The Fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate

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The fall of the Tokugawa shogunate can be accounted for by many factors. The shogunate’s decline in the period up until 1867 was the result of influences from both internal and external factors. Internal factors included groups within Japan that were discontented, as well as new discoveries and a change of perspective through study; whilst external factors arose from foreign affairs and penetration by the West (America and Europe) in an attempt to break Japan’s long isolation. These factors over time led to the shogunate’s weakening rule. One internal factor that led to the weakening of the Tokugawa rule was the building discontentment among the social classes/groups that made up Japan’s society at the time. The nobles, for one, were insistent on the emperor being restored power. The daimyo were simply long-time enemies of the Shogun due to some of the restrictions put on them, such as sankin kotai (alternate attendance)—where groups were required to travel to Edo every second year and stay there for a year—which ultimately resulted in expenditure of their limited money that is also used to pay their samurai. The samurai as well were discontented due to their lack of money, too. Their rice allowance was cut by up to half, and rice had small buying power. Some samurai became traders to earn money but the decline in samurai was disadvantageous for the Bakufu as samurai were the backbone of the feudal system. The chonin class were discontent as they wanted to improve their social class—they had achieved economic power and political influence through trade but Japan’s focus on scholarship and military prevented them from receiving any recognition. They were also owed money from samurai but the government, in attempt to lessen financial burden on the samurai, would cancel these debts. The lowest class, peasants, also displayed their discontentment through frequent
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