Tokugawa Ieyasu

Annie Lee | Jan 31, 2024

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Tokugawa Ieyasu (Jap 徳川 家康, January 31, 1543 - June 1, 1616) was a prince of Minamoto, diplomat and military leader, founder of the Tokugawa shogun dynasty. He was the closest associate and follower of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who completed the creation of a centralized feudal state in Japan.

Tokugawa Ieyasu is also known by the names:

Born in 1543, Tokugawa Ieyasu was descended from the small samurai family of Matsudaira, who owned some land in the Mikawa province (present-day Aichi Prefecture). He spent his childhood as a political hostage of neighboring rulers, who used the weak Matsudaira in their political games. After the Battle of Okehazama (1560), Ieyasu rebelled against his suzerain, the Imagawa family, and formed an alliance with his enemy, Oda Nobunaga (1562).

In the 1560s - 1580s, Tokugawa managed to expand his possessions to the east in the province of Suruga (present-day Shizuoka prefecture) and create a powerful military and economic base for the implementation of the plan to unite Japan. After the death of Nobunaga Oda in (1582), Ieyasu entered into a struggle for his succession, but lost it to Toyotomi Hideyoshi and recognized himself as the vassal of the latter (1586). Tokugawa's ancestral lands were confiscated and replaced by new possessions in the Kanto region, centered in Edo Castle (present-day Tokyo).

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi's death, Ieyasu took advantage of internal strife within his family. He led a radical military group of Toyotomi's vassals, and at the Battle of Sekigahara (1600) he destroyed the "think tank" of the hostile family - the administrators and civil officials led by Ishida Mitsunari. In the two Osaka campaigns (1614, 1615) the Tokugawa succeeded in finally eliminating the Toyotomi and unifying the country.

In 1603, Ieyasu received the title of shogun and established a third samurai government, the shogunate in the city of Edo, which lasted in Japan until 1868. After giving the Japanese long-awaited peace and stability, Tokugawa died in 1616 at the age of 73.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was born on January 31, 1543 (11th year of the Tembun era) at four in the morning at Okazaki Castle. His father, Matsudaira Hirotada, was the eighth head of the Matsudaira family and the daimyo of Mikawa Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture).

The lands of this clan were sandwiched between the domains of aggressive neighbors who were constantly at war with each other, so the Matsudaira clan was in constant dispute over the choice of an ally. Some of the vassals sought to be with their western neighbor, Oda Nobuhide, while others advocated joining Imagawa Yoshimoto in the east. At one time the grandfather of the young Ieyasu, Matsudaira Kiyoyasu (1511-1536), was a victim of these quarrels and was stabbed by his own vassals for trying to get close to the Oda family. His successor, the father of the newborn, was more cautious and followed the will of the majority, which sympathized with Imagawa. Ieyasu's mother came from a family that traditionally supported its Western neighbors, so when, in 1545, most of Matsudaira's vassals expressed support for the Eastern rulers, she was expelled from the residence.

In 1548 Oda's army attacked the Matsudaira clan, and the latter asked Imagawa Yoshimoto for military aid. The latter agreed on the condition that the minor Ieyasu be given as a hostage in his citadel. Such an action would have meant the petitioner clan's recognition of Imagawa's protectorate. There was no way out, and the Matsudaira agreed. However, Oda Nobuhide learned of the enemy's intentions and kidnapped six-year-old Ieyasu with the help of his agents. Oda planned to quarrel with Matsudaira and Imagawa. However, the young hostage's father decided to sacrifice his son for his own safety. Nobuhide's plan failed. But he decided to use Ieyasu later, so he did not execute the hostage, but imprisoned him in Manshoji Monastery in Nagoya, where he kept him for three years. During this time, the future shogun befriended his captor's son, Oda Nobunaga.

In 1549 Matsudaira Hirotada, Ieyasu's father, died. He was stabbed to death by his own guard. The Matsudaira were left without a leader. Their protector, Imagawa Yoshimoto, sent his general, who had been appointed their castellan, to their residence. He promised to wrest Ieyasu from Oda and install him as the new head of the clan. Such an opportunity presented itself three years later, when Oda Nobuhide died of an ulcer and his clan was plagued by internal strife. Imagawa troops stormed the enemy's border castle, where they captured the late Nobuhide's son, Oda Nobuhiro, alive. The enemies agreed to exchange the latter for the nine-year-old Ieyasu. The vassals of the Matsudaira family were delighted to see their new master return, but Imagawa Yoshimoto deceived their expectations by taking Ieyasu to his citadel in Sumpu. In fact, he became a political hostage again.

