Written by Debbie King, For The Paper Store - June 2000
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Beginning at the end of the 12th Century and lasting until the middle of the 19th, Japan was ruled by feudal political system with a military government known as the "Bakufu." In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Edo Bakufu and put into place a centralized feudal system, thereby creating stability, which the country had not known in a number of years (Shinn 3).
Matsudaira Naomasa, Ieyasu Tokugawaís grandson moved the center of the Bakufu from Edo to Matsue Castle in 1638. It then became known as the Matsue Bakufu. The Tokugawa/Matsue Bakufu collapsed in 1867, having lasted more than 200 years. The reason for its collapse was simply that this form of government simply became socially and politically obsolete as other nations began traveling and trading with the rest of the world OR to engage in a battle to retain their isolationistic preferences. Fighting did not seem to be the wise option to the Bakufu. This also signaled the end of the feudal political system and began what is considered ìmodernî Japan (Shinn 6; Hauser 16).
Towards the end of the 16th century, Japan experienced internal conflict. Following many major battles, reunification of the country was accomplished by what has become known as the military triumvirate: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa. Nobunaga took control of the shogunate around 1568. By 1573, the shogunate was nearly abolished. Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582 at which time, his protégé, Hideyoshi took over and initiated an efficient administration in the country. He conducted a land survey, introduced reform in their money system, and in 1592, the emperor gave him the title of kampaku, which means civil chancellor. The title gave him the right to be shogun, a status he would not have been able to attain because he was a commoner. He was aware the Emperor's action angered some of the shogunate and wisely assigned daimyos that were friendly towards him adjacent to daimyos who were not. Tokugawa used the same strategy when he succeeded Hideyoshi in 1603 (Sannomiya 3).
In 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa returned from the Battle of Sekigahara as a well-known and powerful military leader. Three years later, in 1603, he was appointed Shogun, or Governor, by the Emperor. He established the Edo Bakufu, which became the most powerful of all Bakufus. The Tokugawa house dominated Japan until its collapse in 1867 (Hauser 3; Sannomiya 6).
The Tokugawa family monopolized all trade and mining in the cities of Edo, Osaka, Nagasaki and Kyoto. They controlled land titles, about one-fourth of the rice lands, and the succession of heirs to the daimyo. The Daimyo were all required to live at Edo for at least a portion of the year and whenever they left the capital, their family members were held as hostages to assure their return (Hauser 4). Daimyos were required to contribute to Bakufu-sponsored public works projects. Additionally, the military power (Samurais) of each Daimyo was limited to prevent a single Daimyo from trying to overthrow the Bakufu. Tokugawa feared other nations would attempt to colonize Japan and expelled all Christian missionaries. In fact, the Christian religion was prohibited, thus, by 1638 there were no more Christians in Japan. Trade was reduced significantly so that by 1641, only one Dutch and one Chinese ship was allowed into Nagasaki. The Japanese people were not allowed to leave the country (Sannomiya 8; Columbia Encyclopedia 6).
A centralized bureaucracy was developed by the shogunate, which included a prime minister, senior councilors, junior councilors and various judicial officers. The secret police watched for potential problems and reported these to the shogunate. Groups they kept their eyes on included the Bakufu bureaucracy, the daimyos, and the imperial court in Kyoto. The many…