Tokugawa Ieyasu was born Matsudaira Takechiyo, the son of Matsudaira Hirotada (1526-1549), a relatively minor Mikawa lord who had spent much of his young life fending off the military advances of the Oda and the political ploys of the Imagawa. The question of accepting Imagawa rule had been a source of controversy within the Matsudaira for many years, and had in fact contributed to the murder of Hirotada's father (Kiyoyasu) in 1536. Hirotada's own leanings towards the Imagawa, whom he saw as the lesser of two evils, had driven a number of family members into the arms of the Oda. To a great extent, Oda Nobuhide made his decision for him. In 1548 the Oda attacked Mikawa, and Hirotada turned to Imagawa Yoshimoto for assistance. Yoshimoto was only too willing to throw the considerable weight of the Imagawa in with Hirotada but on the condition that Hirotada's young son be sent to Sumpu as a hostage. The decision was not an easy one, and prompted a storm of protest within the Matsudaira, but in the end Hirotada agreed. Takechiyo was duly prepared and sent off on the road east with a group of other young men (also hostages but primarily present to serve Takechiyo). Unfortunately, the wily Oda Nobuhide caught wind of the deal, and saw to it that Takechiyo's entourage was intercepted on the road to Suruga. Takechiyo was wisked away to Owari and confined to Kowatari Castle. While he was not badly treated, Nobuhide threatened to put him to death unless Hirotada renounce his ties with the Imagawa and ally with the Oda. Hirotada wisely elected to call his Owari rival's bluff and made no response except to say that the sacrifice of his own son could only impress upon the Imagawa his dedication to their pact. Nobuhide was no doubt disappointed his scheme had not borne fruit, but did young Takechiyo no harm. The following year, 1549, both Hirotada and Nobuhide passed away, leaving the Matsudaira leaderless and the already splintered Oda weakened. Imagawa wasted no time in capitalizing on this turn of events, and dispatched his uncle, Sessai, with an army to attack the Oda's border castles. The primary objective was Anjo, a former Matsudaira fort which presently housed Oda Nobuhiro, Nobuhide's eldest son and successor. Sessai, a renowned warrior, surrounded Anjo, and the fall of that place looked to be inevitable. Yet rather then press home the assault, Sessai struck a bargain with Oda Nobunaga, Nobuhide's 2nd son. Anjo - and Nobuhiro - would be spared in return for the release of Takechiyo. Nobunaga had little choice but to agree, and Sessai returned to Suruga with Takechiyo, who finally arrived in Sumpu after a year's delay.
Takechiyo's life in the capital of the Imagawa would not be uncomfortable, but for those Matsudaira kinsmen and retainers back in Mikawa, the following years would be long and depressing. Happy to take advantage of the clan's sad state, Yoshimoto saw to it that Imagawa men received important posts and forts within Mikawa.
Takechiyo came of age 1556, and received the name Matsudaira Motoyasu, the “Moto-” coming from Yoshimoto himself. He was allowed to return to Mikawa that same year, and was tasked with fighting a series of battles against the Oda on the Imagawa's behalf. For all the damage the years of Imagawa interference and in-fighting had wrought, the famed fighting spirit of the Mikawa samurai was hardly tarnished. Motoyasu scored a notable local victory at Terabe and made a name for himself (at Nobunaga's expense) with the provisioning of Odaka. In that instance, Motoyasu had brought in much-needed supplies to a beleaguered fort by tricking the bulk of the attackers into marching away to face a non-existent enemy army. With these victories, the Mikawa men began to grumble that it was time for the Matsudaira to be allowed to set their own course. Yoshimoto, however, was much too busy with planning his most ambitious military endeavor to be bothered with such trivialities. In 1560, he assembled an army of as many as 20,000 men and prepared to march on Kyoto. No other daimyo had attempted such a move since Ouchi Yoshioki had restored Ashikaga Yoshitane in 1508 and was possible only after a decade of political dealing with the Takeda and Hojo clans. To this end, the Matsudaira would be in the vanguard of the army, though when the campaign began in June, Motoyasu was dispatched from the main army to bring down Marune. After a bit of tough fighting, the fort was brought down and the Mikawa men allowed to lager there for a time resting. For this reason Motoyasu and his clan were able to avoid the Battle of Okehazama, which occurred some miles away and cost the life of Yoshimoto himself. Motoyasu readily retreated