Mito Domain - Meiji Restoration

Meiji Restoration

Throughout the decades leading up to the Meiji Restoration, the Mito daimyo as well as the Mito scholars undermined the bakufu through their calls for reform and their direct action. Tokugawa Nariaki repeatedly criticized the shogunate for their moral decay and inability to protect Japan from financial ruin or foreign invasion. The Mito school of thought likewise provided a nationalist, pro-royal ideology which influenced many of the leading anti-bakufu revolutionaries. While the Mito scholars never actually called for the overthrow of the bakufu, their emphasis on internal and external threats to Japan impacted the political views of the revolutionaries. The Mito school of thought had a profound impact on many individuals because the Mito domain had a tradition of intellectualism which lent legitimacy to the anti-foreign views of the scholars. During the 1840s, Nariaki's support of these views allowed for an entire generation to grow up with these ideas. Maki Izumi, a leading revolutionary, admitted to being strongly affected by Mito beliefs. The Mitogaku played a major role in inspiring the anti-bakufu elements in Japan to unite and lead the Meiji Restoration.

Mito radicals initiated many of the violent acts which led to the overthrow of the bakufu as well. Starting with the assassination of Ii Naosuke, nationalist terrorism spread in Japan. In Mito, anti-foreign loyalists staged a rebellion, which involved the son of Fujita Toko. The bakufu and domain military forces joined together in order to crush the uprising, and the loyalist movement temporarily lost momentum.

In 1864, the "Tengu insurrection" occurred in which armed Mito rebels confronted the bakufu in battle. The Tengu band, led by Fujita Koshirō, included thousands of troops from Mito who defeated the troops of several other domains. Later, a major battle occurred where a thousand of the rebels surrendered with the promise of mercy from the conservatives. Ironically, the opposition was led by Hitotsubashi Keiki. The conservatives, however, lied and executed the leaders of the insurrection. The Tengu insurrection was an important event because it represented the growing discontent with the bakufu in the years immediately leading up to the Meiji Restoration. Mito forces were involved in many of the early uprisings before the successful Restoration. While Mito did not have a major role in the fighting like Satsuma and Chōshū, the Mito ideology did however influence the revolutionaries in Satsuma and Chōshū to fight for the emperor.

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