The Ieyasu TOKUGAWA Imposter Theory (徳川家康の影武者説)

Although it is commonly believed that Ieyasu TOKUGAWA founded the Edo shogunate, there is another theory that suggests an imposter took the place of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA at some stage of his life. Opinions differ as to when the imposter took over, but none of these theories have been tested academically. This article will discuss the theory presented by Soichiro MURAOKA, a local official in the Meiji Period, that an imposter took the place of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA immediately after the Battle of Okehazama.

Origin of the Imposter Theory

Ieyasu TOKUGAWA was considered the God King in the Edo Period and no one has doubted his origin. In April 1902, Soichiro MURAOKA presented the Ieyasu TOKUGAWA Imposter Theory in a book entitled "Questioning the History of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA", published by Minyu Company and managed by Soho TOKUTOMI, a historian from the Meiji Period to the Taisho Period. The preface of the book was written by Yasutsugu SHIGENO, Cabinet Editor for Historical Materials and Professor of Tokyo University.

Summary of the Imposter Theory

Ieyasu was the legitimate son of Hirotada MATSUDAIRA and his childhood name was Takechiyo. At his coming-of-age ceremony, the true head of the MATSUDAIRA (TOKUGAWA) Clan identified himself as "Jiro Saburo Motonobu MATSUDAIRA". Takechiyo (then known as Motoyasu) played an important role in the Battle of Okehazama as the spearhead of the IMAGAWA army. Motoyasu gained independence after the death of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA in the Battle of Okehazama, but died suddenly several years later. MURAOKA argues that Ieyasu became a different person at this point and makes reference to an account written on September 14, 1612 in the "Records of Sunpu Government" by Razan HAYASHI.
MURAOKA quotes the following from the book:

In idle conversation, Ieyasu spoke of a person from his childhood called Mataemon.'
Mataemon offered Ieyasu in exchange for 5 kan (former Japanese currency), and so from the age of 9 until 18 or 19, Ieyasu stayed in Sunpu.'
The people listened to his story.'

(In idle conversation, Ieyasu mentioned a man from his childhood called Mataemon.
Mataemon sold Ieyasu for 5 kan, and so from the age of 9 until he was 18 or 19, he stayed in Sunpu.)

It was Hirotada MATSUDAIRA's intention to sell his son Takechiyo (Ieyasu) to Sunpu at that time in order to gain the support of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA. However, Yasumitsu TODA, the lord of Tawara Domain and father of Tahara GOZEN (wife of Hirotada MATSUDAIRA) betrayed the IMAGAWA and MATSUDAIRA families by selling Takechiyo to Nobuhide ODA. Nobuhiro ODA, Nobunaga's older brother but born of a concubine, was later defeated and captured by the IMAGAWA army, at which time Ieyasu was exchanged for Nobuhiro and sent to Sunpu. The passage above is said to be how Ieyasu described his youth.

According to MURAOKA, the TODA family denied that they sold Ieyasu. However, it is not known who denied the accusation as the IMAGAWA family executed the entire TODA family, including Yasumitsu TODA who was believed to have been the betrayer.

The Imposter: Jiro Saburo Motonobu SERATA

MURAOKA believes that the imposter who replaced Ieyasu was Jokei SAKAI, a gannin Buddhist priest who was later known as Jiro Saburo Motonobu SAKAI. It is believed that Jokei SAKAI's mother was also Ieyasu's mother, ODAI no kata, but, MURAOKA presumes that his father was not Hirotada, but a Buddhist Priest of Ji sect named Matsumotobo EDA.

ODAI no kata divorced Hirotada in September 1544 because her brother, Nobumoto MIZUNO sided with Nobuhide. MURAOKA presumes that Jokei SAKAI was born after that time. The father, Matsumoto EDA, disappeared shortly after Jokei's birth.

