal powers.
1616 The ban on Christianity is reaffirmed. All foreign trade, except Chinese, is retricted to Nagasaki and Hirado.
1619 Widespread famine hits Japan. (During the Tokugawa Period, there were 154 famines, of which 21 were widespread and serious.)
1620 The bakufu arranges a marriage between Emperor Go-Mizunoo and the daughter (Kazuko) of Hidetada.
1622 Hidetada orders the execution of 55 Christian missionaries and converts in Nagasaki.
1623 Hidetada retires and his son, Iemitsu, becomes third Shōgun. However, as is usual, Hidetada retained all authority until his death.
The English abandon their trading post at Hirado and abandon the idea of trading with Japan.
1624-1644 Kanei Era.
1624 Spaniards (priests and laymen) are banned from the country and further contact with them is prohibited.
1627 The bakufu further limits the emperor's powers by stripping him of the right to select and nominate senior priests. The bakufu's deputy in Kyōto cancels several already made appointments and Emperor Go-Mizunoo threatens to abdicate, but the bakufu refuses to change the ruling.
1628 Hidetada orders the execution of more Christians in Nagasaki.
1629 Go-Mizunoo is forced to abdicate the throne.
1630 Princess Oki-ko, Go-Mizunoo's daughter with Kazuko, succeeds to the throne as Empress Myōshō (Meisei?). (This means that a granddaughter of the shōgun now occupies the throne.)
1630 The bakufu issues a prohibition against books intended to propagate christianity and singled out books that had been translated by Jesuit missionaries into Chinese - and were thus readable by more Japanese than other books published in European languages.
1632 Hidetada dies and Iemitsu assumes full Shōgunal powers.
1633 Ban on overseas sailing of ships other than Hosho-sen.
1634 Iemitsu leads an army of over 300,000 men to Kyōto as a show of force and a reminder to the court and the tozama daimyō that he is in control.
1634 The bakufu structure is strengthened with the creation of the posts of Rōjū (Elders), Wakadoshiyori (Junior Elders), Bugyō (Commissioners), and Hyōjōshū (Judicial Council).
1635 Buke Shohatto is revised. This revision includes a formalization of the Sankin-Kotai system. All religious matters brought under control of the Jisha Bugyō (Commissioner of Temples & Shrines).
1636 Ban on Japanese travel abroad.
Portuguese traders confined to Deshima Island off Nagasaki.
1637 - 1638 A peasant uprising (the Shimabara Uprising), in which Christians take a leading role, takes place on the Shimabara Pensinsula of Kyūshū. It is estimated that of the 37,000 people who took part, only about 100 escaped alive.
1638 Portugese priest and traders are ousted and Portuguese trading ships are banned from the country. Travel abroad by Japanese is further restricted as the death penalty is imposed on anyone who attempts to leave the country or who, having already left, tries to return. In addition, the building of ships with a capacity of more than 2,500 bushels is forbidden.
1639 Policy of total exclusion implemented (Sakoku Rei).
1640 All members of a Portuguese diplomatic mission from Macao are executed when they arrive in Japan to request a reopening of trade.
All Japanese ordered to register at temple of their choice.
1641 Dutch traders moved from Hirado and restricted to Dejima.
Chinese restricted to Nagasaki.
1642 Widespread famine hits Japan
1643 Go-Kōmyō becomes emperor.
1644-1648 Shoho Era.
1644-1694 Matsuo Basho. First and best(?) writer of serious haiku. Born a samurai but became a wandering poet/recluse.
1648-1652 Keian Era.
1651 Ietsuna, Iemitsu's son, becomes the fourth Shōgun at the age of eleven. (He suffers from poor health during his entire 29 year reign.)
1652-1655 Jōō Era.
1653-1724 Chikamatsu Monzaemon. The most well known Kabuki and Bunraku writer - and an ex-rōnin. (The best?)
1654 Go-Sai becomes emperor, although the formal coronation ceremony isn't until 1656.
1654 Ingen, a Chinese priest, founds the ōbaku sect of Zen Buddhism.
1655-1658 Meireki Era.
