Tokugawa Yoshinobu and The Shoguns Who Preceded Him

Tokugawa Yoshinobu, who also went by the name Tokugawa Keiki, was born on the 28th day of October during the year 1837. He served as the fifteenth and last shogun of Japan’s Tokugawa shogunate, reigning from the 29th day of August in 1866 until the 19th day of November in 1867.

By published by 松戸市戸定歴史館 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

During his rule, he made efforts to try and reform the aging government system but, unfortunately, failed to be successful. He then chose to retire from his post and avoided going into the public eye for the remaining years of his life.

Tokugawa Yoshinobu was the seventh son of the daimyo (warlord) of Mito, Tokugawa Nariaki. Matsudaira Shichiromaro was the birth name given to Tokugawa Yoshinobu.

One of the most interesting facts about Matsudaira Shichiromaro is that he was related to Ninko, the emperor at the time. Princess Arisugawa Yoshiko, Matsudaira Shichiromaro’s mother, was a part of the Imperial family’s cadet branch known as Arisugawa-no-Miya. Through this, Matsudaira Shichiromaro was recognized as the third cousin, once removed, of Ninko.

During his adolescence, Matsudaira Shichiromaro was raised under a strict, spartan-like supervision and guidance. Aside from a solid education about political principles and the rules of government, Matsudaira Shichiromaro was also taught well in martial arts and literature.

To give him a better chance at being appointed as shogun, his father encouraged that he be adopted by the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa Clan and had his name changed to Akimune. By the year 1847, he became the family head, received a rank and title in court, and, again, changed his name to Yoshinobu.

After the death of Tokugawa Iesada in 1858, Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s skills in managing various issues resulted in him being nominated to be the next shogun. He competed for the position against Ii Naosuke’s candidate, Tokugawa Yoshitomi, who ultimately became the fourteenth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.

In 1862, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was nominated to be shogun koken-shoku, the guardian of the shogun, and was soon given the position. His allies Matsudaira Katamori and Matsudaira Yoshinaga were also appointed as Kyoto Shugoshoku (the guardian of Kyoto) and seiji sosai shoku (the chief of political affairs), respectively.

The three of them made great efforts in quelling various political unrests in the area of Kyoto and took time to gather more allies against the Choshu Domain rebels. Come 1864, the forces of the Choshu Domain were defeated during their attempt to take control of the Imperial Palace through Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s role as the commander of defense.

After Tokugawa Yoshitomi, better known as Tokugawa Iemochi, passed away in 1866, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was appointed as the fifteenth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. Out of all the Tokugawa shoguns, he was the only one who spent his tenure without ever setting foot in the Edo Castle.

From the time Tokugawa Yoshinobu was recognized as shogun, great efforts were made to strengthen the Tokugawa shogunate’s authority and power over the country. The bakufu gained the support of the Second French Empire, the Russians, and the British Royal Navy which made the government quite hopeful of their seemingly bright future.

However, through the alliance formed by Tosa, Chosu, and Satsuma, among other domains, the Tokugawa shogunate soon fell after the Boshin War of 1868-69. The war resulted in the victory of the Imperial forces and in the resignation of Tokugawa Yoshinobu to Shizuoka, the same place where Tokugawa Ieyasu, the one who founded the Tokugawa shogunate, retired.

Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s Ancestral Facts, Family, and Legacy

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tokugawa Yoshinobu was born to Tokugawa Nariaki and Arisugawa Yoshiko. He was married to Ichijo Mikako and had three concubines – Isshiki Saga, Shinmura Nobu, and Nakane Sachi. He had a total of 23 children born to his wife and concubines.

From the line of Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s father, his ancestry can be traced back to Tokugawa Munemoto and Ichijo Michika who Tokugawa Harumori and Yashiro-kun, could also be traced back to, respectively. Tokugawa Harutoshi, the ancestor of Tokugawa Nariaki, was a descendant of Tokugawa Harumori and Yashiro-kun.

On the other hand, Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s ancestors on his mother’s side include Emperor Reigen, Matsumuro Atsuko, Nijo Yoshitada, Maeda Toshiko, Prince Arisugawa Yorihito, Nijo Junko, Prince Arisugawa Arihito, and Ando Kiyoko.

