Commanders and leaders
Ruler: Meiji Emperor
Army: Saigō Takamori
later: Prince Komatsu Akihito
Shōgun: Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Army: Takenaka Shigekata, Takigawa Tomoakira, Sakuma Nobuhisa,
Matsudaira Sadaaki, Hayashi Gonsuke, Sagawa Kanbei, others
Casualties and losses
61 dead + 124 wounded
35 dead + 106 wounded
about 160 dead +400 wounded
about 100 dead + 150 wounded
about 25 dead + 60 wounded
Battle of Toba–Fushimi
Battle of Toba–Fushimi (鳥羽・伏見の戦い, Toba-Fushimi
no Tatakai) occurred between pro-Imperial and Tokugawa shogunate
forces during the
Boshin War in Japan. The battle started on 27
January 1868 (or Keiō-4 year, 1-month, 3-day, according to the
Japanese calendar), when the forces of the shogunate and the allied
forces of Chōshū, Satsuma and Tosa Domains clashed near Fushimi,
Kyoto. The battle lasted for four days, ending in a decisive defeat
for the shogunate.
3 Events of 27 January
3.1 Toba encounter
3.2 Fushimi encounter
4 Events of 28 January
4.1 Takasegawa encounter
5 Events of 29 January
5.1 Tominomori encounter
6 Events of 30 January
8 See also
12 External links
On 4 January 1868, the restoration of imperial rule was formally
Tokugawa Yoshinobu had earlier resigned his
authority to the emperor, agreeing to "be the instrument for carrying
out" imperial orders. The
Tokugawa shogunate had ended. However,
while Yoshinobu's resignation created a nominal void at the highest
level of government, his apparatus of state continued to exist.
Moreover, the Tokugawa family remained a prominent force in the
evolving political order, a prospect hard-liners from Satsuma and
Chōshū found intolerable.
Although the majority of fifteen-year-old Emperor Meiji's consultative
assembly was happy with the formal declaration of direct rule by the
court and tended to support a continued collaboration with the
Saigō Takamori physically threatened members of the
assembly into ordering the confiscation of Yoshinobu's lands.
Although he initially agreed to the court's demands, on 17 January
1868, Yoshinobu declared "that he would not be bound by the
proclamation of the restoration and called on the court to rescind
it". On 24 January, after considerable provocation by Satsuma
rōnin in Edo, Yoshinobu, from his base at
Osaka Castle decided to
prepare an attack on Kyoto, ostensibly to dislodge the Satsuma and
Chōshū elements dominating the court and "freeing" young Emperor
Meiji from their influence.
The battle started when shogunate forces moved in the direction of
Kyoto to deliver a letter from Yoshinobu, warning the Emperor of the
intrigues plotted by Satsuma and the court nobles who supported it,
such as Iwakura Tomomi.
Saigō Takamori (with tall helmet) inspecting Chōshū troops at
Aizu troops disembarking at Fushimi: a combination of old-fashioned
samurai with pikes (left), and modern troops with firearms (appearing
on the right)
The 15,000-strong shogunal army outnumbered the Satsuma–Chōshū
army by 3 to 1, and consisted mostly of men from the
Kuwana and Aizu
Domains, reinforced by
Shinsengumi irregulars. Although some of its
members were mercenaries, others, such as the Denshūtai, had received
training from French military advisers. Some of the men deployed in
the front lines were armed in archaic fashion, with pikes and swords.
For example, the troops of
Aizu had a combination of modern soldiers
and samurai, as did the troops of Satsuma to a lesser degree. The
Bakufu had almost fully equipped troops and Chōshū troops were the
most modern and organized of all. According to historian Conrad
Totman: "In terms of army organization and weaponry, the four main
protagonists probably rank in this order: Chōshū was best; Bakufu
infantry was next; Satsuma was next; and
Aizu and most liege vassal
forces were last".
Shogunate soldiers in Western uniforms
There was no clearly defined intent to fight on the part of the
shogunate troops, attested by the many empty rifles of the men in the
vanguard. Motivation and leadership on the part of the shogunate also
seems to have been lacking.
