Useful Notes: Date Masamune

Date Masamune is one of the most famous feudal era daimyo of Japan. Nicknamed Dokuganryuu ("one-eyed dragon") by later generations, and known for his helmet adorned with a huge crescent moon, he almost single-handedly unified Northern Japan with great ferocity and continued to rule as a political juggernaut for four decades through cunning and insight, especially in regards to foreign trade, Christianity and allegiances. He was an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Battle of Sekigahara and later during the Siege of Osaka.

Born Bontenmaru, he married at thirteen, won his first battle at fifteen, and became head of the clan at eighteen, but his mother Yoshihime never approved of him since he lost an eye to smallpox as a child. When he came to power, he decided that the Date Clan shouldn't be so submissive and so went on the offensive, conquering the neighboring clans. This ended up sorta biting him in the ass as one of the clans, the Hatakeyama, decided to take his father Terumune hostage to force him to pull his forces back. When Masamune confronted the Hatakeyama, Terumune instead told Masamune to just open fire and kill him along with the Hatakeyama. Masamune did so... and then hunted down the rest of those Hatakeyama supporters and tortured them as retribution.

With his father gone, Masamune continued his conquest, hindered only by a power struggle within his family: his mother, who favored his younger brother Masamichi, allegedly went as far as poisoning him. In the end Masamune killed his brother and disinherited him for seven generations(!) so no descendant of his would be a threat to Masamune's and his heirs' position. Yoshihime fled back to her home and Masamune never saw her again (which apparently did wonders to their relationship, as they seem to have reconciled with time).

Masamune succeeded in unifying the north, but by the time he did so, Toyotomi Hideyoshi had already risen to power, so Masamune had no choice but to become Hideyoshi's vassal (though he was rather unenthusiastic about it). Under Hideyoshi's banner he took part in in eliminating the Hojo at Odawara and was rewarded, moving to Sendai (in the region ravaged by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami) as his home base and turning it from a small rural community into a prosperous city. He eventually allied with Tokugawa Ieyasu against an aging Hideyoshi, and aided him in seizing power following Hideyoshi's death. It took a long time for him to give up his dream of ruling all Japan, but after he finally realized he had no chance, he was a loyal and steadfast ally. Although considered a Wild Card and not really trusted by anyone, Masamune did prove his loyalty and even recited a poem when Ieyasu was on his deathbed.

He kept several Christians under his protection (his favourite daughter may or may not have converted) and encouraged travel to foreign countries, even sending a letter to the Pope trying to establish ties for a potential alliance. He was also greatly interested in cookery and art, and possessed a rather flamboyant taste, leading folk etymology to assign the kanji of his surname to the word date (approx. "flashy").

His lasting success, along with his unique personality, means Masamune has remained as one of the more popular historical figures in modern Japan.

Of course, not to be confused with that sword from the Final Fantasy series. That's actually named after a different Masamune.

Tropes associated with the historical Masamune:

  • Bling of War: His pimped out army became a public spectacle as they traveled from the north to Kyoto to prepare for the invasion of Korea.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite his quirky nature he was an effective leader and administrator.
  • Cain and Abel: Ended up killing and disinheriting (in that order) his own younger brother to put an end to a power struggle within the family.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor/The Alcoholic: He was rather infamous for his low alcohol tolerance, but this didn't stop him from drinking, nor from messing up by deciding on matters while under the influence.
    • Once he faked illness to avoid meeting the shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada - in reality he was nursing a hangover from hell.
  • Cool Helmet: His iconic crescent moon helmet. It's a wonder that thing didn't take someone else's eye out.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Subverted - he always wears an eyepatch in fictional depictions, but there's no record of him wearing one in real life. In fact, he specifically requested that his portraits be painted with him having both eyes. The reason for the latter is a bit of Values Dissonance in the West—in East Asia the body is considered a gift from the parents, and alienating any part of it, even due to reasons beyond one's control, is considered disrespectful.
  • Headbutting Heroes: He was famously on bad terms with Naoe Kanetsugu.
  • Not-So-Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: A man of many interests, he had a great many hobbies, some of which were customary for men of his status, such as poetry and appreciation of art; and some were way out there for the age, such as cooking and taiko drumming.
  • Real Men Cook: One of his many hobbies was cooking, and he liked to entertain his guests by serving them food he made himself.
  • Sadistic Choice: When forced to shoot through his father to kill the kidnappers.
  • Subversion of Self-Made Orphan

Works that references Masamune: