Complete Daimyo Japan Guide for EU4

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Japan is a very interesting region at the game’s start. It begins with myriad of small nations, most possessing a single province, all being vassals of the Shogun who himself only has two provinces under his direct control.

These many vassals are the Daimyo, and they have a unique government allowing them to ally, wage war, and form coalitions against each other. The Shogun can only indirectly meddle in their affairs.

Your goal will always be to become the Shogun.

This means conquering your fellow Daimyo nearby and allying those on the other side of Japan to eventually declare war and depose the reigning Shogun.


Choosing a Daimyo to Play

There is no achievement tied to any one specific Daimyo. There are, though, a LOT of achievement tied to playing as any one of them. Achievement hunting is not a factor, thus, when considering who to start as.

What needs to be considered is each nation’s starting position and national ideas.


National Ideas

As far as national ideas are concerned, you would generally prefer switching to the Japanese ideas when you eventually form Japan. This means you will only make use of each daimyo’s starting traditions, as you will have unified Japan by the time you start unlocking the rest.

If you wish to remain as the Shogun and do not form the nation of Japan, then you can take into consideration the entire idea set of a Daimyo.


Starting Position

Each Daimyo has a unique starting position, with varying amounts of development, forts under control and neighbors threatening them.

Things to consider:

1. Forts
Many underestimate their importance early on.

Forts, and Capital forts even more than that, will hinder you expansion and cost you money, time, and manpower if you try sieging them.

There are 4 forts at the game’s start under the control of Ouchi, Amago, Toki, and Hatakeyama. Always consider ALLYING the nations controlling these forts, it will save you a lot of trouble.

2. Development
Some nations begin with a single province and less than 10 development while other begin with more than 30 development.

Uesugi, Hosokawa, Yamana and Ouchi are the largest ones at game start.

3. Neighbors
The Hosokawa and the Yamana might be stronger than most at the game’s start, but they start bordering each other with cores on each other’s land. It is certain they will be fighting very soon.

Uesugi on the other hand has no threats nearby and can sweep northern Japan unopposed.


Interesting Daimyo Choices

To save you the trouble of analyzing the starting position of every Daimyo in Japan, I will offer some very interesting and strong nations to consider.

  • Uesugi – Arguably the strongest nation at game start. They start with a good ruler, 33 development split amongst 3 provinces and a lot of one province minors (OPMs) to expand into. You should ally the fort nations, unify the north, and then simply move against the Shogun to usurp the throne.
  • Hosokawa – They start with the most development at the game’s start, 41, along with a core in their rivals Yamana. They have +10% infantry combat ability and +20% galley combat ability in their ideas which gives them a nice edge. Blockading straits and stranding enemy armies across the narrow seas is very useful in Southern Japan.
  • Oda – A fan favorite, they are included in the game even if they did not really exist at the game’s start. They historically rose to the Shogun position some centuries later. They sport very strong traditions, +10% morale of armies and +10% infantry combat ability. In fact, the strongest military ideas of all the daimyo. However, they start with only one province which makes their start a bit harder.
  • Tokugawa – Another fan favorite and the ones who succeeded Oda as the Shoguns until the Meiji restoration of the emperor in the 19th century. They also have decent traditions suitable for expansion. Their starting situation is very similar to Oda, they simply are a little bit weaker.
  • Shimazu – A personal favorite of mine from the times before the Oda clan was even included in the 1444 starting date. They start with only one province at the southernmost province in the island of Kyushu. Their ideas are decent militarily and they have a clear expansion route to their north, usually allying Hosokawa or Yamana and conquering the other.

Daimyo General Strategy

You always aim at becoming the Shogun.

The Daimyo government is abysmal for independent nations.

To become the Shogun, you need to declare war on your overlord, the Shogun, and demand the province of Kyoto using the special “War for the emperor” casus belli. In this war, any Daimyo allied to you will join on your side, while everyone else will fight against you along the Shogun.

Important: Do not be afraid to go over you force limit during your early expansion. Your force limit can be as low as 2 due to Shogunate mechanics! You cannot win wars with only 2 units. Just make sure not to go bankrupt, at least not before becoming the Shogun.


North and South Japan

You should visualize Japan in-game as two separate regions, a southern and a northern one, split where the Mino and Etchu provinces are.

These 2 provinces start with forts built already, and they are the capitals of the nations controlling them, making the level 3 forts.

The north-south split. Kyoto, the capital of the Shogun is south of the line / EU4
The north-south split. Kyoto, the capital of the Shogun is south of the line.

The AI will almost never successfully siege these forts, so you can think them as an artificial barrier preventing them from moving on the other side.

They’ll also hustle for you to siege, costing you a lot of money. I recommend allying the nations controlling them.


Sengoku Jidai CB

Daimyos have access to the Sengoku Jidai casus belli against all other daimyo they share a land border with. This casus belli allows for easy expansion without the need to always fabricate claims.

Keep in mind that fabricating claims is still useful, saving you some administrative points and allowing you to attack daimyo you border only through a sea tile.

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Attacking a neighbor with the unique casus belli.

Choice of Allies

You want strong allies on the other side of Japan.

For example, playing as Uesugi you would want to ally Hosokawa or Yamana. That way you do not hinder your own expansion routes.

A Shimazu campaign with Hosokawa as an ally. Unless I go for the Shogunate, my expansion routes are pretty limited / EU4
A Shimazu campaign with Hosokawa as an ally. Unless I go for the Shogunate, my expansion routes are pretty limited.

You also want to ally as many of the fort-controlling nations you can. It is possible to ally all of them.

Prioritize Toki and Ouchi, as their forts are the most important.

Toki especially can prevent any armies from the north to march south, buying you enough time to siege Kyoto.

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Starting alliances as Uesugi. Three fort nations along with Yamana were my choice.

Road to the Shogunate

Your road until you claim the title of Shogun should look like this:

Step 1: Choose allies
Discussed in detail above.

Step 2: Expand with Sengoku Jidai
Do not be afraid to call in allies and give them some land. Remember, they will be your vassals when you become the Shogun.

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A picture capturing the spirit of Daimyo warfare. Sieging 4 nations at the same time with 1 unit to prevent recruiting, while mopping up enemy armies. Meanwhile, Hosokawa is desperately trying to siege the level 3 fort in Amago.

Step 3: Border Kyoto
This is not necessary, but highly recommended. Kyoto is not coastal, to demand it you need a neighboring province.

You want the war to finish as fast as possible, so demanding more than Kyoto is not ideal.

Step 4: Ally as many as you can
Before declaring the war, secure as many allies as you can. It will cost you some diplo for the few months the war will last but it is worth it.

Every ally is an extra nation on your side and one less for the Shogun.

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Allying as many daimyo as possible before declaring. Ashikaga is allied with Ainu, which can be very annoying if you are a northern nation.

Step 5: Declare the war and annex Kyoto
You do not need anything more than Kyoto.

Simply siege it and the Ashikaga will soon accept ceding it. They will then be your vassal like everyone else, as they start with one more province in the east.

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Demanding Kyoto in the peace deal.

After Becoming the Shogun

When you become the Shogun there’s a high chance your nation will be in disarray.

Rebellions from the daimyo you conquered should be about to break out and you may be in a huge debt.

Stability also will be low, as declaring on your overlord costs -3.

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The event of Kyoto falling.

You should now focus on handling these issues, while also increasing relations and marrying your daimyo vassals to ensure their loyalty.

Even if you haven’t expanded a lot, most of the daimyo should have low liberty desire.

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Becoming the shogun as Shimazu. Despite Uesugi and Hosokawa being larger than me, they are still loyal.
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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.