Tokugawa Yoshimune

Infobox Ruler Japan
name =Tokugawa Yoshimune
title =Shogun (8th)

imgw =229
caption =Tokugawa Yoshimune
reign =1716 – 1745
predecessor ="Shogun:"
Tokugawa Ietsugu
"Daimyo of Kii:"
Tokugawa Yorimoto
successor ="Shogun:"
Tokugawa Ieshige
"Daimyo of Kii:"
Tokugawa Munenao
issue =Tokugawa Ieshige
Tokugawa Munetake
Tokugawa Munetada
Takehime Others

date of birth =birth date|1684|11|27|df=y
date of death =death date|1751|07|12|df=y
father =Tokugawa Mitsusada|

Nihongo|Tokugawa Yoshimune|徳川 吉宗|Tokugawa Yoshimune|extra=November 27, 1684 - July 12, 1751 was the eighth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, ruling from 1716 until his abdication in 1745. He was the son of Tokugawa Mitsusada, the grandson of Tokugawa Yorinobu, and the great-grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu.


Yoshimune was not the son of any former shogun. Rather, he was a member of a cadet branch of the Tokugawa clan. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, well aware of the extinction of the Minamoto line in 1219, had realized that his descendants might die out, leaving the Tokugawa family at risk of extinction. Thus, while his son Tokugawa Hidetada was the second shogun, he selected three other sons to establish the "gosanke," hereditary houses which would provide a shogun if there were no male heir. The three "gosanke" were the Owari, Kii, and Mito branches.

Yoshimune was from the branch of Kii. The founder of the Kii house was one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's sons, Tokugawa Yorinobu. Ieyasu appointed him daimyo of Kii. Yorinobu's son, Tokugawa Mitsusada, succeeded him. Two of Mitsusada's sons succeeded him, and when they died, Tokugawa Yoshimune, Mitsusada's fourth son, became daimyo of Kii in 1705. Later, he became shogun.

Yoshimune was closely related to the Tokugawa shoguns. His grandfather, Tokugawa Yorinobu, was a brother of second shogun Tokugawa Hidetada, while Yoshimune's father, Tokugawa Mitsusada, was a first cousin of third shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. Yoshimune thus was a second cousin to the fourth and fifth shoguns (both brothers) Tokugawa Ietsuna and Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, as well as a second cousin to Tokugawa Tsunashige, whose son became Shogun Tokugawa Ienobu.

Early life (1684–1716)

Tokugawa Yoshimune was born in 1684 in the rich region of Kii, a region which was then ruled by his father, Tokugawa Mitsusada. Yoshimune's childhood name was Tokugawa Genroku. At that time, his second cousin Tokugawa Tsunayoshi was ruling in Edo as shogun. Kii was a rich region of over 500,000 "koku," but it was still in debt. Even during Mitsusada's time, Kii was in deep debt and had a lot to pay back to the shogunate.

In 1697, Genroku underwent the rites of passage and took the name Tokugawa Shinnosuke. In 1705, when Shinnosuke was just 21 years old, his father Mitsusada and two older brothers died. Thus, the ruling shogun Tokugawa Ienobu appointed him daimyo of Kii. He took the name Tokugawa Yorikata and began to administer the province. Nonetheless, great financial debt which the domain had owed to the shogunate since his father's and even grandfather's time continued to burden the finances. What made things worse was that in 1707, a tsunami destroyed and killed many in the coastal areas of Kii Province. Yorikata did his best to try to stabilize things in Kii, but relied on leadership from Edo.

In 1712, Shogun Ienobu died, and was succeeded by his son, the boy-shogun Tokugawa Ietsugu. Now, Yorikata decided that he could not rely on the conservative Confucianists like Arai Hakuseki in Edo and must do his best to stabilize things in Kii. But before he could plan things in effect, Shogun Ietsugu died in early 1716. He was only seven years old, and died without an heir. The other children of the late Shogun Ienobu were too young to rule, thus it was decided by the shogunate to select the next shogun from one of the cadet lines.

hogun Yoshimune (1716-1745)

Yoshimune succeeded to the post of the shogun in Shōtoku 1 (1716).Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). "Annales des empereurs du Japon," p. 417.] His term of his shogunate would last for 30 years.

Yoshimune is today considered the best of the Tokugawa shoguns. [Screech, T. (2006). "Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822." pp. 99, 238.]

Yoshimune established the "gosankyo" to augment (or perhaps to replace) the "gosanke". Two of his sons, together with the second son of his successor Ieshige, became the founders of the Tayasu, Hitotsubashi and Shimizu lines. Unlike the "gosanke," they did not rule domains. Still, they remained prominent until the end of Tokugawa rule, and some later shoguns were chosen from the Hitotsubashi line.

Yoshimune is known for his financial reforms. He dismissed the conservative adviser Arai Hakuseki and he began what would come to be known as the Kyōhō Reforms.

Although foreign books had been strictly forbidden since 1640, Yoshimune relaxed the rules in 1720, starting an influx of foreign books and their translations into Japan, and initiating the development of Western studies, or "rangaku".

In 1745, Yoshimune retired, taking the title "Ōgosho" and leaving his public post to his oldest son. The title is the one that Tokugawa Ieyasu had taken on retiring in favor of his son Hidetada, who in turn took the same title on retirement.

Yoshimune died in on the 20th day of the 5th month of the year Kan'en 4. [Screech, p. 128.]

Eras of Yoshimune's rule

The years in which Yoshimune was shogun are more specifically identified by more than one era name or "nengō". [see above] ]
* Shōtoku (1711-1716)
* Kyōhō (1716-1736)
* Genbun (1736-1741)
* Kanpō (1741-1744)
* Enkyō (1744-1748)

In popular media

Tokugawa Yoshimune was the central character of the long-running television series Abarenbo Shogun. This "jidaigeki" included a few factual aspects of the career of Yoshimune, although the program was mostly fiction.

The 1995 Taiga drama "Hachidai Shogun Yoshimune" portrayed the life of Yoshimune in the NHK Sunday prime time slot. Toshiyuki Nishida portrayed the adult Yoshimune in the James Miki series.

On January 2, 2008, the annual TV Tokyo "jidaigeki" spectacular "Tokugawa Fūun-roku" chronicles events in the life of Yoshimune.


* Screech, Timon. (2006). "Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822." London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-7007-1720-X
* Titsingh, Isaac. (1822). "Illustrations of Japan." London: Ackerman.
* Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). [Siyun-sai Rin-siyo/Hayashi Gahō, 1652] , "Nipon o daï itsi ran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon." Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. [ ...Click link for digitized, full-text copy of this book (in French)]
*Totman, Conrad. (1967). "Politics in the Tokugawa bakufu, 1600-1843". Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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