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  • Japanese: 大君 (taikun)

Taikun, or "Great Prince," was a title used by the Tokugawa shoguns in diplomatic correspondence with Joseon Dynasty Korea in the early decades of the Edo period, and in communications with Western powers in the Bakumatsu Period.

The term was adopted in 1635 at the suggestion of Hayashi Razan in order to avoid connotations of inclusion in the Sinocentric system. Were the shogun to refer to himself as a "king" (kokuô, or just ô), it would imply subordination to the Chinese emperor within a tribute system; similarly, the use of various other titles would be inappropriately implying equality with or superiority to the Japanese or Chinese emperor. The use of the term was abolished, however, in the first years of the 1700s, as Arai Hakuseki noted that taikun (C: dà jūn) was a Chinese term for the emperor, implying precisely the connotations they had been trying to avoid, and that in Korea, the title (K: daegun) was one granted by the King of Korea to his high-ranking subjects - if the shogun were to use this title, it would imply that he derived his authority from the King of Korea. Thus, they returned to the use of the term Nihon kokuô ("King of Japan").

Though the term "taikun diplomacy" (J: taikun gaikô) has come to be widely used by many historians today, it is a neologism.[1] Shogunate officials never thought of the term, concept, or title of taikun as being so central to their foreign relations ideology.


  • Arai Hakuseki, Joyce Ackroyd (trans.), Told Round a Brushwood Fire, University of Tokyo Press (1979), 132, 323-324.
  • Ronald Toby, “Contesting the Centre: International Sources of Japanese National Identity,” The International History Review 7:3 (1985), 360.
  • Toby, "Carnival of the Aliens," Monumenta Nipponica 41:4 (1986), 434.
  1. Marco Tinello, "The termination of the Ryukyuan embassies to Edo : an investigation of the bakumatsu period through the lens of a tripartite power relationship and its world," PhD thesis, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (2014), 34n52.