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Overview of Yonezawa

The Famous People

Uesugi Kenshin
Uesugi Kenshin
Yonezawa city Uesugi Museum
Forebear of Yonezawa's Ruling Line

Born in 1530 in Echigo no Kuni (modern day Niigata) the second son of Nagao Tamekage. Given the birth name Torichiyo.

At age 15 he underwent the ceremony of manhood and in 1553 became the feudal lord of Echigo no Kuni.
In 1561 at the request of Uesugi Norimasa he became the head of the Uesugi clan.

Uesugi Kenshin’s skill as a war tactician and strength as a commander is recognized even today, and he is celebrated as one of the great leaders of the Warring States period..

In 1578 Uesugi Kenshin died at the age of only 49 and his preserved remains were later moved to Yonezawa from Aizu by Uesugi Kagekatsu. These remains were originally held within Yonezawa castle but after 1876 were moved to Uesugi Mausoleum. Even now Uesugi Kenshin’s grave is a pride of the people of Yonezawa.

Uesugi Kagekatsu
Uesugi Kagekatsu
The First Feudal Lord of Yonezawa

Kagekatsu was born the second son of Nagao Masakage in Echigo no Kuni (modern day Niigata) in 1555. He was the nephew of Uesugi Kenshin. After Masakage’s death, Kagekatsu was adopted by Kenshin in order to become his successor. He became the head of the Uesugi clan in 1579. Given his title by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he became the Feudal Lord of wealthy domain of Aizu.

However after facing defeat at the battle of Sekigahara he was assigned to the considerably less wealthy Yonezawa as punishment. It is said that he refused to replace even one of his men, instead taking all who wished to come with him to Yonezawa. Kagekatsu came to live at Yonezawa Castle and along with his subordinate Naoe Kanetsugu quickly began new construction and started to address the financial destitution of the domain. He also became a supporter of the newly established Tokugawa Shogunate.

In 1623 Kagekatsu who had achieved many things as both a warrior and a ruler passed away in Yonezawa Castle at age 69. It is said that even Tokugawa Ieyasu has acknowledged Kagektsu’s excellence as an intellectual and as a warrior.

Naoe Kanetsugu
Naoe Kanetsugu
Yonezawa city Uesugi Museum
The military commander who served a lifetime under Uesugi Kagekatsu and built Yonezawa’s castle town.
Kanetsugu had shown prowess from an early age and was recognized for his potential by Uesugi Kagekatsu’s mother (Sentōin) who chose him to become page for the young Kagekatsu at age 6 (1566). Kanetsugu travelled with Kagekatsu, who had been made the adopted son of Uesugi Kenshin, to Kasugaya Castle to learn the arts of battle from Uesugi Kenshin.

After suffering defeat at the battle of Sekigahara, Kanetsugu, was moved with Kagekatsu to Yonezawa. There, he worked to build up the town—at first with the aim to house Kagekatsu’s men. New construction at Yonezawa Castle, maintenance of the samurai and merchant housing districts, and improvements to the irrigation system are just some examples of what Kanetsugu managed to achieve in just a short time after arriving in Yonezawa. He also implemented of flood prevention systems, backed local industries, and created education incentives during his time in administrative power. 

Maeda Keiji
Maeda Keiji
Called the ‘Kabuki Artist’ – the warrior who served under Kagekatsu.
The protagonist of the manga ‘Keiji’, Maeda Keiji was born the nephew of the head of the wealthy Maeda clan. Skilled in both the literary and military arts, he formed a friendship with Naoe Kanetsugu and, through this relationship, became a soldier under Uesugi Kagekatsu. He eventually took up residence in Yonezawa’s Dōmori. There are no end to the tales told of Keiji’s eccentricities and run-ins with the Daimyo’s of the age – even today many still remain told.

Maeda Keiji Memoria Tower
Maeda Keiji Memoria Tower
Maeda Keiji Memoria Tower (Dōmori Zenkō-ji Temple)
Located within Banseichō Domori is the Shōshinzan-ji temple, a temple belonging to the Buzan sect of the Shingon school of Buddhism. It is sometimes also referred to as Dewazenkō-ji temple. The foundations of the temple were created in the second year of the Daidō era (802 CE) and it is also said that the reconstruction was handled by Nagai Tokihiro (former ruler of the Yonezawa domain).
Located within the grounds is the ‘Maeda Keiji Memorial Tower’ where a memorial festival is held every year in June. Located nearby are the remains of the hermitage where Keiji spent his last years, as well as the spring which he would have used for drinking water (now named the Keiji-kiyomizu or 'Keiji Spring'. Other items related to Keiji’s life can also be found here.
Uesugi Yōzan
Uesugi Yōzan
Yonezawa city Uesugi Museum
Known as one of the most virtuous lords of the Edo Period.

Yōzan was born the second son of Akizuki Tanemitsu in the domain of Takanabe (modern day Miyagi prefecture) in 1751. At age 10 he was adopted by Princess Kō, the daughter of Yonezawa’s 8th Feudal Lord Uesugi Shigesada. Yōzan became the head of the Uesugi clan at age 17 but by this time Yonezawa was in a great amount of debt that it seemingly could not escape from. In order to rescue the domain from its state of poverty Yōzan put into place laws regulating expenditure that maintained that the meals of the people should be simple and their clothes made of simple cotton. Additionally, he encouraged the expansion of agriculture as well as the cultivation of silk and mulberry trees. He also made it so the wives and children of warriors learned to weave, which led to the woven produce of Yonezawa’s Dewa being sold nationwide. Yonezawa’s textiles are still famous even to this day.

Yōzan is famous for being one of Japan’s most virtuous lords. An example of how Yōzan left behind his wisdom as a rule in his “Denkoku no Ji” address:

- The state is inherited from one’s ancestors and passed on to one’s descendants; it should not be administered selfishly.
- The people belong to the state; they should not be administered selfishly.
- The lord exists for the sake of the state and the people: the state and the people do not exist for the sake of the lord.

Just as these words indicate, Yōzan led a life dedicated to helping his people. In an opinion poll conducted by a leading Japanese newspaper in 2007, Yōzan took first place among past Japanese “ideal rulers.”

The 35th President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy also referenced Yōzan stating that “Yōzan is a brilliant politician”. It was due to this reference that in autumn of 2014 that the U.S ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, visited Yonezawa.

Perhaps the most famous words left behind by Yōzan are: ‘To achieve, one must act. To not act is to not achieve; this is true in all things. The inability to achieve is the result of inaction.”

Date Masamune
Date Masamune
Sendai City Museum
Date Masamune resided in Yonezawa until age 24.
Yonezawa was the former domain of the Date clan. Famed military commander Date Masamune was born in Yonezawa castle and at spent his adolescence in Yonezawa until age 24 when he was moved to Sendai’s Iwadeyama Castle at the request of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Date Masamune’s birth place.
Date Masamune’s birth place.
Date Masamune’s birth place.
Within Matsugaskai park there is a `Date Masamune’s birth place’ monument. In was thought that in Matsumune’s time Yonezawa Castle was located there, however – according to research undertaken by the Yonezwawa board of education in 2001 it is now believed that the true location was either Tateyama castle or a location close to there.