1657 Great Edo fire.
1658-1661 Manji Era.
1661-1673 Kanbun Era.
1663 Reigen becomes emperor.
1673-1681 Empo Era.
1675 Widespread famine hits Japan
1680 Ietsuna dies without a son and is succeeded by his younger brother. Tsunayoshi, of Tatebayashi, becomes the fifth Shōgun at the age of 34.
Whereas the first four Tokugawa Shōguns had emphasized that samurai were to devote half of their time to martial arts and the other half to learning, by the time Tsunayoshi took office learning was almost completely predominant. In addition, relations with the imperial court had relaxed in severity and Tozama daimyō were given much more leeway in running their own lives and provincial affairs - including in matters of marriages and succession..
1680 Widespread famine hits Japan
1681-1684 Tenwa Era.
1684-1688 Joko Era.
1685 The ban against books intending to propagate christianity is renewed.
1687 Higashiyama becomes emperor.
1688-1704 Genroku Era. First major cultural expansion of this time period. Centered in Kyōto and Ōsaka
Total lands now assessed at 25.8 million koku.
1700 George Sansom writes of Japanese society as it entered the 18th century: "The fixed pattern of feudal administration was liberal enough to allow a measure of freedom in spheres remote from politics, so that during the eighteenth century Japan developed a society based on law and privilege, governed by harsh principle, but nevertheless achieving in practice great urbanity and style. It was closed to outside influences and therefore could not be refreshed by the winds of new doctrine then blowing about the Western world; but probably no contemporary European community was more civilized and polished."
1701- 1703 Incident of the 47 Ronin (made famous in the Kabuki play Chushingura). After 47 ronin kill a daimyō in his Edo headquarters in revenge of their former daimyō's death, they are ordered to commit seppuku. This was an important precedent as it showed that the government now held civil law over the acceptance of military honor.
1703 An earthquake in the Kantō area kills an estimated 150,000 people in Edo.
1704-1711 Hoei Era.
1707-1708 Mt. Fuji erupts on numerous occasions, destroying hundreds of square miles of surrounding farmland.
January 1709 Tsunayoshi dies and his nephew, Ienobu, of Kōfu, becomes the sixth Shōgun.
1709 Nakamikado becomes emperor.
1711-1716 Shotoku Era.
Late 1712 Ienobu dies after an illness of several months. Ietsugu, his three and a half year old son, becomes the seventh Shōgun.
1713-1714 Russians visit Kuril Islands in an attempt to find Japan.
1716 Ietsugu dies, thus ending the Hidetada and Iemitsu line of shōguns. Yoshimune, the Daimyō of Kii, becomes the eighth Shōgun.
Thinking that the samurai class had tilted too far towards learning and leisure, and away from the martial arts and discipline, he frequently issues edicts demanding frugality and self discipline. These are, in large part, ignored.
Under Yoshimune's leadership, the legal and judicial system undergoes considerable expansion. Although the Tokugawa bureaucracy is staffed only by samurai, a non-militaristic and more rational approach is brought to conflict resolution. Yoshimune also reforms the currency and tries to revive the agricultural underpinnings of the country in order to take back some power form the now strong merchant class. However, the next two successors were incompetent and power eventually fell to dishonest and greedy counsellors.
1716-1736 Kyoho Era.
1720 Ban lifted on the importation of foreign books and Chinese translations (with the exception of books directly concerned with Christianity).
1720 Statistical Interlude:
Population: The population of Japan reaches more than 31 million by 1720, and remained stable at that level thereafter. In addition, the population of Edo approaches 1 million by 1700 as it developes into the natioinal political center. By the eighteenth century more than 15% of the population lived in major cities and towns of some kind.
1721 Five year census begun.
1730 Because bakufu policy closed the country to food imports and actively discouraged crop diversification, farmers had to increase the amount of land under cultivation in order to feed the growing population - with the amount being doubled between the beginning of the Tokugawa Period and about 1730. After 1730, lesser and lesser amounts of land were converted to cultivation and, therefore, the population was unable to increase.
