The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Tokugawa Ieyasu

Tokugawa Ieyasu (also (archaic) Iyeyasu; 徳川 家康 Tokugawa Ieyasu (January 31, 1543June 1, 1616) was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, and is commonly known as one of the "three great unifiers" of feudal Japan (the other two are Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi).

Ieyasu, the son of Matsudaira Hirotada, was originally daimyo (大名) of Mikawa (eastern part of present-day Aichi prefecture) but was displaced to the Kanto region during Hideyoshi's rule. Ieyasu's influence made him an important ally of Nobunaga. After Nobunaga died and Hideyoshi became Japan's dominant ruler, Ieyasu was named as one of five regents (tairo) with the responsibility of looking after Hideyoshi's son, Toyotomi Hideyori.

When Hideyoshi died in 1598, Hideyori was only five years old. The boy was placed in the care of Toyotomi's closest ally, Ishida Mitsunari, who attempted to hold the Toyotomi coalition together. Ieyasu, however, saw a chance to usurp power from the Toyotomi loyalists, and assembled an "eastern army" to take on Ishida.

The ensuing Battle of Sekigahara (1600) ended in a crushing defeat for Ishida's "western army." In 1603, Ieyasu became shogun of an almost entirely unified Japan, a concept that had been abandoned by Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He abdicated in 1605 in favor of his son Tokugawa Hidetada.

The Tokugawa shogunate he founded would endure until the mid-19th century. While it was a time of strict seclusion from the outside world, it was also blessed with peace and stability.

Ieyasu had many sons. He established three of them as the heads of collateral households that would be the daimyo of major han and would, if necessary, supply future shoguns. The senior house was the Owari Tokugawa, with its castle at Nagoya, a strategically important location on the Tokaido in present-day Aichi Prefecture. Next was the Kii (or Kishu) Tokugawa, at Wakayama. This location, south of Osaka and Kyoto (where the shogunate maintained strongholds) provided a significant presence in Kansai and on the Seto Inland Sea. The eighth shogun, Yoshimune, was born into the Kii line. Third was the Mito Tokugawa, its domain controlling a major part of the Kanto along the Pacific coast. Other sons took the Matsudaira surname (Ieyasu's hereditary surname) and became daimyo of lesser han. Yet another was born to a mother who was related to the Takeda clan (of which Takeda Shingen was the most famous member) and took the name Takeda Nobuyoshi.

Though his descendants prohibited Japanese people to go abroad, Ieayasu actively involved in foreign trade. During his time, many Japanese went to Southeast Asian ports on board red seal ships, while all foreign merchants, including Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, and Siamese, were welcomed in Japanese ports. William Adams, who was shiprecked to Japan on a Dutch ship, was a foreign adviser to the first shogun.

Ieyasu's rise is among the most famous stories in Japanese history. It was adapted by James Clavell for the novel Shogun. In the novel (and subsequent mini-series), Ieyasu was portrayed as a fictional Shogun named Toranaga.

Ieyasu was enshrined in Nikko after his death, and his mausoleum, Nikko Toshogu (日光東照宮), is a popular tourist destination today. Sargent (1894; The Forest Flora of Japan) recorded that a daimyo who was too poor to offer a stone lantern at the funeral requested instead to be allowed to plant an avenue of sugi, 'that future visitors might be protected from the heat of the sun'. The offer was accepted; the avenue, which still exists, is over 65km (40 miles) long, and 'has not its equal in stately grandeur'.

Preceded by:
Tokugawa Shogun
Succeeded by:
Tokugawa Hidetada

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Last updated: 05-12-2005 23:42:07
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04