Tokugawa Ieyasu

From New World Encyclopedia
Tokugawa Ieyasu as shogun

Tokugawa Ieyasu (previously spelled Iyeyasu; 徳川 家康) (January 31, 1543 – June 1, 1616) was a Japanese warrior and the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. A gifted leader and brilliant general, early in his career he helped Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi unify Japan. In 1590 he received the area surrounding Edo (Tokyo) in fief, and he later made Edo his capital. After Hideyoshi's death (1598), he became the most powerful daimyo by defeating rival barons in the battle of Sekigahara (1600). He became shogun in 1603, and abdicated in favor of his son Hidetada in 1605, but remained in power until his death in 1616.

The Tokugawa clan crest

He used his years as shogun to create and solidify the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for the next 250 years. He supervised the building of Edo Castle, the largest castle in Japan, on the site of today’s Imperial Palace. In 1613, he composed the Kuge Shohatto, a document intended to perpetuate Tokugawa supremacy by putting the court daimyo under strict supervision, requiring their attendance at the shogunal court and restricting the building of castles, leaving the daimyo as mere ceremonial figureheads. Ieyasu at first encouraged foreign trade with Spain and the Dutch, but in 1609 he began to restrict Japan’s relations with Europe, and in 1614, he signed the Christian Expulsion Edict which banned Christianity, expelled all Christians and foreigners, and banned Christians from practicing their religion in Japan.


Early Life (1543–1556)

Ieyasu was born on January 31, 1543 in the Mikawa province, several miles east of Nagoya, Japan, during a brutal era of continual civil strife. Originally named Matsudaira Takechiyo (松平竹千代), he was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada (松平広忠, 1526–1549), the lord of Mikawa, and O-Dai-no-kata (於大の方), the daughter of a neighboring samurai lord, Mizuno Tadamasa (水野忠政). His mother and father were step-brother and step-sister to each other, and were just 17 and 15 years old when Ieyasu was born. Two years later, O-Dai-no-kata was sent back to her family and the couple never lived together again. Both husband and wife remarried and both had more children; Ieyasu ended up with 11 half-brothers and sisters.

The Matsudaira family was split: one side were loyal vassals of the Imagawa clan, while the other side preferred the Oda clan. As a result, much of Ieyasu's early life was spent in danger as wars were fought between the Oda and Imagawa clans. This family feud was the reason behind the murder of Hirotada's father (Ieyasu 's grandfather), Matsudaira Kiyoyasu (松平清康, 1511–1536). Unlike his father and the majority of his branch of the family, Ieyasu's father, Hirotada, favored the Imagawa clan.

In 1548, when the Oda clan invaded Mikawa, Hirotada turned to Imagawa Yoshimoto, the head of the Imagawa clan, for help to repel the invaders. Yoshimoto agreed to help under the condition that Hirotada send his son Ieyasu (Takechiyo) to Sumpu (a contraction of Suruga no Kokufu (駿河の国府), meaning the seat of government of Suruga Province, now Shizuoka City) as a hostage. Hirotada agreed. Oda Nobuhide, the leader of the Oda clan, learned of this arrangement and had six-year-old Ieyasu abducted from his entourage en route to Sumpu. Nobuhide threatened to execute Ieyasu unless his father severed all ties with the Imagawa clan. Hirotada replied that sacrificing his own son would show the seriousness of his pact with the Imagawa. Nobuhide chose not to kill Ieyasu, but instead held him for the next three years at the Manshoji Temple in Nagoya.

In 1549, Ieyasu's father Hirotada died of natural causes at the age of 24. Around the same time, Oda Nobuhide died during an epidemic. The deaths dealt a heavy blow to the Oda clan. An army under the command of Imagawa Sessai laid siege to the castle where Oda Nobuhiro, Nobuhide's eldest son and the new head of the Oda, was living. With the castle about to fall, Imagawa Sessai made an offer to Oda Nobunaga (Oda Nobuhide's second son) to give up the siege if Ieyasu were handed over to the Imagawa clan. Nobunaga accepted, and Ieyasu (now nine) was taken as a hostage to Sumpu, where he lived in comfort, as a potentially useful future ally of the Imagawa clan until he was 15.

