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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But here also the influence of Yoshiyasu is discernible



What has thus far been written depicts the bright side of Tsunayoshi's administration. It is necessary now to look at the reverse of the picture. There we are first confronted by an important change of procedure. It had been the custom ever since the days of Ieyasu to conduct the debates of the council of ministers (Roju) in a chamber adjoining the shogun's sitting-room, so that he could hear every word of the discussion, and thus keep himself au courant of political issues. After the assassination of Hotta Masatoshi this arrangement was changed. The council chamber was removed to a distance, and guards were placed in the room where it had originally assembled, special officials being appointed for the purpose of maintaining communications between the shogun and the Roju. This innovation was nominally prompted by solicitude for the shogun's safety, but as its obvious result was to narrow his sources of information and to bring him under the direct influence of the newly appointed officials, there is strong reason to believe that the measure was a reversion to the evil schemes of Sakai Tadakiyo, who plotted to usurp the shogun's authority.


Tsunayoshi had at that time a favourite attendant on whom he conferred the rank of Dewa no Kami with an estate at Kawagoe which yielded 100,000 koku annually. The friendship of the shogun for this most corrupt

official had its origin in community of literary taste. Tsunayoshi lectured upon the "Doctrine of the Mean," and Yasuaki on the Confucian "Analects," and after these learned discourses a Sarugaku play, or some other form of light entertainment, was organized. The shogun was a misogynist, and Yasuaki understood well that men who profess to hate women become the slave of the fair sex when their alleged repugnance is overcome. He therefore set himself to lead the shogun into licentious habits, and the lecture-meetings ultimately changed their complexion. Tsunayoshi, giving an ideograph from his name to Yasuaki, called him Yoshiyasu, and authorized him to assume the family name of Matsudaira, conferring upon him at the same time a new domain in the province of Kai yielding 150,000 koku. Thenceforth, the administration fell entirely into the hands of this schemer. No prime minister (dairo) was appointed after the assassination of Hotta Masatoshi; the council of ministers became a mere echo of Yoahiyasu's will and the affairs of the Bakufu were managed by one man alone.


Tsunayoshi lost his only son in childhood and no other being born to him, he invited a high Buddhist priest to pray for an heir to the shogunate. This priest, Ryuko by name, informed Tsunayoshi that his childless condition was a punishment for taking animal life in a previous state of existence, and that if he wished to be relieved of the curse, he must show mercy, particularly to dogs, as he had been born in the year whose zodiacal sign was that of the "Dog." It seems strange that such an earnest believer in the Confucian doctrine should have had recourse to Buddhism in this matter. But here also the influence of Yoshiyasu is discernible. At his suggestion the shogun built in Yedo two large temples, Gokoku-ji and Goji-in, and Ryuko was the prelate of the former. An order was accordingly issued against slaughtering dogs or taking life in any form, the result being that all wild animals multiplied enormously and wrought great damage to crops. Thereupon the Bakufu issued a further notice to the effect that in case wild animals committed ravages, they might be driven away by noise, or even by firing blank cartridges, provided that an oath were made not to kill them. Should these means prove defective, instructions must be sought from the judicial department. Moreover, if any animal's life was taken under proper sanction, the carcass must be buried without removing any part of its flesh or skin. Violations of this order were to be severely punished, and it was enacted that an accurate register must be kept of all dogs owned by the people, strict investigations being made in the event of the disappearance of a registered dog, and the officials were specially warned against permitting one animal to be substituted for another. Strange dogs were to be well fed, and any person neglecting this obligation was to be reported to the authorities.

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