Discover the Path Young Tokugawa Ieyasu Took in Hamamatsu, the City of Success!

Hamamatsu is the largest city in Shizuoka Prefecture and an important industrial center where famous Japanese companies like Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha first came into existence. But the city’s history goes back much further, and is deeply entwined with Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for two and a half centuries (1603-1868). In 2023, the warlord also became the topic of a historical drama titled “Dou Suru Ieyasu,” starring Jun Matsumoto. In this article, we’ll get closer to the young Ieyasu by visiting Hamamatsu, the city where he gained his experience.

*This article was sponsored by Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture.

How Hamamatsu Became the City of Success

Hamamatsu is known as “The City of Success,” owing to Tokugawa Ieyasu calling it home for 17 years from when he was 29 to 45, right around the time he laid down the foundation for the unification of Japan. As a result, later lords of Hamamatsu Castle achieved high ranks in the Tokugawa Shogunate and left behind impressive legacies.

Since the modern era, Hamamatsu has become Japan’s manufacturing capital and the birthplace of many world-class companies embodying the “yaramaika” spirit (a local phrase meaning “to take on any challenge”). Hamamatsu is also known for its delicious foods like eel and gyoza dumplings, as well as its beautiful natural landscapes, including oceans, mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests where you can unwind.

Hamamatsu takes great pride in its “City of Success” slogan. From the times of Lord Ieyasu to the present day, Hamamatsu has been imbued with the spirit of success helping people realize their dreams and motivating them to work hard while living life with a sense of purpose, value, and happiness. It’s as if the city exudes a force that energizes all those who strive for success!

Hamamatsu: Where the History and Legends of Tokugawa Ieyasu Live On

Hamamatsu Castle Park and the “Castle of Success”

Hamamatsu Castle is also known as the “Castle of Success” because, while the time that Ieyasu spent there was the most challenging period of his life, it gave him the knowledge and experience necessary to one day unify Japan. As a result, the successive lords of the castle were later elevated to important positions in the Edo government (modern-day Tokyo), enhancing its reputation.

The museum at Hamamatsu Castle showcases the local historical sites connected to Ieyasu, while the castle grounds are one of the most popular cherry blossom-viewing spots in the Tokaido region. The combined scenery of the cherry blossoms and the imposing fortification radiates an aura of pure majesty, making it a great time to visit! The castle tower also boasts sweeping panoramic views of Hamamatsu, allowing you to take in the character of the entire city.

The Ieyasu Festival at Hamamatsu Castle celebrates the shogun’s contributions to the city’s history, culture, and charm. Taking place in June, highlights include lively stage shows by actors in samurai costumes, theatrical performances, and other events.

Motoshirocho Toshogu Shrine

Motoshirocho Toshogu Shrine, located east of Hamamatsu Castle, was built in 1886 on the site of Hikuma Castle where Ieyasu lived between arriving in Hamamatsu and the completion of Hamamatsu Castle. The shrine venerates Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, another famous ruler of Japan. It’s said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi once visited Hikuma Castle, where he and Ieyasu received the mandate of heaven to unify Japan. Fans of Japan’s Warring States Period (1467 – 1615) should not miss the opportunity to experience the mysterious energy that dwells here.

Mikatagahara Historic Battlefield

It's said that the Battle of Mikatagahara between Tokugawa Ieyasu and Takeda Shingen was the most memorable encounter in Ieyasu's life. In 1572, Shingen led a large army towards Kyoto, and as he passed north of Hamamatsu Castle, he pretended to have no intention of attacking and continued his march towards the unfavorable terrain of the Mikatagahara Field. There, he stationed his troops to lure Ieyasu out of his castle, who took the bait and suffered a massive defeat against Shingen’s forces. Cornered and left with no other option, Ieyasu was forced to retreat back to Hamamatsu Castle.