Rise to Power (1556–1584)

In 1556, Ieyasu came of age, and, following tradition, changed his name to Matsudaira Jirōsaburō Motonobu (松平次郎三郎元信). One year later, at the age of 16, he married his first wife and changed his name again to Matsudaira Kurandonosuke Motoyasu (松平蔵人佐元康). He was allowed to return to his native Mikawa, and ordered by the Imagawa to fight the Oda clan in a series of battles. Ieyasu won his first battle at the Siege of Terabe and later, in a bold night attack, succeeded in delivering supplies to a border fort.

In 1560, the leadership of the Oda clan had passed to the brilliant leader Oda Nobunaga. Imagawa Yoshimoto, leading a large Imagawa army (perhaps 20,000 strong) attacked the Oda clan territory. Ieyasu, with his Mikawa troops, captured a fort at the border and then stayed there to defend it. As a result, Ieyasu and his men were not present at the Battle of Okehazama, where Yoshimoto was killed in a surprise assault by Oda Nobunaga.

With Yoshimoto dead, Ieyasu decided to ally himself with the Oda clan. It was necessary to negotiate in secret because Ieyasu's wife and infant son, Matsudaira Nobuyasu, were hostages of the Imagawa clan in Sumpu. In 1561, Ieyasu openly broke with the Imagawa and captured the fortress of Kaminojo, then exchanged the wife and daughter of the ruler of Kaminojo castle for his wife and son.

Ieyasu spent the next few years reforming the Matsudaira clan and pacifying Mikawa, in the area that today forms the eastern half of Aichi Prefecture. He also strengthened his key vassals, Honda Tadakatsu, Ishikawa Kazumasa, Koriki Kiyonaga, Sakai Tadatsugu, and Sakakibara Yasumasa, by awarding them land and castles in Mikawa.

In 1564, Ieyasu defeated the military forces of the Mikawa Ikkō-ikki (一向一揆) within Mikawa province. The Ikkō-ikki ("single-minded leagues") were a loosely-organized warlike group of peasant farmers, monks, Shinto priests and local nobles who opposed samurai rule during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They followed the Jōdo Shinshu (True Pure Land) sect of Buddhism, whose monks, under the leadership of Rennyo of the Hongan-ji sect, ruled Kaga Province and had many temples elsewhere in Japan. When the Ikkō-ikki refused to obey Ieyasu, he went to war with them, defeating their troops and pulling down their temples. In one battle Ieyasu was nearly killed when he was struck by a bullet which did not penetrate his armor. Both Ieyasu's Mikawa troops and the Ikkō-ikki forces used new gunpowder weapons, introduced to Japan just twenty years before by the Portuguese.

In 1567 Ieyasu took a new surname, Tokugawa, and the personal name of Ieyasu. In this way he claimed descent from the Minamoto clan, though no proof has actually been found of this relationship.

Ieyasu remained an ally of Oda Nobunaga, and his Mikawa soldiers were part of Nobunaga's army when it captured Kyoto in 1568. At the same time, Ieyasu was expanding his own territory. He made an alliance with Takeda Shingen, head of the Takeda clan in Kai Province, for the purpose of conquering all the Imagawa territory. In 1570, Ieyasu's troops captured Totomi province (now western Shizuko prefecture), while Shingen's troops captured Suruga province (including the Imagawa capital of Sumpu).

Ieyasu then ended his alliance with Takeda and sheltered their former enemy, Imagawa Ujizane; he also formed an alliance with Uesugi Kenshin of the Uesugi clan, an enemy of the Takeda clan. Later that year, Ieyasu led five thousand of his own men in support of Nobunaga at the Battle of Anegawa against the Asai and Asakura clans.

