All About History
Hokkaido, Japan, December 1868 – June 1869
Discover how the Battle of Hakodate unfolded step by step
When the US Navy Commodore Matthew C Perry ‘opened up’ Japan, it set off an chain of events that would revolutionise the country within a decade. Until this time, the Tokugawa shogunate, a hereditary military dictatorship, had largely ruled Japan for over 250 years, leaving the emperors to fill a secondary and more ceremonial role. Tokugawa Japan was largely a period of peace and stability but the country was entirely dependent on agriculture and extremely socially conservative. The four feudal classes — warriors, farmers, artisans and merchants — were rigid, with no mobility between them. Intense isolationism also banned foreign travel, trade or cultural exchange.
However, the Americans’ superior firepower convinced a group of Japanese leaders that the shogunate’s reign had left their country weak.