Japanese History: The Edo Period Essay

Japanese History: The Edo Period Essay

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In a seeming paradox, Japan witnessed one of the longest periods of peace and stability
under the rule of the of the Tokugawa family. From warriors to rulers, these shogun led Japan
with a controlling hand during the Edo period from 1600 to 1868. Seeking to preserve Japanese
ideals and limit outside influence, the shogun government restricted movement in and out of
Japan. Despite this isolation, agricultural innovations and the development of merchant products
brought about the growth of new cities, the constructions of roads, and an increase in population.
Sequestered from the West, Japan flourished under the Tokugawa reign. Yet their rallying call to
“Revere the Emperor” became a harbinger of doom as the lure of the outside world could not be
The Edo period was established after a power struggle which resulted in the Battle of
Sekigahara. Tokugawa emerged as the acknowledged victor, ushering in the reign of the
shogunate. The period was marked by strong rulers whose unique contributions carried Japan
forward. Oda Nobunaga laid the groundwork for the country’s unification by establishing strict
rules with an adherence to a caste system with a hierarchy led by the samurai, followed by
peasants, artisans, and merchants. In an attempt to limit western ideals and preserve Japanese
traditions, Christianity was banned. Under the new bakufu, Nobunaga sought peace and treated
former rivals with respect as long as they were loyal to his regime; those who disobeyed felt his
hand of justice. In a letter to an insurgent, Nobunaga admonishes him for “issuing instructions in
secret”, being “steeped in avarice” and showing “no concern either for ethics or for your own
reputation.” (de Bary, 443-44...

... middle of paper ...

... Japanese
isolation. The group I feel most aligned with are the samurai, specifically those such as Sakuma
Shōzan. These men sought not to undo the shogunate but were looking to expand their
knowledge through exposure to the West. “Eastern ethics and Western science” would have
allowed the perfect blend of old and new, yet adherence to the past was their undoing. No culture
can stand alone and the lure of the outside world could not be denied.

Works Cited

“The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture.” Cambridge University Press. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. .
De, Bary William Theodore, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann. Sources of Japanese Tradition. New York: Columbia UP, 2006. Print.
Huffman, James L. Modern Japan: a History in Documents. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

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