Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Last Shogun Remembered

The last Shogun of Japan, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, lived out the rest of his life in quiet seclusion. He rarely talked about the events that led to his defeat at the hands of the Imperial loyalists, specifically the domains of Choshu and Satsuma. He also refused to see any but a few close associates from that time. Yoshinobu was afraid to talk. He was afraid that if he opened his mouth, inevitably some of what he said would be charged with bitterness.

Eventually, Yoshinobu did speak revealing what he felt about the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Satsuma he hated till his dying days, but against the ultranationalistic Choshu he never bore any grudge. This is how Yoshinobu explained it in old age:

Choshu had a kind of innocence. From the first, they held high their anti-Tokugawa banner, making it clear that they were our enemy. That's what I liked about them. Satsuma was different. Until the very end, they were touting kobu gattai (union of the imperial court and the shogunate), making out that they were my ally, and adopting a conciliatory tone--only to turn at the last possible moment, draw out a gleaming dagger, and stab the bakufu (shogunate) in the heart. Such craftiness is an abomination.

It was not until near the end of his life that he finally agreed to a meeting with the Emperor of Japan. In 1898, he met with Emperor Meiji. By this time, the imperial court regarded Yoshinobu highly. Many believed that due to Yoshinobu handing over power peacefully, that he was the greatest contributor to the establishment of the Meiji government. They felt he should now be honored.

His hosts were the emperor and empress. They wanted to treat him as a member of their family. The empress waited on him herself, filling his sake cup.

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