Tokugawa Iesada (徳川家定)

Iesada TOKUGAWA was the thirteenth Seitaishogun (commander in chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians; a great and unifying leader) of the Edo Bakufu.

The period prior to Iesada's inauguration to Shogun

On May 6th, 1824, Iesada was born as the fourth son of the twelfth Shogun, Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA, in Edo-jo castle. Most of Ieyoshi's sons died young, and Iesada was the only one who lived to adulthood. However, it was said that Iesada's condition was sickly since his childhood; his character was such that he extremely disliked appearing in front of the public. This aspect to his character led Iesada to open his mind only in the presence of his nursing mother, Utahashi. Some historians and experts expressed a theory of Iesada suffering from cerebral palsy.

In 1841, the Ogosho (leading or influential figure), Ienari TOKUGAWA (the eleventh Shogun and the grandfather of Iesada), died. Afterwards, Iesada became the twelfth Shogun Ieyoshi's successor. However, Ieyoshi was concerned about the abilities of Iesada's, so Ieyoshi at one time even considered choosing Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA as the successor to the Shogun. Nevertheless, the roju (senior councilor of the Tokugawa shogunate), Masahiro ABE, and others opposed Ieyoshi's consideration. Because of this opposition, Ieyoshi decided to choose Iesada as successor to Shogun after all.

In 1853, Ieyoshi died of an illness following the arrival of the Black Ships. In response to the Ieyoshi's death, Iesada became the successor of Shogun and became the thirteenth Shogun.

The period of the Shogun Iesada

On February 13th, 1854, after Matthew (Calbraith) PERRY revisited Japan with leading seven naval fleets, the Edo Bakufu signed the Convention of Kanagawa ("Nichibei Washin Joyaku" in Japanese) on March 31st, 1854.

Iesada had been in poor health since his childhood and his condition worsened considerably after his assumption of Shogun. It was said that Iesada's health was nearly as compromised as that of a disabled person. Therefore, a roju (senior councilor of the Tokugawa shogunate), Masahiro ABE, took on the leadership of the shogunate government. After Masahiro died on August 6th, 1857, Masayoshi HOTTA, a roju, took the leadership.

In December 7th, 1857, Iesada granted Townsend HARRIS, the United States Consul General, an audience at Edo-jo Castle.

Internal turmoil regarding the succession of the Shogun

Iesada claimed Atsuko TAKATSUKASA (Tenjin-in Ari-gimi), who was a daughter of Masahiro TAKATSUKASA, and Hideko ICHIJO (Choshin-in Sume-gimi), who was a daughter of Tadayoshi ICHIJOU, as his lawful wife. However, both of his lawful wives died young; moreover, Iesada was without a biological child of his own with Sumiko (Tensho-in and his third legal wife), who was the adopted daughter of Tadahiro KONOE. Therefore, although Iesada was still reigning as Shogun, the people were already recommending a successor for the Shogun, and this started the race for successor to the Shogun. Moreover, at the time of Iesada's worsening health condition, this dispute intensified.

For Iesada's successor, there were two groups diverged over proposed heirs; Naosuke II and others of the Nanki group favored Yoshitomi TOKUGAWA (Iemochi TOKUGAWA) who was the lord of the Kishu domain and Nariakira SHIMAZU and Nariaki TOKUGAWA of the Hitotsubashi group favored Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI (Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA). Each of the groups was in dispute over who would succeed the Shogun.

Iesada maintained a very low profile far from center stage on the problem of the succession to the Shogun. However, on August 4th, 1858, Iesada called a meeting of the daimyos (Japanese feudal lord) to declare that he had chosen Yoshitomi as his successor to Shogun. On August 13th, 1858, Iesada demonstrated an exceptional initiative and announced the punishment on the daimyos of the Hitotsubashi group. This was the first and the last time Iesada took the initiative and showed action as a Shogun.

On August 14th, 1858, Iesada TOKUGAWA died. Afterwards, Yoshitomi, who was Iesada's adopted child, changed his name to Iemochi TOKUGAWA then became the successor.

Personal Profile

Although Bakufu confronted with a difficult situation at the end of the Edo Period, Iesada had been in poor health, so the problem of successor appeared immediately following his assumption the Shogun position. Some historians and other experts supported a theory that Iesada may have suffered from cerebral palsy, so he was not capable of demonstrating his leadership abilities in the role of Shogun.

