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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 …

Daimyo and Domains in Japan

Daimyô was an informal phrase used to refer to the largest military lords in premodern Japan. It is made up of the Chinese characters dai (great or enormous) and myô (mean-ing myôden or “name land”). Earlier historical eras used the term in a variety of ways, but during the Tokugawa period it took on a …

Firefighting clothing during the period Tokugawa

Due to the flammable nature of the building materials and the regularity of earthquakes, fires regularly broke out in the castle towns of Tokugawa Japan. They happened so frequently in Edo that the city was known by the proverb “Fires and battles are the flowers of Edo.” Although many different kinds of firefighting organizations were …

Bunbu – Civil and Military Arts

The “twin methods” (ryôdô) of military instruction (bu, also known as the “arts of war” or “martial arts”) and the “civil arts” (bun, also known as “the arts of peace” or “letters”), both of which were regarded as important for efficient government, created some conflict in Tokugawa Japan. The dual role that samurai were expected …

Oishi Shrine (Oishi jinja)

Oishi Shrine is situated on the grounds of the Akô Castle site in Akô city, Hyôgo Prefecture. It was built to house the ghosts of the forty-seven masterless rôninor samurai who killed Kira Kôzunosuke in order to exact revenge on their lord, Asano Naganori. Naturally, Sengakuji temple in Edo served as the location for their …

Castles in Japan

There is evidence that local rulers in Japan attempted to defend themselves by building forts and encircling them with moats as far back as prehistoric times (more particularly, during the Yayoi period, 300 BCE-300 CE). Prior to the sixteenth century, wood and soil were frequently used to construct fortifications in Japan. There were 3,000 castles …

Castle Towns in Japan

From the late fifteenth century until the end of the Tokugawa period in 1868, castle towns—the administrative and economic hub of a daimyo domain—were a distinctive and preeminent urban structure in Japan. The origins of castle towns may be traced back to the Warring States period (1467–1568), when rival warlords (sengoku daimyô) constructed a timber …

Bushido

Usually dating back to the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and continuing through the Tokugawa period, the name “bushi” (sometimes known as “samurai” in the West) refers to the ideas of bushi, or “the way of the warrior.” The phrase, however, was not frequently used during the Tokugawa period and only began to gain popularity in the …

Shiba Gorô (Remembering Aizu)

Aizu domain was assaulted by the newly founded Meiji government army in 1868 as retaliation for its support of the Tokugawa shogunate. Shiba Gorô (1859–1955), a samurai from a high-ranking samurai family in the northern realm of Aizu, provides a personal description of these events in his book. Aizu had previously played a significant role …