The Shogun Who Loved Dogs

Tsunayoshi Tokugawa was shogun of Japan from 1680 to 1709. For a long time, he had a bad reputation, historically. The samurai class disliked him because Tsunayoshi had a fondness for boys of any class -- and the samurai did not like that Tsunayoshi did not discriminate his lovers by class. He was also a pretty strict ruler, confiscating many properties, cracking down on prostitution, and banning too-fancy fabrics. None of which likely endeared Tsunayoshi to the literate class, either. But this is not a post about his administrative style. This is a post about dogs.

Often fondly referred to as Oinusama (the dog shogun), Tsunayoshi really did have a soft spot for canines. He was born during the Year of the Dog, and was told that he had been a dog in a previous life. Tsunayoshi also issued a number of edicts, known as Edicts on Compassion for Living Things, that were released daily to the public. Most of them involved the protection of dogs — in fact, it was a capital crime to harm one. A massive kennel, said to have held more than 50,000 dogs, had to be set up outside the capital city of Edo to house the surfeit of dogs that resulted. Paid for by the happy citizens of Edo, of course.

Tsunayoshi was not just about the dogs, though that is what he remains known for. He became immersed in Neo-Confucianism and studied it profusely. Through this influence, Tsunayoshi enacted many protections for living beings — not just dogs — during his rule. In fact, he also insisted abandoned children and sick travelers should be taken care of and not be left to die, as was often the practice.

Four of the American founding fathers married widows: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin. Interestingly, none had sons with their wives.

You Can Probably Guess What This Depicts

A textured manuscript illustration of, what else? Smallpox. From Japan, circa 1720.


"Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death."

Benjamin Franklin, on how he made friends with a rival legislator in the Pennsylvania statehouse.

This is a real psychological phenomenon. Humans tend to value more people whom they have helped -- and conversely, devalue more people whom they have wronged. It seems that we like to be consistent, and so justify our actions after-the-fact by telling ourselves we like that person we helped, or we do not like that person we wronged.

Loneliness Is A Modern Invention

Literally -- the word first appeared in the 1800s. Before that time, English had the words ‘oneliness,’ the state of being alone, and ‘solitude,’ also meaning the state of being alone.

And while loneliness is understood to be a painful condition today, oneliness and solitude were debated. Some European philosophers thought solitude was damaging to a person’s physical and mental health. Others held that it was crucial to stay sane. And crucial for spiritual health: solitary confinement was originally not a punishment, but an path to reformation through enforced contemplation of one’s sins.

The Creation of Rotterdam (Part 2)

A month ago (or so) I posted a couple paragraphs on the Dutch city of Rotterdam's history. It was titled "The Creation of Rotterdam." Imagine my surprise when I came across this map, showing the physical expansion of Rotterdam's port. It was truly created, that is to say, built by men.

Let's Learn About Mexico!

The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.

Eighteen for Eighteen

In eighteen years of military service, Napoleon Bonaparte had eighteen horses shot out from under him!

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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