The year 1868 marks a turning-point in Japanese history comparable with 1789 in France or 1917 in Russia. On 3 January 1868 a handful of ambitious samurai from han (feudal domains) in southwest Japan carried out a bold coup d’état by seizing control of the Imperial Palace in the ancient capital of Kyoto. With the backing of some sympathetic court nobles and samurai from a few other han, they ousted the Bakufu (the regime headed by a Shogun from the Tokugawa family which had held sway over the country for over two and a half centuries) and proclaimed the restoration of power to the imperial dynasty which had reigned over Japan for well over a thousand years but had for more than five centuries been excluded from any role in government, save that of conferring legitimacy on whichever feudal leader achieved supremacy.


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© Richard Sims 2001

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