Ienari Tokugawa was born on 18 November 1773 in Edo. He was the eldest son of Hitotsu- bashi Haruzumi, being born in the latter’s Edo residence. His mother was the daughter of Iwamoto Masatoshi. In his childhood he was known by the name loyochiyo. In 1781 he became the adopted son of the tenth shogun, Tokugawa Ieharu, residing in the Nishinomaru section of Edo Castle, and when Ieharu died in 1787, he succeeded him as shogun.