Problem of heir of Shogun (将軍継嗣問題)

The problem of heir of Shogun means a political strife of selection of the next Seii Taishogun (Barbarian Subduing Generalissimo) (Shogun) of the bakufu. The political strife of succession to the 13th shogun Iesada TOKUGAWA of the Edo bakufu in the Ansei era was very famous, and the 'problem of heir of Shogun' usually refers to this strife.

Successor issue of Iesada TOKUGAWA
The legitimate son of the 12th shogun of the Edo bakufu, Ieyoshi (later Iesada) TOKUGAWA, had a weak construction and speech and behavior defects (thus he might have cerebral palsy). Ieyoshi considered adopting Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA (Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI), a son of Nariaki TOKUGAWA of the Mito Domain, who succeeded the Hitotsubashi family, but was persuaded not to do so by roju (senior councilor) Masahiro ABE, and made a decision to make Yoshinobu an heir if an unexpected accident occurred on Iesada.

Ieyoshi died immediately after the Kurofune (the black ships of Commodore Matthew Perry) came, and in a state of turmoil, Japan had to sign the Treaty between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan. However, Iesada who succeeded Ieyoshi after his death became extremely ill and often almost disabled and could not administer government affairs satisfactorily. In addition, he had no children and the problem of a successor arose.

Several main daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) who were concerned with that, such as Nariakira SHIMAZU, Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA, and Nariaki TOKUGAWA, considered that they should put up a shogun who could deal with crises and attempted to back up Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI, a real son of Nariaki, as shogun, with a support of roju Masahiro ABE. On the other hand, conservative fudai daimyo (daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) and O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle where the wife of the Shogun and her servants reside) backed up Yoshitomi TOKUGAWA (later Iemochi TOKUGAWA), a male cousin of Iesada, of the Kii Domain. The former was called the Hitotsubashi group, and the latter, Nanki group.

When Masahiro ABE died suddenly, fudai daimyo who opposed to the Ansei Reform led by Abe began to regain lost ground and were supported by O-oku who opposed to Nariaki who called upon the tightening discipline of O-oku. The conflict between kaikoku-ha (the open country wing) and Joi-ha (the expulsionist wing) about the issue of imperial sanction of the treaty worsened the situation (In the Hitotsubashi group, Nariakira SHIMAZU belonged to the kaikoku-ha, Nariaki TOKUGAWA belonged to the Joi-ha and they backed up Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI to realize their own foreign policies. The same was true on the Nanki group).

However, when Iesada fell into a critical condition in 1858, the fudai daimyo of the Nanki group appointed Naosuke II of Hikone Domain as a tairo (chief minister) and announced in June in the name of Iesada that the successor was Yoshitomi TOKUGAWA. This is said to be a plan made by the Nanki group, but some stated that Iesada, although being almost disabled or in a critical condition, did not lose his mental capacity completely and appointed Yoshitomi whom he liked personally because he disliked his rival Yoshinobu (according to the reflection of Kansui ASAHINA who was Iesada's attendant page and later served as kanjo bugyo [commissioner of finance], Iesada hated Yoshinobu because 'Yoshinobu was more handsome than him'). The Nanki group won in the end and when Iesada died in July, Yoshitomi changed his name to 'Iemochi' and became a new shogun.

Naosuke II who selected Iemochi as shogun assigned Yoshiyori TOKUGAWA (head of Tayasu-Tokugawa Family) as pro forma Shogun-kokenshoku (guardian) and purged the opposition faction including the Hitotsubashi family, which is called Ansei no Taigoku. Ii was assassinated in the Sakuradamongai Incident, and Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI became Shogun-kokenshoku and became the 15th shogun after the death of Iemochi.

Other problems of heirs of Shoguns
It was a national crisis that the successor of the Seii taishogun, who was the leader of samurai class and the practically main administrator, was not determined, and it often became a political problem unless the oldest son succeeded the Seii taishogun.

Cases in which disputes occurred before the final decision of heir
Successor issue of the 8th shogun of the Muromachi bakufu, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA
Yoshimasa considered making his younger brother Gijin return to secular life (his secular name was Yoshimi ASHIKAGA) and transferring shogun to him, but Yoshimasa's lawful wife Tomiko HINO gave birth to Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA, and they conflicted with each other about succession, causing the Onin War. Yoshimi who was supported by Katsumoto HOSOKAWA of the Eastern Camp changed sides to Sozen YAMANA of the Western Camp, and Yoshimasa appointed Yoshihisa as a successor. Yoshimi himself could not become shogun, but after the ninth shogun Yoshihisa died young, a son of Yoshimi, Yoshitane ASHIKAGA, became the 10th shogun.

