Following the 1868 Meiji Restoration, many members of the former samurai class were disgruntled with the direction the nation had taken. The abolition of their former privileged social status under the feudal order had also eliminated their income, and the establishment of universal military conscription had eliminated much of their raison d'etre. The very rapid modernization (Westernization) of the country was resulting in massive changes to Japanese culture, dress and society and appeared to many samurai to be a betrayal of the joi (“Expel the Barbarian”) portion of the Sonnō jōi justification used to overthrow the former Tokugawa shogunate. Maebara Issei, one of the heroes of the Meiji restoration and a leader of the Imperial Army at the Battle of Aizu was among the dissatisfied. Maebara had been a pupil of Yoshida Shoin and an early advocate of modernization. He had risen to the post of Military Minister in the new Meiji government, but had resigned due to disagreements with Kido Takayoshi over the treatment of the former daimyō after the abolition of the han system.
When Maebara was contacted by the leaders of the Shimpūren Rebellion to join forces in a widespread uprising against the Meiji government, he gathered a group of like-minded samurai on October 26, 1876, in Hagi, the former capital of Chōshū Domain (now Yamaguchi Prefecture), and proposed a lightning strike against the government offices located in Yamaguchi city. As his forces numbered only around 100 warriors, it was decided to make a night attack, with the date set at October 28. The governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture, hearing of Maebara's preparation, sent word to him with news of the crushed Shinpūren Rebellion, and urged that he stand down.
Maebara realized that his plans for a surprise attack were doomed to fail, and that the government offices in Yamaguchi had been reinforced with Imperial troops, so he changed his strategy, and decided to march along the coast of the Sea of Japan to Tokyo, winning over the ex-samurai from the various former domains along the way, and to commit mass suicide at the feet of Emperor Meiji.
Maebara's rebels marched from Hagi to Susa, looting along the way. At Susa, they recruited more warriors and began to call themselves the Juntoku Army. However, Maebara's plans to travel by sea to Hamada in Iwami Province were defeated by strong winds, and he returned to Hagi instead.
On his return to Hagi, Maebara discovered that someone had dumped his secret store of ammunition into the ocean, rendering his army largely weaponless. On November 5, Maebara attempted to escape from Hagi with a handful of men in an attempt to reach Tokyo, but he was captured. The remainder of his "Juntoku Army” was crushed by Imperial Army troops at Hagi. Maeda and six of his associates were tried before a military tribunal in Fukuoka and executed on December 3 alongside the leaders of the Akizuki Rebellion. Forty of the surviving rebels received prison sentences.