Matsudaira Kiyoyasu: The Famous Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Grandfather

Throughout the history of Japan, there were several notable men and women that shaped the culture of the country. These people played specific key roles that changed the history of Japan. Some of them were even fathers or grandfathers of famous Japanese rulers that changed the course of the history of Japan. Among these was a man named Matsudaira Kiyoyasu.

The Life and Death of Matsudaira Kiyoyasu

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Born on the 28th of September in the year 1511, Matsudaira Kiyoyasu served as the 7th lord of the Matsudaira clan. He was the leader of his clan during the Sengoku period, which was during the 16th century. One of the things that he was most famous for was being the grandfather of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was considered as one of the key persons that unified Japan as a whole.

During his term, Kiyoyasu was able to gain control over the whole northern portion of the province of Mikawa. This gain may also be attributed to the surrender of the Saigo clan after being in conflict with the Matsudaira clan for four generations. A structure was also constructed to signify the strength of the Matsudaira clan known as the Okazaki Castle.

As the oldest son of Matsudaira Nobutada, Kiyoyasu had many tasks on his shoulder. He was instrumental in the consolidation of the position of his clan in the province of Mikawa. He was able to seize Okazaki Castle in the year 1524, which signified his clan’s power across the land. Despite his many great strengths that were witnessed by many people, he actually met his demise because of a misunderstanding.

Due to his influence and power, his friendship and alliance were wanted by two men, namely, Takeda Nobutora and Oda Nobuo mitsu. Nobutora was the father of the well-known Takeda Shingen while Nobuo mitsu was the uncle of the famous Nobunaga. A proposal was made by the older Oda stating that if Kiyoyasu were to make an attack against the province of the Oda clan, the former would ally with the latter. This was due to Oda’s desire to overthrow his older brother Nobuhide who served as the head of the Oda clan at the time.

Kiyoyasu accepted this proposal and prepared to attack the province of the Oda clan. However, his uncle Nobusada saw this as an opportunity and went to send a message to Nobuhide stating that he was to seize the Castle of Anjo, which served as the headquarters of Kiyoyasu. This was also the site from which Kiyoyasu had set out.

Having heard this news, Kiyoyasu naturally thought that someone inside his base must be a mole for his uncle. At the same time, there was also a rumor circulating that Abe Sadayoshi, his most faithful retainer, was not loyal to him after all. It was said that Sadayoshi was actually in league with Nobusada.

Upon hearing this outrageous rumor, Sadayoshi was indignant. His son who went by the name of Yashichi was called upon by Sadayoshi regarding the issue. Sadayoshi stated that if a proper investigation was to take place, his name would be cleared of this false accusation. If it were proven that he indeed betrayed his overlord, Sadayoshi would willingly be put to death.

At the same time, Sadayoshi’s horse became restless and caused a commotion. Kiyoyasu ordered to catch and tie up the horse. However, Yashichi, having heard the commotion, jumped into conclusion and thought that Sadayoshi was already being arrested. Springing iton action to protect his father, Yashichi no longer had time to think things through and proceeded to cut Kiyoyasu down.

Kiyoyasu died at the hands of Yashichi. Yashichi was also quickly slain by one of Kiyoyasu’s trusted guards. Fortunately, he already had an heir before he passed away at the age of 25. At the time, his son Hirotada was only 10 years old. Sadayoshi was also proven to be loyal to Kiyoyasu. He took it upon himself to take care and guide Kiyoyasu’s son.

After the passing of Kiyoyasu, the Battle of Idano took place. It occurred only seven days after Kiyoyasu was slain. The battle was between the Matsudaira clan and the army of Abe Masatoyo. As a result of this war, the Matsudaira clan emerged victoriously.

Kiyoyasu’s Heir Matsudaira Hirotada

By 立花左近 [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

What was left of Kiyoyasu was his son Matsudaira Hirotada. Born on the 9th of June in the year 1526, he became the lord of Okasaki Castle after his father was murdered. Although Hirotada had his fair share of accomplishments during his rule of their land, he was most well-known as the father of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who founded the Tokugawa shogunate.

Matsudaira Hirotada became the 8th head of the Mikawa Matsudaira clan when his father Matsudaira Kiyoyasu was slain by the son of his faithful retainer. Hirotada was given birth by his mother known as keyoin who was the daughter of Aoki Kaga no Kami Norimune. When he was a child, Hirotada went by three names. These were Senshomaru, Senchiyo, and Jirozaburo.

Because he was only 10 years old when his father Kiyoyasu was assassinated, he still was not old and able enough to rule his clan. Instead, he was put under the guidance and protection of Abe Sadayoshi who was a faithful retainer of Kiyoyasu. Sadayoshi made it a point to not only take care of Hirotada in Kiyoyasu’s place but also teach the young lord the important lessons in ruling his clan.

Hirotada was, later on, wedded to Okichi in the year 1541. Okichi was the sister of Mizuno Tadamichi as well as Hirotada’s niece. Together, they brought into the world Tokugawa Ieyasu, Kiyoyasu’s grandson. Hirotada proceeded to forge an alliance with Imagawa Yoshimoto in their quest against Oda Nobuhide. They fought against the Oda clan in the First Battle of Azukizaka in the year 1542 and ended up defeated.

