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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Modern and Contemporary
Imperial Restoration
(Ōsei fukko)
A reference to the ideal of overthrowing the Tokugawa shogunate and installing a system of direct rule by the emperor. The inspiration for an imperial restoration and the movement toward direct imperial rule spread among activists following the signing of the trade treaties with western powers in 1858. For example, Maki Izumi, the chief priest at the Suitengū shrine in Kurume, wrote a tract called Daimuki (A great dream) in which he set forth his idea of imperial restoration and the overthrow of the shogunate. In the wake of the 1863 coup, there surfaced several restoration and anti-bakufu movements among which were the Sonnō tenchū gumi uprising and the Ikuno uprising. At this stage concrete plans for a restoration were not formulated and since the activists lacked organizational ability; they were quickly suppressed.
       It was not until later in the 1860s that a realistic restoration movement took shape. The role of the Chōshū domain (present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture) was pivotal in this development, but it alone did not possess the military power to overthrow the shogunate. Therefore, in 1866 Chōshūformed an alliance with the Satsuma domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture). When in the following year Satsuma committed itself to the military overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate and an imperial restoration, restoration was for first time at the top of the political agenda. Contemporaneously, other powerful domains like Tosa and Echizen were constructing a rather different vision of the future in which power would be nominally returned to the court, but the Tokugawa shogun would remain a major political force. Accordingly, in the eleventh month of 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the fifteenth shogun, proposed to the court that he "surrender" the administration and his proposal was accepted by the court. Iwakura Tomomi, the leader of the court faction intent on imperial restoration, began to cultivate contacts with Ōkubo Toshimichi, Saigō Takamori and other radicals from Satsuma and Chōshū in response to this development. His purpose was to finalize plans for a military coup leading to a through-going restoration. On the ninth day of the twelfth month, the Restoration was officially declared, the bakufu regime and the system of imperial regents were abolished, and the creation of a fledgling imperial government was announced. The declaration set forth the new government's intention to be guided in political matters by the mythical emperor Jinmu and his archetypal act of state foundation.
       It is this reference to Jinmu in the declaration that is important, and the wording drew on the advice and the writings of Kokugaku scholars like Ōkuni Takamasa and Tamamatsu Misao. This in turn invigorated the movement to resurrect the Jingikan (Department of Divinities) that began to burgeon in the 1850s and 60s. In the first month of the new era, this movement bore fruit in the form of an organ for shrines and priests called the Jingi jimuka.

— Sakamoto Koremaru
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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