back across the border into Mikawa, and afterwards worked to free himself of Imagawa influence. Pragmatic despite his youth, Motoyasu proceeded to strike up an alliance with Nobunaga, though initially in secret - a number of his close family (including his infant son) were still held hostage in Sumpu by Yoshimoto's successor, Ujizane. In 1561 Motoyasu ordered the capture of Kaminojo, an endeavor that served a number purposes. Firstly, it sent a clear message to Nobunaga that the Matsudaira had really and truly cut their ties to the Imagawa. Secondly, Motoyasu got his hands on two sons of the slain castle commander, Udono Nagamochi, which he used as barter with Ujizane. Perhaps due to the fact that the Udono were a important Imagawa retainer clan, Ujizane unwisely agreed to release Motoyasu's family members in return for the Udono children. As soon as he was reunited with his wife and son, Motoyasu was free to make any moves we wished without hindrance. The next few years were spent rebuilding a Matsudaira clan badly fragmented by years of strife and a province weakened by war. To this end he carefully nurtured and strengthened his retainer band by giving them lands and positions within the administration of Mikawa. Chief among his followers at this time were Ishikawa Kazumasa, Sakai Tadatsugu, Sakikabara Yasumasa, Koriki Kiyonaga, and Honda Tadakatsu. Luckily, there were castles to be had within Mikawa's borders, manned by Imagwa men, and these would be taken and redistributed by 1566.
He defeated the militant Mikawa monto in March 1564 in a sharp encounter that saw him actually struck by a bullet that failed to penetrate his armor. Soon afterwards he began testing the Imagawa defenses in Totomi. Having thus begun to make a name for himself, in 1566 he petitioned the court to allow him to change his name to Tokugawa, a request that was granted and so from this point he became known as Tokugawa Ieyasu. He liked to claim that his blood was Minamoto, and cited descent from the Nitta clan to this end. In fact, little at all is known of the Matsudaira/Tokugawa prior to the 15th Century, and Ieyasu's claims seem a tad unsupportable. Some indication of the genealogical spin-doctoring Ieyasu freely engaged in can be gleaned from the fact that he also had an alternate family tree drawn up that claimed descent from the noble Fujiwara.
Though the Tokugawa could claim some modicum of freedom, they were very much subject to the requests of Oda Nobunaga. When Oda marched on Kyoto in 1568, Tokugawa troops were present, the first of many joint Oda-Tokugawa ventures. At the same time, Ieyasu was eager to expand eastward. He entered into a brief pact with Takeda Shingen of Kai and Shinano aimed at absorbing the remaining Imagawa territory and by 1570 Ieyasu had added Totomi to his domain. The Takeda occupied Suruga and it may be that Ieyasu regretted his dealings with Shingen, for even before Shingen had taken Sumpu, Ieyasu was sheltering Ujizane and promising to restore his lands to him.1 Needless to say, Takeda-Tokugawa relations began to sink, made all the worse by an attempt on Ieyasu's part to secure an alliance with Shingen's great enemy Uesugi Kenshin. As to inflame the situation, Ieyasu then moved his headquarters to Hamamatsu in Totomi (closer to Shingen), an action even Nobunaga called needless provocative. Soon the Takeda and Tokugawa would be at war. In June of 1570, Ieyasu led 5,000 men to help Nobunaga win the Battle of Anegawa against the Asai and Asakura, a victory owed largely to the efforts of the Tokugawa men. This would be the last opportunity Ieyasu would have to send troops west for two years, as the Tokugawa were increasingly pressured by the advances of the Takeda. In 1572 Ieyasu lost Futamata Castle, then suffered a defeat at the Battle of Mikatagahara, where he was enticed to march out of Hamamatsu and face Shingen in open battle - and barely escaped with his life. Luckily for the Tokugawa, Takeda Shingen died later in the Spring of 1573, although his heir, Katsuyori, managed to capture the important Tokugawa fort of Taketenjin in 1574. In 1575 Katsuyori surrounded Nagashino Castle in Mikawa, and when word reached Ieyasu, he called on Nobunaga for help. When the latter dragged his feet on the matter, Ieyasu went as far as to threaten to join the Takeda and spearhead an attack on Owari and Mino. This was the sort of talk that Nobunaga respected, and he immediately led an army into Mikawa. The combined Oda-Tokugawa force of some 38,000 crushed the Takeda army on 28 June but did not vanquish it. Katsuyori continued to bother the Tokugawa afterwards, and the Takeda and Tokugawa raided one another's lands frequently.