There’s also a story about a place near the historic battlefield where, according to local lore, the defeated Ieyasu stopped to eat “azuki mochi” (a rice cake with red bean paste, brown sugar, soybean flour, and corn flour) at a small tea shop on his way back to the castle. However, when he realized that the Takeda forces were closing in on him, he fled in a hurry and forgot to pay, and was chased by the store’s elderly owner demanding money. Owing to this, the area is also called “Azukimochi” or “Zenitori” (taking money).

Hamamatsu Hachimangu Shrine

Hamamatsu Hachimangu Shrine, located at the “demon’s gate” of Hamamatsu Castle, is said to have been a place of great importance to Lord Ieyasu as it enshrines Hachiman, the deity of protection, good fortune, and fortune in war.

It is also said that Ieyasu escaped the pursuits of the Takeda forces after the Battle of Mikatagahara by hiding inside a large camphor tree within the shrine grounds, during which auspicious clouds rose from the tree, giving it its current name “Kumodachi no Kusu” (The Camphor Tree From Which Clouds Rise). The tree is considered sacred, and the hollow where Ieyasu is believed to have hidden can still be found today.

Saigagake Historic Battlefield

The Saigagake cliff was the site of one of the fiercest battles between Takeda Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was pursued in the aftermath of the Battle of Mikatagahara. A museum now stands here with a beautiful garden out front, providing information on the area’s history.

If you approach the guard rail and look down, a steep cliff will appear before you. The road leading up to the cliff is very flat, making it appear like a large hole created by an earthquake. When Takeda’s forces caught up with Ieyasu here, they ended up falling to their deaths because they didn’t know the terrain, allowing Ieyasu to use the cliff to stop his enemy’s advance. After exploring the area, stop by the museum to hear the story in more detail from local history buffs!

Seiryuji Temple

Those familiar with Ieyasu's history may know that he ordered his son, Matsudaira Nobuyasu, to commit seppuku at Futamata Castle to show his loyalty to the powerful warlord Oda Nobunaga. Seiryuji Temple is dedicated to the tragic young warrior who was forced to kill himself by his own father at the tender age of 21. There are various theories as to why Ieyasu demanded this act, but it’s said that Nobuyasu's wife, Tokuhime, daughter of Oda Nobunaga, reported to her father that her husband and his mother, Lady Tsukiyama, were in secret communication with the Takeda clan, sealing Nobuyasu’s fate.

Being unable to defy Oda Nobunaga, on September 15, 1579, Nobuyasu committed seppuku and was laid to rest in a temple near the castle hill. The following year, Ieyasu built Nobuyasu's mortuary chapel on the temple grounds, which was later renamed “Seiryuji.” Seiryuji also has a waterfall that cools the area and obscures the view with mist, transporting visitors back in time to when this tragic incident took place.

In addition to Nobuyasu's mortuary tablet, a wooden statue of Ieyasu and tablets of the Tokugawa shoguns are enshrined in the main hall of the temple.

Futamata Castle Ruins

Futamata Castle and Tobayama Castle were mountain fortifications used during the Warring States Period. From 1572 to 1575, the Tokugawa and Takeda clans fought at Futamata Castle, while the Tokugawa main camp was located at Tobayama. Futamata Castle is also the castle where Ieyasu's heir, Nobuyasu, was forced to commit suicide in 1579 as detailed above.

Getting Closer to the Man Who Unified Japan in Hamamatsu

Fans of Japanese history and Tokugawa Ieyasu will no doubt want to follow in his footsteps and visit the places in Hamamatsu City associated with this epoch-defining shogun. Alongside its history, Hamamatsu also offers travelers beautiful natural landscapes, a rich culture, and delicious dishes like eel and gyoza dumplings. Hamamatsu Castle is just a 20-minute walk from JR Hamamatsu Station, so if you desire to succeed in life, be sure to visit during your next trip!

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★Hamamatsu’s sightseeing info is regularly posted on the city’s official website and social media, so be sure to check them out!


Through Hamamatsu, Meet Japan:
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Chubu Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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