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Tokugawa Ieyasu


Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川 家康 January 31, 1543-June 1, 1616) was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, who ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu ruled from 1600 (officially 1603) until his resignation in 1605, although he remained in power until his death in 1616.

Tokugawa Ieyasu Biography

Tokugawa Ieyasu Childhood (1543-1556)

Tokugawa Ieyasu was born on January 31, 1543 in Mikawa Province.1 His original name was Matsudaira Takechiyo. He was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada (1526-1549), a daimyō of Mikawa who spent most of his time at war against the Oda clan and the Imagawa clan.

The Matsudaira family was divided into two factions: one side wanted to be a vassal of the Imagawa clan, while the other, preferred the Oda clan. This family feud was the reason for the assassination of Hirotada's father (Takechiyo's grandfather), Matsudaira Kiyoyasu (¿?-1536).

Unlike his father and most of his family, Hirotada found the Imagawa clan to be the lesser of two evils. Hirotada's loyalty to the Imagawa caused the rest of his family to support the Oda clan more strongly than before. In 1548, when the Oda clan invaded Mikawa, Hirotada went to Imagawa Yoshimoto, head of the Imagawa clan, for help in fighting the invaders.

Yoshimoto agreed to help on the condition that Hirotada send his son Takechiyo to Sumpu as a hostage in exile. Hirotada agreed, despite pressure from members of the Matsudaira family. Takechiyo and a group of servants were sent to Sunpu as hostages.

Oda Nobuhide, the leader of the Oda, learned of Hirotada and Imagawa's arrangement and attacked the caravan in which Takechiyo was traveling. He was captured and taken to Kowatari Castle in Owari.

Nobuhide threatened to assassinate Takechiyo unless Hirotada broke all ties he had with the Imagawa clan. Hirotada said that sacrificing his own son would show the seriousness of the pact with the Imagawa clan.

Takechiyo, however, suffered no harm. In 1549, Hirotada died of natural causes; shortly thereafter, Nobuhide also died. The deaths did great damage to an already weakened Oda clan and left the Matsudaira family leaderless.

With Imagawa in a strong position, Yoshimoto sent an army under his father's younger brother, Imagawa Sessai, to attack an Oda castle where Oda Nobuhiro, Nobuhide's eldest son and new head of the Oda, lived.

Sessai took the castle and captured Nobuhiro as a hostage. Negotiating with Nobuhide's second son, Oda Nobunaga, he offered to return the castle to the Oda and spare Nobuhiro's life in exchange for allowing Takechiyo to return to the Imagawa.

Nobunaga accepted, Nobuhiro and the castle were returned to the Oda. Sessai returned to Sunpu with Takechiyo. Takechiyo grew up in Sunpu, but his relatives in Mikawa were fearful about the future of the Matsudaira now that the Oda clan was weakened and the Matsudaira were vassals of the Imagawa.

Tokugawa Ieyasu The rise to power (1556-1584)

In 1556, when he was 13 years old, Takechiyo changed his name to Matsudaira Motoyasu. In exchange for his return to Mikawa, the Imagawa ordered him to fight against the Oda clan in a series of battles. Motoyasu won his first battle at Terabe, achieving great renown.

By then, Oda Nobuhiro had died, and the leadership of the Oda clan had passed to Oda Nobunaga. After these battles, the Matsudaira and Mikawa soldiers began to demand greater autonomy from the Imagawa. In 1560, Yoshimoto gathered 20 000 men (many of them from Mikawa), with whom he marched to Kyoto: he was the first daimyō to do this since 1538.

Motoyasu was sent from Mikawa with his men to attack the Marune fort. Upon capturing the fort, Motoyasu and his men stayed behind to defend it. By this, Motoyasu and his men, avoided the bloody battle of Okehazama, which took place near Nagoya, where the Imagawa clan was defeated by Oda's army, and Imagawa Yoshimoto killed.

Motoyasu retreated with his men to Mikawa, and finally, with the death of Yoshimoto, decided to free himself from the influence of the Imagawa.

Motoyasu decided to ally himself with the Oda, making a secret deal with Oda Nobunaga. This secrecy was necessary because many members of the Matsudaira family (including Motoyasu's wife and son, Hideyasu) were still being held hostage in Sunpu by the new Imagawa leader, Imagawa Ujizane, son of Yoshimoto.

In 1561, Motoyasu and his men marched on and captured the Imagawa fort Kaminojo, which indicated to Nobunaga that Motoyasu was no longer loyal to the Imagawa. Motoyasu killed the castle commander, Udono Nagamochi, and took his wife and two sons hostage.

Ujizane, realizing that the Udono were more important than the Matsudaira, released the Matsudaira family in exchange for Udono's wife and children.

