Who were the Sanadas?
The history of the Sanada family
The Sanada Family was a powerful clan that was originally based in what is now the Sanadamachi area of Ueda City. At the time of the battle between Shingen Takeda and the Unno clan in 1541, Yukitsuna Sanada (also called Yukitaka) was a member of Unno’s forces.
Unno’s forces were defeated at this battle, and Yukitsuna fled to Joshu (present day Gunma Prefecture). However, by no later than 1549, he came to work for Shingen Takeda. It is said that Yukitsuna played a large role in Takeda gaining control of the northeastern region of then Shinano Province and part of Joshu through the Battle of Kawanakajima.
Yukitsuna’s oldest son, Nobutsuna, and second oldest son, Masateru, were both killed in the Battle of Nagashino. As a result, Masayuki, his third oldest son, who had been adopted into another family, came back and continued the Sanada family line.
Masayuki’s oldest son, Nobuyuki, and second oldest son, Nobushige (later renamed Yukimura), adapted and withstood the test of time amidst the generals of the Sengoku period (Takeda, Uesugi, Hojo, Toyotomi, and Tokugawa), and went on to build Ueda Castle and become the greatest generals of eastern Shinano Province.
During the Battle of Sekigahara, Masayuki and Nobushige sided with Toyotomi, and Nobuyuki sided with Tokugawa. With Tokugawa’s victory, the defeated Masayuki and Nobushige were imprisoned at Koyasan. Masayuki died there, while Nobushige took up a position at Osaka Castle. Nobushige fought winter and summer campaigns at Osaka Castle and was killed in battle.
Breaking with his father and younger brother to join Tokugawa, Nobuyuki was allowed to take over the castle his father built, Ueda Castle, and the surrounding territory. In 1622, he moved to Matsushiro, and took control of that area (worth 15,000 tons of rice) and Numata, Joshu (worth 4,500 tons of rice).
Around the middle of the Edo period, the Sanada Family in Numata underwent a change of status, but the Sanada Family in Matsushiro went on to rule the northern part of the Shinano Domain for 10 generations. Their period of leadership lasted 250 years until the abolishment of the domain system.
Nobuyuki, along with his descendants, invested heavily in the development of the town and the improvement of industry, but they also lived economically even as they supported military and literary arts. They created the foundation for today’s elegant and tranquil castle town, Matsushiro.