When American gun boats threatened Japan in 1868 they were the precursors of change that would bring down a dynasty in power for over two hundred and fifty years. The Tokugawa shogunate was established in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, head of the clan.Youth
Ieyasu was born of a minor branch of the Hachimantaro Yoshiie clan, of the Seiwa Genji line on 31st January 1543. In Europe Henry VIII was in the last years of his reign, when he married Catherine Parr in the summer of that year. Copernicus published his revolutionary theory that the earth rotated around the sun and Martin Luther his incendiary ‘On the Jews and their Lies’. Also in this year the Japanese received their first samples of firearms from ship-wrecked Portuguese.Another branch of the family had produced the Ashikaga Shoguns[i] and Ieyasu’s birthright gave him the right, as a member of the Minamoto family, to hold the position of Shogun. The son of Hirotada, Ieyasu was named Takechiyo[ii]. Hirotada was daimyo of Mikawa[iii] and at the time of Ieyasu’s birth was 17 years old.
1543 was a year of conflict in Japan as Oda Nobuhide[iv] repulsed an attack by Imagawa Yoshimoto of Suruga province. Hirotada’s father-in-law Mizuno Tadamasa[v] died in July and his son switched sides, in the war raging between Oda and Yoshimito. Bound as he was to Yoshimoto, Hirotada returned his wife[vi] to her family, Ieyasu remaining with his father.Hostage
Reconstructed keep of Okazaki Castle
Further manoeuvres in the struggle resulted in Hirotada’s overlord demanding Ieyasu, now six, as a hostage, in return for support against Oda, who was now marching on Okazaki[vii], where an Oda supporter had been assassinated by one of Hirotada’s men.En route Ieyasu was kidnapped and delivered into the hands of Oda, who wrote to Hirotada suggesting that he hand over Okazaki if he did not want his son to be put to death. Hirotada refused, saying that his overlord would have greater faith in him if he allowed his son to be killed rather than dishonour himself. Ieyasu stayed three years as Oda’s hostage.
Hirotada died of TB at the age of twenty four and Oda Nobuhide died at roughly the same time, aged forty two. Oda was replaced for a short time by his son Nobuhiro, who was driven out by his younger more capable brother Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga killed his younger brother. Nobuhiro was besieged in his castle at Anjo[viii] by Hirotada’s former allies and it was not until he agreed[ix] to hand over Ieyasu that the siege was lifted.
Ieyasu was placed under the control of Imagawa in Sumpu. The Tokugawa clan was now to be ruled by Imagawa’s officials. Ieyasu had two guardians and seven young pages, all of whom became eminent officials and leaders of the Tokugawa House. Ieyasu was not particularly studious and spent much of his free time hawking, which was to remain one of his major passions, annoying a neighbour.‘He flew his hawks over his land and trespassed on it, and trampled it down, so that Mondo exclaimed “I have had about enough of the boy from Okazaki” and treated him with discourtesy.’[x]
AdulthoodIeyasu stayed at Sumpu until he was fifteen, when his coming of age ceremonies were held under the auspices of Yoshimoto. Ieyasu was given the adult name Matsudaira Jirosaburo Motonobu. As an adult, Ieyasu was renowned for his acute awareness of money, in particular his own; an uncommon attribute at the time.
Ieyasu’s dependents had not been treated well; the majority of their income had been taken by Imagawa, who had set out to deliberately weaken the Mikawa fief. Additionally he used the Mikawa soldiers at the forefront of any fighting, to spare his own men. The maltreatment was advantageous to Ieyasu as it obliterated the infighting in the Mikawa clan, who united against Imagawa.In the following year 1558 Ieyasu fought in his first battle. Yoshimoto suggested that Ieyasu fight for Terabe, whose lord had just transferred his allegiance to Nobunaga.
‘Western Mikawa has always been your territory…..and now Suzuki Shigeteru, lord of the castle of Terabe, has deserted us and gone over to Oda Nobunaga with it. How awful!’[xi]
Oda NobunagaThe castle was attacked and burnt. Oda Nobunaga sent a relief force which was driven off by Ieyasu’s men. Yoshimoto rewarded Ieyasu with a sword and a grant of Ieyasu’s own land. In 1559 Ieyasu became a father for the first time, having married the daughter of Sekiguchi Gyobushoyu Chikanaga[xii]. His son was named Matsudaira Nobuyasu.
