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“The Edo Inheritance” by Tokugawa Tsunenari

A few days before our trip to Nikko I picked up The Edo Inheritance with the hopes of gaining a greater appreciation for, and understanding of, the Edo Period (since the Tokugawa Shogunate and Nikko go hand in hand). The author is Tokugawa Tsunenari (徳川恆孝), who would be the current Shogun had the Edo Period never ended. Needless to say, he is a bit biased.

The Edo Inheritance is not a scholarly work or work of history in the academic sense. I suppose you could call it a personal reflection or interpretation with some history thrown in. The author doesn’t even try to sound objective or well researched. That’s not to say that he is always wrong; instead, I’m just saying The Edo Inheritance could have been much better with a good editor.

Tokugawa frequently tosses single anecdotes out there and draws wide-sweeping conclusions from them. The stories do make for entertaining reading, but don’t expect this work to be extensively relied upon in academic circles.

In a nutshell, Tokugawa believes the Edo Period has taken too many knocks from historians and the Japanese themselves. Perhaps he is correct.

If you are looking for a well-researched, introductory history of Japan look elsewhere. If the Edo Period fascinates you (like it does me) and you are already familiar with the basics then this may be a worthwhile, quick read. The book features more than 30 full pages of pictures of Edo drawn during the Edo Period.

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