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Posts Tagged ‘ietsuna’


In Japanese History, Japanese Sex, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 12, 2013 at 1:21 am

 (Divine Prince of Respectful Embellishment)
11th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ienari

Where da ladies at?

Where da ladies at?

After a bunch of super boring shōguns, we’ve finally come to someone worth talking about: Tokugawa Ienari, the party shōgun. Awwwwwwww yeah!

Ienari was the longest reigning shōgun.
Was irresponsible, but people liked him.
Saved many temples & shrines by moving them to Nippori
He was da man for something like 50 years.
Dude was a straight pimp.

"My eyes aren't so good, ladies. Why don't you come a little closer?"

“My eyes aren’t so good, ladies. Why don’t you come a little closer?”


Look at this chart comparing Ienari’s life with mine:

  Ienari Me
legal wife

(literally main bedroom)
1 1

(literally side rooms)
16-27 official concubines
(but there were nearly 1000 women living in the 大奥 ō-oku harem at that time; his number fluctuates because of deaths/illnesses/etc)
children 56
26ish boys
27ish girls
diseases said to have been
“riddled with syphilis”
yet lived to a ripe old 68
(pretty good
for those days)
allergic to ragweed and house dust
partying liked to drink every night with beautiful women
(emphasis on the plural)and he was said to have never had a sexless night
i’d like that too,
but reality is a little different…
nickname 俗物将軍
“da vulgar shōgun”

“da Viagra shōgun” [i]

marky star
spending blew so much cash on bitches and bling that the inheritance money of the direct shōgunal line never recovered until after the bakumatsu what inheritance?
CONCLUSION: A straight up pimp.
Pretty much not a pimp…


"It's good to be the shogun."

If you could, you would.
“It’s good to be the shogun.”


There are a bunch of things he did that I don’t want to compare with my life. For example, as a kid he liked to have pet chickens and crabs. He also liked to step on them and crush them to death. He also loved butter and dairy products.

Yuck. I hate butter and dairy.


Should I bring my drums?

Entertain the shogun? OK.
Should I bring my drums?
Not necessary?
I see.
On my way…


Anyways, after a long life and a long reign that I’m sure he enjoyed every freaking minute of, he was finally enshrined together with his father, Ieharu, at Gen’yūin, the funerary temple of the second shōgun, Ietsuna. Some people might say his posthumous name is inappropriate or ridiculous. But 文 bun means “style” and 恭 kyō means “respect.” Dude, Ienari was a straight up playa. You gotta respect that style[ii].


Stone lanterns from Genyuin. This is the most gravey picture in this article.

Stone lanterns from Genyuin.
This is the most gravey picture in this article.


For the same reasons I’ve been complaining about for days now, I have no pictures of his grave or Gen’yūin mortuary complex. The best I can offer is my original article on Gen’yūin, Tokugawa Ietsuna’s place of enshrinement.

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[i] Ottosei is a kind of seal. Common belief at the time was that if you cut off a seal dick and dry it, then make it into a powder and drink it, you’ll get “man power.”
[ii] Liberal translation, I know. It’s a joke, sue me.


In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 11, 2013 at 1:32 am

 (Divine Prince of Virtue & Riches)
10th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ieharu

Tokugawa Ieharu, not the craziest shogun, not the coolest shogun. Just a shogun who was really into his hobbies.

Tokugawa Ieharu.

Don’t forget I have an overview of Tokugawa funerary temples. This series is meant to be read in order, so if you’re confused about terminology, please go back and start at the beginning. A lot of new terminology has come up as burial practices change. Also we’ve covered a lot of posthumous names by now, so the chart at the beginning could be really helpful.


The 10th shōgun, Tokugawa Ieharu, was enshrined together[i] in 厳有院 Gen’yūin, the mausoleum of the 4th shōgun, Ietsuna, at Kan’ei-ji. As with all of the graves at Kan’ei-ji, they have been combined into one spot behind the imperial scroll gate of 常憲院 Eikyūin, which is now called the 徳川将軍家墓所 Tokugawa Shōgun-ke Bosho The Tokugawa Shōgun Family Cemetery and it is, as mentioned many times, pretty much inaccessible. Even if you can get private or group access to the site, photography is not permitted past the entrance[ii].

Entrance to the Tokugawa Family Shogun Graves at Kaneiji

You can’t come in.
And if you do actually get a chance to come in, NO PICTURES!
Got it???!

