Last Shogun and Kodokan

Last Shogun and Kodokan
Item# MITO011

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Last Shogun and Kodokan
The Kodokan was the largest han (clan) school in the Edo-era. Located in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, three of its buildings have been designated Important Cultural Properties and the school is a Special Historic Site.

The Kodokan was founded in 1841 by Tokugawa Nariaki, ninth Daimyo of the Mito Clan. Admission was at age 15, and the curriculum included medicine, mathematics, astronomy, Confucianism, history, music, and military arts. Last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu was confined at the Kodokan after abdicating in 1867. The school closed in 1872 after the Meiji Restoration and the introduction of the new school system. In the main building hangs a kakemono inscribed 'Sonjo', an abbreviation of the contemporary slogan Sonno joi, 'Revere the Emperor, expel the foreigners'. The Kodokan was damaged in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Tokugawa Yoshinobu (also known as Keiki; October 28, 1837 November 22, 1913) was the 15th and last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He was part of a movement which aimed to reform the aging shogunate, but was ultimately unsuccessful. After resigning in late 1867, he went into retirement, and largely avoided the public eye for the rest of his life.

After the death of Tokugawa Iemochi in 1866, Yoshinobu was chosen to succeed him, and became the 15th shogun. He was the only Tokugawa shogun to spend his entire tenure outside of Edo: he never set foot in Edo Castle as shogun. Immediately upon Yoshinobu's ascension as shogun, major changes were initiated. A massive government overhaul was undertaken to initiate reforms that would strengthen the Tokugawa government. In particular, assistance from the Second French Empire was organized, with the construction of the Yokosuka arsenal under Leonce Verny, and the dispatch of a French military mission to modernize the armies of the bakufu.

The national army and navy, which had already been formed under Tokugawa command, were strengthened by the assistance of the Russians, and the Tracey Mission provided by the British Royal Navy. Equipment was also purchased from the United States. The outlook among many was that the Tokugawa shogunate was gaining ground towards renewed strength and power; however, it would fall in less than a year.

Boshin War

Fearing the renewed strengthening of the Tokugawa shogunate under a strong and wise ruler, samurai from Satsuma, Choshu and Tosa formed an alliance to counter it. Under the banner of sonn joi ("revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians!") coupled with a fear of the new Shogun as the "Rebirth of Ieyasu" who would continue to usurp the power of the Emperor, they worked to bring about an end to the shogunate, though they varied in their approaches. In particular, Tosa was more moderate; it proposed a compromise whereby Yoshinobu would resign as shogun, but preside over a new national governing council composed of various daimyo. To this end, Yamanouchi Toyonori, the lord of Tosa, together with his advisor, Goto Shojiro, petitioned Yoshinobu to resign in order to make this possible.

On November 9, 1867, Yoshinobu tendered his resignation to the Emperor and formally stepped down ten days later, returning governing power to the Emperor. He then withdrew from Kyoto to Osaka. However, Satsuma and Chsh, while supportive of a governing council of daimyo, were opposed to Yoshinobu leading it. They secretly obtained an imperial edict[18] calling for the use of force against Yoshinobu (later shown to be a forgery) and moved a massive number of Satsuma and Chsh troops into Kyoto. There was a meeting called at the imperial court, where Yoshinobu was stripped of all titles and land, despite having taken no action that could be construed as aggressive or criminal. Any who would have opposed this were not included in the meeting. Yoshinobu opposed this action, and composed a message of protest, to be delivered to the imperial court; at the urging of men of Aizu, Kuwana, and other domains, and in light of the immense number of Satsuma and Chsh troops in Kyoto, he dispatched a large body of troops to convey this message to the court.

When the Tokugawa forces arrived outside Kyoto, they were refused entry, and were attacked by Satsuma and Choshu troops, starting the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, the first clash of the Boshin War. Though the Tokugawa forces had a distinct advantage in numbers, Yoshinobu abandoned his army in the midst of the fight once he realized the Satsuma and Choshu forces raised the Imperial banner, and escaped to Edo. He placed himself under voluntary confinement, and indicated his submission to the imperial court. However, a peace agreement was reached wherein Tayasu Kamenosuke, the young head of a branch of the Tokugawa family, was adopted and made Tokugawa family head; On April 11, Edo Castle was handed over to the imperial army, and the city spared from all-out war.

Together with Kamenosuke (who took the name Tokugawa Iesato), Yoshinobu moved to Shizuoka, the place to which Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of Tokugawa shogunate, had also retired, centuries earlier. Iesato was made the daimy of the new Shizuoka Domain, but lost this title a few years later, when the domains were abolished.

Many of the hatamoto also relocated to Shizuoka; a large proportion of them did not find adequate means to support themselves. As a result, many of them resented Yoshinobu, some of them to the point of wanting him dead. Yoshinobu was aware of this, and was so afraid of assassination that he redesigned his sleeping arrangement to confuse a potential assassin.

Later life

Living a life in quiet retirement, Yoshinobu indulged in many hobbies, including oil-painting, archery, hunting, photography, and cycling. Some of Yoshinobu's photographs have been published in recent years by his great-grandson, Yoshitomo.

In 1902, the Meiji Emperor allowed him to reestablish his own house as a Tokugawa branch with the highest rank in the peerage, that of prince, for his loyal service to Japan. He took a seat in the House of Peers, resigning in 1910. Tokugawa Yoshinobu died on November 21, 1913 at 4:10 pm and he is buried in Yanaka Cemetery, Tokyo.

On 9 January 1896 his ninth daughter Tokugawa Tsuneko (18821939) married Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu, a second cousin to both Emperor Showa (Hirohito) and Empress Kojun, and nephew of Prince Kan'in Kotohito.

On 26 December 1911 his granddaughter Tokugawa Kikuko, later Princess Takamatsu