Lifespan: Eishō 10 (1513) to 5/19 of Tenshō 2 (1574)
Name Changes: Jirō-saburō (childhood) → Yukitsuna → Yukitaka (?) → Ittokusai (monk’s name)
Other Names: [Common] Gentazaemon, Danjō-no-jō, [Nickname] Seme-Danjō, Oni-Danjō
Lord: Unno Munetsuna → Uesugi Norimasa → Takeda Shingen
Father: Sanada Yorimasa (or, under another theory, Unno Munetsuna)
Mother: Daughter of Unno Munetsuna
Siblings: Tsunayoshi, Yukitsuna, Yazawa Yoritsuna, Tokida Takanaga, Kanbara Yukisada, Unno Yukikage, Hagiwara Tsunashige
Wife: [Formal] Kyōunin (younger sister of Kawara Takamasa)’ [Consort] Daughter of Haneo Yukiyasu
Children: Nobutsuna, Masateru, Masayuki, Nobutada, Kanai Takakatsu, Kiyoaki (?), daughter (wife of Nezu Shima-no-kami Nobutada), daughter (wife of Nagasaka Masakuni), daughter (wife of Tōyama Uma-no-suke)
Sanada Yukitsuna served as a bushō during the Sengoku period.
Yukitsuna was a kokujin, or provincial landowner, in Shinano Province and a retainer of the Takeda clan, the sengoku daimyō of Kai Province. Together with three of his sons, he is counted among the Twenty-Four Generals of the Takeda.
His childhood name was Jirō-Saburō and common name was Gentazaemon. After undergoing the rites of tonsure, he adopted the monk’s name of Ittokusai. In assorted genealogical charts, he is referred to as Yukitaka, but, in authenticated sources from the period, he is identified as Yukitsuna. Moreover, the character for “taka” does not appear in the names of any of his children. Therefore, he is surmised to have used the name of Yukitsuna until around 1562, and then adopted the name of Yukitaka in his later years. In one account, he is referred to as Ittokusai Yukitaka, and, given that the monk’s names are generally read based on their on reading, Yukitaka would have been pronounced Kōryū. For purposes of this profile, he is referred to primarily as Yukitsuna.
The Sanada descended from the well-known Unno clan of the Chiisagata District of Shinano. In the Battle of Unnotaira, the Unno clan lost their landholdings, but, after serving Takeda Harunobu following the invasion by the Takeda of Shinano, the clan recovered Sanadahon Castle (Matsuo Castle). Thereafter, the Unno clan served as proxies for the Takeda family in Shinano and, later, forged the foundation for the Sanada clan.
Yukitsuna was born as the son of either Unno Munetsuna, a gōzoku, or wealthy landowner, in the Chiisagata District of Shinano, or Munetsuna’s son-in-law, Sanada Yorimasa. With respect to his origins, there are many genealogies and theories, and, although records are scant, the Sanada clan itself existed prior to Yukitsuna so there is a theory that Yorimasa was the brother-in-law of Munetsuna as well as that Yukitsuna was the natural son of Munetsuna later adopted by Yorimasa. In any case, the details are not certain.
Exile to Kōzuke Province
The Kai-Takeda proceeded to unify Kai Province under their control in their capacity as military governors of the province and then began advancing into Shinano Province. In 1541, Takeda Nobutora, along with allies – Suwa Yorishige from the Suwa District of Shinano and Murakami Yoshikiyo from the Chiisagata District of Shinano – invaded the Chiisagata and Saku districts of Shinano. On 5/23, at the Battle of Unnotaira, the Unno family was defeated and went into exile in Kōzuke Province. Although there are no historical records indicating that Yukitsuna participated in this battle, he fled to Kōzuke through the assistance of Nagano Narimasa, the lord of Minowa Castle in Kōzuke.
On 6/14 of Tenbun 10 (1541), after Takeda Nobutora returned to Kai Province from the Battle of Unnotaira, he was ousted to Suruga by his eldest son, Takeda Harunobu (later known as Takeda Shingen) whereupon Harunobu took-over headship of the Kai-Takeda clan. In 1542, Harunobu reconciled on his own with Uesugi Norimasa, the deputy shōgun of the Kantō and, after eliminating Suwa Yorishige with whom territory had been allocated, recommenced earnest invasions of the Saku and Chiisagata districts.
Recovery of former territory
Yukitsuna returned to the service of the Takeda clan in the era of Harunobu, but there are assorted theories in regard to the timing of his return. According to one account, Yukitsuna lured to the side of the Takeda some of the members of the Mochizuki clan who had continued resistance in the Saku District. Based on another source from the Edo period, in 1548, Yukitsuna participated in the Battle of Uedahara in the division wing of Itagaki Nobukata. According to accounts of the Sanada family compiled in the Edo period, there is a story that Yukitsuna was recommended in 1544 by Yamamoto Kansuke, a commander of the ashigaru, or lightly armed foot soldiers, in the Takeda army. Other sources point to 1545 or 1546. During his initial service in the military, it is surmised that he led a battalion of ten mounted soldiers with 300 to 400 troops in total. Owing to his achievements, in later years, he may have commanded as many as 200 mounted soldiers.
