Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元)

Yoshimoto IMAGAWA was a busho (Japanese military commander) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lord), who lived during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States). He was a Shugo daimyo (Japanese provincial military governors that later became daimyo) and a Sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period) in Suruga Province.

His real name was Genji (Minamoto clan). He was a member of the Imagawa clan, a branch family of the Kira clan that was in a collateral line with the Ashikaga clan originating from the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), which was one of the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan originated from the Emperor Seiwa). He was the ninth family head of the Imagawa clan.

Brief Personal History

Yoshimoto was the ninth family head of the Imagawa clan, a family of Shugo daimyo in Suruga Province (present central part of Shizuoka Prefecture).

He was a son of the seventh family head named Ujichika IMAGAWA, and his lawful wife was the daughter of Nobutane NAKAMIKADO (Jukeini). His childhood name was Hogikumaru. His lawful wife was Joein, Nobutora TAKEDA's daughter and Shingen TAKEDA's older sister. He had a son named Ujizane IMAGAWA and his daughter became Yoshinobu TAKEDA's wife. Ujiyasu HOJO was his younger brother-in-law, and he himself was Shingen TAKEDA's older brother-in-law. He set up the Yorioya-Yoriko system (a system of military units sustained by a pseudo-parental relationship between feudal retainers in which a powerful retainer assumed the role of Yorioya [dependable person, or literally dependable father] and lead an army group formed by small and middle retainers called Yoriko [depending fellows, or literally depending children]), and carried out a revolutionary reform in strengthening military organizational power.

He demonstrated an outstanding ability in management of his own territory as well as in outward military expeditions, and he succeeded in transforming the head of the Imagawa clan into a Sengoku daimyo, expanding his territory from Suruga Province, Totomi Province and Higashimikawa (eastern part of Mikawa Province) to Nishimikawa (west part of Mikawa Province), even reaching into a part of Owari Province. However, during a military offensive in Owari Province, Nobunaga Oda's army made a surprise attack on Yoshimoto in the Battle of Okehazama and he died in battle.

Domestic Conflict and Succession to Family Head

Yoshimoto was born in 1519 as the fifth son of Ujichika IMAGAWA. The family had already had an heir when he was born named Ujiteru IMAGAWA, Yoshimoto's older brother by the same mother, who later became the eighth family head. As a result, Yoshimoto was sent to the Zentoku-ji Temple of the Rinzai Sect in Seko, Fuji County, Suruga Province and became a priest at the age of four. He was called Sengaku Shoho (the reading of Baigaku Shoho was inaccurate), and in order to study at Kyoto Gozan (the five selected temples in Kyoto), he went up to Kyoto accompanied by the Zen priest Sessai TAIGEN, a chief retainer of the Imagawa family and assigned to serve Yoshimoto as a tutor.

When Ujiteru suddenly died in 1536, Yoshimoto came to be involved in the family succession dispute with Etan GENKO, Yoshimoto's older paternal half-brother who was also in the priesthood, and Yoshimoto, who finally won the dispute due to Sessai's intensive efforts, quit the priesthood and took over the position of the ninth family head of Imagawa clan as well as the shugo in Suruga Province, and began calling himself Yoshimoto (Hanakura Rebellion).

The battle between the Hojo clan and the Oda clan

In March 1537, Yoshimoto created an alliance with the Takeda clan, whom with the Imagawa family had been in a long state of war until the Ujiteru's generation, by taking the daughter (Joein) of the Shugo in the Kai Province named Nobutora TAKEDA, as his lawful wife (Kosun Alliance [an alliance between the Takeda clan in Kai Province and the Imagawa clan in Suruga Province]). Establishment of the Kosun Alliance lead to the break of the Sunso Alliance (Suruga-Sagami alliance), an alliance that had been with a long time relative family, the Gohojo clan, who were dominating the provinces of Izu (Izu region, Shizuoka Prefecture) and Sagami (southwest part of Kanagawa Prefecture), resulting in Ujitsuna HOJO setting out for a military invasion into Yoshihara of Kato County in Suruga Province (Kato War). Yoshimoto made a counterattack to the invasion but lost to Ujitsuna and he was deprived of Kato County.

