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Ii Naomasa (井伊 直政, born March 4, 1561, died March 24, 1602) was a general of the daimyo and later shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Sengoku Jidai period. He was one of the four guardians of the Tokugawa (shitennō) with Sakakibara Yasumasa, Honda Tadakatsu and Sakai Tadatsugu. He was married to Toumei-in, the daughter of Matsudaira Yasuchika and the adopted daughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Ii Naomasa was born in 1560 in Hoda, a village in Tōtōmi province. Like the Tokugawa, his family was initially vassal to the Imagawa clan. But after the death of his daimyo Yoshimoto Imagawa in 1560 at the battle of Okehazama, the situation degenerated:
Yoshimoto's successor, Ujizane Imagawa falsely accused Ii Naochika, Naomasa's father of treason. Naochika was killed. Naomasa was a very young child at that time, and was lucky to get out alive thanks to the Tokugawa who took care of him.
Naomasa entered the Tokugawa ranks in the mid-1570s, and quickly rose through the ranks, eventually gaining the important title of Hyōbu-dayu in Ōmi province following the Battle of Sekigahara.
In 1584, at the battle of Nagakute, Naomasa was at the head of 3,000 harquebusiers, which he used to great effect, drawing the attention of the shogun to him.
His hour of glory came in 1600, at the battle of Sekigahara, where his unit surpassed that of the other generals and drew the "first blood" of this battle. However, as the fighting subsided, he was wounded by a stray bullet while trying to stop the escape of Shimazu Yoshihiro.
This wound will never heal completely and will prevent him from taking part in the following months' fights. His troops are easily noticeable on the battlefield because of the blood red color of their armors for a psychological impact on the enemy.
He copied this tactic on Masakage Yamagata, a general of Takeda Shingen. His unit became famous under the name of "Red Devils". It is also said, but never confirmed, that Naomasa used to put on a monkey mask when going into battle.
The premature death of Ii Naomasa in 1602 is often attributed to the wound he received at Sekigahara. He was very popular with shogun Ieyasu, so it is not surprising that his sons Naotsugu and Naotaka replaced him.
The Ii remained very influential throughout the Edo period, despite the fact that Naotsugu incurred the wrath of the shogun by refusing to participate in a campaign to take Toyotomi's stronghold in Osaka.
Naomasa is often characterized as the opposite of Honda Tadakatsu, another great general of the Tokugawa shogun. Indeed, they are both fierce warriors, but Honda survived many battles without suffering injuries, while Naomasa is often described as suffering terrible injuries.
The whole armor of Ii Naomasa is kept in Hikone castle and is accessible to visitors.