From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Lasting from 1603 to 1868, the Tokugawa shogunate ended a period of civil war and warlord rule in Japan, with consolidation under Ieyasu Tokugawa and his descendants. Some date it from 1600, when Ieyasu defeated his rivals, rather than his confirmation in 16043. It was also known as the Edo Period, Edo being a classic name for Tokyo, or the Edo bakufu, bakufu being a synonym for shogun or military leader.
Effectively, the shogun was the head of government, with the Emperor of Japan relegated to a spiritual and figurehead position.
Its predecessor was the Sengoku Period of "warring states", in which a generally central government was formed under Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi, in what was called the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. With the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa took power, and was formally named shogun in 1603. It was succeeded by the Meiji Restoration of 1868.
During the shogunate, Japan was largely closed to foreigners, with access only through the port of Nagasaki. Ieyasu established a strict class system, with various levels of samurai retainers at the top.