Top 10 Best Japanese Daimyo Nations in EU4

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Japan is undoubtedly one of the most interesting regions at the game’s start. The sengoku jidei era of constant warfare is about to begin. Japan is split into various small states dominated by a ruling family/clan, all nominally owing loyalty to the emperor in Kyoto.

All Japanese nations aim towards controlling the capital Kyoto, and becoming the hereditary military dictator of Japan: the Shogun.

For this ranking, all Japanese cultured nations were considered, including the isolated kingdom of Ryukyu.

Are you able to guide your clan towards the Chrysanthemum throne and lead a unified Japan to greatness?


10. Ouchi

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Ouchi’s foreign core in Hosokawa highlighted in green.

The Ouchi clan starts in control of two Centers of Trade, providing them with a very strong economic base right from the get-go.

They also get a fort province outside their capital, providing them with great defense in early wars. And they start with a core on their neighbor’s Hosokawa land.

Ouchi lacks in national traditions and ideas, while it borders two stronger nations to the east. This makes their starting situation subpar to a couple of their neighbors. Of course, when you form Japan, you can switch to the far superior Japanese ideas.


9. Shimazu

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Shimazu’s excellent military ideas and starting situation.

Shimazu is an old favorite of mine.

They start with a core in their neighbor Hyuga, making for easy early expansion.

Shimazu’s starting position in the furthermost southwest of Kyushu safeguards them neatly. Their flanks are secured by the sea. Driving north and consolidating Kyushu makes for a nice early game goal.

They sport excellent all-around ideas, with military starting traditions that helps them overpower equal-numbered armies in the early game.

Certainly not the easiest or strongest nation in Japan – but one with an idea set that is arguably better than the unified Japanese one.


8. Yamana

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Yamana’s starting situation. Their mediocre ideas showcased on the left.

The Yamana clan starts with 29 development, far more than most Japanese nations.

Their ideas are mediocre militarily, though, which makes them the underdog in the inevitable conflict with Hosokawa.

Their position on this list is warranted due to their starting development and their proximity to Kyoto. Their +1 diplomatic reputation can also help them secure allies in Japan before pushing for the throne.

If you prefer to become the Shogun ASAP with only a couple wars, while still giving yourself a challenge, then Yamana is an excellent choice for you.


7. Tokugawa

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Tokugawa’s starting situation and their excellent ideas on the left.

Although anachronistic (as technically the clan didn’t yet hold power in the province), they were added due to funs’ requests along their neighbor Oda.

Tokugawa has excellent all-around ideas that can easily be kept instead of the Japanese ones down the line.

Their starting situation is not the easiest to handle. To their north, the Toki clan controls the fort of Mino that makes northwards expansion hard and costly. To their east, the Uesugi clan will start eating their neighbors and become a formidable opponent early on.

If you like one province minor nations and want to cosplay as the historical eventual Shoguns of Japan, Tokugawa is an excellent choice for you!


6. So

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So’s ideas are excellent for a piratical or trade-oriented game.

Ahhh the seemingly harmless island nation of So.

They start in control of Tsushima, isolated from the rest of Japan. What harm can they make to anyone? Well, apparently, plundering the coasts of the far east!

They have an early event firing for them when the Wokou incident happens that allows them to transform into a pirate republic! If you want to plunder from Manchuria all the way down to Indonesia, this nation can make your dream come true.

Their ideas are focused on their navy and can support a pirate republic game very well. Without a doubt one of the most unique nations in the game, being Pirate vassals of the Shogun.


5. Ashikaga

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Ashikaga’s myriad vassal daimyos on the right. They start as the Shogun in control of Kyoto.

As the starting Shogun, the Ashikaga clan have fallen from their era of grace. With the last Shogun assassinated in 1441, they start the game in a regency for his teenage son.

Their ideas are mediocre, but this is mended by choosing the Japanese ideas when you form the nation anyway.