In 1579 Ieyasu's eldest son, Hideyasu, and his wife were accused of conspiring with Takeda Katsuyori. Due in part to pressure from Nobunaga, Ieyasu ordered his son to commit suicide and had his wife executed. Like his late rival, Takeda Shingen, Tokugawa was known to run hot and cold, and could be utterly merciless when the overall fortunes of his clan were at stake. He would in time name his 3rd son, Hidetada, as heir, since his second was to be adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
in Spring 1582 the Tokugawa joined Nobunaga in finally invading and destroying the Takeda and for his efforts Ieyasu received Suruga province, an acquisition which must have brought him no small private satisfaction. He now bordered the Hojo, and cautiously sounded them out, his efforts helped in part by a personal friendship from his hostage days in Sumpu, Hojo Ujinori, bother of the daimyo, Ujimasa.
Ieyasu was staying in Sakai (Settsu province) when Nobunaga was killed by Akechi Mitushide in June 1582 and narrowly escaped with his own life back to Mikawa. The Tokugawa were not in a position to challenge Mitsuhide, but did take advantage of the uncertainty following the Battle of Yamazaki to take Kai and Shinano, a move that prompted the Hojo to send troops into Kai; no real fighting occurred, and the Tokugawa and Hojo made peace. Ieyasu gave some of his lands in Kai and Shinano to the Hojo, though found himself embarrassed in this respect by Sanada Masayuki the following year. In the meantime, Ieyasu readily availed himself of the example of government left behind by Takeda Shingen and was quick to employ surviving Takeda men within his own retainer band. He avoided becoming involved in the conflict between Shibata Katsuie and Toyotomi Hideyoshi that culminated in the Battle of Shizugatake (1583), but became aware that sooner or later Hideyoshi would come to test his own resolve.
Rise to Power
In 1584, Ieyasu chose to take up the cause of Oda Nobukatsu, one of the late Nobunaga's sons and a claimant to succeed him. This appears to have been a calculated move intended to draw Hideyoshi into the field. Certainly, no better time for a showdown was likely to present itself, and Ieyasu made the most of the opportunity. To this end he led an army into Owari and took up a position at Komaki. Hideyoshi responded to the Tokugawa insolence by leading an army into Owari and starting what would come to be known as the Komaki Campaign. Ieyasu won the single notable battle of this campaign, at Nagakute, and by the end of the year a truce was in effect. In fact, Oda Nobukatsu himself had undermined Tokugawa's stance by making a separate peace with Hideyoshi. Now quite without a cause for further fighting, Ieyasu went to Osaka the following spring and gave a promise of good will towards Hideyoshi. Nonetheless, the Komaki Campaign had made Hideyoshi wary of Ieyasu, and with the exception of the Odawara Campaign (1590), the Tokugawa were exempted from participating in any of Hideyoshi's further campaigns. In an interesting postscript, long time Tokugawa retainer Ishikawa Kazumasa abandoned Ieyasu for Hideyoshi in 1585. As Ishikawa had been privvy to all of the Tokugawa military secrets and organization, Ieyasu was compelled to completly over-haul the Tokugawa military structure, and is believed to have done so following a system devised by Takeda Shingen.
While the Tokugawa were allowed to sit out Hideyoshi's invasions of Shikoku and Kyushu, their position on the Tokai Coast did place them in a central role when tensions between Hideyoshi and the Hojo spiked in the late 1580's. To a greater or lesser extent, Ieyasu did what he could politically for Ujimasa, but in the end was unable to overcome that daimyo's own stubbornness. In 1589 Hideyoshi ordered preparations for an invasion of the Kanto, and the Tokugawa were to act as a vanguard.
