He Wasn’t the Shogun

In response to:

Japan: Beautiful, Savage, Mute from the February 9, 2017 issue

To the Editors:

It is surprising that Ian Buruma, who has contributed so much to our appreciation of Japan, makes the error of calling Toyotomi Hideyoshi the shogun [“Japan: Beautiful, Savage, Mute,” NYR, February 9]. As much as he desired that title, his lack of Minamoto ancestry was against him, despite his powerful position. He was awarded the title of kampaku (imperial regent) by the imperial court and, when he passed that title on to his heir, he took the title of taiko (retired regent). It was not until 1603, some years after Hideyoshi’s death, that Tokugawa Ieyasu was granted the title of shogun (the short form of the title meaning something like “barbarian-suppressing generalissimo”).

Gerald E. Kadish
Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of History
Binghamton University
Binghamton, New York

Ian Buruma replies:

Professor Kadish is of course absolutely right, and I thank him for correcting this careless mistake.