The Life and Relationships of Komatsuhime

Most people that were famous from the time when Japan was ruled by a military government were males. It cannot be helped as the military was composed of samurais and men who went into battle on a regular basis in pursuit of power and influence. At the time, women were expected to stay at home, tend to the house chores, and take care of the children. They were also mostly submissive during this time. However, one of the few women who was known as not just a simple female but also skillful was Komatsuhime.

Komatsuhime: A Woman from the Sengoku Period

By Rage against [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Born in the year 1573, Komatsuhime lived from the late Azuchi-Momoyama period to the early parts of the Edo period. She was the daughter of a well-known vassal who went by the name of Honda Tadakatsu. Because of Tadakatsu’s loyalty to his overlord Tokugawa Ieyasu, Komatsuhime was eventually adopted by Ieyasu as his own daughter. After some time, Komatsuhime married Sanada Nobuyuki.

The typical descriptions of Komatsuhime by people who have seen her or interacted with her were beautiful, smart, and adept at fighting. Her children include Manhime, Sanada Nobumasa, and Sanada Nobushige. Mahime was born in the year 1592 while Nobushige was born in the year 1599. Nobumasa became part of the Matsushiro Domain.

With a Japanese nationality, Komatsuhime was born in the province of Konosu-shuku Musashi. She passed away on the 27th of March in the year 1620. At the time of her death, she was gauged as having the age of either 46 or 47. She was also known by other names including Inahime, Onei, and Dairen-in. The relatives she gained from marrying Nobuyuki included her father-in-law Sanada Masayuki, brother-in-law Sanada Yukimura, and sister-in-law Chikurin-in.

Her connection to the Sanada clan began when she saw the military power of the Sanada during the Battle of Ueda. Komatsuhime and her father Tadakatsu witnessed the martial prowess of the clan and were impressed by it. As a result, her marriage to Nobuyuki, a son of Masayuki, the lord of the Sanada clan, was arranged by none other than her adoptive father Tokugawa Ieyasu.

However, it was not all well when Nobuyuki and Masayuki decided to side with opposing parties. Having Ieyasu as his father-in-law, Nobuyuki decided to side with the Tokugawa clan in the year 1600. On the other hand, Masayuki opted not to. On his way to Ueda Castle with his other son Yukimura, Masayuki stopped by Numata Castle to see his grandchildren.

At the time, Komatsuhime was in the castle managing its affairs. Having heard the message of her father-in-law, Komatsuhime faced Masayuki in full battle armor. She did not allow Masayuki to enter the castle due to their conflicts despite their relationship. Hence, Masayuki and Yukimura were not able to see the children and had to withdraw to a temple called Shokaku-ji.

Surprisingly for both men, Komatsuhime arrived in the temple, bringing her children with her. Despite the conflict between the two parties, Komatsuhime honored the wishes of Masayuki to see his grandchildren. Following the Battle of Sekigahara, both men were in exile. Komatsuhime took it upon herself to send them food and other daily needs.

Komatsuhime was often admired not just as a good wife to Nobuyuki but also as a wise mother, which people called ryosai kenbo. Sadly, she passed away at around the age of 47 in Konosu, located in the province of Musashi, which is now known as the city of Konosu situated in Saitama Prefecture. She died while on her way to the Kusatsu hot spring. Her passing saddened a lot of people, most especially her husband Nobuyuki who referred to her as the light of their house.

At present, some of the items that she once used can be found in the museum located at Ueda Castle. This includes her palanquin. Komatsuhime also serves as the inspiration for the character Princess Ina in the novel entitled Mercy of the Elements.

Her Birth Father Honda Tadakatsu

By 不明。 unknown (良玄寺所蔵品。現在は千葉県立中央博物館大多喜城分館にある。) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Komatsuhime was born in the Honda family. Her father Honda Tadakatsu was born on the 17th of March in the year 1548. A Japanese samurai, Tadakatsu was quite skillful in fighting. It was known that Tadakatsu taught Komatsuhime a number of lessons in fighting. Having grown up under the watch of her father, Komatsuhime was able to practice her fighting skills.

A loyal follower of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Tadakatsu served his overlord from the late Sengoku period to the early parts of the Edo period. His loyalty was greatly recognized by Ieyasu. Eventually, Tadakatsu became one of the Tokugawa Four Heavenly Kings. The other members were Ii Naomasa, Sakai Tadatsugu, and Sakakibara Yasumasa.

Aside from Komatsuhime, Tadakatsu also had other children. His son Tadatomo grew up to become the daimyo of Otaki. He retired in the year 1609 and his other son Tadamasa succeeded his position. Through Komatsuhime, he had his grandson Sanada Nobumasa, who became the daimyo of Matsushiro Domain. Later on, his grandson Tadatoku was married to Senhime, a granddaughter of his overlord.

In spite of his loyalty to Ieyasu, Tadakatsu’s relationship with the Tokugawa shogunate fell apart after some time. This was due to the development of the government from military to civilian. Nonetheless, Tadakatsu was still known as one of the most faithful retainers of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Several influential persons in the country took notice of his reputation and praised him, including Oda Nobunaga, who was known not to give commendations to his followers. Other powerful figures included Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Takeda Shingen. Indeed, Tadakatsu had a reputable image as a samurai, which also somehow shaped the character of Komatsuhime.

One of the references for Tadakatsu was “the warrior who surpassed death itself.” This reference may be attributed to the fact that he never got any significant wounds from any of the battles he had even been in. Take note that Tadakatsu got involved in more than a hundred battles throughout his lifetime. Having never been defeated by another warrior, this was truly a feat for Tadakatsu.