In 1547, ODAI no kata (known as Dentsuin at that time) was remarried to Toshikatsu HISAMATSU. It is said then that EDA's child (whose childhood name was Kunimatsu) was given to the care of Ieyasu's grandmother and Dentsuin's mother, Kayouin, the second wife of Kiyoyasu MATSUDAIRA. Kunimatsu later became the pupil of Saint Chitan, High Priest of Enko-ji Temple and called himself Jokei SAKAI. However, he was said to have been excommunicated after killing a bird where it was forbidden to kill animals. After that, he wandered in Sunpu until one day, he was kidnapped by a man named Mataemon TODA and sold to the gannin priest Joko SAKAI for 5 kan. The term "gannin priest" refers to a priest who begs, or a priest with long hair.

Jokei, who spent his childhood in this way, announced himself as "Jiro Saburo Motonobu SERATA" in 1560. It is said that he chose the name "SERATA" because his father EDA claimed to have been a descendant of the Nitta Can. It is said then that, in May 1560, just before the Battle of Okehazama, Motonobu kidnapped Takechiyo (later known as Nobuyasu MATSUDAIRA), the legitimate son of Ieyasu (Motoyasu), who was held hostage in Sunpu and ran away to Toutomi Province. According to The Book of the Matsudaira Clan, Kayouin was executed in June 9, 1560 as a result of this incident. However, another historical record states that Kayouin died of an illness in Sunpu in June 9, 1560.

When Yoshimoto was killed in the Battle of Okehazama and the IMAGAWA Clan became disorganized, "Jiro Saburo Motonobu SERATA" and his comrades captured Hamamatsu-jo Castle and tried to occupy Mikawa Province, but were defeated by Ieyasu (Motoyasu at that time), and forced to submit to him and return his son, Nobuyasu, and became the vassal of Ieyasu.

The lives of "Jiro Saburo Motonobu SERATA" and the character of his father, Matsumoto EDA, reflect the legend that was passed down from the founder of the TOKUGAWA Clan, Chikauji MATSUDAIRA. Born the son of Arichika SERATA, a descendant of Nitta Minamoto Clan, it was said that Chikauji was a travelling monk before coming to Mikawa and entering his wife's family, the SAKAI Clan, after which he was adopted by the MATSUDAIRA Clan. However, the truth of this legend is questionable and is perhaps used to enrich the history of the MATSUDAIRA Clan.

Replacing "Motonobu"

According to MURAOKA, Motoyasu began a campaign against Owari District and fought with Nobunaga ODA in December 30, 1560, but was assassinated by Masatoyo ABE (Yashichiro) in Owari Moriyama.

This story resembles the assassination of Kiyoyasu MATSUDAIRA by Masatoyo ABE Yashichiro), who was Kiyoyasu's follower. MURAOKA asserts that the legend of Kiyoyasu's assassination was told to disguise the death of Motoyasu.

In order to conceal the death of Motoyasu, Jiro Saburo Motonobu SERATA was selected to replace him. He was selected because he looked like Motoyasu, as they shared the same mother. In those days, Mikawa Province was hemmed in by two feudal lords, ODA and IMAGAWA. Nobuyasu was still an infant of 3 years old. MURAOKA argues that Motoyasu's followers did not consider the infant to be an equal match for the ODA and IMAGAWA Clans, so they allowed Motonobu SERATA to lead the MATSUDAIRA Clan until Nobuyasu grew up.

In 1562, Motonobu, posing as Motoyasu, went to Kiyosu Castle to arrange an alliance with Nobunaga ODA. According to MURAOKA, Motonobu changed his name the following year to Ieyasu MATSUDAIRA and so "Two Ieyasus" became "One Ieyasu".

Ritual Suicide of Nobuyasu

In 1579, Nobuyasu committed seppuku (ritual suicide). This is an account of how the event occurred: Nobunaga became outraged when he discovered from his daughter, Tokuhime, that Nobuyasu and his mother, Tsukiyama-dono were secretly communicating with his old enemy Katsuyori TAKEDA, so he ordered them to be punished. It is said that Ieyasu, following Nobunaga's order, killed Tsukiyama-dono in September 29, 1579, and forced Nobuyasu to commit seppuku in October 15 1579.

