First Battle of Ueda


Tokugawa Clan

Shinano Province

Sanada Clan

Date:  Tenshō 13 (1585)

Location:  Ueda Castle, Maruko Castle, and the environs of the Kan River (Kangawa) in eastern Shinano Province

Synopsis:  In the aftermath of the fall of the Takeda clan and the demise of Oda Nobunaga in 1582, multiple powers including the Tokugawa, the Hōjō, and the Uesugi, sought to expand their territories into Shinano Province.  After the Tokugawa and Hōjō agreed on a territorial exchange involving land controlled by the Sanada, Sanada Masayuki refused to comply, triggering an effort by Tokugawa Ieyasu to subdue the Sanada which ultimately failed.

Tokugawa Ieyasu

Sanada Masayuki

Lord:  Tokugawa Ieyasu

Commanders:  Torii Mototada, Ōkubo Tadayo, Hiraiwa Chikayoshi

Forces:  7,845

Losses:  1,300 (or 300 under another theory)

Lord:  Sanada Masayuki

Commanders:  Sanada Nobuyuki, Suda Mitsuchika, Maruko Sanzaemon, retainers of the Uesugi

Forces:  2,000 (including reinforcements from the Uesugi)

Losses:  21 to 40

The First Battle of Ueda occurred in Tenshō 13 (1585) in Shinano Province and was waged between the Tokugawa army and the Sanada army with reinforcements from the Uesugi army.


The Battle of Ueda is a general title for battles between the Tokugawa and the Sanada that occurred at Ueda Castle in Shinano Province, at nearby mountain castles, and the environs of the Kan River (Kangawa) that ran north to south in the eastern portion of the town of Ueda.  The Tokugawa and Sanada clans clashed on two occasions in this area, with the First Battle of Ueda in 1585 and the Second Battle of Ueda in 1600.

Ueda was in the Chiisagata District of eastern Shinano.  Dating back to before the construction of Ueda Castle, this border area between the territories of the Takeda, the Uesugi, and the Gohōjō clans was unstable.  After pacifying Numata and the Agatsuma District of Kōzuke Province, Sanada Masayuki, operating under the command of the Takeda clan, pacified the Chiisagata District of Shinano and built Ueda Castle.

This battle is also referred to as the Siege of Ueda Castle or Battle of Ueda Castle because, during the conflict, Masayuki primarily holed-up in Ueda Castle.  In addition to the battle at Ueda Castle, however, clashes occurred at Toishi Castle, Maruko Castle, and other castles in the mountains of the Chiisagata District of Shinano, so it is more accurate to refer to these events as the Battle of Ueda.

Course of events

In the third month of 1582, as a result of the Conquest of Kōshū by Oda Nobunaga, the Takeda clan was eliminated.  The territory of the Takeda clan in Kai, Shinano, and Kōzuke provinces was allocated among retainers of the Oda while kokujin, or provincial landowners, in Shinano who were former retainers of the Takeda came under the command of the Oda.  On 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), Nobunaga unexpectedly died in a coup d’état known as the Honnō Temple Incident.  Despite having been on friendly terms with the Oda clan, Hōjō Ujinao and his uncle, Hōjō Ujikuni, led 43,000 soldiers to invade territory held by the Oda in Kōzuke Province.  At the Battle of Kannagawa, this army defeated an opposing army of 20,000 troops led by Takigawa Kazumasu (who aimed to become the deputy shōgun of the Kantō for the Oda administration).  Kazumasa fled in defeat to his main base in Ise Province.

Around this time, Kawajiri Hidetaka of Kai, a senior retainer of the Oda, was killed in an uprising by kokujin, while Mori Nagayoshi of northern Shinano withdrew to his former territory in Mino.  After Mōri Hideyori of southern Shinano withdrew to Owari, the Oda territory in Shinano, Kai, and Kōzuke became a vacuum, subject to invasion by neighboring powers including Uesugi Kagekatsu of Echigo, Hōjō Ujinao of Sagami, and Tokugawa Ieyasu of Mikawa.  In the wake of Nobunaga’s demise, the Tenshō-Jingo War from the sixth to tenth months of Tenshō 10 (1582) arose from contests for control of the territory of the Oda clan.

After suppressing Kai, Tokugawa Ieyasu invaded southern Shinano, the Uesugi clan invaded northern Shinano, and the Hōjō traversed the Usui Pass from Kōzuke to invade eastern Shinano.  At this time, Sanada Masayuki, who had influence from eastern Shinano to western Kōzuke, affiliated with the Hōjō clan but, through the devices of the Yoda clan, who were aligned with the Tokugawa, he abandoned the Hōjō.

In the tenth month, after a reconciliation between the Tokugawa and the Hōjō, as a condition of the settlement, the Tokugawa exchanged the Numata territory in Kōzuke controlled by the Sanada (who were under the command of the Tokugawa) for the Saku District in Shinano controlled by the Hōjō.

