ChildhoodMatsudaira Takechiyo was born on January 31, 1543 in Okazaki Castle in Japan. Takechiyo was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada, the daimyo, or territorial ruler, of the Matsudaira clan. Takechiyo's mother was the daughter of Mizuno Tadamasa, a samurai lord. Takechiyo's mother and father later split, and Takechiyo lived with his father. The Matsudaira family split over whether to become a vassal of the Imagawa or Oda clan. Hirotada chose to side with the Imagawa clan, but in 1548, the Oda clan invaded Mikawa, and Hirotada asked the Imagawa clan for help. To get help, Hirotada agreed to send Takechiyo to Imagawa Yoshimoto, the leader of the Imagawa clan, but Oda Nobuhide, the leader of the Oda clan, learned of the agreement and kidnapped Takechiyo when he was only six. Nobuhide threatened to kill Takechiyo if Hirotada remained with the Imagawa clan, but Hirotada left his son in the hands of the Oda Clan. Nobuhide didn't kill Takechiyo and held him in Nagoya for three years instead. In 1549, both Hirotada and Nobuhide died of natural causes. With Oda Nobuhide dead, the Oda clan was weakened, and Imagawa Sessai, the military leader of the Imagawa clan, lay siege to the castle of Oda Nobuhiro, Nobuhide's son. Sessai offered to give up the siege if Nobuhiro handed over Takechiyo to the Imagawa clan.
When Takechiyo came of age in 1556, he changed his name to Matsudaira Jirosaburo Motonobu, and when he married his first wife a year later, he changed his name to Matsudaira Kurandonosuke Motoyasu. When Motoyasu was returned to Mikawa, the Imagawa ordered him to fight the Oda. In 1560, the Oda clan, led by Oda Nobunaga, defeated the Imagawa at the Battle of Okehazama and killed Yoshitomo. Now Motoyasu (or Takechiyo) decided to ally with the Oda clan. Motoyasu improved the state of the Matsudaira clan and also captured much of Mikawa. In 1567, Motoyasu changed his name (again) to Tokugawa Ieyasu, claiming descent from the Minamoto clan. Ieyasu led a campaign with the Oda, conquering much of Jaan, including Kyoto in 1568. When Oda Nobunga was assassinated by Akechi Mitsuhide, Ieyasu defeated and killed Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki. Now, in the Matsudaira area, only the Tokugawa and the Hojo clans remained. The other major clan in Japan at the time was the Toyotomi clan, led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1584, the Oda and Tokogawa clans went to war with Hideyoshi, and though the Toyotomi clan was strong, there was no clear winner and peace had to be settled through negotiations. Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, the two most powerful daiymos, then joined forces, administrating from the same city and fighting the Hojo clan together. The two did, however, rule independently, and fought certain wars alone, including the Toyotomi campaign in Korea. When Hideyoshi died, Toyotomi Hideyori took over, and Ieyasu began to make alliances with anti-Toyotomi clans, and eventually, he attacked Osaka castle, Hideyori's residence. Ishida Mitsunari, the most powerful of Hideyori's allies, became the center of the conflict, and most of the daiymos of Japan took one side or the other. On October 21, 1600, Mitsunari, Hideyori, and Ieyasu met in at the Battle of Sekigahara. With the Tokugawa victory, the Toyotomi clan was defeated and Ieyasu became the leader of all of Japan.
Shogunate and Retirement
In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu received the title of shogun from Emperor Go-Yozei. This meant that Ieyasu was now the military leader of Japan. When Ieyasu recieved this title, he began the Edo period under which the Tokugawa shogunate would be in power. When Ieyasu had established the Tokugawa shogunate's power, Ieyasu abdicated, and Ieyasu's son, Tokugawa Hidetada, became shogun in 1605. Now retired, Ieyasu became known as Ogosho Ieyasu, and he still remained powerful after his retirement. He became an ambassador, supervising diplomatic meetings with the Netherlands, Spain, and the Roman Catholic Church. Ieyasu also wrote the Buke Shohatto to establish the future of the shogunate. Ieyasu also was still active militarily, leading the Siege of Osaka, to take the rest of the land owned by Toyotomi Hideyori, who survived the Battle of Sekigahara.
Ieyasu died in 1616, at the age of 73, probably of cancer or syphilis. After his death, Ieyasu was given the name Tosho Daigongen, or the 'Great Gongen, Light of the East.' Tokugawa Ieyasu is on our list because he was the man who unified all of Japan and started the most powerful shogunate in Japanese history. He is also on our list because he has more names than any man I have ever heard of.