Iesada seemed to enjoy the hobby of making pastry such as Castella (sponge cake from Portuguese). Also, Iesada made cooked beans and steamed potatoes, and sometimes he did not consume all of those foods by himself and shared those foods with his vassals. Thus, Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA (Shungaku) referred to Iesada as the "Imo Kubo" (potato Shogun). Moreover, it was said that Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA evaluated Iesada as "He was the lowest grade among all mediocre people." However, during the Meiji era, Masahiro Asahina, a vassal of the shogun, defended Iesada as follows. "It was said that Iesada was mediocre and an imbecile, but that was result of comparing him with Echizen (Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA) and Satsuma (Nariakira SHIMAZU)." "There must be many daimyos that were more inferior to Iesada Shogun among the three hundreds lords."

It was said that Iesada had a strong sense of suspicion of others and extremely disliked appearing in front of the public. Thus, Iesada out of necessity often cooked for himself because of his fear of assassination. There was one anecdote; when Iesada visited his grandfather, Ienari, at Nishi-no-Maru palace, Iesada left the served food untouched since Iesada thought his food may have been poisoned. Later, this attributed anecdote was created as a common saying that Iesada and Ienari had a discordant relationship.

According to a journal of HARRIS, a minister in the government of the United States of America, HARRIS wrote that Iesada performed physical actions before he spoke a word that he bent his head backward and stamped his feet as he granted HARRIS an audience. It is said that these actions are typical symptoms of cerebral palsy. Nevertheless, Iesada told HARRIS the following. "I'm deeply impressed and am extremely satisfied with the effort of delivering a correspondence in sending an envoy from a faraway distance place and also its kindness." "You shall exactly tell the president of the United Sates that U.S. and our state (Japan), two nations, will continue our close friendly relationship forever." Iesada performed his Shogun like behavior. On the other hand, some historians and other experts support a theory that a substitute person, who was concealed underneath the floor, made the great response speech; Iesada had sent a signal to the substitute person in the stomping of his feet.

There was a derivative miscommunication from an article in the Asano Shinbun (Asano Newspaper), so the common people circulated it as follow; Iesada chased birds in a garden.

About the juyo (wedding of higher class nobles and other higher social stature personals) process of Tenshoin (An adapted daughter of Nariakira SHIMAZU, Atsuko; and later, she became an adopted daughter of Tadahiro KONOE and changed her name to, Sumiko), historians and other experts determined that Iesada and the O-oku (Edo Bakufu Shogun's inner palace residence and where successive shoguns' wives, ladies, and children were living) residents hoped to have his third lawful wife would be a Satsuma born woman to share in the good luck of his grand father, Ienari, who lived longer and had many children (Kodaiin; she was midaidokoro [a wife of a shogun or a highest-ranking nobleman] of Ienari and was a daughter of Shigehide SHIMAZU). Then, Nariakira SHIMAZU received the Bakufu's intention. Subsequently, Nariakira seemed to put to use this marriage as a political maneuver, supporting Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI (as the successor to the Shogun). On the other hand, some historians and other experts supported this theory, "Essentially, the juyo (wedding) of Tenshoin had no relationship in the matter of successor."

Some historians and other experts supported a theory that the length of the successive Shoguns' ihai (Buddhist mortuary tablet) tablets, which were stored in the Daiju-ji temple, were the same length as the heights of each successive Shogun; this fact was identified by from the remains. According to this theory, Iesada's height could be estimated about one hundred and forty-nine centimeters. Additionally, the ihai tablet of his father, Ieyoshi, was one hundred and fifty-three centimeters, and there was about one centimeter difference from his real height. Thus, Iesada's height could also be estimated one hundred and fifty centimeters. However in reality, there were various differences between the heights of the ihai tablets and the real heights of successive Shoguns; so it was not a reliable theory.

Since Iesada was poor in health, three lawful wives and his one concubine, did not become pregnant. Moreover, Iesada's second wife, Hideko ICHIJO, was a gorenju (title of honor for a legal wife of an aristocrat daijin, cabinet minister and kugyo, court noble), but she had an extremely diminutive body. It was said that although Hideko was standing, her neck remained under the knob of a fusuma (a Japanese sliding screen). Some historians and other experts supported the following theory; it was said that Hideko had a physical abnormality with one leg shorter than the other, so she would walk with a limp.

