Tokugawa clan

Last updated
Tokugawa clan mon
Home province
Parent house
Final ruler Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Current head Iehiro Tokugawa
Founding year
  • 1567
Ruled until
Cadet branchesVarious, including

The Tokugawa clan ( Shinjitai : 徳川氏, Kyūjitai : 德川氏, Tokugawa-shi or Tokugawa-uji) is a Japanese dynasty which produced the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867 during the Edo period. It was formerly a powerful daimyō family. They nominally descended from Emperor Seiwa (850–880) and were a branch of the Minamoto clan (Seiwa Genji) through the Matsudaira clan. The early history of the clan remains a mystery. [1]



Minamoto no Yoshishige (1135–1202), grandson of Minamoto no Yoshiie (1041–1108), was the first to take the name of Nitta. He sided with his cousin Minamoto no Yoritomo against the Taira clan (1180) and accompanied him to Kamakura. Nitta Yoshisue, 4th son of Yoshishige, settled at Tokugawa (Kozuke province) and took the name of that place. Their provincial history book did not mention Minamoto clan or Nitta clan. [2]

The nominal originator of the Matsudaira clan was reportedly Matsudaira Chikauji, who was originally a poor Buddhist monk. [1] [3] He reportedly descended from Nitta Yoshisue in the 8th generation and witnessed the ruin of the Nitta in their war against the Ashikaga. He settled at Matsudaira (Mikawa province) and was adopted by his wife's family. Their provincial history book claimed that this original clan was Ariwara clan. [2] Because this place is said to have been reclaimed by Ariwara Nobumori, one theory holds that Matsudaira clan was related to Ariwara no Narihira. [4]

Matsudaira Nobumitsu (15th century), son of Chikauji, was in charge of Okazaki Castle, and strengthened the authority of his family in the Mikawa province. Nobumitsu's great-great-grandson Matsudaira Kiyoyasu made his clan strong, but was assassinated. In 1567, Matsudaira Motonobu—then known as Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616)—grandson of Kiyoyasu, was recognized by Emperor Ōgimachi as a descendant of Seiwa Genji; he also started the family name Tokugawa.

The clan rose to power at the end of the Sengoku period. To the end of the Edo period they ruled Japan as shōguns . There were fifteen Tokugawa shōguns. Their dominance was so strong that some history books use the term "Tokugawa era" instead of "Edo period". Their principal family shrine is the Tōshō-gū in Nikkō, and their principal temples (bodaiji) are Kan'ei-ji and Zōjō-ji, both in Tokyo. Heirlooms of the clan are partly administered by the Tokugawa Memorial Foundation.

After the death of Ieyasu, in 1636, the heads of the gosanke (the three branches with fiefs in Owari, Kishū, and Mito) also bore the Tokugawa surname, so did the three additional branches, known as the gosankyō : the Tayasu (1731), Hitotsubashi (1735), and Shimizu (1758) family, after the ascension of Tokugawa Yoshimune. Once a shōgun died without a living heir, both the heads of gosanke (except Mito-Tokugawa family) and gosankyō had priority to succeed his position. [5] [6] Many daimyōs descended from cadet branches of the clan, however, retained the surname Matsudaira; examples include the Matsudaira of Fukui and Aizu. Members of the Tokugawa clan intermarried with prominent daimyo and the Imperial family.

On November 9, 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th and the last shōgun of Tokugawa, tendered his resignation to Emperor Meiji. He formally stepped down ten days later, returning governing power to the Emperor, [7] marking the end of the ruling power of the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1868, Tokugawa Iesato (1863–1940, from Tayasu family) was chosen as the heir to Yoshinobu as the head of Tokugawa clan. [8] On July 7, 1884, Iesato became a prince, just like the heads of some of other notable Japanese noble families, known as Kazoku. [9]

The 1946 Constitution of Japan abolished the kazoku and the noble titles, making Iesato's son, Iemasa Tokugawa, no longer a prince. Iemasa had a son Iehide, who died young, so he was succeeded by one of his grandsons, Tsunenari. Tsunenari is the second son of Toyoko (eldest daughter of Iemasa) and Ichirō Matsudaira (son of Tsuneo Matsudaira), [10] and he is also a patrilineal descendant of Tokugawa Yorifusa, the youngest son of Tokugawa Ieyasu. [11]

In 2007, Tsunenari published a book entitled Edo no idenshi (江戸の遺伝子), released in English in 2009 as The Edo Inheritance, which seeks to counter the common belief among Japanese that the Edo period was like a Dark Age, when Japan, cut off from the world, fell behind. On the contrary, he argues, the roughly 250 years of peace and relative prosperity saw great economic reforms, the growth of a sophisticated urban culture, and the development of the most urbanized society on the planet. [12] Tsunenari formed the Tokugawa Memorial Foundation in 2003 to preserve and administer the historical objects, art, armor and documents that have been passed down in the Tokugawa family over the generations, display them for the general public and provide assistance to academic research on topics concerning historical Japan.

