Imagawa Yoshimoto


Imagawa Clan

Suruga Province

Imagawa Yoshimoto

Lifespan:  Eishō 16 (1519) to 5/19 of Eiroku 3 (1560)

Name Changes:  Imagawa Hōkikumaru → Sengaku Shōhō → Imagawa Yoshimoto

Other Names:  Hikogorō (after the Hanakura Conflict), Jibu-no-tayū

Rank:  bushō, shugo daimyō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Vice Minister of Civil Affairs

Clan:  Imagawa (a branch of the Kira clan descended from the Ashikaga clan from the lineage of Minamoto no Yoshikuni of the Seiwa-Genji)

Bakufu:  Muromachi – Military governor of Suruga, Military governor of Tōtōmi

Lord:  Ashikaga Yoshiharu → Ashikaga Yoshiteru

Father:  Imagawa Ujichika

Mother:  Jukeini

Siblings:  Ujiteru, Hikogorō, Genkō Etan, Shōji Senjō, Yoshimoto, Ujitoyo, sister (wife of Kira Yoshitaka), Zuikei-in (wife of Hōjō Ujiyasu), sister (wife of Matsudaira Chikayoshi, later, wife of Udono Nagamochi), sister (wife of Naka-no-mikado Nobutsuna), sister (wife of Sena Ujitoshi), sister (wife of Sekiguchi Chikanaga), sister (wife of Ōtani Yoshihide)

Wife: [Formal] Jūkei-in (daughter of Takeda Nobutora), [Consort] Daughter of Ii Naohira

Children:  Ujizane, Ichiketsu Chōtoku, Reishōin (wife of Takeda Yoshinobu), Kōfukuin, daughter (wife of Mure Katsushige)

Imagawa Yoshimoto served as a bushō during the Sengoku period and as a shugo daimyō and sengoku daimyō of Suruga and Tōtōmi provinces.  He was the eleventh head of the Imagawa clan.  Owing to the marriages of his sisters, Yoshimoto became a brother-in-law of Takeda Shingen and Hōjō Ujiyasu.  Yoshimoto bore a nickname indicating he was the leading sengoku daimyō in the Tōkai region where he governed an expansive territory.

Yoshimoto created a system of subservient relationships known as yorioya-yoriko to provide social order to the residents of his territory and enable military reforms.  In the arena of military campaigns, he leveraged his abilities to promote the Imagawa to the status of a sengoku daimyō.  He expanded his territory to encompass Suruga, Tōtōmi, and portions of Mikawa and Owari provinces.  Despite ushering in the era of peak prosperity of the Imagawa clan, after invading Owari, Yoshimoto was killed by Mōri Shinsuke (Mōri Yoshikatsu) during a lightening attack by the Oda army at the Battle of Okehazama.


Internal rebellion and succession to the headship of the clan

In 1519, Yoshimoto was born as the third son of Imagawa Ujichika, a sengoku daimyō and the ninth head of the Imagawa clan of Suruga Province.  His mother, Jukeini, the daughter of Naka-no-mikado Nobutane, was the formal wife of his father.  Under an alternate theory, Yoshimoto was the child of a consort who, after the succession struggle known as the Hanakura Conflict in 1536, was adopted by Jukeini.  At the time of his birth, he had older brothers, Imagawa Ujiteru and Imagawa Hikogorō, from the same mother so, at the age of four, he was sent to a temple to enter the priesthood.  He was entrusted to Kinkei Shōshun of the Seko-Zentoku Temple in the Fuji District of Suruga Province.  In 1529, Shōshun died so his disciple, Kyōei Shōgiku (later known as Taigen Sessai) succeeded Shōshun to look after him.  Later, Yoshimoto, together with Sessai, entered the Kennin Temple and he entered the priesthood under the direction of Jōan Ryūsō and adopted the name of Sengaku Shōhō.  Along with Sessai, he studied under Daikyū Sōkyū at the Myōshin Temple in Kyōto to deepen his learning.