As is typical with gōshi type enshrinements, the newly deified Shunmyōin[iii], was interred in an 御霊屋 o-tamaya with a 宝塔 hōtō, 2-story pagoda shaped funerary urn[iv]. Because Kan’ei-ji hides the shōgun graves from the public like a bunch of twats, I can’t even show you a picture of the grave itself.

Kan’ei-ji really pisses me off.

Tokugawa Shogun Family Graveyard Ueno

One o-tamaya in the cemetery behind Gen’yuin.
Not sure whose.
Could be Ietsuna, Ieharu, or Ienari.


I don’t know much about Ieharu, but I’ve heard he was quite intelligent. Not so interested in governing, but intelligent. Kind of a “meh” shōgun. But he was into chess and more importantly he was into the arts and literature. He was also curious about foreigners.

His eldest son, 徳川家基 Tokugawa Iemoto was being groomed to be his successor, but died before he could be installed. Because of this, Iemoto is called 幻の第11代将軍 maboroshi no dai jūichidai shōgunthe phantom 11th shōgun.” Quite a bummer, dude had the name for it and everything. Anyhoo, Iemoto died before his father and was enshrined gōshi-style next door at Eikyūin.

This is the best I could get for Tokugawa Iemoto's grave's photo.  Thanks, Kan'ei^ji.

This is the best I could get for Tokugawa Iemoto’s grave’s photo.
Thanks, Kan’ei-ji.




[i] What’s the word for this? C’mon, we’ve seen it 3 or 4 times already; 合祀 gōshi.

[ii] The ban on photography is so silly since you can enter and take pictures of the graveyards at Nikkō and Zōjō-ji. Twats.

[iii] Despite the Yiddish sounding kaimyō, Ieharu was 100% Japanese.

[iv] I keep writing funerary urn throughout this series, but I’m wondering if this is redundant. Is there any other kind of urn?


In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 3, 2013 at 12:13 am

Eikyūin  (Divine Prince of the Eternal Law)
5th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

The Dog Shogun, himself. Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

The Dog Shogun himself.
Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

I don’t know if this name was a sort of joke by the imperial court in Kyōto, an honest compliment, or just an 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 Eikyūin

Structure Name Description Condition Status
the main hall destroyed

ai no ma
in gongen-zukuri architecture, the structure that connects the honden and haiden. destroyed

the inner or private worship hall destroyed

a latticework fence that forms the border to a temple destroyed

The “middle gate” which usually opens from a court yard into the worship hall  destroyed

portico on the left and right side of a shrine destroyed

portico destroyed

latticework fence that encloses a temple or shrine destroyed

I’m not sure, but it’s a kind of gate… destroyed

belfry, bell tower destroyed

imperial scroll gate; posthumous name of the deceased hand written by the emperor which marked the official entrance to the funerary temple decent condition usually open to the public
oku no in hōtō
the 2-story pagoda styled funerary urn that houses the remains of the deceased. decent condition off limits
oku no in
so-called Chinese style gate that provided entry and exit to the tomb of the deceased. decent condition off limits
water basins for ritual purification pretty freakin’ good condition, actually. generally off limits
traditional stone lanterns so-so condition scattered here and there

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, nobody took a single photograph or painted a single picture of the sites[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.


The Imperial Scroll Gate

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.
(I read that the scrolls — actually plaques — of Tsunayoshi and Ietsuna survived the firebombing, but they were taken down so as not to be exposed to the elements. Not sure where they are, tho.)

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 Chinese Style Gate

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 restoration in the 1950’s.

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 5 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]




[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.


In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on May 31, 2013 at 5:41 am

(Divine Prince of Strict Existence)
4th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ietsuna


Tokugawa Ietsuna – the first boring shogun, yet he was born early enough in the Edo Period to make him kinda cool.

UPDATE: Don’t forget I have an overview of Tokugawa funerary temples. This series is meant to be read in order, so if you’re confused about terminology, please go back and start at the beginning. Yoroshiku!


OK, I’ve got good news and bad news.

First the good news; I didn’t think I’d be able to post anything today. It’s Friday the 28th here in Tōkyō and it is literally my first day off in, well, 28 days. Recently, I’ve been publishing every day Monday thru Friday and I didn’t want to break that momentum, but I started getting behind and… well, I spent most of the last 2 nights looking for today’s pictures and just staring at my notes blankly. I figure you’d forgive me if I skipped a day and just enjoyed my day off. I managed to get home a half hour before usual and got a little sudden burst of energy so I managed to pull off a little miracle and I finished the 5th installment of this series.