According to MURAOKA, Ieyasu already had 2 biological children, Hideyasu YUKI (Otsugimaru) and Hidetada TOKUGAWA (Chomatsu, later Takechiyo). It would be understandable that Ieyasu would have wanted his biological children to become the family leaders. So Ieyasu took advantage of the opportunity to execute Nobuyasu and Tsukiyama-dono. That is MURAOKA's theory. MURAOKA argues that the tomb of Nobuyasu in Hamamatsu City is modest and that no reburial has been done because Nobuyasu was not Ieyasu's biological child.

The Flight of Kazumasa ISHIKAWA

In January 2, 1586, Kazumasa ISHIKAWA, Deputy Governor of Okazaki Castle, who had been an attendant to Ieyasu since the time when he was sold, fled to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI.

MURAOKA asserts the following:
Kazumasa and Nobuyasu were familiar with each other.'
In historical fact, Kazumasa led in Okazaki and made efforts to assist Nobuyasu.'
Therefore, Kazumasa ISHIKAWA should have been affected by the suicide of Nobuyasu more than anyone else.'
According to MURAOKA, Kazumasa also should have been aware that Motoyasu, having been assassinated, had been replaced by Motonobu SERATA, and so he would have known that Nobuyasu took over the MATSUDAIRA (TOKUGAWA) clan.'
Kazumasa was therefore outraged that Nobuyasu had been killed by Ieyasu on Nobunaga's order.'
So Kazumasa fled to Hideyoshi to seek a new master.'

After Ieyasu moved to Kanto region, Kazumasa became the lord of a fief yielding 100,000 koku of rice in Shinano Province. After his death, Kazumasa's children, Yasunaga and Yasukatsu ISHIKAWA, inherited the property. However, in 1613, both lords were deprived of their domains. MURAOKA suggests that Motonobu may have exacted this punishment in revenge for the late Kazumasa.

Another Rationale for MURAOKA

The tomb of Chikauji, ancestor of Mikawa MATSUDAIRA Clan, is not in Mikawa Province, but in Shomyo-Ji Temple in Fuchu Honmachi, Musashi Province.

Reaction from the Public

MURAOKA's book was sold for 25 sen, but only 500 copies were issued before it went out of print and it was never reprinted.

It is said that the book went out of print because the TOKUGAWA family and followers of Shogun were so outraged at the contents of the book that they threatened the publisher, Minyu Company, and its manager, Soho TOKUTOMI, who ultimately succumbed to the pressure because he wanted to become a member of Kizokuin (the House of Peers). Zenji ISOKAWA also asserts that the book also received backlash because although it took the style of a historical document, it was also a criticism of Aritomo YAMAGATA and Hirobumi ITO, outstanding statesmen who made great contributions during the Meiji era. In any case, MURAOKA's theory was not given much credit from academics or the public, and was therefore forgotten by people before the war.

Criticism of the Imposter Theory

In his book "Questioning Civil War History" Tadachika KUWATA criticized MURAOKA's work as follows:
MURAOKA's work was like the raw materials of a novel.'
MURAOKA distinguished Ieyasu from Motonobu SERATA and assumed that Ieyasu was a wanderer like Soun HOJO.'
On that basis, he ignored the achievements of MATSUDAIRA (TOKUGAWA), Ieyasu's ancestors in Mikawa Province.'

Problems with the Imposter Theory

There are no historical materials to support the suggestion that Motonobu replaced Ieyasu, not in the TOKUGAWA family, other lords' families or in any other general documents.

In those days, the price of a slave was 20 to 30 sen, so the price of 5 kan (1,000 kan=10,000 yen) seems too expensive for a child with unknown status and background. Furthermore, the price is inconsistent with the "Records of Sunpu Government"; only MURAOKA's book cites "5 kanmon", while other records cite "500 kanmon".

