Tokugawa Ienari (徳川家斉)

Ienari TOKUGAWA was a Japanese warrior and the 11th Seii Taishogun (literally, "Great General Who Subdues the Barbarians"), who was in office from 1787 – 1837.

Ienari was born the eldest son of Harusada TOKUGAWA, the second family head of the Hitotsubashi family, one of the Gosankyo (the three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family). His mother, Lady Otomi (Jitokuin), was a concubine of Harusada.

Ienari was the great-grandchild of the 8th shogun, Yoshimune TOKUGAWA. Osaki-no-tsubone was his menoto (wet nurse). His lawful wife was Kodaiin (whose biological father was Shigehide SHIMAZU) who was the adopted daughter of Tsunehiro KONOE, and Ienari had numerous concubines.

Accession to 11th Shogun

Ienari was born the eldest son of Harusada TOKUGAWA on November 18, 1773.

In 1779, Iemoto TOKUGAWA, heir of the 10th Shogun Ieharu TOKUGAWA, died suddenly, which prompted Ieharu and Okitsugu TANUMA to conspire for the issue of succession. As Ieharu had no other sons, in June 1781, he adopted Ienari and moved him to Nishinomaru of Edo Castle.

In 1787, after the sudden death of 50-year-old Ieharu in 1786, 15-year-old Ienari became the 11th shogun.

The Kansei Reforms

Having assumed the post of Shogun, Ienari dismissed Okitsugu TANUMA, a dominant figure in the days of Ieharu, and made Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA chief the Roju (the senior councilors of the Tokugawa shogunate); Sadanobu was the renowned lord of the Shirakawa Domain in Mutsu Province, and was appointed at the recommendation of the Tokugawa Gosanke (the three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family). Considering Ienari's young age, the Gosanke intended for Sadanobu, who had been an alternate candidate for the post of shogun, to fill the void until Ienari was ready to take on the responsibilities of his new job.

In 1789, Ienari married the daughter of Shigehide SHIMAZU.

With the Kansei Reforms, Sadanobu made aggressive efforts to turn the bakufu finances around, but his measures were so rigid that the upper echelon of the bakufu, including Ienari, became increasingly critical of him. Furthermore, after the Title Incident and Ogosho Incident, Ienari and Sadanobu became progressively more antagonistic towards each other until, in August 1793, working together with his father Harusada, Ienari dismissed Sadanobu.

The Ogosho (Retired Shogun) Days

After Sadanobu was brought down, Ienari appointed Nobuaki MATSUDAIRA, lord of the Mikawa-Yoshida Domain and an old retainer of the Kansei era, as chief of the Roju. In 1817, however, Nobuaki died of natural causes.

Ienari consequently appointed his sobayonin (lord chamberlain) Tadaakira MIZUNO as Kattegakari and chief of the Roju, which kept the Kansei era retainers, including Tadakiyo MAKINO, away from the shogunate. Tadaakira officially approved of bribery--a practice previously banned by Sadanobu and Nobuaki--and encouraged the acceptance of bribes. Taking advantage of the absence of shukuro (senior vassals), Ienari began to indulge in extravagance which, compounded by the increased expenditures for coastal defenses against the threat of foreign ships, set off the collapse of bakufu finances, corruption within the administration, and the deterioration of public morals. Attempting to rebuild the bakufu's finances, Tadanari recoined and mass-issued currency on eight occasions between the Bunsei and Tenpo eras, though these attempts ultimately brought negative effects, such as price increases.

When Tadanari died in 1834, Tadakuni MIZUNO, who had joined the Roju after serving as jisha-bugyo (the magistrate of temples and shrines) and Kyoto shoshidai (the Kyoto deputy), succeeded him. The shogunate government, however, continued to be led by Ienari's inner circle, which included Tadafusa HAYASHI. Due to the government corruption mentioned above, people in regions outside of Edo became increasingly dissatisfied with the bakufu until, in March 1837, Oshio Heihachiro no Ran (the Rebellion of Heihachiro OSHIO) broke out in Osaka. Additional revolts, including Ikuta Yorozu no Ran (the Rebellion of Yorozu IKUTA), occurred one after the other, and the demise of the shogunate system appeared on the horizon. It was around that same time that the Morrison Incident occurred, spurring anxiety over naval defenses.

