Tokugawa Ieyoshi (徳川家慶)

Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA was the 12th Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) (reigned between 1837 - 1853).

Family line

He was the 2nd son of Ienari TOKUGAWA. His mother was a concubine, Raku (a daughter of the OSHIDA clan, Junior Second Court Rank, Korinin). His legal wife was Arisugawanomiya Imperial Prince Orihito's daughter, Princess Takako. He had many other concubines.

He had 14 sons and 13 daughters including Iesada TOKUGAWA and Yoshimasa TOKUGAWA, but only Iesada reached manhood.


In 1793, he was born as the 2nd son of the 11th Shogun Ienari TOKUGAWA in Edo-jo Castle. Although he became a heir of Shogun because of his oldest brother Takechiyo TOKUGAWA's early death and succeeded to the shogunate at the age of 45 in 1837, Ienari maintained a powerful voice as a leading figure. After Ienari died in 1841, Ieyoshi decided to get his 4th son Iesada to succeed to the shogunate. He also gave an important position to the head of Roju (Senior Councilor of the shogunate) Tadakuni MIZUNO to let him purge the Ienari group for promoting Tempo Reforms. Tadakuni embarked on the financial reconstruction of the bakufu to develop reforms, but did not gain public support because he completely controlled the luxury and introduce austerity measures. He controlled speech and suppressed enlightening scholars such as Choei TAKANO and Kazan WATANABE (Bansha no goku).

In 1843, it caused a sharp backlash that the bakufu imposed Agechi-rei to have feudal lords and direct retainers in the vicinity of Edo and Osaka surrender their holdings for restructuring the territory directly controlled by the bakufu. Ieyoshi had to repeal it the following year, and Tadakuni was dismissed from Roju, which led to the failure of Tempo Reforms.
(Later, Tadakuni was reappointed to be Roju temporarily.)

Leaving politics to Toshitsura DOI, Masahiro ABE and Masanori TSUTSUI, Ieyoshi made the lord of Satsuma Domain Narioki SHIMAZU abdicate the headship and ordered the abdication and suspension to the lord of Mito Domain Nariaki TOKUGAWA through Oyura Feud. Additionally, he got Nariaki's seventh son Shichiromaro to succeed to the Hitotsubashi family (Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA).

On June 3, 1853, Matthew Perry and his four warships arrived off Uraga from the United States of America (the arrival of the Black Ships). While the cabinet officials of the shogunate were busily working on it, he died of disease at 61 on June 22. The cause of his death was said that he got ill through the heat exhaustion.

Graveyard: Sanenzan Kodo-in Zojo-ji Temple in Minato Ward, Tokyo. Posthumous Buddhist name: Shintokuindentenrenshajunyodojin Daikoji.


* Date according to old lunar calendar

March 1, 1797: Conferred the Imperial Court Rank of Junii (Junior Second Rank) and Gon Dainagon (Provisional Chief Councilor of State). After reaching the manhood, he used the name Ieyoshi.

April 2, 1816: Served as an additional post of Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

March 5, 1822: Transferred and promoted to Shonii Naidaijin (Senior Second Court Rank, Inner Minister) and also held a position in Ukone no daisho.

March 18, 1827: Promoted to Juichii (Junior First Court Rank) and held a position of Naidaijin Ukone no daisho.

September 2, 1837: Transferred to Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) and held a position of Sakone no daisho. In addition, appointed as Seii Taishogun and Genji no choja (chief of the Minamoto clan) by the imperial order.

June 22, 1853: Died. August 21: Conferred to Shoichii Daijo daijin (Senior First Court Rank, Grand Minister of State).

* He was the first appearance of the Tokugawa shogunate family who was conferred to Juichii in his time as the designated shogunate heir. In addition, it was the first time since Hidetada TOKUGAWA that he was appointed as Naidaijin in his time as the designated shogunate heir.

Personality and Anecdotes

Ieyoshi was a shogun who lived for his hobbies and did not think carefully about politics. It caused that the territorial lords spoke badly of him and called him 'Soseisama' (literally means, Mr. Do that) in derision because he always answered 'Do that' to his vassals' offers. However, he just had to answer so because he didn't have real power while his father was alive, and then showed a measure of leadership after his death.
(Seeing one of his vassals deploring the weight of two lengths of swords at his side, he encouraged the military art and held military art exhibitions in front of the Emperor 8 times in 4 months.)
His personnel management could be also evaluated, for example, he re-promoted Tadakuni MIZUNO at the right time after MIZUNO's downfall and then installed young Masahiro ABE to leave the government.

According to "TOKUGAWA shogun graves, the remains and personal effects in Zojo-ji Temple," Ieyoshi was a short, distinctive figure with an estimated height of 154cm among the successive shoguns. His head was big enough to be six-head figure, and his lower jaw was elongated and outward jutting. So, it is estimated that his portrait above describes Ieyoshi's feature in life very truthfully.

His concubine Okoto no kata, whom Tadanaka MIZUNO sent up to O-oku (the inner halls of Edo-jo Castle where the wife of the Shogun and her servants resided) to find a clue for his political participation, got affection from Ieyoshi aged over 50 then. However, their 2 sons and 2 daughters died young. Although Okoto no kata, who entered the priesthood, lived in Sakuradamon yashiki mansion after Ieyoshi's death, a little later she committed adultery with a merchant-class carpenter during the repair work and later passed away.
(It was also said that she was killed by her brother Tadanaka MIZUNO.)

It was said that he did not want to make his 4th son Iesada Shogun because of his poor health and disability but wanted to make his lawful wife's nephew Yoshinobu Shogun.

He gave Iesada what is now called rehabilitaion to cure his disability, but in vain. It was natural that the diability of a child in the shogun family was treated if he had some.

After Ienari's death, the Ienari group tried to reject Ieyoshi's legitimate child Iesada. So, Ieyoshi purged the Ienari group with Tadakuni MIZUNO.

It is written that 'while his behavior is calm and silent, his he is really talented.' (Shoku Tokugawa Jikki)

[Original Japanese]