THE NEW MINAMOTOTokugawa Ieyasu and Sekigahara map



The Tokugawa clan never existed, strictly speaking, before a young, quiet, unobtrusive, and generally inattractive 19 years-old Mikawanese named Matsudaira Motoyasu (the first name means 'the calm basis', while the clan's name is simply a place's name) got his eyes set on a very far horizon of dynasty-hatching. Matsudaira had just upgraded his status then; he used to be a mere hostage of the much stronger Imagawa clan of Suruga since his 5th birthday; his own dad sent him there as a warranty of loyalty.

It was in 1561 when a loud, good-looking, fast and furious, lean and mean neighbor offered him an alliance so that they could whack every other warlord of 16th century Japan together. This neighbor's name was Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582). Matsudaira agreed to join in, and they became allies for the rest of Oda Nobunaga's life. That means 21 uninterrupted years. No one ever thought they could work together for so long, and without ever having any quarrel whatsoever, too.

In 1566, Matsudaira Motoyasu sent a petition to Emperor Ogimachi, asking to be allowed to sign official documents by a new name. The Emperor said go ahead. Since then, the now not-so-young man was to be addressed to as Tokugawa Ieyasu, which means 'the house of peace at the bamboo river'. Hence the Tokugawa clan was, specifically, born.

The Tokugawa clan had, probably, the best army in 16th century Japan, that virtually no other warrior clan could match (not even Oda). It's a tiny weeny army compared to the Oda clan's (for every 35,000 of Oda soldiers, there were no more than 8,000 of Tokugawa's). But this small band was decidedly more lethal. The Mikawanese were notoriously provincialists, their worldview was characterized by something that resembles a chauvinist attitude when it came to their province and dignity of the ruling clan. Sharing this sentiment in a way, encouraging it in many ways, and making use of it in every way, Tokugawa Ieyasu succeeded in dreaming his ideal to life in just a decade after he broke free from the Imagawas.

Of course he didn't do it all by himself. A lot of samurai helped cementing the foundation of the dynasty, and without Oda Nobunaga's tolerance Tokugawa wouldn't have been able to get what he got -- Oda gave him much space to roam, letting him to concentrate on internal management, in the first years of their alliance -- during which Tokugawa couldn't lend Oda any assistance in his ongoing wars yet.

The Tokugawa Generals and Captains without whom Tokugawa Ieyasu would have been nowhere but in footnotes to history were Honda Heihachi (1548-1610), Sakai Tadatsugu (1527-1596), Ishikawa Kazumasa (1534-1609), Torii Mototada (1539-1600), Matsudaira Ietada (1547-1600), Sakakibara Yasumasa (1548-1606), Okubo Tadayo (1531-1593), Abe Masakatsu (1541-1600), Uemura Masakatsu (1535-1592), Watanabe Moritsuna (1542-1620), Amano Yasukage (1537-1613), Hattori Hanzo (1541-1596), Ii Naomasa (1561-1602), Mizuno Nobutomo (1537-1576), Ina Tadatsugu (1550-1610), Naito Ienaga (1546-1600), Okudaira Sadamasa (1555-1615), Suganuma Sadamitsu (1548-1602). If you're looking for their family crests, click here.

In 1568, the man who held what resembled Japan was Oda Nobunaga. In 1582, Oda's vassal Akechi Mitsuhide suddenly attacked the boss, and Oda died; Tokugawa Ieyasu himself nearly couldn't escape alive. In 1583, Oda's best General, someone that was not much to look at, but got an overload of wit and some XL size of guts, succeeded the former overlord. This man was Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), and throughout his reign Tokugawa Ieyasu laid low, being treated as a mere vassal by Toyotomi.

In 1599, Toyotomi fell ill and died. In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu knocked-out Toyotomi's followers. In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu declared himself as Shogun. In 1605, he proclaimed abdication, and his son Tokugawa Hidetada was inaugurated as the new Shogun. In 1615, the father and son crushed the last stand of Toyotomi's relix, and Toyotomi Hideyori, son of Hideyoshi, died in the blaze. In 1616, Tokugawa Ieyasu himself died.

