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Toyotomi Hideyori (豊臣 秀頼, born September 8, 1593, precise time and place of death debated) was the son and designated successor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the general who first united all of Japan. His mother, Yodo-dono, was the niece of Oda Nobunaga.
When Hideyoshi died in 1598, the five regents he had appointed to rule in Hideyori's place began jockeying amongst themselves for power. Tokugawa Ieyasu seized control in 1600, after his victory over the others at the Battle of Sekigahara. Hideyori's arranged marriage to Senhime, the seven-year-old granddaughter of Ieyasu, was designed to mitigate Toyotomi clan dissension and plotting. In this period, the eight-year-old boy practiced calligraphy with phrases wishing for peace throughout the world. However, Ieyasu continued to view the young Hideyori as a potential threat.
In April 1615, Ieyasu received word that Toyotomi Hideyori was gathering even more troops than in the previous November, and that he was trying to stop the filling of the moat of Osaka Castle. Toyotomi forces (often called the Western Army) began to attack contingents of the Shogun's forces (the Eastern Army) near Osaka. On June 5, 1615. As Toyotomi's forces began to lose the battle, a smaller force led directly by Hideyori sallied forth from Osaka Castle too late, and was chased right back into the castle by the advancing enemies. There was no time to set up a proper defense of the castle, and it was soon set ablaze and pummeled by artillery fire. Hideyori and his mother committed seppuku, and the final major uprising against Tokugawa rule for another 250 or so years was put to an end. His widow remarried but later became a Buddhist nun.
According to James Murdoch's "A History of Japan During The Century of Early Foreign Discourse," based heavily upon the works of many Japanese sources (the Nihon Shoki, Miyoshi-Ki, and many more) as well as heavily based off the writings of the Jesuits, their annual letters, the letters of Will Adams and the diaries of Adams' Dutch comrades, the events of Hideyori's death and the final fall of Osaka Castle were as such.
Yukimura Sanada had been tactician of the climactic battle outside the gates of Osaka. Recognizing that they had a serious numerical disadvantage, they decided to attempt a tactic of inducing surprise and confusion in the Tokugawa camp. This was to be affected by first, Osaka captain Akashi Morishige getting behind the Tokugawa van, which would then be taken with Akashi's surprise attack, fall on Akashi, allowing Sanada with his troops and Mori Katsunaga, who was in charge of the Osaka Ronin, to fall into the Tokugawa front. When the confusion was to be at its height, Hideyori would have marched out of Osaka castle with his home troops and would in theory be the final blow to the Tokugawa.
What happened, according to Murdoch, was that Akashi was not able to get behind the Tokugawa troops, having been discovered and engaged before he emerged from the lanes. Whats more, the plans fell apart as Mori's Ronin, ever eager to fight, began shooting at the Tokugawa ranks, not waiting for Sanada (who was serving as Commander of the battle, in addition to being the tactician of the battle) to command them to do so. Sanada at once told the ronin to stop but they only doubled their efforts. Mori Katsunaga, deciding to take advantage of his ronin's eagerness, then decided to launch them forward nevertheless. Upon this, Sanada realized in order to keep any structure of his original plan, he too, would need to engage alongside the ronin. He decided then to launch himself alongside Katsunaga's force, straight into the Tokugawa, while dispatching a messenger to Hideyori to march out at that very moment instead of a bit further on as had been decided in the plan.
Hideyori began moving with his troops to leave Osaka. Meanwhile, the Osaka troops had been doing quite well in spite of the numerical disadvantage. It has even been said, in Murdoch's book, as he goes to show in an extract from a missionaries letter regarding the event (and it should be noted, there were several inside Osaka castle at this point) that the Osaka assault was actually quite successful and drove the Tokugawa back quite promptly. The plan of creating Tokugawa confusion worked and according to the Jesuits, Ieyasu himself, serving as the ultimate reinforcement to the center force, had told his men to kill him if victory seemed for nigh. Not only did the Jesuits write this, but, in another account, Murdoch states that Ieyasu had at least for some time had designs of hara-kiri because victory seemed to be escaping him.
According to Siebold, as written by James Murdoch, at this critical moment, as Hideyori was leaving Osaka to enter the fray, Ieyasu sent forth into Osaka the son of Osaka captain Ono Harunaga who had been a hostage to the Tokugawa. Ono Harunaga's son entered the castle and immediately dispatched a letter from Tokugawa to his father. The letter said "Do not let Hideyori leave the castle. In the castle is a conspiracy and as soon as Hideyori leaves it he will be attacked from the rear." It is because of this letter, according to Siebold, that Hideyori's portion of the plan miscarried. He was just about to leave when he was brought word of its contents, and at this point, stalled in entering the fray.
