by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No. 2

IWATA Hikosuke, the samurai who played an important role in Kawagoe about 300 years ago

Welcome to Kawagoe! Kawagoe is an old town whose history can be traced back to the Old Stone Age. I would like to tell you a story about the Kawagoe of olden times. This story is about the samurai, IWATA Hikosuke, who played an important role in Kawagoe about 300 years ago. This is number two in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
The Lord of Kawagoe Castle, "Lord Akimoto"
In 1702, during the Edo Period, the 47 "ronin" (masterless samurai) successfully raided KIRA Kozukenosuke's mansion and killed Kira. The next year the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered the leader, OHISHI Kuranosuke, and his members to comit hara-kiri. At that time, YANAGISAWA Yoshiyasu, a special assistant to the 5th Shogun, Tsunayoshi, was also the Lord of Kawagoe. YANAGISAWA was transferred to Kofu in 1704, so AKIMOTO Takatomo became the Lord of Kawagoe Castle after being transferred from Kai (now Yamanashi Prefecture).
It is said that, in those days, the Kawagoe Domain was unsettled because of poor harvests and damage caused by flooding.
Huge Earthquakes in Edo
and the Great Eruption of Mt. Fuji
On December 31, 1703, a huge earthquake called the "Genroku Earthquake" occurred in Edo and killed more than 37,000 people. Then, on October 28, 1707, another huge earthquake called the "Hoei Earthquake" struck Edo. Probably influenced by these earthquakes, Mt. Fuji erupted on November 20. Cities in Edo were covered with ash that looked like snow and Mt. Hoei was born.
Under such circumstances, Kawagoe's Lord Akimoto had to spend most of his time in Edo because he was also the chief assistant to the Shogun. Therefore, we can assume that he put the business of the Kawagoe Domain into the hands of IWATA Hikosuke, the Chief Retainer of Kawagoe Castle.
"Kawagoe's Brain," IWATA Hikosuke
Akimoto became the Lord of Kawagoe when he was 55 and Iwata was 47. Iwata is famous for his intelligence. They say that the Shogun once said, "Akimoto possesses two excellent things: The best spear in Japan from TOKUGAWA Ieyasu and IWATA Hikosuke."
The 5th Shogun, Tsunayoshi, must have spoken these words because he was Shogun for 29 years from 1680 to 1709 and strongly connected with the former Kawagoe Lord, YANAGISAWA Yoshiyasu.
Kawagoe Sweet Potato and Fabric
With the support of Iwata, Lord Akimoto tried to make a lot of money for the Kawagoe Domain. He invited many artisans skilled in silkworm culture, silk goods, rice, wheat, barley, tea, kaki, fish farming and more from Kai (now Yamanashi Prefecture) to Kawagoe. Sweet potatoes were planted on reclaimed land and they became famous, known as "Kawagoe Imo."
Kawagoe Imo
"Kawagoe sweet potatoes"
(Kawagoe Imo)
Baked Kawagoe Imo
Baked Kawagoe Imo
The fabrics of Kawagoe also became famous. This was because, in addition to Lord Akimoto's leadership, the wives and daughters of his retainers, who had learned silk weaving in Kai, passed on their know-how to the tradesmen and artisans of Kawagoe. Afterward, the weaving became popular and was known as "Kawagoe Hira." Later, special looms were introduced to produce high-quality products.
This method of silk weaving was passed down from generation to generation and applied to cotton weaving. It was known at the end of the Edo Period as Kawagoe Tozan (Kawatou) and it also became popular among the people of Edo. Recently, it has been revived and is again being sold.
The textile market built in 1910
The textile market built in 1910
by courtesy of Kawagoe City Museum
IWATA Hikosuke passed away on May 18, 1734. He was 77 years old. I wonder what he, in heaven, thinks about the buildings of the former textile market which were built in 1910 and still exist. He also rests in the Youjuin Buddhist Temple near Kashiya-yokocho (Penny Candy Lane, Map C-2). Please take a moment to pray.
IWATA Hikosuke's gravestone in the Youjuin Buddhist Temple
IWATA Hikosuke's gravestone
in the Youjuin Buddhist Temple
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

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Illustration of Kawagoe