Ii Naomasa (井伊直政)

Naomasa II was a busho (Japanese military commander) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) in the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods. He was the fourth family head of the Ii clan. He was the first lord of the domain of Takasaki, the Province of Kozuke. Later, he became the lord of the Sawayama Domain, Omi Province. After that he became the first lord of the Hikone Domain, Omi Province.

He was a vassal of the Tokugawa Clan (he was a tozama [outsider] at the time he became a vassal). He was one of the Tokugawa-shitenno (four generals serving Tokugawa Ieyasu). His Akazonae (red arms), which he organized himself, are especially famous as some of the best elite troops among Sengoku (warring provinces). He was renowned as the best statesman and diplomat in the Tokugawa Clan. Even though he was a young military commander from Iinoya, Totoumi Province, he was recorded in Ryueihikan as a fudai (hereditary daimyo) of Mikawa Okazaki along with the Sakakibara Clan and the Torii Clan (the oldest fudai was the Anjo fudai). He also became a paragon of the Ii clan, which supported Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) as a head fudai daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) in the Edo period, and founded the base of modern day Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture and Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture.

In November 17, 1915, he was posthumously conferred to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank).

Before becoming a vassal of Ieyasu

On March 14, 1561, he was born in Iinoya, Totoumi Province (modern day Iinoya Inasa Kita Ward, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture), the first son to Naochika II, a vassal of the Imagawa clan,. The Ii clan had been kokujin ryoshu (local samurai lords) of Iinoya, Totoumi Province for generations and Naomasa's grandfather (or one of Naomasa's family members) Naomori II died at the Battle of Okehazama, serving as a vassal of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA. In 1562, the year after Naomasa was born, his father Naochika II was killed by Ujizane IMAGAWA on suspicion of rebellion. When Naochika died, the bereaved child Naomasa (Toramatsu at the time) was only 2 years old, and so Yuenni, Naochika's cousin, became the family head, naming himself Naotora II.

After that Naomasa lost his family name Ii, and renamed himself Toramatsu MATSUSHITA because his real mother had married Kiyokage MATSUSHITA, a vassal of the Imagawa clan.

Later, the Ii clan lost the territory of Iinoya and the Imagawa clan tried to kill the still young Naomasa, but he was saved by Chikanori NIINO, and then adopted by Naotora, his foster mother. In 1575, he was found by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA and ordered to revert back to his family name Ii, so he changed his name from Toramatsu and renamed himself Manchiyo II. Moreover, he was selected as Ieyasu's page, and given Iinoya, which was a former Ii clan territory. In the same year, he formally became the head of the family, as his foster mother Naotora died.

Azuchi Momoyama Period

Naomasa gained public reputation through distinguished military service in battles against the Takeda clan, such as the capturing of Takatenjin-jo Castle, and for killing ninja who had been sneaking in to the bedroom of Ieyasu. In 1582, he finally celebrated his coming of age, and began naming himself Naomasa II, changing Manchiyo to Naomasa. In the same year, he married Hana (later Tobaiin), who was an adopted daughter of Ieyasu and the real daughter of Yasuchika MATSUDAIRA. After that, he was assigned as Hatamoto Sakiteyaku (a Hatamoto vassal of the shogun, who leads the way), thus becoming a comrade of Tadakatsu HONDA and Yasumasa SAKAKIBARA. In the same year, he returned to Mikawa Province from Sakai, where he had been staying, following Ieyasu's crossing over Iga in the Honnoji Incident. After the fall of the Takeda clan, he showed his political ability as an envoy for Tokugawa by negotiating with the Gohojo clan. His income went from Iinoya increased to 40,000 koku (koku is an old unit showing volume and 1 koku is about 180 liter) crop yields.

He was so strict with his vassals that he relentlessly punished those who had made even a slight mistake in battle as well as being fond of leading battles from the front, and had many other character defects. Therefore, he seldom stayed back in camp and led a battle, and this role was instead filled by Morikatsu KIMATA, Hitto karo (the head chief retainer) of the Ii clan. However, it is said this tendency made him able to perform distinguished war services. As a result of his character, he was called the "Red Ogre of Ii", and was greatly feared by other local territorial lords.