1732 Widespread famine hits Japan, affecting about 1,600,000 people and killing at least 17,000.
1735 Sakuramachi becomes emperor.
1736-1741 Gembun Era.
1739 A Russian ship, captained by a Dane, visits several points along the east coast of Japan - including a reported sighting off the coast of Shimoda.
1741-1744 Kanpo Era.
1742 Codification of Bakufu laws begun.
1744-1748 Enko Era.
1745 Yoshimune retires and names Ieshige as the ninth Shōgun.
1747 Momozono becomes emperor.
1748-1751 Kanen Era.
1751-1764 Horeki Era.
1751 Yoshimune dies.
1753-1806 Kitagawa Utamaro. Ukiyoe artist famous for his pictures of the "ideal" woman.
1760 Ieharu becomes tenth Shōgun.
1760-1849 Katsushika Hokusai. Ukiyoe artist famous for his landscape pictures.
1762 Go-Sakuramachi becomes emperor, although the formal coronation ceremony isn't until the next year.
1764-1772 Meiwa Era.
1769 A proposal to relax the ban on building ships capable of ocean travel is proposed, but defeated by conservatives.
1770 Go-Momozono becomes emperor, although the coronation ceremony isn't until the next year.
1771 Japanese dissect a criminal's body while following diagrams and plates in a translation of a Dutch book on anatomy. Japanese interest in 'Dutch' learning is increasing and spreading.
1772-1781 Anei Era.
1777-1779 Russian's again visit the Kuril islands. Meeting Japanese form Matsumae, they inquire about trade but are told that all trade is restricted to Nagasaki.
1780 Kōkaku becomes emperor.
1781-1789 Temmei Era.
1783 Mount Asama, located on the western border of the province of Kozuke, erupts. A large number of towns and villages are destroyed and ashes buried the province and its farm lands to a depth of several feet, as well as areas in other, nearby, provinces. Famine soon follows.
1783-1787 The Famine of Temmei reduces the population of Japan by an estimated one million people.
1786 Ieharu dies and Ienari becomes eleventh Shōgun. Matsudaira Sadanobu becomes regent until 1793 while Ienari is a minor. Ienari was notorious for his inneficiency, extravagance, and vanity. According to Kitagawa, his chief accomplishment while in office was to have maintained 40 mistrisses and sired 55 children.
1789-1801 Kansei Era.
1792 The governor of Siberia sends an expedition to Japan. They make it through Hokkaido but are escorted under heavy guard to Matsumae where they are told to leave as no interactions with foreigners are allowed by law. It is reiterated that any trade that might be approved must go through the port of Nagasaki.
1797-1858 Ando Hiroshige. Ukiyoe artist famous for his "53 Stages of Tokaido Highway" and other landscape pictures.
1792 Russian ship enters Nemuro harbor asking to open trade relations for Russia. Request is denied but they are given permit to enter Nagasaki instead.
1798 Shōgunate begins colonizing Hokkaido.
1801-1804 Kowa Era.
1804-1829 Bunka-Bunsei Period. Second major cultural expansion of the Tokugawa period. Centered in Edo.
1804-1818 Bunka Era.
1804 Russian ship enters Nagasaki harbor asking for trade concessions. Japan refuses and ship leaves after six unfruitful months.
1808 British frigate enters Nagasaki harbor under Dutch flag looking for Dutch Ships. Leaves without finding and without bombarding the harbor as threatened.
1811 Japanese outpost captures Russian naval officer. They hold him but treat him well.
1811 Department of official translators of Western books set up within the bakufu.
1813 Russians capture bakufu monopoly merchant and exchange him for Japanese-held Russian naval officer.
1817 Ninkō becomes emperor.
1818-1830 Bunsei Era.
1819 British ship enters Uraga Bay. Armed struggle with Japanese ensues before they leave.
1824 British ship lands on island off Satsuma coast. Armed fighting ensues before they leave.
1825 Bakufu issues orders for all authorities to drive away all foreign vessels "without second thought."
1830-1844 Tempo Era
Crop failures widespread between 1824 & 1832, severe famine in Northern Japan in 1833, Nationwide famine in 1836, debt to Ōsaka merchants alone by 1840 total more than 60 million ryo (1 ryo of gold = 1 koku of rice).