Successor issue of the first shogun of the Edo bakufu, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA
Ieyasu's eldest legitimate son Nobuyasu MATSUDAIRA killed himself by order of Nobunaga ODA, and the second son Hideyasu YUKI was adopted by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI (and later by Harutomo YUKI), so the third son Hidetada TOKUGAWA was determined early on as his successor, but there was an episode that Ieyasu had a question about Hidetada's capability because he arrived late in the Battle of Sekigahara, and Ieyasu asked his vassals, including the fourth son Tadayoshi MATSUDAIRA, who was the appropriate successor. Masanobu HONDA backed up Hideyasu, Tadachika OKUBO backed up Hidetada and Naomasa II (father-in-law of Tadayoshi) backed up Tadayoshi (from 'Butoku taiseiki' in "Daitokuinden gojikki, volume 1"), but it is questionable as a historical fact.

Successor issue of the 2nd shogun of the Edo bakufu, Hidetada TOKUGAWA
Hidetada and his lawful wife Sugen-in had the oldest son Iemitsu TOKUGAWA and the second son Tadanaga TOKUGAWA. Sugen-in loved Tadanaga whom she raised by herself more than Iemitsu who was reared by menoto (wet nurse) Kasuga no Tsubone and some backed up Tadanaga as an heir. However, Hidetada assigned Iemitsu as an heir, transferred shogunate to Iemitsu and became Ogosho (honorific for a retired former shogun). Tadanaga misbehaved himself after the death of his mother and was scolded by his father and brothers, resulting in a forfeit of his rank and properties, and was forced to kill himself in the end.

Successor issue of the 5th shogun of the Edo bakufu, Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA
Since the son of Tsunayoshi, Tokumatsu TOKUGAWA, died young, another person had to be selected as a successor. Since Tsunayoshi succeeded shogunate after the death of his older brother, Tsunashige TOKUGAWA, a son of Tsunashige, Ienobu TOKUGAWA, was set down as a candidate for the successor. However, Tsunanori TOKUGAWA of the Kishu Tokugawa family who married into Tsunayoshi's family as a husband of his beloved daughter Tsuruhime, was also considered to be a candidate for successor. However, both Tsunanori and Tsuruhime died before Tsunayoshi, and Tsunatoyo was assigned as an heir in the end.

Successor issue of the 8th shogun of the Edo bakufu, Yoshimune TOKUGAWA
Yoshimune from the Kishu Tokugawa Family who was adopted into the Tokugawa Shogunate Family had a legitimate son, Ieshige TOKUGAWA, when he was still the lord of the Kishu domain, and Ieshige entered the Edo-jo Castle as an heir when Yoshimune assumed a shogun. However, Ieshige had a weak construction and a speech defect, and was questioned as a successor. Since the second son, Munetake TOKUGAWA (who later established Tayasu-Tokugawa Family), was an excellent candidate, Yoshimune wavered in the judgement of successor temporarily, but considered a principle of Elders first, transferred shogunate to Ieshige and became Ogosho, made Munetake to establish the Tayasu family and the third son, Munetada TOKUGAWA to establish the Hitotsubashi Tokugawa family.

Successor issue of the 10th shogun of the Edo bakufu, Ieharu TOKUGAWA
Since the legitimate son of Ieharu, Iemoto TOKUGAWA, died young, a successor was selected from legitimate relatives. The seventh son of Munetake TOKUGAWA of the Tayasu family, Masamaru (later Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA), was famous for his intelligence since childhood and considered to be a successor, but roju Okitsugu TANUMA, an influential person in those times, and Harusada TOKUGAWA (the head of Hitotsubashi family) who backed up his son Ienari TOKUGAWA made him being adopted as a son of Sadakuni MATSUDAIRA, the lord of Shirakawa Domain in Mutsu Province. The successor to Ieharu was Toyochiyo HITOTSUBASHI (Ienari) in the end.

