Mito Tokugawa family (水戸徳川家)

The Mito Tokugawa family was one of branches of the Tokugawa family rooted in Mito City in Hitachi Province, and one of Tokugawa Gosanke (three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family). It is also simply referred to as the Mito family. On October 24, 1606, Yorifusa TOKUGAWA, the 11th son of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, was given a fief of one hundred thousand koku (which yielded approx. 18 million liters of rice) in Shimotsuma in Hitachi Province, and started his own family. In August 1636, he was allowed the use of the family name "Tokugawa."


The Mito Tokugawa family was founded by Yorifusa TOKUGAWA, the 11th son of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and governed Mito Domain throughout the Edo period. It was granted a social status to work at the Oroka (the best office for daimyos [Japanese feudal loads] in Edo Castle) as one of Tokugawa Gosanke and received the title of Yakata (an honorific title). The real kokudaka (a crop yield) of the family's fief was about 25 thousand koku (approx. 45 million liters of rice), but the family padded it caring the reputation as one of Tokugawa Gosanke, so formally it was announced as 38 thousand koku (approx. 68.4 million liters of rice). This was one of the causes of financial stringency of the Mito Tokugawa family. The family crest of the head family of the Tokugawa clan (the linage of the Shogun) was Omote Aoi-no-Gomon (the family crest using front sides of three leaves of Hollyhock), in which front sides of Hollyhock leaves were depicted to represent the shogun's title 'Seii Taishogun' (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), while that of the Mito family was Ura Aoi-no-Gomon (the family crest using undersides of three leaves of Hollyhook); therefore, there exists an opinion which holds that officially the Mito family was not recognized as Tokugawa Gosanke. Moreover, since Yorinobu TOKUGAWA, the founder of the Kishu Tokugawa Family, and Yorifusa were brothers by the same mother (Yorinobu was the older), the Mito family had been considered to be a branch of the Kishu family for a while after its foundation.

The Mito family's kyokkan (the highest rank one could be appointed in his lineage) in the Imperial Court rank system is lower than those of the Owari family and Kishu family (those of these two families were Dainagon [the Chief Councilor of State], while that of the Mito family was Gon Chunagon [the provisional Vice-Councilor of State]), and the kokudaka of the Mito family was lower than those of these two families; therefore, it is generally considered that its social status was lower by one rank than those of the other two families. However, the Mito family was based within kanhasshu (eight provinces which composed the Kanto region in the Edo period) and governed Hitachi Province, which had been recognized as a taikoku (the best ranked provinces) and Shinno-Ningoku (provinces whose official governors were the Imperial princes) in Engishiki (a set of ancient Japanese governmental regulations). Also, the rokudaka (a stipend) allowed to Takamatsu Domain, a branch domain of Mito, was 120 thousand koku (approx. 21.6 million liters of rice), which was exceptionally high among those granted to the other off-shoots of the Tokugawa family. Moreover, there were as many as three domains which were governed by the branches of the Mito family. Therefore, there exists another opinion which says that the Mito family was equally prestigious to the other two families which were generally thought to be higher in social status.

The head of the Mito family was regarded as the assistant to Seiitaishogun, so the family was excused from sankinkotai (a system under which feudal lords were required to spend every other year in residence in Edo) and remained in Edo all the time. A principle existed that a Shogun should not be chosen from the Mito family even though it was one of Tokugawa Gosanke. Actually, the fifteenth Shogun Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA was a son of Nariaki TOKUGAWA, the ninth lord of Mito Domain, so the last Shogun of the Edu shogunate was in truth from the Mito family; however, he had been adopted to the Hitotsubashi Tokugawa family, and therefore formally he was from the Hitotsubashi Tokugawa family, that is to say, this was not exactly the case that a Shogun was selected from the Mito family.

The Mito family had learned Mitogaku (the scholarship and academic traditions that arose in Mito Domain) starting with"Dainihonshi" (literally, Great History of Japan) and been known as a pro-Imperial family for generations. It is said that the precepts of the Mito family stated "the Mito family shall follow the Emperor without hesitation if a war ever starts between the soke (the head family) of the Tokugawa clan and the Imperial Court." Therefore, although the Mito family was a branch of the Tokugawa family, shogunate retainers were watchful of it in the same manner as they were of tozamadaimyo (non-Tokugawa daimyo).

The subsidiary lines (called "Gorenshi") of the Mito family were the Takamatsu Matsudaira family of Takamatsu Domain in Sanuki Province, the Moriyama Matsudaira family of Moriyama Domain in Mutsu Province, the Fuchu Matsudaira family of Hitachifuchu Domain in Hitachi Province, and the Shishido Matsudaira family of Shishido Domain in Hitachi Province. Relatively speaking, the successive family heads of the Mito Tokugawa family lived a long life and were blessed with children, so many sons from the family were adopted into other families during the late half of the Edo period. Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA of Owari Domain and Katamori MATSUDAIRA of Aizu Domain were descendants of Yoshinari MATSUDAIRA, who had been adopted into the lord family of Takasu Domain from the Mito family.