Several plays in theater, as well as other contemporary works, consist of a character based on Tadakatsu. More often than not, he is portrayed as the exact opposite of Ii Naomasa, another great general under Tokugawa Ieyasu. Both men were known to be loyal and fierce warriors of the Tokugawa clan. However, while Tadakatsu is known as the warrior elusive enough to avoid injury, Naomasa is known as having attained several battle injuries but still fighting through them.

As among the finest generals serving under Ieyasu, Takatsu was involved in almost all of the major battles of his overlord. He rose to fame at the Battle of Anegawa, which occurred in the year 1570, when he provided support against the forces under the Asakura clan and the Azai clan. He helped an ally of Ieyasu known as Oda Nobunaga.

Probably his finest moment was recognized during the Komaki Campaign, which occurred in the year 1584. With only a limited number of men, Tadakatsu was brave enough to face the forces of the Toyotomi clan. Despite being outnumbered by the men of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tadakatsu did not back down.

Hideyoshi was said to have been impressed by the bravery of Tadakatsu. He was so impressed that he actually put out an order to his men not to harm Tadakatsu and the latter’s army of men. The same order applied to the man who accompanied Tadakatsu at the time known as Ishikawa Yasumichi.

Her Adoptive Father Tokugawa Ieyasu

Kanō Tan'yū [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Because Komatsuhime’s father was known as a very loyal vassal of Tokugawa Ieyasu, it did not come as a surprise that Ieyasu favored not just Tadakatsu himself but his family as well. As a result, Ieyasu became the adoptive father of Komatsuhime. In fact, he was the one who arranged her marriage to Sanada Nobuyuki, having known that Komatsuhime was impressed with her betrothed’s military prowess.

Born on the 31st of January in the year 1543, Tokugawa Ieyasu was known as the founder of the last shogunate to ever rule Japan. As the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, he began his rule starting from the Battle of Sekigahara in the year 1600. He was appointed as shogun in the year 1603 and abdicated just two years later. Nonetheless, Ieyasu remained in power until the day he passed away on the 1st of June in the year 1616.

After his death, Tokugawa Ieyasu was enshrined at Nikko Tosho-gu. He was enshrined with the name Tosho Daigongen. Ieyasu was also recognized as one of the three unifiers in Japan. The other two unifiers of Japan were Oda Nobunaga, who was Ieyasu’s former lord, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Ieyasu’s father was known as Matsudaira Hirotada, who used to serve as the daimyo of the province of Mikawa. Hirotada was the lord of the Matsudaira clan at the time. On the other hand, Ieyasu’s mother was known as Odai-no-kata, also known as Lady Odai. She was the daughter of Mizuno Tadamasa, the daughter of the Matsudaira’s neighbor who also happened to be a samurai lord.

Ieyasu married Lady Tsukiyama at a young age of 13. His first wife was a relative of Imagawa Yoshimoto. Initially, he fought in a series of battles against the Oda clan, as ordered by his first wife’s family, the Imagawa clan. However, upon the death of Yoshimoto, Ieyasu was able to assert his independence and power. Eventually, he allied with the Oda clan in secret, as his wife and son were held hostage by the heir of Yoshimoto.

Finally, he was able to open fight against the Imagawa clan in the year 1561. He seized the fortress held by Udono Nagamochi and held the latter’s sons as hostages. He used them as an exchange for Lady Tsukiyama and his son, Nobuyasu. As a symbol of an alliance, Nobuyasu was married to Tokuhime in the year 1563. Tokuhime was a daughter of Oda Nobunaga.

Ieyasu went into several battles throughout his lifetime. One of his primary actions, while he was alive, was strengthening his key vassals. He did this by providing lands and castles to them. One of these key vassals was Tadakatsu, Komatsuhime’s father. Truly, Ieyasu proved to be a great adoptive father to Komatushime. With his power and influence, he was able to teach and inspire Komatsuhime to become the woman that she grew up to be.

Her Husband Sanada Nobuyuki

By 不明。 (個人所蔵品。) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The last man in Komatsuhime’s life was none other than her husband Sanada Nobuyuki. Born in the year 1566, Nobuyuki was a well-known Japanese samurai during the Sengoku period. His father was Sanada Masayuki and his brother was Sanada Yukimura. All three of them were known to be great warriors during their time.

Nobuyuki’s mother was Kansho-in. Prior to marrying Komatsuhime, Nobuyuki was already married to his cousin Seiin-in, who served as his first wife. However, his marriage to Komatsuhime was arranged by Tokugawa Ieyasu. After their marriage, Komatsuhime became “the light of the house” of Nobuyuki. Later one, Nobuyuki again remarried to a daughter of Tamagawa Hidemasa known as Ukyo.

At a young age, Nobuyuki was sent to the Takeda clan as a hostage. This action was for Nobuyuki’s father to be able to prove his clan’s loyalty to Takeda Shingen. However, the Takeda clan was attacked by the joint forces of the Tokugawa clan and the Oda clan. After its defeat, Nobuyuki escaped to Ueda Castle, the home of his clan.

His struggle did not end there, as Ieyasu proceeded to attack Ueda Castle in AD 1585. Together with this father, Nobuyuki was able to protect their stronghold against the Tokugawa army. When Masayuki began to serve the Toyotomi clan, he ordered Nobuyuki to go to the Tokugawa clan and serve Ieyasu instead. This was so that no matter which clan emerged victoriously, the Sanada clan would still be somehow preserved.

Eventually, Nobuyuki had to fight against his father and his brother during the Battle of Sekigahara. Having been recognized as a great retainer of Ieyasu, Nobuyuki used this to save the lives of Masayuki and Yukimura. At the end of the battle, Ueda Castle was awarded to Nobuyuki. Having been highly regarded by the Tokugawa clan, Nobuyuki was deemed acceptable to become the husband of Komatsuhime.