The Dog Shogun
By Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey
This book was pretty good. What I liked about it was how it portrayed what I believe is a more accurate image of the The Dog Shogun, the fifth Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (1646-1709). He has long been ridiculed by historians for being a tyrant and eccentric. Extreme, unorthodox. Tsunayoshi was the fourth son of Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651), the 3rd Tokugawa Shogun. Iemitsu was the son of Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and the grandson of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Tsunayoshi's Laws of Compassion, which made maltreatment of dogs an offense punishable by death, earned him the nickname Dog Shogun. However, his rule coincided with with the great Genroku era, a period of incredible cultural growth and prosperity that Japan would not experience again until the mid 20th century.
It was the first time in Japanese history that vast numbers of ordinary townspeople were in a financial position to acquire an education and enjoy many of the amusements previously reserved for the ruling samurai elite.
The book explains how Tsunayoshi's negative image was actually the work of samurai historians who saw their privilages challenged by a ruler sympathetic to commoners. A shogun who was for the first time raised by his birth mother, a daughter of a commoner. A shogun who deeply followed the confucian philosophy of a benevolent ruler. As well as the Buddhist precepts of compassion for all living beings.
Tsunayoshi was not only the first ruler to decree the registration of dogs, which were kept in large numbers by the samurai, but also the registration of pregnant women and young children to prevent infanticide. He decreed that officials take on the onerous task of finding homes for abandoned children and caring for sick travelers.
The author did a good job of countering the widely held negative views of Tsunayoshi. I highly recommend this book. It can get a bit tedious at times with a lot of names of officials and extensive descriptions of Tsunayoshi's confucian beliefs and origins. But overall, it was a good book that I feel rightly protrayed Tokugawa Tsunayoshi in a more accurate light.