In the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute in 1584, he lead Ii's Akazonae (red arms) for the first time and killed Tsuneoki IKEDA, making him renowned around the country. His military and political ability was highly valued by even Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and he was promoted to Jugoinoge Juji (Chamberlain at Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) of Hyobusho (ministry of the military), as Ieyasu reached a settlement with Hideyoshi. He also joined the attack on Sanada in 1585. After that his income was raised to 60,000 koku crop yields.

Naomasa was acclaimed for his distinguished war services; though he was a newcomer, he made his name in the Siege of Odawara in 1590 by attacking Odawara-jo Castle at night and being the only commander to breach the castle's defenses. Naomasa was then given Minowa, Kozuke Province's 120,000 koku crop yields (Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture) as Ieyasu entered Edo and replaced the Gohojo clan. That was the highest Kokudaka (a system for determining land value for tribute purposes in the Edo period) among the vassals of the Tokugawa clan. Only 3 vassals of the Tokugawa clan were given territories of 100,000 koku crop yields or more: Naomasa, Tadakatsu HONDA and Yasumasa SAKAKIBARA. In 1598, under orders from Ieyasu, he abandoned Minowa-jo Castle, rebuilt Wada-jo Castle in the south into Takasaki-jo Castle and moved into Takasaki, changing its name from Wada to Takasaki. The people living in Minowa-jo Castle town moved into Takasaki at that point.

The Battle of Sekigahara

At the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, he accompanied Ieyasu's main force, and was assigned as Assistant Deputy General of the Eastern Camp along with Tadakatsu HONDA, becoming a key player in the command the Eastern Camp. He covertly made territorial lords from around the country friends of the Eastern Camp, and assisted Ieyasu's 4th son Tadayoshi MATSUDAIRA (Naomasa's son-in-law) well in the battle by spearheading the Eastern Camp along with Tadayoshi instead of Masanori FUKUSHIMA, who was originally supposed to lead (normally, Naoyoshi and Tadayoshi would have been punished for violation of a military order, however, Ieyasu accepted Naoyoshi's conduct and didn't punish them). There are two theories about how Nomasa and Tadayoshi acted after that. One theory states they fought against the armies of Hideie UKITA and Yukinaga KONISHI. The other states they fought against the army of Yoshihiro SHIMAZU. The latter is widely accepted these days (it is also said Naomasa was determined to fight against Yoshihiro's army from the beginning of the battle). He killed Toyohisa SHIMAZU, a vassal of Yoshihiro, in this battle. However, whilst in pursuit of Yoshihiro's army, he was shot in the right elbow (right shoulder or left arm depending on the source document) by Yoshihiro's musket troops, and fell from his horse.

After the Battle of Sekigahara, he was given the 180,000 koku crop yield territory of Sawayama Omi Province (Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture), a former territory of Mitsunari ISHIDA, for services including making peace with Terumoto MORI, supreme commander of the Western Camp, supporting Kazutoyo YAMAUCHI in entering Tosa Province, mediating peace negotiations between the Tokugawa clan and the Shimazu clan to heal the wounds of war (Naomasa died before the peace negotiations were completed and Masanobu HONDA took over his task), and for his efforts in laying the groundwork for the Edo Shogunate.

Around that time, Ieyasu brought together his six chief vassals; Naomasa, Tadachika OKUBO, Masanobu HONDA, Yasumasa SAKAKIBARA, Tadakatsu HONDA and Chikayoshi HIRAIWA, to ask who he ought to make his successor, and Naomasa recommended his son-in-law Tadayoshi. However, Hidetada TOKUGAWA, who Tadachika recommended, ended up becoming a successor.

The Edo Period

Naomasa died on March 24, 1602, probably from overwork in serving Ieyasu for many years, and tetanus caused by the bullet wound he received from Yoshihiro's musket troops while chasing his army. After Naomasa's death, there was a rumor among the local people that the ghost of Mitsunari was wandering around the castle town, and upon hearing this rumor Ieyasu ordered the disposal of everything related to Mitsunari, including Sawayama-jo Castle.

