Last updated: October 5, 2022
1467-1477: The Onin War erupts over the succession to the Ashikaga Shogunate, essentially dissolving Japan’s central government and initiating the long Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States Period (A period of sustained civil war).
January 31, 1543: Matsudaira Motoyasu, the man who would become Tokugawa Ieyasu, is born in Mikawa Province.
June 12, 1560: Oda Nobunaga ambushes and obliterates Imagawa Yoshimoto’s numerically superior forces, immediately becoming one of the most prestigious and ambitious military leaders in Japan. Over the next two decades he will continue to conquer and ally himself into controlling most of Japan.
June 21, 1582: Nobunaga’s retainer Akechi Mitsuhide betrays his master and assassinates him at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, creating a power vacuum. Two of Nobunaga’s greatest generals Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu grapple for control of Nobunaga’s former land with Hideyoshi succeeding. The two sign an alliance and Hideyoshi spends the rest of his life trying to complete the unification of Japan and implementing reforms.
May 1592 – December 1598: In an attempt to occupy Japan’s many restless samurai, Hideyoshi orders the invasion of Korea. The war becomes an unpopular stalemate. Many of the men who would fight at Sekigahara are veterans of the Japan-Korea War. Ieyasu manages to keep his men out of the war and thus retains his strength and wealth after the war is over.
September 18, 1598: Toyotomi Hideyoshi dies, leaving power in the hands of five tairo – elder regents –until his young son Hideyori can come of age. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the most powerful of the tairo, begins political maneuvers to consolidate power. Toyotomi loyalists, headed by Ishida Mitsunari, attempt to organize their opposition to Ieyasu.
May 1600: Ieyasu sends a stern letter to Uesugi Kagekatsu demanding to know why he had begun a military build-up in north-eastern Honshu. Kagekatsu had been coordinating with Mitsunari to distract and surround Ieyasu’s forces.
July 1600: Ieyasu marches his “Eastern Army” from Osaka towards Edo to confront Kagekatsu. Suspecting Mitsunari’s treachery, he moves slowly and deliberately.
August 27-September 6, 1600: Mitsunari’s “Western Army” besieges Fushimi castle. Torii Mototada, Ieyasu’s loyal retainer, manages to keep a large portion of Mitsunari’s force occupied, giving his master time to prepare for the final showdown. Allies of the two belligerents target various rival castles along the main road, keeping several thousand men separated from the main force by the time of the Battle of Sekigahara.
October 20, 1600: Ieyasu’s Eastern Army comes to Ogaki castle, where Mitsunari and many of his men are holed up. Wanting to avoid a siege and prevent Ieyasu from bypassing him to march into Osaka, Mitsunari withdraws from the castle and marches to the west late at night.
October 21, 1600: The Eastern and Western Armies clash near the village of Sekigahara. After the betrayal of Kobayakawa Hideaki, Mitsunari is soundly defeated, leaving Ieyasu essentially unopposed. Ieyasu redistributes land and wealth to reward his generals for their loyalty and punish those who opposed him.
March 24, 1603: The Emperor bestows upon Ieyasu the title of shogun, formally beginning the Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Edo Period, which would last until the Meiji restoration of 1868.
November 1614-January 1615: With the Siege of Osaka, the Tokugawa Shogunate destroys the last vestiges of the Toyotomi clan, including Hideyori.
June 1, 1616: Tokugawa Ieyasu dies at the age of 73.