Upon orders of his eldest brother, Imagawa Ujiteru (the tenth head of the Imagawa clan), he returned from Kyōto to Suruga but Ujiteru suddenly died soon thereafter in 1536.  At this time, his older brother, Hikogorō, remained so Shōhō did not have rights of succession but Hikogorō died on the same day as Ujiteru so he was next in the line of succession.  Boosted by the fact that Shōhō, similar to Ujiteru and Hikogorō, was the son of Jukeini, he was invited by senior retainers to return to secular life, received one of the characters from the name of Ashikaga Yoshiharu, his lord and the supreme shōgun, and adopted the name of Yoshimoto.  Shōhō’s succession as the head of the clan was opposed by the Fukushima clan, powerful retainers of the Imagawa, leading to confusion.  After a while, the Fukushima clan backed Genkō Etan, Yoshimoto’s older brother from a different mother who came from the bloodline of the Fukushima, and launched a rebellion known as the Hanakura Conflict.  Afterwards, it is surmised that Yoshimoto used the common name of Hikogorō in an effort to justify his position as the successor to the clan.

The supporters of Etan pressed their offensive by attacking the Imagawa mansion but valiant fighting by the band of retainers backing Yoshimoto such as Taigen Sessai and Okabe Chikatsuna led to a fierce contest.  After Yoshimoto succeeded in efforts to garner support from the Gohōjō clan who held territory in Izu and Sagami provinces, Etan confronted an increasingly likely prospect of defeat.  Upon the fall of Hanakura Castle, Etan took his own life.  Having suppressed the rebellion and achieving his aim of succession, Yoshimoto became the head of the Imagawa clan.  He had retainers who expressed loyalty to him perform important roles as he devised a system of governance.

Achievements during his early period of governance

In the second month of 1537, Yoshimoto received as his formal wife Jōkei-in, the daughter of Takeda Nobutora, the military governor of Kai Province who, until the era of Ujiteru, had been in conflict with the Imagawa.  by this means, he established an alliance with the Takeda clan.  This is known as the Alliance between Kai and Suruga.  Although the alliance was formed to strengthen defenses from surrounding threats, in the end it stirred the anger of Hōjō Ujitsuna who assisted Yoshimoto during the succession struggle based on a pre-existing alliance between the Imagawa and Gohōjō known as the Alliance between Suruga and Sagami.  That same month, the Hōjō army invaded Yoshiwara in the Fuji District of Suruga in an event known as the First Battle of Katō.

Internal conflicts among the band of retainers in the aftermath of the Hanakura Conflict hampered the ability of the Imagawa army to organize, preventing them from mounting an effective counterattack to the Hōjō army so they lost the Katō area to the east of the Fuji River in Suruga.  Yoshimoto coordinated with reinforcements from the Takeda in a bid to recapture the territory but bushō in the faction opposed to Yoshimoto based in Tōtōmi including the Horikoshi and Ii clans who sided with Etan during the Hanakura Conflict defected from Yoshimoto so he found himself caught in-between a rebellion by some of his retainers and an invasion by the Hōjō army.  As a result, it appeared that the Katō area would continue to be occupied by the Hōjō clan for a long time.

Moreover, as though to unleash an additional blow against the Imagawa, in 1540, Oda Nobuhide of Owari Province launched an invasion of Mikawa Province.  Yoshimoto sent reinforcements to Mikawa and converged with the local army with the aim of engaging in a great showdown against the Oda army in 1542 but was defeated in the face of a violent attack.  This event is known as the First Battle of Azukizaka.  (Under one theory, this battle was a fabrication from later eras.)  In 1541, amidst indications of a counteroffensive by Uesugi Norimasa along with a protracted conflict with the Imagawa, Hōjō Ujitsuna died of illness.  He was then succeeded by Hōjō Ujiyasu as the head of the Hōjō clan.

On 5/25, Takeda Nobutora from Kai Province accompanied his lineal heir, Takeda Harunobu (later known as Takeda Shingen) and, together with Murakami Yoshikiyo and Suwa Yorishige of the Shinano Province, invaded the Saku District of Shinano in the Battle of Unnotaira.  Nobutora returned to Kai on 6/4 and then on 6/14 departed to Suruga via the sunshū-ōkan, a road connecting Kai and Suruga, for the purpose of visiting Yoshimoto.  Harunobu, however, blocked the road and launched a coup d’ètat, ousting his father as the head of the clan.  While harboring Nobutora, Yoshimoto maintained the alliance with the Takeda clan then led by Harunobu.  From 1544 to 1545, Harunobu fought against Takatō Yoritsugu at the Battle of Takatō in Shinano.  During this conflict, Yoshimoto dispatched reinforcements to the Takeda.