Additionally, Nobuhide ODA of Owari Province (western part of Aichi Prefecture) began invading Mikawa Province (eastern part of Aichi Prefecture) in 1540. Although Yoshimoto challenged Nobuhide to a decisive battle in 1542 by counting on an alliance with various local ruling families in Mikawa Province, he was defeated by Nobuhide's intensive attack (the First Battle of Azuki-zaka). However, there is another theory that this battle is fictitious and there was only a Second Battle of Azuki-zaka in real history.

In 1541, Yoshimoto offered asylum to Nobutora TAKEDA, who had been banished by his own legitimate son Harunobu TAKEDA, and accepted him in Suruga Province, but it has also been suggested that Nobutora's banishment might have been carried out in a collusion between Yoshimoto and Harunobu.

Expansion of power

While Ujiyasu succeeded the head of the Hojo family after the death of Ujitsuna in 1541, Yoshimoto formed an alliance in 1545 with Norimasa UESUGI, who was also in a warring state with Ujiyasu, and they made a joint attack against Ujiyasu. As a result, Yoshimoto and Ujiyasu reconciled, due to the mediation of Harunobu TAKEDA (Shingen) with conditions favorable for Yoshimoto, in which it was settled to have the Kato County dominated by the Hojo family returned to the Imagawa family. Although Yoshimoto was once deprived of Kokuji-jo Castle by Ujiyasu in 1551, he rapidly regained it and defined the border with the Kise-gawa River.

Although Yoshimoto accepted the submission of Hirotada MATSUDAIRA in Mikawa Province, who felt threatened by Nobuhide ODA of Owari Province, in exchange for Hirotada's legitimate son as a hostage Takechiyo (later Ieyasu TOKUGAWA), a kokujin ryoshu (local samurai lord) of Tawara-jo Castle in Mikawa Province (Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture) named Yasumitsu TODA, who was in charge of escorting the hostage, betrayed Yoshimoto and sent Takechiyo to the Oda clan, Yoshimoto's enemy. Yasumitsu did so because of his indignance for Yoshimoto destroying Toda clan members Norinari TODA and Yoshimitsu TODA a year earlier, and he declared a rebellion against Yoshimoto as the head of Soke (the head family) of the Toda clan. An angered Yoshimoto destroyed Soke of the Toda clan and had the Asahina clan move into the Toda family's Tawara-jo Castle.

In 1548, sensing danger at Yoshimoto's invasion into the Mikawa Province, Nobuhide ODA set out to attack Yoshimoto, but the Imagawa army, lead by major captains such as Yoshimoto's chief retainers Sessai and Yasuyoshi ASAHINA, made a clean sweep victory against the Oda army, almost eradicating the influence of the Oda family from Mikawa Province (the Second Battle of Azuki-zaka).

When Hirotada MATSUDAIRA died in 1549, Yoshimoto sent the Imagawa army to Okazaki-jo Castle (Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture) and practically took over the Matsudaira family's territory and placed its kokujin ryoshu (local samurai lords) under his immediate authority. He also attacked the Oda clan's Mikawa Ansho-jo Castle (Anjo City, Aichi Prefecture), captured Nobuhide's first bastard child and the castle commander Nobuhiro ODA and used him to retrieve Takechiyo in exchange for the hostages.
Yoshimoto was steadily gaining footholds for advancing into the Owari Province
When Nobuhide ODA died in 1551, Yoshimoto further accelerated an offensive movement into the Owari Province.

In addition, in 1553 Yoshimoto revised the Imagawa Kana Mokuroku (the Imagawa clan's basic house law to control the territory), enacted by his deceased father Ujichika, and expanded on it by adding articles collectively referred to as the Kana Mokuroku Tsuika (Expanding on the house rules left by Ujichika), in which he declared abolition within his territory of shugoshi funyu chi (the bakufu-owned area within a feudal lord's territory where access was restricted even for the feudal lord authorized as shugo) instituted by the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and definitively cut off relations between the Imagawa clan as a Shugo daimyo and the Muromachi bakufu, even though this relationship had barely persisted until then.

In 1554, Yoshimoto arranged a marriage between his legitimate son Ujizane and the daughter of Ujiyasu HOJO (Hayakawadono), tying his family to the Takeda clan as well as the Hojo clan, and formed the Ko So Sun Sangoku Domei (alliance between three provinces; Kai, Sagami and Suruga) (this negotiation is also called the 'Tripartite alliance of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA, Ujiyasu HOJO and Shingen TAKEDA'). He was able to cut of his anxiety of the future through this marriage.