After the Meiji Restoration, the Mito family ranked among kazoku (the nobility) with the title of Marquis, and later the title was raised to Duke. Kuniyuki TOKUGAWA, the 13th family head, established the Suifu-Meitokukai Foundation and donated to it the items which had been handed down to the family, such as daimyo's (Japanese feudal lord's) belongings and ancient documents, in order to prevent them from being scattered and lost. In 1977, this foundation opened the Shoko-Kan Tokugawa Museum at the site of Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA's tea room in Mito City for the purpose to preserve and exhibit the legacy of the Mito family.

Successive family heads and their offspring
The Mito family highly respected Confucianism in character; thus successive lords of the Mito family were given posthumous Buddhist titles in Chinese fashion.

The first (the lord of the domain): Yorifusa TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 威公)

Yorishige MATSUDAIRA (the first lord of Takamatsu Domain)

Tsunakata (At first he was adopted to Mitsukuni but died prematurely, so Tsunaeda was adopted to him instead.)

Tsunaeda (the third lord of Mito Domain, Tsunaeda TOKUGAWA)

Yoritoshi (the father of Yoritoyo MATSUDAIRA, the third lord of Takamatsu Domain; that is, the grandfather of Munetaka TOKUGAWA, the fourth lord of Mito Domain)

Mitsukuni (the second lord of Mito Domain)

Yorimoto MATSUDAIRA (the lord of Nukada Domain in Hitachi Province [which was later relocated to become Moriyama Domain])

Yoritaka MATSUDAIRA (the first lord of Hitachifuchu Domain)

Yorikatsu MATSUDAIRA (the first lord of Shishido Domain)

The second (the lord of the domain): Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 義公)

Yoritsune MATSUDAIRA (the second lord of Takamatsu Domain)

The third (the lord of the domain): Tsunaeda TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 粛公) (adopted from the lord family of Takamatsu Domain, a branch domain of Mito; a son of Mitsukuni's elder brother.)

Yoshizane (died prematurely)

The forth (the lord of the domain): Munetaka TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 成公) (adopted from Takamatsu Domain, a branch domain of Mito; his wife was a daughter of Yoshizane)

Munemoto (the fifth lord of Mito Domain)

The fifth (the lord of the domain): Munemoto TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 良公)

Harumori (the sixth lord of Mito Domain)

The sixth (the lord of the domain): Harumori TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 文公)

Harutoshi (the seventh lord of Mito Domain)

Yoshinari MATSUDAIRA (the ninth lord of Takasu Domain, a branch domain of Owari, in Mino Province)

The seventh (the lord of the domain): Harutoshi TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 武公)

Narinobu (the eighth lord of Mito Domain)

Nariaki (the ninth lord of Mito Domain)

The eighth (the lord of the domain): Narinobu TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 哀公)

(He had no child)

The ninth (the lord of the domain): Nariaki TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 烈公)

Yoshiatsu (the tenth lord of Mito Domain)

Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA (adopted into the Hitotsubashi Tokugawa family; the fifteenth Shogun)

Akitake (adopted into the Shimizu Tokugawa family; later, the eleventh lord of Mito Domain)

The tenth (the lord of the domain): Yoshiatsu TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 順公)

Atsuyoshi (the twelfth lord of Mito Domain)

The eleventh (the lord of the domain): Akitake TOKUGAWA (his posthumous title: 節公)

Takesada TOKUGAWA (the founder of the "Matsudo Tokugawa family," a branch family of the Mito Tokugawa family; a viscount; a vice-admiral in the shipbuilding division of the Imperial Japanese Navy)

Mito Tokugawa Marquis family

The twelfth (a marquis): Atsuyoshi TOKUGAWA (Shikibu Jikan [the vice-minister of the ministry of court ceremonies during the Meiji Era])

Kuniyuki (the thirteenth family head)

Muneyoshi TOKUGAWA (adopted into the Hitotsubashi Tokugawa family; the deputy chairman of the House of Peers; a member of the House of Councilors)

The thirteenth (a marquis, and later a duke): Kuniyuki TOKUGAWA (the President of the Japanese Red Cross Society; the president of the House of Peers)

Kuninari (the fourteenth family head)

Mito Tokugawa family heads after the war

The fourteenth family head: Kuninari TOKUGAWA

Narimasa (the fifteenth family head)

The fifteenth family head: Narimasa TOKUGAWA

Narinori (the sixteenth family head)

The sixteenth family head: Narinori TOKUGAWA (Mito City)