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    Matsudaira-go and the Matsudaira Family

    The village of Matsudaira (Matsudaira-go) in the mountains southeast of central Toyota is the ancestral home of the Matsudaira, one of the most influential samurai families in Japanese history. A Shinto shrine, Buddhist temple, two former hilltop strongholds, and a museum convey the origins of this family that first rose to local prominence and eventually came to rule all of Japan with the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867).

    The Matsudaira lineage

    According to local lore, the village of Matsudaira was founded in the late thirteenth century by nobleman Ariwara Nobumori, who moved there from Kyoto, which was the capital at the time. Nobumori’s son Nobushige took over the estate from his father. One day, Nobushige received a visit from an itinerant monk named Tokuami (d. 1394?). The monk fell in love with Nobushige’s daughter Suihime, married her, and thus became heir to the Ariwara household. Tokuami assumed the name Matsudaira Chikauji, thereby founding the Matsudaira family. His date of death is unconfirmed.

    Chikauji placed the seven nearest villages under his control, and his successors expanded the family’s domains even further, advancing across the plains to the south and west. By the mid-1500s, the Matsudaira controlled most of Mikawa Province (the eastern half of present-day Aichi Prefecture). Their base of power was Okazaki Castle, about 13 kilometers southwest of Matsudaira-go. This castle was the birthplace of Matsudaira Takechiyo (1543–1616), the ninth head of the Matsudaira family.

    The expanding power of the Matsudaira was largely subdued by powerful rivals, but Takechiyo survived and cultivated a network of alliances that eventually made him one of the most formidable warlords of his time. He changed his name to Tokugawa Ieyasu, and following the decisive victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, established the Tokugawa shogunate that was to rule Japan until 1867.

    The Matsudaira name lived on within the Tokugawa family because only the heirs of each branch were called Tokugawa, while their siblings used the Matsudaira name. There were several other branch families of the Matsudaira as well, many of which were granted domains or important positions within the shogunate.

    Matsudaira-go today

    At the heart of present-day Matsudaira-go is Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine, where Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined as a Shinto deity. The shrine stands on the site of the former Matsudaira estate, a fortified compound at the foot of a steep mountainside that was protected by a moat on three sides. The estate remained home to a branch of the Matsudaira family well into the twentieth century. Further into the valley is Matsudaira-go Enchi Park, where a statue of Chikauji keeps watch over passersby. Beyond the park is Kogetsuin, the Matsudaira family temple.

    Overlooking the road into Matsudaira-go is a hill where the Matsudaira were prepared to retreat in the event that the village should fall into enemy hands. Though known as Matsudaira Castle, this stronghold is thought to have consisted mainly of rudimentary fortifications around the top of the hill. Further west toward the mouth of the valley is the site where Ogyu Castle stood in the 1500s. The fragments of stone walls and ramparts visible there indicate that it was a much more “castle-like” fortification than was Matsudaira Castle.

    Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine, Kogetsuin Temple, and the two castle sites together make up the Matsudaira National Historic Site.

    Kogetsuin Temple

    Also known by its original name, Jakusei-ji Temple, Kogetsuin Temple was reputedly built in 1367 by the monk Kanryu with the support of Ariwara Nobushige (father of Chikauji’s wife). Tradition holds that it came to be known as Kogetsuin Temple in 1377, when Chikauji donated the main image of the Amida Buddha, as well as all of the halls and towers.
    Later, Tokugawa donated a temple estate of 100 koku (1 koku was a year’s supply of rice for one person), and it received generous patronage from the reigning shoguns until the Meiji Restoration.
    Within the precincts there is a Matsudaira family cemetery where stand the graves of Chikauji, Yasuchika, and the wife of Chikatada. The current temple gate and main hall were erected by the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1641, and many cultural properties are preserved there.

    Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine

    Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine is dedicated to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and Matsudaira Chikauji, the founder of the Matsudaira clan. It is said that the temple was founded when Matsudaira Chikauji built a home here, and prayed to transfer Wakamiya Hachiman here as its patron deity. The site of the shrine is the former location of a Matsudaira clan residence. Located near the prayer hall is Matsudaira-Go Hall, which displays a variety of items connected with the Matsudaira and Tokugawa families. It is also the location of the Ubuyu no Ido well, used by the Matsudaira clan for ubuyu (a newborn’s first bath), and said to be sacred water that grants worshipers eternal youth and long life, as well as blessings for safe childbirth. There is a moat which runs on the south and west sides of the stone wall that is said to be the remains of a house built by Matsudaira Naoyoshi, 9th head of the clan, after the Battle of Sekigahara.
    Matsudaira-go has walking trails throughout the area, making it recommended for taking a stroll while admiring the seasonal scenery.
    Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine holds the Tenka Festival and the Matsudaira Spring Festival, with ceremonies such as omizutori (a ceremony for drawing sacred water), attracting large crowds of visitors every year.

    Ceiling Paintings

    The 108 ceiling paintings that decorate the prayer hall include images of white plum blossoms, red plum blossoms, bamboo grass, and small chrysanthemums. Created over an 18-month period, they were completed in 2015. The ceiling paintings were painted in lacquer onto cedar panels treated with two coats of rubbed lacquer.

    Annual Events

    Tenka Festival (Tenka Matsuri) (second Sunday in February)

    This festival was revived in 1988 to re-enact a festival which traces its history back to the Edo period. A ceremony honoring the great achievements of Matsudaira Chikauji, who prayed for peace throughout the land. The highlights are nerikomi (a parade) and tamazeri (wrestling over a globe) by yaku-otoko (men of the unlucky ages 25, 42, and 61) wearing only loincloths. The spirited competition for the wooden globe is a stirring sight to see.

    Matsudaira Spring Festival (Matsudaira Haru Matsuri) (the Saturday immediately before April 17th)

    A pre-event is held in addition to the main festival. At the pre-event, the omizutori ceremony is performed at the Ubuyu no Ido well, and there is an offering of powerful fireworks that are held by the participants. At the main festival, there is a traditional procession called Mikoshi-togyo (a portable shrine parade) from Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine to Kogetsuin Temple.

    Basic Information



    Address 〒444-2202
    9-1 Akabara, Matsudaira-cho, Toyota City (Matsudaira-Go Furusato Zukuri Committee Office)
    Parking 100 parking spaces for passenger cars, 10 spaces for buses.
    Closed None
    Directions by car 15 min. from the Tokai-Kanjo Expressway Toyota-Matsudaira Interchange

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