In October 1571, Takeda Shingen, now allied with the Hōjō clan, attacked the Tokugawa lands in Totomi. Ieyasu asked for help from Nobunaga, who sent him some three thousand troops. Early in 1572 the two armies met at the Battle of Mikatagahara (三方ヶ原の戦い). Nobunaga's troops soon fled, and the Takeda army, under the expert direction of Shingen, hammered at Ieyasu's remaining troops until they were broken and Ieyasu fled to a nearby castle with just five men. This was a major defeat for Ieyasu, but Shingen was unable to exploit his victory because Ieyasu quickly gathered a new army and refused to fight Shingen again on the battlefield.

One year later, Takeda Shingen died in a siege and was succeeded by his less capable son, Takeda Katsuyori. In 1575 the Takeda army attacked Nagashino Castle in Mikawa province. Ieyasu appealed for assistance to Oda Nobunaga, who personally came to his aid at the head of his very large army (about 30,000 strong). The Oda-Tokugawa force of 38,000 was completely victorious on June 28, 1575, at the Battle of Nagashino (長篠の戦い), though Takeda Katsuyori survived the battle and retreated to Kai province.

For the next seven years, Ieyasu and Katsuyori fought a series of small battles and Ieyasu's troops managed to wrest control of Suruga province away from the Takeda clan. In 1579, Ieyasu's wife, and his eldest son, Matsudaira Nobuyasu, were accused of conspiring with Takeda Katsuyori to assassinate Nobunaga. Ieyasu's wife was executed and Nobuyasu was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide). Ieyasu then named his third and favorite son, Tokugawa Hidetada, as heir, since his second son had been adopted by another rising power, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the future ruler of all Japan.

The war with Takeda finally ended in 1582 when a combined Oda-Tokugawa force attacked and conquered Kai province. Takeda Katsuyori, as well as his eldest son Takeda Nobukatsu, were defeated at the Battle of Temmokuzan (天目山の戦い) and committed seppuku.

In late 1582, Ieyasu was near Osaka and far from his own territory when he learned that Oda Nobunaga had been assassinated by Akechi Mitsuhide. Ieyasu made the dangerous journey back to Mikawa, avoiding Mitsuhide’s troops, who were trying to find him and kill him along the way. One week after he arrived in Mikawa, Ieyasu's army marched out to take revenge on Mitsuhide. They were too late; Toyotomi Hideyoshi, on his own, had already defeated and killed Akechi Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki ((山崎の戦い)).

The death of Oda Nobunaga meant that some of the provinces ruled by Nobunaga's vassals were ripe for conquest. The leader of Kai province made the mistake of killing one of Ieyasu's aides, and Ieyasu promptly invaded Kai and took control. Hōjō Ujimasa, leader of the Hōjō clan, responded by sending his much larger army into Shinano Province and then into Kai province. No battles were fought between Ieyasu's forces and the large Hōjō army and, after some negotiation, Ieyasu and the Hōjō agreed to a settlement which left Ieyasu in control of both Kai and Shinano provinces, while the Hōjō took control of Kazusa province (as well as bits of both Kai and Shinano province).

At the same time (1583), a war for rule over Japan was fought between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie. Ieyasu did not take a side in this conflict, building on his reputation for both caution and wisdom. Hideyoshi defeated Katsuie at the Battle of Shizugatake ((賤ケ岳の戦い)), and became the single most powerful daimyo in Japan.

Ieyasu and Hideyoshi (1584–1598)

In 1584, Ieyasu decided to support Oda Nobuo, the eldest son and heir of Oda Nobunaga, against Hideyoshi, a dangerous move which could have resulted in the annihilation of the Tokugawa.

Hideyoshi and Ieyasu played go at this board

When Tokugawa troops took the traditional Oda stronghold of Owari (western half of present-day Aichi prefecture), Hideyoshi responded by sending an army into Owari. The Komaki campaign, fought between Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, was the only time any of the great unifiers of Japan faced each other in battle. Ieyasu won the only notable battle of the campaign, the Battle of Nagakute (長久手の戦い). After months of fruitless marches and feints, Hideyoshi settled the war through negotiation. First he made peace with Oda Nobuo, and then he offered a truce to Ieyasu. The deal was made at the end of the year; as part of the terms Ieyasu's second son, O Gi Maru, became an adopted son of Hideyoshi. As a result of this arrangement, Hideyoshi was unable to take the title of shogun, short for sei-i taishōgun, because it required the conquest of Kanto, in eastern Japan, which remained under Ieyasu’s allies, the Hōjō clan.

