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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Hidetada ridiculed these fears



After resigning the shogunate in 1622, Hidetada retired to the inner castle (Nishi Maru) in Yedo and there continued to direct affairs. He died ten years later, at the age of fifty-eight, and was interred at the temple Zojo-ji, in the Shiba district of the eastern capital. Japanese historians agree that Hidetada's character was adapted for the work of consolidation that fell to his lot. He resembled his father, Ieyasu, in decision and perseverance; he never dealt lightly with any affair, and while outwardly gentle and considerate, he was at heart subtle and uncompromising. An interesting illustration of the administrative canons of the time is afforded in the advice said to have been given by Hosokawa Tadaoki when consulted by Hidetada. "There is an old proverb," Tadaoki replied, "that if a round lid be put on a square vessel, those within will have ease; but if a square lid be used to cover a square vessel, there will result a feeling of distress." Asked for a standard by which to judge qualifications for success, the same nobleman answered that an oyster shell found on the Akashi shore is the best type of a man qualified to succeed, for the shell has been deprived of all its angles by the beating of the waves. Of Hidetada himself there is told an anecdote which shows him to have been remarkably free from superstition. A comet made its appearance and was regarded with anxiety by the astrologists of Kyoto, who associated

its advent with certain misfortune. Hidetada ridiculed these fears. "What can we tell," he said, "about the situation of a solitary star in the wide universe, and how can we know that it has anything to do with this little world?"


Iemitsu, son of Hidetada, was born in 1603; succeeded to the shogunate in 1622, and held that post until his death, in 1651. His principal ministers were Ii Naotaka (who had occupied the post of premier since the days of Ieyasu), Matsudaira Nobutsuna, and Abe Tadaaki, one of the ablest officers that served the Tokugawa. He devoted himself to consolidating the system founded by his grandfather, Ieyasu, and he achieved remarkable success by the exercise of exceptional sagacity and determination. In 1626, he proceeded to Kyoto at the head of a large army, simply for the purpose of conveying to the feudal nobles a significant intimation that he intended to enforce his authority without hesitation. Up to that, time the feudal chiefs were not officially required to reside in Yedo for any fixed time or at any fixed interval. But now it was clearly enacted that the feudatories of the east and those of the west should repair to the Bakufu capital, at different seasons in the year; should remain there a twelvemonth,--in the case of feudal lords from the Kwanto only six months--and should leave their wives and families as hostages during the alternate period of their own absence from the shogun's city, which they spent in the provinces.

This system was technically called sankin kotai, that is "alternate residence in capital." From the point of view of the Tokugawa the plan was eminently wise, for it bound the feudal chiefs closer to the shogun, keeping them under his eye half the time and giving hostages for their good behaviour the other half; and it helped the growth of Yedo both in financial and political power, by bringing money into it and by making it more than before an administrative headquarters. On the other hand there was a corresponding drain on the provinces, all the greater since the standard of living at Yedo was higher than in rural districts and country nobles thus learned extravagance. To prevent other families from growing too rich and powerful seems to have been a part of Ieyasu's definite plan for holding in check possible rivals of the Tokugawa, so that it is not impossible that he foresaw this very result. At any rate it is known that in the instructions for government which he handed down to his successors he urged them to keep strict surveillance over their feudal lords and if any one of them seemed to be growing rich to impose upon him such a burden of public works as would cripple him.

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