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Useful Notes / Tokugawa Ieyasu

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"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 during the Sengoku Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu is (naturally) 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 Oda Clan, then 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.


As Motoyasu, he 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 after, allied himself with Nobunaga, and proceeded to strengthen his home base of Mikawa. He acquired a number of powerful and famous generals, including Hattori Hanzou 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. note  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. note  After Tokugawa fought Toyotomi to a stalemate at Nagakute in 1584, he agreed to become Toyotomi's vassal, while Toyotomi himself 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 service, Toyotomi rewarded Tokugawa with control over the Kanto plain.

When Toyotomi launched the Korean Campaign, Tokugawa chose not to get involved and kept his men in Kantonote . This worked out well for Tokugawa, since the campaign ended in total disaster.

After Toyotomi's death, Tokugawa grew to become the most powerful and influential man in Japan. As he had abstained from the Korean Campaign, his army was still in one piece, and was in fact growing, along with his wealth. In fact, in light of the Korean debacle, Tokugawa's wisdom in not sending his men to die pointlessly boosted his popularity, at the cost of the Toyotomi's. His name changes in the past also helped in some capacity. With his name now Tokugawa Ieyasu, he could claim descent from the Minamoto clan. Even the Matsudaira name still indicated nobility, whereas Toyotomi's peasant origin did him no favors. Popular opinion began to favor a ruler with an air of nobility like Tokugawa over a peasant-born ruler like Toyotomi. The latter's megalomania likely didn't help. However, many were unhappy about Tokugawa's perceived usurpation of Toyotomi's position since they still believed that despite his megalomania and peasant origin, Toyotomi was still the one that worked the hardest to unify Japan, saving them from endless, ceaseless civil war and thus the one who still has the rights to hold the throne. This turmoil ultimately culminated in 1600 in the major battle of Sekigahara. Tokugawa led the forces of eastern Japan, while Ishida Mitsunari led the forces of western Japan. Thanks in part to luck, Tokugawa scored a huge victory, and with it, the rule of all Japan.

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. Some centuries later, Edo would go on to be known as Tokyo.

In 1605, a mere two years after he had attained the post of Shogun, Tokugawa officially abdicated, and handed the position to his son and 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. While this succession would have been unusual for a man in Tokugawa's position, it was actually a brilliant long-term plan. Since his son would already have been ruling as Shogun for some time (ultimately a decade between Tokugawa's abdication and his death), it meant that when Tokugawa passed away, there would be no war for succession as there had been with his predecessors.

Tokugawa Ieyasu's last known activity was during the 1614-15 siege of Osaka, where Sanada Yukimura managed to charge through to Tokugawa's 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 later returned to Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka and died there in 1616.

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).

While Ieyasu did all he could to ensure his legacy would last very long and stabilizing the country, it was also his actions to do so that eventually caused his shogunate's downfall: In order to win Sekigahara, Ieyasu promised those who were loyal to him to be heavily rewarded, and then applied heavy punishment without any deaths towards his defeated opponents, chief amongst these 'losers' were the Western clans, Mouri, Shimazu and Chosokabe. And one of his chief policies after unification of Japan is to close the country from any foreign trades except a few foreign countries, sealing off Japan from outer influences, which worked wonders for Japan's inner growth, but came to bit them in the ass when American fleet under Matthew Perry threatened his descendants to open the borders or else they'll overwhelm Japan with their superior technology. And the Mouri, Shimazu and Chosokabe, unhappy with these changes and still bearing the grudges over their treatment from Ieyasu, decided to strike back, leading to the Meiji Restoration and the end of the Ieyasu's legacy after 200+ years of ruling.

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 (old) 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.