Now, having freedom of action with the return of his family, Motoyasu began to reform the Matsudaira clan after years of decline, and pacify Mikawa.

He also consolidated and made his vassals more powerful by gifting them land and distributing Mikawa castles to the most important ones (including Honda Tadakatsu, Ishikawa Kazumasa, Koriki Kiyonaga, Sakai Tadatsugu, and Sakikabara Yasumasa) in 1566.

In 1564, Motoyasu defeated the Mikawa Monto, an anti-Matsudaira military group, nearly losing his life in the process when he was hit by a bullet that failed to penetrate his armor.

In 1565, he attacked the Imagawa defenses at Totomi. In 1567, he asked Emperor Ogimachi to change his surname to Tokugawa, taking the name Tokugawa Ieyasu. After this, he began to demand descent from the Minamoto clan through the Nitta clan, and in the end, he demanded descent from the Imperial Family.

At the same time, he designed a family tree that took descent from the Fujiwara clan. Modern historians use this as proof that Ieyasu's claims of imperial heritage were fabricated to legitimize himself.

Even if the Tokugawa family was symbolically independent, they still could not survive without the Oda clan, and without Nobunaga himself. When Nobunaga took Kyoto in 1568 and became the de facto ruler of Japan, many of the victorious troops belonged to Tokugawa.

At the same time, Ieayasu was eager to begin expanding his own territories. He and Takeda Shingen, who was at the head of the Takeda clan in Kai, agreed on a pact whereby they would both take over the rest of the Imagawa territory. In 1570 Ieayasu's troops finally took Totomi, and then Shingen occupied Suruga and Sumpu, the Imagawa capital.

However, by this time, the alliance between the Takeda and Tokugawa was on the decline, even Ieayasu joined with his enemy Imagawa Ujizane promising to return Totomi and Suruga to him.

At the same time, Ieyasu made another pact, this time with Uesugi Kenshin, the head of the Uesugi clan and archenemy of the Takeda clan. Having secured the support of the Uesugi, Ieyasu moved his capital from Okazaki in Mikawa to Hamamatsu in Totomi.

With the Imagawa lands completely absorbed by Tokugawa influence, members of the Imagawa clan became vassals of the Tokugawa, with the Uesugi as their strongest allies. The Tokugawa and Takeda were ready for war. Ieayasu still had Nobunaga's support, but Nobunaga thought that some things Ieayasu was getting into were not entirely safe.

In 1570, Ieyasu led 5000 of his men to help Nobunaga in the battle of Anegawa against the Azai and Asakura, this cemented the Tokugawa-Oda alliance. However, Ieyasu was not able to help Nobunaga again for two years, the war with the Takeda began in 1571.

In 1572, the Takeda took the Futamata castle belonging to Ieyasu, and Shingen defeated Ieyasu at the battle of Mikatagahara, where Ieyasu almost lost his life leading his troops. Takeda Shingen died in 1573, and was succeeded by his son Takeda Katsuyori, who captured Taketenjin Castle in 1574.

However, despite the capture of this important port by Tokugawa, the Takeda's dominance was nearing its end. In 1575, Katsuyori attacked Nagashino castle in Mikawa, and Ieyasu asked Nobunaga for help. When Nobunaga showed some apprehension in attacking Takeda, Ieyasu threatened to make peace with the Takeda and attack the Oda clan in Owari and Mino.

Nobunaga changed his mind and sent his army toward Mikawa. The Oda-Tokugawa forces of 38,000 men devastated the Takeda on June 28, 1575, although for the next few years, Takeda Katsuyori continued to attack Oda and Tokugawa territories.

In 1579, Ieyasu's wife and eldest son, Tokugawa Hideyasu, were accused of conspiring with Takeda Katsuyori to assassinate Nobunaga. Ieyasu's wife was beheaded, and Hideyasu was forced to commit seppuku. Ieyasu then named his third (and favorite) son Tokugawa Hidetada as heir, as his second son was adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a great samurai.

In 1582, another combined attack between the Oda and Tokugawa destroyed the Takeda. Takeda Katsuyori, as well as his eldest son and heir, Takeda Nobukatsu, committed seppuku. Now that the Takeda were no longer on the map, Ieyasu was able to help Nobunaga with his campaign to reunify Japan.

For his help, Ieyasu received control of Suruga province (including Sumpu) and the areas bounded by the Hōjō clan. The Tokugawa and the Hōjō were allied, as Ieyasu was on good terms with Hōjō Ujinori, younger brother of the head of the Hōjō, Hōjō Ujimasa.

In 1582, Ieyasu was staying in Sakai in Settsu Province when he received news that Oda Nobunaga had been killed by Akechi Mitsuhide, head of the Akechi clan. Ieyasu headed for Mikawa, fearful that he might be killed as well. Ieyasu did not wish to attack the Akechi clan, but the Tokugawa took advantage of the situation by seizing Kai and Shinano.

