Mainichi Waiwai: Tokugawa ancestors face their own sakoku


Hi Blog. The ancient Tokugawa Clan (which as daimyo closed off Japan for 250 years to foreign influences, known as the “sakoku” [closed country] period) are facing their own sakoku. Their heir apparent has married a foreigner!

Read on, from the Mainichi Waiwai Page, translated by Ryann Connell. Arudou Debito


Tokugawa clan looks to slam the gate on future chief’s marriage to foreigner
Mainichi Waiwai Page, Sept 18, 2007
Courtesy of MS and Doc

Modern day members of the Tokugawa clan — the xenophobic dynasty of Shoguns that shut Japan off from the world for centuries — are up in arms because the man set to one day become head of the family has married a non-Japanese, according to Shukan Shincho (9/20).

Iehiro Tokugawa, who is poised to one day become the 19th head of the clan that ruled the country as Shoguns from 1603 to 1868 and maintained a rigid ban on foreigners entering Japan, has tied the knot with a Vietnamese woman.

But his father, Tsunenari, the current clan chief, is among the members of the family who are supposed to be outraged that the most Japanese of non-Imperial families is about to receive an injection of non-Yamato blood.

Iehiro Tokugawa graduated from posh Keio University before completing a doctorate of economics at Michigan University. He went off to work for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, spending time at its Rome headquarters before being transferred to its Hanoi branch. The 42-year-old heir apparent of the Shogun’s dynastic name now works as a translator.

“He met the Vietnamese woman about 10 years ago,” a close pal of Tokugawa’s tells Shukan Shincho. “He was working at the FAO’s Vietnam office at the time and met her through his work. She comes from a good family. She’s petite and pretty. She’s a complete contrast to Iehiro, who is only 174 centimeters tall but weighs 105 kilograms. She’s 11 years younger than him, too. And she looks even younger still. Iehiro said he fell in love with her charms.” Iehiro apparently set his mind on marriage not long after he started dating, and he soon let his parents know of his intentions.

“Iehiro knows that he is a member of the Tokugawa clan and fully realizes exactly what that status entails. He told his parents he spent three years in elementary school in the United States and that he has very liberal ideas about marriage. On top of that, she is the woman he chose,” the buddy says. “But Tsunenari, important as head of the clan, and his mother were bitterly opposed. They said they didn’t mind if their son dated a foreigner, but there was no way they were going to let him marry one.”

Over the past few years, Iehiro’s Vietnamese partner traveled back and forth between her country and his before finally settling down together in his home.

“He’s got a photo of when they went on a trip together to Kamakura displayed prominently in his study. They’ve visited the Tokugawa family in Gotenba and have also been on trips together to Hakone and Karuizawa. Iehiro has often gathered his friends at his home and let them taste her delicious Vietnamese cuisine. They’re having a great time no matter how much his parents may oppose their bond,” the future clan head’s friend tells Shukan Shincho.

The opposition of the clan boss to the union has not deterred the loving couple.

“They actually registered their marriage a year ago,” the friend says. “They’ve tried countless times to get his parents to approve their marriage, but the parents have steadfastly refused. It’s more convenient for her to be married if she’s in Japan, so they formalized their bond. Iehiro has often said he’s going to have a big wedding ceremony in the spring of next year.”

Even if the couple is actually married as the friend claims, Iehiro Tokunaga’s worries don’t stop there.

“Only a few very close friends and relatives actually know about the marriage. And they haven’t reported it to anyone in the Tokugawa clan. He’s gonna face huge problems if their marriage goes public,” the friend says.

Meanwhile, Iehiro remains dignified about the situation.

“I’m going to do exactly what I have been doing until now,” the future head of the once xenophobic Tokugawa clan tells Shukan Shincho. “I’ll keep trying again and again. I believe in the end they will approve my marriage.” (By Ryann Connell)

September 18, 2007

4 comments on “Mainichi Waiwai: Tokugawa ancestors face their own sakoku

  • Is this the only way the Tokugawas can stay relevant and in the news? Wouldn’t it be nice to see them take the lead on something that might show them in a better light, leading Japan into the future?

    Nah…guess not.

  • Regarding your post about Mongolian-born superstar, Asashoryu and the theory that his treatment by the media and fans has been more harsh because he is not Japanese, here is a link to a Los Angeles Times story that would seem to demonstrate that his treatment is not related to his not being Japanese.,1,4319960.story?coll=la-headlines-world&ctrack=7&cset=true

    The article actually talks about how Asashoryu is being treated simalarly to Prime Minister Abe. They are both being rediculed due to the impression that they are shirking responsibility by faking an illness.

    I thought that seemed to refute the theory that Asashoryu is being treated poorly due to his nationality.


  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Does anyone really care who the Tokugawa are anymore? Taka and Toshi have more influence in what goes on in modern Japan. (Note to the Tokugawa family: check your history books to see where you stopped being important)


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