Tokugawa Ieyasu


In 1603 the emperor granted Ieyasu the title of shôgun, an honor helped along by his 'Minamoto' genealogy. He held this post for only two years before officially retiring in favor of his son Hidetada. Retreating to Sumpu in Suruga province, he supervised the expansion of Chiyoda (Edo) Castle and the expansion of the surrounding town over the next few years, and conducted diplomatic business with the Dutch (1609) and Spanish, with whom he distanced Japan.
In May 1611 Ieyasu returned to Kyoto at the head of 50,000 men, his trip ostensibly to attend the retirement of Emperor Goyôzei and the succession of Go-Mizonoô. During his stay in the Capital, Ieyasu ordered the expansion of the Imperial Court's buildings and grounds and asked the western daimyô to sign a three-part document vowing their fealty.2 Perhaps based on his experiences on this trip, he composed the Kuge shohatto in 1613, a document that placed restrictions on the activities of the nobility, essentially limiting that class to ceremonial and aesthetic pursuits. In 1615 he would order the preperation of the Buke Shohatto, a document which contained the injunctions contained within the 1611 order and was initially a 13-article code (amended in 1635). Drawing on previous house codes and earlier ideas, Ieyasu, possibly concerned for the future of his house, formalized what was esentially a 'house code' for the nation's daimyô. In a further move to secure the stability of the Tokugawa regime, he issued the final and most sweeping Christian Expulsion Edict in 1614.

The final threat to Tokugawa hegemony was Hideyori. Ironically, Hideyori does not appear to have harbored any particular desire to face Ieyasu. Ieyasu, though, was unwilling to take any chances, especially given his own advanced age. He engineered a pretext for war in 1614 over a convoluted and supposed slight that involved the casting of a great bell. At this point Hideyori had felt compelled to open the gates of Osaka to thousands of ronin for self-defense, and now found himself under attack. The initial Tokugawa assault (called the Osaka Winter Campaign) was repulsed bloodily, and despite the protests of Hidetada Ieyasu sought an indirect resolution of the situation. Guessing that the matron of the castle, Hideyori's mother Yodo-gimi, was a weak link that could be exploited, Ieyasu ordered that her location be determined and cannon fire directed in that area. This had the desired effect and to the shock of the defending generals, Yodo-gimi convinced Hideyori to negotiate. Ieyasu was seemingly magnimonious. He promised the defenders that he would honor a peaceful solution to the crisis, and that Hideyori would be allowed to retain his holdings in the Settsu-Kwatchi area. Moreover, no action would be taken against any member of the defending army. Hideyori, who had probably never wanted a war with a man he had grown up considering an uncle in the first place, agreed and ordered his followers to stand down. Ieyasu made a show of arranging for his army to withdraw, then promptly arranged for Osaka's outer moat to be filled in, the actual deed being done by Honda Masazumi. Hideyori protested, and Ieyasu ultimatly revoked his peace offer. The Osaka Summer Campaign essentially revolved around the climactic Battle of Tennôji in June 1615, the last great samurai battle and a Tokugawa victory. With the defeat of his army and the Tokugawa pouring through Osaka's gates, Hideyori and his mother commited suicide. In the aftermath Ieyasu personally ordered that Hideyori's infant son be executed and Osaka Castle largely dismantled.

The following year, Ieyasu fell ill and died in bed. Unlike Hideyoshi, he could pass away secure in the future of his house. The dynasty he had created was exceedingly solid, with three sub-branches (the Kii, Owari, and Mito) maintained for the sole purpose of providing an heir should the main branch fail to produce one. The daimyo were weary of war, and more or less content to enjoy the fruits of their labors. There would be disputes and grievances, but with the exception of the short and bloody Shimabara Rebellion, Japan would enjoy peace for over two hundred years. At the same time, Tokugawa Ieyasu had another legacy - never before had Japan been as socially rigid, nor had the common man and woman had so little control over their own lives. The daimyô - especially those tagged as tozama - would also suffer the brunt of the fledgling Tokugawa's heavy-handedness, with relief coming only after the death of the third shôgun Iemitsu in 1651.

Few leaders in Japanese history are as difficult to gauge as Tokugawa Ieyasu. At once fair and heartless, Ieyasu was a veteran of countless battles and a life fraught with vicissitudes that included the forced suicide of his eldest son and the execution of his first wife. He was moved to express compassion at the head of his defeated enemy Takeda Katsuyori and protected many former Takeda retainers from Nobunaga's wrath. His worries for the health of his granddaughter (Hideyori's widow) when she fell after the fall of Osaka Castle is touching in that one can see no real motive other then grandfatherly concern. At the same time, he rarely forgot a grudge, and once, as an adult, exectuted a prisoner who had insulted him in childhood. Yet he never forgot a friend either, and rarely left a loyal retainer unrewarded. He was at heart a rustic Mikawa samurai, and had little time for poetry or theater, spending most of his free time hawking or swimming, two of his favorite hobbies.

Occasionally foolhardy in his youth and at times exceedingly cautious in his later years, Ieyasu did not win all of his battles, but he won those that counted. He was also a calculating political gambler, and as much a schemer it would seem as his rival Ishida Mitsunari. More then anything else, though, Tokugawa Ieyasu was a man who seemed to have a sweeping vision and the ability to live his life as a master of Go might win a game-slowly but steadily, and with no doubt in the outcome.