Junshin-in・the Grave of Tokugawa Ieshige


(Divine Prince of Sincere Faith)

9th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ieshige

LOCATION: Zōjō-ji (Shiba Park)

Tokugawa Ieshige - not the brightest star of the bakufu.
Tokugawa Ieshige – not the brightest star of the bakufu.

With the first three shōguns we see a variety of styles of shōgunal mausolea. There was no set style, with the 2nd shōgun, Hidetada’s mausoleum being the most unique in its arrangement. However, from the 4th shōgun, Ietsuna[i], until the 7th shōgun, Ietsugu, we see a more or less fixed style with a complex system of fences and gates. From the 8th shōgun, Yoshimune, until the 14th shōgun, Iesada, we see a new burial practice, 合祀 gōshi group enshrinement which reused existing funerary temples as a cost-saving measure.

The part of the massive funerary temples in which the actual grave was located was called 御霊屋 o-tamaya. In the case of the Tokugawa shōgun graves, the 2-story pagoda shaped urn was often surrounded by a 4-sided stone wall with a single metal gate. Tamaya literally means “place where the spirit resides” and was considered the actual place of enshrinement. Generally, people couldn’t enter o-tamaya[ii] during the Edo Period. But from the Meiji Era on Zōjō-ji was one of the major sightseeing destinations for Japanese and foreigners alike. From Yoshimune to Iesada, the only new constructions were o-tamaya[iii].

The 9th shōgun, Ieshige, was interred at Yūshōin (Ietsugu) at Zōjō-ji.

View of Bunshoin and Yushoin. I've highlighted the entrance, the still extant Nitenmon, and the still extant O-narimon. If you scan up towards the right side, on the hill I've highlighted the o-tamaya of 7th shogun Ietsugu and 9th shogun, Ieshige.
View of Bunshoin and Yushoin.
I’ve highlighted the entrance, the still extant Nitenmon, and the still extant O-narimon.
If you scan up towards the right side, on the hill I’ve highlighted the o-tamaya of 7th shogun Ietsugu and 9th shogun, Ieshige.
For more explanation on the layout of the mortuary, please see the article on Yushoin.

Ieshige was one of the crappier shōguns. All I remember about the guy is that he loved 将棋 shōgi (Japanese chess) and he had fucked up teeth that made him talk funny. Some have suggested that he had cerebral palsy because of stories that he couldn’t move his face muscles well and speaking wasn’t his strong point. He excessively ground his teeth. They also said he was constantly peeing and would stop official audiences with daimyō to take a piss and then come back and resume the audience. Take all of this with a grain of salt, by the way[iv].

By the way, tomb was opened in the late 1950s before consolidating all the Zōjō-ji interred shōguns into a single graveyard. Archaeologists and scientists discovered that he had a terribly deformed jaw which must have accounted for his problems speaking.

The nitenmon (2 god main entrance) of Yushoin.
The nitenmon (2 god main entrance) of Yusho-in.
Ieshige's hoto in the Tokugawa Shogun Cemetery at Zojo-ji.
Ieshige’s hoto (2-story tomb) in the Tokugawa Graveyard at Zojo-ji.


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[i] Of which, frustratingly, I can find no pictures or maps of. Argh!!!!!

[ii] Though we’ve seen pictures of a few, at least from afar. If you go to Nikkō Tōshō-gū or Taiyūin, when you come to the end of the funerary temple, you will find the tamaya and the hōtō (urn). You can’t enter, but you can walk around them. Taking pictures is also permitted… I’m looking at you, ehem, Kan’ei-ji.

[iii] Sometimes the word o-tamaya is applied to the entire mortuary temple, but this is not correct. If you can read Japanese, you’ll see the area labeled as 北御霊屋 Kita O-tamaya North Cemeteries, just ignore that shit.

[iv] The fucked up teeth thing has been confirmed by archeology, though. In the 1950’s, they checked out his remains and the consensus is that his teeth were very bad and would have contributed to poor speech.

5 thoughts on “Junshin-in・the Grave of Tokugawa Ieshige

  1. They buried the dim guy with the 6 year old. It sounds like the regime is sliding downhill pretty fast.

  2. Nice blog here. Someone recommended you on Twitter. Glad I clicked the link.

    You said they dug up the shogun’s remains, right? But I thought the Japanese cremated their dead. Am I missing something?

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      That’s a great question and I was wondering about it myself.

      I’m not an expert on this topic, but my understanding is that burial – rather than cremation – was the norm before the modern era… or at least for the very elite. For example, the bodies of the emperors and shōguns wouldn’t have been burned.

      Apparently, each grave at Zōjō-ji has been opened and studied by the Tōkyō University in the 50’s-60’s. Some grave goods were found and a few of the bodies were wrapped in special garments that partially mummified them.

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