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The Keiō Reforms (慶応の改革, Keiō no kaikaku) were an array of new policies introduced in 1866 by the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.[1] The reforms created in reaction to the rising violence on the part of Satsuma and other domains; the initial steps taken during this period became a key part of the reforms and changes made during the rule of Emperor Meiji.

When the shōgun and Emperor happened to both die at the same time, the bakufu (shogunate government) created the Keiō Reform to keep Japan from falling into disunity or disarray. It Westernized many aspects of the system of bureaucracy, the military, and the economy, focusing on governmental promotions by merit (not by birth) and trade policies with other nations.

The bakufu hoped that these Reforms would somehow end the Rebellions of Satsuma and Chōshū – that did not happen. The rebels did not wish to see the bakufu profit from these changes which were so close to the core of what the rebels had been fighting against all along.

This reform period was preceded by three others during the Edo period: the Kyōhō reforms (1716–1736), the Kansei reforms of the 1790s and the Tenpō reforms (1830–1844).[2]


The shogunate's interventions had only limited success. In addition to the death of the shōgun Iemochi and the death of Emperor Kōmei, intervening factors exacerbated some of the conditions which the shogun intended to ameliorate.

  • September 28, 1866 (Keiō 2, 20th day of the 8th month): Shogun Iemochi died at Osaka; and the bakufu petitioned that Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu should be appointed as his successor.[3]
  • January 10, 1867 (Keiō 2, 5th day of the 12th month): Yoshinobu was appointed shogun.[3]
  • January 30, 1867 (Keiō 2, 25th day of the 12th month): Emperor Komei died.[3]


  1. ^ In the name "Keiō Reforms", the noun "Keiō" refers to the nengō (Japanese era name) after "Genji" and before "Meiji." In other words, the Keiō Reforms occurred during Keiō, which was a time period spanning the years from 1865 through 1868.
  2. ^ Traugott, Mark. (1995). Repertoires and Cycles of Collective Action, p. 147.
  3. ^ a b c Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1956). Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794–1869, p. 326.


  • McDougall, Walter (1993). "Let the Sea Make a Noise: Four Hundred Years of Cataclysm, Conquest, War and Folly in the North Pacific". New York: Avon Books.
  • Ponsonby-Fane, Richard A. B. (1956). Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794–1869. Kyoto: The Ponsonby Memorial Society. OCLC 182637732
  • Traugott, Mark. (1995). Repertoires and Cycles of Collective Action. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-822-31527-8; ISBN 978-0-822-31546-9; OCLC 243809107