Lifespan: Eiroku 11 (1568) to 6/4 of Shōhō 3 (1646)
Title: Governor of Awa
Lord: Date Terumune → Date Masamune → Date Tadamune
Father: Date Sanemoto
Mother: Shōseiin (second daughter of Date Harumune)
Wife: [Formal] Watari Gozen (eldest daughter of Watari Shigemune); [Second Wife] Iwaki Gozen (daughter of Nikaidō Moriyoshi)
Children: 小僧丸 (daughter), Munezane (adopted from the ninth son of Date Masamune)
Date Shigezane served as a bushō from the late Sengoku to early Edo periods. Shigezane was a senior retainer of Date Masamune and the first head of the Sendai han, or domain, in the Edo period. He further served as the founder of the Watari-Date family as secondary members of the Sendai domain. His father was Date Sanemoto and mother was the daughter of Date Harumune, the older brother of Sanemoto.
In 1568, Shigezane was born as the eldest son of Date Sanemoto, the lord of Ōmori Castle in the Shinobu District of Mutsu Province. During his youth, he studied under a priest of the Jishū sect of Buddhism named Ryōzan Oshō (the abbot of the Sennen Temple in the village of Awano in the Date District). In 1579, Shigezane attended his coming-of-age ceremony at Ōmori Castle with Date Terumune having the honor of crowning Shigezane. In 1583, he became the head of the family and lord of Ōmori Castle, carrying responsibility to keep control over the southern portions of the Date territory.
In 1585, at the Battle of Hitotoribashi, Shigezane fought valiantly in the midst of a rout of the Date forces and enabled Date Masamune to escape. On 9/13 of Tenshō 14 (1586), Shigezane moved from Ōmori Castle to Nihonmatsu Castle after its capture by Masamune. In lieu of his former fief comprised of the Shinobu and Date districts, Shigezane received a fief of approximately 38,000 koku in the Adachi District. In the twelfth month, he wed the eldest daughter of Watari Shigemune. As a central figure in the Date army, Shigezane achieved meritorious results in battle on numerous occasions. In 1588, in the Kōriyama Conflict, Shigezane and a small battalion valiantly defended against an invasion of the Date territory by Ashina Yoshihiro for two months. Shigezane then lured Ōuchi Sadatsuna and his associate, Katahira Chikatsuna, to return to the service of the Date. In 1589, at the Battle of Suriagehara, Shigezane assaulted the enemy forces from the flank, reversing a position of weakness in the early stages of the battle.
In the fifth month of 1590, when Masamune deployed for the Conquest of Odawara led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Shigezane stayed behind to protect Kurogawa Castle. Toward the end of the year, he also joined in the suppression of a revolt by provincial clans known as the Kasai-Ōsaki Uprising. This event was triggered after Hideyoshi removed certain clans from power in connection with a campaign to subjugate the Ou region (Mutsu and Dewa provinces) known as the Oushū Retribution. After Hideyoshi learned of incitement of the uprisings, he ordered Masamune to go to the capital of Kyōto, while Shigezane and Kokubun Morishige entered Myō Temple as hostages of Gamō Ujisato. In 1591, accompanying Masamune’s transfer to Iwadeyama Castle, Shigezane was awarded sixteen villages in the Igu District and one village in the Shibata District which were in the former territory of Tade Munezane, the lord of Tsunoda Castle, whereupon Shigezane relocated from Nihonmatsu Castle to Tsunoda. In 1592, Shigezane participated in the Bunroku Campaign, an expedition by Hideyoshi on the Korean Peninsula. After returning from overseas, Shigezane followed orders from Masamune to be stationed at the Date residence in Fushimi. On 6/4 of Bunroku 4 (1595), his formal wife, Watari-Gozen, died of illness in Fushimi. On 8/24 of Bunroku 4 (1595), Shigezane was the second person after Ishikawa Yoshimune to sign a pledge by a group of retainers residing in Kyōto in regard to the Hidetsugu Incident. In this event, Toyotomi Hidetsugu (the eldest son of Hideyoshi’s older sister) committed seppuku on Mount Kōya. The reason for this outcome is not certain, but may have been ordered by Hideyoshi upon suspicion that Hidetsugu was plotting a rebellion.
Absconding from the clan
After the Hidetsugu Incident, Shigezane suddenly absconded from the Date family in Fushimi and, upon orders of Masamune, was seized at Tsunoda Castle by Yashiro Kageyori who had been stationed to defend Iwadeyama Castle. Alternatively, Kageyori may have stormed Tsunoda Castle upon hearing the news from a retainer of Shigezane named Shiranezawa Shigetsuna. Over thirty retainers of Shigezane who resisted, including Haneda Sanekage, died in the ensuing battle, while Shigezane’s group of retainers was broken up. However, there are many uncertainties regarding this event. First, theories regarding the year in which Shigezane absconded range from the autumn of 1595 to 1598. Second, his destination was either Mount Kōya or Kasuya in Sagami Province. Third, as to the reasons for Shigezane to abscond, either (i) he was in the second seat in the family after the Ishikawa clan, and dissatisfied with his compensation, or (ii) to avoid guilt by association with Masamune as to involvement in the Hidetsugu Incident, he bore the suspicion and entered into seclusion, or (iii) he absconded upon orders of Masamune to carry out a secret plan.
