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A Boy of Old Japan by  Robert van Bergen




[216] GREAT events were expected when the year 1868 dawned. Couriers arrived daily at Nagato from Kyoto, and our two friends, as well as the banished kugé were in a fever of expectation. Ekichi had asked and obtained furlough, and had left for Kyoto. He was greatly attached to Inouye, and frequently forestalled his wishes, but in a quiet, unobtrusive way. He was, moreover, so sedate in his habits, that there was no cause for watching him. However much Ito and Inouye would have done for him for the sake of his late father, they felt that his future could be safely left to himself.

The two friends had taken dinner together on the 7th of January, when the galloping of a horse was heard, and the animal stopped evi- [217] dently in front of the yashiki. After a slight delay, a servant appeared and announced Mr. Kano. A moment later Ekichi entered, somewhat flushed. They saluted, and Inouye who observed him closely, said:—

"You came on horseback and evidently had a long journey. Have you had dinner?"

"No, sir, I did not wish to loiter on the road."

A servant was ordered to serve dinner to the guest. After he had finished. Inouye resumed:—

"You bring important news, do you not?"

"Satsuma, Tosa, and some other clans took possession of the Gosho, four days ago, and Arisugawa no Miya is guardian on His Majesty."

Inouye clapped his hands. When his attendant appeared, he told him to go to the castle, and request the kugé to honor him with a call. Ito, who had been charged with the command of the army, rose and said: "Shall we march in the morning?"

"Yes," was the reply, "that will be best."

[218] The two friends had so often considered what they would do when this time should arrive, that no further consultation was necessary. Ito went first to the most active Councillor, and explained to him what had happened; he then proceeded to the barracks, and gave orders that the army was to march at six in the morning. When he returned, he found the kugé, highly pleased at the prospect of their speedy return. They knew that with Arisugawa as adviser, Tenshi Sauna would restore then to honor, and Mori would be exculpated. Indeed, at four o'clock in the morning a messenger arrived bringing the official papers.

The two Councillors breakfasted with the kugé. During the meal Ito said:—

"We must make hurried marches, gentlemen. Tokugawa will not submit peaceably. If our friends prevail, it means the ruin of the Tokugawa men: hence I expect we shall have trouble."

The army marched out, leaving only a sufficient number of men to guard the territory of [219] the clan. It was now that the difference between samurai and an army on the march could be best observed. The men stepped out evenly in close ranks, and easily, and without apparent fatigue performed a two days' journey. The kugé were surprised. Ito and Inouye explained what had been done, and the reason for it. Whereas the daimiyo had never traveled to Kyoto in less than seven days, the Choshiu men arrived at their yashiki within four days from the time they left Nagato.

The kugé were escorted to the Palace. Here they found that an entirely new order prevailed. The allied clans guarded the gates, but permitted free ingress and egress to all samurai except such as bore the Tokugawa crest. An imperial decree had been issued abolishing the office of Shogun, and declaring that the government would he conducted by the imperial court. Negotiations were being conducted with Keiki to arrive at an equitable settlement.

Brought up as he had been as the son of Mito, Keiki had always trusted to his council- [220] lors, and was quite as ignorant of affairs as Mori. He has been accused of vacillation, but personally he was not consulted at all. Answers, of which he knew nothing, were given in his name and under his seal. It was quite natural that among his councillors there should be two parties, the one advocating submission, the other resistance. The answer depended upon the majority among his councillors.

At last it was decided by his advisers that he should leave Kyoto and withdraw to Osaka. He was escorted by the two clans of Aidzu and Kuwana, both intensely attached to the house of Iyeyasu, and unspoiled. Their leaders urged, and almost compelled Keiki to fight. Himself possessed of patriotic impulses, he refused.

