Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Ieyasu, by A. L. Sadler | #1 | 2022 Centobibliennial Reading

This is my first installment of the Centobibliennial Reading series. I have also tried to experiment with cover art, inspired by YouTuber Morgan Long’s video about keeping up motivation to read through 50+ books a year.



This follows the life of the Japanese shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who introduced the Bakufu system to the Japanese government. It mostly deals with the battles that he participated in, but spent the final chapters dealing with his governance as shogun and dealing with parts of his domestic life.

Arthur Lindsay Sadler

Myternors Enyslincon Diberyas

He was a professor of Oriental Studies at the University of Sydney, and a professor of Japanese Studies at the Royal Military College of Australia. His tenure ran from 1922-1948.



A theme throughout Tokugawa’s life is the numerous name changes, which were usually given to him. They were done so in order to commemorate a family member, such as his grandfather. He would eventually settle with Tokugawa Ieyasu. More specifically, the changed names would include an element from the namesake. There are plenty of figures who were renamed with the elements “nobu” and “hide” when allied with either Nobunaga or Hideyoshi respectively.

As expected of the life of a shogun, it is a life filled with conflict. A major amount of detail is placed upon the battles that Ieyasu partook in, whether under the Imagawa or under Oda Nobunaga or beyond. This mainly involved the details of participants of the battles and rebellions. Another source of conflict happened in the domestic sphere, whether it had to do with plots against his life or any other disputes that needed his attention.

After the rebellion of Sekigahara, Ieyasu officially became the Shogun and spent the rest of his reign developing the city of Edo as his capital. Within the city, he helped to innovate the usage of tiles and introduced trade with the Spanish. The people below him were a great concern to him throughout his life. It was for that reason why he did not immediately declare war against Hideyoshi, rather submitted himself to him as a retainer. He did not want to sacrifice unnecessarily more lives in the pursuit of power which would not even be guaranteed.

Ieyasu was also in favor of a legalistic system, specifically one that mainly kept the daimyos in check in order to prevent more civil war from happening. The precepts of the bakufu were directly inspired by the teachings of Taoism and Confucianism. The frugal, strict life that he led he would extend to everyone else in Japanese society. He did not want the people or especially the daimyos to partake in limitless frivolities, just as he avoided them.

Historical Context

Kettesten Hwedheldusek

As can be expected of Sengoku history, it revolves around the civil war between the fiefdoms throughout Japan, under the leaderships of there main personages–Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Their reigns are detailed quite shortly, since the conflicts within Ieyasu’s life were at the main center of the book.

Another component is the introduction of the European powers into Japan, including Spain and Portugal. As such, this resulted in strained relationships, such as the ban on Christian missionaries proselytizing among the people and nobility.

Another theme has to do with the conflict that surrounded him throughout his life. From the very beginning, the Japanese realm had fallen into civil war. From these observations from his own father and the people around him, he was able to learn from them and develop his sagacious way of thought. It was for this reason why he was able to continue being successful during Hideyoshi’s reign, since he decided not to declare war on him and instead opted to yield to him.



If you are a Westerner like myself, you probably were already familiar with Edo period through the Samurai Warriors video game series by Koei Tecmo. I was already familiar with the archetypes of the ominous Nobunaga Oda, the simian Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and the sagacious Tokugawa Ieyasu. It did help to breeze through this biography, since I already had prior knowledge. Of course, it is for that reason why I abandoned reading Andrew Mango’s biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, since I had no prior knowledge of Turkey and felt overwhelmed by the information.

As for Hideyoshi’s rise to become head of the military from a common birth, Ieyasu noted how nobles were like gold and silver, but the military are like iron. This definitely harkens back to the Gothic scholar Jordanes who noted how in ancient Gothic society–at least in his view of it–kings are made through birth, but commanders are made through merit.

Writing Style

Gis Skrifedh

While the book deals with Tokugawa’s life, it does tend to delve into retrospective perspective. Of course, while I understood that Takechiyo and Ieyasu were the same person, I can imagine any reader would be confused about the distinction.

There were some confusing word arrangements, though nonetheless it was overall the best possible read of a Japanese historical figure.

Real-World Application

Omrians Vys-Wir

Sadler helps to make Ieyasu relevant to the reader, by imparting the reason behind his successes. It all had to rely on patience, since hot-headedness is guaranteed to lead to failure when there is no strong plan. Sadler even includes quotes by Ieyasu himself in an Appendix at the end of the book.

Ieyasu was also modest in his diet, clothing, and aesthetics. His only hobby was falconry, which he explained gave him a lot of exercise whether or not he is in wartime or peace -time. He also made sure that his own household were modest in their clothing, by not frivolously purchasing new clothes, rather by washing and reusing current ones.

Inspiration To Myself

Awen Dhybm Ow Honan

Although Ieyasu was born into the Matsudaira noble house which traces its origins back to the very first Tokugawa name-bearers, this type of advice could be beneficial, since if it was successful during Japan’s eventful struggle, then it could easily be applied anywhere and to anyone. The lifelong philosophy that Ieyasu himself upheld would become his legacy, so it should not be taken for granted. I hope that I can try to emulate this philosophy, since I am not really a materialistic person to begin with, but I do not have good schedule discipline. Although I sketched out my plan to read 100 books in a year with almost all of the books to be read on particular numbers of the week, I do not know if I would follow through on them.



This is the type of biography that can be easily understood, in terms of where the point is leading towards. The entire purpose of this book is to detail the life of the shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, but more specifically to impart the lifelong precepts and maxims that he lived by that enabled him to live long and prosperous in the harsh climate of Sengoku Japan.

Recommend This To…

Komendysen Ma Dhe…

  • Anyone who has some knowledge of Sengoku Japan, because the amount of names throughout this book might be overwhelming to any reader unfamiliar with Japanese history.

Sources (Pednfentydnyow)

  • “Arthur.” Behindthename.
  • Cornish Dictionary – Gerlyver Kernowek.” Akademi Kernowek.
  • Jordanes. “The Origin and Deeds of the Goths.”
  • Long, Morgan. “HOW TO READ 50 BOOKS A YEAR|| Helpful Reading Tips.” YouTube. 2020.
  • “Sadler (name).” Wikipedia.
  • Sadler, A. L. “Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Ieyasu.” 1st Tuttle Edition. Tuttle Publishing. 1978.
  • Williams, Nicholas. “Desky Kernowek: A Complete Guide To Cornish.” 4th Edition. Evertype. 2013.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *