The Age of Chaos
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The Meiji Restoration
After over two centuries of peace, Japan descended into chaos again with the arrival of American Commodore Matthew Perry’s warships. Called the kurofune (黒船), or black ships, Perry’s success in forcing Japan to open up its ports for trade not only humiliated the Japanese, it made them painfully aware how behind the world they were. By this time, the Tokugawa Shogunate was also in decline, and all over the provinces were disgruntled samurais bitter about having to work side jobs for survival. In 1867, the last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned from his post in the face of growing unrest. On Jan 27 the next year, the Boshin War (戊辰戦争) broke out, spearheaded by imperialists eager to abolish the shogunate and restore full power to the Japanese emperor. In retaliation, Yoshinobu attacked Kyoto and tried to seize the imperial court.
In all, the Boshin War lasted 17 months and could be viewed as having two segments. After Yoshinobu failed to capture the Kyoto and surrendered to the imperialists, his remaining forces retreated northwards to Hokkaido and established the Ezo Republic (蝦夷). Ezo itself lasted less than half a year before it was defeated at the Battle of Hakodate. Ironically, short-lived Ezo was the first government to institutionalise democracy in Japan. This, when they were birthed from the remnants of a medieval totalitarian regime.
Toukiden Kiwami Travel Itinerary 5: The Age of Chaos
One of the most important areas in Toukiden Kiwami, story-wise, the Age of Chaos is both beautiful and desolate to behold. A frozen wasteland throughout, late Edo Period structures surround prowling onis while artefacts of war guard icy stalagmites. At the northernmost end, there is also an immense star-shaped fortress, hovering silently beyond the cliffs like an otherworldly maw. Those who have been to Hokkaido in person would instantly recognise this curious structure as Goryōkaku (五稜郭). The final battle of the Boshin War was fought here in 1869.
Toukiden Kiwami: The Age of Chaos
We are reaching the end of our historical Japan tour! For our final round, we will travel back thousands of years to the mythical years of the Jōmon Period!
If you enjoyed this tour of historical Japan,
consider getting a copy of Toukiden Kiwami!