Tenpō Reforms

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The Tenpō Reforms (天保の改革, tenpō no kaikaku) were an array of economic policies introduced in 1842 by the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan.[1] These reforms were efforts to resolve perceived problems in military, economic, agricultural, financial and religious systems.[2]

The changes were intended to address problems in local politics, but they were also addressed more broadly to "domestic uneasiness." The perceived need for change led to the arrest of many prominent political figures and writers. The reforms became a precursor of reforms initiated after the Meiji Restoration two decades later.

The Tenpō Reforms were mostly instituted by Mizuno Tadakuni. Notably, the restrictions on entertainment were enforced solely by him and when he was removed from government in 1845, they ceased to be enforced.

New coinage was issued; and commodity price controls were lifted.

Immigration to Edo was prohibited and the formation of societies was also banned.

Rangaku (Dutch Learning) was banned.

An annual calendar (年中行事 nenjū gyōji) was set up during this period to bring order to Japanese society. Families were required to register themselves at the nearest Shinto shrine annually on the 16th of the first and seventh months.

A Shinto festival (muramura jingi), meeting (jingi kasihū) or pilgrimage (muramura kamimōde) was scheduled once a month.

The popular bon festival was rewritten as Sensosai, the Ancestor Festival, and held twice a year. Buddhism was written out of this religious calendar; the government revoked its support for existing Buddhist institutions.[3]

This reform movement was accompanied by three others during the Edo period, the Kyōhō reforms (1716–1736), the Kansei reforms of the 1790s and the Keiō Reforms, 1866–1867.[4]


The shogunate's interventions were only partly successful. Intervening factors like earthquakes, famine and other disasters exacerbated some of the conditions which the shōgun intended to ameliorate.


  1. ^ In the name "Tenpō Reforms," the noun "Tenpō" refers to the nengō (Japanese era name) after "Bunsei" and before "Kōka." In other words, the Tenpō Reforms occurred during Tenpō, which was a time period spanning the years from 1830 through 1844.
  2. ^ Hall, John Whitney et al. (1991). Early Modern Japan: The Cambridge History of Japan, p. 21.
  3. ^ Ketelaar, James Edward. (1990). Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution, pp. 52–53.
  4. ^ Traugott, Mark. (1995). Repertoires and Cycles of Collective Action, p. 147.
  5. ^ a b Online "Significant Earthquake Database", U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC)


  • Hall, John Whitney and Marius Jansen. (1991). Early Modern Japan: The Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-22355-3; OCLC 62064695
  • Ketelaar, James Edward. (1990). Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-05599-2; OCLC 20996545
  • 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

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