Foreign Student (hereinafter FS): From September 20 onwards, it is Be-Kind-to-Animals Week in Japan.
I’ve heard that there was a shogun who cared more for dogs than for people.
What kind of person was he?
Teacher (hereinafter T): You are referring to TOKUGAWA Tsunayoshi who became the fifth shogun of the Edo Shogunate in 1680.
Tsunayoshi was the offspring of the shogun and a low-born concubine, but because all the children of the shogun’s official wife died, he unexpectedly became shogun.
It is said that he was an extremely tenacious and picky character.
On the other hand because he had studied Confucianism since childhood, he was merciful and benevolent at heart.
FS: Why did Tsunayoshi care for dogs so much?
T: In those days there were a lot of stray dogs in the big city of Edo (present-day Tokyo).
Some tormented them, or ate them.
So, Tsunayoshi made the abuse of animals illegal.
At the outset the aim was to protect these dogs.
After that about 130 additional laws were enacted.
These gradually became stricter, for instance it was illegal to abandon a dog, and those who killed dogs were sentenced to death.
Since this law was extended to all living creatures, people got angry.
According to some documents, hundreds of thousands of people were charged as dog killers.
However, hardly anybody was actually punished and these days many scholars take the view that Tsunayoshi’s enemies had exaggerated their accounts.
FS: The same conspiratorial tricks can be seen in contemporary power struggles, can’t they?
Based on the Confucian principle of compassion for others, Tsunayoshi enacted a variety of different reforms for the benefit of his citizens.
To create a society in which citizens could live in peace, he confiscated firearms from feudal clans.
However, as a result he earned the condemnation of feudal lords and samurai who felt that they were being stripped of their privileges.
The shogunate was lacking funds when Tsunayoshi became shogun.
However, he himself lived a simple life as a matter of course and made up for the deficit by reducing the amount of gold in the currency.
Tsunayoshi restored and built many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, including Toshogu in Nikko where the first shogun Ieyasu was enshrined.
In contemporary terms, you might say that this was a large-scale public works project.
It stimulated the economy, so that the arts, such as ukiyoe prints and kabuki flourished.
FS: I thought that he was a bad person.
I’m surprised he was a benevolent ruler.
A German doctor called KAEMPFER who had met Tsunayoshi described him in his book as being an excellent monarch who was merciful despite his strict laws.
However, Tsunayoshi was visited by misfortune in his later years.
Japan was hit by two powerful earthquakes of more than eight degrees’ magnitude, on top of that, Mount Fuji erupted and prices soared.
In principle restoration costs were borne by private individuals.
However he saved the day by getting the feudal lords to bear the costs.
Unfortunately, he died shortly after this.
Dissatisfied samurai whispered that this was Tsunayoshi’s divine punishment.
After this his laws were abolished, so that only his bad reputation remained.
doubutsu aigo shuukann
taisetsu ni shita
(who) cared more (for)
jinnbutsu desu ka.
person was he ?
sennroppyaku hachijyuu nenn
sixteen eighty [year]
(the) Edo Shogunate
the fifth shogun (of)
no koto desu ne.
(you) are referring to
mibunn no hikui
(the shogun’s) official wife
kodomo tachi ga
shuuchakushinn ga tsuyoku,
sukikirai ga hageshii
sono ippou de
on the other hand
(he) had studied
omoiyari no kokoro wo
benevolent at heart
(it) is said
[[rb:大切 > たいせつ]]にしたのですか。
taisetsu ni shita no desuka.
in those days
(the) big city
mono mo imashita.
taisetsu ni suru houritsu wo
(the) abuse illegal <care>
at the outset
suteru koto wo
ihou to suru
(it) was illegal
(these) became and
shokei sare mashita.
were sentenced to death
kono houritsu ha
living creatures all
ikari wo kaimashita
inu wo koroshita
nannjyuumann ninn mo ga
hundreds of thousands of people
tsumi ni towareta to arimasu.
shobatsu sareta hito ha sukunaku,
hardly anybody was punished and
ooku no gakusha ga
hanntsunayoshi ha ni yoru
Tsunayoshi’s enemies had
exaggerated (their accounts)
take the view
innbou no teguchi to
principle <heart> (of)
for the benefit (of)
a variety of different reforms
kaikaku wo okonai mashigta.
(he) confiscated [and]
annshinn shite seikatsu dekiru
could live in peace
shakai seido wo
(a) society [system] (in which)
tsukurou to shimashita.
sore ni tomonai
as a result
kitoku kenneki wo
(who felt that they) were being stripped of
hageshii ikari wo
zaisei busoku no
he (Tsunayoshi) himself
atarimae no you ni
as a matter of course
shisso na seikatsu wo
(a) simple life
made up (for)
shodai shougunn no
(the) first shogun
nikkou toushouguu wo
Toshogu in Nikko (where)
jinnjya bukkaku wo
Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples
genndaiteki ni ieba,
in contemporary terms
(a) public works project
you might say
stimulated so that
(the) arts <culture>