Although the forces of Chōshū and Satsuma were outnumbered, they
were fully modernized with Armstrong howitzers, Minié rifles and one
Gatling gun. The shogunate forces had been slightly lagging in term of
equipment, although a core elite force had been recently trained by
the French military mission to Japan (1867–68). The Shogun also
relied on troops supplied by allied domains, which were not
necessarily as advanced in terms of military equipment and methods,
making up an army that had both modern and outdated elements.[citation
The British Navy, generally supportive of Satsuma and Chōshū,
maintained a strong fleet in
Osaka harbour, a factor of uncertainty
which forced the shogunate to maintain the garrison at
Osaka with a
significant part of its forces in reserve rather than commit them to
the offensive in Kyōto. This foreign naval presence was related
to the protection orders for the foreign settlements at
Kobe), and the very recent opening of the ports of
Hyōgo and Ōsaka
by decree to foreign trade three weeks earlier on 1 January 1868.
Amongst the foreign navies in
Osaka bay were Admiral Henry Keppel (RN)
and Admiral Henry H. Bell (USN), of whom the latter was killed on the
11 January 1868.
Following the death of American Admiral Bell, the departure of Admiral
Keppel for Yokohama the same day, and the death of the British Consul
Hyōgo within the previous two weeks, the lines of communication
having been broken between Totsubashi and the Imperial Seat, the
prelude to the
Boshin War had set in.
Tokugawa Yoshinobu was in bed with a severe chill, and could not
participate directly in the operations.
Events of 27 January
On 27 January 1868[a] Tokugawa Yoshinobu, based at
Osaka Castle, south
of Kyoto, started to move his troops north to Kyoto, through two main
roads, one being the Toba road (鳥羽街道), and the other the
Fushimi road (伏見街道). Altogether about 13,000 troops were
moving forward, although they were widely spread out, leaving about
8,500 for the action at Toba–Fushimi. The overall commander
(rikugun bugyō) of the operation was Takenaka Shigekata.
Encounter at Toba (鳥羽), on 27 January. Shogunate troops are on the
left, Satsuma troops on the right, behind the Koeda Bridge
(小枝橋), and Chōshū troops at the bottom right.
Left image: The monument at Koedabashi (小枝橋) in Tobarikyuato
park (鳥羽離宮跡公園), Kyoto, where the Toba–Fushimi battle
Right image: Map of the initial encounters, on the first day of the
battle, 27 January (detail of the monument).
Koeda bridge, where the fighting began
The shogunate forces move in the direction of Toba under the command
of Vice-Commander Ōkubo Tadayuki, making a total of 2,000 to 2,500
troops. At around 17:00, the shogunate vanguard, made up largely
of about 400 men of the Mimawarigumi, armed with pikes and some
firearms, under Sasaki Tadasaburo, approached a Satsuma-manned barrier
post at the Koeda Bridge (小枝橋), Toba (located in what is now
part of Minami-ku, Kyoto). They were followed by two infantry
battalions (歩兵), rifles empty as they did not really expect a
fight, under Tokuyama Kōtarō, and further south by eight companies
Kuwana with four cannons. Some
Matsuyama and Takamatsu troops and
a few others were also participating, but
Bakufu cavalry and artillery
seem to have been absent. In front of them were about 900
entrenched troops from Satsuma, with four cannons.
After denying the shogunate force permission to pass peacefully, the
Satsuma force opened fire from the flank, the first shots of the
Boshin War. A Satsuma shell exploded on a gun carriage next to the
horse of shogunal commander Takigawa Tomotaka, causing the horse to
throw Takigawa and bolt. The startled horse ran wild, throwing the
shogunate column into panic and disarray. The Satsuma attack was
forceful and quickly sent the shogunate troops in disarray and
Location of the Toba battlefield today (鳥羽離宮跡公園)
Sasaki ordered his men to charge the Satsuma gunners, but since the
Mimawarigumi was armed only with spears and swords, his men were
killed en masse. However, the
Kuwana forces and a unit under
Kubota Shigeaki held their ground, making the skirmish rage on
inconclusively. The Shogunate troops set fire to various houses as
they retreated, but that allowed Satsuma snipers to aim more easily.
The situation stabilized during the night, as troops from Kuwana
arrived in reinforcement.
The Toba battlefield has been transformed into a public park,
Tobarikyūato-kōen (鳥羽離宮跡公園), which contains a monument
to the battle. It is located just between the Koeda Bridge, where the
Satsuma forces were stationed, and the Jōnangū Temple (城南宮),
where the Imperial forces had their headquarters.