Now for the bad news.

Believe it or not, we’ve already crossed the line. From here on out there is a deplorable lack of information regarding the graves of the shōguns. Daitokuin was completely burnt to the ground, but at least it was often photographed. In Nikkō, Tōshō-gū and Taiyūin are perfectly preserved in their scenic mountain environment. Many of the minor Tōshō-gū worth preserving are still with us today in some form or another.

But I’m sad to say that we have almost nothing to show for the 4th shōgun’s funerary temple. Even more frustrating is that except for the imperial scroll gate (chokugaku mon)[i], the few remaining pieces are usually off limits to the general public.

I couldn’t even find simple map of the layout or any ukiyo-e prints of the area. I can’t find any explanation for the lack of existing images. Granted Kan’ei-ji was a big and bustling temple with many great things to see, but surely someone would have drawn a picture of the site. And if not in the Edo Period, then surely in the Meiji or Taishō or Showa eras when there was a renewed interest in Japan’s samurai past. Surely someone made a record of it.

This is the only old print I could find of the site. Not very helpful.

This is the only old print I could find of the site. Not very helpful.

UPDATE: Finally tracked down the full print. As gorgeous as it is, I'm sad to say this is NOT Gen'yuin. It IS, however, Ietsuna. He and his entourage are visiting Nikko Toshogu.

UPDATE: Finally tracked down the full print. As gorgeous as it is, I’m sad to say this is NOT Gen’yuin. It IS, however, Ietsuna. He and his entourage are visiting Nikko Toshogu.

All I can do is speculate as to why there is nothing.
Maybe it was more or less closed off from the public for the whole time.
Even today, Kan’ei-ji basically keeps the so-called 霊屋 tamaya graveyard off limits.

So I’m writing this with a bit of uncertainty – so please bear that in mind as you read. I’m researching each funerary temple individually as I go along. If I was a scholar, I’d be dragged out back, shot in the head, and kicked into the river behind my house for approaching the topic this way. But I’m not a scholar and I’m not getting paid for this and I don’t have any free time, so sue me (lol). I’m venturing to say that the grave type changes from Ietsuna’s time. The first 3 shōguns have special, private areas for their 宝塔 hōtō (2-story pagoda shaped urns) and no one else is buried with them[ii]. I’m betting that from here on out we will see more group burials. Let’s see what happens later in the series, shall we?

Before we go any further, let’s look at the catalog of items at 厳有院 Gen’yūin[iii].

Structure Name Description Condition Status
Main temple Destroyed

Like an outdoor hallway, portico Destroyed

Middle gate
(gate to the main temple)

A latticework fence common at shrines Destroyed[iv]

ai o ma
The middle building between the front hall (haiden) and the main hall (honden) in the gongen-zukuri style we’ve seen so far in this series. Destroyed

chokugaku mon
Imperial scroll gate (bears the okurigō gifted by the emperor upon the deceased; bears the shrine’s namesake) Decent condition Open to Public
Worship hall Destroyed

Entrance portico Destroyed

Side porticos (literally, left & right) Destroyed

I have no idea what this was, but it was sounds like a gate Destroyed

Bell tower Destroyed
(see next item)

Copper temple bell Excellent condition Belle is visible at Kan’ei-ji
oku no in karamon
“Chinese gate” that leads to the inner sanctum/funerary urn. Decent condition Accessible
oku no in hōtō
2-story pagoda style funerary urn Decent Condition Off limits
Water basin for ritual purification Shitty condition Sometimes Accessible

Copper & stone lamps for illumination at night Contrary to popular belief, many survived. However, most were destroyed or repurposed. Off limits

Imperial Scroll Gate

We’ve seen this in every funerary complex so far. The emperor (supposedly) writes the posthumous name of the shōgun on a scroll. The scroll is made into a painted wooden plaque. The plaque is put on an ornate gate away usually far from the main street. How this beautiful gate survived is beyond me. To the left and right of the gate you can see 透塀 sukibei a latticework fence. Presumably this sort of wall would have enclosed the 拝殿 haiden worship hall and its courtyard.

Accessing the gate is no problem. From Uguisudani station, you can walk there in about 5-10 minutes. On a normal day, that’s all you’ll have access to. Even trying to see the backside of the gate might be a problem if you don’t have Japanese people with you because on the other side of the fence/wall is a very active cemetery. You may be asked why you are there and if you can’t give a good reason, you’ll be asked to leave.


