Tokugawa Ienobu (徳川家宣)

Ienobu TOKUGAWA was the sixth seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and took office from June 8, 1709 to November 12, 1712.

He was the first son of Tsunashige TOKUGAWA (the prime minister of Kofu), the lord of the Kofu Domain, and his mother was Ohora no kata (Choshoin). His lawful wife was Hiroko TENEI-IN, the daughter of Motohiro KONOE. His children included Ietsugu TOKUGAWA. He was the grandson of Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, the third shogun. His childhood name was Toramatsu. His original name was Tsunatoyo. Recent research shows that he went by the family name of Matsudaira while he was in Kofu (because use of Tokugawa was only allowed for those from the head family, the three privileged branches of the family, and the heir). He had 250,000 kokudaka (a system for determining land value for tribute purposes) in yield.


He was born the first son of Tsunashige TOKUGAWA on June 11, 1662, at the Nezu house in Edo. Because he was born to a 26-year-old low-rank maid when his father, who was about to marry his lawful wife, was 19 years old, he was adopted by Masanobu SHINMI, one of the vassals of the family, and went by the name of Sakon SHINMI. His biological mother died in 1664.

He was brought back to the Tokugawa family by Tsunashige, who had no male children as heir, when he was nine years old, and when he reached adulthood he went by the name of Tsunatoyo after being granted use of a portion of the real name of uncle Ietsuna TOKUGAWA, the fourth shogun, and after his father died in 1678, he took over as head of the family at age 17 and was raised by his grandmother JUNSEI-IN.

He was one of leading candidates as the fifth shogun along with Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, Tsunashige's younger brother and the lord of the Tatebayashi Domain in Kozuke Province, when Ietsuna became critically ill in 1680 because Ietsuna had no male child, but because Masatoshi HOTTA strongly recommended Tsunayoshi, who was more closely related to Iemitsu by blood, for the shogun, Tsunatoyo did not take office as shogun.

Tsunayoshi had no male child either, but because Tsunayoshi's son-in-law Tsunanori TOKUGAWA was among the leading candidates as heir, he changed his name to Ienobu as heir to the shogun after Tsunanori's death and took residence in the western citadel of Edo-jo Castle in December 31, 1704, at age 43.

When Tsunayoshi died in 1709 and he assumed the position of the sixth shogun at age 48, Ienobu showed backbone by abolishing notorious ordinances such as Shorui-Awaremi-no-rei (ordinances of animal protection) and liquor tax, winning widespread popularity and raising expectations from the common people. In an effort to promote the transformation of the feudal government from a military to civilian institution, he dismissed Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA and appointed Hakuseki ARAI, and also gave orders to Shigehide OGIWARA in an attempt to reform the government's financial practices, but Ienobu died on November 12, 1712, three years after he took office. He died at the age of 51. His son Ietsugu TOKUGAWA took over his position.

The periods ruled by Ienobu and his successor Ietsugu TOKUGAWA are known collectively as "Shotoku no chi" (the peaceful era of Shotoku). His kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) is Bunshoinden Junrensha Seiyokakunen Dai Koshi. He was buried at Sanenzan Kodoin Zojo-ji Temple in Tokyo's Minato Ward.

Personal profile and anecdotes

He is believed to have been a gentle person. When his father Tsunashige brought him back to name him heir, Masanobu SHINMI, Masashige OTA, and Tokiyuki SHIMADA were ordered to work under Ienobu. Ienobu had absolute confidence in Shinmi because he was adopted and raised by him, but Ota and Shimada became jealous of Shinmi and brought a false charge against him, telling the bakufu that Sakon had died young and Shinmi replaced his own child with Sakon. When the accusation was proved groundless, the bakufu ordered the two to commit harakiri, but Ienobu pleaded with the bakufu to save their lives, saying that he would like to have them spared because they had served for him, although temporarily, and the sentence was reduced to banishment.

It is believed that he was strongly recommended by Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA, the lord of the Mito Domain, to become the next shogun when Tsunayoshi's biological child Tokumatsu TOKUGAWA died young.

It is also believed that he had not been on good terms with Tsunayoshi.

It is generally understood that he was extremely dedicated to learning, and enthusiastically studied history under the tutelage of Hakuseki ARAI on matters including achievements gained by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, the first shogun, Hidetada TOKUGAWA, the second shogun and his great-grandfather, and Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, the third shogun. It is said that he ordered his vassals to compile a book in 10 months to cover the family lineage and the brief biography of all the territorial lords existed in the 80 years from 1600 through 1680, and he always kept the book, titled "Hankanpu," on hand.

