Ii Naosuke (井伊直弼)

Naosuke II was the 13th lord of the Hikone Domain, Omi Province. He was the Tairo (chief minister) of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

Brief Personal History

His childhood name was Tetsunosuke, later Tetsusaburo. His azana (a Chinese courtesy name formerly given to adult Chinese men, which was used in place of their given name in formal situations; Japanese scholars and the literati adopted this custom of courtesy names) was 応卿. His go (pen names) were Umoreginoya, Yagiwanoya, and Sokan.

He was the 14th son of Naonaka II, who was the 11th lord of the domain. Although he was meant to be adopted into another family, he ultimately became the adopted son of Naoaki II, the 12th lord of the domain. Later, he took the reins of the family and became the 13th lord of the domain. He was appointed to the position of Tairo and effectively became the most influential person in the bakufu. He took initiative in Ansei no Taigoku (the suppression of extremists by the Shogunate) and was assassinated outside the Sakuradamon Gate by a feudal retainer of the Mito Domain (the Sakuradamongai Incident), who then left the domain in opposition of Ansei no Taigoku.

Life Through Ascension to Family Headship

On November 29, 1815, Naosuke was born as the 14th son of Naonaka II, the 13th lord of the domain, at Hikone-jo Castle in Inukami County, Omi Province (present Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture). His childhood name was Tetsunosuke, later Tetsusaburo.

Because he was an illegitimate son, he had no prospects for adoption and thus spent 15 years--between the ages of 17 and 32--as a heyazumi (an adult-age eldest son who has yet to come into his inheritance), subsisting on Sutebuchi alms, which amounted to a salary of 300 bales of rice. During this time, he formed a master-and-pupil relationship with Shuzen NAGANO and studied Japanese classical literature. He likened himself to umoregi (an unflowering bogwood), and lived as a hermit in a house called Umoreginoya. Around this time, he enthusiastically learned and excelled at the Sekishu School of Sado (tea ceremony). He also showed intelligence from an early age, learning Waka (a traditional Japanese form of poetry with thirty-one syllables), Tsuzumi (hand drum), Zen, the art of the spearmanship, and batto-jutsu (the art of drawing a sword). Around this time, he was nicknamed 'Chakapon' (cha=tea, ka=poem, pon=hand drum).

In 1846, with the death of Naomoto II (the 11th son of Naonaka and Naosuke's elder brother), who was the heir of the 14th lord Naoaki (the third son of Naonaka and Naosuke's elder brother), therefore, Naosuke (the 14th son of Naonaka) was adopted as the heir to the Hikone Domain and appointed to Jushiino Jiju (Junior Fourth Rank Chamberlain) and Genba-ryo (the Office of Diplomacy and Buddhism). In 1849, he was transferred to the Division of Inner Palace Guards and served concurrently as Genba no Kami (Director of the Bureau of Buddhism and Aliens).

When Naoaki passed away in 1850, Naosuke took the reins of the family, becoming the 15th lord of the domain, and transferred to Kamon no Ryo (the Bureau of Palace Upkeep) (Kamon no Kami).

Life Throughout the Upheaval of the Tokugawa Shogunate's Last Days.

It is said that Naosuke II was called a wise ruler of the Hikone Domain, as he reformed domain duties.

In 1853, he took an active part in the defense of Edo Bay (Tokyo Bay) against Matthew PERRY's fleet from the United States of America. However, when Masahiro ABE, head of the Roju (the shogun's council of elders), requested advice regarding the demands of America, Naosuke insisted upon the opening of Japan to the West, saying, 'We should take measures appropriate to the situation and should actively trade with foreign nations.' (Some view Naosuke's opinion towards the opening of Japan as 'politically expedient').

In 1855, he was promoted to Sakone Gon no Chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) and served concurrently as Kamon no Kami (Director of the Bureau of Palace Upkeep). In 1857, he was promoted to Jushii (Junior Fourth Rank).

Around this time, between the Kaei era and Ansei era, the shogunate was led by Masahiro ABE, head of the Roju. Abe reformed the shogunate from one that had traditionally been based on fudai daimyo (the daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) to one that operated in cooperation with powerful domains, including those of Nariaki TOKUGAWA and Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA and he also made Nariaki take an active role in the shogunate as an adviser for the coastal defense department. Nariaki repeatedly insisted upon the expulsion of foreigners. This, however, was unacceptable to Naosuke, who was "open country wing," and also the head of the Tamarinoma, one of the shikoseki (anteroom seats for feudal lords and direct retainers of the shogun at Edo-jo castle). Conflict between the lords of the Tamarinoma (including Naosuke), Masahiro ABE, and Nariaki TOKUGAWA came to a head with a discussion in the Saiko no Ma (West Lake Room) of Edo-jo Castle regarding the conclusion of the treaty between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan. Nariaki pressured Abe and demanded the replacement of two Roju members: Noriyasu MATSUDAIRA and Tadakata MATSUDAIRA.

