The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu

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9781568363561: The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu

In Ryotaro Shiba's account of the life of Japan's last shogun, Perry's arrival off the coast of Japan was merely the spark that ignited the cataclysm in store for the Japanese people and their governments. It came to its real climax with the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868, the event which forms the centerpiece of this book. The Meiji Restoration — as history calls it — toppled the shogunate, and brought a seventeen-year-old boy emperor back from the secluded Imperial Palace in Kyoto to preside over what amounted to a political and cultural revolution. With this, Japan's extraordinary self-modernization began in earnest. Coming to power just as the Tokugawa regime was suffering the worst military defeat in its history, Yoshinobu strongly suspected that the rule of the Tokugawas — the third and longest lived of Japan's three warrior governments - was swiftly becoming an anachronism. During a year of frenetic activity, he overhauled the military systems, reorganized the civil administration, promoted industrial development, and expanded foreign intercourse, with the farsighted aim of creating a unified Japan. Alarmed by these reforms, pro-imperial interests moved against him, precipitating the Boshin Civil War and the final defeat of the shogunal armies. To the surprise of his enemies, Yoshinobu capitulated. It was this surrender of authority at a crucial point that made the transfer of sovereignty relatively peaceful. He then retired to Mito and lived quietly for the rest of his life, studying the new art of photography. Ennobled a prince in the new European-style nobility of the Meiji era, he died in 1913.

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Review:

The life story of Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837-1913), the 15th and final successor to the powerful Tokugawa shogunate, is intrinsically interesting and well written to boot. Narrated by Japan's popular and prolific Ryotaro Shiba, and translated into a spare and engaging English text by Juliet Winters Carpenter, The Last Shogun is a mesmerizingly good read. With isolationist Japan coming under increasing foreign pressure to open its bolted doors and civil war threatening from within, Yoshinobu lived, schemed, and ruled during a time of great historic consequence. His rise to power is recounted with narrative flair, from his birth in the least prestigious of the three Tokugawa family branches, through his rigorous early training (his father made him sleep with a sword at either side of his head to ensure that he wouldn't toss and turn), and into his shogun years. From there, Shiba details the military crises of a dying regime and how Yoshinobu attempted to stem the assaults of a new era. With the behind-the-scenes machinations of intrigue, the progression of internal and external pressures, the political personalities of the times, and the rich cultural flavor of an insular Japan, the story is gripping enough for a long plane flight--yet it's more than just a way to pass the travel time. Reading Ryotaro Shiba's account of Yoshinobu's life provides a wonderful backdrop for a present-day visit to Japan, painting a scene that's drenched in the ambiance of Japanese traditions while offering an understanding of Japan's complex history in the form of a rich and compelling James Micheneresque narrative.

About the Author:

RYOTARO SHIBA is one of Japan’s bet-loved writers of all time. Working as a newspaper reporter, he began to write 1959 received the Naoki Prize for his novel The Owl Castle. His many works, which often present new interpretation of turbulent times such as the Meiji Restoration, have had enduring success with Japanese readers. He was named a member of the Japan Art Academy in 1981, cited as a person of cultural merit in 1991, and was conferred with Order of Culture in 1993. Shiba died in 1996.

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Book Description Kodansha America, Inc, United States, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In this remarkable account of the life of Japan s last Shogun, the arrival of U.S. Commodore Perry s squadron is shown to be the spark that ignited the cataclysm that reached its climax with the fall of the Shogunate in 1868. This brought a 17 year-old boy emperor from the seclusion of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto to preside over what became a political and cultural revolution: with this, Japan s extraordinary modernisation began in earnest. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9781568363561

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Book Description Kodansha Amer Inc, Cary, North Carolina, U.S.A., 2004. Soft cover. Book Condition: New. First US Paper. Fictional account of Japan's last shogun uses the visit of Commodore Perry as its starting point. The fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji restoration which led to the modernization of Japan are brought to life in this narrative. xxxi+255 pages, glossary. Bookseller Inventory # 13161

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