Choshu Domain 長州藩
Chōshū was a feudal daimyō domain located in modern-day Yamaguchi prefecture, at the Western tip of Honshū. It was also known as Nagato no kuni (長門国, Nagato Province). While Shimonoseki (下関市) was its ancient capital, Hagi (萩) used to be the seat of the Chōshū fief, ruled over by the Mōri clan in the Edo period.
Mōri Motonari was a powerful warlord in the period of the Warring States (戦国時代, sengoku) and was able to extend his control over vast territories in the Chūgoku region (中国地方, the present-day prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi. Due to a series of erroneous strategic decision and treason, his grandson, daimyō Mōri Terumoto was removed from his ancestral home in Aki (安芸). After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu slashed the land holdings of the Mōri clan to roughly a quarter of their former domain. As a result of what was subsequently seen as a great act of betrayal on behalf of the shogunate, Chōshū had been harbouring strong anti-Tokugawa sentiments ever since.
Legend has it that every year, the fief's elders would convene in a New-Year gathering and ask the daimyō:
Has the time for the overthrow of the [Tokugawa] shogunate finally come?" 「今年は倒幕の機はいかに」To which the lord would respond:
"No, not yet!" 「時期尚早」.
In 1866 however, samurai from Chōshū allied with the Satsuma domain and Kyoto court nobility in order to confront the bakufu in the Boshin War, triggering the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration. The military forces of Chōshū and Satsuma formed the core of what would become the Imperial Japanese Army. Famous samurai from Chōshū who went on to become Meiji statesmen include Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo, Inoue Kaoru and Katsura Taro.
The Chōshū Five
The Chōshū Five (長州五傑, chōshū goketsu) were members of the ruling class in the Chōshū domain who in 1862 left Japan illegally in order to study sciences at University College London under the guidance of Professor Alexander William Williamson. They were disguised as English sailors and brought to Shanghai, from where they travelled to London. The five comprised Ito Shunsuke (later known as Ito Hirobumi), Inoue Monta (later known as Inoue Kaoru, Nomura Yakichi (later Inoue Masaru), Endō Kinsuke and Yamao Yōzō. Inoue and Itō returned to Japan earlier, as they had learned that the Chōshū clan was in danger of attack by the allied powers for trying to close the Straits of Shimonoseki to foreign shipping.
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