During Ieyasu's stay in Sumpu, Imagawa planned to turn him into a loyal vassal by eliminating the formal autonomy of his holdings. In 1556 Imagawa Yoshimoto became his adoptive father, holding a coming-of-age ceremony for the young hostage. Ieyasu was named Matsudaira Jiro Motonobu. The following year, his de facto suzerain forced him to marry his niece and gave him the new name Motoyasu. Another year later, Imagawa commissioned Ieyasu with troops, with whom he successfully won his first battle, capturing Terabe Castle on the western border.

The future Shogun's years in Sumpu were not "a period of suffering and longing. Although he went there as a hostage, the Imagawa treated him as a member of the family. Ieyasu received the best education by then standards from the strategist O'hara Yusai, and became, through marriage, a relative of Imagawa Yoshimoto.

In 1560 (3 Eiroku Era), Imagawa Yoshimoto, moved with a huge army westward and invaded the lands of Oda Nobunaga. Ieyasu's units formed the aggressors' vanguard. He seized the enemy's castle of Odaka and a number of border forts, where he stationed his forces. Ieyasu awaited further orders from the commander-in-chief, but did not wait. He received an urgent message that his suzerain, Imagawa Yoshimoto, had been killed in a lightning attack by Oda's guardsmen at the Battle of Okehazama.

The death of the suzerain was the occasion for Ieyasu to declare independence. He was able to get his wife and son out of Sumpu safely and seize the family castle of Okazaki. In 1561, Ieyasu openly opposed the Imagawa by storming one of their forts. The next, in 1562 (5th year of the Eiroku era), he made an alliance with Oda Nobunaga, by which he promised to fight his enemies in the east. Another year later, in a sign of a complete break with the Imagawa clan, he changed his name to Matsudaira Ieyasu.

Ieyasu's first priority was to establish his own administration and restore the economy in the Mikawa province (present-day Aichi Prefecture). But he was hindered by the Buddhist communities, who did not want to recognize his authority. War with them lasted from 1564 to 1566, ending in a complete victory for Ieyasu. After uniting the lands of the province, he received from the imperial court the title of Mikawa no-kami (Defender of the Mikawa) and changed his family name to Tokugawa, a descendant of the ancient Minamoto family.

In 1568 (the 11th year of the Eiroku era), Ieyasu formed an alliance with his neighbor to the north, the Takeda family, against the Imagawa family. In the same year he took part in Oda Nobunaga's march on Kyoto, helping Ashikaga Yoshiaki to assume the position of shogun.

In 1570 (the 1st year of the Genki) Tokugawa was able to capture most of the province of Totomi (present-day Shizuoka Prefecture), which belonged to the Imagawa family. The latter surrendered to the victor and disappeared from the Japanese political map. Tokugawa moved his residence to the new domains, building a castle at Hamamatsu. Despite internal problems, he personally went to the aid of Oda Nobunaga with two-thirds of the available troops and defeated the forces of Asakura and Azaei at the Battle of Anägawa.

War with the Takeda clan

By 1569 (the 11th year of the Eiroku era), Ieyasu was allied with the chairman of the Takeda clan, Takeda Shingen. They jointly divided the domains of the Imagawa clan. Totomi Province (the western part of modern Shizuoka Prefecture) went to Ieyasu, and Suruga Province (the eastern part of modern Shizuoka Prefecture) to Shingen. However, the Takeda clan nurtured plans to seize Kyoto. The existence of the Tokugawa clan prevented them from carrying out this plan, so it was decided to destroy it. In the same year, with the military support of neighbors to the east, the army of the Takeda clan invaded the domain of Ieyasu.

Ieyasu successfully repelled the enemy's first attacks. However, the situation on the front changed when Takeda Shingen personally led his troops in October 1572 (3rd year of the Genki era). Tokugawa asked Oda Nobunaga for help, but he himself was involved in hostilities against the Azaei, Asakura clans and Buddhist rebels, so he was unable to send reinforcements. Ieyasu had to confront the aggressor himself. The first battle of Ichigenzaka (October 13), in which the attacking forces were victorious, demonstrated Ieyasu's inability to withstand Shingen's well-coordinated military system, which was famous throughout Japan at the time.