Ieyasu's aide, Ishikawa Kazumasa, chose to join the pre-eminent daimyo and moved to Osaka to be with Hideyoshi. However, only a few other Tokugawa retainers followed this example. Hideyoshi was understandably distrustful of Ieyasu, and five years passed before they fought as allies. The Tokugawa did not participate in Hideyoshi's successful invasions of Shikoku and Kyūshū.

In 1590, Hideyoshi attacked the last independent daimyo in Japan, Hōjō Ujimasa. The Hōjō clan ruled the eight provinces of the Kantō region in northeastern Japan. Hideyoshi ordered them to submit to his authority and they refused. Ieyasu, though a friend and occasional ally of Ujimasa, joined his large force of 30,000 samurai with Hideyoshi's enormous army of some 160,000. Hideyoshi attacked several castles on the borders of the Hōjō territory, with most of his army laying siege to the castle at Odawara (小田原征伐). Hideyoshi's army captured Odawara after six months, with only a few casualties on each side. During this siege, Hideyoshi negotiated an unusual arrangement with Ieyasu, offering Ieyasu the eight Kantō provinces which they were about to take from the Hōjō in return for the five provinces that Ieyasu currently controlled (including Ieyasu's home province of Mikawa). Ieyasu accepted this proposal. Bowing to the overwhelming power of the Toyotomi army, the Hōjō accepted defeat, the top Hōjō leaders killed themselves and Ieyasu marched in and took control of their provinces, ending the 450-year reign of the Hōjō clan.

Ieyasu now gave up control of his five provinces (Mikawa, Totomi, Suruga, Shinano, and Kai) and moved all his soldiers and vassals to the Kantō region. He occupied the castle town of Edo (present-day Tokyo) in Kantō. Ieyasu took a great risk in leaving his home province and relying on the uncertain loyalty of the former Hōjō samurai in Kantō, but the arrangement worked out well for him. He reformed the Kantō provinces, controlled and pacified the Hōjō samurai, and improved the underlying economic infrastructure of the lands. Kantō’s isolation from the rest of Japan allowed Ieyasu to maintain a unique level of autonomy under Hideyoshi's rule. Within a few years, Ieyasu had become the second most powerful daimyo in Japan. There is a Japanese proverb which probably refers to this event "Ieyasu won the Empire by retreating."[1]

In 1592, Hideyoshi invaded Korea as a prelude to his plan to attack China. The Tokugawa samurai never took part in this campaign. Early in 1593, Ieyasu was summoned to Hideyoshi's court in Nagoya, as a military advisor, and remained there intermittently for the next five years. Despite his frequent absences, Ieyasu's sons, loyal retainers and vassals were able to control and improve Edo and the other new Tokugawa lands.

In 1593, Hideyoshi fathered a son and heir, Toyotomi Hideyori. In 1598, with his health clearly failing, Hideyoshi called a meeting to determine the Council of Five Elders who would be responsible for ruling on behalf of his son after his death. The five that were chosen as regents (tairō) for Hideyori were Maeda Toshiie, Mōri Terumoto, Ukita Hideie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu was the most powerful of the five.

The Sekigahara Campaign (1598–1603)

After three months of illness, Hideyoshi died on August 18, 1598. He was nominally succeeded by his young son Toyotomi Hideyori, but since the boy was just five years old, real power was in the hands of the regents. Over the next two years Ieyasu made alliances with various daimyo, especially those who had no love for Hideyoshi. When the oldest and most respected of the regents, Maeda Toshiie, died in 1599, after just one year, Ieyasu led an army to Fushimi and took over Osaka Castle, the residence of Hideyori. This angered the three remaining regents and plans for war were made on all sides.