Ienari's Last Days and Death

In May of 1837, Ienari handed the shogunate over to his second son Ieyoshi, though he continued to hold power over the bakufu (This was known as "Ogosho Seiji," or a time when the bakufu was ruled by the retired shogun). In his last days, Ienari promoted Akikatsu MANABE, Masayoshi HOTTA, and Okimasa TANUMA (the fourth son of Okitsugu TANUMA).

On February 27, 1841, Ienari died. He was 69 years old at the time of his death.

It is said that, while Ienari lived in glory, he breathed his last without anyone realizing it, for which his chief physician, Seihoin YOSHIDA, was held responsible and punished (according to the "Diary of Takako IZEKI"). The exact date of Ienari's death was recorded as February 27, 1841, in the Diary of Takako IZEKI, whereas, according to "Shoku Tokugawa Jikki"(the Sequel to the Collection of Official Records of the Edo Bakufu), it was March 22, 1841, suggesting that the bakufu had concealed his death for some time.

Subsequent to Ienari's passing, the existing practice of his inner circle running the administration was renounced by Tadakuni MIZUNO, who seized control of the shogunate and several hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu); the wakadoshiyori and officials of the O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle where the shogun's wife and her servants resided) were either dismissed or demoted. As a result, Ienari's inner circle, including Akikatsu MANABE and Masayoshi HOTTA, fell victim to Tadakuni's plans for forced resignation from the Roju and other Bakufu positions.

Record of Offices and Ranks Held

On July 9, 1781, Ienari was named the successor to the post of shogun.

On May 14, 1782, he celebrated his genpuku (coming of age) and began to be called "Ienari." He was conferred to the court rank of Junii Dainagon (Junior Second Rank,Chief Councilor of State).

On May 31, 1787, Ienari was promoted to Shonii Naidaijin (Senior Second Rank, Inner Minister) and also served for the position of Konoe no Daisho (Major Captain of the Palace Guards). In conjunction with these promotions, Ienari assumed the office of Seii Taishogun and received an Imperial Proclamation appointing him as Genji no Choja (Chief of the Minamoto Clan).

On April 28, 1816, he became Udaijin (Minister of the Right). Ienari also held the post of Ukone no Daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

On April 26, 1822, Ienari was promoted to Juichii-sadaijin (Minister of the Left, Junior First Rank) and also served as Konoe no Daisho.

On April 13, 1827, Ienari was transferred to the post of Daijo-daijin (Grand Minister of State).

On May 6, 1837, Ienari resigned from the post of Seii Taishogun.

On February 27, 1841 (which, according to "Shoku Tokugawa Jikki," was March 22, 1841), Ienari died.

On April 8, 1841, Ienari was posthumously conferred to the rank of Shoichii (Senior First Rank).

*Ienari was the only samurai who successively held the posts of Naidaijin (Minister of the Center), Udaijin (Minister of the Right), Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) and Daijo-daijin (Grand Minister) since TAIRA no Kiyomori. Additionally, with respect to the Tokugawa Shogunate Family, Ienari was the first to serve concurrently as Konoe no Daisho since Iemitsu TOKUGAWA.

The Wives and Concubines of Ienari

Ienari had 16 wives and concubines, 26 sons, and 27 daughters. Some of the daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) who were selected to adopt Ienari's sons were forced to turn the headship of their respective families over to the sons of the Shogun. It is said that Ienari had additional concubines who, according to one account, amounted 40 in all. Additionally, Ienari fathered innumerable unidentified children, the care of which required enormous expenses that put further pressure on the already fragile bakufu finances that were ultimately pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.

It is also said that, as mentioned below, Ienari attempted to control various large domains by marrying his daughters off to various daimyo. Since the time of Munetada TOKUGAWA, the Hitotsubashi family used strategic adoption to their advantage. A considerable economic burden was also imposed on those daimyo who took the Shogun's children into their household by marriage or adoption, as there were ceremonies and the other formalities that accompanied the respective circumstances. Considering that Naomasa NABESHIMA, who married Ienari's daughter, and Takachika MORI, the adoptive son of Narito MORI, both played a role in bringing down the shogunate, it can be said that Ienari's attempt to control the daimyo through blood relationships ultimately ended in failure.

The O-oku was most actively used during the tenure of Ienari.