Amidst difficult circumstances, in 1545, Yoshimoto allied with Uesugi Norimasa (from the Yamanouchi-Uesugi who opposed Ujiyasu) and devised a plan for a pincer attack against the Hōjō.  This is known as the Second Battle of Katō.  The alliance between Yoshimoto and Norimasa caused the Hōjō army to split their forces between Katō and the Kantō region.  On 8/22, Yoshimoto, with reinforcements from the Takeda, invaded Katō while in the Kantō the two Uesugi families (the Yamanouchi-Uesugi led by Uesugi Norimasa and the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi led by Uesugi Tomosada) combined with Ashikaga Haruuji (the Koga kubō) and, with an army of 80,000 troops, surrounded Kawagoe Castle.  In the Katō area, the Imagawa army defeated the Hōjō army.  In the Kantō, the allied Uesugi army continued its siege of Kawagoe Castle so that the Hōjō army confronted a precarious situation caught in a pincer attack by the Imagawa army from the west and the allied Uesugi army from the east.  Facing a dilemma, Ujiyasu turned to Takeda Harunobu to mediate.  Following negotiations with Yoshimoto, a settlement was reached on the condition that the Katō area be returned to the Imagawa family.  The Imagawa thereby prevailed in their conflict with the Hōjō clan.  Having secured his western flank, Ujiyasu concentrated his forces in the direction of the Kantō enabling a turn of events and victory at the Siege of Kawagoe Castle.  Feelings of enmity persisted with respect to control of the Katō area, but as the Hōjō continued to focus on their offensive in the Kantō, the tensions gradually subsided.

Meanwhile, Matsudaira Hirotada of western Mikawa offered his allegiance to the Imagawa, sealed with a promise to send his lineal heir, Takechiyo (later known as Tokugawa Ieyasu), as a hostage to the Imagawa.  While this served as a bulwark against the Oda clan of Owari, Yoshimoto steadily worked to subordinate the Mikawa forces.  Toda Yasumitsu, a kokujin, or provincial landowner, and the lord of Tahara Castle in Mikawa who had the responsibility to escort Takechiyo betrayed the Imagawa and instead turned custody of Takechiyo over to rival Oda clan.  In this instance, Yasumitsu, the head of the main branch of the Toda family, launched a revolt after Yoshimoto extinguished the families of Toda Nobunari and Toda Yoshimitsu in the prior year.  Yoshimoto responded by throughly decimating the main branch of the Toda and assigned a powerful retainer, the Asahina clan, to the former base of the Toda at Tahara Castle.

Under a more recent interpretation, there was a battle between the allied forces of Matsudaira Hirotada and Toda Yasumitsu on one side and the allied forces of Imagawa Yoshimoto and Oda Nobuhide on the other side who intervened upon the urgent request of Matsudaira Nobutaka and Sakai Tadanao from a faction in the Matsudaira family opposed to Hirotada, the fourth head of the Anjō-Matsudaira family.  As a result, the Toda clan was destroyed by Yoshimoto while the Matsudaira clan lost Okazaki Castle to Nobuhide and by tendering Takechiyo as a hostage were pardoned.

In 1548, fearing the advance by Yoshimoto into Mikawa, Oda Nobuhide invaded but the Imagawa army commanded by Asahina Yasuyoshi (a hereditary senior retainer) along with Sessai serving as Yoshimoto’s military strategist achieved a major victory over the Oda army.  This is known as the Second Battle of Azukizaka.  By around this time, Matsudaira Hirotada, after decimating Matsudaira Nobutaka, affiliated with the Imagawa.

Territorial expansion

After the death of Matsudaira Hirotada in the third month of 1549, the absence of a head in the Matsudaira family provided an opportunity for Yoshimoto to attempt to bring western Mikawa under the control of the Imagawa.  Given that Hirotada’s lineal heir, Takechiyo, was a hostage of the Oda clan, Yoshimoto dispatched the Imagawa army in the direction of Okazaki.  After sending retainers to Okazaki Castle, the Imagawa occupied the territory of the Matsudaira while kokujin in Mikawa who were formerly under the Matsudaira were brought under the direct governance of the Imagawa.

