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Ii Naomasa, recognized as one of the Four Guardians of the Tokugawa clan alongside generals Honda Tadakatsu, Sakakibara Yasumasa, and Sakai Tadatsugu, hailed from Hoda Village in Totomi Province (present-day western Shizuoka Prefecture). His family had long served Imagawa Yoshimoto until Yoshimoto's demise at the Battle of Okehazama.

Born to Ii Naochika, Naomasa faced familial upheaval when his father was unjustly accused of treason, leading to his exile and subsequent execution by Yoshimoto's son, Ujizane, in January of 1563. At the tender age of three, Naomasa, orphaned by this tragedy, was taken in by the Tokugawa family. Following the death of his stepmother, Naotora, in September of 1582, he assumed leadership of the Ii clan.

Commencing his service to the Tokugawa in the mid-1570s, Naomasa earned Tokugawa Ieyasu's high regard and was rewarded with a fief in Omi (Shiga Prefecture). Notably, at the Battle of Nagakute in 1584, he commanded 3,000 matchlock gunners and secured victory against Ikeda Tsuneoki's forces, earning commendation from the opposing leader, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. After this battle, Hideyoshi's mother was placed under Naomasa's care as a hostage to solidify the Toyotomi-Tokugawa alliance.

During the 1590 siege of Odawara, Naomasa played a pivotal role in breaching the castle walls, leading to the surrender of the Hojo clan. His efforts earned him Minowa Castle in Takasaki, Gunma, making him the largest landholder among Tokugawa retainers.

In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Naomasa and his son-in-law, Matsudaira Tadayoshi, initiated a daring attack on the Western allied Ukita troops, despite not being the first into battle as initially designated. Although surviving the intense seven-hour conflict, Naomasa sustained severe injuries in the final moments while pursuing the escaping Shimazu clan. Despite personal care from Ieyasu, the wounds from Sekigahara are believed to have contributed to Naomasa's premature death two years later.

In recognition of his valor, Naomasa was granted lands in modern-day Hikone. Disliking Ishida Mitsunari, the former owner of the area, to such an extent that he refused to live in his shadow, Naomasa had Ishida's castle on Sawayama demolished and significant topsoil removed from the mountain. Intent on establishing a new castle on Mt Hikone, he began construction but passed away before its completion.

 


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