After that, the Sawayama Domain became Haihan (an abolished feudal domain) as the construction of Hikone-jo Castle started. Instead, the area was given the new name of the Hikone Domain. From that point onwards, the area thrived as the domain of the Ii clan until the Meiji period.

It is said Ieyasu put the Ii clan, which had been a pro-Imperial family for generations, in Hikone near Kyoto to protect the Imperial family in times of emergency, which suggests that the Ii family had gained the strong confidence of the Tokugawa clan. It is also said Naoyasu, who boasted the strongest forces among the vassals of Ieyasu, was placed on the path between Hokuriku and Kyoto to prevent the formidable enemy the Uesugi clan from coming to Kyoto.

The Tokugawa clan sometimes interfered in the matter of succession in the Ii clan. Actually, it was Ieyasu who assigned Naotaka II, the second son of Naomasa, as the second lord of Hikone Domain (the third lord, depending on the source document).


It was Naokatsu II who succeeded as head of the family, however, after Naokatsu retired due to poor health, his little brother Naotaka II took over and his descendants became the lord of the Hikone domain. The descendants of Naokatsu endured first as the lords of the Annaka Domain, then as the lords of the Nishio Domain, the lords of the Kakegawa Domain, and finally as the lords of the Yoita Domain.

After the Naomasa's death, his descendants abandoned Sawayama-jo Castle and built Hikone-jo Castle, then after the Osaka no Eki (The Siege of Osaka) their koku crop yield was gradually increased from 180,000 to 350,000 including incremental 50,000 koku three times, and they became Daidaimyo (a feudal lord having a greater stipend) of Hikone Domain. They wielded influence in the politics of the Shogunate as heads of the fudai daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family), producing five Tairo (chief ministers), including Naosuke II, during the 264 years of the Edo period (there are arguments for and against whether Naotaka became Tairo or not). However, the Tokugawa clan reduced the Ii clan's territory by 100,000 koku crop yields as punishment and began to give them the cold shoulder after Naosuke carried out Ansei no Taigoku (suppression of extremists by the Shogunate) in 1859, and was assassinated in the Sakuradamongai Incident in 1860.

After that, the Ii clan spearheaded an army of former bakufu in the Boshin War, and went over to the side of the new government army during the war. It is said that when that happened all Ii's troops took off every piece of equipment, including helmets and armour, that displayed Ii's Akazonae (red arms), the symbol of the Ii clan. The Ii clan was raised to the peerage, becoming counts in Meiji period.

Homosexual relationship with Ieyasu

One day in 1575, Ieyasu went out hawking. Ieyasu fell for the beauty of a boy who was there. That boy was none other than Naomasa (Toramatsu at that time). Later, knowing that Naomasa was really the son of Naochika II, who had been killed on suspicion of collaborating with him after the Battle of Okehazama, Ieyasu took Naomasa as his pageboy (child page) and loved him as a sexual partner. It is said Naomasa was the only man Ieyasu, who didn't much like homosexuality, loved; though homosexuality was so common in samurai society at that time that it was regarded as one of a samurai's accomplishments, and being loved by a lord was the fastest way to advance (other examples include Nobunaga ODA and Toshiie MAEDA, Kagekatsu UESUGI and Naganori KIYONO, Masamune DATE and Shigetsuna KATAKURA/Sakujuro TADANO).

Naomasa's Loyalty

It is said Naomasa had the strongest loyalty to Ieyasu. The fact that Naomasa served Ieyasu not only in battles, but also in politics and private life, shows that he never left Ieyasu's side. He held a deep grudge against Kazumasa ISHIKAWA, who betrayed Ieyasu and became a vassal of Hideyoshi. Naomasa actually vented his anger at Kazumasa on one occasion (see "Personality and Anecdotes" for further information). Ieyasu thought much of Naomasa's military power and political ability, and continued to watch over and treat Naomasa as if he was his own son or lover. From examples such as these, we can see that Naomasa was Ieyasu's most trusted vassal.

