Battle of Toba-Fushimi - Background


On 4 January 1868, the restoration of Imperial rule was formally proclaimed. Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu had earlier resigned his authority to the emperor, agreeing to "be the instrument for carrying out" imperial orders. The Tokugawa Shogunate had ended. However, while Yoshinobu's resignation created a nominal void at the highest level of government, his apparatus of state continued to exist. Moreover, the Tokugawa family remained a prominent force in the evolving political order, a prospect hard-liners from Satsuma and Chōshū found intolerable.

Although the majority of fifteen-year-old Emperor Meiji’s consultative assembly was happy with the formal declaration of direct rule by the Court and tended to support a continued collaboration with the Tokugawa, Saigō Takamori physically threatened members of the assembly into ordering the confiscation of Yoshinobu's lands.

Although he initially agreed to the Court’s demands, on 17 January 1868, Yoshinobu declared "that he would not be bound by the proclamation of the Restoration and called on the Court to rescind it." On 24 January, after considerable provocation by Satsuma ronin in Edo, Yoshinobu, from his base at Osaka Castle decided to prepare an attack on Kyoto, ostensibly to dislodge the Satsuma and Chōshū elements dominating the Court and “freeing” young Emperor Meiji from their influence.

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