Sparrow (sparrowdreams) wrote in history_time,

Tokugawa Yoshinobu: Last Shogun, Hobbyist

In which I talk about the last shogun of Japan Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837-1913; appearing in my userpic!) and his hobbies.

It seems like everyone likes to bash the Tokugawa shogunate and the Tokugawa clan. In my opinion this is unfortunate, as there are many interesting figures in both, not least of which was Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun. After his resignation in 1867 and the chaotic events of the Boshin War (1868-69), Yoshinobu went into rather quiet retirement in Sunpu, which is now the city of Shizuoka. A lot of his retainers, the former direct vassals of the shogunate, followed him to Sunpu; most tried to start businesses to support their families, and nearly all failed. Even after the feudal system was dismantled in the early 1870s, a lot of former Tokugawa vassals remained in Shizuoka, and while barely eking out an existence, watched their former master indulge in an increasingly varied and in some cases bizarre series of hobbies.

As you can see from the picture, one of them was hunting. Another hobby he had was embroidery; still another was oil painting. He acquired a car late in life, and was said to be a lover of "new things." After touring a factory where mess kits were made for the Imperial Japanese Army, he sent a silver ingot to the factory and had a silver mess kit made; to the end of his days he would cook his own rice in it. He also liked Japanese archery. Photography was still another hobby of his; this is a hobby that is shared by one of his more prominent modern-day descendants, Tokugawa Yoshitomo, who wrote a rather interesting book on him (which I have in Japanese, but which wish was translated into English).

But the most bizarre hobby Yoshinobu had was bicycling. But not just regular bicycling, or bicycling like we think of it now. No, he rode a velocipede.

Believe me, I wish I were kidding.


*Tokugawa Yoshitomo. Tokugawa Yoshinobu-ke ni youkoso (Welcome to Tokugawa Yoshinobu's Family). Tokyo: Bungei-shunju, 2005.

See also:

*Shiba Ryotaro. The Last Shogun. Trans. by Juliet Winters Carpenter. New York: Kodansha International, 1998. (novel)
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