The Life of Tokugawa Hidetada; The Second Tokugawa Shogun

Tokugawa Hidetada (born May 2, 1579) was the third son of the powerful Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) His mother, Lady Saigo-no-Tsubone, was the first of many consorts of Tokugawa Ieyasu. 

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Hidetada’s Early Life

In 1589, when Hidetada was just 10 years old, his mother’s health rapidly worsened, and she passed away at Sunpu Castle. Lady Chaa, one of Hidetada’s concubines, raised and cared for Hidetada and his brother Matsudaira Tadayoshi. Hidetada’s childhood name was Nagamuru, which was later changed to Takechiyo. 

The children of the shogun at that time could be compared to a prince or princess of today, though not officially as recognized as that like the son or daughter of the Emperor, who would be true royalty. The shogun’s son that is deemed most fit would usually be trained to become a samurai warrior early on, to join or lead an army of men. 

Tokugawa Hidetada succeeded his father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and ruled Japan from 1616-1623.  He became the second Shogun to rule the Tokugawa regime after his father abdicated. Tokugawa Ieyasu abdicated in 1605 in favor of his son Hidetada but continued to retain significant power and rule until his death in 1616. 

Understanding the Past

Tokugawa Hidetada’s father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was named in 1603 by the imperial court of Emperor Go-Yozei as shogun or supreme military leader of all of Japan, thus beginning a dynasty that would rule Japan for the next two and half centuries. The Tokugawa clan rose to rule at the end of the Sengoku period until the end of the Edo period. Over the centuries, fifteen more Tokugawa shoguns ruled Japan. 

A Dire Need For Unification

During the years prior, particularly 1467-1590, Japan was so decentralized as a country, torn apart by many warring and competing for feudal lords (daimyo). The imperial court and the military government (bakufu) were weak and ineffective. The daimyos controlled their own domains or territories. Tokugawa Ieyasu was one of those powerful daimyos, along with another strong and wise daimyo, Oda Nobunaga. 

Oda Nobunaga eventually controlled one-third of Japan. Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582 and his loyal general, Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded Nobunaga. Hideyoshi, a very able, brilliant military and political tactician, eventually brought all of Japan under his control by 1590. He unified Japan and made many positive changes in Japan’s way of life and society. Hideyoshi’s death in September 1598 made Toyotomi Hideyori, his only son alive, the successor to his regime. Tokugawa Ieyasu saw this as a major threat to his plans to get complete political authority of all of Japan.

At the Battle of Sekigahara, (1600) Tokugawa Ieyasu with his son Tokugawa Hidetada went to war to completely wipe out Toyotomi Hideyori and his allies. Hidetada helped his father in leading a victorious campaign against Osaka Castle until it was captured and ended Toyotomi rule. Hidetada also tamed any domains that challenged his authority. 

Like Father, Like Son?

After many more battles, he sieged Osaka Castle where the Toyotomi family lived. Tokugawa Ieyasu was a cold-blooded, ambitious man who had Hideyori and his mother (Yodo-done) and his seven-year-old son (Kunimatsu) all killed. 

Senhime, or Lady Sen, the granddaughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu and eldest daughter of Tokugawa Hidetada, was the wife of Hideyori and mother of their son Toyotomi Kunimatsu. Ieyasu and Hidetada spared her life but not her son’s, even if the boy was of Tokugawa bloodline. Also spared was Naahime, a daughter of Hideyori with a concubine. Lady Sen pleaded for the little girl’s life. She was spared and sent to a Buddhist convent until her death many years later. 

His victory made Ieyasu the supreme ruler of all Japan. Under his rule, Edo (modern day Tokyo) became the seat of government and the most important city of Japan. From the start, the Tokugawa regime focused on establishing order in the social, political, and international affairs of Japan after a chaotic century of warfare. Tokugawa Hidetada ruled in his father’s shadow while his father was still alive but following his father’s death, Hidetada assumed complete power. 