1832 Total land now assessed at 30.4 million koku.
1834 Another famine reduces the population to less than it was in the 1730's.
1836-1837 Widespread famine hits Japan.
1837 Oshio Heihachiro, until recently a minor official in the Ōsaka city magistrate, leads an attack on Ōsaka Castle to gain control of the city and relieve the famine starved city dwellers. The rebellion is quickly put down.
1837 Ienari resigns. Ieyoshi becomes twelfth Shōgun (although Ienari retains political control).
1837 An American merchant ship (the Morrison) enters Edo Bay but is driven off by gun batteries at Uraga. It goes to Kagoshima and is driven off there as well.
1839-1842 The "Opium War" takes place between China and Great Britian. As the Japanese hear of this from both Chinese and Dutch contacts, Japanese 'Dutch Learning' (rangaku) shifts from just medicine, economics, and botony, to include military science as well. Rangaku is slowly replaced with Yōgaku (Western Learning).
1841 Ex-Shōgun Ienari dies. Ieyoshi begins purge of government officials and implementation of Tempo reforms. Under leadership of Mizuno Tadakuni, bakufu tries to reestablish control over daimyō affairs, but this ultimately proves unsuccessful.
1842 Order to drive off all foreign ships relaxed, allowing ships that are "storm-damaged or shipwrecked, come seeking food, fuel, or water" to enter port.
1844-1848 Koka Era.
1844 A Dutch warship enters Nagasaki harbor with an envoy carrying a letter to the Shōgun from the King of Holland. The letter tries to explain to the bakufu that Western advances in science and the growth in international trade would make the opening of Japan inevitable. The bakudu politley, but negatively, replies the the country must stay closed.
1845 Mizuno Tadakuni removed from office (for the second and final time) in disgrace. Other associates are jailed and/or imprisoned.
1845 Commodore James Biddle is sent to Japan by the US with two warships in order to open trade between the two countries. The Japanese refused and Biddle simply left.
1847 Kōmei becomes emperor.
1848-1854 Kaei Era.
1852 Dutch warn bakufu that Perry will come and what he will seek.
1853 Iesada becomes thirteenth Shōgun. Over the next years, it becomes apparent that he is not 100% mentally competent and the nation is administered in his name by the senior minister, Abe Masahiro. In addition, he never marries and produces no heirs, forcing the bakufu to choose one at a later date.
July 8, 1853 Commodore Perry arrives at Uraga with letter for the Shōgun demanding an opening of trade relations with the US. He leaves the letter and tells the bakufu that he will return for answer early in 1854. He then departs to Okinawa for the winter.
Late 1853/
Early 1854
Bakufu asks opinion of emperor and all daimyō on the issue of what to do about Perry's demands.
1854-1860 Ansei Era.
February, 1854 Perry returns to Edo to begin negotiations on the opening of trade relations between Japan and the US.
February, 1854 Yoshida Torajiro and another man attempt to board one of Perry's ships in an attempt to get to the West, but they are sent back to shore and later arrested by the Japanese for attempting to leave the country.
March 31, 1854 The Treaty of Kanagawa is signed between Japan and the US opening Hakodate and Shimoda to US vessels for provisioning, promising fair treatment of shipwrecked sailors and extraterritoriality, allowing US trade agents to live in open ports, and approving a future US Consul to live in Shimoda. (In fact, the Japanese bureaucracy obfuscated, stalled, and did anything to prevent any trade from taking place.)
October, 1854 A treaty similar to that signed with the US is signed between Japan and Great Britain.
1854 Bakufu lifts ban on building large ships and Satsuma (the most progressive of the han) begins building large western-style sailing ships.
February, 1855 The emperor gives his approval to the treaty that had been concluded with the US - although he had been misled as to what it really contained.
A treaty similar to that signed with the US is signed between Japan and Russia.
November, 1855 A treaty similar to that signed with the US is signed between Japan and Holland..
August, 1856 Townsend Harris arrives in Shimoda as the first US Consulate.
