Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Bakumatsu (Part 5): Order to Expel the Barbarians

1861 Image expressing Jo-iAs Japan closed near the brink of war over the Namamugi Incident, the Court and the Shogunate held meetings on chasing out foreigners, which brought further complication to an already messy situation. Explore what came out of the imperial order to expel the barbarians.

Order to Expel the Barbarians

In 1863, Emperor Komei issued a decree ordering the expulsion of foreign barbarians (Jo-i) for the instability brought by trade with them. The Imperial Court already planned the order since the previous year, when Kobu Gattai (Unity of Court and Shogunate) materialized through a wedding between the sister of the Emperor and the young Shogun. Through loud arguments of hardline nationalist and growing connection between Edo and Kyoto, the order came out to finally revert back to the old isolationist tradition of Sakoku (Closed-Country).

In February 1862, Shogun Iemochi married the sister of the Emperor Komei, Princess Kazunomiya, which cemented the relation between the Imperial Court in Kyoto and the Shogunate in Edo under the mediation of the Lord Shimazu Saburo of Satsuma Domain.

In July, Shimazu went to Edo to secure the appointment of imperialist Hitotsubashi Keiki (Yoshinobu), Matsudaira Keiei of Echizen to important positions within the Bakufu. During his return trip to Kyoto, his retainers attacked and killed a foreign merchant, Charles Richardson, which prompted British hostility towards the Bakufu and his Domain. As the British gathered an impressive force and strength in Edo Bay to the horrors and fears of officials, Kyoto found it necessary already to expel the barbarians before they grow to an uncontrollable force.

In January 1863, Sanjo Sanetomi, the future Prime Minister of Japan, a noble, Choshu ally, and a supporter of Jo-i, went to Edo and invited the Shogun to Kyoto to discuss the plan for the expulsion. Shimazu and Yoshinobu voiced their opposition stating its impracticality. Their opposition went in vain; and on April 8, the Emperor issued the decree of Jo-i – Expel the Barbarians. The Shogun arrived in Kyoto on April 21, 1863 as part of keeping the Kobu Gattai and also to symbolically strengthen argument against the expulsion plan.

But even with the presence of the Shogun, the Court remained steadfast much to the support of hardline xenophobes from Choshu and their influential noble allies like Sanjo Sanetomi. On June 5, 1863, the Imperial Court set the date of expulsion (vaguely whether by force or negotiations) on June 24/25 to the dismay of the Hitotsubashi and Shimazu.

Edward St. John Neale
Closing Yokohama

By the end of May, Osagawara Nagamichi negotiated with the British Charge D’Affaires Colonel Edward St. John Neale, head of the British legations during Rutherford Alcock’s sick leave. Neale demanded apology, justice, and indemnity for the murder of Richardson and attacks made in the legation from the previous year resulting to two dead British guards. Osagawara stalled the negotiations until the middle of June when he received instructions from Edo.

On expulsion day - June 24, 1863 - Osagawara and his companions (Matsudaira Buzen no Kami and Inoue Kawachi no Kami) informed Colonel Neale and other foreign representatives of their government’s plan to negotiate the closing of the port of Yokohama. Osagawara and his colleagues watched how Neale got infuriated and saw the announcement equal to a declaration of war.

Osagawara’s party knew the risk of all-out war; and as the British load their gun, they acted on their own to calm the situation down. They unexpectedly agreed to pay the indemnity for the murder of Richardson and the two British legation guards. They then played the two way politics card by informing foreign representatives that the order to close Yokohama came from Kyoto and Edo had no choice but to obey.

As part of the tactic to force the foreigners to leave, Edo re-imposed the 1859 law which limited the selling of many export goods to few Edo wholesalers.

Following June 25, murder of Japanese officials and scholars supporting kakoku (Open-country) continued and intensified as many ronins knew the order and acted on obedience with pleasure. In September 1863, the Tenchugumi or the Heavenly Chastising Force revolted in Nara with its 2,000 members and supporters following the order of the Emperor. The violence it caused led the Bakufu to quell the revolt before it got out of hand.

Kagoshima Bombardment
Illustration of the Kagoshima Bombardment
After Edo announced its plans to negotiate the closing of the ports with Colonel Neale, Britain sent Admiral August Kupr with a punitive expeditionary force to the capital of the Satsuma Domain – Kagoshima – to exact revenge for Charles Richardson’s murder in the previous year - an execution of another gunboat diplomacy.