This defeat showed the weakness of Ieyasu and signaled the local nobility to move to the side of Takeda's troops. In December, Futamata Fortress, one of the main castles of the province of Totomi, fell. Seeing Ieyasu's cramped situation, Oda Nobunaga sent a 3,000-strong contingent to him. However, this did not save the situation. The allied forces, which together numbered only 11,000, were opposed by the 25,000-strong, well-trained army of Takeda Shingen. The latter seized Ieyasu's forts and fortifications one by one, gradually isolating his residence.

Despite the protests of the Oda generals, Tokugawa decided to give the aggressor's troops one last fight. On January 25, 1573, he led his troops to the rear of the enemy and attacked him. The famous Battle of Mikatagahara began. Takeda's troops pretended to retreat, but struck at the approaching enemy army with all their might. The battle ended in crushing defeat for Ieyasu's forces. He barely escaped the encirclement, returning to his castle residence with the rest of his troops.

However, as the chronicles of the time point out, "heaven did not forsake Tokugawa. His main enemy, Takeda Shingen, after capturing Noda Castle in February 1573 (4th year of the Genki era), suddenly fell ill. For this reason, Takeda's troops left Ieyasu's domain and returned home. On the way, their gravely ill commander-in-chief passed away. To make sure that Takeda was dead, in May of that year, Ieyasu stormed a number of forts and castles that the enemy had seized in his domain. Given that the enemy forces responded in no way to Tokugawa's outbursts, most of the local rulers, who had defected to Takeda's side only yesterday, hastily acknowledged their dependence on Ieyasu.

However, in May 1574 (2nd year of the Tensho era), the new leader of the Takeda family, Takeda Katsuyori, decided to implement his late father's plans to take over the capital of Kyoto. He invaded with a 15,000-strong army into the Tokugawa domain and managed to seize the high-altitude castle of Takatenjinjo. A year later, the combined 30,000-strong forces of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu opposed him. On June 29, 1575 (the 3rd year of the Tensho era), the allied forces routed the army of the Takeda family at the Battle of Nagashino. The enemy lost many outstanding commanders and much manpower. Ieyasu regained control of his lost possessions. It was only a matter of time before the Takeda family was destroyed.

In 1579 (the 7th year of the Tensho era), by order of Oda Nobunaga, Ieyasu had his wife and eldest son executed on suspicion of plotting against him and making a secret pact with the Takeda family. In March 1581 he regained Takatanjinjo Castle.

In February 1582, a full-scale campaign by Oda and Tokugawa's troops against the Takeda clan began. Ieyasu was responsible for the conquest of the province of Suruga. The enemy, whose finances had been undermined by frequent campaigns and whose best generals had been killed at the Battle of Nagashino, could not withstand the advancing allies. Many nobles defected to the side of leyasu without a fight. A month after the campaign began, Takeda Katsuyori and his wives and children committed seppuku, ending the existence of the Takeda family. For his exploits, Ieyasu received the province of Suruga from Oda.

In May 1582 (10th year of the Tensho era), Ieyasu visited Nobunaga Oda's residence, the luxurious Azuchi Castle. However, the very next month, while Tokugawa was visiting the port city of Sakai, one of the largest Japanese trading centers of the time, he learned of Nobunaga's death at the Kyoto Honno-ji Temple at the hands of vassal Akichi Mitsuhide. The latter immediately began hunting for Ieyasu because he was an ally of Oda and could raise troops against the rebels. This was a good opportunity for Akichi, as Ieyasu was very far from his domain. Tokugawa's escape from danger was helped by ninja troops from Iga (now Mie Prefecture), who led him through secret mountain passages to his domain in Mikawa (now Aichi Prefecture). Upon his return, Ieyasu planned to raise an army to defeat Akechi Mitsuhide and become the de facto heir of Oda Nobunaga. However, he was overtaken by Hashiba Hideyoshi, who swiftly withdrew the Oda family's expeditionary forces from the Chugoku region and defeated the rebels at the Battle of Yamazaki.

Meanwhile, with Nobunaga's death in 1582, an uprising of the local nobility began in the Takeda family possessions he conquered. The Oda administration, which had no respect for local customs, was overpowered. The provinces of Kai (present-day Yamanashi Prefecture), Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture), and Kozuke (present-day Gumma Prefecture) were left with a power vacuum.

