IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > E. East Asia, c. 1500–c. 1800 > 4. Japan, 1542–1793 > 1600–1867
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
The TOKUGAWA (or EDO) PERIOD. Ieyasu established the military capital at Edo (Tokyo), which grew phenomenally to become the economic and cultural as well as political capital of the nation. Given the fate of the Oda and Toyotomi families, Ieyasu made the perpetuation of the rule of his family his major objective. The feudal lords, or daimyos, were divided into three groups: shinpan, fudai, and tozama. The shinpan daimyos were all the related and collateral branches of the larger Tokugawa house; fudai were the vassals and allies of Ieyasu before the Battle of Sekigahara, and they now occupied the central provinces; and tozama were those who submitted only after Sekigahara and were located in more remote regions, usually excluded from the central government. The lords of all domains were compelled to spend at least half of each year in residence at Edo, whence came the name of the system of “alternate attendance.”  1
The administrative hierarchy, which grew out of the Tokugawa family organization, comprised, in order of rank, a shogun; at times, and especially between 1638 and 1684, one or more great counselors (tair); four or five senior counselors (toshiyori or rj) as a council of state; a group of junior counselors (wakadoshiyori), who controlled the direct petty vassals of Edo; a class of officials known as metsuke, who served as inspectors or intelligence officers; and a large group of civil administrators called bugy. The laws lacked coherent organization but were based on certain fundamental moral precepts, primarily the principle of loyalty. Criminal codes were severe. There was a stringent stratification of classes. Daimyos were to a large extent autonomous rulers in their own domains, but Edo kept a watchful eye on them, and the feudatories had a strong tendency to adopt the laws and organization of Edo.  2
The peace and prosperity of the early Tokugawa period brought a gradual rise in the standard of living and an increase in population and national wealth. With the growth of industry and commerce, a powerful merchant class gradually grew up in the larger cities, and a slow transition from a rice economy to a money economy commenced. This transition, together with the rise in living standards and the increase in population, tended to make production inadequate and brought about great economic ills during much of the period.  3
Political conservatism and seclusion made the Tokugawa period outwardly stagnant, but it was a time of great intellectual development. Buddhism was ostensibly in decline, and Christianity was early stamped out. There was a great revival of lay learning, and the old feudal code of conduct received definitive formulation under the name of bushid. Neo-Confucian philosophy enjoyed a protracted period of unparalleled growth and popularity; philosophers and teachers of ethics abounded; interest in Japanese antiquity resumed; Shinto developed new life both as a nativist philosophy and as a popular religion; and the newly risen merchant class contributed greatly to the intellectual and cultural growth of the country.  4
Literature and art in the Tokugawa period were comparatively free from Chinese influence and were less aristocratic and more popular than in earlier periods because of the influence of the merchant class. A new poetic form, the haiku, which consists of 17 syllables as opposed to the classical tanka form of 31 syllables, was popular at this time. The novel enjoyed a great second flowering. The refined n drama slowly gave way to more realistic, more lively, and decidedly less restrained forms, kabuki and bunraku (puppet) plays, which both developed from long poetic recitations called jruri. Applied arts reached great heights of technical excellence. Painting remained largely traditional, but there were able masters of design and an important new school of realism. One of the most interesting developments in painting was the ukiyo-e (paintings of the floating world), a school of woodblock artists who chose for their subject matter not Chinese scenes and historical events but the people, street scenes, and landscapes of contemporary Japan. The style, introduced in the 17th century, found prolific expression in the prints of woodblock masters of the 18th and 19th centuries.  5
c. 1602
Spanish traders arrived in eastern Japan. Ieyasu befriended Spanish missionaries, hoping thereby to persuade the traders to deal directly with eastern Japan. Although a formal treaty was negotiated with the acting Spanish governor of the Philippines in 1610, few traders actually ever came.  6
Hidetada as shogun (d. 1632). This was the formative period of Edo government, first under the direction of the retired shogun Ieyasu (d. 1616) and then under that of his somewhat less capable son, Hidetada.  7
Hayashi Razan (1583–1657), a former Zen monk turned Neo-Confucian scholar, was appointed attendant scholar to Ieyasu. This marked the beginning of a Tokugawa policy of using Neo-Confucianism as a stabilizing force in politics and society. Razan, who founded the Edo Confucian temple in 1623 and whose descendants continued to run the school throughout the Edo period, represented the orthodox Song Neo-Confucian school of Zhu Xi (1130–1200). Other schools of Neo-Confucian philosophy included those of Wang Yangming (1472–1529) of Ming China (represented by Nakae Tju (1608–48) and Kumazawa Banzan (1619–91)) and the Ancient Learning school, a movement that returned to pre–Song Confucian commentators and the original texts of the late Zhou period (represented by It Jinsai (1627–1705) and Ogy Sorai (1666–1728)). The Japanese Neo-Confucians made numerous contributions in various fields of learning, and some attacked the pressing economic problems of the day.  8
The Dutch established a trading post at Hirado in western Japan after an invitation from Ieyasu in 1605. This invitation had been obtained by Will Adams (d. 1620), the English pilot of a Dutch vessel wrecked in Japan in 1600. Adams was forced to remain in Japan by Ieyasu, who made of him an honored adviser.  9
A persecution of Christianity commenced after a series of anti-Christian edicts beginning in 1606. Ieyasu's mounting fears of the political menace from Christianity and his realization that trade with Europe could be maintained without the presence of Catholic missionaries as decoys had led him to gradually abandon his at first friendly attitude toward the missionaries.  10
Date Masamune (1565–1636), a prominent daimyo of northern Japan, dispatched emissaries to Spain and to the pope.  11
The Siege of saka Castle. Hideyori (1593–1615), the son and heir of Hideyoshi, and the former's mother, Yodogimi (1577–1615), had remained in the saka Castle after the Battle of Sekigahara, constituting a dangerous rallying point for disaffected elements, according to Ieyasu's way of thinking. Their ultimate destruction was deemed necessary by Ieyasu. In 1614, using a trumped-up charge as a pretext, he laid siege to the castle, and after a short truce captured and destroyed it and its inhabitants the next year.  12
The Buke shohatto, a collection of general maxims for the warrior class, was promulgated.  13
Ieyasu died.  14
Hidetada, aroused by the mutual recriminations of the various European nationalities and religious groups in Japan, intensified the persecution of Christians (estimated at 300,000), and for the first time since 1597, European missionaries were executed. Jesuits, Franciscans, and native believers were executed in increasing numbers in the following years (particularly 1622–24). This marked the height of the Christian persecution. Catholic missionaries still continued to arrive, but eventually all were killed or forced to leave or to apostatize.  15
Iemitsu as shogun. This was the period of consolidation of Tokugawa rule. As a means of achieving this goal, the suppression of Christianity was carried to a successful end, and a policy of national seclusion was adopted.  16
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.