Suwa Goryōnin was a consort of Takeda Harunobu adopted by Nezu Motonao after the demise of the Suwa clan. The Nezu were members of the Shigeno, a clan of influence in the Chiisagata District. Through this connection, there is a theory that the Nezu clan recommended Yukitsuna in 1543. Meanwhile, in parallel with the invasion by the Takeda of the Saku District, the Gohōjō of Sagami invaded the Kantō. In the fourth month of 1546, in the Nighttime Attack on Kawagoe, the Uesugi forces led by Uesugi Norimasa (the deputy shōgun of the Kantō) were expelled from Kōzuke Province, so Yukitsuna may have returned to serve the Takeda in 1546. Or, in the wake of a defeat at the Battle of Uedahara in 1548, Yukitsuna may have responded to a solicitation from Harunobu who sought capable bushō to oppose Murakami Yoshikiyo or else Yukitsuna offered his services to Harunobu around this time.
Service for the Takeda clan
After pledging allegiance to the Takeda clan, Yukitsuna served as a member of the senpōshū, or advance guard; of the Takeda in Shinano. He solicited members of the Mochizuki clan (who were aligned with Murakami Yoshikiyo) to collude. In the seventh month of 1550, he was promised a fief in Suwa in the Chiisagata District. The attack on Toishi Castle in the ninth month was said to have occurred at the request of Yukitsuna. During the assault against Toishi Castle, Yukitsuna lured members of the Kiyono and Terao clans to betray the Murakami but, in an event known as the Collapse at Toishi, suffered a major defeat.
In 1551, Toishi Castle was subject to another assault, and, through the efforts of Yukitsuna to persuade defenders to collude, on 5/26 of Tenbun 20 (1551), the castle fell in just one day.
In 1553, after Murakami Yoshikiyo lost Katsurao Castle and fled to Echigo Province, Yukitsuna fully recovered his former territory. Yoshikiyo relied upon Nagao Kagetora (later known as Uesugi Kenshin) of Echigo to contest control of Shinano against the Takeda of Kai. This escalated into the Battle of Kawanakajima. Yukitsuna served on the front lines of the Nagao (Uesugi) clan against the Takeda while continuing to operate from Sanadahon Castle as well as guarding Toishi Castle.
Around this time, after advancing into the Kantō, the Hōjō clan confronted Nagao Kagetora who protected Uesugi Norimasa in Kōzuke Province. In 1554, based on the Three-Way Alliance between Kai, Sagami, and Suruga Provinces, Yukitsuna received a request from Hōjō Ujiyasu to deploy to his base in the Agatsuma District. This may have been in connection with Ujiyasu’s war plans with respect to the Kantō including the Invasion of Western Kōzuke beginning in 1561.
On 9/8 of Kōji 2 (1556), Yukitsuna captured Higashi-Amakazari Castle in the Hanishina District and, together with Oyamada Toramitsu (Bitchū-no-kami), served as chamberlains of the castle.
In 1559, after Takeda Harunobu entered the priesthood and adopted the name of Takeda Shingen, Yukitsuna shaved his head and adopted the monk’s name of Ittokusai.
In 1561, at the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima, Yukitsuna joined his eldest son, Sanada Nobutsuna, to launch a nighttime attack against the main base of the Uesugi on Mount Saijo. After the Battle of Kawanakajima, Takeda Shingen commenced the Invasion of Western Kōzuke. Meanwhile, the Kanbara and Haneo clans were involved in a territorial dispute in the Agatsuma District that was brought to the Takeda clan. Both clans were associated with the Sanada family, so Yukitsuna engaged in mediation. In 1563, Yukitsuna captured the base of the Saitō clan (who were aligned with the Uesugi who, in turn, supported the Haneo clan) at Iwabitsu Castle, in 1565, Takeyama Castle, and, in 1567, Shiroi Castle. According to recent research, there is also a period during which Yukitsuna, together with his eldest son, Sanada Nobutsuna, served as the chamberlain of Minowa Castle, the base of the Takeda clan for the conquest of Kōzuke Province. This would have been consistent with the assignment of hereditary retainers.
In 1567, owing to illness, Yukitsuna transferred headship of the clan to Nobutsuna and retired. As a result. notwithstanding the Invasion of Suruga and the Western Campaign by Takeda Shingen of the Kai-Takeda, Yukitsuna was primarily active holding down Kōzuke and the northern part of Shinano province.
On 5/19 of Tenshō 2 (1574), Yukitsuna died of illness at Toishi Castle. He was sixty-two years old. His grave is at the Chōkoku Temple affiliated with the Sōtō sect of Buddhism in the town of Sanada in the city of Ueda in Nagano Prefecture. His portrait is kept at the Chōkoku Temple in the town of Matsushiro in the city of Nagano in Nagano Prefecture.