Bloodless Surrender of Edo Castle in Meiji Restoration

On March 14,1868, Katsu Kaishu 海舟, as a royal retainer of Tokugawa Shogunate, negotiated with Saigo Takamori 西郷 隆盛, who was in charge of revolutionary forces, the peaceful surrender of Edo Castle to avoid the civil war in Edo, now is Tokyo.

In 1860s Japan, revolution which overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate and restored the power to the Emperor, transformed the country from a feudal into a modern nation-state.In the late Tokugawa Shogunate, the intrusion of Western powers, particularly the United States under Admiral Matthew C. Perry exposed the weakness of the Shogunal power and triggered nationalist unrest.

The Choshu and Satsuma domains of western Japan demanded a new government loyal to the Emperor to expel the Western powers. On January 3, 1868, the revolutionary army with the support of anti-Tokugawa court nobles, succeeded in a palace coup in Kyoto and proclaimed a restoration of Imperial rule.

When Kaishu was informed of imminent attack on Edo planed by the Imperial Army, he sent a letter to Saigo. In the letter he wrote that they must avoid the war for the sake of Japan, and cooperate in order to deal with the very real threat of the foreign powers.

The historic meeting between Kaishu and Saigo was held on March 14, 1868, one day before the planned attack. Kaishu accepted Saigo’s conditions including the peaceful surrender of Shogunal Edo Castle, and allowing the House of Tokugawa to survive. Two great samurai saved the lives and property of Edo’s one million inhabitants and Japan’s future as well.