From 1583, Masayuki commenced the construction of Ueda Castle and quarreled with the Hōjō clan in regard to the territories of Numata and Agatsuma.

In 1585, after arriving at a base in Kai, Ieyasu demanded that Masayuki turn-over the Numata territory to the Hōjō clan, but Masayuki refused on the basis that the territory was not granted to him by the Tokugawa.  He then colluded with the Uesugi clan, an enemy of the Tokugawa.  In the seventh month, Ieyasu returned to Hamamatsu and learned of Masayuki’s act of betrayal.  In the eighth month, Ieyasu took action to subdue the Sanada, dispatching approximately 7,000 soldiers led by Torii Mototada, Ōkubo Tadayo, and Hiraiwa Chikayoshi to the base of the Sanada clan at Ueda Castle.

The Tokugawa army marched from Suwa in Kai to the main Hokkoku Road, building up forces in Ueda Basin in the environs of the Kokubun Temple in Shinano.  Meanwhile, the Sanada had 1,200 troops.  Masayuki holed-up in Ueda Castle while his eldest son, Nobuyuki, holed-up in the outlying stronghold of Toishi Castle.  Masayuki’s cousin, Yazawa Yoriyasu, along with reinforcements from the Uesugi, holed-up in another outlying fortress known as Yazawa Castle.

On 8/2 of Tenshō 13 (1585), Tokugawa forces clashed with the Sanada army near the Kan River (Kangawa) but were repelled.  Under another account, the Tokugawa assaulted Ueda Castle, penetrating to the outer citadel, but retreated in the face of a counterattack by the defenders.  During the retreat, the Tokugawa were pursued by the Sanada forces while Nobuyuki led an attack from the flank, causing the forces to finally fall apart.  Yazawa forces further joined in the clashes, with many commanders and troops from the Tokugawa drowning in the Kan River.  By exploiting their knowledge of the local terrain, the Sanada killed as many as 1,300 members of the Tokugawa army while losing only 40 troops of their own.

The next day, the Tokugawa forces turned their attention to neighboring Maruko Castle held by the Maruko clan, a minor gōzuku, or wealthy family, allied with the Sanada (who later served the Sanada).  The Tokugawa set-up a camp Yaehara to the east of Maruko Castle.  Masayuki went to Teshiozuka to counter them.  On 8/19, Suwa Yoritada commenced an assault on Maruko Castle.  The castle was defended by Maruko Sanzaemon with a small garrison.   On 8/20, Masayuki went to Nagasekawahara and assaulted the Suwa army from behind with arquebus fire.  A retainer of the Tokugawa named Okabe Nagamori responded by dividing the forces into three units to mount an attack, setting fire to the town of Kawahara and repelling the Sanada army.  His unit then attacked Maruko Castle.  Owing, however, to stiff resistance by the defenders, the Tokugawa forces were unable to capture the castle.  This event is known as the Battle of Maruko-omote.  After this battle, Ieyasu gave letters of commendation to seventeen subordinates, suggesting that it was a robust battle.

Thereafter, the opposing armies engaged in a stand-off for twenty days.  Upon hearing of skirmishes with increasing numbers of Uesugi reinforcements, Ieyasu sent 5,000 troops under Ii Naomasa, Ōsuga Yasutaka, and Matsudaira Yasushige in addition to ordering a temporary withdrawal.  On 8/28, the Tokugawa forces obeyed orders by pulling back from Ueda.

Ōkubo Tadayo and other bushō stayed in Komoro Castle, engaging repeatedly in small-scale clashes against the Sanada forces, but, in the eleventh month, after a hereditary senior retainer named Ishikawa Kazumasa absconded to the Toyotomi family, the forces completely withdrew.


References to this battle appear in historical accounts from the Sanada and Tokugawa families.  Masayuki was recognized for his ingenuity in this battle which earned the respect of Tokugawa Ieyasu.  As a result, the daughter of a senior retainer of the Tokugawa named Honda Tadakatsu, Komatsuhime, was wed to Masayuki’s eldest son, Sanada Nobuyuki, as a political marriage to forge relations between the Tokugawa and Sanada clans.

Later, the Sanada served the Toyotomi administration.  By the time of the Battle of Ueda, the Sanada clan arose from being a small-scale landowner to a daimyō family, engaging in diplomacy with assorted powers and expanding their control to several districts in Shinano.

There is a depiction of the battle at Kamikawa at a municipal museum in the city of Ueda.

In connection with the Battle of Ueda, from the ninth month of 1585 to the fifth month of 1586, the Hōjō army launched several attacks against Numata Castle, but Yazawa Yoritsuna (Masayuki’s uncle and the chamberlain of the castle) succeeded in repelling them.