The Tokugawa Shogunate was the last feudal military government in Japan, lasting from 1600 until the massive political upheaval of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The head of the government was known as the shogun, and, like a military dictator, he would have absolute power and control—even more so than the Emperor in Kyoto, who was relegated to more of a ceremonial role. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, each successive shogun was a member of the Tokugawa clan, with the seat of power located in Edo (what is now Tokyo), so these years also became known as the Edo period.
The shogunate system was feudal in that regions were ruled by the daimyos (lords of territorial lands) who, themselves, pledged allegiance to those above, and a lower samurai or bushi class of military nobility effectively controlled the people. During the Tokugawa period, however, the samurai were often more like bureaucrats and administrators, rather than warriors.
Shizuoka is a major city on Japan’s Pacific coast about halfway between Tokyo and Nagoya, and there are a couple of places around the city related to the remnants of the Tokugawa shogunate for visitors to see.
One of the main sites is Kunozan Toshogu, an important shrine dedicated to the Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), a famous leader who ended many civil wars and succeeded in uniting much of the country. In his final years, Ieyasu expressed a wish for his mausoleum to be built overlooking the sea on Mount Kunozan, and, for this reason, the shrine is considered to be one of the most important shrines dedicated to him in Japan.
The shrine complex is made up of many red buildings with colourful carvings and paintings, and lying peacefully in the woods is the original tomb of Ieyasu himself. A nearby museum contains fascinating exhibits, such as swords, armour, treasures, and even some of Ieyasu’s personal belongings.
The shrine is usually approached from the south and involves a big climb up the mountain via one thousand zigzagging steps, with splendid views of Suruga Bay along the way.
Kunozan Toshogu is located close to the coast to the east of Shizuoka Station. It is open from 9am to 5pm (4pm from October to March) and entry is 500 yen. Take a bus for 30 minutes from either Shimizu Station or Shizuoka Station (sometimes requires a transfer at Otani) and get off at Kunozan-shita: it is then a 20-minute walk up the hill. The shrine can also be reached by taking the ropeway from Nihondaira.
Another spot is Sunpujo Park, a green and pleasant parkland situated in the heart of the city. It is home to the remnants of Sunpu Castle (sometimes called Fuchu Castle), which was built as a residence for Ieyasu Tokugawa in the late 16th Century, and a statue of the shogun stands to welcome visitors. The park is surrounded by an impressive moat and the remnants of the inner moat are visible too, while the Tatsumiyagura near the eastern gate serves as a museum with many reconstructions and historical displays.
Another of the main attractions is the Momijiyama Garden (entry 150 yen), a beautiful garden with themed areas and a traditional teahouse.
The park and gardens are beautiful at any time of year but are particularly popular during cherry blossom season around early April.
Sunpujo Park is a 10-minute walk north of JR Shizuoka Station.