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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

After the deaths of Tadayoshi and Nobuyoshi

There can be no doubt that this sovereign conceived the ambition of recovering the administrative authority. His reign extended from the twenty-second year of Iemitsu's sway to the fifth of Ietsuna's, and in the troubles of that period he thought that he saw his opportunity. It is related that he devoted much attention to sword exercise, and the shoshidai Itakura Shigemune warned him that the study of military matters did not become the Imperial Court and would probably provoke a remonstrance from Yedo should the fact become known there. The Emperor taking no notice of this suggestion, Shigemune went so far as to declare his intention of committing suicide unless the fencing lessons were discontinued. Thereupon the young Emperor calmly observed: "I have never seen a military man kill himself, and the spectacle will be interesting. You had better have a platform erected in the palace grounds so that your exploit may be clearly witnessed." When this incident was reported by the shoshidai to Yedo, the Bakufu concluded that some decisive measure must be taken, but before their resolve had materialized and before the sovereign's plans had matured, he died of small-pox, in 1654, at the age of twenty-two, having accomplished nothing except the restoration and improvement of certain Court ceremonials, the enactment of a few sumptuary laws, and the abandonment of cremation in the case of Imperial personages.


Go-Saien was the sixth son of the Emperor Go-Mizu-no-o. His reign is remarkable in connexion with the attitude of the Yedo Bakufu towards the Throne. In 1657, as already related, Yedo was visited by a terrible conflagration, and another of scarcely less destructive violence occurred in the same city the following year, while, in 1661, the Imperial palace itself was burned to the ground, the same fate overtaking the principal Shinto shrine in Ise, and nearly every province suffering more or less from a similar cause. Moreover, in 1662, a series of earthquakes disturbed the country throughout a whole month, and the nation became almost demoralized in the face of these numerous calamities. Then the Bakufu took an extraordinary step. They declared that such visitations must be referred to the sovereign's want of virtue and that the only remedy lay in his abdication. The shogun, Ietsuna, was now ruling in Yedo. He sent envoys to Kyoto conveying an order for the dethronement of the Emperor, and although his Majesty was ostensibly allowed to abdicate of his own will, there could be no doubt as to the real circumstances of the case. His brother, Reigen, succeeded him, and after holding the sceptre for twenty-four years, continued to administer affairs from his place of retirement until his death, in 1732.


When Ieyasu, after the battle of Sekigahara, distributed the fiefs throughout the Empire, he gave four important estates to his own sons, namely, Echizen to Hideyasu; Owari to Tadayoshi; Mito to Nobuyoshi, and Echigo to Tadateru. Subsequently, after the deaths of Tadayoshi and Nobuyoshi, he assigned Owari to his sixth son, Yoshinao, and appointed his seventh son, Yorinobu, to the Kii fief, while to his eighth son, Yorifusa, Mito was given. These last three were called the Sanke (the Three Families). From them the successor to the shogunate was chosen in the event of failure of issue in the direct line. Afterwards this system was extended by the addition of three branch-families (Sankyo), namely those of Tayasu and Hitotsubashi by Munetake and Munetada, respectively, sons of the shogun Yoshimune, and that of Shimizu by Shigeyoshi, son of the shogun Ieshige. It was enacted that if no suitable heir to the shogunate was furnished by the Sanke, the privilege of supplying one should devolve on the Sankyo, always, however, in default of an heir in the direct line. The representatives of the Sanke had their estates and castles, but no fiefs were assigned to the Sankyo; they resided in Yedo close to the shogun's palace, and received each an annual allowance from the Bakufu treasury.

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