Opposition to Ieyasu centered on Ishida Mitsunari, a powerful daimyo who was not one of the regents. News that Ishida was plotting Ieyasu's death reached some of Ieyasu's generals, who attempted to kill him. Ishida fled and gained protection from none other than Ieyasu himself. It is not clear why Ieyasu protected a powerful enemy from his own generals; he may have concluded that he would be better off with Ishida leading the enemy army rather than one of the regents, who would have more legitimacy[2]

Nearly all of Japan's daimyo and samurai now split into two factions; the "eastern camp" supported Ieyasu while the "western camp" supported Ishida Mitsunari. Ieyasu's allies were the Date clan, the Mogami clan, the Satake clan and the Maeda clan. Mitsunari allied himself with the three other regents: Ukita Hideie, Mori Terumoto, and Uesugi Kagekatsu as well as many daimyo from the eastern end of Honshū.

Battle of Sekigahara

In June 1600, Ieyasu and his allies defeated the Uesugi clan. Ieyasu then led the majority of his army west towards Kyoto. In late summer, Ishida's forces captured Fushimi. Ieyasu knew that the Kobayakawa clan, led by Kobayakawa Hideaki, was planning to defect from the Ishida side, and that the Mori clan was also thinking of joining his side. Tokugawa stationed 36,000 of his men, commanded by Tokugawa Hidetada, in Shinano Province to make sure these clans sided with the Tokugawa.

The Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) was the biggest and perhaps the most important battle in Japanese history. It began on October 21, 1600 with a total of 160,000 men facing each other, and ended with a complete Tokugawa victory. The Western block was crushed, and over the next few days Ishida Mitsunari and many other western nobles were captured and killed. Ieyasu was now the de facto ruler of Japan.

Immediately after the victory at Sekigahara, Ieyasu redistributed land to the vassals who had served him. Ieyasu left some western daimyo, such as the Shimazu clan, un-harmed, but others were completely destroyed. Toyotomi Hideyori (the son of Hideyoshi) was allowed to become a common citizen and for the next ten years he lived a quiet life in Osaka Castle, while Ieyasu ruled Japan. In later years the vassals who had pledged allegiance to Ieyasu before Sekigahara became known as the fudai daimyo, while those who pledged allegiance to him after the battle (in other words, after his power was unquestioned) were known as tozama daimyo. Tozama daimyo were considered inferior to fudai daimyo.

Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1603–1605)

In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu received the title of shogun from Emperor Go-Yozei (後陽成天皇). Ieyasu was 60 years old, and had outlasted the other great lords of his times, Oda Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Shingen. He used his remaining years as shogun to create and solidify the Tokugawa shogunate, the third shogunal government (after the Minamoto and the Ashikaga), which would rule Japan for the next 250 years.

Following a well established Japanese pattern, Ieyasu abdicated his official position as shogun in 1605 to his son and heir, Tokugawa Hidetada, but retained power for the rest of his life. Karel van Wolferen (1989) argues that Ieyasu abdicated in order to avoid being tied up in ceremonial duties, and to make it harder for his enemies to attack the real power center.[3]

Retired Shogun Ieyasu (1605–1616)

Ieyasu, acting as the cloistered shogun (Ogosho, 大御所) remained the effective ruler of Japan until his death. Ieyasu “retired” to Sunpu, but he also supervised the building of Edo Castle, the largest castle in Japan. The cost of the massive construction project, which lasted for the rest of Ieyasu's life, was borne by all the other daimyo. The central donjon, or tenshu, burned in the 1657 Meireki fire, and much of the outworks of the castle was destroyed in the 1868 Boshin War. Today’s Imperial Palace stands on the site of Edo Castle.