Eventually, despite the ferocity and initial victories of the Osaka troops, the numerical advantage of the Tokugawa forces proved too much. According to the Nihon Senshi:
"Hideyori, when he received intelligence of the defeat of his ronin, said, "Death is what I have been ready to meet for long," and was about to sally from the castle in order to fight his very last battle when he was stopped by Hayami, one of his seven captains, who urged that a commander-in-chief should not expose his person among the promiscuous dead. Let Hideyori defend the castle to the last; when it fell, it would be time to take a decision!"
And amidst the ensuing chaos, Hideyori fell back. The castle was fired and general chaos ensued. This Hayami, one of his seven captain's, eventually lead Hideyori, his wife, the daughter of the Shogun and grand daughter of Ieyasu, and his mother, Yodogimi to a fire proof keep in the castle. From here, Hideyori's wife, the daughter of the Shogun, left to beg of her father and grand father to spare Hideyori. According to Murdoch, when she finally reached the Shogun, Hidetada, he had remarked coldly to her, "Why don't you die with your husband?" which was customary. However, Ieyasu feigned compassion and instructed Tokugawa captains Ii and Ando to see to Hideyori's safe retreat.
Hideyori, however, remained in the fire-proof keep with his mother and, having sent dispatches to Ieyasu and Hidetada, waited for a response. He was given none and, upon his fire-proof keep being fired upon by the forces of Ii and Ando, allegedly then committed ritual suicide and the keep was destroyed.
Although Ii had been tasked with seeing to Hideyori's safe retreat, when, shortly after, Ii had reported the affairs to Ieyasu and told of his exceeding the orders he'd been given and, thereupon asked Ieyasu to punish him accordingly, according to Murdoch's book, Ieyasu merely nodded without saying anything and Ii left Ieyasu's presence. Not but a few weeks later Ii received a raise on his revenue at Hikone, in Omi, the sum going from 180,000 koku to 230,000 koku and still, later on, in 1617 to 280,000 koku.
In spite of this, still, Hideyori's actual corpse was never discovered and during those years, a popular rumor persisted that Hideyori had indeed escaped Osaka. The rumors had enough merit to concern the Tokugawa shogunate, all this according to Murdoch's book. The matter was serious enough that it found mention in the journals of Cocks, the Dutch comrade of William Adams. The following extracts from Cocks' journal explain the matter at hand:
"September 18th, 1616
Capt. Adames went againe to the Cort [at Yedo] to procure our dispatch, and fownd all the Councell busyed about matters of justice of lyfe and death; and amongst the rest, one man was brought in question about Fidaia Samme [Hideyori], as being in the castell with him to the last hower. This man was racked and tormented veru much, to make hym confes where his master was, or whether he were alive or dead; but I canot heare wether he confessed anything or no."
"May 5th, 1616
The sonne of Tuan Dono of Langasaque [Nagasaki] [i.e the brother of the Japanese Jesuit killed at the storming of Osaka], departed to sea with 13 barkes laden with souldiers to take the iland Taccasange, called per them soe, but by us Isla Fermosa. And it is reported he is at Goto, staying for more succors which are to come from Miaco, and thought they mean to goe for Lequea [Loochoo], to look for Fidaia Samme [Hideyori]."
"July 7th, 1616
Speeches geven out that the Tono, or King, of Xaxma [Satsuma] meaneth to make wars against the new Emperor [Hidetada] in right of Fidaia Samme [Hideyori], whom they report to be alive, and that he meaneth to begyn with Langasaque. This is now the common report."
"October 15th, 1616
And it is said Fidaia Samme is alive; but what will com hereof I know not."
- Watsky, Andrew Mark. (2004). Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan, p. 199. at Google Books
- Narayan, R. K. "Speaking Of Books: Tea With Kawabata; Kawabata," New York Times. September 14, 1969.
- Morita Kyōji 森田恭二 (2005). Higeki no hiirō Toyotomi Hideyori 悲劇のヒーロー豊臣秀頼. Osaka: Izumi Shoin 和泉書院.
- Watsky, Andrew Mark. (2004). Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 10-ISBN 0-295-98327-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-295-98327-1; OCLC 52127871