Ienobu never received any gifts which could work as bribes from territorial lords and hatamoto (direct retainers of the Edo bakufu) who had an axe to grind when he first came to the western citadel of Edo-jo Castle after he was adopted by Tsunayoshi. It is also believed that he reshuffled bakufu personnel and strictly cracked down on wrongdoings after he took over the position of the shogun.

It is believed that he made tremendous efforts in appointing useful staff members when he became the shogun, bringing Arai, Kyuso MURO and many other scholars into the administration.

He is described as the wise ruler among the successive shoguns, as he came up with various measures to reform the bakufu, including discontinuing the unpopular law prohibiting cruelty to animals, and there are many voices that say it was such a loss that he died only three years after taking office.
In "Tokugawa jikki" (the True Tokugawa Records), he is described as having 'a heart of mercy and compassion.'

Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun, said in his last testament to strictly observe the law prohibiting cruelty to animals, but Ienobu, two days before the funeral of Tsunayoshi, apparently said the following to lord chamberlain Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA in front of the coffin of Tsunayoshi:
There are so many people who violated the law prohibiting cruelty to animals and were accused of the crime.'
I dare to disobey his will for the common people.'
At the time, there were apparently more than 8,000 people whose accusations were dropped.

It is believed that when Ienobu was on his deathbed, he consulted Arai through lord chamberlain Akifusa MANABE about the next shogun as follows:
"Nabematsu (Ietsugu) is still young, and from ancient times, the world has hardly been at peace when a young leader reigned." "And one should not dominate politics as he wishes." "Which one of the two plans do you think is better: I should relinquish the shogun's post for Owari dono and let him decide what to do when Nabematsu reaches adulthood because Tosho-gu (Ieyasu) established the three privileged branches specifically for this kind of situation, or; I should ask Owari dono to stay in the western citadel until Nabematsu reaches adulthood to administer the bakufu and ask him to take over the shogun family in case Nabematsu dies by misfortune." But Hakuseki was opposed to both plans and advised him to name Nabematsu the heir and order fudai (hereditary vassals) to support him, and Ienobu acknowledged the plan and soon after breathed his last.

Record of offices and ranks held

He called himself Toramatsu MATSUDAIRA on August 24, 1670. Before that, he was known as Sakon SHINMI.

On January 15, 1677, he was commissioned with the Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) and appointed Sakone gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards). He concurrently held the position of Sakone no shogen (Lieutenant of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards). He was celebrated his attainment of adulthood the same day. He went by the name of Tsunatoyo after being granted permission to use a portion of the real name of his uncle Ietsuna TOKUGAWA.

On December 8, 1678, he was appointed castellan of Fuchu, Kai Province, and was granted inheritance the territory.

On September 10, 1680, he was appointed sangi (councilor). On October 28 the same year, he was promoted to shosanmi (senior third rank). He remained in the position of sangi.

On January 13, 1691, he was transferred as gon chunagon (provisional middle councilor).

On December 31, 1704, he was named heir to succeed the position of shogun.

On March 29, 1705, he was promoted to the position of junii (junior second rank) and was transferred to the position of go dainagon (provisional chief councilor of state). He then changed his name to Ienobu.

On June 8, 1709, he was promoted to the position of shonii (senior second rank) and was transferred to the position of naidaijin (minister of the interior). He concurrently held the position of Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards). At the same time, he was named seii taishogun and Genji no choja (chief of the Minamoto clan) under an imperial proclamation.

He died on January 15, 1712. On December 1 the same year, he was posthumously conferred the title of zo shoichii dajo daijin (senior first rank-grand minister of state).

It is rare for someone to concurrently hold the position of chujo (middle captain), who served as suke (assistant director) of the Konoefu (the headquarters of the Inner Palace Guards), and shogen, (lieutenant), who also served as hangan (inspector) of the Konoefu.

Appearance of Ienobu

According to "Hone ha kataru: Tokugawa Shogun Daimyoke no hitobito" (Bones talk: the people of Tokugawa shogun and daimyo families) by Hisashi SUZUKI, who observed the refurbishment of the Tokugawa shogun family's grave site at Zojo-ji Temple where Ienobu was also buried and who was also in charge of inspecting the remains, Ienobu was apparently a soft-looking, lean-faced handsome man with a shapely nose and he shared very little resemblance with his father Tsunashige except for the fact that he was round-shouldered. And according to "Zojo-ji Tokugawa Shogunbo to sono Ihin Itai" (The Tokugawa shogun family's graveyard at Zojo-ji Temple and the mementos and remains), which was mainly compiled by Suzuki, Ienobu's blood type was ABO, the same as his great-grandfather Hidetada, who served as the second shogun, and his father Tsunashige. His remains show that Ienobu was 160 cm tall, meaning that he was slightly taller than the average Japanese male at the time. From what is known to date, he was the tallest man among the successive shoguns.

[Original Japanese]