Ieyasu also supervised diplomatic affairs with the Netherlands and Spain. Starting in 1609 he began to distance Japan from them, though he gave the Dutch the exclusive rights to a trading post. From 1605 until his death, Ieyasu consulted with an English Protestant pilot in Dutch employ, William Adams, who played a role in the formation of the shogun's policy regarding Spain and the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1611, Ieyasu, at the head of 50,000 men, visited Kyoto to witness the coronation of Emperor Go-Mizunoo (後水尾天皇). In Kyoto, Ieyasu ordered the remodeling of the imperial court and buildings, and forced the remaining western daimyo to sign an oath of fealty to him. In 1613, he composed the Kuge Shohatto, a document which put the court daimyo under strict supervision, requiring their attendance at the shogunal court and restricting the building of castles, leaving them as mere ceremonial figureheads. In 1614, Ieyasu, troubled by the influence of Christianity on Japan, signed the Christian Expulsion Edict which banned Christianity, expelled all Christians and foreigners, and banned Christians from practicing their religion. As a result, many Kirishitans (early Japanese Christians) went underground or fled to the Spanish Philippines.

In 1615, Tokugawa prepared the Buke Shohatto, a document setting out the future of the Tokugawa regime.

Siege of Osaka

Grave of Ieyasu in Toshogu shrine

The climax of Ieyasu's life was the siege of Osaka Castle (1614–1615). The last remaining threat to Ieyasu's rule was Hideyori, the son and rightful heir of Hideyoshi. He was now a young man living in Osaka Castle. Many samurai who opposed Ieyasu rallied around Hideyori, claiming he was the rightful ruler of Japan. Ieyasu used a minor conflict between his samurai and the supporters of Hideyori as pretext to destroy the last of Hideyoshi's family. Initially, the Tokugawa forces were repulsed by Hideyori's supporters, but Ieyasu had massive resources. The Tokugawa, with a huge army led by Shogun Hidetada, laid siege to Osaka Castle. The siege dragged on for more than a year. Eventually, Ieyasu made an agreement involving Hideyori's mother to put an end to the fighting. As soon as the treaty was agreed to, Tokugawa filled Osaka Castle's moats with sand so his troops could go across them. Ignoring the treaty, he again attacked Osaka Castle. Finally in late 1615, Osaka Castle fell and nearly all those defending it were killed, including Hideyori, his mother (Hideyoshi's widow, Yodogimi), and his infant son. His wife, Senhime (a granddaughter of Ieyasu), was spared. With the Toyotomi finally extinguished, no threats remained to Tokugawa domination of Japan.

In 1616, Ieyasu fell ill and died in his bed, at the age of 73. He was buried in Nikkō Tōshō-gū, which became one of the most important shrines in Japan.

Character of Ieyasu

Handprint of Ieyasu at Kunozan Toshogu

Ieyasu had a number of qualities that enabled him to rise to greatness. He was both careful and bold, depending on the time and place; for example, he wisely avoided Hideyoshi's disastrous war with Korea. He was calculating and subtle, and several times he switched alliances when he thought doing so would strengthen his position. He allied with Takeda Shingen, and then he switched allegiances and was responsible for both Shingen's death and his son's death. He allied with the Hōjō clan, then joined Hideyoshi's conquering army, which destroyed the Hōjō clan and allowed Ieyasu to take over their lands. In doing this, he behaved like other Japanese feudal lords during an era of violence, sudden death and betrayal. He was not well-liked or popular, but he was feared and respected for his leadership and his cunning.

Ieyasu was capable of loyalty; once he had allied himself with Oda Nobunaga, he never went against him, and both leaders profited from their long alliance. He was known for being loyal to his personal friends and the vassals whom he rewarded, but he also remembered those who had wronged him in the past. It is said that Ieyasu once executed a man who came into his power because the man had insulted him he was young.

Ieyasu protected many former Takeda retainers from the wrath of Oda Nobunaga, who was known to harbor a bitter grudge towards the Takeda. He managed to successfully transform many of the retainers of the Takeda, Hōjō, and Imagawa clans, all whom he defeated or helped to defeat, into loyal followers.

Ieyasu was also known for being heartless. He personally ordered his men to kill Hideyori's infant son, Kunimatsu, and ordered the execution of every soldier who defended Osaka castle. Tens of thousands of samurai are said to have been killed, their heads stuck on planks of wood which lined the road from Kyoto all the way to Fushimi. His lack of compassion was not uncommon for his time and can be attributed to his upbringing amidst wars, assassinations, and continuous violence.

