Maeda Toshimasu (前田利益)

He was a warlord of the Sengoku period, was an adopted son of Toshihisa MAEDA, and had various nicknames such as Keijiro. Information about him is provided in this section.

Toshimasu MAEDA was the name formerly used by Toshika MAEDA, who was the lord of Daishoji Domain.

Toshimasu MAEDA (1553 or 1543? - 1612?) was a warlord from the end of the Sengoku period to the beginning of the Edo period, and was also a nephew-in-law of Toshiie MAEDA. He was an accomplished warrior and scholar, being both brave and knowledgeable in the fields of ancient and contemporary literature but, at the same time, he was known as an eccentric person who liked to behave in a bizarre way.

Since not many primary materials relating to Toshimasu are in existence, he has not been studied much and there are lots of gaps in what is known about him. As described later, his current popularity and reputation are largely due to novels or manga featuring him.

His nick names were Sobe and Keijiro, with Keijiro being written in various combinations of Chinese characters. Due to the influence of the manga 'Hana no Keiji' featuring him, he is quite often called Keiji MAEDA.

In addition to Toshimasu, he supposedly had several real names such as Toshitaka, Toshihiro (or Toshioki), Toshisada, and Toshitaka (using a different Chinese character). He also called himself Hyottosai KOKUZOIN while he was a ronin, or masterless samurai. His wife was a daughter of Yasukatsu MAEDA, and they had one son and three daughters. His eldest son, Masatora MAEDA, served his cousin Toshitsune MAEDA. The daughters became wives of, for example, Kata TODA or Shozaburo HOJO (Ujikuni HOJO's youngest son).

Biography

It is said that he was born in 1533, 1540, 1541, 1542, 1543, 1552, or 1555, but the theories claiming that he was born in 1533 or 1541 are now widely accepted.

Toshihisa MAEDA, his adoptive father, was the eldest brother of Toshiie MAEDA and the Lord of Arako Castle in the Province of Owari (Nakagawa Ward, Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture). The biological father of Toshimasu is considered to be either Masuuji TAKIGAWA, a member of the clan led by Kazumasu TAKIGAWA who was the main vassal of Nobunaga ODA, or Masushige TAKIGAWA, and it is said that he was adopted because his biological mother re-married to Toshihisa.

In 1567, following Nobunaga's order that Toshihisa should give Arako Castle to his biological brother, Toshiie MAEDA, rather than the adopted Toshimasu, Toshihisa retired and Toshiie took over the castle. As a result, Toshimasu followed his adoptive father's advice and left Arako. He then relied on and served his uncle-in-law Toshiie, who later got promoted and was given control of the Province of Noto (around 1580).

According to the Ishiyama War Chronicles, Toshimasu regained Nobunaga's standard during the siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple.

(For about 10 years before that event no one knows where he was.
The novel 'Ichimuan Furyuki' by Keiichiro RYU has it that he was serving Kazumasu TAKIGAWA, but it is only the imagination and creation of the author.)
In the battle of Komaki-Nagakute in 1584, he went to guard Suemori Castle, which was under attack by Shigemasa SASA. Afterwards, following orders issued by the chief vassal of Ao Castle, who had left the Sasa side, he fought against forces led by Ujiharu JIMBO, who was on his way to regain control of the castle.

After Toshihisa died, around 1590, he had a disagreement with Toshiie and left the Maeda Clan. There is a story that Toshimasu tricked Toshiie into taking a cold bath, and while he was in the bath, Toshimasu stole the famous horse, Matsukaze (or Toshiie's favorite horse, 'Tanikaze') and left.

After leaving the family, while leading the life of a ronin in Kyoto, he interacted with a large number of writers such as the father and son, Joha and Shoshitsu SATOMURA, Tanemichi KUJO, and Shigeteru FURUTA.

After Toshimasu gained favor with Kagekatsu UESUGI and his chief vassal, Kanetsugu NAOE, he served the Uesugi Clan from 1598, when Kagekatsu was transferred from the Province of Echigo to the 1.2 million koku Domain of Aizu, until the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, and thereafter received 1,000 koku as an assistant of Kanetsugu. During the Sekigahara conflict, he fought with distinction in the battle for Hasedo-jo Castle, where Kagekatsu UESUGI fought against Yoshimitsu MOGAMI of the Eastern Army.

After the Western Army lost the battle and the territory of the Uesugi Clan was reduced to 300,000 koku and relocated to the Domain of Yonezawa, Toshimasu served the Domain of Yonezawa and retired to Domori near Yonezawa (currently known as Keijisimizu in Domori, Bansei-Town, Yonezawa-City). The retired Toshimasu is said to have led a leisurely life, annotating the 'Shiki (historical records)' with Kanetsugu (although it is not clear if the 'Shiki' owned by Kanetsugu NAOE and now designated as a national treasure is the one that they annotated) or creating waka poems and linked verses.

It is believed that he died in Domori in 1612 and there is a memorial tower there, but there is also a different theory that he retired to Karifu in the Province of Yamato on the orders of Toshinaga MAEDA, the lord of the Domain of Kaga, and died there in 1605.

Reputation in Later Generations

Influenced by Keiichiro RYU's novel 'Ichimuan Furyuki' and its comic version 'Hana no Keiji: Kumo no Kanata ni,' he is seen as a strong warrior and a battle master of the highest level. It's not an exaggeration to say that, since the early 1990s, he has been considered an 'eccentric person' and that his popularity and image as a historical figure come mainly from the pieces of work mentioned above.

These influences have resulted in him being featured as a samurai who has mastered the military arts or a great swordsman in recent simulation or action games. As described above, since there are few original materials about Toshimasu left, it seems that the stories about his actions in the Battle of Hasedo have been exaggerated to create an impression that he was well built and excelled in spearmanship. Also, some descriptions about him in current fictional works are clearly exaggerated. However, based on his war history and the little historic information currently available, such as the "Maeda Keiji Dochu Nikki (Diary of the Travels of Keiji Maeda)", the stories of his actions at the Battle of Hasedo and the image of him as both a good warrior and a respected scholar of old and new literature who enjoyed the company of writers, is probably not be too far from the truth.

His personal belongings, such as his armor, are exhibited at the Miyasaka Archaeology Museum in Yonezawa-City, Yamagata Prefecture.

Literary Works

"Maeda Keiji Dochu Nikki" (Yonezawa city designated cultural property, owned by Yonezawa Library)
This is a diary that he wrote from October 15, 1601 (lunar calendar), the day that he left Kyoto, to November 19, 1601, the day that he arrived in Yonezawa, in which he made a detailed record of the customs that he encountered during his trip while introducing his own waka and haiku poems. This diary is highly valued as a historical document that describes the customs of the time and that shows how educated Toshimasu was, and a printing of a photograph of the diary also containing relevant data has been published by Yonezawa Library. A reproduction of the diary is also included in the 'Nihon Shomin Seikatsu Shiryo Shusei', published by Sanitsu Shobo.