Date Masamune

date masamune

Date Masamune

Heir to a long line of well-known powerful Daimyos in the Tohoku region, Date Masamune was the eldest among the sons of Date Terumune. His father was known as the lord ruling the Rikuzen area in Mutsu.

During his childhood, he went by the name Botenmaru yet in the year 1578, he was given the name Tojirou Masamune. Masamune was married to the daughter of Tamura Kiyoaki.

He also aided his father in conquering the Souma family. He was able to stand as the head of his clan when his father retired in 1584.

Date Masamune was the founder of the modern-day city of Sendai and was dubbed as the One-Eyed Dragon of Oshu. Date Masamune, Japan’s regional ruler, has inspired a lot of period Japanese dramas due to his persona as both a warrior and leader.

A popular actor named Watanabe Ken played the part of Masamune in the 1987 NHK series Dokuganryu Masamune.

Date Masamune – A Cut above the Rest

Date Masamune stands out from the other Daimyos of his time because of who he is character. His signature crescent-shaped moon bearing helmet appeared rather intimidating, thus, brought fear to his enemies.

He was given the name One-Eyed Dragon after suffering from smallpox as a child. The disease caused him to lose his right eye.

There was even a legend that it was he who plucked the eye out when another senior member of his clan pointed out that an enemy could grab it in a fight. Another claim states that Masamune had one of his trusted retainers pluck his eye out.

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The Date Clan

Date Masamune’s clan developed alliances with its neighboring clans by marriages. These episodes of fighting remained commonplace that it was simply something that takes place every now and then.

After his father died, he suffered when a Date retainer named Ouchi Sadatsuna defected to the Ashina of the Aizu region. As a result, Masamune declared war on the Ashina clan.

Iwashiro Morikuni, an Ashina general, was able to stop Masamune’s army, yet after a few months, he was able to get his revenge.


One of the Ashina allies named Hatakeyama Yoshitsugu chose to surrender to Date Masamune. He accepted the surrender but under the condition of giving up most of their territory to the Date.

The enemy did not take this lightly and kidnapped Masamune’s father, Terumune, during the meeting at Miyamori Castle. This incident caused the death of both Terumune and Yoshitsugu since the feeling of the Hatakeyama unit clashed with the troops of Date. They specifically battled close to the Abukuma River.

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Battles Fought By Date Masamune

Date fought against his neighbors which resulted in the Battle of Hitotoribashi in 1585. This was after defeating the Ashina during the Battle of Suriagehara. Date Masamune made Aizu as the base for his operations.

In the year 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took hold of Odawara Castle and urged the Daimyos of the Tohoku region to join in his campaign. Hideyoshi was the virtual ruler of Japan during that time, so Date really did not have a choice in the matter.

However, he delayed his response and did not give in to these demands immediately. This infuriated Hideyoshi, so when he had Masamune called, the man expected his execution.

With that, Date Masamune wore his finest clothes and showed no fear when he faced Hideyoshi which piqued the interest of the lord. With that, he spared Masamune’s life and stated that he could be of some use.

Later on, he served under Hideyoshi and was given Iwatesawa and its surrounding lands; this was made into Masamune’s home domain.

Lord of His Domain

When Masamune moved into Iwatesawa, he rebuilt the castle and named this Iwadeyama. He also builds a town on the base of his castle. Date Masamune was able to stay at Iwadeyama for 13 years, turning the region into a major political and economic center.

To show his appreciation to Hideyoshi, he served and fought with distinction in the Korean invasions. After Hideyoshi’s death, Date supported Toguawa Ieyasu through the advice of Katakura Kojuro.

Date Masamune Under Tokugawa Ieyasu

As a loyal warrior who served under Tokugawa Ieyasu, he was given Sendai as a domain. This made Masamune one of Japan’s most compelling Daimyos of his time. The new domain also provided him with a huge amount of profit.

Eventually, Masamune left Iwadeyama to his son, Date Muneyasu, and moved to the small village of Sendai together with 52,000 of his vassals and their families. He saw potential in this little fishing village, which he eventually turned into a huge and prosperous city.

