Looking Into the Legacy of Date Terumune

The Sengoku Period of Japan is one that let the best warriors of Japan shine brightly. Almost all important persons linked to that time in Japan were known to be amazing leaders and warriors. To mention some on that list, there were the likes of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Oda Nobunaga, Suzuki Sadayu, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. There were also a lot of notable women that lived in that period in time like Kyogoku Maria. Even monks and other religious characters like Shimozuma Chuka made a mark in this particular period of Japan. Among all their stories, there is one that exemplifies the love for the family like nothing else and this is the story of Date Terumune.

By ? (仙台市博物館) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Before Date Terunume Headed the Date Clan

Learning a little bit about the biographical history of Date Terunume would increase your overall perspective of him tremendously. Without a clear understanding of his background, you might not be able to see Terunume in the light that he deserved to be seen in. You see, the leaders of the Date clan seemingly has this pattern. They all fall under the category of being a lover than a fighter. This can be seen with how they expanded their power and influence through marriages with other clans.

By ? (仙台市博物館) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It started with Terunume’s grandfather, Date Tanemune, who gained influence on the Osaki clan by giving them his second son to be the heir to their clan. At some point, all clans did this by offering the ladies of their families like their daughters to marry a male son of the opposing clan to fortify their alliance. In this case, though, he gave his son to be an heir and that is completely different from marrying to cement an alliance. Sadly, this strategy also started the Tenbun war that caused the Date clan’s power and influence to drop tremendously because of the rift created by Date Harunume’s disagreement with his father’s plans. His father, after about 6 years of internal war within the clan, was forced to retire and his Harunume the keys to the clan.

Harunume wasn’t considered a lover over a fighter because he eventually did what his father did. He fell into this category because of how he used his time as the head of the Date clan to restore the power and influence that the Date clan had lost because of his long-time feud with his father. This showed that he was a lover because instead of spending what resources he had on his personal interests, he reestablished their clan for his family.

He also showed wisdom when it was Date Terunume’s turn to be the head of their clan by not resisting and just trusting that he had taught his son the right things and what it meant to the head of their clan. Of course, there was an existing House Code written by his grandfather that had articles on what you could and could not do in their clan but to be a leader is something that goes beyond the rules and it is something that can only be taught by experience. Fortunately, he taught him well because Date Terunume would not only become a great leader but a hero to his family as well.

During the Reign of Date Terunume

By 土佐光貞 (東福寺塔中霊源院) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It was through the words of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru that Terunume officially became the 16th head of the Date clan. In his childhood, he was called Hikotaro or Sojiro but since the shogun awarded Terunume with the character “Teru”, there was no doubt that he would honor the awarded and henceforth be known as Date Terunume. He was 17 years old when he took control of the Date clan and by that time, thanks to his father’s efforts, the Date clan was strong enough to explain the range of their rule. Terunume immediately expanded to eventually rule over 30 districts found in the surrounding area.

Compared to his father and his father’s father, Terunume was involved in more bloodshed. This was not to say that he wasn’t a lover more than a fighter. It could have easily been the time of his rule because he was also known to be in correspondence with Oda Nobunaga, who was one of the most powerful daimyo’s in Japan during that period. Being an ally of such a powerful man inevitably entails being involved with the bloodshed of that time.

In the year of 1584, Date Terunume would bow down from his position and hand it over to his son, Date Masamune. Although the Date clan usually opted for the peaceful way to negotiate things, being in the powerful position they were it, it was hard not to have enemies. In this case, their number 1 enemy during those times was the Hatakeyama clan who had been Date’s perennial enemy. Date Masamune continued their war against their long-time enemy and would eventually push Hatakeyama Yoshitsugu to the point wherein he had to call in the help of Date Terunume to work out a deal with his son.

Terunume agreed to help and so they planned a met up. What was planned to be a meeting between Yoshitsugu and Terunume to discuss peace turned out to be a sleazy kidnap operation orchestrated by the Hatakeyama to use Terunume as a hostage. Luckily, Masamune immediately got word of what happened and was able to cutoff Hatakeyama before he would escape.

Being that Terunume was held hostage, Masamune hesitated to order the attack on the enemy. It was in this moment that Date Terunume proved that he was a lover and not a fighter because he understood the dilemma his son was in so he shouted at his son and told him to forget about his safety and to order the attack on the enemy. After shouting this, Terunume forced the hand of Hatakeyama by drawing his sword to start the impending fight. This battle ended with the death of both Yoshitsugu and Terunume. This happened a day before December, specifically on November 29, 1585.

The Future that Date Terunume was Able to Give His Clan

Tōru Komuro [Public domain or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

What some Date retainers did after the death of Date Terunume showed just how great of a leader he was to them. Because he died, some of the retained decided to follow their trusted leader into the afterlife as their committed seppuku. For anyone to pick death over living without a certain person means that the person must have really loved or looked up to the person who had died.

In a way, it all fell into place because Terunume was honored the way he should have been, which was a hero to their family and clan because of his actions. At the same time, Date Masamune was growing into the amazing leader that he would eventually be for the Date clan. Unlike his predecessors, Date Masamune certainly favored the way of the sword and it was easily seen with how he was referred to as the “One-Eyed Dragon of Oshu”. Masamune became such an impactful figure in Japanese history that he appeared in a number of Japanese period dramas. Not all great warriors are written about so for him to be a part of a Japanese drama says a lot about what he was able to do.

Date Masamune did a great job at utilizing what he had but none of it would have been possible without the groundwork that his father had done during his time. Without the expansions made by his father and without the experience he gained learning from his father, Date Masamune would have never been the great historical figure that he turned out to be for Japan. With this being said, it can clearly be seen just how big of an impact Date Terunume had on the future of the Date clan. It wasn’t obvious at the time he was alive but judging from the success their clan attained afterward, there was no doubt that he did all the right things during his time of the throne of the Date clan.

All the information about Date Terunume mentioned above should be enough to shed a light on the point that was being pertained to earlier. It might not be seen or noticed at first glance but the time and effort Date Terunume put into his life’s work really did pay off for more than just his clan members in the end. Remember that the Date clan played a huge part in supporting the likes of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and that would have never been possible if the Date clan didn’t focus on the things they focused on prior to the emergence of Date Masamune.  In other words, without Date Terunume, there is a big chance that a huge chunk of Japanese history could have gone another way and that probably might have led Japan to develop another way as well. Japan, today, is one of the most advanced countries in the world so more people should be thankful to Date Terunume for doing what he did to ensure that Japan progressed the way that it did.