Σάββατο, 27 Αυγούστου 2016

The Last Shogun – First Shots of the Boshin War


 Barney Higgins
 
Samurai of the Satsuma clan during the Boshin War, by pioneering military photographer Felice Beato (Wikipedia)
 


On the 27th of January, 1868, the army of the Shogunate was marching toward Kyoto. For more than a quarter of a century, the Tokugawa Shoguns had ruled Japan in peace, but now the country was once again in turmoil. Foreigners had come to Japan, Dutch, British and French, and modern European weaponry and training had for the first time become influential in the land of the rising sun. It was a turbulent time.
Japan’s politics had split the country. The young Emperor and the Shogunate were at odds, and the Emperor had caused the last Shogun to resign his post. However, the Shogun’s abdication was not enough to satisfy the clan leaders under whose influence the Emperor was acting.
They called a meeting and declared that the very title of ‘Shogun’ was to be abolished. Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the recently abdicated Shogun, was to be stripped of all lands and titles. Yoshinobu was understandably distraught at this, and moved in force toward Kyoto, ostensibly to deliver a letter of protest to the Emperor.
His army was made up of troops from four different allied clans, and their gear reflected the rapid changes Japan was undergoing at the time. There were soldiers of the old style, colourfully dressed, elaborately armoured Samurai with pikes and spears, bows and curved swords, but also there were units of line infantry armed with rifles in the western style. Yoshinobu was not expecting a battle, but as his army approached the seat of power, the city of Kyoto, they found their advance opposed by entrenched troops of the Satsuma clan.