Date Masamune

Date Masamune (伊達 政宗, September 5, 1567 – June 27, 1636) was a regional ruler of Japan's Azuchi–Momoyama period through early Edo period. Heir to a long line of powerful daimyō in the Tōhoku region, he went on to found the modern-day city of Sendai. An outstanding tactician, he was made all the more iconic for his missing eye, as Masamune was often called dokuganryū (独眼竜), or the "One-Eyed Dragon of Ōshu".[1]

Date Masamune
Date Masamune02.jpg
Date Masamune
Nickname(s)One-Eyed Dragon of Ōshu (dokuganryū (独眼竜))
BornSeptember 5, 1567
Yonezawa, Yamagata, Japan
DiedJune 27, 1636(1636-06-27) (aged 68)
AllegianceTake ni Suzume.svg Date clan
Goshichi no kiri inverted.svg Toyotomi clan
Tokugawa family crest.svg Eastern Army
Flag of the Tokugawa Shogunate.svg Tokugawa shogunate
UnitTake ni Suzume.svg Date clan
Battles/warsBattle of Hitotoribashi
Battle of Kōriyama
Siege of Kurokawa
Battle of Suriagehara
Kunohe Rebellion
Korean Campaign
Siege of Shiroishi
Siege of Hasedō
Osaka Campaign
RelationsDate Terumune (father)
Yoshihime (Mogami Yoshiaki's sister) (mother)
Megohime (spouse)
Date Hidemune (children)
Date Tadamune (children)
Irohahime (daughter)
Muuhime (daughter)
Date Masamichi (subling)

As a legendary warrior and leader, Masamune is a character in a number of Japanese period dramas. He was played by Ken Watanabe in the popular 1987 NHK series Dokuganryū Masamune.

Early lifeEdit

Date Masamune was born as Bontemaru (梵天丸) later Tojiro (藤次郎) the eldest son of Date Terumune, born in Yonezawa Castle (in modern Yamagata Prefecture).[2] At the age of 14 in 1581 Masamune led his first campaign, helping his father fight the Sōma family. In 1584, at the age of 17, Masamune succeeded his father, Terumune, who chose to retire from his position as daimyō. Masamune's army was recognized by its black armor and golden headgear.

A letter from Masamune to Pope Paul V
Masamune's Grave at Zuihōden mausoleum

Masamune is known for a few things that made him stand out from other daimyōs of the time. In particular, his famous crescent-moon-bearing helmet won him a fearsome reputation. As a child, smallpox robbed him of sight in his right eye, though it is unclear exactly how he lost the organ entirely.[3] Various theories behind the eye's condition exist. Some sources say he plucked out the eye himself when a senior member of the clan pointed out that an enemy could grab it in a fight. Others say that he had his trusted retainer Katakura Kojūrō gouge out the eye for him, making him the "One-Eyed Dragon" of Ōshu.[4]

Early riseEdit

The Date clan had built alliances with neighboring clans through marriages over previous generations, but local disputes remained commonplace. Shortly after Masamune's succession in 1584, a Date retainer named Ōuchi Sadatsuna defected to the Ashina clan of the Aizu region. Masamune declared war on Ōuchi and the Ashina for this betrayal, and started a campaign to hunt down Sadatsuna. Formerly amicable alliances were cast aside as he began to attack and conquer the lands of Sadatsuna's allies in pursuit, even those of his kin in Mutsu and Dewa Provinces. In the winter of 1585, one of these allies, Nihonmatsu Yoshitsugu felt defeat was approaching and chose to surrender to the Date instead. Masamune agreed to accept the surrender, but on the heavy condition that the Nihonmatsu give up most of their territory to the Date. This resulted in Yoshitsugu kidnapping Masamune's father Terumune during their meeting in Miyamori Castle, where Terumune was staying during the time. The incident ended with Terumune and Yoshitsugu killed as the fleeing Nihonmatsu party clashed with the pursuing Date troops near the Abukuma River.[5] Due to the death of Date Terumune by the hands of Nihonmatsu Yoshitsugu, Masamune swore vengeance. In January 1586, Masamune had his revenge by launching an attack against the Nihonmatsu at the Battle of Hitotoribashi.[6] Various records of the event exist, although they present different accounts of its circumstances. The Date clan fought many battles with their neighbours afterwards, including the Battle of Koriyama in 1588, the Siege of Kurokawa and the Battle of Suriagehara in 1589. After defeating the Ashina clan, Masamune made Kurokawa Castle in Aizu domain his base of operations.