Notable people under the rule of Ieyasu

  • The Four Guardians of Tokugawa: Or Tokugawa Shi-Tennou (Four Heavenly Kings). These are considered the cream of the crop and most badass of any of Tokugawa's retainers.
    • Sakai Tadatsugu: The oldest and leader of the Shi-Tennou.
    • Honda Tadakatsu: Arguably the most famous and the most badass, having participated in over 50 battles without major injuries. See his article for more details.
    • Sakakibara Yasumasa: Another one of the Shi-Tennou.
    • Ii Naomasa: The youngest one and head of the Ii clan after inheriting it from his mother Naotora. Emulated the Takeda general Yamagata Masakage about the psychological combat of wearing red to scare off the enemies, inheriting Masakage's moniker "Red Devil". Scored first blood in Sekigahara.
  • Hattori Hanzou: His most trusted ninja from the Iga clan, when Ieyasu was attacked by Akechi Mitsuhide, he helped him cross over the Iga village and ensuring his survival. See his article for more details.
  • Torii Mototada: A childhood friend of Ieyasu since his days as a hostage in Imagawa, and also serving him. Most famous for making his Last Stand in Fushimi Castle, stalling the Western Army of 40,000 during the onset of Sekigahara with 2,000 troops. Torii's troops fought over ten days until he and ten other men remained, after which the remainders committed seppuku. This delayed Mitsunari enough that Ieyasu managed to gather the majority of his troops in time for Sekigahara and eventually coming out as the victor.
  • Tokugawa Hidetada: His favorite son and eventual successor in Shogun line. Though their relations were kind of strained when he was late to Sekigahara because he was being stalled by the Sanada clan in Ueda Castle.
  • Lady Tsukiyama/Sena & Tokugawa Nobuyasu: Ieyasu's first wife from Imagawa and son (though their marriage wasn't that happy), later linked with marriage via Nobunaga's daughter. Unfortunately, Nobunaga accused them of treason and conspiring with the Takeda, and to clear his name, Ieyasu had them executed, with Tadatsugu as the executioner. And that's how Hidetada, being the third son (the second son, Hideyasu, got adopted to the Toyotomi and became Yuki Hideyasu, a daimyo on his own), becomes the heir.
  • Komatsuhime: Actually Honda Tadakatsu's daughter, but Tadakatsu agreed to make Ieyasu being her second father, so she can be married to Sanada Nobuyuki and eventually binding the two clans together. Kind of intimidating, inheriting her father's martial prowess, but also very loyal.
  • William Adams/Miura Anjin: An Englishman and member of the Dutch East India Company who got shipwrecked into Japan, taken in as an advisor of Ieyasu and then made a Samurai, making him one of Japan's foreign Samurai (he was preceded by Yasuke during the era of Oda Nobunaga). Afterwards, he became an advisor of Ieyasu.
  • Yagyu Jubei: All three famous generations of Yagyus (Muneyoshi, Munenori and Mitsuyoshi) served the Tokugawa at one point, although Ieyasu would be more directly involved with the first two; Muneyoshi being his sword instructor, Munenori serving as his retainer in his latter days and guided his descendants through the world of politics. Mitsuyoshi also served the Tokugawa, but at one point was thought to be unfitting in the world of politics that he had to be kicked out, only to be reinstated back in the office in a latter date.
  • Sengo Muramasa lived during Tokugawa's reign and though they never interacted Tokugawa grew to hate Muramasa by proxy because many of his friends were killed by Muramasa's weapons. After severely cutting himself on one by accident, Tokugawa banned the smith's swords in his territories outright, which reinforced the common superstitions around Muramasa blades and made Muramasa himself undergo a Historical Villain Upgrade.

Example of works featuring Tokugawa Ieyasu:

Anime & Manga

  • Battle Girls: Time Paradox 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 Brave10 although he works mostly through other people and shows himself to be a ruthless but frequently ineffective warlord given the story centres around one of his opponents.
  • One Piece likens him to Admiral Aokiji for their patience and wisdom of knowing when to strike and when not to. His fellow admirals Akainu and Kizaru are given to similarities between Oda Nobunaga and Totoyomi Hideyoshi, respectively.
  • In Saber Marionette J, the Japoness is led by a man named Tokugawa Ieyasu. He looks like a normal old man, but flashback reveals that the man he was cloned from looks just as bishonen as the protagonist Otaru, in fact, he look like an older version of him.
  • 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 Hanzo. In the anime, the Ieyasu really is the fat man, is forcibly turned into a monster and killed by his own son Hidetada, who then has Hanzo impersonate the real Ieyasu.
  • 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.

