Gotô Chôjô – The secret saver of the Gotô family?

With this article I would like to deal with the circumstances of the Gotô families moving from Kyôto to Edo. Of vital importance for the Gotô family was the time of the 5th master Tokujô (徳乗, 1550-1631). When Tokujô´s grandfather Jôshin (乗真, 1512-1562) died in Eiroku five (永禄, 1562), his father Kôjô (光乗, 1529-1620) moved the home village of his mother (i.e. Jôshin´s wife) to Kyûshû. But Kôjô eventually returned to Kyôto in Tenshô nine (天正, 1581) to serve – the Gotô were from the bushi class – and work for Oda Nobunaga. One year later Toyotomi Hideyoshi appointed him as supervisor of the prodution and minting of ôban coins and fundô weights. Kôjô was 71 years old when Sekigahara took place and so it is assumed that he did not participate. But his son Tokujô did, being 50 years old, and due to the former employment by Hideyoshi on the side of Ishida Mitsunari. 14 years later at the Siege of Ôsaka, Tokujô and his son and heir Eijô (栄乗, 1577-1617) still sided with the Toyotomi faction and were thus placed under hourse arrest for a while by Ieyasu which was a common milder punishment for bushi. The then Gotô residence was since Kôjô´s return from Kyûshû located in Kyôto´s Yanagihara district (柳原, present-day Kamigyô district). And this is when Chôjô came into play.

Chôjô (長乗, 1562-1616) was Kôjô´s second son, i.e. Tokujô´s younger brother. He too spend some years on Kyûshû with Tokujô and helped him when they returned to Kyôto but it turned out that he had a knack of economy and business. Apart from that he was a prominent figure of the then art scene and well versed in calligraphy, painting and poetry. For example a close friend of him was the “all-round artist” Hon´ami Kôetsu (本阿弥光悦, 1558-1637). But more important for the continuation of the Gotô is that he became also a close friend of Ieyasu for whom he worked since the eighth year of Keichô (慶長, 1603), beginning with a post in the Foreign Office. He managed it through negotiations with Ieyasu´s successor Hidetada (徳川秀忠, 1579-1632) one year after the fall of Ôsaka in 1616 that the Gotô main line got back all their lands and their annual income of 250 koku. Unfortunately he died right after this success, namely on the 26th day of the third month of the very same year. It is assumed that he died of his chronic stomach problems as we know a report of the 2nd generation of the famous physician Masane Dôsan (曲直瀬道三, 1507-1594) in which he wrote that he treated him on the 15th day of the ninth month Keichô six (1601) on his severe vomiting. Anyway, it was a wise decision of Chôjô to side with Ieyasu right after Sekigahara. Maybe they were in contact before the battle but not much is known about that early phase of Chôjô´s career. In Keichô 15 (1610), he was again favorably treated by Ieyasu and received from him a property only about 300 m to the northeast of the Shirôbei main line residence. There was a temple at that site, the Gansui´in (岩栖院), which was transferred by Ieyasu to the grounds of the Nanzen-ji (南禅寺) before he granted the plot to Chôjô. According to contemporary records, the plot of land measured 7.260 m². Picture 1 shows the area as depicted in the old map „Kan´ei-go Manji-zen ryakuchû-ezu“ (寛永後萬治前洛中絵図, „Map of Kyôto from after the Kan´ei and before the Manji era“). We can see from left to right the houses of Chôjô (1), Shôjô, (昌乗, Chôjô´s fourth son) (2), Kakujô (覚乗, Chôjô´s second son (3), Matazaemon (又左衛門, Chôjô´s third son Jô´en, 乗円) (4), and of Shichirôbei (七郎兵衛, Chôjô´s first son Ryûjô, 立乗) (5).

 GotoMapChojo1Picture 1. Detail of the Gansui´in area.

The shaping of the area goes back to Hosokawa Mitsumoto (細川満元, 1378-1526) who was kanrei (管領, deputy of the shôgun) at that time. He erected there a mansion from wood which was left from the construction of the famous Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺). After his death the mansion was turned into the Gansui´in temple. Chôjô remodelled the area and had a new garden with a pond arranged, the so-called „Yôsui´en“ (擁翠園). He was financially and artistically supported by the wealthy Kaga-daimyô and Gotô-patron Maeda Toshitsune (前田利常, 1594-1658) and the famous tea master Kobori Enshû (小堀遠州, 1579-1647). A nice picture of the Yôsui´en can be seen here at the site of the Kyôto-blogger Amadeus.