On August 4, 1855, Abe ultimately removed the two from the Roju. This decision was based on Noriyasu and Tadakata both being "open country and commerce wing," as well as the fact that Noriyasu and Naosuke were on good terms with each other and exchanged personal letters. Naosuke protested vigorously and pressured Abe to supplement someone who shared the same view with the Tamarinoma to the Roju as soon as possible. Abe inevitably appointed Masayoshi HOTTA (the lord of the Shimousa Sakura Domain and also "open country wing") of the Tamarinoma to head of the Roju, after which the conflict was ended for a time. It is said that the lords of the Tamarinoma, led by Naosuke, retaliated against the dismissal of Tadakata and Noriyasu to some extent.

In 1857, soon after Masahiro ABE passed away, Masayoshi HOTTA reappointed Tadakata MATSUDAIRA to the Roju, and then the shogunate shifted to the coalition cabinet of Hotta-Matsudaira, reflecting the intentions of the Tamarinoma. Moreover, he recommended Yoshitomi TOKUGAWA, the lord of the Kii Domain, as heir to the 13th shogun Iesada TOKUGAWA, which deepened the conflict with Nariaki TOKUGAWA of the Hitotsubashi Group (a group supporting Yoshinobu from the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa family), who had recommended Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA.

On April 23, 1858, Naosuke was appointed to Tairo (chief minister) of the Edo bakufu through the political maneuvering of certain members of the Nanki Group (a group supporting Yoshitomi from the Kishu-Tokugawa family), such as Tadakata MATSUDAIRA and Tadanaka MIZUNO. On June 19, right after the appointment and without Imperial sanction from Emperor Komei, Naosuke signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan. He placed the responsibility for signing without Imperial sanction on Masayoshi HOTTA and Tadakata MATSUDAIRA, who were supposed to be a part of his own faction, and dismissed them from the Roju, and in their place, Naosuke appointed three new members: Sukemoto OTA, Akikatsu MANABE and Noriyasu MATSUDAIRA. In that time of civil disorder and highly-active Sonno Joi-ha (supporters of the doctrine to restore the emperor and expel foreigners), Naosuke tried to restore public order through the power of the state. Regarding the issue of succession to Shogun Iesada, who was in poor health, Naosuke supported Yoshitomi TOKUGAWA, lord of the Kishu Domain, and had him become the 14th shogun, Iemochi TOKUGAWA. He had the Mito-Tokugawa family, including Nariaki TOKUGAWA and Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA, who supported Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI, put under house arrest and relegated talented riryo (government officials), such as Toshiakira KAWAJI, Tadanori MIZUNO, Tadanari IWASE and Naoyuki NAGAI.

He also dismissed Hirochika KUZE, a member of the Roju, and Katsukiyo ITAKURA, who was a jisha-bugyo (a magistrate of temples and shrines) who opposed Naosuke's policy in the cabinet. Therefore, supporters of imperial rule detested him. In 1859, he was promoted to Shoshii (Senior Fourth Rank).

Later Life

Enraged by Naosuke's policies, Emperor Komei issued Bogo no Micchoku (a secret imperial decree) to the Mito Domain and called for the II's expulsion, disregarding the order of samurai families. This unprecedented political involvement by the Imperial Court hardened the bakufu's stance, and Naosuke ordered the Mito Domain to refuse the secret imperial decree. At the same time, Naosuke sent Akikatsu MANABE to Kyoto and ordered him to prosecute personnel who were involved with the secret imperial decree. Naosuke purged many patriots and Kugyo (court nobles), including the imperial prince Nakagawa no Miya Asahiko, since the start of Ansei no Taigoku (suppression of extremists by the Shogunate), which earned him resentment from the Sonjo faction. On March 3, 1860, Naosuke was assassinated by ronin (masterless samurai) from the Mito Domain outside of the Sakuradamon Gate of Edo-jo Castle (the Sakuradamongai Incident). His second son Naonori II succeeded him.

Naosuke wrote "Ii Tairo Sado Dan" (Talks About Sado by Ii Tairo) and "Chanoyu Ichie Shu" (Collection on the Oneness of Chanoyu).

Presently, there are bronze statues of him in Kamon-yama Park in Yokohama City, as well as in Hikone-jo Castle, created by ex-feudal retainers of the domain to honor him publicly for carrying out the opening of Japan. However, public opinion regarding his achievement of signing the treaty for the opening of Japan remains divided.

