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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Of Yorinobu and great grandson of Ieyasu


of Yorinobu and great-grandson of Ieyasu. Born in 1677, Yoshimune, the eighth Tokugawa shogun, succeeded to office in 1716, at the age of thirty-nine. The son of a concubine, he had been obliged to subsist on the proceeds of a very small estate, and he therefore well understood the uses of economy and the condition of the people. His habits were simple and plain, and he attached as much importance as Ieyasu himself had done to military arts and literary pursuits. It had become a custom on the occasion of each shogun's succession to issue a decree confirming, expanding, or altering the systems of the previous potentate. Yoshimune's first decree placed special emphasis on the necessity of diligence in the discharge of administrative functions and the eschewing of extravagance. Always he made it his unflagging aim to restore the martial spirit which had begun to fade from the samurai's bosom, and in the forefront of important reforms he placed frugality. The Bakufu had fallen into the habit of modelling their systems and their procedure after Kyoto examples. In fact, they aimed at converting Yedo into a replica of the Imperial capital. This, Yoshimune recognized as disadvantageous to the Bakufu themselves and an obstacle to the resuscitation of bushido. Therefore, he set himself to restore all the manners and customs of former days, and it became his habit to preface decrees and ordinances with the phrase "In pursuance of the methods, fixed by Gongen" (Ieyasu). His idea was that only the decadence of bushido could result from imitating the habits of the Imperial Court, and as Manabe Norifusa did not endorse that view with sufficient zeal, the shogun relieved him of his office of minister of the Treasury.

One of Yoshimune's measures was to remodel the female department of the palace on the lines of simplicity and economy. All the ladies-in-waiting were required to furnish a written oath against extravagance and irregular conduct of every kind, and in the sixth year after his accession the shogun ordered that a list should be furnished setting forth the names and ages of such of these ladies as were, conspicuously beautiful. Fifty were deemed worthy of inscription, and quite a tremor of joyful excitement was caused, the measure being regarded as prefacing the shogun's choice of consorts. But Yoshimune's purpose was very different. He discharged all these fair-faced ladies and kept only the ill-favoured ones, his assigned reason being that as ugly females find a difficulty in getting husbands, it would be only charitable to retain their services.

He revived the sport of hawking, after the manner of Ieyasu, for he counted it particularly suitable to soldiers; and he pursued the pastime so ardently that men gave him the name of the Taka-shogun (Falcon shogun). He also inaugurated a new game called uma-gari (horse-hunting); and it is on record that he required the samurai to practise swimming in the sea. By way of giving point to his ordinances inculcating frugality, he himself made a habit of wearing cotton garments in winter and hempen in summer--a custom habitually practised by the lower orders only. The very detailed nature of his economical measures is illustrated by an incident which has independent interest. Observing that the fences erected on the scarp of Yedo Castle were virtually useless for purposes of defence and very costly to keep in repair, he caused them all to be pulled down and replaced by pine trees. This happened in 1721, and the result was that the battlements of this great castle were soon overhung by noble trees, which softened and beautified the military aspect of the colossal fortress. To the same shogun Yedo owes the cherry and plum groves of Asuka-yama, of the Sumida-gawa, and of Koganei. The saplings of these trees were taken from the Fukiage park, which remains to-day one of the most attractive landscape gardens in the world.


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