To ensure the continuity of his dynasty, Hidetada arranged the marriage of his daughter to the emperor Go-Mizunoo. To further strengthen the power of Tokugawa Shogunate, all daimyos were bound to the shogunate, limiting them from acquiring too much land or power. Hidetada made sure that power over Japan would remain in Tokugawa hands well into the future.

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A Quick Biography on Tokugawa Hidetada

In 1590, Hideteda was involved in a kidnapping. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruler of Japan at that time, asked Tokugawa Ieyasu - his ally and top general - to attack the Hojo domain. The Siege of Odawara started, and Odawara Castle was taken by Ieyasu. 

Since Ieyasu was known to be in friendly terms with the Hojo clan, Hideyoshi then kidnapped Ieyasu’s son Hidetada, to prevent Ieyasu from defecting to the Hojo’s side, despite them being friends. Ieyasu was given eight Kanto provinces including the city of Edo, in exchange for the five provinces under Ieyasu’s control for winning the battle.

Hideyoshi took the eleven-year-old Hidetada as a hostage. He had been known as “Takechiyo” as a child, but when Hidetada became of age, he assumed the name Hidetada, which was given by Hideyoshi. Being the eldest surviving son of Ieyasu, Hidetada was returned to his father’s side in 1593 to be his heir. 

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The Death of Tokugawa Hidetada

Ogosho Hidetada died on March 14, 1632. His ashes were laid to rest in Edo, at the Taitoku-in Mausoleum.

What was Tokugawa Hidetada’s Historical Nickname?

Tokugawa Hidetada had many nicknames. He was known as Nagamaru initially, which turned into Takechiyo a few years later. Then, he was eventually known as Hidetada. He assumed the Buddhist posthumous name “Daitoku-in”/” Taitoku-in” when he died. 

All About the Wife of Tokugawa Hidetada

Hidetada married O-Hime (daughter of Oda Nobukatsu an adopted daughter of Toyotomi Hideyoshi) in 1590, but she passed away in 1591. She was given the Buddhist name of “Shunshoin” upon her death. 

Oeyo (Go, Ogo, or Satoko), another wife of Hidetada from the Oda clan, (born on 1573 and died on 1626) was an important figure in the Tokugawa family. Her father was daimyo Azai Nagamasa and her mother was Oichi (the younger sister of powerful daimyo Oda Nobunaga). As a child, Oeyo was taken under the care of Toyotomi Hideyoshi when Nobunaga passed away. 

Oeyo’s older sister, Yodo-dono, became a prominent concubine of Hideyoshi and the mother of Toyotomi Hideyori. 

Oeyo married three times. First to Saiji Kazunan, her cousin. Her second husband was Toyotomi Hidekatsu (nephew of Toyotomi Hideyoshi) with whom she had a daughter (Toyotomi Sadako). Her third and last husband was Tokugawa Hidetada with whom she had seven children. Her wedding with Hidetada was held in Fushimi Castle. 

Murders Within the Family

The eldest daughter of Oeyo and Hidetada, Senhime, was the widow of Toyotomi Hideyori and the mother of their child Kunimatsu. Hideyori, his son Kunimatsu, and his mother Yodo-dono (sister of Oichi) were all murdered under instructions of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hidetada. 

Kunimatsu was the grandson of Hidetada and the great-grandson of Ieyasu, but that did not stop them from beheading the 7-year-old boy just for their ambitious dreams to eradicate all rivalry. 

Oeyo also had Tamahime, Katsuhime, Hatsuhime, Takechiyo, who would later go by Iemitsu. Iemitsu would become the third shogun, succeeding Hidetada) Tadanaga, and Masako, who was given as a consort to Emperor Go-Mizunoo by her father Hidetada. She became Empress Consort and her daughter - with the emperor - rose to the throne in 1629 as the Empress Meisho. 