Service under HideyoshiEdit

In 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi seized Odawara Castle and compelled the Tōhoku-region daimyōs to participate in the campaign. Although Masamune refused Hideyoshi's demands at first, he had no real choice in the matter since Hideyoshi was the virtual ruler of Japan. Masamune still delayed, infuriating Hideyoshi. Expecting to be executed, Masamune, wearing his finest clothes and showing no fear, faced his angry overlord. Not wanting further trouble, Hideyoshi spared his life, saying that "He could be of some use."

In 1591, Masamune forfeited the ancestral land of the Date Clan (present day Date City, Kawamata, Koori, and Kunimi) to Hideyoshi, causing widespread riots. He never regained the territory.[7] [8]

He was given Iwatesawa and the surrounding lands as his home domain. Masamune moved there, rebuilt the Iwadeyama Castle, renamed it Iwadeyama, and encouraged the growth of a town at its base.[9] Masamune stayed at Iwadeyama for 13 years and turned the region into a major political and economic center.

Being a major power in northern Japan, Masamune was naturally viewed with suspicion, as any potential rival would be viewed. Toyotomi Hideyoshi reduced the size of his land holdings after his tardiness in coming to the Siege of Odawara against Hōjō Ujimasa.

He and his men served with distinction in the fought against Kunohe Rebellion and Hideyoshi Korean invasions and, after Hideyoshi's death, he began to support Tokugawa Ieyasu—apparently at the advice of Katakura Kojūrō.

Service under IeyasuEdit

Date Masamune Armour

Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded Masamune the lordship of the huge and profitable Sendai Domain, which made Masamune one of Japan's most powerful daimyōs. Tokugawa had promised Masamune a one-million koku domain, but, even after substantial improvements were made, the land only produced 640,000 koku, most of which was used to feed the Edo region. In 1604, Masamune, accompanied by 52,000 vassals and their families, moved to what was then the small fishing village of Sendai. He left his fourth son, Date Muneyasu, to rule Iwadeyama. Masamune would turn Sendai into a large and prosperous city.

Although Masamune was a patron of the arts and sympathized with foreign causes, he was also an aggressive and ambitious daimyō. When he first took over the Date clan, he suffered a few major defeats from powerful and influential clans such as the Ashina. These defeats were arguably caused by recklessness on Masamune's part.

Later in his life, after Toyotomi Hideyoshi died, Tokugawa Ieyasu increased the size of his lands again, but was constantly suspicious of Masamune and his policies. Although Tokugawa Ieyasu and other Date allies were always suspicious of him, Date Masamune for the most part served the Tokugawa and Toyotomi loyally. Under Tokugawa He fought in Sekigahara Campaign at Siege of Shiroishi and in the Osaka campaigns. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was on his deathbed, Masamune visited him and read him a piece of Zen poetry. Masamune was highly respected for his ethics; a still-quoted aphorism is, "Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness; benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness."

Patron of culture and ChristianityEdit

Masamune expanded trade in the otherwise remote, backwater Tōhoku region. Although initially faced with attacks by hostile clans, he managed to overcome them after a few defeats and eventually ruled one of the largest fiefdoms of the later Tokugawa shogunate. He built many palaces and worked on many projects to beautify the region. He is also known to have encouraged foreigners to come to his land. Even though he funded and promoted an envoy to establish relations with the Pope in Rome, he was likely motivated at least in part by a desire for foreign technology, similar to that of other lords, such as Oda Nobunaga. Further, once Tokugawa Ieyasu outlawed Christianity, Masamune reversed his position, and though disliking it, let Ieyasu persecute Christians in his domain. For 270 years, Tōhoku remained a place of tourism, trade and prosperity. Matsushima, for instance, a series of tiny islands, was praised for its beauty and serenity by the wandering haiku poet Matsuo Bashō.