Ashikaga owns only one province on top of Kyoto; this low development of theirs can lead to disloyal vassals very fast, as daimyos start annexing their fellow neighbors.

While the AI tends to fail in keeping its vassals under control, in the hands of a skilled player the starting Shogun can be one of the strongest nations in the game.

Ashikaga is also ineligible for most Japanese achievements, as they require starting as a Daimyo.


4. Ryukyu

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Ryukyu’s ideas are decent for a world conquest campaign, helping with their unique world conquest achievement.

The animist kingdom of Ryukyu is isolated from the rest of Japan, both geographically and politically.

They do not participate initially in the Daimyo mechanic; instead, they start as a vassal of Ming.

This does not mean they are unable to participate in the struggle for the Japanese emperor though. Conquering Kyoto while having the daimyo government will make you the new Shogun!

Ryukyu’s popularity is due to its achievement “The Three Mountains” which requires conquering the WORLD as this nation without forming other nations even. One of the hardest achievements that exists since the game’s launch.

Their ideas are decent for expansion and internal stability, while their flexible starting position offers them many routes of expansion, mainly in the Philippines, Indonesia, and eventually Japan proper.


3. Oda

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Oda’s starting position and excellent military ideas on the left.

Another fun favorite is Oda – which comparable to Tokugawa in every way. The clan was the one to initially wrestle control of the Shogunate and decisively come on top during the Sengoku era.

They overshadow their neighbors Tokugawa in almost every aspect. A bit more starting development, a starting alliance, and better national ideas.

If you want to fulfill Nobunaga Oda’s dream of unifying Japan centuries before he did, then playing as his clan is only right.

Of course, the starting situation is not ideal, suffering from the exact problems discussed in the Tokugawa entry. You will need to take a lot of loans and pay a lot of attention to early battles.

Although all of the loans will easily be paid when you consolidate your power and become the Shogun.


2. Hosokawa

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Hosokawa’s starting traditions are excellent for naval and land warfare in the early game.

The Hosokawa clan has the most starting development in Japan.

They control a center of trade and have a core in neighboring Yamana.

Their national traditions are excellent for early warfare in the southern islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. +20% galley combat ability ensures your naval dominance and allows you to comfortably block any straits.

Unifying most (or even all) of the south, securing some allies in the north, and declaring on the Shogun for the throne can happen very quicky. In a span of less than a decade in fact.

Their national idea set is decent but not anything special. Even with the -10% development cost they get, Japanese ideas are preferable unless you are going to play super tall.


1. Uesugi

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Uesugi’s prime position to dominate northern Japan. Their decent ideas showcased on the left.

Finally, the first place on this list might seem weird to some. Uesugi does not have the strongest ideas neither the most starting development.

What they do have though is three times the development of all their neighbors, and no other power to challenge them in the north.

Securing Mino and Hatakeyama as allies to save you the trouble of sieging down their capital forts is a smart move. With those secured, conquering all other provinces northeast of Kyoto should be a breeze.

Lastly, get yourself as many allies in the south as you can and declare on the Shogun for the throne.

So why is this stronger than Hosokawa?

Simple: Uesugi has far easier early expansion, while Hosokawa will need to fight Yamana and their allies ASAP.

Playing as Uesugi also has the added benefit that no northern nation will consolidate the region and be a pain to diplomatically annex when you are the shogun. YOU are that nation, and YOU became the shogun.

Of course, this can also happen in the south – but in my experience, it is far less likely.

Do not forget to change ideas to the Japanese ones, as they are objectively superior to Uesugi’s.

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G. Tsechilidis

Born and raised Greek citizen. His love of history, geography, and all things map-related, are certainly a contrast to his pursuit of a master in civil engineering. An avid gamer from a very young age, he found the perfect match in Grand Strategy Games. If not for a good chess match or a round of carambole billiards, you'll certainly catch him firing up EU4 or a Total War game to spend the evening.