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Imperial Palace in Tokyo

The Tokyo Imperial Palace (皇居, Kōkyo, literally ‘Imperial Residence’) is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda district of the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo and contains several buildings including the main palace (宮殿, Kyūden), some residences of the Imperial Family, an archive, museums and …

Kumazawa Banzan (1619–1691)

Nojiri Kazutoshi (1590-1680), a rônin who served two different daimyo but found himself masterless at the time of Banzan’s birth, three years after the passing of Tokugawa Ieyasu, was the father of Banzan when he was born in Kyoto (1543–1616). The daimyos Sakuma Jinkurô and Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) were served by Banzan’s grandfather (1556–1631). His …

Kido Takayoshi (Kido Koin) (1833–1877)

During the Tenpô era (1830–1843), a period of famine and political upheaval that many historians believe to represent the start of the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, Kido Kôin, a samurai from Chôshû, was born. He was a staunch supporter of the imperial dynasty who made a significant contribution to overthrowing the Tokugawa regime. He …

Itô Hirobumi (1841–1909)

Itô Hirobumi (then known as Hayashi Risuke) was raised as a samurai after being adopted from a farming family in the village of Tsukari in the Chôshû domain (modern-day Yamaguchi prefecture). He studied under the late Tokugawa loyalist scholar Yoshida Shôin and was a key figure in the Meiji Restoration and the early development of …

Martial Arts (bugei)

During the Tokugawa era, samurai were expected to balance their study of martial techniques and literary (civil) subjects. This idea was known as bunbu. Early in the seventeenth century, maintaining a state of readiness for battle was essential because, under the Tokugawa shogun’s new leadership, the nation faced political instability and, in 1614–1615, conflict broke …

Hagakure (In the Shadow of Leaves) a type of manual for Samurai

Around 1716, Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659–1719), a ward of the Saga domain in Kyushu, finished writing Hagakure (In the Shadow of Leaves). With 1,300 brief anecdotes and reflections on life, it was designed as a sort of samurai guidebook. It is incorrectly regarded as one of the essential writings that define the “way of the samurai” …

Fukuzawa Yûkichi (1835–1901)

Fukuzawa Yûkichi was the son of a low-ranking samurai from the Nakatsu domain, a sizable fief in northern Kyushu, and his life spanned both the Tokugawa and the Meiji eras. Following the arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Perry and the U.S. naval expedition that forced open Japan in 1853, Yûkichi was hired by the Tokugawa …

Domain Schools (HANKÔ) in Tokugawa period

Prior to the middle of the eighteenth century, only a very small percentage of domains—perhaps as few as forty—established official schools for their retainers. Following that, the number rose consistently, and between the late 18th century and the end of the Tokugawa era, it rose quickly. There were at least 225 schools operating by the …

Daimyo katagi (Portrait of a Daimyo) – Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759–1829)

Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759–1829) was the grandson of Tokugawa Yoshimune and the great-great-great grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first and eighth shoguns of the Tokugawa dynasty. He was a descendant of the Tayasu branch of the Tokugawa house, one of the cadet branches of the shogun’s family, or gosankyô, and was born in Edo Castle. His …

Osaka – Japan

Osaka, which is usually pronounced just “Osaka,” is a designated city in Japan’s Kansai prefecture on the island of Honshu. The third most populous city in Japan, after Special wards of Tokyo and Yokohama, it serves as the capital and largest city of Osaka Prefecture. It is also the largest part of the Keihanshin Metropolitan …