On August 6, 1863, Admiral Kupr sailed with 7 British warships and arrived in Kagoshima on August 11, 1863 in the midst of a storm. Unlike the Kamikaze that ruined the Mongol invasion centuries ago, the British remained steadfast and sent their ultimatum to the Daimyo of Satsuma Shimazu Tadayoshi, the son of Lord Shimazu Saburo.

The British, like before, demanded a full apology for the incident, payment of £ 25,000 indemnity from the Satsuma Lord, and execution of the samurais responsible for the death of Richardson. Like before too, Satsuma strongly rejected the humiliating ultimatum.

Admiral Kupr then ordered the seizing of the three modern vessels of Satsuma anchored near the coast. As this happened, Satsuma forts furiously opened fired upon the British ships to no avail as the foreign barbarians hijacked the ships and burned them on site. The Squadron then vengefully bombarded the city of Kagoshima and surrounding forts causing a fire that ruined half of the city. Satsuma forts continued to rain down gun fire upon the foreign fleet and successfully damaged several British warships, causing their departure back to Yokohama for repairs. The battle killed 12 British soldiers and wounded 51 while hundreds died in the ranks of Satsuma.

Months following the fighting in Kagoshima, negotiations between the two sides difficultly proceeded resulting to an agreement on December 11, 1863. Satsuma agreed to pay the indemnity of £ 25,000 by borrowing from the Bakufu and promised to execute the samurais who attacked Richardson in front of British officers if they caught them. The agreement ended the Richardson Affair.

Meanwhile, the Kagoshima bombardment affected Satsuma psyche. Indeed, Kagoshima laid in ruins, but it demonstrated the might of the British, which brought fear to Satsuma Lords and made them realize that turning against the foreigners meant destruction. But instead of cowering, following also their tradition of openness before, Satsuma Lords fully understood the weakness of their country, which gave them determination to learn the technologies and ways of the west to preserve and protect their interest. They even sent students from their domain to study in England to demonstrate their willingness to learn.

For the British, they realize the trustworthiness of Satsuma officials than their Bakufu counterparts. They found sincerity and straightforwardness in them instead of delays coming from Edo. The bombardment of Kagoshima changed the perception of both parties.

Choshu Domain Closed Shimonoseki

While Edo negotiate for the closing of Yokohama, Choshu acted upon the Order to Expel the Barbarians (Jo-i) more literally by closing to foreign shipping the vital trade route of Shimonoseki Strait.

Choshu, rivalled Satsuma in court influence. Their territory laid in the southern tip of Honshu and ruled by the Mori Clan. The domain also boasted huge Koku size and large numbers of samurais as retainers. It provided refuge for the most extremist followers of Jo-i, swelling further their ranks. In the early 1863, samurais from the domain, Takasugi Shinusuke, Inoue Bunta (Inoue Kaouru) and Ito Shunsuke (Ito Hirobumi) attacked and burned the construction site for the new British legation in Gotenyama as well as the American legation in May 24, 1863. Its firm and strong loyalty to the Emperor and hatred of the foreigners, led to their bold obedience to the Order to Expel the Barbarians.

On June 25, 1863, Choshu forts in Shimonoseki Strait suddenly opened fire to an American merchant steamer, the Pembroke. Choshu forts failed to damage the steamer, which escaped to Yokohama. Following the Pembroke, they also welcomed with gun barrage the French gunboat Kienchang and the Dutch Ship of War Medusa. Both received damages but the forts took hits from the Medusa before it escaped.

USS Wyoming attacking Choshu
On July 16, Choshu forts fought with the American warship Wyoming, which sailed to the strait to avenge the attack on the Pembroke. Following the Wyoming, they then faced two French warships, the Semiramis and the Tancrede, under the command of Admiral Benjamin Juares. The forts suffered a bombardment followed by amphibious raids from 200 French marines who destroyed some of Choshu’s coastal batteries.

Foreign ministers fiercely protested back in Edo for the blockade of Shimonoseki. Edo quickly sent an emissary to reason with the Choshu leadership but failed when the Domain’s samurais killed the envoy. The Bakufu disavowed the actions of the Choshu domains, yet paid an indemnity of $ 12,000 for the attack on Pembroke and promised punitive actions.

The strait of Shimonoseki remained close for almost a year.