Ieyasu led some 30,000 men into the Hojo's lands as part of Hideyoshi's massive 1590 effort to force the capitulation of Odawara. During the siege of Odawara, Hideyoshi offered him the provinces of the Kanto, which he felt compelled to accept (and legend has it they peed together to seal the agreement). On paper, the deal was an exceedingly good one: Ieyasu would trade the five provinces he presently held for the eight that constituted the Kanto. In truth, the trade would be about even in that three of these provinces were already occupied (Satomi in Awa, Satake in Hitachi, and Utsunomiya in Shimotsuke) although the remaining provinces were still very rich. When the Hojo surrendered in August 1590, Ieyasu began a rapid move from his provinces of Mikawa, Totomi, Suruga, Shinano, and Kai into the Kanto region, establishing his headquarters at Edo. He was now a great lord with an income of as much as 1,000,000 koku, though one who now had quite a bit of reorganizing to do. This may well have been what Hideyoshi had had in mind when he offered the Kanto. Ieyasu was richer now, but further from the center of Japanese politics and easily containable beyond the Hakone Mountains should he betray their alliance.
Ieyasu served in Hideyoshi's Kyushu headquarters during the Korean Expeditions (1592-93, 1597-98) but was not required to provide any troops for the actual campaign and was most likely present so that Hideyoshi could keep an eye on him. Luckily, Ieyasu's retainer band contained a number of skilled administrators, and these continued the work of consolidating the new Tokugawa domain even as their lord was away on Kyushu.
in 1598 Ieyasu was named one of the five regents responsible for ruling while young Toyotomi Hideyori came of age (Hideyoshi had intended there to be six, but one of the chosen, Kobayakawa Takakage, predeceased him). Ieyasu was probably the most powerful of these men, but Hideyoshi had chosen the others carefully. Ieyasu's four colleagues (Maeda Toshiie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, Mori Terumoto, and Ukita Hideie) were men whose loyalty to the Toyotomi name could be counted on after Hideyoshi died. Yet after Hideyoshi died in September 1598, Tokugawa almost immediately began making provocative alliances with families such as the Date and proceeded to alienate the other regents. Additionally, Ieyasu occupied first Fushimi, then Osaka Castle (following the death of Maeda Toshiie in 1599), actions that prompted suspicion on the part of the of the regents. Resistance to Ieyasu's moves was centered around Ishida Mitsunari, who unsuccessfully attempted to have Ieyasu assassinated in 1599. When that plan failed, Ishida himself was marked for death by a number of Tokugawa generals, and found refuge, oddly enough, with Ieyasu himself. Whatever Ieyasu's motives may have been in saving his rivals' life, by 1600 two camps had formed, one (the 'eastern') around Ieyasu, and the other (the 'western') around Ishida. The latter was determined to make the first move, and depended on Uesugi Kagekatsu, who held a vast fief northeast of Ieyasu. Ishida counted on Uesugi tying down Ieyasu long enough for the capital region to be firmly brought under Western control, at which point any move by Ieyasu could be countered from a footing of at least equal power. The Uesugi and Tokugawa began feuding in June and actual war came in August 1600. Ishida's grand strategy (such as it was) began to come apart almost immediately. Ieyasu left Uesugi to be contained by the Date and Mogami, and led an army westward in October. At the same time, Ishida did manage to take Fushimi and a number of other important points in the Kinai, but not with the timeliness required. Fate seemed to de dealing cards to both sides in equal measure, for on the eve of the final confrontation, both sides were without their full complements. Ieyasu's heir Hidetada (with 36,000 men) had unwisely chosen to dally about in Shinano attempting bring down Ueda while around the same number of 'western' samurai were too far away to aid in the fight. Ieyasu's ace in the hole, however, was knowledge that Kobayakawa Hideaki intended to betray Ishida during the battle, and the knowledge (provided by Kikkawa Tsunie) that the Mori (who had been insulted by Ishida) were none too eager to fight.
The Battle of Sekigahara opened on the misty morning of 21 October1600 with as many as 160,000 warriors prepared to fight the greatest battle in Japanese history. The irony was that there had been no rhyme or reason to the choice of this particular battlefield. While Saito Dosan had once said that he who controls Sekigahara controls Japan, this was simply where the two sides had the most room to maneuver. At the same time, the terrain favored Ishida. Tokugawa was largely staggered out in a valley, with his forward units dangerously exposed to encirclement. The key was Kobayakawa Hideaki. His 16,000 men, positioned on Mt. Matsuo and looking down at the forward Ishida and Tokugawa lines, would likely decide the issue one way or the other.