Unlike Oda's vassals, Ieyasu was mindful of the traditions of the subjugated. He especially respected the late Takeda Shingen, even though he was his worst enemy. Because of this, Ieyasu brought many generals and servants of the destroyed Takeda clan to his side and obtained an excuse to "lawfully return the lands of Takeda" to the fold of his domain. He immediately sent an army to carry out the plan.

However, Ieyasu's appetites were shared by his neighbors, the clans of Uesugi and Go-Hojo. They also sent troops to conquer the three provinces. But Ieyasu prevailed in a conflict that lasted several months. He seized most of the lands of the Takeda clan and became the owner of five provinces (Kai, Shinano, Suruga, Totomi and Mikawa).

Having secured new possessions and a huge contingent of recruits, Tokugawa began to prepare for war with Hashiba Hideyoshi.


In 1583 (year 11 of the Tensho era), Hashiba Hideyoshi defeated the opposition forces of Shibata Katsuie and became the de facto heir of Oda Nobunaga. However, the remnants of the Oda clan, led by Oda Nobuo, were unwilling to recognize the status quo. They made a treaty with Ieyasu on joint actions against the "usurper" Hideyoshi. In March 1584 (12th year of the Tensho era) Hashiba's army and the coalition forces of Tokugawa and Oda converged on Owari Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture). The army of the former numbered about 100,000 men, while the coalition samurai units did not exceed 50,000.

Ieyasu's numerical superiority made victory unlikely. However, the first battle of March 17, 1584 (the Battle of Haguro) demonstrated the superiority of Tokugawa's forces and revealed the weaknesses of his opponent's unwieldy army. Hashiba Hideyoshi was frightened by the military genius of Ieyasu and stopped the advance of his regiments, taking a waiting position. However, as early as April, Hideyoshi's patience snapped and he sent a twenty-thousand-strong detachment under the command of his nephew, Hashiba Hidezugu, against Tokugawa. But at the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute, Ieyasu was able to disarm the enemy army and force its commander to flee.

Seeing that Ieyasu could not be defeated by a frontal attack, Hashiba Hideyoshi decided to eliminate his coalition partner, Oda Nobuo. The latter was unable to withstand the enemy's large army. In November 1584 Oda signed peace with Hideyoshi, recognizing his vassal dependence on him. Since, with the fall of Oda Nobuo, leyasu lost his reason for war, he concluded a truce with the enemy. As a guarantee of peace, he sent Hideyoshi his grandson. Ieyasu, however, remained formally independent.

In 1585 (13th year of the Tensho era) Hashiba Hideyoshi subjugated the entire Kinki region and Shikoku Island. Having secured his rear, he became a great threat to the Tokugawa family. At this time, taking advantage of the conflict between Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, the northern Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture) rulers of the Sanada clan emerged from the latter's grasp. Tokugawa sent an army to pacify the rebels, but it was defeated. To strengthen his position, leyasu concluded an alliance with his eastern neighbor, the clan Go-Hojo. This time, however, a quarrel broke out between his vassals. Some insisted on fighting Hideyoshi, others on recognizing his suzerainty. Thus, Ieyasu found himself in a very difficult situation: his lands were disintegrating, and his subordinates began internal strife.

Meanwhile, Hashiba Hideyoshi continued with his plan to subjugate the Tokugawa family. To increase the influence of his "fifth column," in April 1586 (14 of the Tensho era) he married his sister, Asahi, to Ieyasu. Tokugawa accepted the new wife, but did not recognize her vassalage. Hideyoshi then sent his mother as a hostage to Ieyasu in October, asking him to recognize his suzerainty.

In the end, despite the danger from outside and the aggravation of internal struggles within his own clan, Tokugawa decided to recognize Hashiba's supremacy. On October 26, 1586, he arrived at his residence in Osaka. The next day, in an audience with Hideyoshi, Ieyasu formally asked to receive him "under the firm hand of the Hashiba family.

Under the rule of Toyotomi

In September 1587 (15th year of the Tensho era), Hideyoshi, who had been given the aristocratic name Toyotomi by the emperor the previous year, begged the court for the position of imperial advisor for leyasu and thanked him in this way for recognizing his suzerainty. The following year he discussed with Tokugawa a plan for a campaign against the Kanto region's ruler, the Go-Hojo clan.