March, 1857 Harris warns the bakufu that the US will not tolerate Japanese stalling in trade agreements for much longer. This is taken to heart and the bureaucracy is told to cooperate.
June 1857 The bakufu agrees to ammendments to the Treaty of Kanagawa as proposed by Harris. The ammendments include opening the port of Nagasaki to American ships and affirming extraterritoriality.
December 7, 1857 The Shōgun takes the unprecedented step of meeting in person with Harris.
April 1858 Ii Naosuke (Daimyō of Hikone, the largest of the han) is appointed regent to the Shōgun. He supports temporarily opening the country to the westerners in order to learn enough to fight them and begins negotiations with Harris. He is bitterly opposed by Tokugawa Nariaki, the Daimyō of Mito, who opposes the opening of the country and vows to fight at any cost. Those throughout the country who oppose the opening of the country despise Ii for his policies and his high-handed treatment of people who oppose him and start working to overthrow the bakufu.
July 29, 1858 The Treaty of Amity & Commerce is signed with the US giving free trade at 6 ports, allowing permanent foreign residents in Edo and Ōsaka, and normal trade tariffs. Ii Naosuke, as bakufu regent, approves the treaty unilaterally and against the wishes of a good many of the other daimyō. The Daimyōs of Mito, Owari, and Fukui are punished for expressing their disapproval of the signing. Mito and his heir, Hitotsubashi Keiki, are placed under house arrest and the others are forced to retire. This infuriates many and the loyalist movement begins to grow.
This treaty also allows the freedom of worship for foreigners, but not Japanese, and approves the building of cemetaries for foreigners who die in Japan.
July 1858 Within a week of signing the commercial treaty with the U.S., Ii Naosuke appoints Iemochi, the son of the daimyō of Kii, as the successor to the shōgun. His selection comes about after a bitter dispute within the bakufu. Traditionally, the next shōgun was chosen from the houses of Kii, Mito, or Owari when the current shōgun didn't produce an heir. Although Iemochi was qualified to succeed, he was only twelve years old and not experienced enough to lead the country. On the other hand, Yoshinobu (Hitotsubashi Keiki), the son of the daimyō of Mito and therefore also qualified to succeed, was proposed as the successor. He was older and thus more experienced but to this time Mito had always been excluded from the list of successors to the Shōgunate. The argument between the two candidates thus came down to a fight between the traditionalists and the pragmatists.
August, 1858 Iesada dies and Iemochi is appointed the fourteenth Shōgun.
Treaties similar to those signed a month ago with the US are signed with Great Britain, Russia, Holland, and France.
October, 1858 The emperor orders Ii Naosuke to come to Kyōto to explain his conduct in approving the foreign treaties and his treatment of other daimyō. He refuses to go and sends Manabe as his representative.
February, 1859 Manabe convinces the emperor that the bakufu is, at heart, opposed to opening the country and gets the emperor to consent to the current treaties.
1859 Chaplains from several countries and from several denominations begin arriving to minister to foreigners in Japan. Of course they also hope to server as missionaries to the Japanese, but that is still forbidden.
1860-1861 Manen Era.
Spring 1860 80 bakufu officials are sent to Washington D.C to ratify the Treaty of Amity & Commerce. They sail in a Japanese made ship with an all-Japanese crew.
March 1860 Ii Naosuke is assassinated in Edo by samurai opposing his signing of the commercial treaty, his opening of the country, his appointment of Iemochi as Shōgun, and his harsh treatment of those who oppose him.
1861-1864 Bunkyu Era.
1861 Preoccupied at home with its own civil war, the U.S. relinquishes its leading role in Japanese affairs to Great Britian, which, by 1864, controlled nearly 90% of Japan's trade with Western nations.
January 1862 Ando Nobumasa, an advisor to the shōgun, escapes an assassination attempt in Edo. While he survives, he is hurt badly enough to be forced to retire. He is despised for his plans to marry the shōgun to Chikako, the emperor's younger sister, (which eventually did take place) and for the rumors that he plans to replace Emperor Komei with someone more loyal to the bakufu. Loyalist opponents understood that, had the marriage plan been allowed to go through, it would have been impossible for them to attack the bakufu without also indirectly attacking the imperial family.
