Tanaka Yoshimasa (田中吉政)

Yoshimasa TANAKA (1548-March 23,1609) was a Japanese military commander in the Sengoku period (Period of Warring States) and the Azuchi-Momoyama period, and later, was a Japanese feudal lord in the Edo period. He practiced city planning, the idea of which can be seen today, in Hachiman, Omi Province (present-day Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture), Okazaki, Mikawa Province (present-day Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture), Yanagawa, Chikugo Province (present-day Yanagawa City, Fukuoka Prefecture) and others, where he was stationed. It is highly regarded even in our time.


According to "Kansei Choshu Shokafu" (genealogies of vassals in Edo Bakufu) which was compiled in the latter half of the 18th century, the Tanaka clan was from Tanaka Village, Takashima District, Omi Province (present-day Tanaka, Adogawa Town, Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture).

And Yoshimasa TANAKA's ancestors were the Tanaka family, which was a part of the Minamoto clan in Omi named Takashima clan, and is said to have been the lord of Tanaka-jo Castle. Judging from his family crest, "Hitotsumeyui-mon" (or "Kuginuki-mon"), it is certain that his ancestors had a relationship with the Sasaki clan. The Tanaka clan is said to have taken up farming again at that time, as a result of Nobunaga ODA's invasion of Takashima District.

In another theory, his birth place was Mikawa Village or Miyabe Village, Asai District (present-day Torahime Town, Higashiazai District) and he may have been a peasant there.

The theory is based on a record which says that as the lord of the Yanagawa Domain, Yoshimasa became a head of Rengee, which was only an Asai District residents' function in Chikubushima Island. Also, there is a story about Yoshimasa TANAKA's birth in Mikawa Village. A record says that he served the local samurai lord of Miyabe Village, Keijun MIYABE. Moreover, his mother, i.e. an older sister of Yozaemon KUNITOMO (a vassal of Keijun MIYABE) is said to have been from Kunitomo Village, Sakata District (a leading gun producing district at that time, present-day Kunitomo Town, Nagahama City) near Miyabe Village and Mikawa Village. However, there are few records of his times in Omihachiman and before.

As the head of chief vassals in Omihachiman

In about 1582, he was given 5000 koku (a unit of volume: rice 1-koku is 180.39 liter) by the Miyabe family and became a chief vassal of Hidetsugu HASHIBA (later Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI) who was a nephew of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI.

He became the head of sub-chief vassals when Hidetsugu was given 430,000 koku of Omihachiman in 1585. At that time, some of Hidetsugu's attendant sub-chief vassals: Kazuuji NAKAMURA, Yoshiharu HORIO, Kazutoyo YAMAUCHI, Naosue HITOTSUYANAGI, and others got their own castles, but Yoshimasa remained in Hidetsugu's Hachimanyama-jo Castle and administered affairs of the domain in the position of "Kanpakudono-ichiro". There is a story that he was involved in Mikawa-geko (going to Mikawa Province as a hostage) of Hideyoshi's mother in 1586.

Most of Yoshimasa's letters from this time have been preserved and still exist today. He moved Azuchi-jo Castle town, built by Nobunaga, close to Yawata-jo Castle and headed the town's planning. There was an area named Kyube Town in Omihachiman town until the middle of the Edo period.

In the time of Okazaki, Mikawa Province

In 1590, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI ruled the Hojo clan of Kanto region and rearranged the positions of feudal lords greatly. As a result, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA was moved to the Kanto region. And Nobukatsu ODA had his territory reduced to 20,000 koku of Karasuyama, Shimotsuke Province. It led Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI to get Nobukatsu's now vacant former territory, Owari. Yoshimasa was given 57,400 koku of Okazaki-jo Castle, Mikawa Province as a reward for his achievement in Hidetsugu's force during the Attack of Odawara. He was appointed a chief of Bugyo (magistrate) and played a part in getting materials for construction of an embankment in Owari. In 1595, Hidetsugu was compelled to kill himself, and his ten vassals including the Governor of Shima Province named KIMURA, Kagesada MAENO, Masachika HANEDA, Kazutada HATTORI, Shigeaki WATARASE, Norizane AKASHI, Kayu HITOTSUYANAGI, Hidemochi AWANO, Narisada SHIRAE, Naoyuki KUMAGAI were granted honorable deaths, and his other vassals were also punished. However, chief vassals including him, Kazuuji NAKAMURA, Kazutoyo YAMAUCHI, Yoshiharu HORIO didn't receive any punishment. It's not certain that Mitsunari ISHIDA was involved in that decision. Some people proposed that he, who was in the position of "Kanpakudono-ichiro", should have committed seppuku (suicide by disembowelment). In fact, he wasn't punished. On the contrary, he got an additional 28,358 koku 3 to (measure of volume, approx. 18 litres) as a reward for his remonstration with Hidetsugu. Moreover, he got 14,252 koku 6 to and became the lord of Okazaki-jo Castle in Mikawa Province with 100,000 koku.

