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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

ASSASSINATION OF HOTTA MASATOSHIOn the 8th of October


THE

ATAKA MARU

Another act of Tsunayoshi stands to the credit of his acumen. Although the third shogun, Iemitsu, had vetoed the building of any vessels exceeding five hundred koku capacity, his object being to prevent oversea enterprise, he caused to be constructed for the use of the Bakufu a great ship called the Ataka Maru, which required a crew several hundred strong and involved a yearly outlay figuring in the official accounts at one hundred thousand koku. One of Tsunayoshi's first orders was that this huge vessel should be broken up, and when his ministers remonstrated on the ground that she would be invaluable in case of emergency, he replied that if an insurrection could not be suppressed without such extraordinary instruments, the Bakufu might step down at once from the seats of power. "As for me," he added, "I have no desire to preserve such an evidence of constant apprehension and at such a charge on the coffers of the State."

ENCOURAGEMENT OF VIRTUE

Tsunayoshi also instructed his officials to search throughout the empire for persons of conspicuous filial piety and women of noted chastity. To these he caused to be distributed presents of money or pensions, and he directed the litterateurs of the Hayashi family to write the biographies of the recipients of such rewards. In fact, the early years of the shogun's administration constitute one of the brightest periods in

the history of the Tokugawa Bakufu.

ASSASSINATION OF HOTTA MASATOSHI

On the 8th of October, 1684, the Bakufu prime minister, Hotta Masatoshi, was assassinated in the shogun's palace by one of the junior ministers, Inaba Masayasu, who met his death immediately at the hands of the bystanders. This extraordinary affair remains shrouded in mystery until the present day. Hotta Masatoshi was the third son of Masamori, who died by his own hand to follow his master, Iemitsu, to the grave. Masatoshi, inheriting a part of his father's domain, received the title of Bitchu no Kami, and resided in the castle of Koga, ultimately (1680) becoming prime minister (dairo) with an annual revenue of 130,000 koku. His high qualities are recorded above, but everything goes to show that he had more than the ordinary reformer's stubbornness, and that tolerance of a subordinate's errors was wholly foreign to his disposition. Even to the shogun himself he never yielded in the smallest degree, and by the majority of those under him he was cordially detested. The records say that on one occasion, when remonstrated with by his friend, the daimyo of Hirado, who warned him that his hardness and severity might involve him in trouble, Masatoshi replied, "I thank you for your advice, but so long as I am endeavouring to reform the country, I have no time to think of myself."

It is easy to understand that a man of such methods had enemies sufficiently numerous and sufficiently resolute to compass his death. On the other hand, Masayasu, his assassin, was related to him by marriage, and possessed an estate of 25,000 koku, as well as holding the position of junior minister of State. It is extremely unlikely that a man in such a position would have resorted to such a desperate act without great provocation or ample sanction. The question is, was the shogun himself privy to the deed? It is recorded that there was found on Masayasu's person a document expressing deep gratitude for the favours he had received at the hands of the shogun, and declaring that only by taking the life of Masatoshi could any adequate return be made. It is further recorded that the steward of the Bakufu, addressing the corpse of Masayasu, declared that the deceased had shown unparallelled loyalty. Again, history says that Mitsukuni, daimyo of Mito, repaired to the Inaba mansion after the incident, and expressed to Masayasu's mother his condolences and his applause. Finally, after Masatoshi's death, his son was degraded in rank and removed to a greatly reduced estate. All these things are difficult to explain except on the supposition that the shogun himself was privy to the assassination.


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