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Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川 家康 January 30, 1543 - June 1, 1616) was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, and is commonly known as one of the "three great leaders" of feudal Japan (the other two are Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi).
Tokugawa was originally daimyo of the Kanto plain, Japan's wealthiest region at the time as measured in rice production. Tokugawa's influence made him an important ally of Oda Nobunaga. After Oda died and Toyotomi Hideyoshi became Japan's dominant ruler, Tokugawa was named as one of five regents (tairo) with the responsibility of looking after Toyotomi's son, Toyotomi Hideyori.
When Hideyoshi died in 1598, Hideyori was only five years old. The new regent was placed in the care of Toyotomi's closest ally, Ishida Mitsunari, who attempted to hold the Toyotomi coalition together. Tokugawa, however, saw a chance to usurp power from the Toyotomi loyalists, and assembled an "eastern army" to take on Ishida.
The ensuing Battle of Sekigahara (1600) ended in a crushing defeat for Ishida's "western army." In 1603, Tokugawa became shogun of an almost entirely unified Japan, a concept that had been abandoned by Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He abdicated in 1605 and allowed his son, Tokugawa Hidetada, to take over.
The Tokugawa shogunate he founded would endure until the mid-19th century, and while it would be a time of strict seclusion from the outside world, it would also be a period of peace and stability.
Tokugawa was enshrined in Nikko after his death, and his mausoleum, Nikko Toshogu, is a popular tourist destination today. Sargent (1894; The Forest Flora of Japan) recorded that a Daimyo who was too poor to offer a stone lantern at the funeral, requested instead to be allowed to plant an avenue of Sugi, 'that future visitors might be protected from the heat of the sun'. The offer was accepted; the avenue, which still exists, is over 65km (40 miles) long, and 'has not its equal in stately grandeur'.
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