Military Science versus Japan

Commodore Perry sailed from America to Japan. The shogunate resisted opening the country to foreigners so he was quickly deposed by the more enlightened emperor. This was the moment that started Japans meteoric rise into modernity and science.

Right! Right... ?

Wrong! Each and every remark in the first paragraph is wrong!

In Military Science versus Japan you will hear the real story. The first Japanese people traveled to Europe as soon as they heard that Britain had defeated China in the opium wars in the 1840's, twenty years before Perry came. Perry started his journey to Japan with the first American invasion of Okinawa, then not part of Japan. Afterwards he had little trouble to persuade the shogunate that they had no choice but to open their country.

This started a civil war in Japan against the shogunate by parties who wanted to "expel the barbarians" at once. Fifteen years later these parties won that war, but only after two raids by the British and the French fleets and one by a combined American, British, French and Dutch fleet had convinced the usurpers from Choshu and Satsuma of what the shogunate had learned from a single visit: that Japan had no choice but to emulate the West if it wanted to retain independence. Even then they had to wait for the previous emperor to die in 1868 before they could force the rest of the country to follow their lead. Force as in a continuation of the the civil war for another year in the Boshin war.

This was the time of the Shinsengumi: the shogun's last and most feared samurai corps. They have been the inspiration for countless movies as they actually fought many pitched sword battles in inn's and on crossroads. Their headman laughed hysterically while burning down the storehouse of a perceived opponent. They were fiercely loyal to the shogun as they wanted to be at the front when the shogun would start expelling the barbarians - while the shogun already new this to be hopeless. In the meantime, after their second defeat by Western fleets, the people in Choshu started to train a modern western army.

The Shinsengumi kept improving their sword skills and kept on fighting the old way until... they took their swords to a gunfight.


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