Ishida Mitsunari, depicted in a portrait.
|Native name||石田 三成|
|Birth name||Sakichi (佐吉)|
Ōmi Province (present-day Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture)
|Died||November 6, 1600 (aged 40–41)|
|Buried||Sangen-in, Daitoku-ji, Kyoto|
|Allegiance|| Toyotomi clan|
|Battles/wars||Siege of Oshi|
Siege of Fushimi
Battle of Sekigahara
at least two other daughters
|Relations||Ishida Masatsugu (father)|
Ishida Mitsunari (石田 三成, 1559 – November 6, 1600) was a Japanese samurai and military commander of the late Sengoku period of Japan. He is probably best remembered as the commander of the Western army in the Battle of Sekigahara following the Azuchi–Momoyama period of the 16th century. He is also known by his court title, Jibu-no-shō (治部少輔).
He was born in the north of Ōmi Province (which is now Nagahama city, Shiga Prefecture), and was the second son of Ishida Masatsugu, who was a retainer for the Azai clan. His childhood name was Sakichi (佐吉). The Ishida withdrew from service after the Azai's defeat in 1573. According to legend, he was a monk in a Buddhist temple before he served Toyotomi Hideyoshi, but the accuracy of this legend is doubted since it only came about during the Edo period.
Service under Hideyoshi
Mitsunari met Toyotomi Hideyoshi when the former was still young and the latter was the daimyō of Nagahama. When Hideyoshi engaged in a campaign in the Chūgoku region, Mitsunari assisted his lord in attacks against castles like the Tottori Castle and Takamatsu Castle (in present-day Okayama).
After Hideyoshi seized power, Mitsunari became known as a talented financial manager due to his knowledge and skill at calculation. From 1585 onward, he was the administrator of Sakai, a role he took together with his elder brother Ishida Masazumi. He was appointed one of the five bugyō, or top administrators of Hideyoshi's government. Hideyoshi made him a daimyō of Sawayama in Ōmi Province, a five hundred thousand koku fief (now a part of Hikone). Sawayama Castle was known as one of the best-fortified castles during that time. Mitsunari also participated in the 1590 campaign against the Hōjō clan, where he commanded the Siege of Oshi and captured Oshi Castle. Later, he served in the Japanese invasions of Korea.
Hideyoshi's death and Battle of Sekigahara
Mitsunari was a leader of bureaucrats in Hideyoshi's government, and was known for his unbending character. Though he had many friends, he was on bad terms with some daimyōs that were known as good warriors, including Hideyoshi's relatives Kuroda Nagamasa and Hachisuka Iemasa. Additionally, the young warrior Kobayakawa Hideaki developed a grudge against Mitsunari as a result of rumors spread by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Toward the end of Taiko Hideyoshi's life, Hideyoshi ordered the execution of his heir Hidetsugu and the execution of his family, leaving his new heir to be the extremely young child Toyotomi Hideyori. After Hideyoshi's death, the conflicts in the court worsened. The central point of the conflict was the question of whether Tokugawa Ieyasu could be relied on as a supporter of the Toyotomi government, whose nominal lord was still a child, with actual leadership falling to a council of regents. After the death of the respected "neutral" Maeda Toshiie in 1599, the conflict came to arms, with Mitsunari forming an alliance of loyalists to Toyotomi's young heir to stand against Tokugawa. Mitsunari's support largely came from the south and west of Japan, with the addition of the Uesugi clan in the north, while Tokugawa's support came from central and northern Japan, but had influence and intimidation over some of the Western lords. The titular head of the Western alliance was Mōri Terumoto, but Mōri stayed entrenched in his castle; leadership fell to Mitsunari in the field. In 1600, He besieged Fushimi Castle before marching into direct conflict with Tokugawa's alliance at Sekigahara. A number of lords stayed neutral, watching the battle from afar, not wishing to join in the losing side. Tokugawa's forces gained the edge in the battle, especially with the betrayal of Kobayakawa Hideaki to his side, and won the battle.
After his defeat, Mitsunari sought to escape, but was caught by villagers. He was beheaded in Kyoto. Other daimyōs of the Western army, like Konishi Yukinaga and Ankokuji Ekei were also executed. After execution, his head, severed from his body, was placed on a stand for all the people in Kyoto to see. His remains were buried at Sangen-in, a sub-temple of the Daitoku-ji, Kyoto.
A theory / legend says that Ieyasu showed him mercy, but hid him, for political reasons, with one of his veteran generals, Sakakibara Yasumasa, where he grew old and died a natural death. To thank Yasumasa for his silence, Mitsunari gave him a treasured sunnobi-tantō of 31,2 cm therefore nicknamed Ishida-Sadamune (石田貞宗), ranked Jūyō Bunkazai by the Japanese Government.
In general, traditional Japanese historiography did not pay much attention to Mitsunari's legacy, as he lost and Tokugawa won; he was often portrayed as a weak bureaucrat. His reputation has somewhat recovered since then, with later historians noting his skill in planning and earlier battlefield victories, and that Sekigahara could easily have gone the other way had a few more lords on his side stayed loyal.
Mitsunari had three sons (Shigeie, Shigenari, and Sakichi) and three daughters (only the younger girl's name is known, Tatsuhime) with his wife. After his father's death, Shigenari changed his family name to Sugiyama to keep living.
In the 2017 film Sekigahara, Mitsunari is the main character and is portrayed quite sympathetically. This version of Mitsunari is dismayed at Hideyoshi's execution of his heir and regent, recruits allies interested in ruling with justice, is uncomfortable with taking families hostage as leverage, genuinely seeks the best for Hideyoshi's heir, and is in general a forthright and honest type. His rival Tokugawa is portrayed as more of a schemer. The director, Masato Harada, saw Mitsunari as a more modern type of ruler, ahead of his time.
Mitsunari is a character in the Sengoku Basara franchise where he is portrayed more as a warrior loyal to Hideyoshi as opposed to an administrator and a general. He excels in using Iaido and darkness-based attacks there. In anime, he hates Ieyasu Tokugawa, but in movie, he hated Masamune Date more than Ieyasu.
In the Samurai Warriors video game series, Mitsunari is portrayed as a strategist of the Toyotomi forces against the Hōjō clan who uses a fan in battle.
- Bryant, Anthony. Sekigahara 1600: The Final Struggle for Power. Praeger Publishers, 2005
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