Sanada Masayuki

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
In this Japanese name, the family name is Sanada.
Sanada Masayuki
Sanada Masayuki2.jpg
Sanada Masayuki
Lord of Ueda
In office
Preceded by Sanada Yukitaka
Succeeded by Sanada Nobuyuki
Personal details
Born 1547
Died July 13, 1611 (aged 63/64)
Nationality Japanese
Military service

Sanada Masayuki (真田 昌幸?, 1547 – July 13, 1611) was a Japanese Sengoku period lord and daimyo. He was descended from the Sanada clan, a regional house of Shinano province, which became a vassal of the Takeda clan of Kai province.

Along with his father and brothers, Masayuki served the Takeda clan during its heyday, when it was led by Takeda Shingen. After its downfall, Masayuki took the lead of his family and, despite little power, he managed to establish himself as an independent daimyo under the Toyotomi regime through skillful political maneuvers amidst the powerful Tokugawa, Hojō and Uesugi clans.

Known for having defeated the powerful Tokugawa army in the Siege of Ueda on two separate occasions, Masayuki is now considered one of the greatest military strategists of his era. In recent times, a number of portrayals in novels, films and other forms of media have contributed to his increased popularity.


Takeda retainer[edit]

He was born the third son of Sanada Yukitaka in 1547. His childhood name was Gengorō (源五郎). In 1553, at seven years old, he was sent to the Takeda clan's headquarters in Kai as a hostage. There he becomes part of the Okukinjūshū (奥近習衆), a group of six young servants close to Takeda Shingen. According to the Kōyō Gunkan, Shingen favoured him as he soon recognized that Masayuki's talents and insight rivaled those of his father Yukitaka.

In 1558, he inherited the Mutō family, a branch of the Ōi clan, of which Shingen's mother descended from, and adopted the name Mutō Kihei (武藤喜兵衛). Towards 1564, he married Yamanote-dono, a daughter of Uda Yoritada, who was a local lord of Tōtōmi Province. Later she gave birth to his two sons Nobuyuki and Yukimura. During this period, he participated in many battles under the Takeda clan, including the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima (1561) and the Battle of Mimasetōge (1569). Also most importantly, from 1572 onwards, he joined Shingen in his campaign towards Kyoto against the Oda and Tokugawa clans and took part in the Battle of Mikatagahara (1573). After Shingen's death in 1573, he continued to serve the heir Takeda Katsuyori.

In 1574, his father Yukitaka died. At that point, his eldest brother Sanada Nobutsuna had already succeeded his father as the head of the Sanada clan. However, during the disastrous Battle of Nagashino (1575) both his elder brothers, Nobutsuna and Masateru, were killed, so he came back to Sanada clan and claimed his inheritance.

In 1579, a year after Uesugi Kenshin's death, an alliance between the Takeda and Uesugi clans was established. As the Uesugi clan consented to Takeda's advances into eastern parts of Kōzuke province, which was a Hojō domain at the time, Masayuki attacked and seized Numata Castle in 1580, putting it under the Takeda clan's control.

In 1580, he was appointed the title of Awa-no-kami (従五位下・安房守). In 1581, he was ordered by Takeda Katsuyori to supervise the construction of the new Shinpu Castle at Nirasaki. In the same year, Numata Kageyoshi, former lord of Numata Castle, attempted to retake his old fief, but Masayuki schemed to assassinate him and thwarted his plans.

In April 1582, Oda and Tokugawa allied forces started an invasion of the Takeda territory. It is said that Masayuki had intended to shelter Katsuyori and advised him to abandon Kai province and flee towards Sanada's domain in Kōzuke. Instead, Katsuyori decided to aim for Oyamada Nobushige's Iwadono Castle, but was betrayed and ultimately died at Tenmokuzan. After the fall of the Takeda clan, Masayuki yielded to Oda Nobunaga and retained his domain. He was put under the orders of one of Nobunaga's generals, Takigawa Kazumasu.

Tenshō-Jingo Conflict[edit]

However, Nobunaga soon died at the Incident at Honnō-ji on June 2, 1582. Upon Nobunaga's death, Oda clan's grasp over former Takeda territories weakened, and neighboring Tokugawa, Hōjō and Uesugi clans all started to contest this vacuum of power in Shinano, Kōzuke and Kai provinces. This was called the Tenshō-Jingo Conflict.