It is said that, although Ienari had numerous children, only half of them lived long enough to reach adulthood. Those sons who did survive were adopted out to other families.

The Children and Their Mothers

First Wife: Tadako KONOE (Kodaiin), the biological daughter of Shigehide SHIMAZU and adopted daughter of Tsunehiro KONOE

Fifth Son: Atsunosuke TOKUGAWA (1796 – 1799), the adopted son of Shigeyoshi TOKUGAWA, head of Shimizu-Tokugawa family

Concubine: Lady Oman (Seishinin), the daughter of Tameyoshi HIRATSUKA

Eldest Daughter: Princess Toshi (1789 – 1817), married to Naritomo TOKUGAWA, head of the Owari-Tokugawa family

Second Daughter: Keiganin (1790)

Eldest Son: Takechiyo (1792 - 1793)

Third Daughter: Princess Aya (1795 – 1797), engaged to Chikamune DATE, lord of the Sendai Domain

Concubine: Lady Oraku (Korinin), daughter of Katsutoshi OSHIDA

Second Son: Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA (1793 - 1853), the 12th shogun

Concubine: Lady Oume (Shinshoin), the daughter of Tadayoshi MIZUNO

Third Son: Tanshoin (1794)

Concubine: Lady Outa (Hochiin), the daughter of Tadanao MIZUNO

Fourth Son: Keinosuke (1795 – 1797), an adopted son of Munechika TOKUGAWA, head of the Owari-Tokugawa family

Sixth Son: Toyosaburo (1798)

Sixth Daughter: Princess Iho (1799 - 1800)

Ninth Daughter: 舒姫 (1802 - 1803)

Concubine: Lady Oshiga (Eimeiin), the daughter of 頼能 NOSE

Fourth Daughter: Princess So (1796 - 1797)

Concubine: Lady Orio (Chosoin), the daughter of Noriharu ASAHINA

Fifth Daughter: Princess Go (1798 – 1799)

Concubine: Lady Otose (Myosoin), the daughter of Katsutoshi KAJI

Seventh Daughter: Princess Mine (1800 – 1853), married to Narinobu TOKUGAWA, head of the Mito-Tokugawa family

Seventh Son: Nariyuki TOKUGAWA (1801 – 1846), became the head of the Shimizu-Tokugawa family and, later, the adopted son of Harutomi TOKUGAWA, head of the Kishu-Tokugawa family

Tenth Daughter: Princess Hisa (1803 – 1804)

Twelfth Daughter: Princess Haru (1805 – 1807)

Concubine: Lady Ocho (Sokuseiin), the daughter of Shigetatsu SONE

Eighth Daughter: Princess Kyo (1801 – 1802)

Eighth Son: Tokinosuke (1803 - 1805)

Ninth Son: Torachiyo (1806 – 1810), the adopted son of Harutomi TOKUGAWA, head of the Kishu-Tokugawa family

Tenth Son: Tomomatsu (1809 – 1813)

Twelfth Son: Naritaka TOKUGAWA (1810 – 1845), the adopted son of Narimasa TOKUGAWA of the Tayasu-Tokugawa family; later, the adopted son of Nariharu TOKUGAWA, head of the Owari-Tokugawa family

Nineteenth Daughter: Princess Kazu (1813 – 1830), married to Narito MORI, lord of the Choshu Domain

Sixteenth Son: Kyugoro (1815 – 1817)

Concubine: Lady Omio (Hoshinin), the daughter of Shigetoshi KIMURA

Eleventh Daughter: Princess Asa (1803 – 1843), married to Naritsugu MATSUDAIRA, lord of the Fukui Domain

Concubine: Lady Oyachi (Seishoin), the biological daughter of Morihide OIWA and adopted daughter of Nobukuni MOROBOSHI

Thirteenth Daughter: Princess Taka (1806)

Fifteenth Daughter: Princess Moto (1808 – 1821), married to Katahiro MATSUDAIRA of the Aizu Domain

Concubine: Lady Osode (Honshoin), the daughter of Masafuku YOSHIE

Fourteenth Daughter: Princess Kishi (1807 – 1811)

Sixteenth Daughter: Princess Aya (1809 – 1837) married to Yoritane MATSUDAIRA, lord of the Takamatsu Domain

