The Red Demon Samurai – Ii Naomasa

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 24 Comments |

Ii Naomasa is known as the Red Demon. A historic figure and one of the Four Guardians of the Tokugawa in Japanese history. He is best known for his fearsome blood-red samurai armour and nasty habit of killing people over mistakes. That’s the guy I’m set to become in this year’s Spring parade.


Naomasa distinguished himself from other generals with his courage and also political ability, earning him the prestigious role as one of the Four Guardians serving and protecting the legendary Tokugawa Ieyasu, Shogun and one of the major unifiers of Japan.

However, it is said that he had a rather disagreeable personality and would often end up killing people, even over small mistakes. This included many of his subordinates, so it does not surprise me to hear that it earnt him the nickname ‘The Killing Machine’ (人斬り兵部) and that many of his followers defected to another of the Four Guardians, Honda Tadakatsu.


His crowning battle that he is remembered most for is the Battle of Sekigahara on October 21, 1600. It is arguably the most important battle in Japanese history with 160,000 men fighting and ended in a complete Tokugawa victory, beginning Tokugawa’s reign as Shogun. You can see his troops clearly standing out in the screen depiction below:


In the battle, Naomasa’s unit of Red Demons outpaced the enemy and drew first blood. He is said to have used the blood-red colour for psychological impact to unnerve his enemies, although it was not a tactic he devised himself, having learned it from a previous general.

Naomasa was also said to be extremely violent in battle, often breaking formation in a rush and not being present to command the troops, the role always falling back on his reluctant chief minister. Unfortunately, Naomasa was wounded in the very same battle that he is most remembered for, which ultimately led to his premature death. In the time of the Warring States, it was common for subordinates to commit suicide and martyr themselves after their master’s death, but in the case of Naomasa, not one person did so…


Which leads me to wonder if I’m really suited to play his part in the upcoming spring parade in my city. Should I even want to..?? He was a great warrior and well respected by Tokugawa Ieyasu, so I don’t doubt the fearlessness and tenacity of the man. But should his soul briefly overpower me, would I be likely to knock the guy in front off his horse? Might it spur some deep-rooted fit of rage? It would make a great excuse, anyway… ^^;

I shall of course be posting pictures and an account of the day when it finally comes in early April. Until then, I have 4 weeks of training to do to get ready for the role, including learning how to ride a horse. I’ll be sure to grow the customary moustache too!


Wikipedia – Ii Naomasa (Eng)
Wikipedia – Ii Naomasa (Jp)
井伊直政 – Hatabo’s Homepage (Jp)
Top image source: Sengoku Gallery

This is my entry into this month’s JapanSoc Matsuri hosted by Loneleeplanet.

24 comments on “The Red Demon Samurai – Ii Naomasa
  1. Gakuranman says:

    Just Google images. Try a search for Ii Naomasa or 井伊直政 and browse the pages. You should be able to find it :)

  2. katsumoto says:

    Where did you get this first picture of armor standing on the box?

  3. Gakuranman says:

    Muahahaha! I should don a red Gakuran in my next Youtube video!

  4. Gakuranman says:

    Thanks for the correction – all sorted out now :)

  5. Gakuranman says:

    Maybe I kill my students with kanji or maim them with katakana! I can't see brandishing a sword in a classroom conductive to good learning. But then again… XD

  6. Gakuranman says:

    Haha. He isn't a huge figure in history, but I often find it's the little guys who have the most interesting stories!

  7. Gakuranman says:

    Really hope it all goes to plan. Have heard news that my playing the role might have fallen through this year :(

  8. Gakuranman says:

    Haha, granted, 'The Killing Machine' is my translator's artistic licence :p

  9. The Envoy says:

    I'll be looking forward to your blood soaked activities :D

  10. Great write up and great story. I hadn't heard that much detail about him being so crazy.

  11. Delphine says:

    That is an amazing get-up, but it looks rather… uncomfortable… But you should still wear it! Haha – great article, and very educational :)

  12. rainbowhill says:

    It has become clear that you were born 500 years too late Gakuranman! Good choice of warrior. Looking forward to the Spring rampage, ahem. Parade photos.

  13. That's badass armour – you gotta go for it! The moustache will probably end up a bit too British aristocracy for a samurai though.

    At the risk of being smote for suggesting that the Red Demon could commit error, I should point out the 'Tokygawa' typo in this post. Of course it could my peasant eyes that are at fault – I'll stab them out as a precautionary measure.

  14. Locohama says:

    Awesome pics!!! Interesting story

  15. koichi says:

    When I think “Killing Machine” I immediately think “Gakuranman.” It's a no brainer, this was the role you were born to play. Golden Globes here you come.

  16. reesan says:

    Great submission to this month's Matsuri. Thanks for your participation! Looking forward to your follow up article of you becoming 'The Killing Machine'!

  17. tornadoes28 says:

    Awesome. Wearing any samurai armor might cause one to become more aggressive but wearing the red armor of the Red Demon could only compound that feeling. Sweeeet. Can't wait for the pics.

  18. Jamaipanese says:

    anyone nicknamed the Killing machine would have been a really badass mofo. Glad he wasn't my master ^^

  19. ロブ says:


    I actually just had a Japanese History class this last semester where we learned a lot about the Tokugawa era, but I never heard this name mentioned at all in lectures.

    I checked my text books and they didn’t have his name in there, either. This makes me wonder what other interesting parts of the era were left out by my professor :D

Leave a Reply

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


Get the Gakuranman Newsletter!

Greetings, fellow Adventurer!

For a limited time, subscribe free and get:

Just enter your name and email below: