How was it like to be once a fearsome, powerful individual, and then by a stroke of dumb luck, all of it were turned around and your legacy becomes that of a joke? Well, that's the kind of thing that this old Japanese daimyo Imagawa Yoshimoto would tell you.
Imagawa Yoshimoto is the daimyo that ruled the province of Suruga, becoming the daimyo after several succession crisis involving his siblings. Back in the days, the Imagawa was actually a force to be reckoned with thanks to Yoshimoto's leadership. Through shrewd political maneuvers, Yoshimoto managed to seal off a three-way alliance with the Takeda clan and the Hojo clan, forming a moniker known as 'Three Kingdoms Alliance' (he himself was married with the sister of Takeda Shingen). In addition of this, Yoshimoto expanded the territory of Imagawa, including Totomi and Mikawa. This was how he got the Matsudaira clan leader, Takechiyo/Motoyasu to serve as his vassal. He only got driven away by Oda Nobuhide, but overall it wasn't that big of a loss, so Yoshimoto focused back on the alliance with Takeda and Hojo, marrying his daughter to the Takeda and his son Ujizane to the Hojo (to Hojo Ujiyasu's daughter Hayakawa).
Once the three alliances calmed down, Yoshimoto then announced that he would make his move to the capital at Kyoto, taking along Matsudaira Motoyasu as his vanguard. With an army of 25,000 men (or 40,000, as he announced), he posed to be really unstoppable, and Nobuhide's son and successor, Nobunaga was just known as The Fool of Owari, some military success aside; and their army number didn't even reach 10,000 men. So, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Well, on the way to the capital, Yoshimoto stopped by to a small gorge known as Dengaku-Hazama, since it was raining heavily and the soldiers needed rest. He was so sure of his success that he let his army do a pre-victory celebration. Unfortunately, the rain provided a heavy fog and all of the sudden, Nobunaga's men appeared out of nowhere and struck right in the heart of Yoshimoto's army: his personal camp, when he thought the lot of them were holed up in their castle.
Also because his army is in a gorge, movement became really limited while the Oda army has the advantage of terrain knowledge thanks to Nobunaga while the Imagawa has none of such thing.
And so began the important battle/slaughter known as the Battle of Okehazama where Yoshimoto's life ended when he popped his head out of the camp, thinking that his men were being too loud in celebrating, only to realize Nobunaga's assault too late, and was then killed on the spot. His army's morale plummeted so fast that the majority of them were slaughtered, and the rest fled back to Suruga.
And so began the rapid decline of the Imagawa. First, the Matsudaira ditched them in favor of allying with the Oda. Second, his successor Ujizane proved to be less than capable, so eventually Motoyasu took over his domain and made Ujizane his vassal.
Once, he was a feared daimyo, and now, Yoshimoto is mostly known as that one daimyo who only existed to get his ass kicked by Nobunaga and kickstarted the latter's rise to fame. This is why most of the time, modern fiction tended to skip Yoshimoto's more capable daimyo self and he tends to get the portrayal of a pompous buffoon who relied more on large force than strategy. Although without Yoshimoto and his defeat, the face of the Sengoku Period might not be the same, so his defeat is an important part of Japan's history.
Oh, and the site of Okehazama? It's now a park, though still marked as a historical park with graves of his best retainers and the words "Imagawa Yoshimoto died here." planted on it.
Imagawa Yoshimoto in fiction
- He led the Imagawa clan in Shogun: Total War and was playable there, but got demoted to unplayability in the sequel. However, the Battle of Okehazama remains as one of the historical battles you can emulate in the second game... by taking control of Nobunaga and defeating Yoshimoto's massive army via cunningness.
- In Battle Girls: Time Paradox, Yoshimoto is genderflipped into an archer lady specializing in bow combat (if anything, the Imagawa army has a lot of good archery), though that still didn't save her from being stomped by Nobunaga first. Also, she's into yuri.
- In The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, Yoshimoto was gender-flipped as well, but now more in-line of the 'loser' image where she's prone to Noblewoman's Laugh... and you guessed it, beaten by Nobuna first. She's surprisingly Spared By Adaptation, where she's instead made to be a puppet shogun.
- Yoshimoto appears in Nobunaga's Ambition games where due to how everyone is characterized to be more down to earth and less flashy, this is actually one of the games that portray Yoshimoto as a sensible leader, not a buffoon. Of course, the Battle of Okehazama is always a trigger-able event, so he'll still go down, at least with a bit more dignity.
- Yoshimoto started out as an NPC in the first Samurai Warriors game, but was Promoted to Playable in the expansion pack, where he fights with a katana along with his favorite game of kemari. He was cut from the second game, but returned in the expansion pack again and has always been a mainstay. At first, he's portrayed as usual, being a buffoon and a Cloud Cuckoo Lander who prefers playing kemari than conquering the land. However, latter games toned this down, implying that he's a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, that in the fourth game, sometimes his voice changed into rather dark and scary to show that there's a reason that he was a successful daimyo in the past.
- The fifth game, as a Soft Reboot to the general designs and harkening back to Nobunaga's younger days, also gave Yoshimoto a serious makeover, ditching his kemari ball and katana for a hammer, deck him in full samurai armor, give him a deeper voice courtesy of Kenji Nomura to enforce that he's no longer a buffoon but a threatening antagonist that Nobunaga has to beat in order to prove himself.
- Yoshimoto used to appear in Sengoku Basara, as an NPC who fights with a fan, could summon a disco ball for him as his ultimate move and an absolute Dirty Coward who screamed at the face of danger constantly and ran weirdly like a sissy. This is quite possibly the absolute lowest of portrayal that Yoshimoto could ever receive, his fate was always to die ignobly by the Demon King Nobunaga. And since the series runs on Popularity Power and this doesn't work well for his popularity, he has just vanished come the third game.
- In Fate/Grand Order, during the first GUDAGUDA event (which generally lampoons the Sengoku Period or the Meiji Restoration period), Yoshimoto 'appears' or sorts, represented by Ushiwakamaru/Minamoto no Yoshitsune, while her retainer Musashibo Benkei represents one of Yoshimoto's finest retainers Taigen Sessai. The Battle of Okehazama is re-enacted in a way that Matsudaira Motoyasu, here represented by the Persian archer hero Arash, decided to use his secret move, a super destructive, nuclear-powered arrow against the snooping Nobunaga, who decided to make a run for it, passed by 'Yoshimoto' and then said arrow completely exploded in her face, wiping out her army and herself.
- Imagawa Yoshimoto is mentioned in Onimusha: Warlords as the battle of Okehazama takes place in the opening of the game, but he's actually on the paybook of the Genma, just as Nobunaga was. He becomes playable in Onimusha Soul, though in there, he was actually on the paybook of Oni.
- Imagawa Yoshimoto is featured in Nioh 2 as an antagonist carrying the spirit animal of a huge six-tusked white elephant. Despite his facial structure being a little too similar to his Samurai Warriors incarnation, he seems more directly competent than the more usual portrayal of Yoshimoto thanks to Nioh's more down to earth portrayal of characters and his voice actor being Ryusei Nakao.