Ii's Akazonae (red arms)

It began in 1582, when a peace treaty with the Gohojo clan led to about 120 former vassals of the Takeda clan and part of Ieyasu's hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu, a form of Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) being combined. At that time, Naomasa had all equipment used in battle, such as helmets and armor, colored uniformly red. The reason for this was to fulfill the wish of Masakage YAMAGATA, former head of the Akazonae, and also because red stands out, making it easy for him to know his soldiers location at a glance during battle. Ii's Akazonae (red arms) had such great success in their first engagement at the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute that Hideyoshi HASHIBA, supreme commander of a Hashiba army that consisted of nearly 10 times as many soldiers as the allied forces of Tokugawa and Oda, and his busho (Japanese military commanders) were said to have trouble with them. After that, Ii's Akazonae (red arms) became greatly feared by other territorial lords, and came to be called "the most elite force in the Sengoku" or "the strongest of Tokugawa's vassals' forces". From that time onwards, Akazonae (red arms) became the basic military dress of the Ii clan until the end of the Edo Period.

Main Vassals

Morikatsu KIMATA

Hidemochi KONDO

Yasumochi KONDO

Masatomo SAIGO


Shigeyoshi SUZUKI

Personality and Anecdotes

When Naomasa was still Ieyasu's pageboy, he was invited along with other young busho (Japanese military commanders) to Tadayo OKUBO's camp and presented with potato soup. However, because it was a battlefield, the miso (bean paste) was salted rice-bran paste and the leaves or stems of potatoes were used in the soup. Naomasa had difficulty eating the potato soup, even though the other young busho (Japanese military commanders) were eating it.
When Tadayo asked what was wrong with Naomasa, he replied, "Do you have any soy sauce?"
Having heard what Naomasa said, the other busho (Japanese military commanders) criticized Naomasa saying "How could we have soy sauce on a battlefield?"
Tadayo said to Naomasa, 'All your comrades eat the same food. There are soldiers who cannot eat enough of such food. Moreover, many peasants live a harder life. You should never forget about that, if you want to become a commander of an army. I have invited you here to make you learn that." Others treated Naomasa harshly because he was exceptionally selected although he was a newcomer and young, and also he was strict with his subordinates. After that, he became stricter with himself and his subordinates. (Incidentally, the soy sauce referred to here was 'rich soy sauce' used to make miso paste, which was different from today's soy sauce, and modern soy sauce didn't start being made until the Edo period).

Naomasa is regarded as one of the Tokugawa's sanketsu (three outstanding people supporting Tokugawa Ieyasu), one of the Tokugawa-shitenno (four generals serving Tokugawa Ieyasu), one of the Tokugawa-Juroku Shinsho (sixteen protective deity generals serving Tokugawa Ieyasu), and is honored even today as a meritorious vassal who fully supported Ieyasu in taking the reins of government. For example, the festival called "Naomasa II kensho (honor a person publicly for an unrecognized good deed) ceremony" is held every year in Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture to honor Naomasa for having founded what is now Hikone City.

Once, Naomasa was in charge of guarding Omandokoro (Mother of the chief Adviser to the Emperor), the real mother of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, when Ieyasu held her hostage (it is said Omandokoro and many of her female followers fell for Naomasa much like they did Ieyasu). Hideyoshi was so happy with Naomasa's careful protection that he himself prepared tea for Naomasa to heal his fatigue. Kazumasa ISHIKAWA, who had once been a vassal of Ieyasu, but went over to Hideyoshi's side, was also present. Naomasa could not stand it, and yelled at Kazumasa, "I refuse to sit with that coward who serves you after betraying the lord his family had been serving for generations." yelled Naomasa, who couldn't stand it, at Kazumasa. This clearly shows how much faithful loyalty Naomasa had to Ieyasu. It is said that Hideyoshi deliberately made Kazumasa be there to see how Naomasa would react. The incident occurred in 1586, one year after Kazumasa went over to Hideyoshi.

It is said the reason why Ieyasu gave important posts to Naomasa, whose family had not been serving the Tokugawa clan, was not only because of Naomasa's great ability in tactical maneuvers and politics, his military prowess, nor his relation by his daughter's marriage to Tadayoshi MATSUDAIRA, the fourth son of Ieyasu, but was chiefly because Naomasa was such a beautiful man that Ieyasu fell for him seriously, despite his general dislike of homosexuality.