After a decisive victory at the battle of Yamazaki. Hōjō Ujimasa, feeling threatened, sent troops toward Kai. However, there were no battles, the Hōjō and Tokugawa would soon make peace. To be on good terms, Ieayasu gave the Hojo lands in Kai and Shinano to the Hojo.

Ieayasu began to modify his administration, based on the Takeda model, by integrating the Takeda army into the Tokugawa. In 1583, the main candidates to take command of Japan were Toyotomi Hideyoshi (adoptive father of Ieayasu's second son) and Shibata Katsuie.

Ieyasu stood aside in this conflict, and Hideyoshi defeated Katsuie at the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583. After Shibata Katsuie committed seppuku, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Toyotomi clan became the rulers of Japan.

Ieyasu and Hideyoshi (1584-1598)

Tokugawa Ieyasu

In 1584, Ieyasu decided to support Oda Nobukatsu, the eldest son and heir of Oda Nobunaga, against Hideyoshi.

The Tokugawa troops took the traditional Oda castle, Owari Castle, so Hideyoshi led part of his troops there. The Komaki Campaign was the only episode in which the great unifiers of Japan fought against each other.

During this battle, Ieyasu won the victory during the Nagakute Campaign. After months of fruitless marches and haggling, the war ended through various negotiations; he first made peace with Oda Nobuo and then offered Ieyasu a truce. The pact was concluded later that year and one of the terms was that Ieyasu's second son, OGi Maru would become Hideyoshi's adopted son.

In 1590 Hideyoshi attacked the last independent daimyō of Japan, Hōjō Ujimasa. The Hōjō clan then ruled eight provinces in the Kantō region. Hideyoshi ordered him to surrender to their authority but the clan members refused.

Ieyasu joined Hideyoshi's troops with his 30,000 men, which attacked several castles located on the borders of the clan's domains, the most notable being the siege of Odawara Castle, which fell after six months.

Hideyoshi offered him the domains they had just taken from the Hōjō in exchange for the 5 provinces he had controlled so far in the Kantō region and he accepted. Eventually the top leaders of the Hōjō clan committed seppuku and Ieyasu took control of the region.

After moving his entire army and vassals to his new domain, Ieyasu settled in Edo Castle. After a few years, Ieyasu became the second most powerful daimyō in the entire country.

In 1592, Hideyoshi invaded Korea as a prelude in his plan to attack China, but Tokugawa troops refrained from participating in the invasion. In early 1593, Ieyasu was appointed by Hideyoshi as military advisor to his court in Nagoya, where he spent five years in the post.

In 1598, Hideyoshi called a meeting to establish the "Council of Five Regents," a body that would be responsible for ruling the country after his death until his son Hideyori was old enough. The five chosen were Maeda Toshiie, Mōri Terumoto, Ukita Hideie, Uesugi Kagekatsu and Tokugawa Ieyasu himself.

The Sekigahara Campaign

Hideyoshi, after three months of convalescence, finally died on September 18, 1598. Since Hideyori was only five years old, the "Council of Five Regents" took over the reins of the country. From that point on, Ieyasu set about establishing alliances with various daimyō.

In 1599, the oldest and most respected of the regents, Toshiie, died so Ieyasu led his army to Fushimi and took Osaka Castle, Hideyori's residence. This action infuriated the remaining three regents, so preparations for war were made on both sides.

Opposition to Ieyasu centered around Ishida Mitsunari, a powerful daimyō who enjoyed the support of the three regents and some daimyō in eastern Honshū, while Ieyasu allied himself with the Date, Mogami, Satake, and Maeda clans.

In June 1600, Ieyasu and his allies headed against the Uesugi clan, accused of wanting to cause a revolt against the Toyotomi administration, but before reaching their domain Ieyasu received information that the army led by Mitsunari was heading against them, so they moved toward Kyoto. In late summer of the same year, Mitsunari's forces captured Fushimi Castle.

While Ieyasu's main army marched for Tōkaidō, his son Hidetada marched with 38,000 soldiers for Nakasendō. A battle he held against Sanada Masayuki delayed him, so he was unable to catch up with his father in the decisive battle.

The Battle of Sekigahara began on October 21, 1600 with a total of 160,000 troops on both sides and ended with a definitive victory for the Tokugawa side. The "Army of the West" was completely crushed and within days the main leaders were captured and killed. From this moment on, Tokugawa Ieyasu became the de facto ruler of all Japan.

Immediately after the victory at Sekigahara, Ieyasu redistributed the land among his vassals who had supported him. Ieyasu did not retaliate against some western daimyō as in the case of the Shimazu clan, while others were completely destroyed.