In the Battle of Kawanakajima that broke out in 1555, Yoshimoto mediated between Harunobu TAKEDA and Kagetora NAGAO and achieved reconciliation between the two.

From 1558, Yoshimoto made plans to share provincial government affairs with his son Ujizane. He also carried out land surveys in Suruga, Totomi and Mikawa Provinces.

Yoshimoto's final period

After Yoshimoto's prominent assistants successively died of illness, such as his strategist Sessai dying in 1555 and Yasuyoshi ASAHINA in 1557, the Imagawa family gradually began to weaken after living at the height of its prosperity.

Yoshimoto was transferred from Kyoto to Mikawa Province in 1560. In June 1560, he began an invasion into Owari Province leading 25,000 soldiers. In order to save the Otaka-jo Castle in the Chita County (present Otaka, Midori Ward, Nagoya City), which had been trapped by the presence of the Oda side, he ordered Ieyasu TOKUGAWA and other commanders to take control of the forts of the Oda side located in the vicinity of Otaka. As he received notice that his army auspiciously won the preliminary skirmish, he decided to move his main unit that had been stationed at Kutsukake-jo Castle to Otaka-jo Castle. However, when he and his troops took a rest at Mt. Okehazama on the way to the castle, they were attacked by Nobunaga ODA, and even though Yoshimoto fought hard with Soshin MATSUI, he was decapitated by a vassal of the Oda family named Yoshikatsu MORI, and his favorite long sword inscribed Sozasamonji was taken.
(This battle is commonly referred to as 'The Battle of Okehazama,' according to "Shincho Koki" [Biography of the Warlord Nobunaga ODA].)
He was 42 yeas old.

Afterwards, surviving soldiers of the Imagawa side tried to bring Yoshimoto's body back to Sunpu (Shizuoka City), but his headless corpse suffered from considerably rapid decomposition and was buried in Hoi County, Mikawa Province.

His posthumous Buddhist name is Tentaku-ji Shuhotetsuko (秀峯哲公).

Graveyard: the legendary historic battlefield of Okehazama in present Toyoake City, Aichi Prefecture. Kotoku-in Temple in Toyoake City, Aichi Prefecture. Rinzai-ji Temple in Aoi Ward, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Kansen-ji Temple in Suginami Ward, Tokyo.

Burial mound: Daisho-ji Temple in Ushikubo-cho, Toyokawa City, Aichi Prefecture (Do-zuka [trunk tomb]) (next to the grave of Tokiie ISSHIKI). Toko-ji Temple in Komaba-cho, Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture (Kubi-zuka [severed head tomb]). Imagawa-zuka (tomb) in Tokai City, Aichi Prefecture. Imagawa-zuka (tomb) in Shogaku-ji Temple in Kiyosu City, Aichi Prefecture.

After his death (postmortem affairs)

Yoshimoto's severed head was later returned to the Suruga Province along with negotiations for surrender of the castle held by Yoshimoto's chief retainer Motonobu OKABE, who continued to fight bravely at Narumi-jo Castle against Nobunaga. After Yoshimoto's death and his legitimate son Ujizane IMAGAWA succeeded the family reign, Motoyasu MATSUDAIRA (later Ieyasu TOKUGAWA) declared independence in Nishimikawa (western part of Mikawa Province), taking advantage of the unguarded moment. In Higashimikawa (eastern part of Mikawa Province), the Toda clan, the Saigo clan and others seceded from the Imagawa clan as well following Motoyasu's move, and became affiliated with the Matsudaira clan. Once the unrest in Mikawa Province was transmitted to the neighboring Totomi Province, the whole territory became wrapped in suspicion with people in panic wondering who would be friend or foe amid the chaos and whether the news was true or false (Enshu [Totomi Province] Confusion). Although Ujizane, who had very limited ability to control the minds of the people, thought he could cool down the situation by purging Naochika II and Tsuratatsu (連竜) IIO, their purge had the opposite effect and accelerated the estrangement of the people and the Imagawa clan began a drastic decline. Eight years after Yoshimoto's death, the family was expelled from the Suruga Province by Shingen, and the Imagawa family as Sengoku daimyo disappeared.

After the banishment from Suruga, Ujizane lived a retired life in Kyoto but his legitimate son Norimochi IMAGAWA died of illness. Ujizane was then invited by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA to serve in the Edo bakufu. After he was given a 500 koku (139 cubic meters) crop yield as a stipend of mercy, the Imagawa clan became one of the Shogun's retainers as bakufu koke (honorable family of bakufu).

