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150 years since the Edo Castle surrender

by Yoshiaki Miura

What’s done is done. But what if a historic negotiation over the surrender of Edo Castle between Saigo Takamori, who led the Imperial forces during the fall of Edo, and Katsu Kaishu, the shogunate’s army minister, had fallen through 150 years ago? The surrender of the fort, or the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, which opened the door to Japan’s modernization, might not have happened, and what is now the nation’s capital could have gone up in flames. Edo, renamed Tokyo in September 1868, was controlled by the shogunate for 260 years, but it fell to the alliance of Satsuma and Choshu forces supportive of the formation of a new government under the restored Imperial rule of Emperor Meiji. One of the central conditions for the peaceful handover, which saved Edo and its population of more than 1 million from war, was to spare the life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th and last shogun. Emperor Meiji moved from Kyoto to his new residence in the castle, which today is part of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

With the help of photographs taken by Yokoyama Matsusaburo about 150 years ago, offered by the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and current images of the capital captured around the palace and its environs, the history of Edo Castle is revealed.

Tourists take photos in front of the Otemon gate at the Imperial Palace in April.
Tourists take photos in front of the Otemon gate at the Imperial Palace in April. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
The Otemon gate of Edo Castle is seen from outside the fort in 1871 in this photo taken by Yokoyama Matsusaburo.
The Otemon gate of Edo Castle is seen from outside the fort in 1871 in this photo taken by Yokoyama Matsusaburo. | COURTESY OF EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM
Police officers guard the Imperial Palace
Police officers guard the Imperial Palace’s Hanzomon gate in April. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
People with an ox cart walk in front of Edo Castle
People with an ox cart walk in front of Edo Castle’s Hanzomon gate in 1871. courtesy of edo-tokyo museum | COURTESY OF EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM
Tourists walk past the Bairinmon gate at the Imperial Palace in April.
Tourists walk past the Bairinmon gate at the Imperial Palace in April. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Edo Castle
Edo Castle’s Bairinmon gate is seen in this photo taken by Yokoyama Matsusaburo in 1871. | COURTESY OF EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM
A man jogs along the Sotosakurada moat at the Imperial Palace in April.
A man jogs along the Sotosakurada moat at the Imperial Palace in April. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Edo Castle
Edo Castle’s Sotosakurada moat is captured in this photo taken by Yokoyama Matsusaburo in 1871. | COURTESY OF EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM
The statue of Saigo Takamori at Ueno Park in April.
The statue of Saigo Takamori at Ueno Park in April. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Takamori Saigo (left) and Katsu Kaishu are illustrated in a monument.
Takamori Saigo (left) and Katsu Kaishu are illustrated in a monument. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
A statue of Katsu Kaishu, the shogunate
A statue of Katsu Kaishu, the shogunate’s army minister, and Sakamoto Ryoma, a pro-Imperial activist assassinated in 1867, is placed near Akasaka Hikawa Shrine in Tokyo. The two nurtured a master-pupil relationship that helped with the bloodless surrender of Edo Castle. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Shunichi Saito (right), president of Tokyo Port Brewery, which dates back to 1812, and his daughter, Kaede, show off the Edo Kaijo (Surrender of Edo Castle) sake brand in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on April 10.
Shunichi Saito (right), president of Tokyo Port Brewery, which dates back to 1812, and his daughter, Kaede, show off the Edo Kaijo (Surrender of Edo Castle) sake brand in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on April 10. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
The Tenshudai, or stone base of Edo Castle, is now a tourist destination at the Imperial Palace.
The Tenshudai, or stone base of Edo Castle, is now a tourist destination at the Imperial Palace. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

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