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Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth Shogun of the Edo period, famously known as the Dog Shogun, was raised as a scholar rather than a warrior due to concerns that his lively nature might pose a threat to his elder brothers' positions. Despite his brother Ietsuna assuming the role of Shogun, his premature death at 39 sparked a power struggle that eventually led to Tsunayoshi being appointed as Shogun. Unlike his predecessors, Tsunayoshi relied heavily on the counsel of his mother rather than military advisors or regents.

Tsunayoshi's reign was marked by strict and unpopular laws influenced by his strong religious and Confucian beliefs. He implemented regulations such as the prohibition of red-light districts, the ban on the use of luxurious fabrics in daily life, and the restriction of women from working in tea houses. Displaying authoritarian control, he frequently seized lands and titles from the nobility and held lengthy sessions at Edo Castle where he lectured daimyo on neo-Confucianism and other religious doctrines.

Numerous natural disasters, including devastating typhoons and the eruption of Mount Fuji, occurred during Tsunayoshi's rule, alongside significant events like the Chushingura, or the 47 Ronin Incident. Additionally, being born in the Year of the Dog, Tsunayoshi issued decrees to protect dogs, making it a punishable offense to mistreat them, which earned him the moniker "Dog Shogun." His efforts resulted in a surge of stray dogs in Edo, leading to unpleasant odors permeating the city.

Tsunayoshi's patronage extended to the arts, particularly Noh theater. In 1692, he arranged for a Dutch embassy to observe foreign behavior, rewarding them with a Noh performance. His sudden death on February 19, 1709, just before his 63rd birthday, was attributed to measles, although some speculate that he was assassinated by his wife, possibly due to his controversial plans regarding his heir. He was succeeded by his nephew, Tokugawa Ienobu.

 


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