Seventeenth Daughter: Princess Tsuya (1811)

Twentieth Daughter: Princess Taka (1813 – 1814)

Eighteenth Son: Yoshichiro (1818 – 1821)

Twenty-first Son: Narikatsu TOKUGAWA (1820 – 1849), adopted into the Shimizu-Tokugawa family as the adopted son of Nariyuki TOKUGAWA, head of the Kishu-Tokugawa family

Twenty-fourth Son: Tomihachiro (1822 – 1823)

Concubine: Lady Oyae (Kaishunin), the biological daughter of Tadakatsu MAKINO and adopted daughter of Tomomitsu TSUCHIYA

Eleventh Son: Nariaki TOKUGAWA (1809 – 1827), the adopted son of the Shimizu-Tokugawa family

Eighteenth Daughter: Princess Mori (1811 – 1846), married to Naomasa NABESHIMA, lord of the Saga Domain

Thirteenth Son: Narihiro IKEDA (1812 – 1826), the adopted son of Naritoshi IKEDA, lord of the Tottori Domain

Fifteenth Son: Naritami MATSUDAIRA (1814 – 1891), the adopted son of Naritaka MATSUDAIRA, lord of the Tsuyama Domain

Seventeenth Son: Nobunoshin (1817)

Twenty-fifth Daughter: Princess Kiyo (1818 – 1868), married to Tadanori SAKAI, lord of the Himeji Domain

Twentieth Son: Nariyoshi MATSUDAIRA (1819 – 1839), the adopted son of Nariatsu MATSUDAIRA, lord of the Hamada Domain

Twenty-third Son: Narihiro HACHISUKA (1821 – 1868), the adopted son of Narimasa HACHISUKA, lord of the Tokushima Domain

Concubine: Lady Omiyo (Sengyoin), the biological daughter of 就相 NAITO and adopted daughter of Kiyoshige NAKANO

Twenty-first Daughter: Princess Yo (1813 – 1868), married to Nariyasu MAEDA, lord of the Kaga Domain

Twenty-third Daughter: Princess Naka (1815 – 1817)

Twenty-fourth Daughter: Princess Sue (1817 – 1872), married to Naritaka ASANO, lord of the Hiroshima Domain

Concubine: Lady Oyao (Chishoin), the daughter of Masayoshi ABE

Fourteenth Son: Okugoro (1813 – 1814)

Concubine: Lady Oito (Honrinin), the daughter of Hiromitsu TAKAGI

Twenty-second Daughter: Princess Koto (1815 – 1816)

Twenty-sixth Daughter: Princess Ei (1819 – 1875), married to Narikura TOKUGAWA, head of the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa family

Twenty-second Son: Narisawa MATSUDAIRA (1820 – 1838), the adopted son of Naritsugu MATSUDAIRA, lord of the Fukui Domain

Twenty-fifth Son: Narisada MATSUDAIRA (1823 – 1841), the adopted son of Naritsune MATSUDAIRA

Twenty-sixth Son: Narikoto MATSUDAIRA (1825 – 1844), the adopted son of Naritsugu MATSUDAIRA, lord of the Akashi Domain

Concubine: Lady Oruri (Shorenin [the Tokugawa Family]), the daughter of Masakata TODA

Nineteenth Son: Nariharu TOKUGAWA (1819 – 1839), the adopted son of Naritomo TOKUGAWA, lord of the Owari-Tokugawa family

Twenty-seventh Daughter: Princess Yasu (1827 – 1843), married to Narimichi TOKUGAWA of the Tottori Domain

Adopted Children

Priestly Imperial Prince Soncho (1802 – 1852): the eighth prince of Imperial Prince Arisugawa Orihito

In addition to the children listed above, there were four spontaneous abortions.


Iesada TOKUGAWA (1824 – 1858) became the thirteenth shogun.

Yoshimasa TOKUGAWA (1825 – 1838) became the sixth head of the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa family.

Yoshiyasu MAEDA (1830 – 1874) became the thirteenth lord of the Kaga Domain.

Yoshitaka IKEDA (1834 – 1850) became the eleventh lord of the Tottori Domain.

Iemochi TOKUGAWA (1846 - 1866) became the fourteenth shogun.

Mochiaki HACHISUKA (1846 – 1918) became the last lord of the Tokushima Domain.

