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Imagawa Yoshimoto (1519- June 12 1560)
Imagawa Yoshimoto was born the third son of Imagawa Ujichika,
Daimyo of Suruga Province, and as such was not expected to have
become clan head. The rightful heir, Yoshimoto’s oldest brother died suddenly in 1536, and the clan was divided as Yoshimoto and his
elder half-brother, Genko contested the leadership.
The Imagawa clan were of Minamoto stock, descendants of the
Emperor Seiwa, and therefore able to claim rights to the position
of Shogun. After gaining control of the Imagawa Clan, Yoshimoto
married the sister of potential rival Takeda Shingen, thus cementing
an alliance. That alliance was later strengthened when Shingen’s
second son, Takeda Yoshinobu married Yoshimoto‘s daughter.
The Imagawa had long been at war with the Hojo clan of the Kanto districts, however peace was settled with the marriage of
Yoshimoto’s heir, Ujizaneto the daughter of Hojo Ujitsuna. He had
succeeded in bringing the provinces of Suruga, Totomi and Mikawa
under his authority, and was showing interest in the adjoining rich,
fertile lands of Owari.
By the summer of 1560, with alliances confirmed with the Takeda and Hojo clans, he set his sights
on both the capital, Kyoto, as well as quelling the growing influence of the lord of Owari, Oda Nobunaga. Steamrolling his way into western Mikawa towards Owari, he announced he was leading 40,000 samurai,
however it is believed he had 25,000. Even then, Oda Nobunaga could only raise some 2,500 but was
ready to defend his lands at a ratio of at least ten to one. This led to the Battle of Okehazama.
Yoshimoto had led his men to victory over the Oda held castles of Washizu and Marune. His troops had
pitched camp and were relaxing in the valley known as Dengakuhazama. Celebrating their many victories
and feeling confident, they had let their guard down on that hot, humid day when a rain storm struck.
The 2,500 troops of the Oda took advantage of the downpour to mask their approach, and attack the
Imagawa main camp. On hearing the initial attack, Yoshimoto thought his own men had commenced
a drunken brawl, and left his curtained off enclosure to reprimand them. When he stepped outside,
he was surprised to find Oda troops bearing down on him. Mori Shinsuke rushed at him with a spear,
which was deflected, and the sword of Hattori Koheita then swiftly took the generals head. He was 41
years old. The Battle of Okehazama was as short as it was violent.
With Imagawa Yoshimoto dead, and all but two of the senior retainers killed, the remaining Imagawa
forces capitulated and were absorbed into the Oda army. Interestingly, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had long
been a hostage of the Imagawa, was finally freed by Nobunaga’s actions, and quickly departed for his
ancestral lands at Okazaki.
Yoshimoto has several grave sites, at Dengakuhazama and Okehazama, while his body was buried at
the nearby Daisei-ji temple in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture.
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