The battle at 0800 began with a spirited Tokugawa attack and developed into a general melee conducted under a driving rain. Ieyasu moved his headquarters forward at 1000 and anxiously eyed Kobayakawa, whose ranks had not moved since the start of the action. No real advantage was being enjoyed by either side, and Hidetada was still mnay hours away. The bright spot was that just as Kikawa Tsunie had promised, the Mori, largely positioned on the eastern slopes of Mt. Nangu, had yet to make any moves. Finally, at noon, Ieyasu ordered rifle fire directed at Kobayakawa's position and this did the trick - Hideaki ordered a general advance against Ishida's forces, and the battle turned in Ieyasu's favor. By that late afternoon, the Battle of Sekigahara was decided and Ieyasu was able to view the many heads taken and also to greet his son Hidetada very icily when he finally arrived. Over the next few days Ishida Mitsunari and a number of other chief 'western' commanders were caught and executed in Kyoto.
With the defeat of the Western cause, Ieyasu was the undisputed master of Japan. While he had never declared his intention to rule the country, this was the abiding effect of Sekigahara. He used his power to redistribute lands to those who had served him, and reduced the lands of those who had not, marking the latter as tozama (Outside Lords). For instance, he reduced the Mori holdings from 1,200,000 koku to just under 370,000 while granting Maeda Toshinaga an additional 360,000 koku, making the Maeda the wealthiest daimyo in Japan behind Ieyasu himself). Some of the 'western' daimyo he left untouched (such as the Shimazu), while others he stripped of all lands (Ukita, Chosokabe, and Miyabe, for instance). To an extent, he made his decisions in these matters with the understanding that Toyotomi Hideyori was still alive and well in the mighty Osaka Castle.
In 1603 the emperor granted Ieyasu the title of shôgun, an honor helped along by his 'Minamoto' genealogy. He held this post for only two years before officially retiring in favor of his son Hidetada. Retreating to Sumpu in Suruga province, he supervised the expansion of Chiyoda (Edo) Castle and the expansion of the surrounding town over the next few years, and conducted diplomatic business with the Dutch (1609) and Spanish, with whom he distanced Japan.
In May 1611 Ieyasu returned to Kyoto at the head of 50,000 men, his trip ostensibly to attend the retirement of Emperor Goyozei and the succession of Go-Mizonoo. During his stay in the Capital, Ieyasu ordered the expansion of the Imperial Court's buildings and grounds and asked the western daimyo to sign a three-part document vowing their fealty.2 Perhaps based on his experiences on this trip, he composed the Kuge shohatto in 1613, a document that placed restrictions on the activities of the nobility, essentially limiting that class to ceremonial and aesthetic pursuits. In 1615 he would order the preparation of the Buke Shohatto, a document which contained the injunctions contained within the 1611 order and was initially a 13-article code (amended in 1635). Drawing on previous house codes and earlier ideas, Ieyasu, possibly concerned for the future of his house, formalized what was essentially a 'house code' for the nation's daimyo. In a further move to secure the stability of the Tokugawa regime, he issued the final and most sweeping Christian Expulsion Edict in 1614.
The final threat to Tokugawa hegemony was Hideyori. Ironically, Hideyori does not appear to have harbored any particular desire to face Ieyasu. Ieyasu, though, was unwilling to take any chances, especially given his own advanced age. He engineered a pretext for war in 1614 over a convoluted and supposed slight that involved the casting of a great bell. At this point Hideyori had felt compelled to open the gates of Osaka to thousands of ronin for self-defense, and now found himself under attack. The initial Tokugawa assault (called the Osaka Winter Campaign) was repulsed bloodily, and despite the protests of Hidetada Ieyasu sought an indirect resolution of the situation. Guessing that the matron of the castle, Hideyori's mother Yodo-gimi, was a weak link that could be exploited, Ieyasu ordered that her location be determined and cannon fire directed in that area. This had the desired effect and to the shock of the defending generals, Yodo-gimi convinced Hideyori to negotiate. Ieyasu was seemingly magnanimous. He promised the defenders that he would honor a peaceful solution to the crisis, and that Hideyori would be allowed to retain his holdings in the Settsu-Kwatchi area. Moreover, no action would be taken against any member of the defending army. Hideyori, who had probably never wanted a war with a man he had grown up considering an uncle in the first place, agreed and ordered his followers to stand down. Ieyasu made a show of arranging for his army to withdraw, then promptly arranged for Osaka's outer moat to be filled in, the actual deed being done by Honda Masazumi. Hideyori protested, and Ieyasu ultimately revoked his peace offer. The Osaka Summer Campaign essentially revolved around the climactic Battle of Tennoji in June 1615, the last great samurai battle and a Tokugawa victory. With the defeat of his army and the Tokugawa pouring through Osaka's gates, Hideyori and his mother committed suicide. In the aftermath Ieyasu personally ordered that Hideyori's infant son be executed and Osaka Castle largely dismantled.
