The Tokugawa clan (徳川氏、德川氏, Tokugawa-shi or Tokugawa-uji) is a Japanese dynasty that was formerly a powerful daimyō family. They nominally descended from Emperor Seiwa (850–880) and were a branch of the Minamoto clan (Seiwa Genji) through the Matsudaira clan. The early history of this clan remains a mystery. Members of the clan ruled Japan as shōguns from 1603 to 1867.
|Final ruler||Tokugawa Yoshinobu|
|Current head||Tsunenari Tokugawa|
|Cadet branches||Various, including|
Minamoto no Yoshishige (1135–1202), grandson of Minamoto no Yoshiie (1041–1108), was the first to take the name of Nitta. He sided with his cousin Minamoto no Yoritomo against the Taira clan (1180) and accompanied him to Kamakura. Nitta Yoshisue, 4th son of Yoshishige, settled at Tokugawa (Kozuke province) and took the name of that place. Their provincial history book did not mention Minamoto clan or Nitta clan.
The nominal originator of the Matsudaira clan was reportedly Matsudaira Chikauji, who was originally a poor Buddhist monk. He reportedly descended from Nitta Yoshisue in the 8th generation and witnessed the ruin of the Nitta in their war against the Ashikaga. He settled at Matsudaira (Mikawa province) and was adopted by his wife's family. Their provincial history book claimed that this original clan was Ariwara clan. Because this place is said to have been reclaimed by Nobumori Ariwara, one theory holds that Matsudaira clan was related to Ariwara no Narihira. Matsudaira Nobumitsu (15th century), son of Chikauji, was in charge of Okazaki Castle, and strengthened the authority of his family in the Mikawa province. Nobumitsu's great-great-grandson Matsudaira Kiyoyasu made his clan strong, but was assassinated. In 1567, Matsudaira Motonobu – then known as Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616) – grandson of Kiyoyasu, was recognized by Emperor Ōgimachi as a descendant of Seiwa Genji; he also started the family name Tokugawa. The clan rose to power at the end of the Sengoku period, and to the end of the Edo period they ruled Japan as shōguns. There were fifteen Tokugawa shōguns. Their dominance was so strong that some history books use the term "Tokugawa era" instead of "Edo period". Their principal family shrine is the Tōshō-gū in Nikkō, and principal temple is at Kan'ei-ji in Tokyo. Heirlooms of the clan are partly administered by the Tokugawa Memorial Foundation.
After the death of Ieyasu, in 1636, the heads of the gosanke (the three branches with fiefs in Owari, Kishū, and Mito) also bore the Tokugawa surname, so did the three additional branches, known as the gosankyō: the Tayasu (1731), Hitotsubashi (1735), and Shimizu (1758) family, after the ascension of Tokugawa Yoshimune. Once a shōgun died without a living heir, both the heads of gosanke (except Mito-Tokugawa family) and gosankyō had priority to succeed his position. Many daimyōs descended from cadet branches of the clan, however, remained the surname Matsudaira; examples include the Matsudaira of Fukui and Aizu. Members of the Tokugawa clan intermarried with prominent daimyo and the Imperial family.
On November 9, 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th and the last shōgun of Tokugawa, tendered his resignation to Emperor Meiji and formally stepped down ten days later, returning governing power to the Emperor, marking the end of the ruling power of the Tokugawa shogunate. By the next year, Tokugawa Iesato (1863–1940, from Tayasu family) was chosen as the heir to Yoshinobu as the head of Tokugawa clan; on July 7, 1884, Iesato became a prince, just like the heads of some of other notable Japanese noble families, known as Kazoku. The 1946 Constitution of Japan abolished the kazoku and the noble titles, making Iesato's son, Iemasa Tokugawa, no longer a prince. Iemasa had a son Iehide, who died young, so he was succeeded by one of his grandsons, Tsunenari. Tsunenari is the second son of Toyoko (eldest daughter of Iemasa) and Ichirō Matsudaira (son of Tsuneo Matsudaira), and he is also a patrilineal descendant of Tokugawa Yorifusa, the youngest son of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
The Tokugawa's clan crest, known in Japanese as a "mon", the "triple hollyhock" (although commonly, but mistakenly identified as "hollyhock", the "aoi" actually belongs to the birthwort family and translates as "wild ginger"—Asarum), has been a readily recognized icon in Japan, symbolizing in equal parts the Tokugawa clan and the last shogunate.
The crest derives from a mythical clan, the Kamo clan, which legendarily descended from Yatagarasu. Matsudaira village was located in Higashikamo District, Aichi Prefecture. Although Emperor Go-Yōzei offered a new crest, Ieyasu continued to use the crest, which was not related to Minamoto clan.
In jidaigeki, the crest is often shown to locate the story in the Edo period. And in works set in during the Meiji Restoration movement, the crest is used to show the bearer's allegiance to the shogunate—as opposed to the royalists, whose cause is symbolized by the Imperial throne's chrysanthemum crest. Compare with the red and white rose iconography of English Wars of the Roses, as imagined by Walter Scott earlier in the 19th century, in Anne of Geierstein (1829).
- Abe clan of Mikawa Province
- Baba clan
- Honda clan
- Ii clan
- Ishikawa clan
- Ōkubo clan
- Sakai clan
- Toda clan
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