Joken-in・the Grave of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi


(Divine Prince of the Eternal Law)

5th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

LOCATION: Kan’ei-ji (Ueno Park)

The Dog Shogun, himself. Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.
The Dog Shogun himself.
Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

I don’t know if this posthumous name was a sort of joke by the imperial court in Kyōto, an honest compliment, or just obligatory flattery… or a combination of all three. But the 5th shōgun, Tsunayoshi’s legacy is a mixed bag of leadership and lunacy.

To the average Japanese he’s known as 犬将軍 inu shōgun the dog shōgun.
In his day, he was referred to by the less savory name of 犬公方 inu kubō, which has the same meaning.

His legacy hangs on an edict he promulgated called the 生類憐之令 Shōrui Awaremi no Rei Edict in Regards to the Compassion for All Living Things. Basically, the dude was a total religious freak. Because of the Buddhist belief in reincarnation, he felt compelled to protect all living creatures. Since he was born in the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese Zodiac, he was especially interested in protecting dogs. Tsunayoshi is a pretty interesting character, so if you want to read more about him, you can start HERE. I’m just going to talk about his funerary temple, so let’s get right into it[1].

They say he had a sanctuary for stray dogs in present day Nakano. Nakano Ward says this arial shot is of the place. OK, if you say so....
They say he had a sanctuary for stray dogs in present day Nakano.
Nakano Ward says this arial shot is where the former site was.
OK, if you say so….

If one were to judge the economic conditions of the Edo Shōgunate over time based on the funerary practices at Kan’ei-ji, one might come to the conclusion that the government was still in its heyday under Tsunayoshi’s reign and then we’d see a steep drop in quality by the time the next shōgun[2] was interred at Kan’ei-ji. It’s more nuanced than that, but I can say now that Tsunayoshi’s mausoleum was the last one built at Kan’ei-ji. Not the last used, but the last built. After his temple was built, the successive shōguns interred at Kan’ei-ji were enshrined together in Ietsuna’s and Tsunayoshi’s mausolea.

Structures of Jōken-in

Structure NameDescriptionConditionStatus
the main halldestroyed
ai no ma
in gongen-zukuri architecture, the structure that connects the honden and haiden.destroyed
the inner or private worship halldestroyed
a latticework fence that forms the border to a templedestroyed
The “middle gate” which usually opens from a court yard into the worship hall destroyed
portico on the left and right side of a shrinedestroyed
latticework fence that encloses a temple or shrinedestroyed
I’m not sure, but it’s a kind of gate…destroyed
belfry, bell towerdestroyed
imperial scroll gate; posthumous name of the deceased hand written by the emperor which marked the official entrance to the funerary templedecent conditionusually open to the public; the imperial scroll is in storage
oku no in hōtō
the 2-story pagoda styled funerary urn that houses the remains of the deceased.decent conditionoff limits
oku no in
so-called Chinese style gate that provided entry and exit to the tomb of the deceased.decent conditionoff limits
water basins for ritual purificationpretty freakin’ good condition, actually.generally off limits
traditional stone lanternsso-so conditionscattered here and there; a few are accessible within Kan’ei-ji Cemetery (just don’t get caught!)

The 5th shōgun Tsunayoshi’s grave suffered the same fate that his brother, Ietsuna’s, grave suffered (they were next door to each other). Also, like Ietsuna’s, a few portions of the temple were torn down in the annexation of much of Kan’ei-ji’s land by the Meiji government for the creation of Ueno Park. Bizarrely, from the Edo Period until the firebombing of Tōkyō, only a handful of photos exist and they’re not in common circulation[3]. As a result, what you see here is basically what you get: a gate and a water basin.

The 奥院 oku no in or 霊屋 tamaya (inner sanctuary/graveyard) still exists but it is generally off limits. The wash basin mentioned above is also usually off limits. Both Gen’yū-in and Jōken-in (the Ueno complexes) are closed to the public. Once a year, there is a lottery held for a one-day guided visit. It’s limited to 100 people and no photos are allowed. I’ve entered the lottery numerous times and never been selected.

The Imperial Scroll Gate

Tsunayoshi’s imperial scroll gate during the Bakumatsu. Behind the gate you can see the roofs of the nakanmon, haiden, and honden. On the right, you can see the bell tower.
Close up of the imperial scroll gate and the bell tower. Note the copper lanterns inside leading to the nakamon.
Tsunayoshi's imperial scroll gate. (Notice there is no scroll....)
Tsunayoshi’s imperial scroll gate.
(Notice there is no scroll….)
A closer shot of the scroll gate... but why is there no scroll..................
A closer shot of the scroll gate.
The cool stone walls are not original.

The Wash Basin

You usually can't enter the cemetery, so this is what that the wash basin seems to most people.
You usually can’t enter the cemetery. Most visitors can just view it from afar.
The wash basin of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
It appears to be in much better condition that the wash basin in Ietsuna’s mausoleum.
Check out that roof. Pretty freaking siiiiiiick, if you ask me.
Check out that roof. Pretty freaking siiiiiiick, if you ask me.

The Haiden and Honden
(worship hall & main hall)

Super rare Bakumatsu Era photo of the main halls of Joken-in.

Karamon (Chinese Gate)

The karamon of Joken-in. Notice the copper lanterns in the courtyard.

Oku no In Karamon and Hotо̄ (urn)

Open chinese gate leading to the cemetery....
Open Chinese style gate leading to the cemetery….
Tsunayoshi's funerary urn
Tsunayoshi’s funerary urn
Tsunayoshi's grave after restoration in the 1950's.
Tsunayoshi’s grave after pre-64 Olympics restoration

Stone Lanterns

stacks of stone monuments....
Stacks of stone lantern bases….
These are most likely from lanterns that were toppled by earthquakes, in particularly the Great Kanto Earthquake.

After Tsunayoshi’s Enshrinement,
Burial Methods at Kan’ei-ji Changed Dramatically.

Keep in mind, we’re now five shōguns into the Edo Bakufu and from here on out we will not see an individual funerary temple built there again[4]. After this, Kan’ei-ji burials consist of 合祀 gōshi group enshrinements. That means that Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi’s graves became the main Tokugawa cemeteries at Kan’ei-ji for the heads of the Tokugawa family (and occasionally their main wives). Siblings and concubines were buried at Kan’ei-ji, but most of those graves were in what is now called 谷中霊園 Yanaka Reien Yanaka Cemetery.


Spoiler Alert!
I’ve already alluded to this, so I’ve already given way part of this, but other people enshrined in Tsunayoshi’s temple are:
  8th shōgun, Yoshimune
●  13th shōgun, Iesada & his main wife, Princess Atsu
●  Iemoto, the eldest son of the 11th shōgun, Ieharu (called the phantom 11th shōgun because his name had the kanji for “ie” but he was never installed as shōgun ‘cuz he sucked)[5]


Support Japan This!

FollowJapan This! on Instagram
Japan This! on Facefook
Japan This! on Twitter
DonateSupport every article on Patreon
Donate BitCoin

Donate via Paypal


ExploreJapan This! Tours


[1] As a side note, Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi were brothers. Easy to remember because of that “tsuna” thing.

[2] The 8th shōgun was Tokugawa Yoshimune, who is a beloved character for his austerity and his bad ass white horse on his TV show for old people, Abarenbō Shogun.

[3] I’m being facetious here, but seriously… why is there no photographic or artistic evidence of either site? It is mysterious as hell, if you think about it.

[4] 5 shōguns deep = 10 more shōguns to go. For all intents and purposes, we’re still very much in the early Edo Period.

[5] Just kidding, he died suddenly at the age of 17.

Leave a Reply