After Tokugawa Yoshinobu retired from his post and settled in Shizuoka, he lived a relatively quiet life and indulged in various activities including cycling, photography, hunting, archery, and oil painting. His great-grandson, Tokugawa Yoshitomo, even published some of his photographs.

During the year 1902, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was given permission by the Meiji Emperor to reestablish his house as a bekke (a branch of the Tokugawa clan) bearing the rank of a koshaku (prince), for his efforts and service to the country. He was a member of the House of Peers from 1902 to 1910.

Tokugawa Yoshinobu passed away on the 21st day of November during the year 1913. He is buried at the Yanaka Cemetery in Tokyo, Japan.

According to records, one of his daughters, Tsuneko Tokugawa, married the second cousin of Empress Kojun and Emperor Showa, Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu. His grand-daughter, Kikuko Tokugawa, then married the brother of Emperor Showa, Prince Takamatsu, and became Princess Takamatsu.

Overview and Rough Quotes from Ryotaro Shiba’s Biographical Novel of Tokugawa Yoshinobu

By 講談社 撮影者不明 (講談社『週刊現代』10月1日号(1964)より) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tokugawa Yoshinobu is among the handful of significant figures from Japanese history to have been used for the development of fiction and non-fiction literary pieces. One of the most popular ones that tell of Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s life and the events that transpired during his reign is a novel written by Ryotaro Shiba entitled “The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu”.

Ryotaro Shiba was born on the 7th day of August during the year 1923 in Osaka Japan, under the name Teiichi Fukuda. A lot of fans of Japanese literature know Ryotaro Shiba for his historical novels and cultural essays.

He studied at the Osaka School of Foreign Languages and originally started out as a journalist for one of the major Japanese newspapers at the time, Sankei Shimbun. After the end of World War II, Ryotaro Shiba focused more on history and started writing novels.

Ryotaro Shiba also wrote numerous articles about his trips across the country which the Shukan Asahi, a local magazine, ran for more than a thousand installments.

By the year 1959, Ryotaro Shiba was awarded with the Naoki Prize for his novel entitled “Fukuro no Shiro”, which roughly translates to mean “The Owl’s Castle” in English. He received another award in 1993, particularly the Government’s Order of Cultural Merit.

Most of Ryotaro Shiba’s work talked about the changes Japan experienced during the Edo Period and the Meiji Period. Some of his most notable literary pieces include Saka no ue no kumo, Moeyo Ken, Ryoma ga Yuku, and Kunitori Monogatari.

Only a handful of Ryotaro Shiba’s novels are available in English translations such as Kukai the Universal: Scenes from His Life, The Tatar Whirlwind: A Novel of Seventeenth-Century East Asia, and The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu.

His novel about Tokugawa Yoshinobu was published during the year 2004 and discusses the events that occurred at the time of Perry’s arrival in Japan to the death of the last shogun. The historical novel includes Ryotaro Shiba’s analysis on the different issues that shaped Japan’s social hierarchy, culture, and lifestyle during this period and beyond.

The novel was translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter and includes some interesting dialogue where the struggles of Tokugawa Yoshinobu to give up his power can be better understood. Among the most frequently quoted line in the novel is one where Tokugawa Yoshinobu wishes the emperor luck in ruling the country, which goes something like “It is all yours now, I hope you do well”.

Timeline of Tokugawa Shoguns Who Preceded Tokugawa Yoshinobu

The Tokugawa shogunate, which was also known as the Tokugawa bakufu or the Edo bakufu, lasted from 1600 to 1868. As with the other shogunal systems of Japan, each member of the Tokugawa bakufu was a member of the Tokugawa Clan.

As previously mentioned, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was the fifteenth and last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. Those who preceded him include the following:

Tokugawa Ieyasu

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was born on the 31st day of January during the year 1543 in Mikawa, Japan. Tokugawa Ieyasu officially ruled the bakufu from 1603 to 1605, but continued to maintain his authority until 1616. He passed away on the 1st day of June during the year 1616 in Sunpu, Japan.

