by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No.26

MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami Yasuhide, who became the Lord of Kawagoe Castle in 1866, just two years before the Meiji Period started

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 Suohnokami Yasuhide, who became the Lord of Kawagoe Castle in 1866, just two years before the Meiji Period started. This is number twenty-six in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
TOKUGAWA Ieyasu and
MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami Yasuhide's Ancestors
When TOKUGAWA Ieyasu (1542-1616) was going into the Kanto region in 1590, he selected forty-two loyal relatives and their retainers to be daimyo (feudal lords) in order to cope with the power aligned against him. The MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami family was one of the forty-two daimyo. An ancestor of the MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami family was MATSUI Sakon Tadatsugu. He had been a retainer of Ieyasu prior to the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. To honor him, Ieyasu gave him the family name "MATSUDAIRA" and allowed him to use part of the name of Ie'yasu." Thus his name was changed to MATSUDAIRA Yasuchika. MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami Yasuhide, born in 1830, was from a branch of the MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami family. Yasuhide was a relative of Yasuchika. However, the relationship is very distant since Yasuchika lived in 16th or 17th century while Yasuhide lived in 19th century.
The Magistrate of Foreign Affairs
And the Delegation to Europe
MATSUDAIRA Yasuhide became the Magistrate of Foreign Affairs and Kanagawa in 1859 at the age of 29. This was one year after II Naosuke (1815-60), Special Assistant to the Shogun, concluded the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan. In those days, Japan was unstable and not prepared to face a new era. In 1861, Yasuhide was appointed assistant leader of the Delegation to Europe by the Shogunate because of his ability to judge things correctly, which he showed when he was the Magistrate of Kanagawa. He was recommended by II Naosuke and Sir Rutherford Alcock, the British Consul-General, who was a friend. The delegation, consisting of thirty-eight members, set sail from Shinagawa on December 22, 1861 to go to France, England, Holland, Prussia, Portugal and Russia. The goals of the mission were difficult: To delay the opening of the ports of Hyogo and Niigata and to delay access to the markets of Edo and Osaka for five years; to decide the boundary line between Japan and Russia in Sakhalin. FUKUZAWA Yukichi (1834-1901), who later established Keio University, was one of the members. The delegation returned to Japan on December 11, 1862. It was a one-year trip.
Mr. MATSUDAIRA Yasuhide, Lord of Kawagoe Castle
Mr. MATSUDAIRA Yasuhide, Lord of Kawagoe Castle
Yasuhide Promoted to Assistant to the Shogun
In 1864, soon after his return to Japan, Yasuhide became the 13th generational master of the MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami family and was promoted to Assistant to the Shogun the next year. The social and political situation between 1864 and 1867 was very critical. The Tokugawa Shogunate reached an amicable settlement with the Imperial Court in Kyoto, to some extent. However, the Satsuma Domain and the Choshu Domain were planning to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate. Under such unstable conditions, Yasuhide was in the center of the Shogunate politics.
Move to Kawagoe Castle
Subsequently, MATSUDAIRA Yasuhide was appointed the Lord of Kawagoe Castle by the Shogunate. It was a great pleasure for MATSUDAIRA Yasuhide's retainers, who were from Tanakura (now in Fukushima Prefecture), to be ordered to move to Kawagoe in 1866 because life in Tanakura was not easy. Tanakura had had poor harvests and the people had experienced a great famine. One retainer wrote after he moved to Kawagoe, "After getting off a boat on the Arakawa River, I saw a tower of a great castle far away. I asked a palanquin bearer what it was and he told me it was Kawagoe Castle. As I observed it carefully, I noticed that the walls around the roof were tiled. At the east of the castle, a huge lake spreads. So we will not be attacked so easily." Only from these sentences, we can guess his satisfaction after being transferred to Kawagoe. The "huge lake" is Lake Isanuma, which is still there. You can see it for yourself.
The Meiji Restoration
In October 1867, TOKUGAWA Yoshinobu (1837-1913), the 15th Shogun, issued a document to restore sovereign power to the Emperor. The faction to overthrow the Shogunate established a new government centering on the Emperor Meiji (1852-1912). In September of the next year, the Meiji Period started. Yasuhide left the position of Assistant to the Shogun in February 1868 and went to Kyoto to show his loyalty to the Emperor. However, he was not permitted to visit the Imperial Palace. On July 21, he left Kyoto and came back to Kawagoe on August 5. He entered his castle in Kawagoe for the first time since being appointed as Lord of Kawagoe because he had not been able to leave Edo during his service as Assistant to the Shogun.
His Retirement
In April 1869, Yasuhide, at the age of 39, transferred the leadership of the family to Kinnoshin, an adopted son. Yasuhide, who lived such a dramatic life up to that time, continued to watch the events as they unfolded in the rapidly changing Meiji Period, He passed away on July 5, 1904 at the age of 74. It was the year that electric lights were lit in Kawagoe for the first time.
MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami family's mausoleum in the Kohsaiji Temple in Kosemba-machi
MATSUDAIRA Suohnokami family's mausoleum in the Kohsaiji Temple in Kosemba-machi
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

« previous

back to Contents

Background Picture1

Background Picture2

next »

▲back to top

Illustration of Kawagoe