In 1590 (the 18th year of the Tensho era) the troops of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and all daimyo under his control, including Ieyasu, numbering 200,000 samurai, surrounded the main citadel of Go-Hojo and took it in a few months of siege. On Hideyoshi's orders, the conquered lands were given to Tokugawa in exchange for his old ancestral possessions. Although the profits of the new lands were higher than the old ones, Ieyasu's power in them was tenuous - he remained an "outsider" to most of the local nobility. In addition, much of the land was vacant and communication was undeveloped. Despite these difficulties, Ieyasu and his vassals managed to boost the economy of the Kanto region in a short time, repair transport routes, build strong castles and open many ports of international trade. Within ten years, a strong socio-economic base was created, which in the future ensured the victory of Ieyasu in the struggle for the unification of Japan and became the new political center of Japan.

In 1592 (1 Bunroku Era) Toyotomi Hideyoshi began the war in Korea. Ieyasu was one of the candidates for the expeditionary army, but avoided the appointment, citing war with the "remnants of the samurai elders of the Go-Hojo family. Before Hideyoshi's death in September 1598, he joined the Board of Trustees of the Five Elders under his son Toyotomi Hideyori, pledging the support of the Toyotomi family after the death of his suzerain.

On September 18, 1598, Toyotomi Hideyoshi died. His five-year-old son Hideyori became the formal ruler of the country, replaced by a board of trustees of five elders and a council of five governors. Ieyasu was the most influential member of the council of elders, and was not slow to take advantage of the weakness of the Toyotomi family. Tokugawa made alliances with the daimyo, who had been set against Hideyoshi during his lifetime, and prepared for war.

As a vassal of the Toyotomi clan, Ieyasu spoke on its behalf, rounding up disgruntled samurai of the late suzerain. He was joined by the family's so-called "militarist group," whose members were ignorant of politics and government but lived off war. They were opposed by a "group of civilians" led by Ishida Mitsunari, a prominent administrator and chairman of the council of five governors. The conflict looked like a dispute between vassals of the Toyotomi family, but it was de facto a confrontation between Tokugawa Ieyasu, who sought to seize power, and Ishida Mitsunari, who sought to preserve power in the country for Toyotomi Hideyori.

Ieyasu's supporters formed the so-called "eastern coalition," while Ishida's defenders formed the "western coalition. The former were predominantly daimyo of eastern Japan, while the others were daimyo of western Japan.

In 1599 (the 4th year of the Keityo era) Maeda Toshiyo, the only member of the Board of Trustees who could confront Ieyasu openly, died. This untied Tokugawa's hands and he announced that he was going to punish the recalcitrant Toyotomi clan. In June 1600 (5th year of the Keiteo era), Ieyasu defeated the enemy Uesugi clan and moved on Kyoto.

On October 21, 1600, the armies of Tokugawa and Ishida met on the narrow field of Sekigahara. The forces of the "eastern coalition" numbered about 100,000 samurai, while the forces of the "western" consisted of only 80,000. The beginning of the Battle of Sekigahara was marked by the superiority of the "Westerners'" units. In particular, Japanese Christian units under the command of Konishi Yukinaga fought hard. The course of the battle, however, was changed in Ieyasu's favor by treachery. General Kobayakawa Hideaki, to whom Tokugawa had promised new lands and titles, flanked Ishida Mitsunari's headquarters and forced the "Western coalition" troops to flee the battlefield.

The battle ended in complete victory for Ieyasu. Ishida Mitsunari and his generals were captured and executed. The "Western Coalition" ceased to exist. Tokugawa Ieyasu became the de facto ruler of Japan.

After the victory, Ieyasu immediately redistributed the lands of the daimyo he had defeated. Tokugawa himself and his immediate servants received the largest portions. The second largest was Toyotomi's vassals, who joined his forces on the eve of the Battle of Sekigahara. The last in number of lands were the Toyotomi clan, whose vassals Ieyasu still had, the Mori clan, and the Shimazu clan. Kobayakawa Hideaki, who decided the fate of the battle, was not rewarded. Ieyasu did not want to encourage treachery. But according to other reports, Tokugawa Ieyasu gave Kobayakawa Hideyaki the domain of the defeated Ukita clan, consisting of the provinces of Bijen and Mimasaka on Honshu island with an income of 550,000 koku, as a reward.