Chikauji's tomb is in Mikawa and there is also one in Kogetsu-in in Matsudaira-go. The gravestone of Chikauji which was discovered in Shomyo-ji Temple (Fuchu City) in 1801, the late Edo Period, is believed to have been manufactured during the Edo Period.

Since Kayouin had been in Sunpu before Takechiyo was taken hostage, she could not have been able to secretly receive the child (Takechiyo) of Odai no kata from the ODA clan.

It is commonly known that at the time when Motonobu occupied Hamamatsu-jo Castle, the Castle was called Hikiuma Castle and was controlled by the INOO Clan. Hamamatsu-jo Castle was held by the INOO Clan, until it was captured by Ieyasu in 1568 and there was no material to prove that it was taken over.

After the death of Nobuyasu, Ieyasu erected a mausoleum, a memorial tablet hall and other monuments for Nobuyasu in Jodo Sect Mausoleum near Futamata-jo Castle. In 1581, Ieyasu visited the mausoleum where Nobuyasu was buried and changed the name of temple to Kiyotaki-dera Temple and gave Nobuyasu the posthumous Buddhist name of "Master of Kiyotaki-dera Temple". It is not true that the tomb was modest and that Nobuyasu was not reburied. Moreover, the tomb of Nobuyasu's head is in Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine in Okazaki City, (formerly known as Sugao Hachimangu until Nobunaga's death) and it is enshrined together as a deity. Also Masanari HATTORI, who assisted in Nobuyasu's seppuku, was ordered by Ieyasu to erect Sainen-ji Temple in Shinjuku Ward. There is a memorial tower for Nobuyasu in Sainen-ji Temple.

The ISHIKAWA clan's dismissal and loss of rank and territories can be understood even without the imposter theory; they can be seen as acts of revenge for the betrayal of Ieyasu. It is commonly believed that the punishment of the ISHIKAWA clan was due to the their involvement in the Nagayo OKUBO incident.

Following the Imposter Theory

Between 1955 and 1964, Norio NANJO wrote a book called "Begging Priest, Ieyasu", which was based on MURAOKA's book (NANJO later updated the book and changed the title to "300 Years Veil: A different view of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA"). Tomeo YAKIRI also wrote a book called "The Two Persons of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA". In 1963, Eiji SHINBA, a sotomago (grandchild from a daughter married into another family) of Muraoka, published a document titled "Question in History: Ieyasu TOKUGAWA". In 2000, Zenji ISOKAWA wrote a document titled "Question in History: Phantom Story of Ieyasu", which examined the background of MURAOKA's book.

Keiichiro RYU wrote a book called "Imposter: Ieyasu TOKUGAWA" in which he proposed that Ieyasu died in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and that an imposter took over at that point.

The Theory that Ieyasu Died in the Siege of Osaka Castle

There is also a theory that Ieyasu died in the Summer Siege of Osaka Castle and that an imposter took his place for one year. According to this theory, in a desperate fight with Nobushige SANADA, Ieyasu panicked and cried out "I would commit suicide", but was then remonstrated by his followers. Ieyasu escaped in a palanquin, but Matabee GOTO pushed a spear into the palanquin, and he was seriously injured and carried to the temple in Sakai where he later died. It is said that after the death of Ieyasu, Hidemasa OGASAWARA was selected as his substitute and posed as Ieyasu until the time of Ieyasu's death as recorded in the official history.

There is a grave labeled "Ieyasu's Tomb" in Nanso-ji Temple in Sakai City and the story of this grave, which has been handed down from generation to generation, supports this theory. Also, when Hidetada and Iemitsu went to Kyoto Capital, they paid respect to the tomb in Nanso-ji Temple and earnestly requested the establishment of Tosho-gu Shrine, an act which also supports the theory that the tomb in Nanso-ji Temple is the tomb of the real Ieyasu.