He showed sympathy for Christian missionaries and traders in Japan. In addition to allowing them to come and preach in his province, he also released the prisoner and missionary Padre Sotelo from the hands of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Date Masamune allowed Sotelo as well as other missionaries to practice their religion and win converts in Tōhoku.

Replica of the galleon Date Maru, or San Juan Bautista, in Ishinomaki, Japan.

Masamune notably funded and backed one of Japan's few journeys of far-flung diplomacy and exploration in this period. He ordered the building of the exploration ship Date Maru or San Juan Bautista, using foreign (European) ship-building techniques. He sent one of his retainers, Hasekura Tsunenaga, Sotelo, and an embassy numbering 180 on a successful voyage to establish relations with the Pope in Rome. This expedition visited such places as the Philippines, Mexico, Spain and Rome. Previously, Japanese lords had never funded this sort of venture, so it was probably the first successful voyage.[10] At least five members of the expedition stayed in Coria (Seville) of Spain to avoid the persecution of Christians in Japan. 600 of their descendants, with the surname Japón (Japan), are now living in Spain.

When the Tokugawa government banned Christianity, Masamune had to obey the law. However, some sources suggest that Masamune's eldest daughter, Irohahime, was a Christian.[11]


Statue of Date Masamune
  • Father: Date Terumune
  • Mother: Yoshihime (1548–1623), daughter of Mogami Yoshimori the daimyō of Dewa Province
  • Wife: Megohime, daughter of Tamura Kiyoaki owner of Miharu Castle in Miharu Domain, Mutsu Province
  • Subling: Date Masamichi
  • Concubines:
    • Īsaka no Tsubone (1569–1634)
    • Shōkoin (1583–1656)
    • Oyama no Kata (1587–1668)
    • Shōgo'in (d. 1644)
    • Okachi no Kata (d. 1669)
    • Hosshōin (d. 1664)
    • Shinzo no Kata (d. 1612)
  • Prostitute: Kōnomae (1577–1641)
  • Children:
    • Date Hidemune by Shinzo no Kata
    • Irohahime by Megohime
    • Date Tadamune by Megohime
    • Date Munekiyo (1600–1634) by Shinzo no Kata
    • Date Muneyasu (1602–1639) by Shoukoin
    • Date Munetsuna (1603–1618) by Megohime
    • Date Munenobu (1603–1627) by Oyama no Kata
    • Date Munetaka (1607–1626) by Oyama no Kata
    • Mūhime by Oyama no Kata
    • Takematsumaru by Megohime
    • Date Munezane (1613–1665) by Shōgo'in
    • Minehime (1616–1632) married Date Munesane by Okachi no kata
    • Date Munekatsu (1621–1679) by Okachi no kata
    • Sengikuhime (1626–1655) married Kyogoku Takakuni by Hossoin
    • Tsuta married Harada Munesuke by Konomae
    • Watari Munemoto (1600–1669) by Konomae


"Three Great Men" of Date MasamuneEdit

  • Oniniwa Tsunamoto (鬼庭 綱元) (1549 – July 13, 1640). Deeply trusted by Masamune, he was made a senior retainer at the young age of 35.
  • Katakura Kagetsuna (片倉 景綱, 1557 – December 4, 1615) was a samurai of the Katakura clan, also known by his court title, Bichū no Kami (備中守), or more commonly, as Katakura Kojūrō.
  • Date Shigezane (伊達 成実, 1568 – July 17, 1646). Founder of the Watari-Date clan.

Notable retainersEdit

Date clan`s prominent castlesEdit

Dry moat and eathen wall of Wakabayashi Castle

In popular cultureEdit

Like many figures of the Sengoku period, Date Masamune has been featured in literature, film, manga, anime, video games, and other media. There are a few of prominent and notable examples. In the Ivar P. Cooper 1632 series book 1636: Seas of Fortune, Masamune is a prominent character in the short novel "Rising Sun" which is set in the north Pacific region focusing on Japan's expansion into North America.