Area of Influence
At the height of his prosperity during the Battle of Okehazama, Yoshimoto's territory extended over Suruga, Totomi and Mikawa provinces with a total production of 690,000 koku (according to the Taiko Kenchi [Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI's nationwide land survey]). In Owari Province on the other hand, which was not registered as his territory, anti-Oda feudal lords such as the Yamaguchi clan and the Hattori clan were showing movement to act in concert with the Imagawa clan. According to an analysis of the Okehazama Incident in the Japanese history of warfare made by the Staff Headquarters of the Empire of Japan, based on the calculation that for every 10,000 koku the military service of 250 soldiers could be supported, it was estimated that Yoshimoto's territory produced a total crop yield of 1,000,000 koku and there were 25,000 soldiers in his army, but these were figures gained by padding each crop yield of the Suruga, Totomi and Mikawa provinces, which in reality were less productive, in addition to counting Owari Province as part of his territory. According to Shincho Koki (Biography of the Warlord Nobunaga ODA) on the other hand, Yoshimoto's territory produced only a 45,000 koku crop yield, therefore the real figures are unknown.

Public Assessment

In general, Yoshimoto is well known as a general defeated by Nobunaga ODA in the Battle of Okehazama, and he is considered to have been an imbecile as a Sengoku daimyo, judging from anecdotes about his personality, who preferred to be carried on a palanquin and was influenced by court noble culture. Popular theory points especially towards the fatal error he made in depending on his predominant situation, where he downplayed Nobunaga in the Battle of Okehazama and took a break to rest at Dengakuhazama where he had no commanding advantage. Based on his dependency of using a palanquin for transportation, it came to be said that he was unable to ride on horseback, and many vulgar beliefs were invented in later years to explain why, such as him having a fear of riding since he fell off a horse when he was a child, that he was fat, or he was waistless and short-legged. All of these popular beliefs contributed to the establishment of his low public assessment.

In reality, he was an outstanding personality in warfare and political tactics among the Japanese territorial lords during the Sengoku period.
In domestic policies especially, Yoshimoto displayed his uncommon abilities, starting with the enactment of the articles (Kana Mokuroku Tsuika) to expand on the 'Imagawa Kana Mokuroku' (the Imagawa clan's basic house rules to control the territory) in 1552, carrying out excellent administrative reforms such as commercial protection and distribution control within his territory, and consolidation of vassals by introducing the system of Yorioya-Yoriko (Later, when Ieyasu TOKUGAWA established the feudal government, he applied these policies to the system of the Edo bakufu.)
According to "Asakura Soteki Waki" (a collection of Soteki ASAKURA's comments), Soteki ASAKURA evaluated Yoshimoto as 'good at governing a county and using persons and deserving to be referred to as a good example,' and compared him to such eminent figures as Shingen TAKEDA, Nobunaga ODA, Nagayoshi MIYOSHI, the lords of the Nagao clan, the Mori clan and others.
("Zokuzoku Gunsho Ruiju" [The Second Sequel of Gunsho Ruiju: The Anthology of Classified Old Documents])
(In its alternative versions, Kingo Rikosho [Soteki ASAKURA's hints for military commanders] and Soteki Yawa [Soteki ASAKURA's posthumous advice], Yoshimoto is mentioned as Imagawa-dono [Lord Imagawa].)

It is also possible that he used a palanquin instead of riding on horseback in order to demonstrate that he was given exception by the Ashikaga Shogun family and permitted to use a palanquin due to their close relationship (the Imagawa family was a branch of the Ashikaga Shogun family), meaning that he rode a palanquin in battle in order to make an appeal of it.
In the "Shincho Koki" (Biography of the Warlord Nobunaga ODA), since it is described how he withdrew on horseback from Mt. Okehazama, it is possible to consider the common theory of his inability to ride on horseback, as well as its reasons, as all being invented at a later time (Generally these descriptions began appearing in the middle of the Edo period.)
In addition, his knowledge of the court noble culture itself demonstrates the level of culture he had, and is not necessarily a negative point.

Unlike his public assessment, he was relatively highly evaluated as a Sengoku daimyo, but recent studies regard Yoshimoto's frequent military actions driven by aggressive territory expansion as the cause of fatigue in his vassals and the people of the domain, and it is has been determined that this was one of the causes leading to such a rapid decline of the Imagawa clan after his death.

