Sanada Yukimura

Sanada Saemon-no-Suke Yukimura (真田 左衛門佐 幸村 Sanada Yukimura, 1567June 3, 1615) was a Japanese samurai, second son of the Sengoku period daimyo Sanada Masayuki (真田昌幸). His proper name was Sanada Nobushige (真田信繁), named after Takeda Shingen's younger brother Takeda Nobushige (武田信繁), who was a brave and respected warrior. Sanada Yukimura was called "A Hero who may appear once in hundred years" and "crimson demon of war", and Shimazu Tadatsune (島津忠恒, arguably the best performer in the invasion of Korea) called him the "number one warrior in Japan." ("日本一の兵", 兵 means soldier originally, but here it is read as "tsuwamono" which means samurai or warrior, so it is not appropriate to translate it as soldier.)

Life

He was the second son of Sanada Masayuki, his elder brother being Sanada Nobuyuki. He was married to Akihime (Chikurinin) a foster-daughter of Otani Yoshitsugu. They had two sons, Daisuke (Yukimasa) and Daihachi (Morinobu), and several daughters.

In 1575, the Battle of Nagashino claimed the lives of two of Sanada Masayuki's elder brothers. Masayuki, previously serving Takeda Shingen(武田信玄)and Takeda Katsuyori(武田勝頼)as a retainer, inherited the Sanada clan and left for Ueda Castle. Yukimura also went, taking the Sanada name as well.

By 1582, the Oda-Tokugawa forces had destroyed the Takeda clan. The Sanada initially surrendered to Oda Nobunaga(織田信長), but, after the Incident at Honnōji(本能寺の変), 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(豊臣秀吉). During this period, Hideyoshi treated Yukimura with extreme care and hospitality. Hideyoshi's fondness is shown by the fact that Yukimura was given the right to use the surname of Toyotomi Clan, which was the clan of the Kanpaku (関白) during that period. Thus, he is sometimes referred to as (even by Yukimura himself) as Toyotomi Saemon-no-suke Nobushige (豊臣左衛門佐信繁)

In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu(徳川家康)rallied various daimyo to attack Uesugi Kagekatsu(上杉景勝). 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. 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 both sides separately, so that, regardless of the outcome of the battle, the Sanada clan would survive.

The Sanada retreated to and fortified Ueda Castle. When Tokugawa Hidetada marched a sizeable army on the Nakasendō, the Sanada resisted and were able to fight back Hidetada's 40,000 men with only 2,000. However, as it took much longer to take the castle than was expected, Hidetada lost focus and never showed up on the battlefield during the Battle of Sekigahara where the main force was awaiting the arrival of his crucial army, a mistake that put the Tokugawa clan in jeopardy.

Because of this, Tokugawa Ieyasu wanted to execute the Sanadas, but, because of Nobuyuki's contribution to his own cause, they were spared and instead exiled to Kudoyama in Kii Province. Masayuki died there. Twelve years later, as the relations between the Toyotomi clan and Tokugawa shogunate worsened, the Toyotomi clan started to recruit ronin in preparation for war. Yukimura escaped from Kudoyama and entered Osaka Castle to answer the call.

Enlarge picture
Sanada Yukimura at Sanko Shrine, located just south of Osaka castle.
During the Winter Siege of Osaka, Sanada Yukimura built fortifications along the south of Osaka Castle at its weak points. From there, he defeated the Tokugawa forces (approximately 30,000 men) with groups of 6000 arquebusiers.

However, 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, leaving him exhausted. Soldiers from the Echizen army quickly went to Sanada. Now too tired to fight back, Yukimura allowed the men to kill him, reportedly saying, " Go on, take my head as your trophy". Sanada died honorably, leaving behind a legend. His grave is now located in Osaka.

Legend and popular depiction

A fact about Sanada Yukimura is that, in primary historical sources and personal letters penned by himself, 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 (真田十勇士, Sanada Jūyūshi), 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

Portrayals

Sanada Yukimura has been portrayed in some form in many anime and etc. such as....
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Shimazu Tadatsune (島津忠恒; November 27, 1576-April 7, 1638) was a tozama daimyo of Satsuma, the first to hold it as a formal fief (han) under the Tokugawa shogunate, and the first Japanese to rule over the Ryūkyū Kingdom.
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Otani Yoshitsugu (大谷吉継 ,1559~1600) nicknamed Gyobu. He was born in 1559 to a father who was said to be a retainer of either Otomo Sorin or of the Rokkaku Yoshikata. He become one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's followers.
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Battle of Nagashino (長篠の戦い Nagashino no Tatakai
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Takeda Katsuyori (武田勝頼: 1546 – 3 April 1582) was a Japanese samurai of the Sengoku Period, who was famed as the head of the Takeda clan and the successor to the legendary warlord Takeda Shingen.
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Ueda Castle (Japanese: 上田城) was the original home of the Sanada clan, built by Masayuki Sanada.

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The Uesugi clan (上杉氏, -shi) was a Japanese samurai clan, descended from the Fujiwara clan and particularly notable for their power in the Muromachi and Sengoku periods (roughly 14th-17th centuries).
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Tokugawa Ieyasu (previously spelled Iyeyasu) (徳川 家康
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Uesugi Kagekatsu (上杉 景勝, January 8 1556-March 19 1623) was a daimyo during the Sengoku and Edo periods of Japanese history. The son of Nagao Masakage (the head of the Ueda Nagao clan) and Uesugi Kenshin's elder sister.
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Ishida Mitsunari (石田 三成 1560 - November 6, 1600) was a samurai who led the Western army in the Battle of Sekigahara following the Azuchi-Momoyama period of the 17th century.
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Commanders of Eastern Army (Tokugawa Force)
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