Next, Yoshimoto captured Anjō Castle in the Hekikai District of Mikawa (which had been aligned with the Oda) and in substance expelled the Oda from Mikawa.  Consequently, the conflict with the Oda to the west that had persisted from the time that Yoshimoto inherited the Imagawa clan was concluded in favor of the Imagawa.  On this occasion, he captured Oda Nobuhiro, the commander of a castle and illegitimate eldest son of Nobuhide and exchanged him for Takechiyo.  By placing Takechiyo under his command, he steadily established a foothold to enable an advance into Owari.  In 1551, after the death of the Nobuhide, Yoshimoto further accelerated the offensive in Owari.

In 1553, Yoshimoto added Clause 21 to the set of laws (known as the Imagawa kana mokuroku) earlier established by his father, Ujichika, for the provinces governed by the Imagawa.  By this time, the Imagawa themselves, rather than the Ashikaga shōgun family, maintained order in their territory.  On this basis, he declared the abolition of areas in their territory designated by the Muromachi bakufu as off-limits to the Imagawa (in their capacity as the local military governor).  This marked an end to the relationship between the Imagawa and the bakufu founded on the status of the Imagawa as a shugo daimyō.  The declaration made clear that the Imagawa were not governing their territory as a shugo daimyō under the authority of the bakufu, but rather as a sengoku daimyō under their own authority.

In 1554, Yoshimoto’s lineal heir, Imagawa Ujizane wed Hayakawa-dono, the daughter of Hōjō Ujiyasu.  Yoshimoto arranged marital relationships with the Takeda and Hōjō clans serving as the basis for a three-way alliance between the Takeda, the Hōjō, and the Imagawa.  Also known as the Alliance of the Zentoku Temple, this helped address his concerns about the future.

In 1555, at the Second Battle of Kawanakajima, Yoshimoto mediated a settlement between Takeda Harunobu and Nagao Kagetora.  He then conducted land surveys of Suruga, Tōtōmi, and Mikawa.  Meanwhile, conflict with the Oda clan for control of Mikawa intensified.  This conflict along with grievances arising from the governance of the Imagawa provoked the Kira and Okudaira clans to rebel against the Imagawa.  This event is known as the Mikawa Discord.

In 1558, Yoshimoto had Matsudaira Motoyasu (who was under his command) attack Suzuki Shigenori at Terabe Castle in the Kamo District of Mikawa.

That same year, Yoshimoto transferred headship of the clan to Ujizane and retired.  Thereafter, documents issued in Suruga and Tōtōmi under the governance of the Imagawa were in the name of Ujizane.  Yoshimoto focused his attention on efforts to suppress resistance in Mikawa and manage the new territory.  Thereafter, he turned to an offensive in Owari to the west.


In the fifth month of 1560, Yoshimoto aimed for Nagoya Castle by commencing an invasion of Owari with an army of 20,000 soldiers from Suruga and Tōtōmi provinces.  In an effort to support those at Ōdaka Castle subject to a blockade by supporters of the Oda, Yoshimoto had Matsudaira Motoyasu topple fortresses in the environs of Ōdaka that were aligned with the Oda.  Viewing victory in a preliminary clash as a good omen, Yoshimoto moved the members of his main division who were on standby at Kutsukake Castle to Ōdaka Castle.  While resting along the route at Mount Okehazama in Owari, his forces incurred a surprise attack led by Oda Nobunaga.  This is known as the Battle of Okehazama.  In the midst of the chaos, Yoshimoto, together with Matsui Munenobu, fought valiantly.  First, he was charged by a retainer of the Oda named Hattori Koheita (Hattori Kazutada).  Yoshimoto warded him off by slashing his knee.  Next, a retainer of the Oda named Mōri Shinsuke (Mōri Yoshikatsu) killed Yoshimoto and took his head.  He used a treasured sword from the Nanbokuchō period known as the Yoshimoto-samonji which is kept to this day as an important cultural asset at the Take-Isao Shrine in Kyōto.  Yoshimoto was forty-two years old.

Thereafter, surviving troops attempted to transport his remains to Sunpu but, lacking a head, his body deteriorated more rapidly than anticipated so his remains were buried in the Hoi District of Mikawa.