Masamune is the protagonist of the anime series Masamune Datenicle, produced by the city of Date in collaboration with Fukushima Gainax in order to promote the city's historic connection to the Date Clan. In this series, he is depicted as a child taking on the role of leader of his clan for the first time. Previous leaders of the Date Clan manifest in order to help him prepare for his first battle. [15]

In the video game series Samurai Warriors (Koei) Masamune Date is featured as a playable character. In his first appearance he was a very young man and fought with dual wooden swords, later, his appearance was changed to be a bit older and his weapons were switched out for a more European style sword and a pair of pistols. He is also a prominent character in the Sengoku Basara series (Capcom), and has been featured in every major release, portrayed as a reckless, but astute general with a penchant for using humorous English verses, he is also notable for carrying six katanas, which he can equip as "dragon's claws", wielding them between his fingers, three in each hand.

The professional wrestling organization Osaka Pro Wrestling featured two wrestlers using the ring names Masamune and Hideyoshi, who together form the tag team "Sengoku".[16][17]

In Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga, Masamune is reincarnated as a French bulldog nicknamed Boo in modern-day Japan.

In "Ginga Densetsu Weed: Orion" Masamune's dog version is the main antagonist. His father, Terumune and Kojuuruu also play roles in the comic.


  1. ^ This name is derived from the nickname of the ancient Chinese general Li Keyong (李克用), who was also one-eyed.[citation needed]
  2. ^ a b "米沢城跡" (in Japanese). 山形県観光. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  3. ^ In 1974, a Japanese research team recovered his body from his mausoleum, called Zuihoden, which was destroyed by the U.S. Army's attacks in 1945. According to the research report, the right orbit retained some soft tissue. There is also a wooden image of Masamune in the temple Zuiganji, Matsushima, made in 1652 at his wife Megohime's instructions. This statue has a right eye, though it is smaller than his left one. [1] Archived 2012-05-30 at
  4. ^ [2] Archived 2014-07-10 at the Wayback Machine Some writers refer to this episode as a turning point for Masamune, such as Masashi Hosaka in Garyu-no-ten, ISBN 978-4-396-63290-8.
  5. ^ Ken-ichi Sato, Date Masamune Nazotoki-sanpo, ISBN 978-4-046-00177-1
  6. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. London: Cassell & Co. p. 236-237. ISBN 9781854095237.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "高子沼", Wikipedia (in Japanese), 2017-09-12, retrieved 2019-01-04
  9. ^ a b "岩出山城跡" (in Japanese). Osaki city official. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  10. ^ "その時歴史が動いた". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
  11. ^ ja:五郎八姫. She had to divorce with her husband Matsudaira Tadateru, who was exiled for his defiant attitude toward his father Ieyasu Tokugawa. After this separation, Irohahime never remarried though her parents, Masamune and Megohime suggested a remarriage. Some historians thought that her attitude was due to her faith.
  12. ^ "小浜城跡" (in Japanese). 二本松観光協会official. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  13. ^ "会津若松城跡" (in Japanese). 一般財団法人 会津若松観光ビューロー. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  14. ^ "若林城跡" (in Japanese). Senfai city official. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  15. ^ "YouTube". Retrieved 2019-01-04.
  16. ^ 秀吉. Osaka Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  17. ^ 政宗. Osaka Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2012-09-08.

Further readingEdit

  • Kobayashi Seiji 小林清治. Date Masamune 伊達政宗. Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan 吉川弘文館, 1959.
  • Meriwether, Colyer. (1893). "Life of Date Masamune," Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Vol. XXI.
  • Owada Tetsuo 小和田哲男. Date Masamune: shiden 伊達政宗: 史伝. Tokyo: Gakken 学研, 2000.
  • Ken-ichi Sato 佐藤憲一. Date Masamune's letters 伊達政宗の手紙. Tokyo: Sinchosensho 新潮選書, 1995.
  • Zelia Nuttall (1906). "The earliest historical relations between Mexico and Japan".

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Daimyō of Sendai
Succeeded by
Date Tadamune