French military mission to Japan (1867–68)

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The French military mission before its departure to Japan, in 1866. Charles Chanoine is standing in the center, Jules Brunet is second from right in the front row.
French officers drilling Shōgun troops in Osaka in 1867.
Training of Japanese Bakufu troops by the French Military Mission to Japan. 1867 photograph.
The Shogunate's French-style cavalry.
Training of Japanese troops by the French.

The French Military Mission to Japan of 1867-68 was one of the first foreign military training missions to Japan. The mission was formed by Napoléon III, following a request of the Japanese Shogunate in the person of its emissary to Europe, Shibata Takenaka (1823–1877).

Shibata was already negotiating the final details of the French support for the construction of the Yokosuka Shipyard, and had additionally requested both the United Kingdom and France to send a military mission for training in Western warfare. The United Kingdom provided support to the Bakufu naval forces through the Tracey Mission. The French foreign minister Drouyn de Lhuys (1865–1881) transmitted the agreement of the French government to provide training to the Shōgun's land based armed forces.


The mission consisted of 17 members, under the authority of the Minister of War General Jacques Louis Randon, covering a wide range of expertise: four officers (representing infantry, artillery and cavalry), ten non-commissioned officers and two soldiers. The mission would be headed by staff captain Charles Sulpice Jules Chanoine, at that time an attaché to the military staff of Paris. The members were:

Hosoya YasutaroCaptain Jules BrunetCommander in chief Matsudaira TaroTajima KintaroCaptain André CazeneuveSargeant Jean MarlinFukushima TokinosukeSergeant Arthur FortantUse button to enlarge or cursor to investigate
The French military advisers and their Japanese allies in Hokkaido - use a cursor to investigate
Commander of the mission
  • Captain Charles Sulpice Jules Chanoine
  • Charles Albert Dubousquet, lieutenant of the 31st Rgt of the Line, infantry instructor.
  • Édouard Messelot, lieutenant of the 20th battalion of Chasseurs à Pied, infantry instructor.
  • Léon Descharmes, lieutenant of the Empress Dragoon Regiment of the Guard, cavalry instructor.
  • Jules Brunet, lieutenant to the Horse Artillery Regiment of the Guard, artillery instructor.
Non-Commissioned Officers
  • Jean Marlin, sergeant to the 8th battalion of Chasseurs à Pied, infantry instructor.
  • François Bouffier, sergeant to the 8th battalion of Chasseurs à Pied, infantry instructor.
  • Henry Ygrec, sergeant to the 31st Regiment of the Line, infantry instructor.
  • Emile Peyrussel, sergeant, sous-maître de manège à l'école d'état-major, cavalry instructor.
  • Arthur Fortant, sergeant, Horse Artillery Regiment of the Guard, artillery instructor.
  • L. Gutthig, trumpeter to the battalion de Chasseurs of the Guard.
  • Charles Bonnet, chef armorer second class.
  • Barthélémy Izard, sergeant, chief artificier of the Horse Artillery Regiment of the Guard.
  • Frédéric Valette, sergeant, wood specialist.
  • Jean-Félix Mermet, brigadier, steel specialist.
  • Jourdan, captain, Engineer of the 1st Engineer Regiment.
  • Michel, sergeant, Engineer of the 1st Engineer Regiment.


The mission left Marseille on November 19, 1866, and arrived in Yokohama on January 14, 1867. They were welcomed on their arrival by Léon Roches and the commander of the French Far East Squadron Admiral Pierre-Gustave Roze.

The military mission was able to train an elite corps of shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the Denshūtai, for a little more than one year, before the Tokugawa shogunate lost to the Imperial forces in 1868 in the Boshin War. The French military mission was then ordered to leave Japan by decree of the newly installed Meiji Emperor in October 1868.

In contravention of the agreement for all foreign powers to remain neutral in the conflict, Jules Brunet and four of his non-commissioned officers (Fortant, Marlin, Cazeneuve, Bouffier), chose to remain in Japan and continue supporting the Bakufu side. They resigned from the French army, and left for the north of Japan with the remains of the Shogunate's armies in the hope of staging a counter-attack.

The conflict continued until the rebels' defeat at the Battle of Hakodate in May 1869.

The shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu in French military uniform, c. 1867

See also[edit]


  • End of the Bakufu and restoration in Hakodate (Japanese: 函館の幕末・維新) ISBN 4-12-001699-4
  • French policy in Japan during the closing years of the Tokugawa regime (English), Meron Medzini ISBN 0-674-32230-4
  • Polak, Christian. (2001). Soie et lumières: L'âge d'or des échanges franco-japonais (des origines aux années 1950). Tokyo: Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie Française du Japon, Hachette Fujin Gahōsha (アシェット婦人画報社).
  • Polak, Christian. (2002). 絹と光: 知られざる日仏交流100年の歴史 (江戶時代-1950年代) Kinu to hikariō: shirarezaru Nichi-Futsu kōryū 100-nen no rekishi (Edo jidai-1950-nendai). Tokyo: Ashetto Fujin Gahōsha, 2002. ISBN 978-4-573-06210-8; OCLC 50875162

External links[edit]