In 1600, upon the outbreak of the Battle of Sekigahara, Uesugi Kagekatsu offered Shigezane a fief of 50,000 koku in exchange for serving as his retainer, but Shigezane refused on the grounds that he did not intend to serve a family that originated from retainers. During his time away from the clan, Shigezane also received (via Ōkubo Tadachika) an offer from Tokugawa Ieyasu, but the discussions fell apart owing to a serious punishment from Masamune known as hōkō-kamae preventing him from future service without the consent of his former lord. In the seventh month of the same year, Shigezane was persuaded by Date Masakage and Katakura Kagetsuna to return to the service of the Date. Shigezane is also said to have joined the army of Ishikawa Akimitsu in an assault on Shiroishi Castle in the Katta District of Mutsu in the summer of 1600.
Role as head of the Watari-Date family
On 12/30 of Keichō 7 (1602), Shigezane entered the stronghold of Watari Castle in place of Katakura Kagetsuna who had moved to Shiroishi Castle. Shigezane was granted twenty-three villages in the Watari District and a fief of 611 kan, 356 mon (5,095 koku).
After returning to the clan, Shigezane served in numerous important capacities. In 1606, Shigezane announced the news of the engagement of Masamune’s daughter (Iroha-hime) and the sixth son of Tokugawa Ieyasu (Matsudaira Tadateru), while from 1614 to 1615, he joined in the Siege of Ōsaka. In 1622, he aided the seizure of Nobesawa Castle arising from the demotion of the Mogami clan. After the death of Masamune in the summer of 1636, Shigezane continued to wield influence as a clan elder under Date Tadamune, the second head of the domain. In 1638, Shigezane traveled to Edo as the representative of Tadamune to express their gratitude to the Edo bakufu for a loan of 5,000 kan of silver to cover expenses associated with a flood in their domain the prior year. At the banquet, Shigezane was requested to share war stories from the Ōu region. As Shigezane shared his experience at the Battle of Hitotoribashi, he was overheard by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the shōgun, separated by a bamboo blind, for which Iemitsu noted he was deeply impressed by the account.
While performing these diplomatic duties, Shigezane also vigorously promoted the reconstruction and development of his territory. In the agricultural domain, he made improvements to irrigation facilities by completely restoring the former Iwajizō channels from the twelfth century, and built the Hatohara channels running from a dam in Higashiosaka in the Igu District to Hadeniwa in the Watari District. To make use of shore land that was not suitable for cultivation, he invited technicians from Futawatashi-hama in the Oshika District and created salt farms in four locations around Lake Torinoumi (Toriyazaki-hama, Hakaone-tahama, Nagatoro-hama, and Ōhata-hama). Later, after his fief was increased by ten villages in the Uda District equivalent to 200 kan, he opened two additional salt farms on the Niinumaura shore (Imaizumi-hama and Imakami-hama)
In 1644, the Kanei General Land Survey resulted in the reallocation of landholdings which placed an upper limit of 2,000 kan (20,000 koku) per family. The amount of the Watari landholding was computed to have reached almost twice the amount originally granted. Consequently, a portion of the land was reallocated to the bakufu. In total, twenty-three villages in the Watari District, ten villages in the Uda District, one village in the Igu District, and two villages in the Isawa District accounted for 2,000 kan. Owing to the implementation of these policies in this era, even after his death, the development of new areas steadily continued so that, ultimately, the Watari-Date attained landholdings in the amount of 2,435 kan, 302 mon (24,353 koku).
On 2/9 of Shōhō 3 (1646), Shigezane transferred his role as head of the family to his adopted heir, Date Munezane, and died that summer at the age of seventy-nine.
Personal qualities and anecdotes
Shigezane had a motif on his helmet in the form of a caterpillar. This was to convey the lesson that caterpillars never pull back.
After the Battle of Hitotoribashi, while staying at Shibukawa Castle, a servant mistakenly set alight a box of gunpowder intended for use in arquebuses, causing the castle to burn down. During this fire, Shigezane suffered severe burns to all of the fingers on his right hand, which remained for the rest of his life.
After returning to service, Shigezane maintained friendly relations with Masamune, as revealed in a letter written by Masamune to Shigezane stating that he did not have a particular reason, but had not met him for a while, so decided to write the letter.