Mizuno Tadakuni

Mizuno Tadakuni

Mizuno Tadakuni (水野 忠邦, July 19, 1794-March 12, 1851) was a daimyō of the late Edo period of Japan, who later served as chief elder advisor (rōjū) in the service of the Tokugawa shogunate. He is known for implementing the Tenpō reforms.

Mizuno Tadakuni Biography

Mizuno Tadakuni was the second son of Mizuno Tadaaki, daimyō of the Karatsu domain. As his older brother died at an early age, Tadakuni became heir in 1805 and was then presented to the shogun Tokugawa Ienari and the future shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi in a formal audience in 1807.

In 1812, upon his father's retirement, he took over the Mizuno clan and became daimyō of Karatsu. He entered the service of the Tokugawa shogunate as sōshaban (master of ceremonies) at Edo Castle in 1816.

However, in the face of increasing difficulties in maintaining order in the foreign trading port of Nagasaki, in 1817 Tadakuni asked to be transferred from the Karatsu estate to the smaller estate of Hamamatsu in Tōtōmi province.

Although both estates are officially ranked at 70,000 koku, the Karatsu estate has an effective income of 253,000 koku compared to only 153,000 koku for the Hamamatsu estate.

As a result, this transfer was greeted with indignation and disbelief by his principal obligees, leading to the suicide by seppuku of his principal advisor, but Tadakuni was not dissuaded. That same year, he was given the position of jisha-bugyō ("commissioner of shrines and temples") within the shogunal administration.

In 1825, Tadakuni was elevated to the position of Osaka jōdai ("lord of Osaka"), accompanied by a promotion to the 4th lower rank at court. The following year, in 1826, he became Kyoto shoshidai, the official representative of the shogunate to the court in Kyoto.

His courtesy title was changed from Izumi-no-kami to Echizen-no-kami. In 1828, Tadakuni became rōju. He steadily climbed the ranks of rōjū to become senior rōjū in 1839.

As rōjū, Mizuno Tadakuni wields enormous political power, and attempts to reform the shogunate's finances and social controls in the wake of the Great Tenpō Famine of 1832-1836 through the passage of numerous sumptuary laws known as "Tenpō reforms."

The reform attempts to stabilize the economy, through a return to the frugality, simplicity, and discipline that characterized the early Edo period by prohibiting most forms of entertainment and displays of wealth.

This proved extremely unpopular with the population. Another part of the reforms included the Agechi-rei, which called for the daimyōs residing near Edo and Osaka to give up their holdings for equal amounts of land elsewhere, thus consolidating Tokugawa control over these strategically vital domains.

However, the scheme also proved greatly unpopular among daimyōs of all ranks and income levels. The general failure of the reforms resulted in Tadakuni's loss of favor. To further complicate his future situation, in May 1844 Edo Castle was destroyed by fire.

On February 22, 1845 he was relieved of his government position, and on September 2, 1845 he was exiled to the Yamagata estate in Dewa province, where he remained until his death.

He died on March 12, 1851, five days before he was informed of his release. He was succeeded by his son Mizuno Tadakiyo, who also became an important figure in the late Tokugawa shogunate.

Mizuno Tadakuni was married to a daughter of Sakai Tadayuki, a wakadoshiyori and daimyō of the Obama estate.