The Battle of Shimonita, fought on November 16, 1864, was a skirmish between troops sent by the shogunate and a rebel group known as the Tengu Party originating in the Mito domain in present day Ibaraki Prefecture. The Tengu Party was passing through Shimonita on its way to Kyoto to show support for the emperor when they were caught by the shogun’s troops.
The battle lasted only a few hours, but it was a significant event for Shimonita, which had never been a battlefield before (and has never again since). The town still bears battle scars, including bullet holes in the outer walls of a local storehouse. Nearby is one of several stone markers in the town commemorating parts of the conflict and the lives lost. More details are contained in an exhibit at the local history museum.
The shogun’s troops failed to stop the rebels at Shimonita. They lost the battle and returned to their domain. The Tengu Party eventually had to abandon their journey to Kyoto and return home when they ran short of supplies.
There was substantial social and political upheaval in Japan in the waning days of the Tokugawa shogunate, which governed Japan from 1603–1867. The Tengu Party was one of various factions that had opposing views on the best way to respond to demands from domains in the western part of the country that Japan be opened to trade. These factions believed it was time for the shogunate to end and for power to be restored to the emperor.