Tokugawa Yoshinobu, as the last of the Tokugawa Shoguns to hold power in Japan, was only in office for a little over a year. Yoshinobu was an unlikely Shogun, as he came from the wrong branch of the Tokugawa family and did not want the role. Once he was selected for the office, he managed to open the port of Hyogo and keep the Bakufu afloat despite strong opposition from radical elements. However, his political skills could not prevent the end of Tokugawa rule nor dissuade those same elements from a political stance he believed impossible to uphold. All the same, despite his reluctance to be Shogun and the very brief period he held the office, Yoshinobu played a key role in the relatively peaceful transition of Japan into a modern state. Although historical accounts of Yoshinobu's life differ, all agree that he was extremely uninterested in becoming Shogun in the first place. According to Ryotaro Shiba, this disinterest could have been ascribed to his being born “an aristocrat of impeccable standing … [who had] been accorded certain privileges” and thus did not desire to place himself in the way of harm (p. 42). Other historians are less kind, calling Yoshinobu “indecisive” (Jansen, p. 307). Regardless of his reasons for not wanting to be Shogun, Yoshinobu's distaste was strong enough that the position actually went unfilled for “more than one hundred and fifty days” after the death of his predecessor, Tokugawa Iemochi (Shiba, p. 187). Even though he did not want to be Shogun, Yoshinobu worked hard once he was appointed. Although a lot of his time was spent observing powerful enemies of the Shogunate like the Satsuma and Choshu domains, he was still able to put into play several policies regarding the opening of the country. One of these was the opening of the port of Hyogo to foreign trade in the face of opposition from radicals and the Imperial court itself (Shiba, p. 195). Ironically, another of Yoshinobu's successes was helped by his lack of desire to be Shogun in the first place.
Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.
Shina, Ryotaro. The Last Shogun. New York: Kodansha, 1998. Print.
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