Naomasa was given the former territory of Mitsunari ISHIDA from Ieyasu after the Battle of Sekigahara; however, Mitsunari had been held in great regard by the people of the domain because of his good government. Naomasa, who knew that well, announced that he would follow Mitsunari's style of civil government, and he gave silent approval of people's mourning for Mitsunari. In that way, he successfully won the hearts and minds of people of the domain. Naomasa was in charge of taking care of Mitsunari before he was executed, and it is said Naomasa gave him careful protection despite his dislike of Mitsunari.

Naomasa was given the biggest territory among the vassals of the Tokugawa clan, even though he was a tozama (outsider) of the Tokugawa clan. For that reason, Naomasa was envied and opposed by Mikawa fudai (hereditary vassals), but he dismissed this by always serving Ieyasu. It is said he was also called 'Hyobu cutting people down' because he was quick-tempered and served Ieyasu too strictly, often executing his vassals and not forgiving even the slightest mistake. However, it is said he was loved for his great ability in politics by the people of the castle town when he was lord of Minowa-jo Castle.

Sometime before Naomasa became Taishin (great feudal lord), Ieyasu gave him a fine chestnut horse specially selected from Ieyasu's favorite horses because Naomasa had been insistently asking for it. Having heard that, Shigetsugu HONDA deliberately made the irresponsible remark, "Our lord must have been blinded in judgement to have given such a fine horse to a brat like Manchiyo," (or words to that effect) in the presence of Naomasa. Later, Naomasa was promoted to Taishin (great feudal lord) of the family when Ieyasu moved to Kanto, while Shigetsugu was given only 3000 koku crop yields. And Naomasa, who had now become Taishin (great feudal lord), blatantly said, "I managed to become Taishin because I served as well as a fine horse, even though you treated me like a fool, calling me brat or something, when the lord gave me that famous horse. It was you who were blind," when he met Shigetsugu. From that episode, it is clear that Naomasa either held grudges easily about what people said about him, or he was a person who hated to lose ('II Nenpu' (The Chronological List of Main Events of the Ii clan)).

Takakage KOBAYAKAWA, who was a senior vassal of the Mori clan, once praised Naomasa's military prowess and political ability by saying, "Even though Naomasa is from a low status family, he has the potential to become the ruler of the world'. That meant Naomasa could the take reins of government if he wanted (not only Takakage but also other busho of the provinces whispered the same thing). However, it is said Nomasa never expressed such ambition in his life.

Ii's Akazonae (red arms) were renowned around the country as the most elite force among Sengoku (warring provinces) during the Azuchi Momoyama Period, however, there seem to have been many vassals who couldn't stand the strict military discipline of Naomasa and left to serve Tadakatsu HONDA instead. There were vassals, such as Hidemochi KONDO, who left and hid. Even Morikatsu KIMATA, who was the Hitto karo (head of the chief retainers), became terrified of serving under Naomasa, and asked Ieyasu to reinstate him in his former position as a hatamoto (bannerman).

Naomasa is regarded as one of the wise rulers of the Ii clan for reviving the once moribund clan, and developing it into the head of the fudai daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) in the Edo Shogunate.

Naomasa won Hideyoshi's confidence and was his favorite baishin (indirect vassal) among the vassals of the Tokugawa clan, however, one theory has it that Naomasa himself didn't much like Hideyoshi. It is said this was because after Odawara no Jin (The Siege of Odawara) Hideyoshi suddenly confiscated the five territories Ieyasu had spent decades gaining the hard way (Mikawa, Totomi, Suruga, Kai and Shinano provinces), and gave him seven former Gohojo clan territories (Musashi, Izu, Sagami, Kozuke, Shimotsuke, Kazusa and Shimousa provinces) instead, which Naomasa regarded as unsatisfactory. It appears that not only Naomasa, but also other vassals of Ieyasu complained about this.