Front of the imperial scroll gate.
(Note there is no imperial scroll.)

Back of the imperial scroll gate.

Back of the imperial scroll gate. The area is now part of Kan’ei-ji cemetery.

A close up of the back of the imperial scroll gate at Gen'yuin.

A close up of the back of the imperial scroll gate at Gen’yuin.

An interesting side note about the imperial scroll gate. In 1957, while doing restoration work, they found markings that led the team to believe the gate was actually repurposed from Iemitsu’s temporary funerary temple. I mentioned in my article on Taiyūin, that Iemitsu was temporarily interred at Kan’ei-ji before being permanently relocated to Nikkō. More about this later.

Gen'yuin as looked after restoration in the late 1950's.

Gen’yuin as looked after restoration in the late 1950’s.

Water Basin

Another remnant you may not be allowed access to is the water basin. When you enter a Shintō shrine, you have to ritually purify yourself with water. The basins never had running water so, I figure that after the advent of plumbing and sewage to Tōkyō, such basins were a pain in the ass to maintain. That’s probably why this basin’s fate has been so tragic. It survived earthquakes and conflagrations and it even survived the firebombing, but it never got a restoration job and it’s basically out site. Even if you visit Gen’yūin, you probably won’t get to see it.

Water basin at Tokugawa Ietsuna's Grave

Yup, that’s a water basin.

A close up of the roof of the water basin.

A close up of the roof of the water basin.

The Bell

The 梵鐘 bonshō temple bell is usually not included in the list of surviving pieces of this temple, but I’m including it. On the one year anniversary of his death (ie; 1681), the bell was installed at Gen’yūin. The bell maker was a famous coppersmith who apparently had close ties to the shōgunate, as his bells appear in locations scattered across both Kan’ei-ji and Zōjō-ji. It’s believed that the bell was moved to its current location in the early Meiji Period. More about this later.

Yup, that's a bell.

Yup, that’s a bell.

The Chinese Gate and the Funerary Urn and the Lanterns

Up to this point I could tell you about Gen’yūin with a fair amount of confidence. Now we’re stepping into the most mysterious realm. In the first shōguns, second shōgun’s[v], and third shōgun’s temples, there were special sections called the 奥院 oku no in, the inner sanctuary, which is the area that surrounds the actual remains of the deceased. The Nikkō graves were exposed and marked off by so-called “Chinese gates”[vi]. From what is extant at Ietsuna’s grave at Kan’eij-ji, the actual grave itself is raised up on a hill reinforced by stone and fenced off. The entrance point is a copper gate. This seems to be the norm for all subsequent shōguns.

After you go up the stairs you will enter the private cemetery of Ietsuna. His grave is a stone 宝塔 hōtō 2-story pagoda styled urn.

Ietsuna's funerary urn and Chinese style gate after restoration in 1957.

Ietsuna’s funerary urn and Chinese style gate after restoration in 1957.

Ietsuna's grave and Chinese style gate as it looks today.

Ietsuna’s grave and Chinese style gate as it looks today.


Just as the copper bell rarely makes the list of surviving pieces; the surviving stone lanterns never get listed. But the bell survived. If you go to Kan’ei-ji today, there’s a plaque stating as much in Japanese AND in English.

As for the lanterns, the average you and me don’t normally have access to the site. It’s not a tourist spot and Kan’ei-ji safeguards it as a private Tokugawa-family cemetery. But in that site there are some interesting artifacts.


A row of stone lamps at Gen’yuin.


An individual stone lamp in the oku no in. The ishigaki (stone wall) is also original.


Stone monuments generally survived the firebombing, so the lamp in the front may have been destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.


You can clearly see the word 厳有院殿 (Gen’yuin-dono) written on the lamp.


A better shot.
You can clearly see the word 厳有院殿 (Gen’yuin-dono) written on the lamp.

another lamp in the oku no in

another lamp in the oku no in

Some bits and pieces of lamps

Some bits and pieces of lamps

Lamps and graves living together...

Lamps and graves living together…

The Lantern Confusion

A few stone lanterns inscribed with the 3rd shōgun, Iemitsu’s funerary name, 大猷院 Taiyūin, were also noticed at the site. Whether Iemitsu’s temporary mausoleum was appropriated for Ietsuna’s use or whether certain structures were just repurposed is unclear. However, we do know that a sub-temple dedicated to the deified Iemitsu existed at Kan’ei-ji until 1720 when it was destroyed by fire. There are a few noticeable stone lanterns labeled Taiyūin scattered across the area, in particular near Kan’ei-ji’s 本堂 hondō main worship hall[vii]. Certain lanterns were thought to have been repurposed after the fire. But the ones that exist near the cemetery of Ietsuna (4th shōgun) and Tsunayoshi (5th shōgun) seem to beg the question, were these mortuary temples meant to be combined from the beginning or had funerary ideas changed in the first 4 generations of the Edo shōgunate and were these changes the effect of fires or austerity or just a cultural shift?

