by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No.24

MATSUDAIRA Yamatonokami Naritsune, who was the Lord of Kawagoe Castle at the end of the Edo Period

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 MATSUDAIRA Yamatonokami Naritsune, who was the Lord of Kawagoe Castle at the end of Edo Period. This is number twenty-four in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
The Matsudaira Yamatonokami Family
Before I talk about MATSUDAIRA Naritsune, let’s look at his ancestors. The first MATSUDAIRA Yamatonokami was Tomonori. He became Lord of Kawagoe Castle in 1767. The Yamatonokami family continued in Kawagoe for seven generations, spanning about 100 years. They were originally descended from Naomoto, the fifth son of Hideyasu, the second son of TOKUGAWA Ieyasu. Though Tomonori was born in Shirakawa (now in Fukushima Prefecture), he was moved to Himeji (now in Hyogo Prefecture) in accordance with his father’s transfer and then transferred to Maebashi (now in Gunma Prefecture). When part of Maebashi Castle was damaged due to flooding of the Tonegawa River in 1757, Tomonori asked the Tokugawa Shogunate to inspect the castle. Thus, he was ordered to transfer to Kawagoe.
MATSUDAIRA Naritsune becomes
the Lord of Kawagoe Castle
The second MATSUDAIRA Yamatonokami was Naotsune and the third was Naonobu. After Naonobu passed away at the age of 22 in 1816, his younger brother, Naritsune, inherited Kawagoe Castle at the age of 20. Naritsune’s name was originally Noritsune. However, the 11th Shogun, Ienari, allowed Noritsune to use "nari," which was part of his name, so in 1835 Noritsune’s name became Naritsune.
Japan in the late 18th Century
I wonder what social conditions in Japan were like when Naritsune became Lord of Kawagoe? Two hundred years before, the Tokugawa Shogunate had reinforced the regulations banning overseas trips in response to the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637. The Shogunate transferred the Dutch Mercantile House located in Hirado to a small island called "Dejima" in Nagasaki in 1641. This meant that they had completed the self-imposed isolation policy. However, at the end of the 18th century, foreign ships appeared in the seas along the Japanese coasts. In September 1792, a Russian delegation including Adam Laxman visited Nemuro in the northern part of the country seeking to open up trade relations with Japan. As the delegation indicated that they intended to sail to Edo Bay, the Shogunate set about serious efforts to defend the bay.
Defense by the Kawagoe Domain
While planning the defense the Shogunate ordered domains that included parts of the coastline to defend those sections of the coast. As the Kawagoe Domain also controlled some territory in Sagami (now in Kanagawa Prefecture), it was requested to carefully watch over it. Gradually the number of foreign ships seeking trading relations increased. In 1820, when MATSUDAIRA Naritsune was Lord of Kawagoe, he was ordered to assist the magistrate’s office in Uraga on the Miura Peninsula, instead of the Aizu Domain that actually had jurisdiction over that area, in case an emergency arose. In 1822, the Saracen, an English ship, appeared off the coast of Bohshu (now in Chiba Prefecture). During this incident, the Kawagoe Domain called out 920 persons consisting of 464 samurai and 456 seamen. It is said that, independently of the Shogunate, the domain sent some secret agents to Uraga where the ship lay at anchor, to obtain information about the ship and the circumstances of the port.
Tight Financial Conditions for the Kawagoe Domain
In these increasingly tense times, MATSUDAIRA Naritsune himself surveyed the defenses in 1843 because he thought, "If I am not familiar with the geographical features, I cannot command my personnel if an emergency arises." However, the whole operation cost a huge amount of money and plunged the domain into financial difficulty. The Yokota family, a very wealthy merchant family from Minami-machi in Kawagoe, lent the domain 64,000 ryo in total from 1812 through 1844, but the domain retuned only 925 ryo to the Yokota family.
Kawagoe Castle in Flames
Under these circumstances, when Kawagoe Castle went up in flames in 1846 it placed a very large addition burden on the domain’s finances. The domain procured the money to build new castle buildings through tax increases and loans. Then, with donations of wood by the people, the main enclosure of the castle, of which only a part now remains, was completed two and a half years later.
Naritsune’s Achievements
While struggling to set the domain’s finances in order, Naritsune established a school near one of the gates of the castle in 1827, to educate his retainers. The next year, he placed a box for requests and complaints at the gate so he could "listen to the voice of the people." However, Naritsune passed away on January 20, 1850 at the age of 53. He rests in the Matsudaira Yamatonokami Family’s mausoleum behind the main building of the Kita-in Temple (Map E-4). Please take a moment to pray.
The Matsudaira Yamatonokami Family’s mausoleum (behind the main building of the Kita-in Temple)
The Matsudaira Yamatonokami Family’s mausoleum
(behind the main building of the Kita-in Temple)
Mr. KAZUNO Tomojiro (1911-2009)
MATSUDAIRA Naritsune’s gravestone
*The Matsudaira Yamatonokami Family’s mausoleum is under maintenance construction until 2018.
Mr. KAZUNO Tomojiro (1911-2009)
Construction notice
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

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Illustration of Kawagoe