The heads of fallen Imagawa soldiers were taken to Narumi Castle defended by a senior retainer of Yoshimoto named Okabe Motonobu.  Through negotiations with Nobunaga, it was agreed that if Motonobu vacated the castle then the heads would later be returned and he went on to Suruga.  Owing to the death in battle of Yoshimoto, Ujizane inherited the headship of the clan.  Matsudaira Motoyasu (later known as Tokugawa Ieyasu) took advantage of the ensuing chaos in the family to establish his independence in western Mikawa.  As though to follow his lead, in eastern Mikawa, the Toda and Saigō clans revolted against the Imagawa, switching their allegiance to the Matsudaira.  These convulsions in Mikawa were transmitted to neighboring Tōtōmi, triggering a flurry of unsubstantiated rumors giving rise to a pervasive atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust with residents unable to distinguish between friends and foes.  This is known as the Enshū Discord.  During this period of turmoil, the young Ujizane lacked the ability to garner the support of the retainers.  In an effort to resolve the situation, he purged Ii Naochika and Inoo Tsuratatsu, but this only served to hasten the revolt against the Imagawa, resulting in defections by more retainers (kokujin).  Having lost the support of many of the landowners, the Imagawa were no longer able to govern their territory.  The clan entered a period of rapid decline and, in 1569, Ujizane was ousted from Suruga and Tōtōmi by Takeda Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu, bringing to an end the Imagawa as a daimyō family.

After being expelled from Suruga, Ujizane sought refuge with the Hōjō family, the original home of his wife, Hayakawa-dono.  Following a revival of the alliance between the Takeda and the Hōjō, he became a retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu.  During the Edo period, the Imagawa clan served as retainers of the bakufu in the role of kōke-hatamoto – a role with responsibility for the conduct of ceremonial events.

Character and anecdotes

Yoshimoto entered the priesthood at an early age so, owing to a lack of opportunity to learn the military arts, he is deemed to have not been skilled in this regard.  Nevertheless, at the Battle of Okehazama, when a retainer of the Oda named Hattori Kazutada approached to cut him down, Yoshimoto drew his own sword and slashed Kazutada on the knee.  Next, when Mōri Yoshikatsu attempted to slay him, after a flurry of swings with their swords, there is an unsubstantiated story that he bit off one of Yoshikatsu’s fingers.  Nevertheless, his efforts at self-defense suggest he had some grounding in the military arts.

Yoshimoto was well-versed in the culture of the nobility, spending time with the nobles and monks from Kyōto.  He offered protection to nobles who fled from Kyōto and adopted the popular trends in the capital.  Along with the Ōuchi clan of Yamaguchi in Suō Province and the Asakura clan of Ichijōdani in Echizen Province, Yoshimoto cultivated one of the three great cultures of the Sengoku period.  Similar to other nobles, he painted his teeth black, had drawn eyebrows, and applied makeup, indulging in the tastes of the nobility.  Under an alternate theory, the story of his use of makeup was a fabrication of later eras.  Even if he did use makeup, among military families, this would have been permitted only by those at the level of a shugo daimyō or above so it was not a symbol of weakness.  There is a theory that the use of makeup by bushi heading into battle was not a rarity and was in fact one of their manners.

Yoshimoto’s father, Ujichika, received instructional input from Sanjōnishi Sanetaka, a noble, to compose waka, or traditional poetry.  Similarly, Yoshimoto received instruction directly from Reizei Tamekazu, a noble and poet, who was living a roaming life in Sunpu.  Poetry readings were regularly held on the thirteenth of each month and, later, on the eleventh.  At the time, the regular conduct of these readings was a rare occurrence anywhere in Japan.  Yoshimoto, however, did not appear to like renga, or linked-verse poetry, so there are almost no records of events held to recite renga.  The level of artistic skill for waka was not particularly high within the Imagawa family, resulting in numerous poems that were of comparable quality but different style including many works that did not form the onset reflect the themes of poetry contests.  Based on recorded accounts of strict guidance from Tamekazu, Yoshimoto himself was no exception.

In the authenticated biography of Oda Nobunaga known as the Shinchō-kōki, at the time of the Battle of Okehazama, Yoshimoto is described as being dressed as follows: “Along with his armor he wore a helmet with five tiered layers on the back side with a motif displaying eight gold dragons; he wore a red silk battle surcoat and carried a Matsukura Gō long sword (84 centimeters long) and a Daisamonji short sword (54 centimeters long) in his waistband riding atop a black horse with a saddle featuring gold trimmings and crimson saddle crupper.”

