Tokugawa Ieharu (徳川家治)

Ieharu TOKUGAWA was the tenth Seitaishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader) of the Edo Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) (his tenure of office: 1760 - 1786).

Family line

His father was the ninth Shogun Ieshige TOKUGAWA. His mother was Ieshige's concubine Oyuki no kata (Shishinin, Yukiko) (= a daughter of Michieda UMETANI). His childhood name was Takechiyo.


On June 20, 1737, he was born at Nishi no maru (a castle compound to the west of the main compound) of the Edo-jo Castle. From his childhood due to his sagacity, he bore on his shoulders the expectations of his grandfather, Yoshimune TOKUGAWA, who was the 8th Shogun, and was brought up as a favorite with his grandfather. In September 1741, he celebrated his coming of age (Genpuku) and was appointed as Gon Dainagon (provisional chief councilor of state). In January 1755, he married Princess (the title given to an imperial lady of legitimate birth in the male line within three generations and without the imperial proclamation for an entitlement of an Imperial Princess) Rinshi, a daughter of Imperial Prince Kaninnomiya Naohito.

On June 15, 1760, he succeeded his retired father as the head of the Tokugawa family and on October 10, he was officially appointed as Shogun to take over Shogunate and promoted to Shonii (Senior Second Rank) and Naidaijin (the Minister of the Interior). And, in accordance with his father's will, he gave Okitsugu TANUMA an important position of Sobayonin (the grand chamberlain) and attended to government affairs together with Roju (member of shogun's council of elders) Takechika MATSUDAIRA and others. After the death of Takechika MATSUDAIRA, however, he wound up gradually leaving the Bakufu affairs to Okitsugu TANUMA, who was appointed as Roju, and increasingly indulging himself in pleasure like Shogi (a Japanese board game resembling chess) and so on, which means that he ran counter to his grandfather Yoshimune's expectations after all.
However, some highly evaluate it saying, 'the fact that he gave Okitsugu TANUMA an important position was an excellent decision itself.'
Okitsugu was able to promote a daring mercantilism policy due entirely to Ieharu's support and, as mentioned later, Okitsugu lost his position upon the death of Ieharu.

While Okitsugu TANUMA carried out reclamation works for the Inba-numa and the Tega-numa lakes, he planned the development of Ezochi (inhabited area of Ainu) and the trade with Russia. As Iemoto TOKUGAWA, the heir of Ieharu suddenly died at the age of 18 in 1779, Ieharu adopted, in 1781, Toyochiyo (who was later to become the 11th Shogun, Ienari TOKUGAWA), the eldest son of Harusada TOKUGAWA, the head of the Hitotsubashi family.

On September 17, 1786, he died. He died at the age of 50.

The death of a high-class person was usually kept secret for about one month (The funeral was conducted on September 29), during which Okitsugu TANUMAlost his position due to an intrigue by an anti-Tanuma group. Furthermore, it was rumored that Okitsugu poisoned Ieharu due to the fact that Ieharu fell into critical condition after he took a medicine prescribed by the medical doctors (Toan HYUGA and Keijun WAKABAYASHI) whom Okitsugu recommended.

His grave is located at Kanei-ji Temple in Ueno, Taito Ward, Tokyo.

Personal Profile and anecdotes

He was a grandchild who was especially favored by his grandfather Yoshimune. When Ieharu wrote the letter of 'Ryu (Dragon)' with the brush in the practice of calligraphy, he used a whole sheet so extensively that he found no place to put a dot which was a part of the letter. Then, Ieharu put the dot outside the sheet on the Tatami (straw mat), but when Yoshimune came to know it, he is said to have greatly praised Ieharu.

Yoshimune is said to have given up the hope for Ieshige, but expected much of Ieharu and gave Ieharu good trainings in the study to become Shogun and martial art by himself. Furthermore, Yoshimune is said to have trained by himself the page boys assigned for Ieharu and tried to secure a perfect structure for successor.

While Shogun was to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning, Ieharu close to 50 years old increasingly awoke earlier. In such cases, he spent his time walking back and forth in his Zashiki (a Japanese style room with tatami flooring) without making noise until six o'clock. He is said to have walked through the corridor to the toilet with stealthy steps not to wake up the Konando-yaku (job to do Shogun's personal care) (Masamune DATE is known as a person who had a very similar episode).

He is said to have been always conscious of being such a benevolent lord as his grandfather Yoshimune and when he was served with different foods, he even asked, 'Did my grandfather eat this?'

On a heavy rainy day, Ieharu saw a Kinju (attendant) sigh looking at the sky.
To find the reasons, he asked another person, who answered, 'He is poor and his rotting house leaks, so he may worry about his parents having hard time.'
Furthermore, Ieharu asked him how much it would cost to repair the house, then he answered, 'I think 100 Ryo would be enough.'
Ieharu is said to have secretly called the Kinju who had sighed and handed 100 Ryo to the Kinju saying, 'Devote yourself to your parents.'

