Tokugawa Yoshimune

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  • Born: 1684
  • Died: 1751
  • Other Names: Yûtoku-in
  • Japanese: 徳川吉宗 (Tokugawa Yoshimune)

Tokugawa Yoshimune was the eighth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, reigning from 1716 to 1745. He was the third son of Tokugawa Mitsusada of the Kishû Tokugawa clan, and prior to becoming shogun, succeeded his father as lord of the 555,000 koku domain of Wakayama han in 1705.

Yoshimune is known for taking a more proactive tack in effecting shogunate control over many facets of the economy of the realm. Among his many policies, he effected a dramatic increase in the domestic production of sugar, silk, and ginseng, three goods which had previously been heavily imported, as part of efforts to stem the outflow of silver from the country.[1] He also imposed a variety of sumptuary laws, and granted authorization to merchant groups to form kabunakama, groups which paid the shogunate fees in exchange for monopoly rights to production and distribution of certain goods.[2]

Yoshimune's sons included his second son, Tokugawa Munetabe, whom he passed over in order to name a younger son, Tokugawa Ieshige, his heir. Another son was Tayasu Munetake.[3] Yoshimune also had several adoptive daughters. Takehime (aka Jôgan-in) was married to Shimazu Tsugutoyo of Satsuma han, while Tone-hime (aka Unshôin) was married to Date Munemura of Sendai han.


The ritual protocols and procedures surrounding Yoshimune's accession to the position of shogun are an oft-cited example of shogunal ritual, and in particular of shogunal proclamations (宣下, senge), the most important type of ritual in the Tokugawa Book of Rites (Tokugawa reiten roku).

After the death at age eight of Shogun Tokugawa Ietsugu on 1716/4/30, Yoshimune, then head of the Kishû Tokugawa clan and daimyô of Wakayama han, was elevated from Junior 3rd rank Chûnagon to Senior 2nd rank Dainagon, in preparation for being named shogun.

After receiving formal greetings from members of the gosanke and the daimyô of the tamari-no-ma in the shiroshoin of Edo castle, Yoshimune moved to the upper dan (jôdan) of the Ôhiroma, to give the proclamation. Everyone dressed in aristocratic court costume (sokutai). First, two Imperial messengers stepped up to the upper dan, read out the Imperial proclamation, and then sat to the left side in the middle dan (chû-dan). Next, two envoys from the Retired Emperor and from the empress, respectively, offered formal greetings to Yoshimune and then sat on the right side of the middle dan. An announcing messenger (告使) then turned towards Yoshimune and announced in formal tones, "a promotion, a promotion!" (御昇進御昇進, goshôshin, goshôshin), before withdrawing. Normally, this would have been done from the garden, but as it was raining that day, it was done from the corridor or veranda (縁側, engawa) just outside the audience hall. The second of the Imperial envoys then took the special box (goranbako) containing the Imperial proclamation over to the corridor, and passed it to the Mibukanmu, who in turn passed it to kôke (protocol chiefs) in the center of the corridor, who then passed it on to Yoshimune, seated in the upper dan. Yoshimune removed the order from the box, read it, bowed to it, and passed it to the wakadoshiyori. Yoshimune was thus officially invested as Seii-tai-shôgun, General of the Imperial Guard (ukon'e no daishô), and head of the Minamoto clan (Genji chôja). Two packets of gold dust were placed in the goranbako, which was then returned to the Imperial officials. The process was repeated once, to appoint Yoshimune Naidaijin (Minister of the Center) as well.[4]

Preceded by:
Tokugawa Ietsugu
Tokugawa Shogun
Succeeded by:
Tokugawa Ieshige


  • Arai Hakuseki, Joyce Ackroyd (trans.), Told Round a Brushwood Fire, University of Tokyo Press (1979), 311n26.
  1. Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 49-50.
  2. Hellyer, 86.
  3. James Lewis, “Beyond Sakoku: The Korean Envoy to Edo and the 1719 Diary of Shin Yu-Han,” Korea Journal 25:11 (1985), 40n15-16.
  4. Fukai Masaumi, Edo-jô wo yomu, Harashobô (1997), 26.