Simplified descent


The Mon of the Tokugawa clan, shogunate (1600-1868) having preserved 250 years of peace. Tokugawa shogunate.jpg
The Mon of the Tokugawa clan, shogunate (1600–1868) having preserved 250 years of peace.

The Tokugawa's clan symbol, known in Japanese as a "mon", the "triple hollyhock" (although commonly, but mistakenly identified as "hollyhock", the "aoi" actually belongs to the birthwort family and translates as "wild ginger"—Asarum), has been a readily recognized icon in Japan, symbolizing in equal parts the Tokugawa clan and the last shogunate.

The symbol derives from a mythical clan, the Kamo clan, which legendarily descended from Yatagarasu. [15] Matsudaira village was located in Higashikamo District, Aichi Prefecture. Although Emperor Go-Yōzei offered a new symbol, Ieyasu continued to use the symbol, which was not related to Minamoto clan. [16]

In jidaigeki , the symbol is often shown to locate the story in the Edo period. In works set in during the Meiji Restoration movement, the symbol is used to show the bearer's allegiance to the shogunate—as opposed to the royalists, whose cause is symbolized by the Imperial throne's chrysanthemum symbol. Compare with the red and white rose iconography of English Wars of the Roses, as imagined by Walter Scott earlier in the 19th century, in Anne of Geierstein (1829).

Family members



Important retainers

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokugawa Ieyasu</span> First Tokugawa shōgun of Japan (1543–1616)

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan, which ruled from 1603 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was one of the three "Great Unifiers" of Japan, along with his former lord Oda Nobunaga and fellow Oda subordinate Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The son of a minor daimyo, Ieyasu once lived as a hostage under daimyo Imagawa Yoshimoto on behalf of his father. He later succeeded as daimyo after his father's death, serving as a vassal and general of the Oda clan, and building up his strength under Oda Nobunaga.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokugawa Yoshinobu</span> 15th and final shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate from 1866–67

Prince Tokugawa Yoshinobu was the 15th and last shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He was part of a movement which aimed to reform the aging shogunate, but was ultimately unsuccessful. He resigned his position as shogun in late 1867, while aiming at keeping some political influence. After these efforts failed following the defeat at the Battle of Toba–Fushimi in early 1868, he went into retirement, and largely avoided the public eye for the rest of his life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minamoto clan</span> Surname of Japanese imperial family members demoted into ranks of nobility

Minamoto (源) was a noble surname bestowed by the Emperors of Japan upon members of the imperial family who were excluded from the line of succession and demoted into the ranks of the nobility since 814. The Minamoto was the most powerful and most important clan of all four great clans that dominated Japanese politics during the Heian, Kamakura, Muromachi and Edo periods in Japanese history—the other three were the Fujiwara, the Taira, and the Tachibana.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Imagawa Yoshimoto</span> Japanese daimyo of the Sengoku period

Imagawa Yoshimoto was a Japanese daimyō of the Sengoku period. Based in Suruga Province, he was known as "The number one Daimyō in the Tōkaidō"; he was one of the three daimyō that dominated the Tōkaidō region. He died in 1560 while marching to Kyoto to become Shogun. He was killed in the village of Dengakuhazama in Okehazama by Oda Nobunaga.

<i>Fudai daimyō</i> Class of daimyō (warlords) during the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate

Fudai daimyō (譜代大名) was a class of daimyō (大名) in the Tokugawa Shogunate (徳川幕府) of Japan who were hereditary vassals of the Tokugawa before the Battle of Sekigahara. Fudai daimyō and their descendants filled the ranks of the Tokugawa administration in opposition to the tozama daimyō and held most of the power in Japan during the Edo period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Matsudaira clan</span> Japanese samurai clan