After his death, Ansei no Taigoku (suppression of extremists by the Shogunate) was declared illegal, and the Hikone Domain was punished by a reduction in territory to 100,000 koku (18,039 cubic meters) by order of the bakufu in 1862. Hikone City and Mito City overcame their historical tensions and formed 'a sister city' relationship in 1968, on the 100th's anniversary of the start of the Meiji era.

Portraits of Naosuke by Eigaku KANO, and by his fourth son Naoyasu II, are widely known. His grave is located at Gotoku-ji Temple, the ancestral temple of the II family (Setagaya Ward, Tokyo). Naosuke's memorial monument was erected in Myoun-ji Temple in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Personality and Interpretations

When Naosuke was still a heyazumi (an adult-age eldest son who has yet to come into his inheritance), he devoted himself to many hobbies, including Sado, Nohgaku (the art of Noh theater), Confucianism, Japanese classical literature, the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, calligraphy, painting, poetry, as well as Japanese martial arts: swordplay, spearmanship, Japanese archery, gunnery, and jujutsu. He took particular interest in iai (the instantaneous drawing of a sword), and founded the Shinshin Shin Ryu School from the existing Shinshin Ryu School. He used the name 'Sokan' in Sado and established a new school after studying from the Sekishu School. In his work "Chanoyu Ichie Shu" (Collection on the Oneness of Chanoyu), there is a famous "Ichigo Ichie" (a preaching of Sado dictating that each occasion on which hospitality is offered and received is to be cherished as a unique experience in one's life). He was devoted to the creation of Noh masks and owned one set of the required instruments. He also showed talent as a playwright of Kyogen, composing 'Oni ga Yado' (literally, 'Inn of an Ogre') and attempting a re-composition of 'Tanuki no Haratsuzumi' (a story of a raccoon dog and a huntsman, commonly known as "Hikone Danuki," or "A Raccoon Dog in Hikone), which had been a haikyoku (a Noh song no longer performed).

A large number of foreign books and world maps, which are thought to be articles left by Naosuke, were discovered in the residence of the II family after the Meiji Restoration.
They reveal much of his wisdom, as well as his idea that 'opening the country and fukoku kyohei (fortifying the country; strengthening the military) are the only way Japan can survive.'

The heavy punishments implemented through Ansei no Taigoku were detested by many, such that Naosuke came to be called 'Ii no Akaoni' ('The Red Ogre of Ii'), like Naomasa II, founder of the Hikone Domain. However, while Naomasa commanded awe and respect, there was only hatred toward Naosuke. Naosuke was also occasionally and privately referred to as simply 'Akaoni' ('Red Ogre').

Some opinions state that his assassination in the Sakuradamongai Incident caused a weakening of bakufu authority, which had been maintained through Naosuke's heavy-handed politics. On the other hand, some views state that he caused a loss of morale and talent from the Shogun's retainers, as his methods through Ansei no Taigoku resulted in the expulsion of many Joi-ha (supporters of foreigner expulsion) as well as Kaimei-ha (supporters of enlightenment) bureaucrats, which led him to become a remote cause of the fall of the bakufu.

Naosuke is also considered to be 'a politician who saved Japan by opening the country.'
Had he not been there to open the country, the history of Japan would have certainly been very different. In that regard, Naosuke was an essential political figure in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. However, the opening of Japan to the West had already begun in the time of Masahiro ABE, and Naosuke's forceful methods can be viewed as a detriment to a more careful plan that involved the appointment of Kaimei-ha, research of overseas situations, and prior consultation with powerful domains such as Mito, Satsuma, and even the Imperial Court.

Another theory states that Naosuke's reasons for promoting the opening of Japan and signing the treaty leaned more toward temporary political strategy against such powerful lords as those in Mito and Satsuma, in fact, Naosuke was a consistent exclusionist and insisted that after the Edo bakufu restored its political power, the bakufu and the shinpan (Tokugawa's relatives) and fudai daimyo should work together to expel the foreigners in the country.
According to this view, the punishment of Joi-ha and the powerful lords involved in Ansei no Taigoku, as well as the expulsion of foreigners (a return of national isolation) that Naosuke promoted behind the treaty, were acts taken according to 'a revival of the former system through the restoration of bakufu authority.'
Some people, such as Ryotaro SHIBA, regard Naosuke bitterly, claiming that 'he oppressed the Joi-ha, but was not aiming for the opening of Japan to the West, even hated the West' (summary of statements in the novel "Kashin" or 'Flower God').