WaiWai: Tokugawa clan looks to slam the gate on future chief’s marriage to foreigner

This article is reproduced from the discontinued, but much loved Mainichi Waiwai column by Ryann Connell. Read more about this at the bottom of this article.

Modern day members of the Tokugawa clan — the xenophobic dynasty of Shoguns that shut Japan off from the world for centuries — are up in arms because the man set to one day become head of the family has married a non-Japanese, according to Shukan Shincho (9/20).

Iehiro Tokugawa, who is poised to one day become the 19th head of the clan that ruled the country as Shoguns from 1603 to 1868 and maintained a rigid ban on foreigners entering Japan, has tied the knot with a Vietnamese woman.

But his father, Tsunenari, the current clan chief, is among the members of the family who are supposed to be outraged that the most Japanese of non-Imperial families is about to receive an injection of non-Yamato blood.

Iehiro Tokugawa graduated from posh Keio University before completing a doctorate of economics at Michigan University. He went off to work for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, spending time at its Rome headquarters before being transferred to its Hanoi branch. The 42-year-old heir apparent of the Shogun’s dynastic name now works as a translator.

“He met the Vietnamese woman about 10 years ago,” a close pal of Tokugawa’s tells Shukan Shincho. “He was working at the FAO’s Vietnam office at the time and met her through his work. She comes from a good family. She’s petite and pretty. She’s a complete contrast to Iehiro, who is only 174 centimeters tall but weighs 105 kilograms. She’s 11 years younger than him, too. And she looks even younger still. Iehiro said he fell in love with her charms.” Iehiro apparently set his mind on marriage not long after he started dating, and he soon let his parents know of his intentions.

“Iehiro knows that he is a member of the Tokugawa clan and fully realizes exactly what that status entails. He told his parents he spent three years in elementary school in the United States and that he has very liberal ideas about marriage. On top of that, she is the woman he chose,” the buddy says. “But Tsunenari, important as head of the clan, and his mother were bitterly opposed. They said they didn’t mind if their son dated a foreigner, but there was no way they were going to let him marry one.”

Over the past few years, Iehiro’s Vietnamese partner traveled back and forth between her country and his before finally settling down together in his home.

“He’s got a photo of when they went on a trip together to Kamakura displayed prominently in his study. They’ve visited the Tokugawa family in Gotenba and have also been on trips together to Hakone and Karuizawa. Iehiro has often gathered his friends at his home and let them taste her delicious Vietnamese cuisine. They’re having a great time no matter how much his parents may oppose their bond,” the future clan head’s friend tells Shukan Shincho.

The opposition of the clan boss to the union has not deterred the loving couple.

“They actually registered their marriage a year ago,” the friend says. “They’ve tried countless times to get his parents to approve their marriage, but the parents have steadfastly refused. It’s more convenient for her to be married if she’s in Japan, so they formalized their bond. Iehiro has often said he’s going to have a big wedding ceremony in the spring of next year.”

Even if the couple is actually married as the friend claims, Iehiro Tokunaga’s worries don’t stop there.

“Only a few very close friends and relatives actually know about the marriage. And they haven’t reported it to anyone in the Tokugawa clan. He’s gonna face huge problems if their marriage goes public,” the friend says.

Meanwhile, Iehiro remains dignified about the situation.

“I’m going to do exactly what I have been doing until now,” the future head of the once xenophobic Tokugawa clan tells Shukan Shincho. “I’ll keep trying again and again. I believe in the end they will approve my marriage.”


(The Mainichi Waiwai column ran online from April 19, 2001 – June 21, 2008. It was a much loved form of entertainment amongst foreigner in and outside of Japan. To any reader it was obviously not serious news, but it was a set of articles that portrayed quite well how the Japanese tabloids actually write about their own country. In 2008, a small number of Japanese people bought it to the attention of rival news groups that Mainichi was running an anti-Japan column on its website. With the bad publicity, Mainichi was forced to shut the page down, and take punitive measures against the journalists that were working on it, claiming that it was receiving opinions that were critical of the column, such as “its contents are too vulgar” and “the stories could cause Japanese people to be misunderstood abroad”. A perfect example of how Japanese consider what they write in their own script to be an acceptable secret code, that the rest of the world cant understand. When that same tabloid rubbish gets inconveniently translated to English to make light of some aspects of the Japanese people, it gets canned. Stippy.com finds this unacceptable, and will reproduce as much of the Waiwai content as possible in order to bring it once again to our computer screens for a good laugh. Of course we claim no credit for this content, and attribute it to it’s writers who were former Mainichi employees. Waiwai in its true and glorious form has been discontinued, but it’s legacy will live on at stippy.com for all to enjoy.)

8 thoughts on “WaiWai: Tokugawa clan looks to slam the gate on future chief’s marriage to foreigner”

  1. I strongly feel that he is selfish for choosing a foreign woman to marry.
    Because he is a decendent of an ultimate Japanese symbol, “Tokugawa” family, he has a responsibility to marry a Japanese women as means to honor his and Japan’s ancestors who sacrificed their life to a nation called “Japan”. If I were to be born into a Tokugawa family, I would be so proud and would be committed to the family name.

    I will not care or less who the marriage partner is in most cases, even if he is a decendent of Toyota or Sony family.

    But, it is not a overstatement to say, “Tokugawa” established the foundation of modern Japan (for better and worse).

    If she is going to marry him officially, I hope she is intelligent and virtuous enough to devote herself to study Japanese culture and history.

    Only then, she will be changing Japanese legacy toward a positive course (not turning into a cheap tabloid subject, and contribute greatly to Japan-Vietnam relationship.

  2. to the above commenter that is pretty close minded…you can’t help who you fall in love with. They tried to get others to accept their marriage but in the end they will get married anyway.

  3. @japanese in USA

    This is a twenty-first century. Get with the program dawg!
    Bloodline is overrated. “What have you done for me lately?” hello!?

    And since you live in the USA or so you say, I reckon you’ve learned and known these lines:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Learn it, live it!

    got girlfriend?

  4. Ieyasu himself was never xenophobic. He made William Adams a hatamoto and propogated trade with the Europeans. Adams drove Ieyasu towards a cautious approach towards the Catholic kingdoms. The Brits left Japan because the East India Company manager pocketed profits and London saw no need to stay in Japan. Iehiro keeps an international mind like the father Ieyasu did actually. It was the later corrupt descendants that were close-minded. Good on you, Iehiro 🙂 And all the best with your wife.

    TM Perrin
    Maritime Archaeologist/Historian
    ARIUA (アジア水中考古学研究所)

  5. Asian in USA, you’re citing a writing created by those, who literally killed off the locals and stole their land. All while claiming “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator”. You’re not equal if you don’t believe in their “creator” or you have a morale. Read Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. It’s all about USA.

  6. Wtf, The Yamoto people took over Japan in the same way. Your argument is not only hypocritical, but meaningless.

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