Council of Five Elders

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Joint letter of Toyotomi's Council of Five Elders (go-tairō). The Kaō on the first line from the left to the right belong to Uesugi Kagekatsu and Mōri Terumoto. On the second line, they belong to Ukita Hideie, Maeda Toshiie and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Please note that the Kanji on the second line are upside down because the paper is folded.

The council of five elders, also known as the five Tairō (五大老, go-tairō), was formed in 1595 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to rule Japan in the place of his son, Hideyori, until such time as he came of age.[1] Hideyoshi chose his five most powerful daimyōs: Ukita Hideie, Maeda Toshiie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, Mōri Terumoto, and the famous Tokugawa Ieyasu. (Kobayakawa Takakage was also to have been one of the elders, but died before Hideyoshi himself.)

It was Hideyoshi's hope that the members of the council would balance each other, preventing any one of them from taking control. This was not to be, however: almost immediately after Hideyoshi's death in 1598, the elders swiftly divided themselves into two camps, consisting of "Tokugawa" and "everybody else". War did not actually break out until mid-1600; it ended the same year, at the Battle of Sekigahara, where Tokugawa won a decisive victory that essentially guaranteed the end of Toyotomi Japan, and the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate. Hideyori was sidelined, retaining control of only Osaka Castle. In 1615, under a fabricated pretext, he was attacked by Tokugawa forces and defeated at the Siege of Osaka, committing seppuku.


  1. ^ Griffis, William Elliot (1913) [first published 1876]. The Mikado's Empire. 1 (12th ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 244–245. LCCN 13003305. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 

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