Toyotomi Hideyori lost almost all his domains and was demoted to a common daimyō, no longer ruler of the country. Years later, the daimyō who had shown loyalty to him before Sekigahara were known as fudai daimyō, while those who did so afterwards were known as tozama daimyō.

Shōgun Ieyasu (1603-1605)

Tokugawa Ieyasu 

In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu received the official title of shōgun at the hands of Emperor Go-Yōzei at the age of 60. Ieyasu was able to surpass all the great men of his time-Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Takeda Shingen, Uesugi Kenshin.

Ieyasu used his remaining years to create and secure the Tokugawa shogunate (known as the Edo Period), which would last for more than 250 years, being the third existing shogunate after the Kamakura shogunate and the Ashikaga shogunate.

After establishing the foundations of his rule, Ieyasu abdicated his official position as shōgun in 1605, appointing as his successor his son Tokugawa Hidetada, although in reality he himself continued to assume the center of power.

Ōgosho Ieyasu (1605-1616)

Even with the title of Ōgosho (大御所 shōgun cloistered?), Ieyasu continued to hold political power in the country. He ordered the relocation of the country's capital from Kyoto to Edo, while overseeing the reconstruction of Edo Castle.

This would eventually become the largest castle in all of Japan, construction in which daimyō from all over the country were forced to participate. Ieyasu also oversaw diplomatic relations with Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, although from 1609 he preferred to keep his distance from these countries.

The Netherlands would later be granted a limited trading permit in 1611 in the city of Hirado. From 1605 until his death he received the advice of the English pilot in the service of the Dutch, William Adams, who acted as advisor in the relations with Spain and the Catholic Church.

In 1611 he led a delegation to Kyoto of 50,000 people to witness the coronation of Emperor Go-Mizunō, and ordered the remodeling of the Imperial Court, and forced the daimyō of the western bloc to sign an oath of allegiance to him.

In 1613, he promulgated the Kuge Shohatto, where he put the daimyō under strict supervision, leaving them as ceremonial puppets. In 1614, he promulgated an edict for the Expulsion of Christians, banning religion completely in the country.

In 1615, he prepared the Buke Shohatto, a document that would establish the future of the Tokugawa regime.

Siege of Osaka

The last existing threat to his rule was Hideyori, Hideyoshi's legitimate heir, who was now a young daimyō occupying Osaka Castle. Many samurai who opposed Ieyasu rallied around Hideyori claiming that he was the legitimate ruler of the country.

Ieyasu ordered him to leave the castle, so he began to recruit supporters. The Tokugawa, under the leadership of Ōgosho Ieyasu and shōgun Hidetada (Ieyasu's son) led a large army to the castle in what became known as "The Winter Siege of Osaka".

Eventually, Tokugawa made a deal with Hideyori's mother Yodogimi, and Tokugawa's troops began to fill the moat with sand, so Ieyasu returned to Sunpu. After Hideyori again refused to leave the castle, the fortress was subjected to a siege.

Finally, in late 1615 the castle fell under the control of the Tokugawa army and the defenders were killed, including Hideyori, his mother Yodogimi and Hideyori's son. Hideyori's wife Senhime (Ieyasu's granddaughter) was returned to safety with her family. With the Toyotomi eliminated, there was no longer any threat to Tokugawa rule of Japan.

Death of Ieyasu

Ieyasu died on June 1, 1616,2 at the age of 73. The first Tokugawa shōgun was posthumously deified as Gongen or Gongen-sama. The name gongen is derived from the divine title Tōshō Dai-Gongen (東照大権現), meaning a Buddha who appeared in the form of a Kami.

During his lifetime, Ieyasu expressed his wish to be deified after his death in order to "protect his descendants from evil". In the Gongen Mausoleum at Nikkō Temple, his remains and his will are preserved.

Tokugawa Ieyasu in Popular culture

In the real-time strategy video game Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties developed by Ensemble Studios and distributed by Microsoft in 2007, Tokugawa Ieyasu is the leader of the Japanese, not a very generous ally, nor is he a sympathetic enemy.

We also have him in the games based on the Sengoku era, Sengoku basara (Capcom) & Koei's Samurai Warriors - In the anime series Saber Marionette Ieyasu Tokugawa is the name of one of the six men who are stranded on the fictional planet Terra II after the explosion of the Mesopotamia ship seeking new settlements for humans due to the overpopulation of Earth.

He is the ruler of the country of Japanes for 300 years thanks to cloning himself.

In the anime Sengoku Chōjū Giga Ieyasu Tokugawa is satirized with a zoomorphic appearance. Tokugawa Ieyasu appears in the comedy series Nobunaga no Shinobi.