Yoshimoto made his move the next year, marching circa twenty-five thousand men against Nobunaga’s line of defensive forts. Ieyasu was involved in the action storming and burning the fort of Marune. The attacks brought Nobunaga and his army to the border. After the battle was over Yoshimoto was dead and his forces scattered. Ieyasu, after confirmation of the death withdrew with his forces to his fief of Mikawa, which Yoshimoto’s men abandoned.Entering into His Inheritance
Nobunaga did not move against Ieyasu. Ieyasu made some tentative advances into Owari territory and halted before Oda Gemba in Kutsukake[xiv]. But the following spring in 1561 Nobunaga made overtures through an intermediary. Ieyasu’s family were held hostage in Suruga under the control of Yoshimoto’s son Ujizane[xv], nevertheless Ieyasu decided to ally with Nobunaga. He informed Ujizane that the alliance was temporary and necessary to Imagawa interests as well as Mikawa. Ujizane put to death a number of hostages of lesser families, who now transferred their allegiance to Ieyasu.Ieyasu’s alliance with Nobunaga lasted until the latter’s death in 1583. It was around this time that Toyotomi Hideyoshi[xvi] appeared on the Japanese stage, as a supporter of Nobunaga.
Monto BuddhismIn 16th century Japan one of the powers in the land was the Monto sect of Buddhism that did not lay great demands on its followers ethically or intellectually. Over the years the sect had been able to take advantage of the Emperor and Shogun’s impotence and had strengthened itself at the expense of the secular power, collecting monies to hire soldiers. By the late 15th century the sect’s monks had taken power in the province of Kaga; their power was felt throughout Osaka. The Monto Buddhists also held sway at Nagashima[xvii] and Tomita[xviii].
Mikawa also housed three temples of the sect, all acknowledging no power apart from the head of the sect. The temples refused to allow Ieyasu’s men to enter the temples to requisition supplies. Ieyasu determined to deal with the Buddhists, assisted by Ujizane’s inability to act against him, while his attention was diverted elsewhere. The Mikawa border castles were loyal to Ieyasu, giving him the time to crush this opposition within his fief.When the monks ill-treated the families of one of his supporters Ieyasu decided to act. The sect’s army was heavily loaded with farmers, who were armed with matchlocks, obtained from the Portuguese. The military leaders for the most part sided with their lord. By 1564 the Monto sect agreed to disperse their armies and proposed terms on condition that those who had taken part in the revolt should not affected in terms of life and property and that the temples should be as they were originally.
Ieyasu agreed to these conditions and the monks laid down their arms. They were horrified when Ieyasu’s men pulled down the temples. Upon complaining to Ieyasu the monks were told:‘That by “as they were originally were” he understood the bare site of the ground before they were built on it.’[xix]
To bring down the Monto sect Ieyasu received assistance from the sect of Buddhism that he belonged to; the Jodo, who sent a thousand men from Ieyasu’s ancestral temple of Daijuji. Some of his former supporters, who returned to the Mikawa fold, were ordered by Ieyasu to transfer from the Monto sect to the Jodo.In 1565 Nobunaga, following a series of matrimonial alliances, gave the Emperor a grant of money and restored some lost Imperial holdings. His supporter Hideyoshi was made Governor of Kyoto.
BibliographySekigahara – Anthony Bryant, Osprey Publishing Ltd 1995
Samurai William – Giles Milton, Hodder & Stoughton 2002The Maker of Modern Japan – AL Sadler, Charles E Tuttle Company 1983
Tokugawa Ieyasu Shogun – Conrad Totman, Heian 1983En.wikipedia.org
[i] General. In the twelfth century the position of Shogun was made a perpetual commission, as chief of military governors and tax administrators.
[ii] A thousand ages like the bamboo; a temporary childhood name. Reference to Ieyasu will be made by his adult name, in an attempt to reduce confusion (on my part if no-one else’s).
[iii] One of the provinces of the Tokaido, on the south-eastern edge of Honshu.
[iv] Magistrate of Owari province and father of Oda Nobunaga
[v] Lord of Kariya in Mikawa
[vi] She remarried and had a further 7 children.
[vii] In Aichi prefecture
[ix] The besiegers threatened to force Nobuhiro to commit suicide.
[x] The Maker of Modern Japan - Sadler
[xii] Yoshimoto’s brother-in-law
[xiii] Chibu prefecture
[xiv] In Nagoya
[xv] Devoted to Japanese verse and football
[xvi] Succeeded Nobunaga and is regarded as Japan’s second great unifier
[xvii] In Ise province
[xviii] In Owari province
[xix] The Maker of Modern Japan - Sadler