“Bakumatsu” (the end of the Edo period) refers to the period during which the power of the Tokugawa government, based in Edo (present Tokyo), came to decline and met its end. “Ishin” (the Meiji Restoration) refers to an event in which the New Government headed by Emperor Meiji was established and overthrew the Tokugawa government. The year 2017 marks the 150th anniversary since the 15th shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa returned political power to the emperor. Consecutively, the year 2018 marks the 150th year since the breakout of the Battle of Boshin, a civil war between the New Government and the forces that supported the Tokugawa government. It was 150 years ago when the samurai society was extinguished and Japan underwent dramatic changes to be re-organized as a modern state.
It is well known that Edo and Kyoto became the central stage of the Bakumatsu and Ishin, since Edo was the home ground of the Tokugawa shogunate, and Kyoto was of the Emperor. It is less known but Osaka also played an important role. Even people who are living in Osaka are not really aware of this fact.
Osaka in the Edo period produced many talents who had progressive visions. A lot of scholars and activists who were concerned about the future of Japan visited and operated in Osaka at the end of the Edo period. On the other hand, the Tokugawa government, which was trying to restore its political power, placed a fresh focus on the importance of Osaka Castle that belonged to the shogunate, and the shogun himself visited Osaka Castle on many occasions to deal with domestic affairs and conduct diplomacy.
The 14th shogun Iemochi Tokugawa entered Osaka Castle to command the war against the Choshu clan, based in the present-day Yamaguchi prefecture, that rebelled against the Tokugawa government; however the shogun died in Osaka Castle in 1866. In 1867, the last shogun, the 15th shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa invited the representatives of Western countries to Osaka Castle and held diplomatic negotiations. In 1868, Yoshinobu dispatched his army from Osaka Castle to Kyoto in an attempt to subvert the establishment of the New Government; however, he was defeated and lost his will to continue fighting, then escaped from the castle. Thus, Osaka Castle was also the place that marked the end of the Tokugawa government.
The New Government entered Osaka to take over control, and it implemented new policies one after another for modernizing Japan. Despite the ongoing civil war, Emperor Meiji visited Osaka to persuade the foreign representatives to recognize the New Government as the state government of Japan. Following that, Kawaguchi in Nishi Ward Osaka City was opened as a designated foreign trade port. Osaka Castle became a military base of the army, and schools and hospitals in the Western architectural style were built around the castle.
Facing such a large scale of historical changes, people of Osaka were shocked and confused; even so, they courageously lived their lives with a spirit of self-reliance, aspirations, flexibility and rational thinking.
There are still many places in Osaka City that show the traces of that turbulent time in history from 150 years ago.