With respect to the invasion of Owari in 1560, under one theory Yoshimoto aimed to march to Kyōto and, under another theory, he sought to eliminate Oda Nobunaga and capture the province for the Imagawa.  There are no traces, however, of diplomatic maneuvers with respect to daimyō along the way, such as with the Azai, the Rokkaku, or the Kitabatake clans.  This undermines the theory that he was attempting to go to Kyōto with his whole army within the year.

In the wake of Yoshimoto’s death, when Okabe Motonobu transferred Narumi Castle to the Oda in exchange for a promise to receive his lord’s head, Yoshimoto’s helmet was returned along with his head to the Okabe family.  The helmet was presented as a votive offering to the Sannomaru Shrine and remains in their possession.

Just prior to the Battle of Okehazama, Genkō Etan, Yoshimoto’s older brother of a different mother (against whom he fought for the headship of the clan in the Hanakura Conflict) appeared in a dream and said: “Don’t join the upcoming deployment.”  Yoshimoto replied: “You’re my enemy.  I can’t listen to that kind of thing.”  Etan then replied: “I am not talking about the feelings of friends or enemies.  I fear for the decimation of our family.”  Yoshimoto then woke-up from his dream.  After deploying from Sunpu he saw the image of Etan in Fujisawa and put his hand on the hilt of his sword.

Yoshimoto demonstrated his skills in the civilian arena by fostering the development of gold mines and road networks in his territory.

Theories in regard to the Imagawa genealogy

There have not been particular questions in regard to the fact that Jukeini was the natural mother of Imagawa Yoshimoto.  In a genealogy of the Imagawa from records surmised to have been compiled prior to 1551, Genkō Etan is noted as the second son.  The names of Imagawa Ujitoyo and Shōji Senjō do not appear in this genealogy or those from the early Edo period.  Therefore, it is deemed that Ujichika had four sons.  Ujiteru was the eldest son and Etan the second son.  With respect to Hikogorō and Yoshimoto, there are two theories.  Under the first, Hikogorō is deemed to have been the third son born around 1517 (although after Etan who was the son of a consort) and Yoshimoto the fourth son.  Under the second, Yoshimoto was the third son while Hikogorō is deemed to have been born around 1522 and was the fourth son.

One scholar concluded that Ryūsenin (the wife of Sena Sadatsuna) referred to in accounts of the Imagawa clan from 1556 was the elder sister of Yoshimoto.  Therefore, after Genkō Etan was born in 1517, he raised the question whether Jukeini could have given birth over the ensuing three years to Hikogorō, Zuikeiin, Ryūsenin, and Yoshimoto.  Based on his treatment from birth, Hikogorō is deemed a son of Jukeini.  In records of the Imagawa, Hōjō Ujichika (a hostage of the Imagawa at the time who was the son of Zuikeiin) is referred to as the grandson of Jukeini, substantiating the fact that Zuikeiin was the daughter of Jukeini.  There is also a reference to the wife of Lord Sena meaning Ryūsenin.  This raises the question whether Yoshimoto was an illegitimate child adopted by Jukeini after the Hanakura Conflict and treated as her own.  Moreover, notwithstanding the reference, there is a possibility that Ryūsenin was also adopted by Jukeini.

Although the timing of the birth of Hikogorō is uncertain, Hikogorō can be considered the son of Jukeini based on the fact that he had the same common name as his great-grandfather, Imagawa Noritada (who inherited the headship of the Imagawa following the early demise of his older brother, Gorō-Noritoyo).  Accordingly, it is possible that Yoshimoto, despite being the older brother of Hikogorō, was, along with Etan, an illegitimate child.  This theory, however, is questionable given the names of Ujiteru, Etan, and Yoshimoto in order in the Imagawa genealogy.  This genealogy states that Ujiteru was the son of the daughter of Naka-no-mikado Nobutane (Jukeini), while Etan was the son of the daughter of Fukushima Awa-no-kami, while Yoshimoto is noted as having the same mother so Etan and Yoshimoto may be regarded as having the same lineage.  In addition, another account from 1536 (at the height of the Hanakura Conflict) indicates that Jukeini was the mother of Ujiteru and not Zentokuji (meaning Yoshimoto).  These sources raise the possibility that Yoshimoto was not the natural son of Jukeini.  If Yoshimoto was not in fact the son of Jukeini, there are assorted theories regarding who in fact was his mother, including the daughter of a house guest from Kyōto or a daughter of the Fukushima clan.  Under this theory, Etan originated from an illegitimate branch of the Fukushima clan while Yoshimoto’s mother was from the main branch or a family close thereto such as even though Etan and Yoshimoto came from the same Fukushima family, their status was different.  Finally, it is hypothesized that his mother was a daughter of the Asahina clan.  This remains an uncertain issue.