In his personal relationships, Ieyasu manifested the same extremes of temperament he showed towards strangers. He had 19 wives and concubines, by whom he had 11 sons and five daughters. The 11 sons of Ieyasu were Matsudaira Nobuyasu (松平信康), Yūki Hideyasu (結城秀康), Tokugawa Hidetada (徳川秀忠), Matsudaira Tadayoshi (松平忠吉), Takeda Nobuyoshi (武田信吉), Matsudaira Tadateru (松平忠輝), Matsuchiyo (松千代), Senchiyo (仙千代), Tokugawa Yoshinao (徳川義直), Tokugawa Yorinobu (徳川頼宣), and Tokugawa Yorifusa (徳川頼房). The two without surnames died before adulthood. His daughters were Princesses Kame (亀姫), Toku Hime (1565–1615) (徳姫), Furi (振姫), Matsu (松姫, Eishōin), and Ichi (市姫, Seiun'in). He is said to have cared for his children and grandchildren, establishing three of them, Yorinobu, Yoshinao, and Yorifusa as the daimyo of Kii, Owari, and Mito provinces, respectively. However, he could be ruthless when crossed; he ordered the executions of his first wife and his eldest son.

Ieyasu's favorite pastime was hawking. He regarded it as excellent training for a warrior, saying:

When you go into the country hawking, you learn to understand the military spirit and also the hard life of the lower classes. You exercise your muscles and train your limbs. You have any amount of walking and running and become quite indifferent to heat and cold, and so you are little likely to suffer from any illness.[4]

Ieyasu swam often; even late in his life he is reported to have swum in the moat of the castle of Edo. He was interested in various kenjutsu skills, was a patron of the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū school from which he selected his personal sword instructors. Later in life he took an interest in scholarship and religion, patronizing famous scholars like Hayashi Razan.

Two of his famous quotes are:

Life is like unto a long journey with a heavy burden. Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not. Persuade thyself that imperfection and inconvenience are the natural lot of mortals, and there will be no room for discontent, neither for despair. When ambitious desires arise in thy heart, recall the days of extremity thou has passed through. Forbearance is the root of quietness and assurance forever. Look upon the wrath of the enemy. If thou knowest only what it is to conquer, and knowest not what it is like to be defeated, woe unto thee; it will fare ill with thee. Find fault with thyself rather than with others.

The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. Patience means restraining one's inclinations. There are seven emotions: joy, anger, anxiety, love, grief, fear, and hate, and if a man does not give way to these he can be called patient. I am not as strong as I might be, but I have long known and practiced patience. And if my descendants wish to be as I am, they must study patience.

He claimed that he fought as a warrior or a general in 90 battles. According to some sources, Ieyasu is known to have had the habit of biting his nails when nervous, especially before and during battle.


  1. A. L. Sadler, 1978, The Maker of Modern Japan: The Life of Tokugawa Ieyasu (Rutland, VT: C.E. Tuttle Co., ISBN 0804812977), p. 164.
  2. Sadler, 187.
  3. Karel van Wolferen, The Enigma of Japanese Power (New York: Vintage Books, 1990, ISBN 0679728023), p. 28.
  4. Sadler, 344.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Hall, John Whitney. 1991. The Cambridge History of Japan: Volume 4, Early Modern Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521223555
  • Sadler, A. L. 1978. The Maker of Modern Japan: The Life of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Rutland, VT: C.E. Tuttle Co. ISBN 0804812977
  • Sansom, George Bailey. 1958. A History of Japan (Stanford Studies in the Civilizations of Eastern Asia). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Tokugawa, Iyéyasu. Ieyasu's Legacy.
  • Totman, Conrad D. 1967. Politics in the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1600-1843. Harvard East Asian Series, 30. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Reprint edition, 1988. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0520063139
  • Totman, Conrad D. 1983. Tokugawa Ieyasu, Shogun: A Biography. San Francisco, CA: Heian. ISBN 0893462101
  • Willson, David Harris, and Ieyasu Tokugawa. 1958. A Royal Request for Trade: A Letter of King James I to [Tokugawa Ieyasu, referred to as] the Emperor of Japan.


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