June 1862 Chōshū and Satsuma station troops in Kyōto in an attempt to influence the Emperor into supporting their positions. (Note that their positions were not the same. Chōshū-han, like Tosa-han, was now controlled by men who supported the complete overthrow of the bakufu and restoration of power to the emperor. Satsuma-han, under the control of Shimazu Hisamitsu supported the policy of uniting the imperial court and the bakufu - much like Ando had proposed with his plans to intermarry the two families.)
June 1862 Having become the most powerful of the daimyō in Kyōto, and therefore wielding the most influence with the imperial court, Shimazu Hisamitsu arranged to have himself appointed by the emperor to escort an imperial messenger who was to go to Edo to demand that the Shōgun come to Kyōto for consultations.
August 1862 Tosa troops, escorting Yamanouchi Yodo, the Daimyō of Tosa, to Edo, arrive in Kyōto under the leadership of Takechi Hanpeita. Takechi, through imperial cohorts and colleagues, had arranged for an imperial decree demanding that yamanouchi stop in Kyōto on his way to Edo. After arriving, Takechi arranges for another imperial decree that demands that the daimyō remain in Kyōto, thus making it impossible for him to continue to Edo and fulfill his responsibilities under Sankin Kotai.
August 1862 The Shōgun succumbs to the military might shown by Shimazu Hisamitsu and agrees to go to Kyōto as summoned by the Emperor! On Shimazu's return to Kyōto, four British cross paths with his entourage in the town of Namamugi, a small town outside of Yokohama. Not getting out of the way of the entourage one of them (C.L. Richardson) is killed by a Shimazu retainer. Others are injured, but escape. Upon his return to Kyōto, Shimazu finds that he has lost his influence with the imperial court to the more radical Chōshū.
October, 1862 The sankin kotai system is rescinded - almost assuredly dooming the bakufu to future collapse.
1863 Fukuzawa Yūkichi founds a college based on western principles and subjects. The college will, at a later date, become Keio University.
March, 1863 Iemochi goes to Kyōto - the first shōgun to do so in two centuries. He agrees to court demands that all foreigners be expelled from the country and all ports would be closed on July 24. When bakufu representatives passed this on to foreign representatives in Edo, the representatives were given oral assurances that the bakufu would not enforce it.
April 1863 Britain demands compensation for the murder of C.L. Richardson the previous summer and told that Japan will be attacked by warships if they don't pay. Britain demands: a) a public apology, b) 100,000 pounds payable by the bakufu to London, c) 25,000 pounds payable by Satsuma to the family of Richardson and the same to each of the other three British attacked at the same time, and d) the arrest and execution of the assassins.
June 1863 The bakufu pays the 100,000 pounds demanded by the British for Satsuma's killing of C.L. Richardson. Satsuma, however, refuses to pay, saying that it was Edo's fault for not warning the British that the entourage would be passing that day. (To prevent these problems, normal procedure was for Edo to inform foreign legations when a daimyō entourage was scheduled to travel the Tōkaidō. Foreigners would then plan to stay away on those days. For some reason, the British, and hence Richardson, had not been informed of Hisamitsu's travels and that is why they happened to cross paths.)
July 24, 1863 American warship bombards and destroys 2 Chōshū warships and coastal batteries after being attacked in the Shimonoseki Straights between Honshū and Kyūshū. This being the day that the emperor had said all foreigners would be driven from the country, Chōshū loyalists took it upon themselves to begin the process.
July 1863 Chōshū loyalists attack (but fail to damage and sink) British, French, and Dutch ships passing through the Shimonoseki Straights. The French retaliate, even landing and destroying the costal batteries and one of the villages around them. However, Chōshū manages to keep the Straits closed for more than a year.
July 1863 British warships go to Kagoshima to demand that Satsuma pay the required compensation for the assassination of C.L. Richardson outside of Edo in 1862. When Satsuma officials refuse, the British seize several steamers that Satsuma had recently purchased from traders in Nagasaki. Satsuma retaliates and the British attack and destroy Kagoshima. (After later negotiations in Edo, Satsuma agrees to pay the indemnities and the two sides become allies.)
