Katsumoto hailed from an ancient samurai clan with a long and distinguished history. In the early Middle Ages, Clan Katagiri served the Minamoto family, traditional head of the samurai that supplied early shōguns and their government, and ruled the southernmost part of Shinano region for nearly 500 years.
Despite his lineage and the promising start at Shizugatake, Katsumoto's rise under Toyotomi Hideyoshi was relatively slow compared to his fellow "seven spears", which included Katō Kiyomasa and Fukushima Masanori. Katō and Fukushima were more court samurai rather than warriors; Katsumoto was kept in the Osaka region, the de facto capital of Japan under the Toyotomi family, and his holdings were in Ibaraki area in the north. (Marked in present-day by a small bronze statue).
After the Battle of Sekigahara (1600) which followed Hideyoshi's death, Katsumoto was appointed the chamberlain of the Toyotomi household whose fortune, with infant Hideyori, only son of Hideyoshi, as the head of the dynasty, became increasingly precarious before the ambitious Tokugawa Ieyasu. During the next fifteen years, Katsumoto sought to negotiate a compromise between the ruthless Ieyasu, who had already decided to destroy his former master's dynasty once and for all, and the stubborn and haughty Yodo-dono, mother of young Hideyori, who was hopelessly out of touch with the new and current Tokugawa ruler. Increasingly suspicious of Katsumoto's loyalty, Yodo-dono finally banished Katsumoto from Osaka castle which directly resulted in the Siege of Osaka (1614–15) by Ieyasu's 200,000-strong army. The following summer, the Toyotomi family was annihilated and mother and son committed suicide within the burning castle.
Katsumoto's precise role in all of this saga is unclear. Katsumoto died only 20 days after the fall of the Osaka castle for unknown reasons, though the rumour of seppuku was rife. Although his own lineage died out later in the seventeenth century, Katsumoto's younger brother and his family maintained Katagiri's name and its standing as a daimyō. The descendants of which were ennobled in 1884 and retained the title of Viscounts until 1946 when the system was abolished.
Katsumoto's anguish after the fall of the Toyotomi clan was later dramatised in kabuki theatre where Katsumoto cut a tragic figure in Hamlet's mould. In Tsubouchi Shōyō's play Kiri-hitoha, which describes the fall of the house of Toyotomi, Katsumoto, the main character, is a faithful servant with good intentions and keen sense of reality but rendered powerless caught in the whirlwind of dynastic struggle. At the climax of the play, Katsumoto famously deplores that the fate finally caught up with the house of Toyotomi. The play, which may well be the best modern kabuki piece written by arguably the best playwright of modern Japan (published 1894–95, first staged in 1904), made "Katagiri Katsumoto" a household name and remains one of the best and most popular modern kabuki plays.
- 片桐氏 from 1156 to 1868: Clan Katagiri and its history and as Daimyo family (in Japanese) 片桐氏
- Biographical information (in Japanese)
- Works by or about Katagiri Katsumoto in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
| First Daimyō of Ibaraki
| First Daimyō of Tatsuta