Third Shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, eldest legitimate son of the second shogun, grandson of Ieyasu.

Born under his childhood name Tokugawa Takechiyo (徳川竹千代) to his father Tokugawa Hidetada and a younger sister of Lady Yodogimi, a concubine and second wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, it appeared that Tokugawa Iemitsu (徳川家光, 1603-1651) would be denied the succession in favour of his younger brother and rival Tadanaga (1606-33), but due to the intercession of his wet nurse, Kasuga-no-Tsubone, he was confirmed as shogun in 1623 when his father abdicated. Iemitsu’s sister was Lady Sen (Senhime).

After his father’s death in 1632, he forced his brother to commit suicide. With the assistance of Doi Toshikatsu, Abe Tadaaki, and Matsudaira Nobutsuna, Iemitsu carried out significant administrative reforms to consolidate shogunal rule. He tightened the discipline of the military class by revising the Bukke shohatto (武家諸法度, “Laws for the Military Houses”) promulgated by his grandfather Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.

He also tightened his grip on the daimyo by compelling them to reside in the shogunal capital Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in alternate years (参勤交代 sankin kōtai) and strengthened the internal organisation of villages by prohibiting the sale of rice land. Following his father’s example, he intensified the persecution of Christians and, after suppressing the Shimabara Uprising (1637-38) in southern Kyushu, in which thousands were slain, enforced a strict national seclusion policy (鎖国 sakoku) that severed all commercial ties with foreign powers except for a handful of Dutch and Chinese merchants.

Iemitsu died in 1651 and was buried in the Taiyū-in Reibyō Mausoleum (大猷院霊廟) in Nikko. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Tokugawa Ietsuna. The Tokugawa shogunate reached the apex of its power under Iemitsu’s reign and assumed the form it would retain until its collapse in 1868.

References:
  • Mason, R. H. P., Caiger J. G.; A History of Japan, Tuttle rev. edition 1997
  • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric; Japan Encyclopedia, Harvard University Press 2005
  • Papinot, Edmonde; Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan, Tuttle 1972
  • Sansom, George; A History of Japan, 1615-1867, Stanford University Press 1963
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