The Toda Family Cemetery, Where Only a Few Survive

History / Sightseeing
Wed, Sep 22, 2021

In our last post we visited Tsukimi-Izumi Shrine, a slice of Matsumoto history dating back over 1,100 years. Impressive for its age, it remains one of those in-between places, seldom seen by the eyes of the castle-bound visitor.

Today we are going to continue up the street and around the corner to another hidden piece of Matsumoto’s past: the Uzumi-bashi Byoen and the grave of Yasunaga Toda, 5th Lord of Matsumoto Castle.

A Two-Timing Castle-Ruling Family

The Toda clan occupied Matsumoto Castle from 1617 to 1633 and again from 1726 until the end of Japan’s feudal era. The first Toda lord, Yasunaga, was born in the legendary Mikawa Province in present-day Aichi. He landed his first gig as a ruler when he took over the Atsumi Peninsula region in place of his recently-deceased uncle. At the time he was still in elementary school – or would have been if there were elementary schools.

From there he married a girl names Matsuhime, who happened to be the half-sister of Tokugawa Ieyasu, first of the Tokugawa shoguns, and went on to play a role in attacking several castles during the 1580s and 1590s. He fought for the Tokugawa side in the Battle of Sekigahara and spent the next 17 years bouncing around from province to province, living in castles and dabbling in more fighting. In 1617 he was made Lord of Matsumoto Castle, where he would live out his days.

Yasunaga’s son Yasunao would serve as lord of the Matsumoto Domain for a year before the reins were handed over to the Matsudaira clan (for five years), then the Hotta clan (four years), then the Mizuno clan, who managed to stick around for over eighty years. In 1726 the Toda clan moved back in, not to leave until 1871, three years after the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and Japan’s feudal era.

The Graves

Considering their place in Matsumoto’s history, the Toda family cemetery might seem rather unremarkable. It is tucked away among the houses and homes of a non-descript part of town, easily missed by at least one person who had whizzed by on his bicycle hundreds of times before finally noticing the stone towers among the trees.

The cemetery, sometimes referred to as Uzumi-bashi Byoen (埋橋廟園) is surrounded by stone walls and is divided into outer and inner sections. To the south side of the inner (eastern) area sits a mound topped with a five-tiered stone tower. This is called a “Tambazuka”, and is the tomb of Yasunaga Toda. To the north of this are the graves of Mitsuyuki, 6th in the second wave of Toda lords, and Mitsutsura, the 7th. Combined, Mitsuyuki and Mitsutsura ruled Matsumoto for fifty-one years. Two additional stone towers memorialize Mitsumune, brother of Mitsutsune, 8th Lord of the second Toda reign, and the Hachisuka clan, a family of prominent historical significance with a connection to Matsumoto that is somewhat of a mystery to anyone without a post-doc in Japanese studies with a focus on stone monuments in quiet neighborhoods.

In the course of their two stints as the rulers of Matsumoto, eleven different Todas served as the area grand poobah. Only three, however, have been laid to rest here. The others are spending eternity at Chishoin Temple in Gifu.

Also visible as you tramp around are monuments to several others of the wider circles of Toda nobility. I could spend hours doing the research and explaining who all of them are, but, from my experience as a tour guide, I am sure – no disrespect to you, esteemed reader – that all would be forgotten by lunchtime.


The City Takes Over

In 1955 the Toda family cemetery and all its inhabitant stones were donated to Matsumoto City by Yasuhide Toda. (Yes, that Toda.) While the people the quiet neighborhood where this slice of history sits won’t mind if you stop by, be warned that the gates are normally locked, leaving us all with just an outsider’s view of the remnants of Matsumoto’s longest-ruling clan.

As consolation, there’s a playground.

Happy Grave Sights!