The new government at Kyoto dreaded war; not from fear, but on account of the probable consequences. Sanjo and Iwakura had been reinstated and were often in conference with Ito, Inouye, Goto, OKubo, and Saigo. It was plainly evident that the government could not be carried on without revenue, and the Court [221] possessed nothing but a pittance allotted to it from Tokugawa's superfluity. If war should follow. Tokugawa had resources, while the court had none. Even at present the Court depended entirely upon the generosity of the clans which had been instrumental in effecting the revolution.

But the ex-Shogun or his party had also very good reasons for avoiding civil war. It was they who would be Choteki this time, and every Japanese has a horror of that word. Besides, the Tokugawa clans were divided among themselves. Echizen and Owari had openly declared for Tenshi Sama, and had, in fact aided in ousting Aidzu. There was thus every prospect of peace, and the Court, to facilitate negotiations, despatched the daimiyo of Echizen and Owari, to offer the Tokugawa clan a fair share in the government.

Keiki wished to accept; indeed, he was most anxious to wash his hands of all interference with politics, but Aidzu and Kuwana would not have it. They expected to restore the old [222] order of things, and Keiki escorted by the two clans, much against his will, set out upon the return journey to Kyoto.

The army of the allied clans was small, being almost completely composed of Satsuma and Choshiu men. But these men were excellently drilled, for Satsuma, too, had had a lesson from the barbarians, and profited by it. The loyal army, that is the army of the allied clans had taken a strong position at Fushimi. The Yodo river connects this town with Osaka, with a good road on each bank. The Tokugawa forces marched by both banks, and were received by a well-directed artillery fire. The rice fields prevented them from deploying and, as they understood nothing but a hand to hand melee, they had no chance in taking a strong strategic position. Three days they attempted to carry Fushimi and failed. Then they broke and fled, pursued by the victorious imperialists.

Ekichi had commanded a battery in this battle, and had again distinguished himself by his calmness and steadiness under fire. When the [223] battle was over, he went to his commanding officer, and begged to be detailed for the pursuit. His request was granted, and soon he was among the foremost of the imperialists. It was noticed that he did not use his sword, except in self-defense. Half-way toward Osaka the pursuers were commanded to halt.

The imperial forces were not strong enough to cope with those of the Tokugawa, and orders were sent to the loyal clans to send reinforcements. From all parts of the South and West samurai hurried to support the Tenshi Sama's cause and it was not long before the loyal army set out in pursuit.

Keiki had escaped from Aidzu by departing for Yedo on one of his steamships; upon his arrival there he sent in his submission, but the mountain clans would not obey his orders. It is odd that he should not have taken his seal with him; if these same orders had been issued over his seal, there is no doubt that Aidzu and Kuwana would have submitted. But personal government had for centuries been unknown [224] in Japan. If Mori, personally, should have given an order to Choshiu nobody would have paid any attention to it: and if an order to exactly the opposite effect had appeared over his seal, it would have been obeyed at once.

We shall now return to our friends.

While the Choshiu forces, escorting the recalled kugé were marching toward Kyoto, Ito remained behind, quietly biding his time. After the battle of Fushimi was fought and Keiki had embarked for Yedo, the Tokugawa officials deserted their posts and fled. Ito at once went to the administration building, and declared himself governor for his Majesty Tenshi Sama. He took over the government, and prevented lawlessness.

Kobe, a part of the beach in the immediate vicinity of Hyogo had been opened to foreigners, and Ito declared it his purpose to protect them. The same policy had been adopted by those who advised the young Emperor. Japan was never in a worse position to defy a foreign power and her leaders were aware of the fact. [225] One and all they hated the barbarians, but they loved their country more. They had roughly outlined a policy which was to make of Japan a united and great country, and that object they lost never out of sight.

At Yedo the Aidzu clan made a stand at the beautiful temple at Uyeno (Pron. Oo-way-no). Here Ekichi was in the van. Both parties fought with desperate courage, but Tokugawa lost. Among the dead was Kano Ekichi, the son of the dead leader.

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