He made Okazaki-jo Castle modern. He built Tanaka Moat, which surrounded the seven towns near his castle. He also reclaimed wetlands on the west side. In addition, he changed the path of Tokai-do Road from within the suburbs of Okazaki to the middle of Okazaki-jo Castle town and improved it to a winding road called "27 curves road of Okazaki".

The Battle of Sekigahara

After Hideyoshi's death, Yoshimasa approached Ieyasu TOKUGAWA. He joined the East squad at the Battle of Sekigahara in September, 1600. He exterminated the West squad, who was on the way from Ogaki-jo Castle to Gifu-jo Castle, at the Godo-gawa River together with Nagamasa KURODA and Takatora TODO, when he was capturing Gifu-jo Castle before the Battle of Sekigahara. At that time, a vassal of Mitsunari ISHIDA, Kanbe SUGIE was killed by a vassal of his, Kanbe Shigekatsu TSUJI. Mitsunari is said to have lost his fighting spirit because of that. According to "The tale of Oan", he gave an advance notice before firing a cannon at people in Ogaki-jo Castle while he was attacking the Castle. He also overlooked women, including Oan, running away from the castle. Thus, he is said to have been thoughtful of people who were not participants in a battle as he attacked a castle.

He, together with Nagamasa KURODA (a relative of Takenori AKASHI), is also considered to have helped Takenori AKASHI (a theory says he was a Yoshimasa's son-in-law), who battled at the front of the West squad, to escape after the battle. Actually, Takenori AKASHI turned to Tadamasa TANAKA because Nagamasa KURODA banned Christianity after Yoshitaka KURODA's death.

After the victory of the East squad

After the East squad's victory, Yoshimasa broke into Mitsunari's Sawayama-jo Castle from its backdoor together with Nagahiro MIYABE and captured the castle. Nagahiro MIYABE was a real name of Nagafusa MIYABE. The relationship between the former lord, Nagafusa MIYABE and the former vassal, Yoshimasa TANAKA can be found in the story of the attack. That is to say, Nagafusa MIYABE must have ordered to break into the castle. The strategy of attacking the castle was too poor a tactic to be thought that Yashimasa had directed it. Incidentally, Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA, who went over to the East squad, and Nagafusa MIYABE were ordered to capture Sawayama-jo Castle. During a negotiation of making peace under the terms that the castle would surrender and the lives of people in the castle would be spared in exchange for the seppuku of Mitsunari's older brother and father, Yoshimasa's forces broke into the castle and it brought many deaths. There is a bare possibility that Yoshimasa, who was not a commander on the scene, ordered to break into the castle. According to "Kansei Choshu Shokafu", he broke into the castle from the backdoor (on the north side) but faced a violent resistance of the besieged force, so he infiltrated Mizunotekuruwa (a compound of a castle in charge of drawing water) with miners to cause an inner disturbance, then he captured the castle. This was not an easy capture as one theory says.

Ieyasu ordered Yoshimasa to investigate around Sawayama-jo Castle and look for possible escape routes before the battle of Sekigahara and directed the capture of Mitsunari immediately. Ieyasu had such a grudge against Mitsunari that he did not allow Mitsunari to have a gravestone and buried all gravestones of Mitsunari's ancestors. Therefore, the order to break into Sawayama-jo Castle was likely to have been given by Ieyasu.

