Tokugawa Iemochi

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Grave of Tokugawa Iemochi at Zôjô-ji in Tokyo
  • Birth: 1846
  • Death: 1866
  • Titles: Sakonoe Chûjô, Gondainagon, Naidaijin, Ukonoe Taishô, Seii Taishôgun, Udaijin, Dajô daijin
  • Childhood Names: 菊千代 (Kikuchiyo), 慶福 (Yoshitomi)
  • Japanese: 徳川家茂 (Tokugawa Iemochi)

Tokugawa Iemochi was the 14th shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.

He was born in the Kishû Tokugawa residence in Edo in 1846, and became the head of the Kishû Tokugawa clan at age four.

At the time of his genpuku in 1851, Kikuchiyo was granted a character from the name of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi and took on the name Yoshitomi; at that same time, he was elevated to the Junior Third Rank and granted the title of Sakonoe Chûjô.[1]

There was a faction that supported the somewhat older, more experienced, Tokugawa Yoshinobu (b. 1837) as successor to the shogun Iesada, but when Iesada died in 1858, the 12-year-old Yoshitomi became the 14th Tokugawa Shogun by the recommendation of Ii Naosuke. He was succeeded as lord of Wakayama by Matsudaira Yorihisa, son of Matsudaira Yorisato, lord of Saijô han,[2] and very shortly afterward changed his name to Iemochi.

This was during the Bakumatsu period, and the shogunate was facing both domestic troubles and foreign pressures. The shogunate pursued marriage between the Tokugawa line and the Imperial court, a policy known as kôbu gattai ("union of court and military"), in the hopes of appeasing the sonnô jôi ("Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians") extremists. In 1862, Iemochi and Princess Kazu-no-Miya (younger sister of Emperor Kômei) wedded in a magnificent ceremony, the most visible show of the kôbu gattai policy.

The following year, in 1863, Iemochi visited Kyoto at the request (or demand) of the Imperial Court, the first visit by a shogun to the Imperial city since that of Tokugawa Iemitsu over two hundred years earlier. He originally intended to travel by steamship, a notable break from precedent, but in the aftermath of the Namamugi Incident, shogunate officials were concerned about the danger posed by the British Royal Navy, and so Iemochi traveled overland, accompanied by an entourage of some 3,000 men,[3] including the Rôshigumi (the future Shinsengumi). Like Iemitsu before him, Iemochi presented gifts of gold and silver coin or bars to the Court, and distributed a large volume as well amongst the local populace, as a show of shogunal magnanimity and benevolence.[4] This journey, along with the shogun's visits to the Koganehara hunting grounds, were depicted in popular woodblock prints through a conceit, replacing Iemochi with Minamoto no Yoritomo.[5] The shogun did employ a steamship, however, on his return voyage to Edo.[6]

In 1866, during the second Choshu expedition, Iemochi died in Osaka castle. His body was returned to Edo by ship, much as he had come to Osaka to begin with.[7] His grave is at Zôjô-ji, in Tokyo.

Preceded by:
Tokugawa Iesada
Succeeded by:
Tokugawa Yoshinobu


  • Tokugawa Iemochi: The Life and Times of the 14th Shogun, Tokugawa Memorial Foundation, 2007.
  1. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 1 (1937), 327.
  2. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 598.
  3. "Gojôraku goyô kakari gubu oyakunin tsuke," gallery label, National Museum of Japanese History.[1]
  4. Daniele Lauro, "Displaying authority: Guns, political legitimacy, and martial pageantry in Tokugawa Japan, 1600 - 1868," MA Thesis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2013), 31.
  5. Kurushima Hiroshi, presentation at "Interpreting Parades and Processions of Edo Japan" symposium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 11 Feb 2013.
  6. Oliver Statler, Japanese Inn, University of Hawaii Press (1961), 268.
  7. Kurushima Hiroshi, “Morisuna, makisuna, kazari teoke, hôki, kinsei ni okeru chisô no hitotsu toshite” 盛砂・蒔砂・飾り手桶・箒 : 近世における「馳走」の一つとして, Shigaku zasshi 95:8 (1986), 1351.