On June 19, Takigawa Kazumasu lost decisively against the invading Hōjō army at the Battle of Kannagawa and on July 9, Masayuki defected to Hōjō's side. Meanwhile, Uesugi forces were invading northern Shinano. Both armies came to face each other at Kawanakajima on July 12, but direct combat was avoided as the Hōjō army turned back and advanced south towards Kai province, which was in turn invaded by Tokugawa forces. At one point, the Hōjō clan had come close to controlling most of Shinano province, but Masayuki helped Yoda Nobushige, a local lord who had been resisting against Hōjō's advances in Shinano and was in touch with Tokugawa Ieyasu. He then defected to the Tokugawa's side on September 25. Faced with this sudden betrayal, Hōjō Ujinao saw his position in the conflict weaken and decided for a peace treaty and alliance with the Tokugawa clan, which was agreed upon on October 29. This event marked the end of the conflict which lasted for roughly 5 months after Nobunaga's death. Masayuki was now a vassal of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Confrontation with Tokugawa[edit]

In 1583, Masayuki started the construction of Ueda Castle and the surrounding town. It became the headquarters of the Sanada clan in the following years.

In 1584, Tokugawa Ieyasu lead his army west towards Owari province in the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute against Hashiba Hideyoshi. Masayuki was left in northern Shinano to keep the Uesugi clan in check and took this opportunity to subjugate small, neighboring landlords and consolidate his power. In December, as Ieyasu made peace with Hideyoshi and returned to his territory, he was pressed by Hōjō Ujinao to act on the terms of their treaty.

In the treaty, among other terms, Tokugawa Ieyasu agreed to transfer Numata Castle and its adjacent lands in Kōzuke province to the Hōjō clan. Masayuki however, resisted having to hand over Numata Castle, which he had conquered with his own efforts years before. Ultimately, he decided to cut relations with Tokugawa Ieyasu and once more switched allegiances by sending his second son to Uesugi Kagekatsu as a hostage . With this move, he effectively joined Hashiba Hideyoshi's side, which opposed the Tokugawa-Hōjō alliance.

In 1585, Tokugawa forces invaded Sanada clan's territory in northern Shinano province with 7,000 men and laid siege to Ueda Castle, which was defended by only 1,200 soldiers. However, Masayuki was able to inflict 1,300 casualties on Tokugawa's side and won a decisive victory. This was the First Battle of Ueda Castle, a victory that earned Masayuki national prominence. Following this, Masayuki went from being just a former Takeda retainer to become recognized as an independent daimyo.

In 1589, Sanada retainers had disputes with the Hōjō clan, which eventually led to the fall of the Hōjō clan by Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invading armies. After Hideyoshi's death in 1600, Masayuki joined Ishida Mitsunari's side during the Battle of Sekigahara. Masayuki sent his eldest son, Nobuyuki, to the eastern side, while Masayuki and his younger son, Yukimura, fought on the western side, a move that ensured the Sanada clan's survival. Fortifying Ueda Castle, Masayuki fought against Tokugawa Hidetada's 38,000 men with only 2,000 soldiers. This was the Second Battle of Ueda Castle, and, whilst it was not exactly a victory, Masayuki was able to deliver a heavy blow to Hidetada and delay his forces for long enough that they were unable to show up at the main battlefield on time.

However, the western side, led by Ishida Mitsunari, lost the main battle, and the victorious Tokugawa Ieyasu was able to redistribute fiefs at will. Masayuki and Yukimura were initially going to be executed, but, given Nobuyuki's participation in the eastern army, they were instead exiled to Kudoyama in Kii province. The Sanada clan was inherited by Sanada Nobuyuki.

Sanada Masayuki died in Kudoyama in 1611.


Even though Masayuki was never able to expand his territories as well as other daimyo, he is nevertheless often considered a talented daimyo, doomed by misfortune and the inconvenient terrains which surrounded his home domain. Toyotomi Hideyoshi had called Masayuki a person whose inside did not match his outside, that his allegiance was fickle and not to be trusted. Nevertheless, it was exactly his drifting alliances that helped the Sanada clan survive the onslaught of hostile clans, and, since the Edo period, he has been more extolled than vilified.

In popular culture[edit]

See People of the Sengoku period in popular culture.

See also[edit]


  • Sansom, George (1961). "A History of Japan: 1334–1615." Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 325.
  • Turnbull, Stephen (1998). 'The Samurai Sourcebook'. London: Cassell & Co. p. 76.
Preceded by
Lord of Ueda
Succeeded by
Sanada Nobuyuki