The following year, Ieyasu fell ill and died in bed. Unlike Hideyoshi, he could pass away secure in the future of his house. The dynasty he had created was exceedingly solid, with three sub-branches (the Kii, Owari, and Mito) maintained for the sole purpose of providing an heir should the main branch fail to produce one. The daimyo were weary of war, and more or less content to enjoy the fruits of their labors. There would be disputes and grievances, but with the exception of the short and bloody Shimabara Rebellion, Japan would enjoy peace for over two hundred years. At the same time, Tokugawa Ieyasu had another legacy - never before had Japan been as socially rigid, nor had the common man and woman had so little control over their own lives. The daimyo - especially those tagged as tozama - would also suffer the brunt of the fledgling Tokugawa's heavy-handedness, with relief coming only after the death of the third shogun Iemitsu in 1651.
Few leaders in Japanese history are as difficult to gauge as Tokugawa Ieyasu. At once fair and heartless, Ieyasu was a veteran of countless battles and a life fraught with vicissitudes that included the forced suicide of his eldest son and the execution of his first wife. He was moved to express compassion at the head of his defeated enemy Takeda Katsuyori and protected many former Takeda retainers from Nobunaga's wrath. His worries for the health of his granddaughter (Hideyori's widow) when she fell after the fall of Osaka Castle is touching in that one can see no real motive other then grandfatherly concern. At the same time, he rarely forgot a grudge, and once, as an adult, executed a prisoner who had insulted him in childhood. Yet he never forgot a friend either, and rarely left a loyal retainer unrewarded. He was at heart a rustic Mikawa samurai, and had little time for poetry or theater, spending most of his free time hawking or swimming, two of his favorite hobbies.
Occasionally foolhardy in his youth and at times exceedingly cautious in his later years, Ieyasu did not win all of his battles, but he won those that counted. He was also a calculating political gambler, and as much a schemer it would seem as his rival Ishida Mitsunari. More then anything else, though, Tokugawa Ieyasu was a man who seemed to have a sweeping vision and the ability to live his life as a master of Go might win a game-slowly but steadily, and with no doubt in the outcome.
Notes to the Text
1. Ieyasu was not praticulary well-known for his sentimentality, but he did attempt to make good on his promise to Ujizane, suggesting to Oda in 1582 (after the defeat of the Takeda) that the former Imagawa daimyô be given back Sumpu. Nobunaga, however, flatly refused to give his approval, and so Ujizane whiled away the rest of his life in easy retirement. Under the Tokugawa bakufu, the Imagawa would become Koke, or landless Masters of Ceremonies.
2. This document was as follows:
1. We will respect the laws and formularies established by the bakufu for generations since the time of the General of the Right (Yoritomo); out of concern for our own interest, we will strictly obey any regulations which may be issed by Edo hereafter.
2. If there will be someone who violates the laws and regulations or goes contrary to the instructions given from above (Edo), we will not harbor any such person in our respective domains.
3. If any samurai or subordinate officer in oour employ is found guilty of rebellion or homicide, and that fact is reported to us, we pledge to each other that we will not take the offender into our employ.
In case any of the foregoing articles is violated, upon investigation conducted by Edo, we shall be immediatly liable to be severely dealt in accordance with the laws and regulations.
Sixteenth Year of Keichô  fourth month, 16th day.
Ieyasu would impose a similar document on the daimyô of northern Japan the following year.
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