Another problem arose when his uncle who went by the name of Matsudaira Nobutaka went into rebellion just a year after. Nobutaka forged an alliance with Nobuhide in the year 1543. In addition, Hirotada and Okichi also separated in the year 1544 due to a serious conflict with his father-in-law Mizuno Tadamasa. Eventually, Hirotada married again after some time. He was wedded to the daughter of Toda Yasumitsu and sired a son and three daughters.

The Early Life of Kiyoyasu’s Grandson Tokugawa Ieyasu

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Born on the 31st of January in the year 1543, Tokugawa Ieyasu was the famous grandson of Matsudaira Kiyoyasu. He was the founder, as well as the first shogun, of the Tokugawa shogunate. The rule of this last shogunate began in Battle of Sekigahara in the year 1600 and ended in the Meiji Restoration in the year 1868.

Ieyasu was able to obtain ruling power in the year 1600. He was only appointed as shogun three years after, which was in the year 1603. Even though he abdicated from office in the year 1605, he was still able to yield power over the shogunate until his passing on the 1st of June in the year 1616.

Kiyoyasu’s grandson was among the recognized three unifiers of Japan, along with other formidable lords. These other lords were Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Ieyasu was eventually enshrined at Nikko Tosho-gu. He was enshrined with the name of Tosho Daigongen.

Tokugawa Ieyasu’s original name was Matsudaira Takechiyo. He was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada and his then-wife Lady Odai, also known as Okichi. When Ieyasu was born in Okazaki Castle, his father was only 17 years old while his mother was 15 years old. Ieyasu was to become the 9th lord or daimyo of the Matsudaira clan.

At the age of five, Ieyasu was kidnapped by the men of Oda Nobuhide when the child was on his way to Sunpu. Instead of killing Ieyasu because his father Hirotada was an enemy of Nobuhide, Nobuhide decided to hold Ieyasu as a hostage. Ieyasu was kept at the Mansho-ji Temple located in Nagoya as a hostage for three years.

Ieyasu was only at the tender age of six when his father was assassinated by his own vassals. This assassination was under the orders of the Oda clan. As if by karma, Oda Nobuhide also died around the same time because of the epidemic that spread through the land. His death was a major blow to the Oda clan.

Certain events took place that led the Oda clan to be cornered by Imagawa Sessai. Both parties struck a deal with Ieyasu, now 9 years old, being transferred to the care of the Imagawa clan. Ieyasu remained a hostage but under the Imagawa clan until the age of 13. During his stay, it was said that Ieyasu was treated fairly, as he had the potential to become an ally of the clan.

Upon coming of age in the year 1556, his genpuku ceremony was officially held under the ruling of Imagawa Yoshimoto. His name was officially changed to Matsudaira Jirozaburo Motonobu according to tradition. He was also able to visit the castle where he used to reside to pay his respects to the tomb of Hirotada. In addition, he also obtained homage of his nominal retainers.

Many events transpired before Ieyasu was finally designated as shogun by the 24th of March in the year 1603. By then, Ieyasu was already 60 years old. He actually outlived other formidable men who were also known during his time. These include not just Nobunaga and Hideyoshi but also Shingen and Kenshin.

The Curse of the Muramasa Blade on the Matsudaira Clan

By Ihimutefu [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

There was also a story surrounding a certain blade that was believed to be cursed to hurt and potentially kill the members of the Matsudaira clan. It all began with the demise of Kiyoyasu. The blade used to slay Kiyoyasu was known to be a work of Muramasa. The sword was a huge katakana that consisted of a nagasa of 81.8 centimeters. This incident was also one of the earliest known events that showcased the extreme sharpness of the blades made by Muramasa.

After Kiyoyasu, Hirotada was the next to experience the “curse of the Muramasa blade.” It was said that Hirotada was woken up by footsteps in the hall one spring night. He saw a shadow walking down the hall. That same night, one of his guards Uemura Ujiaki was on duty. He saw the stranger and, realizing the danger, kill the man. The stranger was uncovered and had only a single eye, which was a clue as to his identity.

Following the investigation, it was found out that the stranger was a man named Iwamatsu Hachiya. Drunk that evening, it was said that Hachiya was hired as an assassin to murder Hirotada. The assassin drank alcohol in order to obscure the background when he was about to commit murder. Thankfully, his inebriation saved the life of Hirotada. Upon unsheathing Hachiya’s sword, it was found to be a Muramasa blade.

The misfortune did not stop at Hirotada. At the age of seven Ieyasu was also injured by a katakana. While the wound was not deep, the pain was apparent nonetheless. Upon checking the blade, it was signed “Muramasa.” As Ieyasu grew up, many more events transpired in his life. One of the most painful ones was when he had to execute his own wife and son in order to strengthen his alliance with Nobunaga.

The sword that was to be used to kill his own son turned out to be a Muramasa blade. With all these “coincidences,” Ieyasu truly believed that Muramasa blades would bring about the end of their clan. Generations of their family members were either hurt or killed by Muramasa blades. This already included his grandfather Kiyoyasu and his father Hirotada.

Hence, to put his mind at peace, he gave out an order to destroy every last piece of blade created by Muramasa. With all Muramasa blades destroyed, Ieyasu thought that the “curse” of the said blade on their family would stop. Despite this paranoia, Kiyoyasu’s grandson truly made great changes in the history of Japan.