Tokugawa

Tokugawa (tōˌkōgäˈwä) [key], family that held the shogunate (see shogun) and controlled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Founded by Ieyasu, the Tokugawa regime was a centralized feudalism. The Tokugawa themselves held approximately one fourth of the country in strategically located parcels, which they governed directly through a feudal bureaucracy. To control the daimyo [lords], who owed allegiance to the Tokugawa but were permitted to rule their own domains, the Tokugawa invented the Sankin Kotai system which required the daimyo to maintain residence at the shogun's capital in Edo (Tokyo) and to leave hostages there during their absence. Travel was closely regulated, and officials called metsuke [censors] acted as a sort of secret police. During the Tokugawa period important economic and social changes occurred: improved farming methods and the growing of cash crops stimulated agricultural productivity; Osaka and Edo became centers of expanded interregional trade; urban life became more sophisticated; and literacy spread to almost half of the male population. Failure to deal with the crises caused by threats from the West and by domestic discontent, the last Tokugawa shogun resigned in 1867. After the Meiji restoration, the Tokugawa family was allowed to hold some land in Suruga, and when the new nobility was created its head was granted the rank of prince.

See C. Totman, Politics in the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1600–1843 (1967); K. W. Nakai, Shogunal Politics: Arai Hakuseki and the Premises of Tokugawa Rule (1988); T. C. Smith, Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization, 1750–1920 (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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