Fushimi encounter at Bungobashi Bridge (豊後橋). Imperial troops
are on the right, Shogunal troops on the left.
On the same day, Satsuma–Chōshū forces further to the southeast at
Fushimi also inconclusively engaged Shogunal forces in their area.
The Satsuma–Chōshū forces started firing on the Shogunal forces
when they heard the firing of cannons from the area of Toba. The
Shogunal forces were composed of
Shinsengumi and Aizu
A violent encounter took place for the control of Bungo Bridge
Events of 28 January
Imperial banner deployed at Toba–Fushimi
On 28 January,
Iwakura Tomomi gave
Saigō Takamori and Ōkubo
Toshimichi orders obtained from
Emperor Meiji proclaiming Tokugawa
Yoshinobu and his followers to be enemies of the court, authorizing
their suppression by military force, and granting use of the Imperial
brocade banners. These brocade banners were prepared beforehand,
having been made by
Ōkubo Toshimichi a few months previously, and
stored in Chōshū domain and in the Satsuma
Kyoto residence until an
appropriate opportunity presented itself.
Imperial Prince Yoshiaki was named nominal commander-in-chief of the
In addition, Imperial Prince Yoshiaki, a young man of 22, who had
lived as a Buddhist monk at the monzeki temple of
Ninna-ji was named
nominal commander in chief of the army. Although the Prince had no
military experience, this nomination effectively transformed the
Satsuma-Chōshū alliance forces into an Imperial army (kangun), which
proved to be a powerful tool of psychological warfare, sending
shogunal forces into confusion and disarray, since anyone who fired on
the army would automatically become a traitor to the emperor.[citation
Bakufu forces that had been to Toba retreated and regrouped with
Bakufu troops at Tominomori (富の森), where they set up their
command base.
Battle of Awa
Battle of Awa took place that same day on the nearby
Inland Sea. It was the first naval battle between modern fleets in
Japan, and ended with a small shogunal victory over a Satsuma fleet,
but was insignificant to the unfolding of the land battle.[citation
Takasegawa encounter. Shogunate forces are visible on the left, while
the pro-Imperial forces of Tosa , Chōshū and Satsuma are visible
on the right.
The forces which had been to Fushimi, consisting in
Shinsengumi and Yūgekitai (遊撃隊) guerilla troops were again
attacked at Takasegawa (高瀬川) and Ujigawa (宇治川) on the
morning of the 28th by the troops of Satsuma and Chōshū, and were
forced to retreat in the direction of
Yodo Castle after a bitter
Events of 29 January
Encounter at Tominomori, on 29 January. Shogunal troops are on the
Aizu forces , and on the right Satsuma troops and
Chōshū troops .
The Shogunal forces which had regrouped at Tominomori (富の森) were
attacked by the forces of Satsuma in the morning. Around noon, the
Imperial brocade banner appeared from behind the Satsuma–Chōshū
lines. At first, neither side recognized the strange banner.
Messengers had to be sent to both sides to explain what it was.
Shogunal forces were thrown into confusion and Satsuma-Chōshū
forces, their morale boosted, drew swords and charged the shogunal
lines. The shogunal forces attempted to counter-attack, but were
forced to retreat in disarray. In the afternoon, the Shogunal
forces had once again to retreat to the area of Nōsho (納所), in
the direction of the Yodo Castle.
Shogunal forces attempted to regroup at Yodo Castle, but were refused
admission, as the daimyō of
Yodo Domain had decided to defect to the
Imperial side on the appearance of the Imperial banner and defeat of
the Shogunal forces. The daimyō of Yodo maintained his gates closed
despite the supplication of the retreating army, thus denying them a
major means of defense, forcing them to flee as far as
The daimyō of strategically located
Tsu Domain followed two days
Events of 30 January
Main article: Fall of
Retreat of Shogunal forces in front of the Imperial army. Yodo Castle
is shown in the background.
The retreating shogunal troops were progressively streaming into Osaka
Tokugawa Yoshinobu gathered his advisors and military
leaders to plan strategy and, to boost morale, advised that he would
personally take to the field as commander of bakufu forces. That
evening however, he slipped away from
Osaka Castle accompanied by the
Kuwana to escape back to
Edo on the shogunate
warship Kaiyō Maru.