Date Masamune Reckless Nature

Even if Date Masamune was a patron of the arts and has supported foreign causes, he was at the same time an ambitious, aggressive, and hot-headed Daimyo.

When he first took over the clan, he suffered a couple of losses from influential and powerful clans such as the Ashina. These defeats were assumed to be due to his recklessness.

Date Masamune
shikabane taro [Public domain]

Loyalist to a Fault

Even if Date Masamune was always a victim of suspicions from that of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and later on under Tokugawa Ieyasu; he remains faithful.

Under the leadership of a faithless Hideyoshi, Date was able to take part in the campaigns in Korea as well as Hideyoshi’s Osaka campaigns. Before Tokugawa Ieyasu died, Masamune visited him to read Zen themed poetry.

Contributions to Developments

Masamune was able to broaden trade even in a remote place like the Tohoku region. In this area, he was able to defeat and rule one of the largest fiefs of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

He built a lot of palaces and worked on different projects to improve the beauty of the region. Not only that, but Masamune was one of the leaders who did not mind encouraging foreigners to visit his land.

Among his most notable acts was sending an envoy to establish a relationship with the Pope in Rome.

Date Masamune’s Change of Heart

It was Tokugawa Ieyasu that first outlawed Christianity. Even if the Date was not in favor of this, he allowed his lord to persecute Christians that were under his domain. Despite this, there were claims mentioning that Masamune’s eldest daughter named Irohahime, was a Christian.

There may be some truth to this claim since when it was time to rule his land, Masamune showed congeniality for Christian missionaries and traders in Japan. By this period, he allowed the missionaries to preach in his province.

He even released one of the prisoners named Padre Sotelo from Tokugawa Ieyasu. Not only that, but he allowed Sotelo, as well as other missionaries, to perform conversions to Christianity even to those who were under him.

Expanding the Horizon By Date Masamune

Date Masamune was an advanced thinker. He thought of the benefits when it came to funding far-flung explorations out of Japan. He even built an exploration ship that he referred to as Date Maru; it was also called the San Juan Bautista.

He adopted the use of European shipbuilding techniques to create this, then utilized the ship for a successful voyage to establish relations and a link to the Pope in Rome. The expedition visited numerous places like the Philippines, Rome, Spain, and Mexico.

Previously, other Japanese lords have never funded such an endeavor, so it is possible that this was the first successful voyage. About five members of this expedition chose to stay in Coria, Spain to avoid the persecution of Christians during that time in Japan.

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Inspiration for Popular Culture

Although he really did use this in the past, Date Masamune is depicted as a warrior wearing a huge crescent moon-bearing helmet.

Pop culture exaggerates its size yet it was said that the original piece was quite big as well. He was a striking figure to behold even at age 15.

In professional wrestling, two wrestlers using the ring names Hideyoshi and Masamune fought together as a tag team called Sengoku.

For a certain video game, he was depicted as a very young warrior who fought using twin swords; later on, his appearance changed into a much older male who wielded a pair of pistols and a European-styled sword.

Towards the End of Date Masamune’s Life

It can be said that Date Masamune is one of Japan’s all-time greatest warriors. Having lost his one eye, as well as battling at a very young age makes him a really great warrior just like what was claimed in legends. Aside from battles, Masamune was said to have enjoyed cooking, considering it as one of his preferred hobbies and activities.

After spending most of his time on the battlefield, Masamune died at the age of 69. It cannot be denied that he was credited for being able to take a third of Japan during the time that he was the head of the Date clan.

Date Masamune A Powerful Leader

Date Masamune played an important role in Japanese history. He spends at least two tours of duty in Korea. He commanded an expedition that spanned the globe.

It is unheard of even in Japan that a warrior had the chance to present a sword to the Pope. Before his death, Masamune was able to see the last of the Warring States, and the new period of peace that ruled Japan for more than two hundred years.

He left behind more than just his memoirs of greatness in the battlefield; Date Masamune left behind a legacy that even future generations would never forget.