Fighting for the shogun: the story of a ship, some samurai, nine French officers and the battle for Hokkaido

Date: 21 April 2010 6:30pm
Venue: Crane & Tortoise, 39 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8PR (room to rear of main bar)
Tel: 020 7828 6330
Organiser: The Japan Society

In 1862, the first ever young Japanese went to Europe to study. They commissioned a ship, the Kaiyo Maru, and sailed her back. But shortly after they arrived, the shogunate fell after bitter fighting and the leader of the young men, Takeaki Enomoto, now second in command of the Tokugawa navy, was ordered to hand over all eight ships to the new government.
He refused and the fleet sailed north. In Sendai they joined forces with the remnants of the Tokugawa army, the Shinsengumi (the shogun’s feared special forces, who had policed Kyoto) and nine French officers who had trained the shogunal troops and resigned from the French army to fight alongside them.
They sailed for Hokkaido, then called Ezo. The plan was to make a homeland for the Tokugawa supporters there, hold elections and create Japan’s first republic – the Republic of Ezo. Lesley will tell the thrilling story of the Tokugawa warriors’ last stand and what became of them and their magnificent ship, as revealed in newspaper accounts of the time, illustrated with lots of pictures.
Lesley Downer’s books on Japan include Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World and a novel, The Last Concubine. Her new novel, The Courtesan and the Samurai, is woven around the events that happened after Emperor Meiji’s grand entry into Edo, newly renamed Tokyo.
A light buffet (makimono, karaage, teriyaki salmon etc) will be provided after the lecture. Please notify the office when booking of any special dietary requirements.


To reserve your place, please contact the Japan Society office on tel: 020 7828 6330 or email:

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