Summer 1863 British legation in Edo attacked and burned down by Chōshū loyalists.
August 1863 Chōshū loyalists are driven out of the imperial court in Kyōto by supporters of the bakufu - including Tokugawa, Aizu, Tosa, and Satsuma troops. Chōshū and Tosa loyalists return to their respective han, and Chōshū is branded as an Enemy of the Throne.
September 1863 Thinking they have regained the upper hand with the loyalists, the bakufu tries to reimpose the sankin kotai system but the order is ignored by all daimyō.
1864-1865 Genji Era.
Early 1864 The shōgun returns to Kyōto, conceding even more to the emperor. Included this time is agreement that henceforth daimyōs succeeding to power in their han will receive investiture from the emperor and not the shōgun. He also agreed to accept the daimyō of Satsuma, Tosa, Echizen, and Aizu as 'advisors.'
July 1864 Tokugawa and bakufu supporters attack and defeat Chōshū loyalists as they attempt to retake power in Kyōto. Bakufu forces win, but not easily.
September, 1864 British, French, Dutch, and US ships attack and destroy Chōshū batteries along the coast of the Shimonoseki Straits for their continued firing on western ships. This opens the Straits for the first time in over a year. (The foreigners had secret bakufu support - the bakufu loaned maps of the area to the French). Conservatives gain power in Chōshū and, like Satsuma, signs a peace treaty with Britain.
November 1864 The bakufu masses over 100,000 troops (financed by the French and led by Saigo Takamori of Satsuma) along the borders of Chōshū in preparation for a final attack and defeat. Saigo convinces Chōshū conservative leaders to accept bakufu demands and when they capitulate the conflict is avoided. However, Chōshū loyalists, angered at the capitulation, attack Chōshū government offices in Shimonoseki.
1865-1868 Keio Era.
1865 A Catholic Church is reestablished in Nagasaki. In time about 20,000 Japanese who had been "hidden" Christians" come out and admit that they had secrectly kept the faith.
January/
February 1865
Chōshū loyalists (led by Takasugi Shinsaku and Katsura Kogoro) retake control of Chōshū han.
May 1865 The shōgun goes to Kyōto to organize another military expedition against Chōshū Han.
Summer 1865 Satsuma leaders secretly assist Chōshū to buy weapons from foreign arms traders in Nagasaki as Chōshū prepares for the upcoming invasion by Tokugawa lead forces
September 1865 Nine foreign warships (5 British, 3 French, 1 Dutch) steam into Ōsaka harbor and demand that the bakufu pay (by the end of 1866) compensation for Chōshū attacks on their warships in Shimonoseki Straits. The bakufu is told that the amount demanded will be reduced if the ports of Ōsaka and Kobe are opened to foreign traders and if the bakufu obtains Imperial sanction of all previously signed commercial treaties.
October 1865 Imperial ratification is granted for all treaties with foreign powers and for opening the country to foreign trading, in particular the ports of Kobe and Ōsaka. (While the emperor ratifies the agreement in public to appease foreign demands, he privately tells the bakufu not to actually open the ports close to Kyōto.)
January 1866 Chōshū and Satsuma enter into a secret agreement of mutual support - with Satsuma promising not to participate in the attack on Chōshū that the bakufu was in the process of planning. Satsuma also agrees to assist Chōshū in buying weapons through foreign traders in Nagasaki. (The agreement is negotiated by Okubo Toshimichi and Saigo Takamori on the Satsuma side and Kido Koin on the Chōshū side)
January 1866 The bakufu convinces the emperor to issue and edict calling for the Daimyō of Chōshū to retire, for lands to be surrendered to the bakufu, and for a reduction in income to the daimyō. Chōshū blatantly ignores the edict.
June 1866 A second bakufu military expedition is launched against Chōshū. But, with Satsuma not involved, and the modern arms Chōshū had purchased from abroad, this time the Tokugawa forces are beaten easily.
