Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan

By: Mackie O'Malley and Reilly Reed

Thesis

After over 250 years of having a prosperous and peaceful community, Japan faced deforestation, isolation, and religion disagreements causing the Tokugawa Shogun civilization to collapse.

Deforestation

In the 1600's, the Tokugawa Shogun Empire, under the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu, faced the predicament of deforestation. From 1450-1600, the population increased by 70%. With the population reaching 30 million people, the Japanese timber consumption soared. Having a thriving economy and growing population, the Japanese people consumed excessive amounts of their forests in order to meet their needs. In Tokugawa, most of the buildings, palaces, temples, and castles were constructed by wood. For example, the three biggest castles built in the empire cleared 10 square miles of forest. Timber was at popular demand since villagers believed it was the best for providing organic fertilizer as well as fuel. In addition, the people enjoyed how the land was being opened up for agriculture. Issues such as erosion, floods, landslides, and barren lands became more common with the lack of trees. Japan appeared to be moving towards an ecological disaster. The Japanese appeared to be heading towards a collapse, but they sought to end their problem by switching to different methods. They lowered wood consumption by using light-timbered construction Used coal as a source of energy for efficient stoves and heaters. This contributed to the many years of the strong Empire.

Isolation

Another conflict that Japan faced was isolation. In the early 1400’s, Japan decided that any contact with the world after the possible disloyalty from Portugal and Spain could be harmful, so they put together multiple anti-foreign policies. Japan now only relied on its own resources as well as At this time, Japan was closed to the world for nearly 200 years. This was because the Shoguns’ goals were to prevent any rebellion or potential dissent. Therefore, no foreign influence was allowed to affect the civilization. With the sudden rise of Christianity, all trade routes towards Europe were forbidden, and soon the whole world was shut out. Due to this isolation, Tokugawa was soon deprived of resources that were needed to survive. They were also behind on the world's technological advancement. To add, the population increase made the lack of resources plummet even more drastically. Clearly, the isolation contributed to the collapse of the Tokugawa empire, and negatively affected Japan. Japan had to rely on its own resources to supply itself. Japan only traded with the Dutch since they believed the Europeans were being untrustworthy.

Religious Disagreements

After the many years it took to build a stable society, the rulers made it a goal to prevent any potential rebellion. Leader Hideyoshi, a ruler from the Tokugawa Shogunate, planned to ban all Spanish and Portuguese Catholic missionaries after their attempt to convert Japanese people to Christianity. Another ruler, Ieyasu, saw the Christians as a threat to his power. He wanted to end all Christianity, and send his message by executing a few Japanese converters, which prevented any trade with Europe. These lynchings also resulted in the Shimabara Rebellion, going on from 1637 to 1683 but was soon crushed by the Tokugawa forces. In 1614, Ieyasu created the Christian Expulsion Act which ended all Christianity activity throughout the empire. To secure themselves, the shogun also limited trade to strictly the Dutch. This added to the collapse of the Empire because Japan can not trade with many countries to create revenue after the disappearance of Christianity. Additionally, the spread of Christianity took away even more Japanese traditions that kept the country stable and at peace with their culture.

Map of Japan

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