Theory of expelling the barbarians (Joi Ron) (攘夷論)

The theory of 'expelling the barbarians' (Joi ron) was a view that prevailed in Japan during the end of the Edo period and aims to expel foreigners from Japan. In other words, the theory supported the expulsion of foreigners from Japan by force. It was originally a word used during the Chunqiu era of China.

This theory was made widely known during the Edo period of Japan so as to maintain its society's peaceful state (sakoku society, where foreigners were not allowed to enter the nation) as a way to avoid the imperialism of Europe and America, who were, in those days, approaching Asia for the purpose of invasion, expansion, and colonization.


This theory was originally developed by Mitogaku (the scholarship and academic traditions that arose in the Mito Domain) that highly valued Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) and spread nationwide as the thought of Sonno Joi ('Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians'). However, at time when this theory was related to the pro-Imperial thought, it led people to shift to the movement to overthrow the Shogunate. However, it was a kind of manipulative shift of attention.

After the opening of the port, the theory of Joi was related to the Sonno ron (theory of 'Revere the Emperor'), which was becoming prevalent due to the development of kokugaku (the study of Japanese literature and culture) and was transformed into Sonno joi ron (the theory of Sonno joi); the Sonno ron believed that Japan was the country of god and became origin of the thought of nationalism, and was supported by patriots of various domains and kugyo (court nobles).

However, as Japan faced the power difference from the foreign fleets during the Anglo-Satsuma War and Shimonoseki War, criticisms to the simple Joi ron arose and was replaced with Dai joi ron started by Takamasa OKUNI, a scholar of Japanese classical literature in the Tsuwano Domain; Takamasa claimed that unification of the whole nation should be the first priority and should gain power that the country can confront other nations equally even by aiming fukoku kyohei (fortifying the country, strengthening the military) through trades with foreign countries; The Choshu Domain and Satsuma Domain, the major drive of the joi movement, accepted this view and started directing themselves for the opening of the country to the world.

Even after that, some ordinary citizens tried to continue the Joi movement; however, because the kogi-yoron (public deliberation) issued by the Kogisho (the lower house) and the Jokyoku (a law-making body) expressed the judgment that joi (the expelling of the barbarians) was not possible, the Meiji government adopted a national policy of "opening the country up and establishing friendly relations with other countries" (kaikoku washin) in 1869 and decided not to employ joi as part of their agenda anymore (May 28). Furthermore, together with the peasants, the government decided to treat the ordinary citizens who had supported the Joi movement as people who had left their homeland without permission, punishing them under the law of Hitogaeshi (a law that forced peasants to return to their homelands) (According to the fifth item in the Gobo no keiji (five public notices), the actual regulation was enacted after 1869).

However, the revival of the joi ron did not completely disappear; some incidents that tried to decline the Meiji government and force the Joi movement, such as Gentaro DAIRAKU's rebellion, Nikyo Jiken (The Incidents triggered by two court nobles), and the Kurume Domain incident continued for a certain period of time.

Examples of the Joi movement (the movement advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners)

The Shimonoseki War the Choshu Domain vs allied forces of the British Empire, France, Holland, and the USA
The Anglo-Satsuma War the Satsuma Domain vs the United Kingdom