The Tokugawa shogunate lasted from 1603 until 1868.

The three men -- Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, are the so-called 'unifiers of Japan'. Their bios and CV's are inseparable, in whichever sense of the word.

Ingredients of the shogunate were (what follows each name is its meaning) Ieyasu ('house of peace', 1603-1604), Hidetada ('sun of the field', 1605-1622), Iemitsu ('bright house', 1623-1649), Ietsuna ('house of ties', 1650-1680), Tsunayoshi ('good ties', 1681-1708), Ienobu ('grand house', 1709-1712), Ietsugu (1713-1716), Yoshimune ('good faith', 1717-1744), Ieshige ('house of luxury', 1745-1762), Ieharu ('house of springtime', 1762-1786), Ienori ('house of law', 1787-1837), Ieyoshi ('good house', 1838-1852), Iesada ('house of truth', 1853-1858), Iemochi (1858-1866), and Yoshinobu ('good and great', 1866-1868) -- fifteen in all, until a young Emperor got sick of the entire Tokugawa biz, and took back the authority from the last of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

This Emperor was Mutsuhito, or the one we now call Meiji.














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Just in case you are a student or something, and were actually looking for a complete profile of the Oda, Tokugawa & Toyotomi clans -- year by year, person by person, death by death, from one battle to another, and so on -- and then you misclicked and got stranded here instead of the Library of Congress, click the button at your right for the Oda clan's 4 generations of exploits -- from Oda Nobunaga's rather clueless daddy to Oda Nobunaga's underachieving grandsons. Tokugawa Ieyasu's biography can't get separated from Oda's and Toyotomi's, so it is all incorporated there.

click here



Click here for complete history and pictures of Japanese social classes since 1185 until 1868


Click here for all Emperors, Empresses, Shoguns, and Rulers of Japan since 660 B.C. until today





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Sources I tapped for this page: Nihon Shakai no Kazoku teki Kosei (Tokyo: 1948); Kono Shozo, Kokumin Dotoku Yoron (Tokyo: 1935); Anesaki Masaharu, Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1916); Robert Cornell Armstrong, Light from the East, Studies of Japanese Confucianism (University of Toronto, Canada, 1914); Sasama Yoshihiko, Nihon kassen zuten (Yuzankaku, 1997); William Aston, Shinto: The Way of the Gods (London: Longmans, Green, 1905); Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946); Charles Eliot, Japanese Buddhism (London, 1935); Futaki Kenichi, Chuusei buke no saho (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1999); Kiyooka Eichii, The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi (Tokyo, Hokuseido Press, 1934); Konno Nobuo, Kamakura bushi monogatari (Kawade shobo shinsha, 1997); Nukariya Kaiten, The Religion of the Samurai (London: Luzac, 1913); A.L. Sadler, The Beginner's Book of Bushido by Daidoji Yuzan (Tokyo: Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, 1941); Satomi Kishio, Nichirenism and the Japanese National Principles (NY: Dutton, 1924); Suzuki D.T., Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture (Kyoto: The Eastern Buddhist Society, 1938); Henri Van Straelen, Yoshida Shoin (Leiden: Brill, 1952); Robert Bellah, Tokugawa Religion; Masaaki Takahashi, Bushi no seiritsu: Bushizo no soshutsu (Tokyo: Tokyo daigaku, 1999); Paul Akamatsu, Meiji 1868, Revolution and Counter-Revolution (Allen & Unwin, 1972); Nitobe Inazo, Bushido, The Soul of Japan (Tokyo: Tuttle, 1970); Paul Varley and Ivan Morris, The Samurai (Weidenfeld, 1970); Nakane Chie, Japanese Society (Tokyo, Tuttle, 1973); Inoguchi and Nakajima, The Divine Wind: Japanese Kamikaze Force in World War II (Hutchinson, 1959), Seki Yukihiko, Bushi no tanjo (Tokyo: NHK, 2000); Amino Yoshihiko, ed. Edojidai no mikataga kawaruho (Tokyo: Yosensha, 1998).