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An Edo period painting of Sanada Yukimura.

Sanada Yukimura (真田 幸村?, 1567 – June 3, 1615), also known as Sanada Nobushige (真田 信繁?), was a Japanese samurai warrior of the Sengoku period. He was especially known as the leading general on the losing side of the Siege of Osaka. Yukimura was called "A Hero who may appear once in a hundred years" and "Crimson Demon of War", and the famed veteran of the invasion of Korea, Shimazu Tadatsune, called him the "Number one warrior in Japan" (日本一の兵?).[citation needed]

Early life

He was the second son of Sanada Masayuki (1544–1611). His elder brother was Sanada Nobuyuki. He was married to Akihime (Chikurin'in), a foster-daughter of Ōtani Yoshitsugu. They had two sons, Daisuke (Yukimasa) and Daihachi (Morinobu).[citation needed]

In 1575, the Battle of Nagashino claimed the lives of two of Sanada Masayuki's elder brothers. Masayuki, previously serving Takeda Shingen and Takeda Katsuyori as a retainer, inherited the Sanada clan and left for Ueda Castle. Yukimura also went, taking the Sanada name as well.[citation needed]

By 1582, the Oda-Tokugawa forces had destroyed the Takeda clan. The Sanada initially surrendered to Oda Nobunaga, but, after the Incident at Honnōji, it became independent again, drifting between stronger daimyo such as the Uesugi clan, the Late Hōjō clan, and the Tokugawa clan. Eventually, the Sanada clan became a vassal of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.[citation needed]

In 1600, before the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu rallied various daimyo to attack Uesugi Kagekatsu. The Sanada clan complied as well, but when Ishida Mitsunari decided to challenge Ieyasu, Masayuki and Yukimura joined the western forces, parting ways with Masayuki's eldest son and Yukimura's brother, Nobuyuki (真田 信之, originally 真田 信幸), who joined the eastern forces. It has been said that at first Yukimura followed Ieyasu but, after Ieyasu tried to seize his territory he betrayed Ieyasu. The true motive of Masayuki and Yukimura's decision is disputed with many theories, but there are two main schools of thought: in one, Masayuki made the decision (and Yukimura agreed); he expressed the willingness to take a gamble, so that if he were to join the weak side and win the battle, the Sanada would gain much more power. The other theory is the opposite where they planned a safety net; Masayuki, Yukimura, and Nobuyuki discussed the situation when Ieyasu asked them to state their allegiance clearly, and they decided to join separate sides, so that, regardless of the outcome of the battle, the Sanada clan would survive.

The Sanada retreated and fortified Ueda Castle. When Tokugawa Hidetada marched a sizable army on the Nakasendō, the Sanada resisted and were able to fight Hidetada's 40,000 men with only 2,000. However, as the castle did not fall in the short time that he expected, Hidetada gave up and joined the main Tokugawa army, too late, however to participate in the crucial Battle of Sekigahara. After the battle Masayuki's territory was seized and he and Yukimura were exiled to Mt. Koya in the Kii Peninsula. Ueda was given to Nobuyuki. Yukimura rose against the Tokugawa when the Winter Battle of Osaka Castle broke out in 1614.

Siege of Osaka Castle


Statue of Sanada Yukimura at Sankō Shrine, Osaka.

The siege of Osaka Castle was a series of battles undertaken by the Tokugawa shougunate against the Toyotomi clan, and ending in that clan’s destruction. Divided into two stages (Winter Campaign and Summer Campaign), lasting from 1614 to 1615, the siege put an end to the last major armed opposition to the shogunate’s establishment. The end of the conflict is sometimes referred to as the Genna Armistice (Genna Enbu), because the era name was changed from Keicho to Genna immediately following the siege.

Winter siege of Osaka Castle

The siege began on November 19, 1614 and lasted until January 22, 1615, when Ieyasu led three thousand men across the Kizu River, destroying the fort there. A week later, he attacked the village of Imafuku with 1,500 men against a defending force of 600. With the aid of a squad of arquebusiers, the Tokugawa claimed victory once again. Several more small forts and villages were attacked before the siege on Osaka Castle itself began on December 4, 1614. Yukimura built a small fortress called Sanada-maru in the southwest corner of Osaka Castle. The Sanada-maru was an earthwork barbican defended by 7,000 men under Yukimura's command. From there, he defeated the Tokugawa forces (approximately 30,000 men) with groups of 6000 arquebusiers. The Shogun's forces were repeatedly repelled, and the Sanada troops launched a number of attacks against the siege lines, breaking through three times. Ieyasu then resorted to artillery, which included 17 imported European cannons and domestic wrought iron cannons, as well as sappers employed to dig under the walls of the fortress. The fortress was impregnable; the Tokugawa suffered many losses.

Ieyasu gave up trying to destroy the castle during this battle, and sued for peace with Toyotomi Hideyori. He proposed a condition for the reconciliation, i.e. to destroy the outer moat of the castle. When his envoy entered the castle grounds, they destroyed not only the outer moat but the inner moat as well.