After his victory at the Battle of Sekigahara, in 1603 (8th year of the Kaito era), the 60-year-old Ieyasu was given the title "Great Shogun, Conqueror of the Barbarians" by the emperor. He established a new samurai government, the shogunate, in the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo). It was the third and last shogunate after the similar ones created by the Minamoto and Ashikaga families. The rule of the new government lasted more than 250 years.

In 1605 (10th year of the Keikyo era), Ieyasu passed the title of shogun to his son Tokugawa Hideyoda. By doing so, he wanted to avoid the problem of inheritance and the weakening of the lineage that had destroyed the achievements of his predecessors, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Ieyasu continued to hold all the levers of power in his hands.

In 1607 (the 12th year of the Keikyo era), Ieyasu moved his residence to the city of his youth, Sumpu, leaving his son at Edo Castle. There the retired shogun worked to establish a governmental system that would guarantee the longevity of his shogunate.

In 1611 (year 16 of the Keikyo era), Tokugawa attended the coronation of Emperor Go-Mizuno in Kyoto. During this visit, Ieyasu forced his formal suzerain, Toyotomi Hideyori, to visit him in the capital. In Japanese society at that time, persons of higher social status did not visit the inferior ones. So Ieyasu's visit to the suzerain Toyotomi Hideyori was interpreted by medieval Japanese as an informal recognition by Toyotomi's clan of the Shogun's power as supreme.

In two consecutive years, 1613 (18 of the Keikyo era), Ieyasu restricted the rights of the capital's kuge aristocrats and the imperial court, which by that time had frequently interfered in Japanese politics by pitting samurai clans against one another.

In 1615 (the 1st year of the Genna era) Tokugawa issued the Laws of Military Houses, which laid the foundation for the existence of Japan's military caste for the following decades. This law deprived the samurai of their right to own land and turned them from warrior-landowners into landless government officials who were paid a set number of sacks of rice. The regional princes who retained their land rights were subjected to a series of prohibitions designed to prevent them from becoming stronger and richer, thereby bringing them under the tight control of the shogunate. The Shoguns who followed Ieyasu often reissued the Laws of Military Houses, making significant changes to them but retaining their basic spirit of strict control over regional princes.

For Ieyasu, the existence of the Toyotomi clan remained an obstacle to the unification of Japan. It remained the formal suzerain of the Shogun himself and also continued to have many influential vassals. After the death of leyasu, the Toyotomi had every chance to regain power in the country. To prevent this from happening, it was necessary to weaken the enemy's lineage or even get rid of it permanently.

Ieyasu depleted the treasury of the Toyotomi family through various construction projects he undertook on behalf of his suzerain, Toyotomi Hideyori, and at his expense. The death of three elders of a hostile clan in 1611 (the 16th year of the Keiteyo era) was particularly harmful to the Tokugawa. With the onset of 1614 (the 19th year of the Keityo era), Ieyasu decided to finally eliminate the Toyotomi clan and proceeded with this plan.

The reason for the conflict between Tokugawa and Toyotomi was the inscriptions on the bells of the Hoko-ji Temple, which had been restored at Toyotomi Hideyori's expense. These inscriptions, while not containing negative remarks about Ieyasu, were interpreted by him as a curse on him. Tokugawa was supported by the Kyoto monks who depended on him, who confirmed his baseless interpretations and accused Toyotomi's family of all sins.

Attempts by the Toyotomi family to explain the true meaning of the inscriptions failed. Ieyasu did not wish to meet the messengers. Fearing reprisals, Toyotomi Hideyori began to gather samurai ronin from all over Japan at his residence, a castle in Osaka. Ieyasu was just waiting for this. He declared war on the Toyotomi family's actions as hostile.

Winter Osaka Campaign

In November 1614 (the 19th year of the Keityo era), Ieyasu began the siege of Osaka Castle, the main citadel of the Toyotomi family. Ieyasu's army numbered more than 200,000 men. The castle was not stormed, but fought locally for the forts adjacent to it. A frontal attack on Osaka Castle would have meant suicide, as it was notoriously difficult to reach.

In most clashes Ieyasu's forces emerged victorious due to their numerical superiority. The exception was the battle for the Sanada redoubt, which was defended by enemy general Sanada Yukimura, under whom Tokugawa's units were defeated.

