This book covers the armies of the two wars that dramatically transformed Japan, turning her from an isolated feudal society ruled by a centuries old Shogunate, into a rapidly modernising country with a westernised army that was soon to flex its newly found muscles overseas.
There can’t be many other examples of such a dramatic contrast between the forces during two civil wars. In one campaign you could find samurai with their full traditional arms and armour and modern European style infantry, on occasion fighting on the same time. As a result this is one of the most varied Men-at-Arms books that you will ever find – the photographs include Samurai in full medieval armour armed with bows and swords, followed a few pages later by a breech-loading 12-pounder Armstrong Gun!
This is a very good example of how one should be careful about getting what you’ve wished for. Most of the original rebels against the Shogun wanted to restore the Emperor, and more importantly expel the foreigners. Having achieved their first aim, it must have come as a rather unpleasant surprise to discover that the newly empowered Emperor actually shared the Shogun’s views on Japan’s relationship with the outside world and the dangers of isolation. As a result the Imperial armies of the Satsuma Rebellion have more in common with the Shogun’s armies of the Boshin War than with the traditional samurai based army. Indeed the Emperor’s government was able to go much further than the Shoguns, and ended up creating a modern conscript army, which proved to be more than capable of defeating the Satsuma Samurai. However these wars were never quite as simple as a clash between traditional and modern armies – many of the clans who opposed the Shoguns and then the Emperor were willing to put aside their hostility to foreigners for long enough to at least partially modernise their own forces – the heart of the pro-Imperial forces during the Boshin War was the largely westernized force of the Choshu domain.
The Boshin War, 1868-1869
The Satsuma Rebellion, 1877
Japanese Forces, 1840-1868
Armies of the Boshin War
Armies of the Satsuma Rebellion
Author: Gabriele Esposito