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Tokugawa Iemitsu, the eldest son of Tokugawa Hidetada, held a special place in the heart of his grandfather, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Although his younger brother Tadanaga was favored by their parents and initially considered as Hidetada’s successor, Ieyasu asserted that Iemitsu would inherit the position. Interestingly, during his childhood, Iemitsu shared the same name as his grandfather, Takechiyo.

In 1617, Iemitsu celebrated his Coming of Age ceremony, marking the official transition to adulthood and adopting the name Iemitsu. He was officially declared as the future shogun, a proclamation that was contested by his younger brother, sparking a bitter rivalry between them. When Hidetada passed away in 1632, Iemitsu, fearing his brother's ambitions, compelled Tadanaga to commit seppuku to eliminate any threat to his authority.

Moreover, Iemitsu disregarded the regents, a group of daimyo appointed by his father to serve as advisors, instead favoring his own circle of trusted friends. While this decision caused discontent among the daimyo, it led to the establishment of a robust and centralized government. Any dissent from the daimyo was swiftly dealt with, often resulting in their forced removal from positions of influence.

Iemitsu was responsible for implementing the Sankin Kotai system, which required daimyo to travel between their provinces and Edo (Tokyo), spending designated periods attending the court and maintaining separate residences in the city, where their families were held as hostages. This system served to control the daimyo and impose financial strain, limiting their ability to acquire arms, armor, and maintain large armies. Additionally, Iemitsu enforced Japan's isolationist policies, known as Sakoku, prohibiting foreigners from entering the country and restricting Japanese citizens from leaving. Foreign trade was strictly regulated and conducted solely at Deshima, a small island in Nagasaki.

Legend has it that in 1620, Iemitsu had a dispute with his childhood friend, as well as his homosexual partner and retainer, Sakabe Gozaemon, resulting in Gozaemon's death during a confrontation while they were bathing together. Seventeen years later, the Shimabara Rebellion erupted, with over 27,000 individuals killed or executed in protest against Iemitsu's policies.

Shogun Iemitsu passed away at the age of 47 on June 8, 1651, and was succeeded by his son, Tokugawa Ietsuna.

 


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