December came and the castle remained in enemy hands. Ieyasu decided to use heavy artillery and shelled the main tower of the castle for several days. Fearful of the cannons, Toyotomi Hideyori sent an embassy with offers of peace. In order to bargain for better terms, leyasu continued to bombard enemy positions during the negotiations themselves. The two sides agreed to cease hostilities and make peace on the condition that most of the fortifications of Osaka Castle were destroyed and the troops disbanded. By January 1615 (20th year of the Keitō era) Toyotomi's main citadel had become an unprotected fortress.

Summer Osaka Campaign

Realizing that eliminating the fortifications of Osaka Castle was a direct path to the destruction of his kin, Toyotomi began to rebuild them. Ieyasu learned of this and issued an ultimatum: stop rebuilding the castle, disband the ronin units, and leave the castle in Osaka in exchange for one that the Shogun would specify. Of course, Toyotomi Hideyori did not agree and Tokugawa declared war on him a second time.

Ieyasu approached Osaka Castle again. It was no longer a famous citadel, but a small fortress. Toyotomi's clan, which had lost favorable positions with the elimination of the fortifications, decided not to defend but to attack. However, Toyotomi Hideyori's best generals died one by one during the attacks. Among them was Sanada Yukimura, who crashed into Ieyasu's headquarters, felled his banners and bugles, but died under the spears of the enemy guards. Seeing the hopelessness of the situation, Toyotomi Hideyori and his mother Yodo committed ritual suicide with seppuku. The fortress fell and the Toyotomi family ceased to exist.

After becoming the sovereign and sole ruler of Japan, Ieyasu was rewarded by the emperor with the post of chief minister of the Daojo Daijin in 1616 (1st year of the Genn era). A few months afterwards, however, he fell seriously ill. The exact causes of the illness are unknown. Among the main ones mentioned are food poisoning and venereal disease. Tokugawa liked to eat well and spend time with women, so it is not surprising that the retired elderly shogun's health could not withstand excessive strain.

On June 1, 1616, at 10 a.m., 73-year-old Ieyasu died at Sumpu Castle.

"The First Shogun" was buried in Nikko Tosho-gu. He was given the posthumous name Tosho-Daigongan (東照大権現 "The great savior god who illuminated the East"), under which he is enrolled in the list of Japanese deities.

He issued a series of edicts confirming the enslavement of the peasantry, the disarmament of the non-samurai population, codes of conduct for princes and nobles, as well as for the emperor and his court, putting them under the control of the shogunate.

Unlike Oda Nobunaga, who maintained relations with Portugal and Spain and promoted Catholicism in Japan, Tokugawa preferred relations with the Protestant Netherlands. From 1605, English sailor and Dutch agent William Adams became Ieyasu's consultant on European policy. With the latter's advice, the Tokugawa shoguns began a policy of exterminating Christianity in the country, which led to the closure of Japan to the West. Only the Dutch were given the monopoly to have relations and trade with the Japanese. In 1614, leyasu issued an edict that forbade "white" foreigners and Christians from staying in his country. Repression and mass crucifixions of believers began. A small group of Christians fled to the Spanish Philippines, and most were forcibly converted to Buddhism. Nevertheless, a small group of Japanese remained faithful to Christianity, practicing it in deep secrecy until 1868, when Japan proclaimed freedom of religion.

Formally transferring the title of shogun to his son, Tokugawa Ieyasu organized the compilation of the Statute of Samurai Clans (Buke Shohatto), which defined the norms of samurai behavior in service and personal life and codified in concise form the traditions of the Japanese military feudal estate (bushido), previously passed down orally.

In fiction

The story of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the English sailor William Adams is reflected in the novels The Knight of the Golden Fan by Christopher Nicole and The Shogun by James Clavell.


  1. Tokugawa Ieyasu
  2. Токугава Иэясу
  3. ^ Ieyasu's given name is sometimes spelled Iyeyasu,[1][2] according to the historical pronunciation of the kana character he. He was posthumously enshrined at Nikkō Tōshō-gū with the name Tōshō Daigongen (東照大權現).
  4. ^ These include Matsudaira Jirōsaburō Motonobu, Matsudaira Kurandonosuke Motoyasu, and finally, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
  5. ^ Per i biografati giapponesi nati prima del periodo Meiji si usano le convenzioni classiche dell'onomastica giapponese, secondo cui il cognome precede il nome. "Tokugawa" è il cognome.
  6. LEONARD, J. N. Japão Antigo. Tradução de Thomas Scott Newlands Neto. Rio de Janeiro. Livraria José Olympio Editora. 1979. p. 143.

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