Successor issue of the 13th shogun of the Edo bakufu, Iesada TOKUGAWA
Successor issue of Iesada TOKUGAWA

Cases in which shogun died before determination of an heir
Successor issue of the 3rd shogun of the Kamakura bakufu, MINAMOTO no Sanetomo
Sanetomo who had no biological children was assassinated by his nephew Kugyo, who was also killed, so the blood line of the Minamoto family terminated. Before the death of Sanetomo, the real mother Masako HOJO asked the imperial court whether she could invite a prince of Emperor Gotoba to Kamakura as a successor of shogun. Yoshitoki HOJO, a brother of Masako and regent, went up to Kyoto after the death of Sanetomo and requested a prince again to go down to Kamakura, but the Retired Emperor Gotoba rejected it. As the second best policy, a son of Michiie KUJO, Mitora (later Yoritsune FUJIWARA), from Sekkan-ke (the families which produced the Regent and the Chief Adviser to the Emperor), was appointed as the 4th shogun (Sekke Shogun). The Hojo clan which established the regent authority after Jokyu War expelled Yoritsune and his son FUJIWARA no Yoritsugu (5th shogun) to Kyoto and obtained miyashogun (shogun from the Imperial Court) Prince Munetaka (miyashogun).

Successor issue of the 4th shogun of the Muromachi bakufu, Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA
The legitimate son of Yoshimochi, Yoshikazu ASHIKAGA, had a weak construction and died soon after he became the 5th shogun. However, Yoshimochi administered government affairs without nominating a successor, and the next shogun was not determined. When Yoshimochi suffered critical illness, Mitsuie HATAKEYAMA, kanrei (shogunal deputy), and gojiso (a priest who prays to guard the emperor) Mansai, persuaded Yoshimochi to select a successor by drawing lots, mikuji (the lots of God) were drawn in Iwashimizu Hachimangu after the death of Yoshimochi and Gien Shorenin was selected from among four brothers of Yoshimochi: Gisho KAJII, Gisho DAIKAKUJI, Eiryu KOZAN and Gien. Gien returned to secular life, named himself Yoshinobu (later Yoshinori) and became the 6th shogun.

Successor issue of the 13th shogun of the Muromachi bakufu, Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA
Yoshiteru was attacked and assassinated by Miyoshi Sanninshu (Miyoshi Triumvirate) and Hisahide MATSUNAGA (Eiroku Incident) without an heir. A younger brother of Yoshiteru, Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, was confined by Matsunaga and others, rescued by Yusai HOSOKAWA and others, returned to secular life, called himself Yoshiaki and served Yoshikage ASAKURA of Echizen province (later Nobunaga ODA of Mino province). On the other hand, Miyoshi sanninshu backed up Yoshichika (later Yoshihide), a male cousin of Yoshiteru. He was appointed as shogun before Yoshiaki. However, Nobunaga ODA backed up Yoshiaki and went up to Kyoto, the backing Miyoshi sanninshu lost, so Yoshichika escaped to Awa Province and died there.

Successor issue of the 4th shogun of the Edo bakufu, Ietsuna TOKUGAWA
When Ietsuna died without an heir, the next younger brother Tsunashige, lord of the Kofu domain, had already died by that time, and a younger brother Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, lord of the Tatebayashi Domain, was appointed as a successor. Tsunayoshi who was excessively devoted to Confucianism was questioned as shogun and Tairo (chief minister) Tadakiyo SAKAI tried to invite a prince of Emperor Gosai, Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Yukihito, to Edo and put him up as shogun, following the example of miyashogun (shogun from the Imperial Court) in the Kamakura period (the wife of Imperial Prince Yoshihito TAKAMATSUNOMIYA, who was said to be an ancestor of Arisugawa no Miya, came from the Echizen Matsudaira family [a great-grandchild of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA], but there is another theory recently.). Tsunayoshi became the 5th shogun as a result of a strong opposition of roju Masatoshi HOTTA.

Successor issue of the 7th shogun of the Edo bakufu, Ietsugu TOKUGAWA
Nabematsu (Ietsugu) who succeeded the 6th Ienobu died at the age of 8. When the father of Ietsugu, Ienobu, died, he told his close advisers, such as Akifusa MANABE and Hakuseki ARAI, that 'if Nabematsu died without an heir, Gorota TOKUGAWA of the Owari Tokugawa family (legitimate son of Owari family head, Yoshimichi TOKUGAWA) or Chofuku-maru (Ieshige) of Kishu should be an heir' (there is another theory). Yoshimichi OWARI had already been dead by that time, so when the cabinet officials of the Shogunate had to select a successor from among Tsugutomo TOKUGAWA, Kishu Yoshimune and Tsunaeda TOKUGAWA who came from Tokugawa gosanke (three privileged branches of Tokugawa family), they backed up Kishu Yoshimune, but Yoshimune refused it firmly by saying that Tsunaeda was older than he was and Tsugutomo excelled in genealogy. Yoshimune became the 8th shogun by judgment of the widow of Ienobu, Tenei-in.

[Original Japanese]