Iesada even had a discordant relationship with Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA who would become his own chosen successor candidate. Many historians and other experts have considered Iesada's attitude against Yoshinobu was the direct result of the influence and intent of the O-oku's; the voice of the O-oku (either gleaned from several influential individuals or the consensus of its female residents) residents influenced Iesada on the matters of the Shogun's successor. However, according to Kansui ASAHINA (he later served in several governmental positions: Gaikoku So-bugyo [a controller of magistrates of foreign affairs], Machi-bugyo [town magistrate] and Kanjo-bugyo [magistrates of finance]) who was Iesada's soba-kosho (closest noble's page) said "the reason why Iesada had a discordant relationship with Yoshinobu was simply that Yoshinobu had a more beautiful figure than he (Iesada) had." According to Kansui, Iesada possessed a feeling of almost personal grudge against Yoshinobu. Additionally, Yoshinobu (his biological mother, Yoshiko Joo, was as a sister of Takako Joo who was a lawful wife of Ieyoshi) was a cousin in law of Iesada.

Iesada said, "Because of my illness, I can not participate in ruling politics, so I stay inside the palace and was trying slightly not to lose my manner" ("Ansei Kiji," a book written by Chiso NAITO).

Iesada first referred to himself as Iesachi (it also pronounced as, "Iesaki") then assumed the name of Iesada upon his inauguration as Shogun. The reason behind Iesada's name change was because successive Edo Bakufu Shoguns (Ietsuna [家綱] TOKUGAWA, Tsunayoshi [綱吉] TOKUGAWA, Ietsugu [家継] TOKUGAWA, and Ieharu [家治] TOKUGAWA) whose names were formed with hen (the left-hand side [radical] of a Chinese character) were childless (a biological child) or even these Shoguns with biological children had died young. Thus, it was said that his name (Iesachi) was believed to bring bad luck because it also had hen. Nevertheless, after all of this, Iesada was still not able to have his own child. The families who would be able to receive one character (Henki [a portion of the name of a person in high rank, which is given to a retainer to show their subordination]) of a Shogun's name was predetermined by the social standing of a family. Thus, Iesada's name change produced the following phenomenon; daimyos that had originally used the character, "定" (sada), for their name, changed their names in demonstrating of respect to Iesada's name (Example, the Hisamatsu clan).

The cause of death

Iesada's death was the day after the daimyos who belonged to the Hitotsubashi group suffered punishment, so the rumor circulated that the Hitotsubashi group used oku ishi (inner physicians, doctors who treated the Tokugawa family), Rekisenin OKA, to assassinate Iesada by poisoning.

The cause of Iesada's death is widely reported as the worsening of his chronic disease, beriberi or cholera which broke out at that time.

Just before Iesada's death, Tairo (chief minister), Naosuke II, and Iesada's biological mother, Honjuin, decided to give his doctors permission to come to Edo-jo castle; and those doctors were Chinese medicine doctors, Choan TODA, and Ranpoi (a person who studied Western medicine by means of the Dutch language), Genboku ITO and Seikai TOTSUKA. Then, they medically examined Iesada. It was since this time that the inner Bakufu government introduced Western medicine.

The appearance of Iesada

There was no clear validation to judge Iesada's appearance since his remains were not investigated. Nevertheless, in Iesada's portrait, he was quite a handsome man. Although Iesada had pockmarks around his eyes because of his childhood illness, the painter of the portrait did not depict those marks.

Record of offices and ranks held

* All of the dates from the section below are according to a western calendar (a solar calendar).

On May 17th, 1828, Iesada celebrated his genpuku (celebration of one's coming of age). Iesada referred to himself as "Iesachi" and he received his Jonin (investiture) for his Imperial Court title, Junii Dainagon (Junior Second Rank, chief councilor of state). Furthermore, on the same day Iesada promoted to Shonii (Senior Second Rank). Iesada held a Gon Dainagon (a provisional chief councilor of state) position as it was.

On October 1st, 1837, Iesada served a concurrent post of Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

Year of 1853

On November 23rd, 1853, Iesada received a changing post of Naidaijin (Minister of the Interior) and also served concurrently in the post of Ukone no daisho as it was. At the same time, the Imperial court issued this Imperial proclamation that Iesada became Seitaishogun (commander in chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians; a great and unifying leader) of the Edo Bakufu and also became Genji no choja (chief of the Minamoto clan).

On December 23rd, 1853, Iesachi renamed himself Iesada.

On August 14th, 1858, Iesada died. Later, Iesada received a zo shoichii Daijo-daijin (posthumously conferred, Senior First Rank, grand minister of state).