At the time Chôjô died and the Gotô main line was rehabilitated, Edo was so to speak „still under construction“. The art world was quite sceptical about the new capital and cultured people from the old Kyôto called the Edo-residents even „eastern barbarians“ (azama-ebisu, 東夷). A first step of the bakufu was the Edo-zume (江戸詰), the order for daimyô to maintain a residence in Edo where they had to stay in the course of the sankin-kôtai system. The Edo-zume order for the Gotô main line came in Kan´ei two (寛永, 1625) at the time of the 8th generation Sokujô (即乗, 1600-1631) who was the second son of Eijô. But he was granted with a residence which was located in the Hon-Shirogane district (本白銀町, present-day Chûô district). In Meireki two (明暦, 1652) and at the time of the 10th generation Renjô (廉乗, 1627-1708), the Gotô got an exlusive contract with the bakufu and became their purveyor. With this, a larger residence was given to them which was located in Kanda´s Nagatomi district (永富町). Well, one year later the residence and most of the family records were destroyed by the Great Fire of Meireki (Meireki no taika, 明暦の大火). The house and workshop were rebuilt and in Kanbun two (寛文, 1662), the headquarters of the Gotô main line were eventually officially transferred from Kyôto to Edo (that means now the main line lived there permanently and not temporarily). With this, all lands were returned to the bakufu and a new residence was given to them in exchange which was located in the Shin-Ryôgae district (新両替町, present-day Ginza district).

Regarding the initial scepticism towards Edo, we find an entry in the „Enpeki-kenki“ (遠碧軒記, 1675) which goes: „Once, no one from the Gotô family went to Edo, because they had for this duty their clerk Shôzaburô.“ With Shôzaburô, Hashimoto Shôzaburô (橋本庄三郎, 1571-1625) is meant who was the clerk (tedai, 手代) of the Gotô family at the time of Tokujô. Shôzaburô met Ieyasu personally in Bunroku two (文禄, 1593) and became the official Edo represesentative of the Gotô two years later. With this important appointment he was allowed to bear the family name „Gotô” and their 3-5-3 kiri crest and got also the name „Mitsutsugu“ (光次). By the way, there was once a document issued by Tokujô and Chôjô in Bunroku five (1595) which stated that the granting of the name „Gotô“ shall not be hereditary, but this „restriction“ was later ignored as Ieyasu supported Shôzaburô in this respect. In Edo he was first and foremost responsible for the minting of koban coins. Being deeply involved in the finances of the bakufu and head of the gold guild (kinza, 金座), he travelled a lot and established Gotô branches in Suruga and on the island of Sado. There were altogether 14 generations of the Gotô Shôzaburô branch. The kinza was confiscated later by the Meiji government and the last head of the line, Mitsuhiro (光弘, 1834-1893), was put under the supervision of the newly founded money, currency and coinage office (kahei-tsukasa, 貨幣司). Well, this office was given up in 1869 and all employees formerly working for the kinza were dismissed. And in 1872, Mitsuhiro had to move out of the Gotô Shôzaburô residence in Honchô (本町), It was namely an old bakufu property and had to be handed-over to the government.

Now we can speculate what the fate of the Gotô family would have been without Chôjô and when both the main line and Ieyasu were stubborn. Maybe they would have stayed in Kyôto or had entirely entered the service and employement of the Kaga-Maeda family as did a later branch of the Gotô. But this is of course only speculation. There was a continuous demand for classical Gotô-style sword fittings which would have guaranteed their survival and we must not forget that they held the hereditary post responsible for minting ôban and fundô weights. Also they had absolutely no financial problems. Besides of their annual income from their lands, the Gotô main line made obviously a fortune with their fittings and the coinage as they were counted to the so-called „Three Kyôto Millionaires“ (Kyôto no san-chôja, 京都の三長者). The other two were the merchant families Chaya Shôjirô (茶屋四郎次郎) and Suminokura Ryôi (角倉了以). Also the Shôzaburô line in Edo became quite wealthy as head of the kinza. So I think that Ieyasu and Hidetada were clever enough to leave the money-related offices where they were and did not replace the Gotô by complete newcomers.

By the way, Chôjô loved the famous Kamo horse race (Kamo no kurabe-uma, 賀茂の競馬) which was once held on the fifth day of the fifth month of every year at the grounds of the Kamigamo-jinja (上賀茂神社) which was located just 2,5 km to the north of his residence. Well, at Chôjô´s time, the horse race was hardly ever carried out and so he took on the task to revive it. He rounded up sponsors, also from the bakufu and the imperial court. Of gratitude, he sponsored every year a spectators lounge of the size of one tsubo (3,3 m²) and prize money in the amount of 200 hiki of gold.


Picture 2: Wooden statue of Chôjô (left) and his wife Tsuru (ツル, ?-1640) preserved in Kyôto´s Jôtoku-ji (常徳寺).

Detailed info about the Gotô family in general and all the genealogies can be found in my book The Japanese toso-kinko Schools.


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