He was a devoted husband, which was exceptional in the Tokugwa Shogun family. Although he had two daughters from his Seishitsu (legal wife) Princess Rinshi (That is exceptional itself), he never had any son. He never chose a concubine every time his trusted retainers recommended and was finally forced to choose one by Okitsugu TANUMA, but on condition that Okitsugu TANUMA have a concubine. After Iemoto was born, he had Iemoto brought up by Princess Rinshi. Furthermore, after the two concubines gave birth to a male child respectively, he never visit the two as if letting them resign.

He was endowed with great talent of arts and good at calligraphic works and paintings.

His Kifu (record of a game of shogi) of Shogi (Japanese Chess) has been preserved, which indicates that his level is estimated on the same level as the present amateur high-ranking shogi player (assuming that the Kifu recorded the games played by the real ability of Ieharu TOKUGAWA himself).

Ieharu developed new terms for Shogi (For instance, he called the squares of a Shogi board from the top on the right as 'I ro ha ni ho he to chi ri nu ru wo') and in his later years he wrote a book called 'Shochikokaku.'
He reportedly retracted a move by moving a piece back to the original square when he faced a difficulty during a game of shogi.

He was fond of Shichikoku Shogi.

Although he has been treated as a foolish ruler, he was highly talented in the field of hobbies as mentioned above. Therefore, regarding the fact that he did not independently exercise his authority as Shogun, there is a theory that he simply lacked motivation.

On the other hand, regarding the fact that he selected Tanuma and continued to support Tanuma's policies, there is a viewpoint that it was due to his suitable judgment. The reputation of Ieharu as a foolish ruler is always accompanied by the poor reputation of Okitsugu TANUMA. Even in these days when the poor reputation of Tanuma has greatly been modified, the evaluation of Ieharu is still influenced by the past theory of his having been a foolish ruler.

The cause of his death is presumed to be heart failure from beriberi.

There is a theory that the length of the Ihai (ancestral tablets) kept in Daiju-ji Temple is almost the same as the Shogun's height, according to which Ieharu is presumed to have been 153 cm tall. However, due to the fact that the Ihai of Ieshige is 151 cm long and his real height was 156 cm, some say that Ieharu was 158 cm tall which was taller than Ieshige was.

He is said to have frequently gone hawking as his grandfather Yoshimune TOKUGAWA did.

Issac Titsingh, the curator of Dutch trading house (the Kapitan) of the Dutch East India Company was received in audience by Lord Ieharu.

Record of offices and ranks held

On September 21, 1741, he celebrated his coming of age (Genpuku) and announced his name Ieharu. He was invested with Junii (Junior Second Rank) Dainagon (chief councilor of state).

The year of 1760

March 20: He concurrently filled the position of Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

October 10: He was promoted and transferred to Shonii (Senior Second Rank) Naidaijin (the Minister of the Interior) and remained in the concurrent position of Ukone no daisho. At the same time, he assumed the position of Seitaishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader) and Genji no choja (chief of the Minamoto clan).

October 1, 1780: He was transferred to Udaijin (the Minister of the Right). He remained in the concurrent position of Ukone no daisho.

The year of 1786

September 29: He died.

October 13: Shoichii (Senior First Rank), Daijo-daijin (Grand Minister) was posthumously conferred on him.

Father: Ieshige TOKUGAWA

The ninth Shogun

Mother: Shishinin

A daughter of Michieda UMETANI, Junii Gon Chunagon (Junior Second Rank provisional vice-councilor of state).

Brother: Shigeyoshi TOKUGAWA

Gosankyo (three privileged branches of Tokugawa family)the Shimizu Tokugawa Family

Seishitsu (legal wife): Shinkanin (Princess Rinshi)

A daughter of Imperial Prince Kaninnomiya Naohito and an aunt of Emperor Kokaku

Eldest daughter: Chiyohime (1756-1757)


Second daughter: Manjuhime (1761-1773)

A bride-to-be of Haruyoshi TOKUGAWA, but prematurely died.

Sokushitsu (Concubine): Renkoin

A daughter of Nobunari TSUDA (Hatamoto [direct retainers of the bakufu, which is a form of Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun]).
Eldest son: Iemoto TOKUGAWA (1762-1779)

Sokushitsu (Concubine): Yorenin

A daughter of Kanenori FUJII

Second son: Sadajiro (1762-1763)

Adopted child


The 11th Shogun and the eldest son of Harusada TOKUGAWA


Teikyoin, a daughter of Munetake TOKUGAWA and wife of Harutomi TOKUGAWA

[Original Japanese]