What’s this you say about combined mortuaries?

More about that at the end.

A stone lamp dedicated to Iemitsu that was found at Ietsuna's grave. You can clearly see the name 大雄院 (Taiyuin) inscribed.

A stone lamp dedicated to Iemitsu that was found at Ietsuna’s grave. You can clearly see the name 大雄院 (Taiyuin) inscribed.

There are a few other stone lamps dedicated to the third shogun Iemitsu scattered around Kan'ei-ji. The mystery is: was Iemitsu's grave converted into Ietsuna's or were pieces just borrowed?

There are a few other stone lamps dedicated to the third shogun Iemitsu scattered around Kan’ei-ji. The mystery is: was Iemitsu’s grave converted into Ietsuna’s or were pieces just borrowed?

taiyuin_ueno2_destroyed in 1720

Another Iemitsu (Taiyuin) lamp.

Daitokuin?? I thought that was Tokugawa Hidetada's temple at Zojoji???!!!!!!

Another mystery is this stone lantern dedicated to the 2nd shogun, Hidetada (Daitokuin). It’s unlikely it wasa transported all the way from Zojoji to Kan’ei-ji, so the prevailing theory is that there was a small shrine built for Hidetada here too.
But once again, nobody bothered to write any of this shit down.

I just mentioned a fire in the temple complex in 1720. If there was small Daitokuin at Kan’ei-ji, it’s assumed it would have been destroyed in this fire. But that wasn’t the only fire to hit Kan’ei-ji.

In 1868, the face-off between the Tokugawa supporters and the new Meiji imperial army, now known as the Battle of Ueno cost Kan’ei-ji most of its holdings. In an effort to force the 彰義隊 shōgitai out into the open, Saigō Takamori and his army of douche nozzles lit fire to many of the buildings[viii]. Depictions of the battle show fighting in the midst of a massive conflagration. It’s not clear if the funerary temples were damaged or not. My guess is that they weren’t destroyed, but probably suffered some damage. The reason being that in the transition of Kan’ei-ji’s holdings into a public park[ix], the 梵鐘 bonshō temple bell, being the most well produced in the area, was moved a mile or so over to the new main temple of Kan’ei-ji . This move subsequently saved the bell as it luckily was unaffected by the American air raids in the 1940’s. It is said that a few other portions of the temple had been dismantled after the Battle of Ueno, which makes me think they had become unsightly due to fire damage. However, no one bothered to write this stuff down in detail – or at least the records don’t exist today.

This famous photo shows the striking aftermath of the Battle of Ueno. The debris has been cleaned up, but all that remains are a few isolated structures. (look ma! more water basins!)

This famous photo shows the striking aftermath of the Battle of Ueno. The debris has been cleaned up, but all that remains are a few isolated structures.
(look ma! more water basins!)

There is another fire connected with Tokugawa Ietsuna. In the 6th year of his regency (1657), the Great Meireki Fire[x] burnt Edo to the ground. Famously, this fire burned the 天守閣 tenshukaku main keep of Edo Castle. For more about conflagrations, see my article on how fires shaped Edo-Tōkyō.





OK, I promised that I’d say something about the combined graves.
The 10th shōgun, Tokugawa Ieharu, and the 11th shōgun, Tokugawa Ienari, were later interred at Gen’yūin. Ieharu died about 100 years after Ietsuna.


UPDATE: It’s a pain in the ass to modify my chart once a blog is published… But, I recently learned that there was a main gate (総門 soumon) also called a 二天文 nitenmon (2 god gate). This statues from this gate still exist. When the main gate was disassembled in the Meiji Era, the statues were sent to Sensō-ji in Asakusa and installed in the nitenmon there.


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[i] To add insult to injury, the scroll gate survived but the scroll itself is gone.

[ii] 2nd shōgun, Hidetada’s Daitokuin being the exception, his wife, 江 Gō, had a separate, personal funerary temple built on the premises.

