>Sengoku jidai, a country at war
>Japan is ruled by an emperor who is mostly ceremonial and delegates power to the shogunate
>The seii taishogun, "The Great Barbarian-Quelling Generalissimo" is the highest military rank attainable
>Daimyo, lords of provincial vassal states, swear allegiance to the shogun
>The Onin War began as a dispute over the throne, as the ruling Ashikaga clan had no heir
>For more than 100 years Japan will see bloody civil war threaten to tear the country apart
>Enter Oda Nobunaga, his strategy and bravery prove his worth to his men
>Nobunaga forged alliances with other Daimyo clans, or conquered his enemies by the sword - slowly unifying Japan
>Nobunaga was betrayed and killed by one of his generals
>Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a lowly footsoldier Nobunaga promoted to general, takes revenge and picks up Nobunaga's ambition where it left off
>Hideyoshi succeeds in unifying Japan, but due to his peasant status, cannot become shogun
>After Hideyoshi dies and overseas campaigns are lost, the Toyotomi clan is weakened politically
>Tokogawa Ieyasu, the only surviving ally of Nobunaga, seizes political power in the Battle of Sekigahara and becomes seii taishogun
>The Tokogawa Shogunate cuts off Japan from the rest of the world and ushers in a new age of peace and totalitarian rule
>Nanban trade, or, the Southern barbarian trade
>it’s the Age of Discovery, Ferdinand Magellan sailed due west to find the East Indies and discovered a western passage in 1522, the first circumnavigation of Earth
>The Portuguese now know a route to the exotic region of Japan
>When Portuguese carracks reach the southern shores of Kyushu, locals are stunned
>Daimyo send officials to meet these foreigners, and the Portuguese show off their guns
>The daimyo order immediate replication of these western weapons
>The Portuguese also bring Christianity to the region
>The cultured Japanese used chopsticks to eat, while the barbarous Portuguese often used a knife and their fingers
>While some Portuguese introduced Catholicism, others enslaved Southern Japanese
>Hideyoshi was enraged at this practice and demanded that it stop
>Enslavement and frictions with Christianity eventually lead to Japanese seclusion of Sakoku
>Sakoku lasted over 200 years, from 1633 to 1853, to which the Dutch were the only exception
>In 1853, a senior ranking Navy officer, Matthew C. Perry was assigned a mission to explore and survey the far east
>The main objective of the mission is to open Japan up to trade and diplomatic relations
>Commodore “Father of the Steam Navy” Perry takes 4 ships into hostile, but militarily inferior Japanese waters
>Seclusion left Japan technologically behind, they described the steam ships like dragons belching smoke into the sky
>After refusing to leave, the Japanese tell Perry to take his ships to Nagasaki, where limited trade with the Dutch did occur
>Instead, Perry proceeds towards Edo, demanding the Japanese receive a letter from President Filmore
>The Japanese can but awe at the American Maritime Might and accept these demands or face utter annihilation
>After receiving the letter from President Filmore, Perry promises to return
>No fortifications to Edo can withstand Perry’s seven steam ship fleet when he returns in the next year
>Not satisfied with any local representatives, Perry demanded to speak to the shogun, Tokogawa Ieyoshi
>The shogun would not suffer such an insult and sent his high ranking officials in his stead
>At first, the Japanese only conceded to aid shipwrecked Americans and supply absolute necessities like coal, to American Naval ships
>Commodore Perry insisted Japan and America come to an amicable trade agreement that would benefit both nations, eventually Japan agreed
>The warrior diplomats avoided violence and came to forge the Treaty of Kanagawa, which would end Japan’s 200 year seclusion
The Japanese were under feudalism, and while Japanese culture produced a unique warrior class and the Japanese are renown for their craftsmanship, feudalism doesn't leave a lot of freedom for average citizens, so life probably sucked. Japan's isolationist policies froze their technology in time, while the rest of the world continued to produce new maritime inventions for the next 200 years. When the US warships showed up in the Tokyo harbor, the shogunate could but gnash their teeth and open for trade, or be utterly crushed by advanced wartime weapons.
I think it's interesting how that worked.
When the Boshin war came about, you had two sides of Japan, both fighting over what they believed in, but also both facing the issue of modernizing with foreign technology they didn't understand.
The shogunate really just couldn't catch up to the Imperials, who in their time, had built their own naval arsenal, and purchased an Ironclad from the US which, to the steamships of Tokugawa, were nigh unsinkable.
European Catholics were always trying to convert everyone. The Emperor was a god, so the Christian god was not supposed to be more powerful, and so the Shogunate forbid the Portuguese to trade with Japan. The Japanese did allow a special exception for the Dutch, but it was just a tiny island, and they were not allowed to go anywhere else.
There's a lack of books about Japanese history. Can anyone recommend any sources? Overviews and textbooks are one thing, but reading sources is great and really gives you a sense of character about a time and people.
It was under Tokugawa Iemitsu when Christianity completely fell from grace. Ieiasu was more ambivalent
Shogunate used external enemy, Christianity, for consolidation of nation
It was more complicated than that
Jesuits understood that preaching to commoners could inspire rebellion and produce backlash from authorities, so they tried to convert daimyos first
Franciscans and Dominicans didn't care
As I understand it, with the Emperor in court, the Shogunate was unstable before the arrival of Westerners. Japan likely would have had another major power shift even if they didn't modernize.
In general the level of education and agriculture in Japan just before the opening was extremely good, for example.
Stability is a harder issue to gauge.
I don't think isolationism was necessarily a negative, but people showing up on your door and forcing you to do things their way because they're just assholes like that does throw everything out of the window.
I just finished reading this
It's a pretty nice collection of stories from Heien Japan. Gives a pretty good insight of how people thought back in those days. Honestly one of the best ways to get into the heads of the people around those times is to just read the literature. If you're interested in Meiji to post war I can give some novels you might find interesting. Personaly I find it the most interesting time since they're a huge juxtaposition between wanting to keep true to the old ways and how fast the country was modernizing