The Matsudaira clan was a Japanese samurai clan that descended from the Minamoto clan. It originated in and took its name from Matsudaira village, in Mikawa Province. During the Sengoku period, the chieftain of the main line of the Matsudaira clan, Matsudaira Motoyasu became a powerful regional daimyo under Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi and changed his name to Tokugawa Ieyasu. He subsequently seized power as the first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan during the Edo period until the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Under the Tokugawa shogunate, many cadet branches of the clan retained the Matsudaira surname, and numerous new branches were formed in the decades after Ieyasu. Some of those branches were also of daimyō status.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sakai Tadatsugu</span> Samurai of the Sengoku era; major samurai ally of the Tokugawa clan

Sakai Tadatsugu was one of the most favored and most successful military commanders serving Tokugawa Ieyasu in the late-Sengoku period. He is regarded as one of the Four Guardians of the Tokugawa (Tokugawa-Shitennō). along with Honda Tadakatsu, Ii Naomasa, and Sakakibara Yasumasa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sakakibara Yasumasa</span>

Sakakibara Yasumasa was a Japanese daimyō of the late Sengoku period through early Edo period, who served the Tokugawa clan. As one of the Tokugawa family's foremost military commanders, he was considered one of its "Four Guardian Kings" along with Sakai Tadatsugu, Honda Tadakatsu and Ii Naomasa. His court title was Shikibu-Shō (式部大輔).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sakai clan</span> Japanese samurai clan

The Sakai clan was a Japanese samurai clan that claimed descent from the Nitta branch of the Minamoto clan, who were in turn descendants of Emperor Seiwa. Serata (Nitta) Arichika, a samurai of the 14th century, was the common ancestor of both the Sakai clan and the Matsudaira clan, which the Sakai later served. In the Sengoku period, under Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Sakai became chief retainers. In the Edo period, because of their longstanding service to the Tokugawa clan, the Sakai were classified as a fudai family, in contrast with the tozama.

<i>Gosanke</i> Direct descendants of Tokugawa Ieyasus three sons

The TokugawaGosanke, also called simply Gosanke, or even Sanke, were the most noble three branches of the Tokugawa clan of Japan: Owari, Kii, and Mito, all of which were descended from clan founder Tokugawa Ieyasu's three youngest sons, Yoshinao, Yorinobu, and Yorifusa, and were allowed to provide a shōgun in case of need. In the Edo period the term gosanke could also refer to various other combinations of Tokugawa houses, including (1) the shogunal, Owari and Kii houses and (2) the Owari, Kii, and Suruga houses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hoshina Masayuki</span>

Hoshina Masayuki was a Japanese daimyō of the early Edo period, who was the founder of what became the Matsudaira house of Aizu. He was an important figure in the politics and philosophy of the early Tokugawa shogunate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iemasa Tokugawa</span> Japanese politician (1884–1963)

Prince Iemasa Tokugawa also known as Iyemasa, was a Japanese political figure of the Taishō and early Shōwa periods. He was the 17th hereditary head of the former shogunal branch of the Tokugawa clan and the final President of the House of Peers in the Diet of Japan.

Tsunenari Tokugawa is the head of the main Tokugawa house. He is the son of Ichirō Matsudaira and Toyoko Tokugawa. His great-grandfather was the famed Matsudaira Katamori of Aizu and his paternal great-grandfather was Tokugawa Iesato. As a great-grandson of Shimazu Tadayoshi, the last lord of Satsuma Domain, he is also a second cousin of the former Emperor, Akihito.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aizu Domain</span>

Aizu Domain was a domain of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan during the Edo period from 1601 to 1871.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Owari Tokugawa family</span> Branch of the Tokugawa family

The Owari Tokugawa family is a branch of the Tokugawa clan, and it is the seniormost house of the Gosanke.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ishikawa clan</span>

Ishikawa clan is a Japanese samurai family which descended from the Seiwa Genji.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Natsume Yoshinobu</span>

Natsume Yoshinobu (1517–1573) was a Japanese samurai of the Sengoku period who served the Matsudaira clan. When Tokugawa forces had to retreat at the Battle of Mikatagahara, Natsume charged into enemy ranks declaring himself to be Ieyasu; he was then killed in battle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iehiro Tokugawa</span> Japanese author and translator

Iehiro Tokugawa is a Japanese author and translator who is the 19th generation and current head of the main Tokugawa clan. His great-great-grandfather was the famed Matsudaira Katamori of Aizu, and his maternal great-great-grandfather was Tokugawa Iesato, the sixteenth head of the Tokugawa clan.

Kamehime was the eldest daughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan, with his first wife, Lady Tsukiyama. She was the wife of Okudaira Nobumasa.


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