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The Tokugawa shogunate or Tokugawa bakufu (徳川幕府) (also known as the Edo bakufu) was a feudal military dictatorship established in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family until 1868. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city of Edo, now Tokyo.
Following the Sengoku Period of "warring states", central government had been largely re-established by Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, central authority fell to Tokugawa Ieyasu who completed this process and received the title of shogun in 1603. His descendants were to hold the position, and the central authority that came with it, until the 19th century.
The Tokugawa period, unlike the shogunates before it, was based on the strict class hierarchy originally established by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The warrior-caste of samurai were at the top, followed by farmers, artisans, and traders. Ironically, the very strictness of the caste system was to undermine these classes in the long run. Taxes on the peasantry were set to fixed amounts which did not account for inflation or other changes in monetary value. As a result, the tax revenues collected by the samurai landowners were worth less and less over time. This often led to confrontations between noble but impoverished samurai and well-to-do peasants.
Toward the end of the 19th century, an alliance of several of the more powerful daimyo with the titular Emperor finally succeeded in the overthrow of the shogunate, culminating in the Meiji Restoration. The Tokugawa bakufu came to an official end in 1868 with the resignation of the 15th Tokugawa Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu and the "restoration" ('Taisei Houkan') of imperial rule.
See also the shogunate and domain system for the political system in the Edo period.
List of the Shoguns
Other influential figures in the shogunate include:
shogun -- bakufu -- Cloistered rule -- History of Japan -- Lists of incumbents