Episode 524 – The Tokugawa System

This week on the Revised Introduction to Japanese History: how did the Tokugawa bakufu operate? What did the political structure of the shoguns look like? And what makes the Tokugawa era unique in the history of warrior rule in Japan?


Hall, John Whitney, “The Bakuhan System” and Osamu Wakita, “The Social and Economic Consequences of Unification” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol IV: Early Modern Japan

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan

Philip Brown, “The Political Order” in Japan Emerging: Premodern History to 1850


A map of landholdings in the Edo Period. The size of the circle indicates the overall koku value. Red is land held by the shogun or his immediate relatives. Yellow are the fudai; blue are the Tozama.
Engelbert Kaempfer’s sketch of a sankin kotai retinue — a lord and his followers on their way to attend to the shogun in Edo.
A group of daimyo going to attend to the shogun as part of their duties under the sankin kotai system.
The old Kuroda family yashiki in 1870. This is an example of the type of compound a daimyo would maintain for sankin kotai. At the time this photo was taken, the compound was being converted to house Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
This is a view of the old palace of the Tokugawa shoguns in modern Tokyo. After the fall of the shogunate it was taken over by the Imperial family, and is today known as the Tokyo Imperial Palace.