[iii] Which, ironically, is taken from a list of things destroyed by the American air raids during WWII. Why didn’t anyone make this list and photograph this shit in DETAIL before the firebombing???
FFS, people. Get it together!

[iv] Technically speaking, 2 panels of the sukibei are still intact. You can see them on the left and right sides of te imperial scroll gate.

[v] Hidetada’s Daitokuin was unique in that his wooden funerary urn was housed by an octagonal structure. After Ietsuna, stone or copper urns seems to be the norm

[vi] Other than that in these mortuaries, the “Chinese Gates” have been made of stone and metal, I have no idea what a “Chinese Gate” actually is. I would love for an art historian to school me on this because… it’s one of the most confusing points for me about temple construction. A Google search by the kanji just turns up a bunch of Japanese gates the look like every Edo Period gate I’ve ever seen…

[viii] The fact that a statue of his Supreme Douchiness, Saigō Takamori, stands at the entrance of Ueno Park is freaking slap in the face to the people of Edo-Tōkyō, if you ask me.

[ix] ie; Ueno Park

[x] Of which there was nothing great. The fire sucked giant donkey balls. 100,000 people died and it took 2 years to rebuild, but countless architectural treasures were lost forever.


In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves on May 30, 2013 at 1:58 am

(Divine Prince Who Built Up the Great Government)
2nd Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Iemitsu


Honden (main hall) of Taiyūin. It's built in the same Gongen-zukuri style as Daitokuin's honden. You can see the Nakamon (middle gate) and sukibei (latticework fence).

Honden (main hall) of Taiyūin. It’s built in the same Gongen-zukuri style as Daitokuin honden. You can see the Nakamon (middle gate) and sukibei (latticework fence).


Yesterday’s post was a monster. But it was a real labor of love. For the first time, I was able to really visualize the size and grandeur of the Daitokuin funerary complex. I had never seen photos of all of those buildings and the maps together in the same place before (definitely not in English), so I felt like I really succeeded in resurrecting the temple. I hope everyone else felt like that too. So far, that may be the article I’m the most proud of.


Sukibei (latticework fence) around the the honden (main hall).

Sukibei (latticework fence) around the the honden (main hall).


Compared to that, today’s post may be a little disappointing. The reason is that Nikkō Tōshō-gū and Nikkō Taiyūin are both so well known. There are volumes written about them online and in books in every major language. The sites are wonderfully preserved and can be enjoyed year round. I don’t want to just repeat what everyone else says about this mausoleum, so I’m having difficulty coming up with unique information.


This gate is called the Nitenmon (2 heaven gate), but if you notice the plaque with kanji on it, you'll understand that this is the second gate to the temple and that it is essentially a chokugakumon (imperial scroll gate). The characters say Taiyuuin and were supposedly written by the emperor before being incorporated into the architecture.

This gate is called the Nitenmon (2 heaven gate), but if you notice the plaque with kanji on it, you’ll understand that this is the second gate to the temple and that it is essentially an imperial scroll gate.
The characters say Taiyūin and were supposedly written by the emperor before being incorporated into the architecture.
I’ve heard it’s the biggest gate at Nikkō… but I’ve never measured it. If ya know what I mean…


Well, anyways, let’s start at the beginning.

Iemitsu was the first shōgun born since the establishment of the Tokugawa shōgunate. As such, he was the first heir to be groomed from childhood to be shōgun[i]. He established, or at least codified the sankin-kōtai system, which increased the size and population of Edo, thus transforming it into a sprawling metropolis with an unprecedented concentration of samurai elite. His father began restricting travel and trade with other countries, but Iemitsu is the one who essential closed off Japan from the outside world[ii]. Furthering his father and grandfather’s policies against the irritating Christians missionaries and their converts, Iemitsu set about de-christianizing Japan. He expanded Tōshō-gū in Nikkō to its current size and he is said to have visited the site about 10 times. It’s said that he lavished so much money on embellishing Tōshō-gū that some advisors feared he would bankrupt the shōgunate. But the early Edo Period was a booming time economically, so it all worked out in the end.


A ridiculously ornate suibansha (water basin). It's used for ritual cleaning of your hands and mouth before entering a shrine. Usually they're not very interesting, but when we go back to the Edo-Tōkyō buildings, you'll find that in some cases these are all we have left.

A ridiculously ornate suibansha (water basin). It’s used for ritual cleaning of your hands and mouth before entering a shrine. Usually they’re not very interesting, but when we go back to the Edo-Tōkyō buildings, you’ll find that in some cases these are all we have left.