Tokugawa Hidetada

Tokugawa Hidetada was born on the 2nd day of May during the year 1579. He served in office from 1605 to 1623 after his father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, resigned from his position as shogun. He was only able to fully govern the Tokugawa bakufu after the death of the former. Tokugawa Hidetada passed away on the 14th day of March during the year 1632.

Tokugawa Iemitsu

Tokugawa Iemitsu was Tokugawa Hidetada’s eldest son. He was born on the 12th day of August during the year 1604 and was appointed as the third shogun during the year 1623. He was in office until his death on the 8th day of June during the year 1651.

Tokugawa Ietsuna

Tokugawa Ietsuna, the eldest son of Tokugawa Iemitsu, took over his father’s position as shogun after his death. He was born on the 7th day of September during the year 1641. Similar to his father, he remained in office until his death on the 4th day of June during the year 1680.

Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Tokugawa Ietsuna’s younger brother, was appointed as the fifth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was born on the 23rd day of February during the year 1646. He governed the bakufu for more than twenty years, particularly until his death in 1709. Among the several laws he put into place, his animal protection laws became his defining ideas.

Tokugawa Ienobu

Tokugawa Ienobu, Tokugawa Tsunashige’s eldest son and Tokugawa Ietsuna’s nephew, took the place of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi as shogun after his death. He was born on the 11th day of June during the year 1662. His reign was relatively short, only lasting until his death on the 12th day of November during the year 1712.

Tokugawa Ietsugu

Tokugawa Ietsugu was Tokugawa Ienobu’s son. He was born on the 8th day of August during the year 1709. In 1713, he was appointed as the seventh shogun of the Tokugawa bakufu. Similar to his father, he only had a short time in office, having passed away on the 19th day of June during the year 1716.

Tokugawa Yoshimune

Tokugawa Yoshimune, Tokugawa Mitsusada’s son and the Tokugawa Ieyasu’s great-grandson, came into office during the year 1716. He was born on the 27th day of November during the year 1684. By the year 1745, he abdicated his position and appointed his eldest son to his public post, similar to what Tokugawa Ieyasu had done during his time.

Tokugawa Ieshige

Tokugawa Ieshige, was born on the 28th day of January during the year 1712. He was the son of Tokugawa Yoshimune and was sometimes called by his childhood name, Nagatomi-maru. Tokugawa Ieshige governed the Tokugawa bakufu from 1745 to 1760. He died on the 13th day of July during the year 1761.

Tokugawa Ieharu

Tokugawa Ieharu was a son of Tokugawa Ieshige and was born on the 20th day of June during the year 1737. He was in office from 1760 up until his death on the 17th day of September during the year 1786. Upon his passing, he received a Buddhist name, Shunmyoin, and was eventually buried at the Kaneiji Temple in Tokyo, Japan.

Tokugawa Ienari

Tokugawa Ienari was the shogun who had the longest time in office out of all fifteen. He was born on the 18th day of November during the year 1773. He ruled the Tokugawa shogunate from 1787 to 1837 and passed away on the 22nd day of March during the year 1841. Similar to Tokugawa Ieharu, Tokugawa Ienari was given a Buddhist name, Bunkyouin, and was buried at Kaneiji Temple.

Tokugawa Ieyoshi

Tokugawa Ieyoshi was born on the 22nd day of June during the year 1793 to Tokugawa Ienari. He took over as shogun during the year 1837 when his father decided to abdicate his position.

Nonetheless, Tokugawa Ienari continued to practice his authority and power over the bakufu until his last breath. As such, it was only after Tokugawa Ienari’s passing that Tokugawa Ieyoshi could really act on his role as the 12th shogun of the Tokugawa bakufu.

Tokugawa Iesada

Tokugawa Iesada was a son of Tokugawa Ieyoshi from one of his concubines. He was born on the 6th day of May during the year 1824 and was in office from 1853 to 1858.

Tokugawa Iemochi

Tokugawa Iemochi, the fourteenth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, was born on the 14th day of August during the year 1858. He was in office from 1858 to 1866, the period which many believe to be the start of the weakening of the Tokugawa shogunate.