Comic Books

  • Makes a brief appearance in Lilith, when the time-traveling protagonist appears at Sekigahara. His death at Lilith's hands to lure her actual target where she could reach him sets the point Lilith's alterations to history finally have a large-scale effect.


  • 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 character of Toranaga in James Clavell's novel Shogun is a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Ieyasu. He is one of the central characters.
  • Ieyasu shows up as a minor character in Taiko, spending most of the book as Nobunaga's ally.

Live-Action TV


Video Games

  • Kessen and Kessen III. 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. Later games then give him a more virtuous side he is forced to give up, forcing him to resort to devious methods in order to secure peace; Ieyasu himself says to others that he deserves to be hated for it. One thing that's been rather consistent with him is that he's A Father to His Men all the way.
    • 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.
    • What's more, he alongside Uesugi Kenshin is voiced by the long-time villain seiyuu Joji Nakata.
    • The fifth game, which is a Soft Reboot, shows him in his younger self as Takechiyo who is a hostage of the Imagawa clan. Compared to his 'old man' usual design and Nobunaga and Hideyoshi's younger selves, Ieyasu's new design has the most stark difference: he was kind of a willowy Bishōnen, but still handles himself well in battle using twin katana. His first wife, Sena, also appears as a playable character (and also looking older than him).
  • Ieyasu is mentioned in Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams as Soki's true father. However, Soki thinks he's just a useless lapdog to Hideyoshi. In Soul, Ieyasu finally makes an appearence as a Genma-aligned Daimyo: surprisingly enough, he's shown as a Bishōnen in youth, and as a gruff but still attractive man wielding a triple-bladed katana.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice takes place during the Tokugawa Shogunate with the backstory being that the Ashina succeeded in a coup to resist the unification of Japan. While Ieyasu himself never makes an appearance, the threat posed by his army (referred to as the "interior ministry") is hanging over the heads of the Ashina fighters like a Sword of Damocles, and is the reason Genichiro Ashina turned into a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • 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 Toru Okawa. Very much Playing Against Type too, since Okawa is mostly doing gruff old men, but Ieyasu here was a kid before he turned into a young adult. And he's been doing him since day one.
  • 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, Sakuma Kichiro. He is also the leader of the Japanese if they are system players.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban has him as the first boss, using rocket punches and beams against the player characters, because he has been possessed by aliens. Also, his name is spelled in-game "YEAHyasu", with Western alphabet and all (while the final boss is Oda NObunaga). It's kind of a weird game.
  • Nioh also has Tokugawa Ieyasu in it as the Big Good of the game, though he can veer to a ruthless Pragmatic Hero and Well-Intentioned Extremist, which is actually closer to how it's like in real life. He's a tremendous help to William, which is another touch in with history, where the historical William Adams/Miura Anjin would end up on friendly terms with the Tokugawa clan.
  • In the Nasuverse, in particularly Fate/KOHA-Ace, Ieyasu is a hypothetical Servant, only mentioned by Nobunaga. At first he looks like an unassuming wimp (he looks like this, seriously). He has no skill whatsoever, but has a Noble Phantasm that lets him take stats of one of the seven classes. For instance, if he took on the Lancer class, he'll assume the form of Honda Tadakatsu, and if it's Saber, it would be Yagyu Jubei (based on how he's taught by Yagyu Munenori, who's a Servant in Fate/Grand Order). It is also implied that this Ieyasu is one of his kagemusha when the real Ieyasu died early.
    • He is also mentioned quite a lot within background material of Grand Order, especially in the backstory of Chacha (Hideyoshi's chief concubine, Nobunaga's niece), where she considers him the one who kickstarted the trend of branding her the wrecker of Toyotomi household and as a result, she thoroughly hates him and tends to make comments that anything from Tokugawa should die.
    • The aforementioned game's event, "Tokugawa Kaiten Labyrinth" is named after his clan, but Ieyasu was completely absent from it. However, it being set in the Ooku of the Bakufu he established, his major female follower/influencer Lady Kasuga features (albeit in a weird Composite Character situation with the Indian goddess Parvati)—together with Yagyu Munenori.
  • In the Assassin's Creed series, Ieyasu is stated to have been a member of the Assassin Brotherhood, with the implication that he was likely the local head of the Japanese Branch.


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