Masamaru TOKUGAWA (1846 – 1847) became the eighth head of the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa family.

Personal Profile and Anecdotes

It is said that Ienari displayed a propensity for bizarre behavior from a young age. There are some atrocious accounts of Ienari stomping on crabs and beating chickens to death.

Ienari's 50-year reign was the longest among the succession of shoguns.

Based on the ancestral tablet at Daiju-ji Temple, Ienari was 156.6 cm tall. He was the fifth tallest among the 15 Tokugawa shoguns, and quite large for a shogun of the late Edo period.

It is said that Ienari and his second son Ieyoshi were at odds with one another. There is some evidence of Ienari and Ieyoshi's negative relationship in Ienari's faith in the Nichiren Sect, which clashed with Ieyoshi's loyalty to the Jodo Sect; furthermore, Ienari clung to power after becoming Ogosho (a retired shogun), and it was also rumored that Ienari's close vassals were conspiring to poison his fourth son, Iesada.

The reason for Ienari's numerous offspring can be traced back to his ascent to Shogun at age 15, at which time he was instructed by the Hitotsubashi family to father enough children to dominate the nation with the family's bloodline. As a result, Ienari's brothers and biological children were adopted out to the Gosanke (the Owari-Tokugawa, Kishu-Tokugawa, and Mito-Tokugawa families) and Gosangyo (the Tayasu-Tokugawa, Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa, and Shimizu-Tokugawa families), though not to the Mito-Tokugawa family (The radical expansion of the Hitotsubashi family line ended with Masamaru TOKUGAWA upon an ironic adoption of Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA--who later became Shogun--out of the Mito-Tokugawa family).

It is said that, in the prime of his life, Ienari drank large quantities of sake virtually every night but never seemed intoxicated. Later in his life, Ienari cut down on his drinking.

Ienari was blessed with good health and, during his 50 years as Shogun, only took sick with a cold on a few occasions.

Ienari particularly enjoyed a protein-rich, cheese-like dairy product known as 'hakugyuraku.'

Ienari suffered from headaches throughout his life that were said to be caused by his fear of the curse of Iemoto TOKUGAWA.

Ginger was one of his favorite foods, and he ate it year-round.

It is said that Ienari was referred to as the "Worldly Shogun." Ienari spent most of his time in O-oku and played virtually no part in the administration of the bakufu, instead leaving such duties to his cabinet members, including Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA and Nobuaki MATSUDAIRA. The birth of Ienari's numerous daughters, paired with the need to marry them off to the daimyo families, eventually destabilized the bakufu's finances.

Ienari was a notoriously corrupt shogun obsessed with the pursuit of worldly pleasures which, throughout his 50-year reign, ultimately accumulated such negative ties to the Edo bakufu that it came to play a major part in the end of Tokugawa shogunate.

It is said that, while his father Harusada TOKUGAWA was alive, Ienari was a compliant son.

Even in his later days, Ienari either made personal pilgrimages or had a wakadoshiyori (a high government official) visit the tomb of Iemoto TOKUGAWA, the son of the previous shogun Ieharu TOKUGAWA, on the anniversary of his death. Not only was it unusual to pay such respects to the child of one's predecessor, but suspicious circumstances surrounding Iemoto's death support a theory by Masamoto KITAJIMA and Motohiko IZAWA that Ienari suspected Iemoto's assassination by Harusada HITOTSUBASHI to make way for Ienari to become Shogun.

In "Nihon Gaishi" (a historical book on Japan), by Sanyo RAI, the 50-year reign of Ienari is summed up with the words, "The warrior controlled and governed the country. The Tokugawa shogunate reached the height of its glory (during Ienari's reign)." Although Ienari, as shogun, was indifferent to the affairs of state, the country was at peace and the power of the bakufu at its peak.

Ienari was ultimately promoted to Daijo-daijin (Grand Minister) with the rank of Juichii (Junior First Rank). Ienari, after the third shogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, was the second shogun to be conferred the rank of Juichii, and was also the second shogun to be promoted to the post of Daijo-daijin, after the second shogun, Hidetada TOKUGAWA.

As Ienari took to ingesting seal penis powder to boost his sexual drive, he was referred to as the 'seal shogun.'

[Original Japanese]