According to his wishes, his body kept for a while at Kan’ei-ji – establishing an alternating policy of burial between the two Tokugawa funerary temples. After preparations had been made at Rin’nō-ji in Nikkō, his body was transported there[iii]. Then his son, the 4th shōgun, Ietsuna, began constructing a lavish mausoleum. Iemitsu had ordered that no mausoleum ever surpass that of Ieyasu’s, so Taiyūin was made with darker colors, less adornment, and the size is smaller than Tōshō-gū. Actually, I think it’s the more beautiful of the two. Oh, the buildings face Tōshō-gū out of respect.


Copper lamps at Taiyūin. Love this shot because the mist reminds me of Nikkō and the ghostly B/W shots of Daitokuin.

Copper lamps at Taiyūin.
Love this shot because the mist reminds me of Nikkō and the ghostly B/W shots of Daitokuin.


Tōshō-gū is extremely ostentatious. And while Taiyūin has much in common with it on the surface and in terms of size and craftsmanship, I think it really is reflecting a mode of architecture closer to that of some of the early Tokugawa shōgun mausolea in Edo. Unfortunately, the Edo buildings were destroyed and we can’t get a feel for how they interacted with the terrain. But the Taiyūin structures definitely work with the lay of the land for dramatic effect. Judging by the map of Daitokuin we saw yesterday, it’s obvious the architects of Edo were also incorporating their masterpieces into the natural curvature of the land.


I don’t have anything more to say on the topic of Taiyūin, except that it is a masterpiece of Japanese art and architecture of its day. If you have the chance to see it, you should. I guarantee you’ll love it.


Edo Period engineering built this.Freaking amazing!

Edo Period engineering built this.Freaking amazing!

For More Information About Nikkō Tōshō-gū

Nikkō Tourist Association:
(Notice the list of buildings they mention. You’ll notice the same ones at Daitokuin and every other funerary temple.)

This woman has a nice piece on Taiyūin:




[i] Remember, both Ieyasu and Hidetada were products of the Sengoku Period.

[ii] Since the bakumatsu (1850’s-1860’s), the Japanese have used the term 鎖国 sakoku closed country (literally, “locked” or “chained”). Recent scholarship of the Edo Period has come to favor the term 海禁 kaikin maritime restrictions. While I’m cool with both words, the average Japanese person still uses the term sakoku to describe this isolationist policy. I’ll leave this one to the scholars…

[iii] Rin’nō-ji still oversees Taiyūin to this day.


In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on May 27, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Tōshō-gū (Divine Prince of Eastern Light)
1st Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu
Kunōzan, Nikkō, Tōkyō (Kan’ei-ji, Zōjō-ji), etc.

Grave containing Tokugawa Ieyasu's remains.

Grave containing Tokugawa Ieyasu’s remains (Nikko)

Nikkō Tōshō-gū is one of the most famous shrines in all of Japan. It’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in the whole country. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s kept in excellent condition, so it’s well documented in books and on the internet. For that reason my descriptions of Tōshō-gū probably won’t be long. If you want more info about Nikkō Tōshō-gū (or some other Tōshō-gū), I’ll give some links at the end of the article.

What the hell is a Tōshōgū?

This name marks the enshrinement of the kami named 凍傷大権現 Tōshō Dai-Gongen, the deified Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shōgunate. The name roughly translates as “The Supreme Incarnation of the Divine Prince of Eastern Illumination” (or “Light”).

Technically speaking, Ieyasu was only shōgun for about 2 years. Although he was the de facto ruler of Japan from 1600, he officially became shōgun in 1603. He retired in 1605 and became an 大御所 ōgosho (retired guy pulling the strings from behind the scenes). He did this to establish a clear dynasty and try to oversee the succession of his shōgunate for as long as he could. Around 1607 he moved into 駿府城 Sunpu-jō Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka where he was running things from behind the scenes. Ieyasu finally kicked the bucket in 1616 and was buried and enshrined at nearby 久能山 Kunōzan Mt. Kunōzan. Kunōzan Tōshō-gū is still very much active today.

Kunozan Toshogu

Kunozan Toshogu. The original!

As per Ieyasu’s express wishes, on the one year anniversary of his death, the second shōgun, Tokugawa Hidetada, moved the remains to the mountains of Nikkō and built a modest temple and shrine complex there where Ieyasu was deified as the divine protector of Japan.

The third shōgun, Tokugawa Iemitsu idolized Ieyasu and threw wads of money at Tōshō-gū for expansion projects which developed the site to the size that it is today. I’ve heard that Iemitsu’s building project cost about $400,000,000.