Summer siege of Osaka Castle

In the next year April 1615, Ieyasu received information that Toyotomi Hideyori was gathering forces to rebuild the castle moat. Toyotomi forces (often referred to as the western army) began to attack contingents of the Shogun's forces (often referred to as the eastern army) near Osaka. On April 29, 1615, a force led by Ban Danemon raided Wakayama Castle, a coastal fortress that belonged to Asano Nagakira, an ally of the Shogun. Asano's men went forth from the castle and drove off the invaders. Ieyasu gathered his vast armies, and attacked the castle again.

Yukimura fought the army of Date Masamune on May 6, 1615. Yukimura's army was outnumbered and he was defeated by Masamune's army. The next day he and a few soldiers assaulted the camp of Ieyasu directly. He closed in on Ieyasu only to have his assault repelled. By early June, the Eastern army had arrived, before Hideyori managed to secure any land to use against them.

On June 2, 1615, at the Battle of Domyoji, 2,600 men from the western army encountered 23,000 of the eastern army. Hideyori's commander at the castle, Gotō Matabei attempted to retreat into the fog, but the battle was lost and he was killed. After this, Tokugawa forces intercepted those of Sanada Yukimura at Honta-Ryo. Sanada tried to force a battle with Date Masamune, but Date's retainer Katakura Shigenaga retreated, as his troops were exhausted; Sanada's forces followed suit.

On June 3, 1615, at the Battle of Domyoji (also known as the battle of the tombs) Sanada Yukimura was in command of the Western army on the right side of Susukida Kanesuke and was engaged by Date Masamune in the area of Emperor Ojin's Tomb and the Konda Hachiman Shrine. Late into the fight Sanada Yukimura made the decision to begin a retreat towards Osaka Castle, as he had already lost a powerful commander earlier in the day. Tokugawa Tadateru, the sixth son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, was given the order to pursue Sanada, but he refused. This action would later lead to his exile to Koyasan. After being allowed to return to the Eastern army, he would die later during another assault on Osaka Castle. Given the time he needed Sanada's forces were able to successfully retreat from the Eastern army.

Battle of Tennoji-guchi

The Battle of Tennoji(guchi) was fought on June 3, 1615. This would be the last battle of the Siege of Osaka and the final battle for Sanada Yukimura. Greatly outnumbered by Tokugawa forces, Yukimura's forces were eventually defeated. According to The Life of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu by A.L. Sadler, in his intense fight against the wavering Echizen troops, Yukimura was badly wounded and exhausted. Soldiers from the Echizen army quickly went to Sanada. Too tired to fight back, Yukimura allowed the men to kill him, reportedly saying, "I am Sanada Nobushige, no doubt an adversary quite worthy of you, but I am exhausted and can fight no longer. Go on, take my head as your trophy". A man by the name of Nishio Nizaemon chopped off Sanada’s head.[citation needed] His grave is now located in Osaka, marked by the Yasui Shrine located to the west of Shitennoji Temple.

Legend and popular depiction

According to primary historical sources and personal letters, he was never referred to as Yukimura. That name surfaced in a military novel written during the Edo period and has since been popularized in modern plays, books, novels, and different media of entertainment. The historical documents use his historical name "Nobushige", but his pen name "Yukimura" was never mentioned. One theory is that the name Yukimura is a portmanteau of Masayuki (his father) and Date Tsunamura.

A legend says that Yukimura had ten heroes who took an active role at the battles of Osaka Castle. They were called the Sanada Ten Braves, a group of ninja, and consisted of the following members:

  • Sarutobi Sasuke
  • Kirigakure Saizo
  • Miyoshi Seikai
  • Miyoshi Isa
  • Anayama Kosuke
  • Unno Rokuro
  • Kakei Juzo
  • Nezu Jinpachi
  • Mochizuki Rokuro
  • Yuri Kamanosuke

In popular culture

He is a playable character in Pokémon Conquest (Pokémon + Nobunaga's Ambition in Japan), with his partner Pokémon being Charmeleon and Charizard. He is also in all of the games of Koei's Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi game series[1]

He is also a main character in the anime Sengoku Basara: The Last Party and Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings.[2]

In the popular manga, Prince of Tennis, his name was used for two characters, Genchiro Sanada and Seichii Yukimura.

Yukimura Sanada plays a strong and charming supporting role in anime version by Project Kyo of Samurai Deeper Kyo.

In Girls und Panzer, one member of the Oarai History Club, and the gunner for their tank team, whose real name is Kiyomi Sugiyama, adopts "Saemonza" as her nickname and often makes references to the period's history.


Further reading

  • Osaka 1615 The Last Battle of the Samurai: Stephen Turnbull
  • Samurai Warlords: The Book of the Daimyo: Stephen Turnbull

External links

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