Useful Notes: Tokugawa Ieyasu

"If the cuckoo does not sing, wait until it will."

"After victory, tighten the cords of your helmet."
Statement at the end of the battle of Sekigahara

Credited as the third and final unifier of Japan of the Sengoku Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the man who founded the Tokugawa shogunate, a dynasty that would control Japan for over 200 years. The Tokugawa line's control remained firm throughout this period, and was not broken until the Meiji restoration in the latter half of the 19th century, and the downfall and abolition of the samurai class altogether.

Tokugawa Ieyasu had been around since the early era of Oda Nobunaga. Born Matsudaira Takechiyo in 1543, his first major appearance in history is as the man who stabilized his clan's survival... by being a hostage for the Imagawa Clan. As a hostage, Takechiyo learned quite a lot, particularly about the arts of war. He later changed his name to Matsudaira Motonobu, and later still, Motoyasu.

Motoyasu began his military career in 1558, winning a minor victory over Oda Nobunaga at Terabe. In 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto began marching towards Kyoto, but fell victim to a surprise attack by Nobunaga at Okehazama. Motoyasu declared independence from the Imagawa clan soon later, allied himself with Nobunaga and proceeded to strengthen his home base of Mikawa. He acquired a number of powerful and famous generals, including Hattori Hanzō and Honda Tadakatsu, then in 1566 changed his name to Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Tokugawa was a tremendous help to Oda in his quest to unify the land, assisting particularly in his struggles against Takeda Katsuyori and the earlier parts against the Azai-Asakura coalition. When Akechi Mitsuhide revolted and drove Oda to suicide, Tokugawa retreated through Iga Province (aided by Hanzo) and planned a counterattack, only to find that Toyotomi Hideyoshi had beaten him to it. After Tokugawa fought Hideyoshi to a stalemate at Nagakute in 1584, Tokugawa agreed to become Hideyoshi's vassal, while Hideyoshi went on to unify Japan.

One of the last holdouts against unification, Hojo Ujimasa (the great-grandson of Hojo Soun), held territory bordering Tokugawa's lands on the east. Tokugawa helped prepare the way for the Toyotomi army to march down the Tokaido in 1590 and crush the Hojo at Odawara castle; for this Hideyoshi rewarded Tokugawa with control over the Kanto plain.

After Hideyoshi died, Tokugawa grew to become the most influential and powerful man in Japan. However, many were unhappy about Tokugawa's perceived usurpation of Toyotomi's position; this turmoil ultimately culminated in 1600 in the major battle of Sekigahara. This battle saw Tokugawa leading eastern Japan, with western Japan led by Ishida Mitsunari. Tokugawa scored a huge victory, thanks in part to luck.

In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu began a new period in Japanese history by becoming the first man in thirty years to hold the office of Shogun of Japan. Rather than rule from Kyoto, where he began the building of Nijo Palace, he set up a new capital in what was then a small fishing village on the Kanto plain known as Edo. A few centuries later, Edo would become Tokyo.

In 1605, merely two years after he had gotten the post, Tokugawa officially abdicated as Shogun, handing the position to his son and main heir, Tokugawa Hidetada. Following a well established Japanese pattern, he would continue to be an influential adviser to his son behind the scenes until his death. This unusual succession was actually a brilliant long-term plan, as it meant that when Ieyasu ultimately passed away, there would be no fight for succession as there was with his predecessors because his son would have have already been ruling as shogun for the past decade.

Tokugawa Ieyasu's last known activity was during the 1614-15 siege of Osaka, where Sanada Yukimura managed to charge through to his camp to confront him. However, upon finally reaching Tokugawa, Sanada declared that he was too tired to fight, and died of his wounds. This prompted Tokugawa to praise him as "Japan's Number One Soldier".

Tokugawa Ieyasu is perhaps best known for his patience and wisdom in knowing when (and when not) to strike. There is an ironic saying: "Ieyasu won the country by running away". He also learned the Yagyu Shinkage-Ryuu style of swordsmanship from Yagyu Jubei (Muneyoshi was his teacher, and Munenori became his retainer).

When compared to Oda and Toyotomi, Tokugawa is less commonly a victim of Historical Villain Upgrade. However, he is more likely to be upgraded to villainy in works more sympathetic toward either Sanada Yukimura or Ishida Mitsunari. Said villainous upgrade was actually a fairly common practice around the decline of the Tokugawa shogunate, some 200 years after its founding. Present-day opinion on Tokugawa generally portrays him as an honorable if boring man, far more willing to play the long game and concede small losses than either of his predecessors. "Slow and steady" is a common theme among Ieyasu portrayals.

