During the Sengoku Period of Japan, there were a lot of shifts in power due to the daimyos that would constantly try to expand the land that was under their control. This situation is nothing new because the warlords during the Feudal era in Japan also used to fight for this reason. The difference in the Sengoku Period is that even men who came from humble beginnings were able to rise up and make a name for themselves. Hojo Ujiyasu was fortunately born into his lordship but the story of how his clan got to that point is one that should be known by all who want to learn about Japan’s history.
The Things That Led to Hojo Ujiyasu’s Successful Reign
All the success experienced by the Hojo clan would not have been possible if it weren’t for the grandfather of Hojo Ujiyasu. His name was Hojo Soun and unlike his child, Hojo Ujitsuna, as well as his grandchild, Hojo Ujiyasu, Hojo Soun was not fortunate enough to just be born in the luxurious life of being a daimyo. He was initially known as Ise Shinkuro and he was merely a samurai of the Taira lineage. Although this meant that he came from a reputable Ise family who were shogunate officials, he paved his own path as he gained territory by fighting while using the name of Hojo.
Hojo Soun wasn’t a true member of the Hojo clan but because of his actions in the name of that clan, he was recognized as the founder of the clan. He was a man of honor and integrity and this was proven when he aided Imagawa Ujichika after Yoshitada passed away. You see, Ujichika was to take control or be the head of the Imagawa clan after his father, Imagawa Yoshitada, passed away but he was still too young to take on this responsibility. Hojo Soun then suggested that they let Ujichika’s uncle, Oshika Norimitsu, handle the clan’s operations until Ujichika reached the appropriate age.
This act created a temporary peace within the family but when Norimitsu refused to give the control and authority to Ujichika when he grew old enough, it reawakened the power struggle within the Imagawa clan. What Hojo Soun, who was Ise Shinjuro at the time, did after finding out about this would ultimately show he good character because since Ujichika was still too young to fight an experienced opponent like his uncle, Hojo Soun took it upon himself to restore the leadership of the Imagawa clan to its rightful owner. With this said, Hojo Soun defeated Norimitsu for Ujichika and in return, Ujichika gave Hojo Soun the Kokukuji castle.
He continued on to gain control of the Izu Province and this act is the reason why some scholars recognize Hojo Soun as the first real daimyo of the Sengoku period. He would eventually take the Odawara Castle as well. This castle would become the center of the Hojo family for the centuries to come so Hojo Soun really did lay the foundation of success for his clan.
After Hojo Soun passed away, his son Hojo Ujitsuna, who is also the father of Hojo Ujiyasu, became the head of the Hojo clan. He honored his father by continuing the goal that his father had for the clan and that was to gain control of the Kanto area. Throughout Hojo Ujitsuna’s reign, he won and lost several battles. Despite all these battles though, the most impactful attack that he orchestrated was in the year of 1524 when he took the Edo Castle.
This isn’t an impactful action because they got territory out of it. It is considered impactful because it is the action that started the Hojo clan’s rivalry with the Uesugi clan because, at the time that Ujitsuna took the Edo Castle, it was under the control of Uesugi Tomooki. Uesugi Tomooki made it hard for Ujitsuna because of his constant attacks but in the end, Ujitsuna would end up defending his territory from the attacks of the Uesugi clan and even take the Kawagoe Castle upon the death of Tomooki. This secured his control of the Kanto region.
Hojo Ujiyasu’s Accomplishments during His Time
Ujitsuna was able to honor his father by accomplishing Hojo Soun’s dream of gaining control over the Kanto area. With this being the thought in mind, some people might think that Ujiyasu could have honored his father by building a legendary empire since the Kanto region had already been secured. If you are one of the people who ended up with this conclusion, you are wrong because indirectly, his father, Ujitsuna, did leave a more concrete goal to accomplish for his son and that was to defeat their rival clan, the Uesugi.
Fittingly enough, when he became the head of the clan after his father’s death, he was already at war with the Uesugi clan. At that time, the Uesugi clan wasn’t in their strongest form but due to the long rivalry that exists between them, they were extremely determined to defeat the Hojo clan as well. In any case, a determined opponent is much scarier than an opponent at full force because despite the determined being weaker in terms of physicality, the determined would also do everything they can do outsmart or outdo their opponent.
This determination of the Uesugi clan was seen at the Siege of Kawagoe. In that siege, the Uesugi clan allegedly had an army of 80,000 warriors cornering the Hojo forces at the Kawagoe Castle. The Hojo army only had around 3000 warriors posted at the castle so they knew there were in deep trouble if help didn’t come fast. Luckily, Hojo Ujiyasu was a clever leader and warrior. He used ninjas to gather information on the enemy and planned a coordinated night attack between the 3000 warriors in the castle post and the 8000 warriors that came as the relief force. On any given day, 80,000 would easily beat 11,000 but with the use of the information they gathered, they were able to catch the Uesugi clan off guard and almost put an end to the Uesugi lineage.
The only one that was left was Uesugi Norimasa and instead of killing him, Hojo Ujiyasu ordered his retainer, Nagao Kagatora, to take Norimasa into his protective custody. What happened next would be a perfect storyline to a movie because somehow, the sun turned into the moon when Norimasa was able to turn Nagao Kagatora to their side. Nagao would even eventually change his name to Uesugi Kenshin and would become the greatest opponent the Hojo clan will ever fight against.
Hojo Ujiyasu would clash heads with Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen, who was the daimyo of the Kai Province, several times after those events. Their fighting led to fights like the battle of Mimasetoge and the Second Siege of Odawara. In the end, though, Hojo Ujiyasu proved to be the wise leader he was always thought to be because as he was getting older, he realized that if he passed away, all the rivalry and fighting would be passed unto his child, Hojo Ujimasa. He didn’t want that for his son so he managed to make peace with Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen. This peacemaking even resulted to Kenshin’s adoption of Ujiyasu’s 7th son. Much like all peace agreements during those times, it was sealed with the marriage of Ujiyasu’s daughters to Imagawa Ujizane and Takeda Katsuyori to officially make them family. The peace there made would leave Ujimasa inheriting the Hojo domains in more favorable conditions.
How Characters like Hojo Ujiyasu and Kotaro Fuuma Were Used in Games like Samurai Warriors 3 as well as the Basara Game Series
You cannot deny that the history of Japan makes a great plot of different types of stories and games. Among all the games you can find out there that is based on this portion of Japan’s history, the series of the Samurai Warriors franchise could easily have the most intriguing storylines out there. This series makes use of several notable warriors in Japan’s history like Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Kotaro Fuuma, and even Sanada Yukimura.
These games started being released in the year of 2004 and it was released alternatingly by Capcom and Koei. They started with Sengoku Musou in 2004 and then they released Sengoku Basara in 2005, Sengoku Musou 2 and Sengoku Basara 2 in 2006, and Musou Orochi in 2007. The storyline used for these games are pretty similar to Nobunaga no Yabou or Nobunaga’s Ambition but there are notable differences in the characters as well as the character progression in the games. In other words, you can learn historical facts by playing these games but do not take it to heart as some facts might have been played with or twisted to the convenience of the game’s progression.
Although these games are a great way to introduce these historical figures to children in an interesting way, if you wish to learn about the history of Japan, it would still be better to do it via research. Judging from the information on Hojo Ujiyasu mentioned above, it can be concluded that he was the most family-oriented one because he was the only one that stopped and thought about what would happen to his children and his clan if he just continued to engage in wars with their long-time rivals. This realization saved his clan from further bloodshed and even secured a better future for the new generation of their clan.