The Boshin War


May 19, 2022

The Boshin War (Japanese: 戊辰戦争 (Japanese: ), Hepburn: Boshin Sensō, meaning the War of the Year of the Dragon), the Meiji Restoration War, was a civil war in Japan that took place from 1868 to 1869 between the armies of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and those who wanted to restore imperial power. The origin of the war was dissatisfaction among the aristocracy and young samurai with the shogunate's process of opening Japan to foreigners a decade earlier. The alliance of southern samurai and the imperial court captured the young Emperor Meiji, who would later declare an end to 250 years of shogunate rule. The military movement of the imperial army and guerrilla groups in Edo (Protection) resulted in Tokugawa Keiki, the then Shōgun, launching a military campaign with the aim of capturing the court in Kyōto. The military situation quickly turned in favor of the smaller but more modernized imperial army, and after a series of battles culminating in Keiki's personal surrender at Edo. The Tokugawa remnants retreated to northern Honshū and then Hokkaidō, where they founded the Republic of Ezo. The defeat at the Battle of Hakodate made them lose their last base and the Emperor's court officially assumed absolute power over all of Japan, completing the military phase of the Meiji Restoration. About 120,000 soldiers were mobilized in the war, and about 3,500 died. In the end, the imperial victory did not continue the purpose of expelling foreigners from Japan, but instead implemented policies of continued modernization with the ultimate goal of renegotiating grievances treaties. equal to the Western powers. Thanks to the persistence of Saigō Takamori, a prominent leader of the imperial forces, Tokugawa clan loyalists gradually moderated, and many former shogunate commanders were later assigned important positions under the regime. . The Boshin War demonstrated the high modernization that the Japanese had achieved 14 years after opening up to the West, the strong intervention of Western nations (especially Britain and France) in the political situation. in the country and the re-establishment of royal supremacy. Later on, the war was increasingly romanticized by the Japanese, especially those who saw the Meiji Restoration as a "bloodless revolution", despite the number of casualties. The Japanese made many plays and films about this war, and some of its details were incorporated into the US film The Last Samurai (2003).

Political background

Dissatisfied with the Shogunate

Although Japan strictly restricted trade with foreigners for two centuries prior to 1854, this did not mean the end of foreign trade. The Japanese still traded with the Koreans through Tsushima Island (Chang Ma), the Qing Dynasty through the Nansei Islands (Southwest Zhudao Islands) and the Netherlands through the Dejima (Export) trading post, an artificial island located off the coast of Japan. port of Nagasaki. Thanks to contact with the Dutch, Western scientific research continued