Naomasa was given the 180,000 koku crop yield Sawayama, Omi Province after the Battle of Sekigahara, however, this did not satisfy him because Sawayama was a former territory of Mitsunari ISHIDA, whom Naomasa disliked, so he asked Ieyasu to allow him to Takasaki, Kozuke Province. It is said this was the only time in his life that Naomasa felt a sense of distrust towards Ieyasu.

Despite his great ability in both military and political matters, Naomasa didn't earn his place in history (that is not to say he is completely unheard-of). It is said the reason was that Naoyasu was so loyal to Ieyasu that he became too strict with his vassals, and this worked against him.

Even though it was normal in samurai society for vassals to follow their master to the grave, no vassals followed Naomasa when he died,
However, it is said the vassals were following Naomasa's last will and testament.

Naomasa was always injured in battles despite being heavily-armored, while Tadakatsu HONDA, who wore light armor, was never injured in the 57 battles he joined in his life. In addition to his love of fighting in the front line and his own fierce disposition, it is said he had no other way to make his name renowned around the country (it is also said that he didn't care about being injured in battle in order to avoid being envied by other vassals on account of him being treated as a senior vassal despite being so young, and to make the other vassals understand his efforts). Naomasa fought 16 battles in his life, and it is said he was never defeated (the Ii Akazonae [red arms] were defeated by the Akazonae of Nobushige SANADA in the Osaka Fuyu no Jin [The Winter Siege of Osaka]). This is said to have been the only time Ii's Akazonae were defeated. Because of this, Naomasa is thought to have been a lucky man. It is said Naomasa and Tadakatsu were on bad terms because they were rivals and were often compared with each (according to some documents, only Tadakatsu saw Naomasa as a rival). It is also said that at first Naomasa was not on good terms with Yasumasa SAKAKIBARA, who was the same age as Tadakatsu, however, it seems they became closer through acting together after Ieyasu entered Kanto. It is said Tadatsugu SAKAI, Ieyasu's Hitto karo (head of the chief retainers), looked favorable on Naomasa in the same way as Ieyasu. Tadatsugu reprimanded Yasumasa for that out of jealousy when Naomasa had just become the head of an army.

On one occasion, Ieyasu gathered Naomasa's vassals in one place, made Naomasa take off his clothes, and, with tears in his eyes, explained each injury left on Naomasa's body to them (it is said Ieyasu always cared about Naomasa's being injured in battle). It is said upon hearing this, Naomasa's vassals cried in sympathy with Ieyasu and determined to do their best in battle for their lord Naomasa.

It appears that Naomasa's ability in politics was well known among the vassals of other clans, because after the Battle of Sekigahara he was asked by Yoshihiro SHIMAZU, who was a member of the Western Camp, to serve as mediator with Ieyasu for peace talks (even though Masanobu HONDA, whose specialty was politics, was among the vassals of the Tokugawa clan).

It is said Ieyasu sometimes consulted Naomasa because he was thoughtful and discreet. Therefore, Ieyasu, who rarely praised others, thought highly of Naomasa saying 'Naomasa gives his opinion when nobody else will'. In other words, Naomasa was Ieyasu's advisor.

Along with Kazumasa ISHIKAWA, Naomasa made a significant contribution as a diplomat, of which there were few among the vassals of the Tokugawa clan, and, along with Masanobu HONDA, was regarded by Ieyasu as a man of wisdom needed to take the reins of government.

It is said the reason Naomasa was assigned as a Hyobu-shoyu (junior assistant minister of the Hyobusho Ministry of Military) was that Toramasa OBU, a vassal of the Takeda clan who had first organized the Akazonae (red arms), had been assigned as one.

It is not widely known that Naomasa was such a submissive husband to his lawful wife Tobaiin that he could not fight with her, even though he hated defeat more than anyone. Naotaka, Naomasa's second son, was born to a waiting woman of Tobaiin, however, Naomasa did not try to meet him for about 10 years after his birth. It appears that he respected Tobaiin's feeling.

After the battle of Sekigahara, he moved his territory away from Edo and disappeared from the main stage of history. According to one theory, Naomasa was given cold shoulder by Ieyasu because of his great achievements in the past, however, another theory that he could not have served due to tetanus caused by the wound he received at the Battle of Sekigahara is widely accepted.

[Original Japanese]