Yoshimasa achieved the capture of Mitsunari as he tried to escape in Mt.Ibuki. Indeed, Denzaemon TANAKA and Shoemon SAWADA were the soldiers who captured Mitsunari. It is said that Mitsunari suffered from a stomachache but rejected doctor's medicine. So, after careful consideration, Yoshimasa offered Chinese chive rice porridge under the pretext that it worked for his health, and Mitsunari ate it. Mitsunari gave Yoshimasa a short sword which Mitsunari was granted by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI (over-30.3 cm-long short sword called Sadamune ISHIDA, a property of Tokyo National Museum). It was in recognition of Yoshimasa's hospitality.
(Mitsunari may have said something to the effect that he would rather be caught by Yoshimasa than others.)
After the battle, his achievements were recognized and he was given 320,000 koku of Yanagawa-jo Castle in Chikugo Province to become Kokushu (a feudal lord having his own domain).

In the time of the lord of Chikugo Province

Yanagawa was called "the capital of water" since the Kamachi clan ruled there, and Yoshimasa developed Yanagawa to be a modern town with waterways for transportation and irrigation canals for rice cropping. In addition to waterways, he focused on the improvement of land routes such as Tanaka-kaido Road which connected Yanagawa and Kurume, and a road which connected Yanagawa and Yame. Moreover, he worked hard to reclaim the Sea of Ariake to increase revenue.


Yoshimasa was lenient with Christianity since he was the lord of Okazaki-jo Castle and had actively studied western thought from missionaries. He protected his domain's Christians and became a believer in Christianity. His baptismal name was Bartholomew. He was also a Jodo (Pure Land) sect Buddhist, so he concentrated his energy on restoration (repair and construction of temple districts) of many Buddhist temples including his family temple: Shinkyo-ji Temple, Konkai Komyo-ji Temple, Zendo-ji Temple and other Jodo sect temples, and endeavored to protect Buddhism. However, in Okazaki, where he ruled for only ten years, many temples and shrines (especially, those who had little relationship with the Tokugawa family) were forced to move or had their territory confiscated in efforts to improve Okazaki-jo Castle town. "The origin of Mantoku-ji Temple" describes Yoshimasa's oppression of temples and shrines.

After Yoshimasa's death

Yoshimasa died in Fushimi, Kyoto in 1609 and his successor, Tadamasa TANAKA died without having a son, so the Tanaka family forfeited its rank and properties in 1620. Tadamasa's protection of Christianity is considered to have contributed to this. By the way, Tadamasa was converted to Soto sect. Shinkyo-ji Temple (Jodo Shin sect [the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism]) in a temple district in Kurume was his temporary family temple (but not grave).


The Tanaka family's graves were in Kichijo-ji Temple (Soto sect) in Komagome, Tokyo (Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo); a head temple of Jodo sect, Kokai Komyo-ji Temple's sub-temple, Ryuko-in Temple (Jodo sect) in Kurodani, Kyoto (Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City); Shinsho-ji Temple (Jodoshin sect) in Yanagawa City; Zendo-ji Temple (a head temple of Jodo sect) in Kurume City. The collateral descendants continued the family line by being vassals of other lords.

Family crest

Yoshimasa TANAKA had several crests and one of them was "hidari mitsudomoe", which he is said to have been granted by Hachiman-sha shrine (Himure Hachiman-gu shrine) during his rule in Omihachiman, used as emblem on his flag at the Battle of Sekigahara. He often used "Kuginuki-mon" (or "Kujonuki" which means an expert of attacking a castle) and it is regarded as proof that his ancestors had a relationship with the Sasaki clan because it is the same shape as "Hitotsumeyui-mon".


Shigemasa TANAKA is considered to have been his father.


Kiyomasa TANAKA: Samanosuke

Ujitsugu TANAKA: Hyogonosuke

Yoshitsugu TANAKA: the first son
He was banished because of discord with his father.

Yasumasa TANAKA: the second son
His descendant was Hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu, which is a form of Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

Yoshioki TANAKA: the third son

Tadamasa TANAKA: the forth son
His brothers' banishment and death led him to take over a position as a head of the family.

Yoshinobu TANAKA: the eldest illegitimate son
His official post was Shuzen no Kami

Daughter: a wife of Senior Secretary, Morokado NAKAHARA
Mother of Moroo NAKAHARA

[Original Japanese]