The Kansei Reforms (寛政の改革? Kansei no kaikaku) were a series of reactionary policy changes and edicts which were intended to cure a range of perceived problems which had developed in mid-18th century Tokugawa Japan.
Matsudaira Sadanobu was named the Shogun's chief councilor (rōjū) in the summer of 1787; and early in the next year, he became the regent for the 11th shogun, Tokugawa Ienari. As the chief administrative decision-maker in the bakufu hierarchy, he was in a position to effect radical change; and his initial actions represented an aggressive break with the recent past.
Sadanobu's efforts were focused on strengthening the government by reversing many of the policies and practices which had become commonplace under the regime of the previous shogun, Tokugawa Ieharu. The broad panoply of changes and new initiatives became known as the Kansei Reforms.
Sadanobu's policies could be interpreted as a reactionary response to the excesses of his rōju predecessor, Tanuma Okitsugu. The result was that the Tanuma-initiated, liberalizing reforms within the bakufu and the relaxation of sakoku (Japan's "closed-door" policy of strict control of foreign merchants) were reversed or blocked.
The shogunate's interventions were only partly successful. Intervening factors like famine, floods and other disasters exacerbated some of the conditions which the shogun intended to ameliorate.
- 1790 (Kansei 2): The shogunate issues an edict addressed to Hayashi Kinpō, the rector of the Edo Confucian Academy -- "The Kansei Prohibition of Heterodox Studies" (kansei igaku no kin).
- In the name "Kansei Reforms," the noun "Kansei" refers to the nengō (Japanese era name) after "Tenmei" and before "Kyōwa." In other words, the Kansei Reforms occurred during Kansei, which was a time period spanning the years from 1789 through 1801.
- Totman, Conrad. Politics in the Tokugawa Bakufu. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988, p. 224
- Hall, J. (1955). Tanuma Okitsugu: Forerunner of Modern Japan, 1719-1788. pp. 131-142.
- Screech, T. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822, pp. 148-151, 163-170, 248.
- Traugott, Mark. (1995). Repertoires and Cycles of Collective Action, p. 147.
- Nosco, Peter. (1997). Confucianism and Tokugawa Culture, p. 20.
- Hall, John Whitney. (1955). Tanuma Okitsugu: Forerunner of Modern Japan, 1719-1788. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- Nosco, Peter. (1997). Confucianism and Tokugawa Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1865-2
- Screech, Timon. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-7007-1720-X
- Totman, Conrad. (1967). Politics in the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1600-1843. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-68800-7 [reprinted by University of California Press, Berkeley, 1988. ISBN 0-520-06313-9]
- 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