As a bushō, Yoshimoto expanded the territory of the Imagawa from Suruga and Tōtōmi to Mikawa and Owari.  After battling against Takeda Shingen and Hōjō Ujiyasu, he had Taigen Sessai to mediate a three-way alliance with his former foes.  He gained notoriety in a negative light in Japanese history as the daimyō killed by the Oda army at the Battle of Okehazama.  In later eras, he suffered a decline in his reputation.

Under the common view, Yoshimoto, based on an overwhelmingly advantageous position, made light of Nobunaga and without knowledge of the local terrain, the decision to rest at Denraku-hazama made his army susceptible to the surprise attack by the Oda army.  Given that he rode in a palanquin, it appears he was not able to mount a horse.  Moreover, in later eras, many stories were fabricated including that he feared riding on account of a fall from a horse in his youth and that he had a stout body with short legs, further undermining his reputation.

In the NHK Taiga drama in 2007 called Fūrin-kazan, the character of Imagawa Yoshimoto was played by Tanihara Shōsuke who noted: “There is a tendency to discuss his story with an emphasis on the common view of him as a weak person with the air of a noble who was killed as a result of his own negligence at Okehazama.”

In fact, riding in a palanquin was a special privilege accorded only to members of the Ashikaga family, prominent shugo daimyō and shugodai, in addition to provincial landowners who contributed to the founding of the Muromachi bakufu and elimination of rebels.  The Imagawa family, as an illegitimate branch of the Ashikaga, were included among the Twenty-One Houses of Muromachi who possessed these privileges.  Moreover, riding in a palanquin during battle was a display of ostentation.  One scholar noted that the Shiba clan, an illegitimate branch of the Ashikaga clan serving as military governors, were the only clan in Owari with similar privileges.  Accordingly, marching through Owari while riding in a palanquin was a form of political and military demonstration that enabled Yoshimoto to show the residents of Owari the superiority of his status relative to the Oda clan.  According to the Shinchō-kōki, Yoshimoto was riding on a horse when attempting to withdraw from Mount Okehazama.  Generally, the accounts of Yoshimoto in the palanquin appear from the middle of the Edo period and are regarded as a likely fabrication from later eras.  Finally, with respect to his knowledge of the culture of the nobility, as noted above, this was a reflection of his higher education and contrary to the portrayal of him as an imbecile.

Historical records substantiate his abilities in the arena of civilian affairs.  In 1552, he enacted a supplement to the laws originally established by his father, Ujichika.  Further, he sponsored administrative reforms to protect commerce and facilitate systems of distribution as well as to strengthen ties with his band of retainers based on a system of subservient relationships by which bushi were granted landholdings and security in exchange for their services in times of war and a portion of their crops.  This is known as the yorioya-yoriko system.  In his autobiography, Asakura Sōteki, a stalwart of the Asakura clan over several generations of lords, described Yoshimoto as follows: “A distinguished military governor adept at leveraging personnel and a good model.”  Sōteki viewed Yoshimoto on a par with Takeda Harunobu (Shingen), Oda Nobunaga, Miyoshi Nagayoshi, Nagao Kagetora (Uesugi Kenshin), and Mōri Motonari.

Owing to continuing research in regard to the Battle of Okehazama, rather than a dark soul, in recent productions Yoshimoto has been portrayed as a great commander who excelled in the realms of governance, diplomacy, and military affairs but suffered a tragic defeat owing to inclement weather during his expedition in Owari.

On 5/19 of 2017, on the anniversary of Yoshimoto’s death, the city of Shizuoka where the Imagawa mansion was located announced a “Declaration to Revive the Imagawa” to promote the honoring of his achievements in advance of the 500th anniversary of his birth in 2019.