August 17, 1866 Iemochi dies in Ōsaka. Yoshinobu is urged by the bakufu to become the next Shōgun. He changes his name from Hitsubashi Keiki to Tokugawa and accepts the title of Head of the House of Tokugawa, but refuses to accept the position of Shōgun.
1867 The government once again cracks down on the growing Christian movement and arrests many of its leading members.
January 1867 Yoshinobu succumbs to pressure and becomes the 15th, and last, Shōgun. He accepts the post reluctantly, but once in office attempts to reform the bakufu under French guidance. (Note that the British are supporting Chōshū and Satsuma).
February 3, 1867 Death of Emperor Kōmei. Enthronement of Mastsuhito (Meiji) at age fifteen.
(This is a blessing to the loyalists. While Kōmei wanted to take power back from the bakufu, he was an avid supporter of the bakufu because he believed that only they could keep the foreigners out of the country. However, Matsuhito's guardian, and grandfather, supported the loyalist cause completely.)
May 1867 With continued demands from foreigners, the bakufu convinces the emperor to sanction the opening of the port of Kobe. In the meantime, Satsuma and Chōshū begin the process of convincing the emperor to issue two decrees: one pardoning Chōshū and withdrawing an earlier decree branding them as enemies of the throne, and another calling for an army led by Satsuma and Chōshū to overthrow the bakufu.
June 1867 Yoshinobu goes to Nijo palace in Kyōto to meet with the daimyōs of Satsuma(Shimazu), Tosa (Yamanouchi), Echizen (Shungaku), and Uwajima (Date) to discuss the current political situation. The meeting immediately falls apart when Tosa leaves upon suspecting that Satsuma and Chōshū are imminently close to declaring war on the bakufu and attacking. (While Tosa is rapidly being pulled into the loyalist camp and is very near to officially and openly joining the Satsuma-Chōshū alliance against the bakufu, the daimyō of Tosa still officially supports the bakufu because Ieyasu had made his ancestors the daimyō in Tosa.)
July 1867 Two British sailors are killed in Nagasaki and Tosa samurai are suspected. Although tempers on all sides flare, a lengthly investigation later proves that it was a samurai from Fukuoka. (This could have been important because it could have given the British a reason to attack Tosa, and this would have weakened them in the now looming battle with the bakufu.)
September 1867 Satsuma begins amassing troops in and around Kyōto while Chōshū, and other supporting hans, begin the same in their own territories.
October 1867 Tosa representatives present a petition to the bakufu. Under the political compromise (known as the Tosa Memorial), the shōgun's political authority will be returned to the emperor while the head of the Tokugawa house (Yoshinobu) retains Tokugawa lands and continues to serve as Prime Minister.
November 8, 1867 Realizing that he has no alternative (Satsuma and Chōshū have now obtained an imperial decree pardoning Chōshū and calling for the ouster of the Tokugawa bakufu), Yoshinobu, from his offices in Nijō palace in Kyōto, resigns as Shōgun.
January 3, 1868 Forces from Satsuma, Echizen, Owari, Tosa, & Aki do not accept the Tosa Memorial and seize the Nijo palace. The emperor is induced to abolish the Shōgunate and Tokugawa is reduced to the level of daimyō. Administration of the country is returned to the emperor with a provisional government formed by representatives of Satsuma, Tosa, Aki, Owari, and Echizen - but no Tokugawa. (The Meiji Restoration)
The provisional government consists of a Supreme Controller and Junior and Senior Councils of State.
January 25, 1868 Yoshinobu accepts the Meiji Restoration and withdraws his troops to Ōsaka. Late in the month, however, other Tokugawa forces attempt to retake Kyōto but are defeated by Satsuma, Chōshū, & Tosa forces - the battle of Toba-Fushimi. (Northern Tokugawa forces hold out longer, and the Tokugawa navy holds out in Hokkaidō until 1869, but this battle effectively ends Tokugawa rule)
Meiji Period (1868-1912)
Taishō Period (1912-1926)
Shōwa Period (1926-1989)
Heisei Period (1989-Present)


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