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Letter shows plan to move Tokugawa shogunate headquarters to Osaka Castle

The letter by Kobori Enshu (Photo provided by Osaka Castle)

OSAKA -- A letter penned by Edo-period tea master and landscape architect Kobori Enshu (1579-1647) indicating the possibility that there was a plan to move the Tokugawa shogunate headquarters from Tokyo to Osaka Castle in western Japan has been found.

This letter by Kobori Enshu shows a possible plan for moving the Tokugawa shogunate headquarters to Osaka. (Photo provided by Osaka Castle)

The handwritten letter, dated Dec. 17, 1626, went on public display at Osaka Castle in Osaka's Chuo Ward from Jan. 26.

Measuring 17 centimeters by 2.45 meters, the letter is addressed to Kobori's father-in-law Todo Takatora, a renowned castle builder who designed Osaka Castle. Kobori rebuilt the castle on the orders of Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shogun of the Tokugawa government, after the castle was burned down in the Siege of Osaka in 1615.

In the letter, Kobori wrote, "Osaka should be (the shogun's) residential castle in the future." The description comes where Kobori recommends that Takatora offer garden stones to be placed at the castle. From the context and other factors, the line apparently indicates the possibility of Osaka Castle serving as the residence of Hidetada and third shogun Iemitsu.

Tourists are seen at Osaka Castle in Osaka's Chuo Ward on Oct. 3, 2018. (Mainichi/Kenji Ikai)

A collector in Mie Prefecture in central Japan purchased the missive from an antique art dealer in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, also in central Japan, in July last year. Experts at Mie University and Osaka Castle confirmed the authenticity of the document in December.

This is the second known historical document that indicates the plan to move the Tokugawa shogunate headquarters to Osaka. Another document, held by the Shimazu family, suggests that a top Tokugawa shogunate figure told Shimazu Iehisa of the Satsuma clan in western Japan about a plan to make Osaka Castle home of Hidetada.

Osaka Castle was rebuilt in 1629, but Hidetada passed away three years later. As the Tokugawa shogunate was settled in Edo, or present-day Tokyo, the Osaka headquarters plan apparently never came true. Kobori later became the tea master for Iemitsu.

The exhibition will run until March 19. Admission is 600 yen and free for junior high school students and younger, as well as residents of the city of Osaka aged 65 or older. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

(Japanese original by Toshiyuki Mano, Osaka City News Department)

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