Example of works featuring Tokugawa Ieyasu:

  • Kessen, in both the first and third game. For the first game, Ieyasu is one of the protagonist and can go either sympathetic or unsympathetic, depending on whoever is picked as protagonist (Him or Mitsunari). In the third game, he is forever a second banana to Nobunaga since Nobunaga survived Honnoji and is the main protagonist.
  • Samurai Warriors: Ieyasu starts out as some sort of cowardly Fat Bastard Smug Snake NPC in the first game, but by the expansion, he grew some competence (despite still being NPC) and sympathy. And in the second game, he became playable, got a spear cannon for weapon and can be a Fat Gentleman.
  • Ieyasu is mentioned in Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams as Soki's uncle. However, Soki thinks he's just a useless lapdog to Hideyoshi.
  • In Samurai Deeper Kyo, Ieyasu is a literal Fat Bastard... until it's revealed that this fat bastard was just a Kagemusha. The REAL Ieyasu took the guise of Hattori Hanzō.
  • Sengoku Basara has an... interesting take on Ieyasu. Early on in the series, he's a short, plump, impatient little brat; and while he's virtuous, he's also rather incompetent, relies too much on Tadakatsu, and gets kidnapped way too often. But in the third game, he grew up, took massive levels in badass and became one of the main protagonists.
    • In his first incarnation Takeda Shingen drives the point home by addressing him as Takechiyo, the childhood name he used before coming of age (Ieyasu is technically his adult name, though historically he changed his name to "Tokugawa Ieyasu" much later).
      • In both forms of young and tall, he's voiced by Tōru Ōkawa.
  • In Saber Marionette J, the Japoness is led by a man named Tokugawa Ieyasu. He looks like a normal old man usually, but flashback reveals that he's just as bishonen as the protagonist Otaru when he's younger.
  • Saihai no Yukue, an Ace Attorney-like game based on Sengoku era (by Koei) features Ieyasu as a Fat Bastard antagonist, while our protagonist is the Bishōnen Ishida Mitsunari. Though, in the end, it's subverted that Ieyasu was suckered by the true villain of the series: Lady Yodo.
  • The Japanese campaign of Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties is about his rise to power, with help from the player character.
  • One of the few works where Ieyasu is arguably the villain would be in Futaro Yamada's The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, with Ieyasu pitting the warring Kouga and Iga ninja clans in a free-for-all simply to determine who among his grandchildren would ascend to the Shogunate, setting off the tragic events for all participants. The manga and anime adaptation of the story, Basilisk takes this Up to Eleven and Gonks him up.
  • Tokugawa is the leader of the Japanese civilization in the second, third, and fourth installments of the Civilization series of games; he is noted for being particularly isolationist in IV. He gets replaced by Nobunaga in V.
  • The character of Toranaga in James Clavell's novel Shogun is based on Ieyasu.
  • Ieyasu shows up as a minor character in Taiko, spending most of the book as Nobunaga's ally.
  • Bandai's SD Sengokuden Bushin Kourin Hen has depicted several Warring States characters in SD Gundam form, picking the three unifiers of Japan to make at a larger "deluxe" size. Ieyasu is the last of the deluxes and possibly the last model released.
  • Sengoku Otome presents a gender flipped Ieyasu as appearing sweet, but actually being the most underhanded character in the series. She's not opposed to cheating, and is actively planning to take the Crimson Armor for herself once Nobunaga completes it.
  • Ieyasu is the Big Bad of Brave 10 and thus far shows himself as a ruthless warlord.
  • One of the main daimyos -clan leaders- in Shogun: Total War and its successor, Total War: Shogun 2.
  • One of the warring leaders opposing the Takeda Shingen clan in the film Kagemusha.
  • Pokémon Conquest features Ieyasu as he appears in Warriors Orochi. Here he is dubbed the Warlord of Valora, the Steel-type nation. He's portrayed in a positive light, disagreeing with Nobunaga's methods but joining his team to keep his nation safe, and warmly congratulates the hero upon their victory. His signature Pokémon in this is Aggron and eventually Registeel, if you play your cards right.