The life of Yamanouchi Yôdô and his role in the overthrow of the Tokugawa Bakufu : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Japanese at Massey University
During the last years of the Bakufu, under the leadership of daimyô Yamanouchi Yôdô, the domain of Tosa played an important role in the events that culminated in the fall of the Shôgun. Tosa policy over this period reflected Yamanouchi committment to the Tokugawa, and to their policy of sakoku (national isolation) Yôdô, however, was also aware of Japan's vulnerability to colonization in the face of western military superiority. His political vision was founded on limiting foreign influence within Japan, while simultaneously building up military and economic potential. This strength would enable Japan to repudiate the humiliating treaties signed in 1858, and redefine herself as a strong, sovereign nation. Yôdô worked to stabilise Japanese government by uniting Court and daimyô under the Bakutu's aegis, but by mid 1867 it was clear that this process was failing and that civil war was imminent. Fearing the consequences of domestic disintegration and hoping to revive the Yamanouchi position as well as that of his Tokugawa overlords, in September of 1867 Yôdô and his advisors presented Shôgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu with a proposal for taisei-hokan (a return of authority to the throne) This urged a superficial abdication on the Shôgun which would serve to mollify extremists, while maintaining the essence of his position and preserving intact the Tokugawa's traditional prerequisites. Despite representing a widely acceptable compromise solution, the concept of rule by consensus which constituted taisei-hôkan was too ambitious to be successfully applied to a Japan still steeped in feudalism. Moreover, the absence of specific clauses regarding the post-abdication status of the Shôgun and the Tokugawa clan, allowed for a fatally broad interrelation. Thus, rather than lay the foundations for a Tokugawa revival, the abdication actually allowed the anti-Bakufu party to manoeuvre Yoshinobu into a position of extreme disadvantage. In this sense Yôdô and Tosa inadvertently provided anti-Bakulii interests with the legitimate grounds to overthrow the Tokugawa hegemony by force. Chapters 1 and 2 examine Yôdô's early rise to national prominence, concentrating on his activities within Tosa, and on his association with the kôbu-gattai movement. Chapter 3 is concerned primarily with the creation of the tatsei-hôkan proposal and Yôdô's role in this process. Chapter 4 considers the personal and political implications of Yôdô's failure to prevent the fall of the Shôgun. The thesis then concludes with a summary of the main points, considering the political and ideological obstacles that Yôdô faced, and evaluating the overall significance of his contribution to Japanese history.