Choshu Lords and Allies Expelled from Kyoto

On September 30, 1863, a combined force of Satsuma, Aizu, and Bakufu Samurais fiercely expelled the Choshu Lords and their noble allies from Kyoto due to their actions in Shimonoseki.

After their attacks in Shimonoseki, Choshu Lords attempted to intensify the Jo-i campaign by forming an imperial army from loyalist Daimyos. Most who joined called for the restoration of the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners from Japan. Mori Takachika, Daimyo of Choshu, urged the Emperor to travel to Yamato and Ise and personally lead the expulsion of the foreign devils.

Choshu’s action, however, worried Satsuma, Aizu, and the Bakufu who believed the attacks in Shimonoseki might bring war to the country against the overwhelmingly superior military forces of the foreigners. They then plotted to expel Choshu Lords and their allies out of Kyoto. 

They accused Choshu of plotting to kidnap the Emperor during his trip to Yamato and to bring him back to their Domain to use him as their puppet. They also implicated that Mori Takachika’s announcement of imperial leadership of the expulsion offended Emperor Komei. The moderates then used their allegations justify actions against the Choshu Lords.

On September 30, 1863, the coup against the Choshu Lords went in motion with samurais from Aizu and the Bakufu sealing the gates of the imperial palace off. The coup came easier as the Aizu Lord, Matsudaira Katamori, an ally of Hitotsubashi, held the post of military commander of Kyoto. They then declared the expulsion of the Choshu Lords and 7 of their noble allies, including Sanjo Sanetomi.

Choshu Lords humiliatingly and grudgingly retreated back to their domain with the 7 nobles; while Bakufu and Satsuma controlled Kyoto and the imperial court. But the expulsion of Choshu from Kyoto militarized the situation as John Fairbank and his colleagues wrote in their book - East Asia: Modern Transformation. By using their respective armies to forward an agenda, Choshu followed their example and also used its army to advance their objectives as well. And soon enough, the conflict in ideas about opening turned to military campaigns, beginning with the formation of new military units.

The planned imperial army by the Choshu disappeared. The Bakufu on the other hand reasserted its authority by successfully convincing the Imperial Court to agree in expelling the foreigners through negotiating the closing of Yokohama. However, at this point, the Bakufu and Satsuma differed in views. Shimazu Saburo disagreed to the closing of the ports and urged for a cautious opening of a Japan and intercourse with the foreigners. Already, he had understood that rejecting to foreign demands meant destruction, especially what happened to Kagoshima. But Shimazu failed to consolidate his opposition due to his badly needed attention to affairs back in his domain and the negotiations with the British.

With Shimazu distracted from the events in his home domain. The Bakufu looked forward in reviving its authority over Kyoto and other Domains. 

Explore also:

Alcock, Rutherford. The Capital of the Tycoon: A Narrative of a Three Years' Residence in Japan. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1863. 

Beasley, W.G. The Modern History of Japan. New York, New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher, 1963.

Craig, Albert et. al. East Asia: The Modern Transformation Volume 2. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965. 

Fukuzawa Yukichi. The Autobiography of Yukichi FukuzawaTranslated by Eiichi Kiyooka. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume 12. B. London: Whitrow and Company, 1820.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Gubbins, J.H. The Progress of Japan, 1853 - 1871. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911. 

Harris, Townsend. The Complete Journal of Townsend Harris: First American Consul and Minister to Japan. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1959.

Jansen, Marius (ed.). The Cambridge History of Japan Volume 5: The Nineteenth Century. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Marquis de Moges. Recollections of Baron Gros's Embassy to China and Japan in 1857 - 1858. London: Griffin, Bohn, and Company, 1861.

Murray, David. Japan. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1896.

Oliphant, Laurence. Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's Mission to China and Japan in the Years 1867, '58, '59. London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1860. 

Satow, Ernest (Trans.). Japan 1853 - 1864 or Genji Yume Monogatari. Tokyo: n.p., 1905. 

__________________. Kinse Shiriaku: A History of Japan, From the First Visit of Commodore Perry in 1853 to the Capture of Hakodate by the Mikado's Forces in 1869. Tokyo: The Naigwai Shuppan Kyokwai, 1906. 

Ward, A.W. et. al. The Cambridge Modern History Volume XI: The Growth of Nationalities. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press, 1909.

Lord Elgin. Edited by Theodore Walrond. "Letters and Journals of James, Eight Earl of Elgin." In Project Gutenberg. Accessed on June 19, 2016. URL:

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