Manabe Akifusa (間部詮房)

Akifusa MANABE was the lord of Takasaki Domain in Kozuke Province, and was the first member of the Manabe clan to rise to the position of lord over Murakami Domain in Echigo Province. He served as a chamberlain of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was the eldest son of Kiyosada NISHIDA.


Kunai MANABE (Akifusa's earlier name) was a disciple of a Noh play actor, Shichidayu KITA. In 1684, he became a chamberlain of Tsunatoyo TOKUGAWA (later Ienobu TOKUGAWA, the 6th shogun), who was the lord of the Kofu Domain at the time. In 1704, when Tsunatoyo moved his residence to the west wing of Edo-jo Castle, Akifusa was selected from among the samurai of Kofu Domain to serve as a retainer of the Tokugawa shogunate; he was also promoted to Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade, and given the position of Viceroy of Echizen Province, becoming one of the Tokugawa clan's Chamberlains and having his income increased by 1500 koku. Thereafter, his income was gradually increased until in 1706, he became the daimyo (feudal lord) over Sagami province, which brought him an annual income of 10,000 koku. Even after this point, he managed to increase his income still further, becoming the feudal lord of Takasaki Domain, a status with an annual income of 50,000 koku.

Akifusa is thus said to have been one of the luckiest men of the entire Edo period. In all of Japanese history, Akifusa was the only Noh actor ever to rise to the position of feudal lord (note however that Nagayasu OKUBO--who was the son of a Noh actor, though he never became an actor himself--stands out as an example of someone with a connection to Noh theater who nevertheless wielded great power in the Tokugawa shogunate). Akifusa was promoted to Chamberlain, coming to occupy a position just below that of Wakadoshiyori (Junior Advisor to the Shogun), and was subsequently appointed to the position of assistant member of the Shogun's Council of Elders.

Akifusa joined forces with Hakuseki ARAI, a Confucian scholar, and Shogun Ienobu in a triumvirate, working to carry out policies (in what became known as the "Shotoku Suppression") to reduce the power of the Fudai daimyo (hereditary close vassals of the Shogun) of the best lineages as well as curtail the tremendous influence the Shogun's group of consorts (known as the "Ooku") wielded over the Shogun.

However, Akifusa and Hakuseki's government, whose political authority depended entirely on Shogun Ienobu, was fundamentally unstable. Thus, particularly after the death of Ienobu--succeeded as Shogun by Ietsugu TOKUGAWA, who was still a young child at the time--families of high pedigree and shogunal officials in the anti-Akifusa camp steadily increased their resistance to his policies, thereby preventing Akifusa from making any real progress with his political reforms.

Given this state of affairs, when Ietsugu died of illness while still a child and Yoshimune TOKUGAWA--upon the recommendation of the Fudai daimyo and the Shogun's group of consorts--was chosen to succeed him as the 8th Shogun, Akifusa and Hakuseki entirely lost their political base and were driven from power. Nevertheless, Akifusa was not stripped of his position as a feudal lord; instead, he was simply transferred away from Takasaki Domain, one of the most important domains in the Kanto region, and sent off to remote Murakami Domain, yet retained his position as a feudal lord with an annual income of 50,000 koku.

On August 19, 1720, Akifusa died of heatstroke in Murakami. Lordship over Murakami domain passed to his adopted heir (his biological younger brother), Akitoki MANABE.

Character and anecdotes

Akifusa is believed to have been an honest person with a strong sense of duty, and while other Tokugawa retainers worked in shifts, Akifusa served Ienobu TOKUGAWA around the clock. It is said that Ienobu relied especially on Akifusa because of this work ethic.

Hakuseki ARAI commented that Akifusa was "tireless in his efforts," and "possessed exceptionally beautiful traits of character, such that he would surely find no shame in being judged alongside the sages of old." Moreover, Hakuseki's sense of pessimism regarding politics grew a great deal after Ienobu's death, and Akifusa is said to have exerted a supreme effort to encourage Hakuseki to continue putting his talents to use in politics.

One anecdote about Akifusa recounts that after Ienobu's death he frequently visited the Ooku (the quarters of the Shogun's consorts) to secretly meet with Gekkoin (one of Ienobu's consorts), while another mentions that when Ietsugu TOKUGAWA saw how relaxed and at ease Akifusa was when with Gekkoin, he reportedly said to his wetnurse, "He acts as though he himself is Shogun." Moreover, some say Gekkoin and Akifusa may already have been in a close relationship even while Ienobu was alive and well in the Sakurada Palace. Others argue, based on the similarity between Akifusa's original family name, Manabe, and Ietsugu's childhood name of Nabematsu, that Ietsugu may well have been Akifusa's own child. However, these are no more than stories that are not supported by any reliable evidence.

Official records

1684: Akifusa was appointed a page of Kofu Domain (whose lord was Ienobu TOKUGAWA) and given an annual income of 150 sacks of rice, enough for ten people.

1687: He was promoted to the position of chief page of Kofu Domain.

1688: He was appointed as a ceremony manager.

1689: He was appointed as an apprentice chamberlain.

1699: He was appointed as a chamberlain with an income of 1,500 koku.

January 4, 1705: He was promoted to Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade, and appointed the Viceroy of Echizen Province. He was appointed as the chief secretary of the West Wing of the Edo-jo Castle (residence of the next shogun, Ienobu TOKUGAWA).

January 31, 1705: He was appointed as a manager of the West Wing with an annual income of 3,000 koku.

March 3, 1706: He reached the position ranked directly below that of Wakadoshiyori (the Shogun's junior advisor). He became the feudal lord in the Sagami Province with an annual income of 10,000 koku. January 18, 1707: He reached the position ranked directly below that of the Roju (Shogun's Council of Elders). He was promoted to Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade.

May 24, 1709: He was appointed Personal Chamberlain to the Shogun. He was also simultaneously appointed Grand Chamberlain. May 25, 1709: He was appointed as an acting senior counsel.

June 19, 1710: He was transferred to the Takasaki Domain in Kozuke Province with an annual income of 50,000 koku.

July 5, 1716: He was discharged from his position as shogun's personal chamberlain but was allowed to see the shogun in person.

1717: He was transferred to the Murakami Domain in Echigo Province with an annual income of 50,000 koku.