Personal Profile and Anecdotes

It is said that as Yoshimoto entered the Buddhist priesthood very young, he did not receive training in military art and personally lacked military prowess. However, at the Battle of Okehazama when Nobunaga's vassal Kazutada HATTORI first tried to slash at Yoshimoto, Yoshimoto fought back by drawing his sword and cutting Hattori on the knee, then Yoshikatsu MORI tried to slash at Yoshimoto and they crossed swords several times, and when Mori was finally about to decapitate him, Yoshimoto bit off Mori's finger before dying, so it cannot be said that he completely lacked personal military prowess.

In addition to the argument that Yoshimoto lost himself in his aristocratic tastes based on his familiarity with court culture and his protection from exile from the capital by court nobles, his teeth were dyed black like a court noble and he wore light makeup with okimayu (painted eyebrows on his brow). However, there is another theory that the story of him wearing the makeup of a court noble was a fiction created later on. Even if it is true, it indicates nothing more than his high social standing and cannot be seen as a symbol of his weakness. In yet another theory, it is argued that wearing makeup was not a queer habit but an established code that samurai should follow when going in to the battlefield (Yoshihiko SASAMA "Jidaikosho Nihon Kassen-zu Zuten" (Historical scrutiny: Illustrated dictionary of Japanese battle).

In the "Shincho Koki" (Biography of the Warlord Nobunaga ODA), Yoshimoto's costume during the Battle of Okehazama is described as follows: 'Yoshimoto was dressed in armor with a white cuirass and a five-piece combat helmet decorated with a gold embossed pattern of the legendary dragon Hachiryu; he wore a red brocaded Jinbaori (sleeveless campaign jacket worn over armor), wielded a long sword approximately 85cm long with the inscription of Matsukurago (a sword made by GO no Yoshihiro), a family treasure handed down for generations in the Imagawa family, and a short sword with approximately 55cm in length with the inscription of Dai-samonji (a sword made by Samonji SOZA); he sat straddled upon a jet-black horse of about 166.65cm tall with a gold-rimmed saddle, fixed by a scarlet breeching...'

According to popular theory, Yoshimoto's act of taking Hirotada MATSUDAIRA's only legitimate son Takechiyo (Ieyasu TOKUGAWA) as a hostage has been considered as cruel treatment to the Matsudaira family. As a result of recent studies, however, a number of theories arguing from Yoshimoto IMAGAWA's side claim that it was a (favorable) policy of the Imagawa family to attach great importance to the Okazaki Matsudaira family since it was the largest family on the Imagawa side in Nishimikawa (the western part of Mikawa Province). For example, there is a theory that the Imagawa family placed little Ieyasu under their custody in Suruga Province, treating him as a member of their junichimon (associate family), and Ieyasu was left to Yoshimoto's care as 'an apprentice of the government affairs,' rather than as a hostage. There is also another theory that Yoshimoto gave Takechiyo a special education for talented students conducted by Sessai TAIGEN (there are objections to this theory as well). The marriage Yoshimoto forced on his niece Tsukiyama with Ieyasu can be interpreted as a measure to tie Ieyasu to the Imagawa family, but it can be also understood as an honest special favor to turn Ieyasu into a relative of the Imagawa family.
To the vassals of the Matsudaira clan, however, it was a fact that the legitimate son of their lord (and particularly, after Hirotada's death, their lord) was taken as hostage, and it seems that they felt a certain amount of pressure due to their disadvantaged position (Tadayoshi TORII complained to Ieyasu, who temporarily returned to the Okazaki-ji Castle to pay his ancestors a visit, about the Imagawa family's autocratic manner.)
There is no doubt that Takechiyo's life was full of sufferances, such as the personal humiliation he received from one of Yoshimoto's vassals (Tomoyasu HARAMIISHI), so it is only natural for the subjective standpoint of the Tokugawa family to be extended to the traditional common view. One thing for certain, is that Ieyasu chose Suruga as his place for retirement even though he had supposedly been living a submissive life during his days living there as a child.

There are two theories on why Yoshimoto made an invasion into the Owari Province in 1560; one is that Yoshimoto had the objective of proceeding to the capital (Kyoto), and the other is that he was aiming at putting down Nobunaga ODA and capturing Owari Province.