According to historical records, Hidetada had 2 previous affairs with other women. The first one bore Hidetada a son but he died nine months later. He also had a son with a palace maid but she was secretly sent away when she got pregnant. Though it was customary for the shogun to have concubines, Hidetada did not have any. Oeyo made it clear that she did not allow Hidetada to have any other women and Hidetada complied.

What were the Achievements and Failures of Tokugawa Hidetada?

Hidetada, being a general, was given the responsibility by his father to attack Uesugi at the Battle of Sekigahara. He changed the plan and decided to bring the 38,000 men under him westward to join his father. Along the way, he changed course to join the war of the Sanada at the Ueda Castle in Shinano. He attempted to siege the castle, but he failed. He continued to meet his father in Sekigahara but arrived too late. He missed the battle. He was harshly rebuked by his father. 

Hidetada also played an active role in the siege of Osaka Castle. Father and son argued more than once in the course of strategy. Hidetada wanted a direct assault while his father Ieyasu favored more caution. 

Hidetada had become well learned and acquainted with the office of shogun and continued his father’s work of creating a strong bakufu and developing a domestic commerce under the Tokugawa clan. Like his father, he eventually retired still in good health, handed the office to his son, Tokugawa Iemitsu and became an Ogosho or Retired Shogun. He still retained effective power until his death. Hidetada made sure that power over Japan will remain in Tokugawa hands well into the future.

The most important philosophy of the Tokugawa regime was Neo-Confucianism. Ieyasu and Hidetada stressed the importance of morals, education and hierarchical status in the government and society. 

A strict class system was introduced by Hidetada. At the top of the social hierarchy was the emperor, the shogun, daimyos and the samurais. They were the ruling class. Next in line were the peasants because they produced an important commodity which was food. The artisans followed and lastly were the merchants. The member of each of the four classes was not allowed to change their social status. At the bottom was the fifth class made up of the outcasts.

Hidetada continued his father’s tight control of the country. He continued to promote foreign trade but only with the English, the Dutch, and the Chinese. The trade relations were very limited and controlled. Hidetada wanted to isolate Japan from the rest of the world. 

In 1612, Hidetada issued a decree banning Christianity in the whole of Japan. Many Japanese regarded Christianity as the militant sects of Buddhism. They saw that Spanish and Portuguese military expansion throughout the globe went hand in hand with the propagation of Christianity.  The prohibition of Christianity was based on the fear that Spain or Portugal would invade Japan. The persecution of Christians ensued in 1614 and missionaries were expelled. 

Studying About Tokugawa Hidetada? Here Are Some Books That May Help You

Here are titles of books that are written about Tokugawa Hidetada. 

  • Tokugawa Hidetada (paperback) by Ronald Cohn Jesse Russell 
  • The Man Who Laid the Foundations for Three Hundred Years – Tokugawa Hidetada (hardcover)
  • Wife of Tokugawa Hidetada ( Kawade Bunko) (paperback)
  • Tokugawa Hidetada no Tsuma by Nobuko Yoshiya (254 pages)
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A Legacy Beyond 200 Years

Japan’s Tokugawa or Edo period (1603-1867), which was started first by Tokugawa Ieyasu, was continued by his son Hidetada, followed by fifteen more Tokugawa leaders in the decades that would come ahead. It was known for its relative stability and peacefulness. 

Because the Tokugawa period was the process of unifying these feudal lands, there were many daimyos who had stakes in the decisions that would play in the picture. This is where names of historical samurai figures such as Maeda, Ikeda, Asano, Honda, and Makino were often heard of. 

Though Hidetada was only second in line among the many that would follow, the Tokugawa clan was successful at keeping deals with daimyos, which lead to growth in the markets and trade, and economic change for the better. The population of Japan overall increased, and so did the production of its agriculture aspects. New castle towns and cities emerged, the level of literacy increased, and education was available for all. The dynasty ruled for 250 years in prosperity until the Meiji Restoration which ended the era of feudalism in Japan.