Main gate of Nikko Toshogu.

Main gate of Nikko Toshogu.

While there are many iconic buildings at Nikkō Tōshō-gū, 2 pieces of artwork achieved international renown after Japan opened up in the bakumatsu; 三猿 sanzaru the 3 “wise” monkeys and 眠リ猫 nemuri neko the sleeping cat.

There is a useless proverb in Japan, 日光を見ない中は結構と言うな Nikkō wo minai uchi wa kekkō to iu na, which always comes up in regards to Nikkō Tōshō-gū. I can’t think of any situation where a person would use this proverb except when they go to see Tōshō-gū and some old person quotes it. It translates as “Don’t say 結構 kekkō until you’ve seen 日光 Nikkō.” The gist of the expression is “you ain’t seen shit ‘til you seen Nikkō Tōshō-gū.” The stupid thing about this proverb is that there’s some kind of half-assed ‘rhyme’ based on the last syllables of both words こう kō. But in modern Japanese, 結構 kekkō is a pretty blasé term. It means “decent” or “that’s fine” or even “no thank you.” Maybe in the Edo Period the meaning was stronger – and maybe people had a higher tolerance for trite expressions. Also, there’s no situation that I can even imagine where saying this would be appropriate, except when you visit Nikkō Tōshō-gū – and even then surely there’s something better to say…. like “wow!”

Ueno Toshogu in the bakumatsu or very early Meiji.

Ueno Toshogu in the bakumatsu or very early Meiji.

The phrase いまいちだ imaichi da (“close but no cigar”) is said to be derived from this area. There was a small town next to Nikkō called 今市 Imaichi. As Nikkō developed into the fantastically beautiful pilgrimage site that it is still today, the neighboring town of Imaichi stayed the same, a backwater mountain town. People would be blown away by Nikkō and then see Imaichi and be all like “Meh.” And so now the word いまいち imaichi means something like “almost” or “not bad” or… well, I think “meh” pretty much sums it up.

Kawagoe Toshogu

Senba Toshogu (Kawagoe)

Fans of the Shinsengumi might be interested to know that after the Boshin War, Matsudaira Katamori, lord of Aizu, was made Chief Priest of Nikkō Tōshō-gū. In this capacity, he continued to serve the Tokugawa despite the fall of the shōgunate.

Various Tōshō-gū were erected around Japan. I’ve mentioned the first two, in Kunōzan and Nikkō. In Tōkyō, there is one in Ueno Park, former Kan’ei-ji, which is very nice. There is another one in Shiba Park at Zōjō-ji, which was rebuilt after the firebombing in WWII. There is a huge gingko tree said to have been planted by Tokugawa Iemitsu which survived the bombing and is a cultural asset of the Tōkyō Metropolis. Kawagoe has a somewhat famous Tōshō-gū. Nagoya also has a famous Tōshō-gū. This spring I was in Gyōda, Saitama, which is the straight up boonies and even they had a Tōshō-gū. There was also a Tōshō-gū in 紅葉山 Momijiyama, one of the gardens on the premises of Edo Castle. In fact, all the shōgun’s were enshrined in Momijiyama. But when the Meiji Emperor moved into Edo Castle, he fucking tore all of them down.

Dick move, bro. Dick move.

Momijiyama Toshogu

Momijiyama Toshogu (Edo Castle Toshogu, Tokugawa Shogun Cemetery). This picture depicts Momijiyama and you can see Tokugawa Iemitsu returning by palanquin from veneration at the shrine.

In the Edo Period there were nearly 500 shrines called Tōshō-gū throughout the country, there are thought to be about 130 today. The shōgunate expected daimyō to venerate Tōshō Dai-Gongen (Ieyasu) routinely. But daimyō processions were extremely costly. This is the reason that so many Tōshō-gū were built all over the country. Of course, under the best of conditions, Nikkō Tōshō-gū was the preferred destination for adoration of Ieyasu. But sometimes things didn’t work out, and in those times, daimyō could attend to their veneration duties at a local Tōshō-gū.

Hiroshima Toshogu

Hiroshima Toshogu

For More Information About Nikkō Tōshō-gū

List of Tōshō-gū Shrines (Japanese only):
(This site includes links to websites/contact information for many Tōshō-gū)

Nikkō Tourist Association has some good information on the sites of Tōshō-gū in English, albeit a fairly clumsy translation:

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