Tokugawa Yoshinobu leaving for Edo, looking at the fire at Osaka
Castle in the background
As Kaiyō Maru had not arrived, he took refuge for the night on an
American warship, USS Iroquois, anchored in
Osaka Bay. Kaiyō
Maru arrived the following day.
When the remnants of his forces learned that the shōgun had abandoned
them, they departed
Osaka Castle, which was later surrendered to
Imperial forces without resistance. Yoshinobu later claimed that he
had been disturbed by the Imperial approval given to the actions of
Satsuma and Chōshū, and, once the brocade banner had appeared, he
had lost all will to fight.
Jules Brunet and Cazeneuve, who were present at the
Osaka and returned to
Edo on 12 January, together with
Enomoto Takeaki on board the Fujiyama. Enomoto brought with him
various documents and a treasure of 180,000 ryō. They arrived in Edo
on 14 January.
Osaka Castle rampart in 1865
The effects of the
Battle of Toba–Fushimi
Battle of Toba–Fushimi were out of proportion to
its small scale. The prestige and morale of the Tokugawa bakufu was
seriously weakened, and many daimyōs who had remained neutral now
declared in favor of the Emperor and offered military support to prove
their new loyalties. Even more significantly, the ill-conceived
Tokugawa Yoshinobu to regain control silenced elements
within the new imperial government who favored a peaceful resolution
to the conflict.
Osaka Castle, an important symbol of Tokugawa hegemony over western
Japan, fell to Imperial forces. The victory set a course for a
military settlement rather than a political compromise.
Firearms of Japan
^ Japanese calendar: 正月３日
^ a b c d e Totman 1980, p. 429.
^ Satow 1968, p. 282.
^ Keene, p. 116. See also Jansen, pp. 310–311.
^ Keene, pp. 120–1, and Satow, p. 283. Moreover, Satow
(p. 285) speculates that Yoshinobu agreed to an assembly of
daimyōs on the hope that such a body would reinstate him
^ Satow 1968, p. 286.
^ During a recess, Saigō, who had his troops outside, "remarked that
it would take only one short sword to settle the discussion" (Keene,
p. 122). Original quotation (in Japanese):
"短刀一本あればかたづくことだ." in Hagiwara, p. 42.
^ Keene, p. 124.
^ Yamakawa Kenjirō.
Aizu Boshin Senshi. Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku
Shuppankai, 1933, pp. 89–90
^ a b Totman 1980, p. 435.
^ Totman 1980, pp. 434–435.
^ a b Totman 1980, p. 431.
^ The Cambridge History of Japan p. 304
^ Totman 1980, p. 420.
^ a b c d e f g Totman 1980, p. 422.
Emperor Meiji and His World, p. 126
^ Yamakawa, pp. 94–95
^ Yamakawa, p. 95
^ Sasaki Suguru, Boshin Sensō. Tokyo: Chuokōron-shinsha, 2004,
^ Ishii Takashi, Ishin no nairan. Tokyo: Shiseido, 1968, 11–17;
Sasaki Suguru, Taisei hokan to tobaku mitchoku, Jinbun gahuho 80
[March 1997], 28–29.
^ Iwata, Masakazu. Okubo Toshimichi: the Bismarck of Japan. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1964, 114.
^ Hillsborough 2005, p. 142.
Emperor Meiji and His World, page 127
^ Sims 2001, p. 14.
Fukushima Hiroshi. Bakumatsu Ishin: Yume no Ato Kikō. Tokyo: Kyōiku
Hillsborough, Romulus (2005). Shinsengumi: The Shogun's Last Samurai
Corps. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3627-2.
Satow, Ernest (1968) . A Diplomat in Japan. Tokyo: Oxford.
Sims, Richard (2001). Japanese Political History Since the Meiji
Renovation 1868–2000. Palgrave Macmillan.
Sims, Richard (1998). French Policy Towards the
Bakufu and Meiji Japan
1854–1894. RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 1-873410-61-1.
Totman, Conrad (1980). Collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1862–1868.
Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-82480-614-X. .
Yamakawa Kenjirō. Hōshu
Aizu Byakkōtai Jūkyūshi-den.
Aizu Chōrei Gikai, 1926.
Aizu Boshin Senshi. Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku
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