Japan History: The Fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate Essay

The Tokugawa Shogunate was a form of government in Japan, which lasted for about 300 years. The Tokugawa Shogunate was based on a rigid caste system. The feudal lords controlled the land, the warrior samurai held the highest power, and were then followed by farmers and traders. The Tokugawa Shogunate had implemented a tax collection system, whereby the feudal lords (daimyo) would collect tax from the peasants. More and heavy taxes had been imposed on the peasants, a situation which led to high inflation. The peasants could no longer afford to buy basic commodities, which soon resulted in an extreme poverty. Consequently, bitter battles arose among the ruling classes and eventually, the Tokugawa Shogunate collapsed.

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In addition, during the period between 1675 and 1837, Japan experienced 154 famines. Twenty-one of these famines were extensive and serious. With high tax system being in place, accompanied by food shortage, peasants and other individuals could not take it anymore. By the late 19th century, mass protest over food shortages, inflation, and an oppressive tax system had become very common. This contributed to the loss of popularity of the Tokugawa Shogunate and, eventually, was among the main reasons of why the government collapsed.

During the era of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan was closed to the rest of the world in terms of trade. Only a few Dutch ships were allowed into Japan waters for trade with the Japanese. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, Japan faced an increase in the pressure from the West to open up to the rest of the world. This led to a lot of foreign intrusion in Japan, resulting in the introduction of commercial and capitalized societies. The Tokugawa Shogunate was unable to manage the central government, which led to the collapse of the class system. The Tokugawa Shogunate attempted to reconcile the military society with the commercial and the capitalized societies introduced by the West with no avail. Autonomous and flexible methods of government were able to take power from the feudal lords, thus ending the Tokugawa Shogunate rule.

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