Winter of Discontent: The Siege of Osaka Castle
by Eric Niderost
In 1611 Tokugawa Ieyasu had every reason to be pleased with himself. His son
Hidetada was Shogun, supreme warlord of Japan, but in truth it was Ieyasu who
ruled the country behind the scenes. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the last in a series
of powerful figures who had finally ended decades of internecine strife still
know as the Sengoku Jidai, or "Age of the Country at War." 
Ieyasu had himself been Shogun from 1603 to 1605, then "retired" ostensibly to
enjoy the fruits of his hard-earned labors. Though in theory the Shogun was the
servant of the Japanese emperor, in reality the emperor was little more than a
revered figurehead. By officially handing over the reins of government to
Hidetada Ieyasu was serving notice that the House of Tokugawa was the real
dynasty of Japan. Little did the old samurai know that his family would rule
until 1868, making it one of the most successful in the history of the island
Japan was a feudal society in 1611, with the country divided into fiefs ruled
by lords called daimyo. These daimyo were part of a warrior
caste called samurai, though not all samurai were feudal lords. Even lower
status samurai were a breed apart, trained from early childhood in the arts of
war. A generation before it had been possible for a peasant to become a
samurai, but by 1611 such social mobility was a thing of the past. Peasants
were forbidden to keep swords, much less practice military arts.
Ieyasu was 68 years old in 1611. It was remarkable for anyone to reach such an
advanced age in the seventeenth century, but for a samurai it was nothing short
of miraculous. Warfare was hazardous enough, but the samurai code demanded
ritual suicide (seppuku) in defeat or adversity. It was not unusual
for an angry lord to demand a retainer's suicide; once such an order was
received, it had to be carried out immediately and without question. Ieyasu
knew all too well what a samurai's life demanded, especially if he were
ambitious. In 1579 Ieyasu ordered his eldest son to commit suicide, in part
because a more powerful warlord named Nobunaga wanted it.
It was the Battle of Sekigahara, fought on October 21, 1600, that made Ieyasu
master of Japan. Some have called it the greatest battle in Japanese history, a
titanic struggle that involved as many as 160,000 men. Ieyasu utterly defeated
his rivals, and many of the daimyo who attempted to flee the field were rounded
up and executed. Even in the aftermath of the battle Ieyasu was able to view
the freshly severed heads of his opponents, lined up in a gore-splattered row
for his enjoyment.
Sekigahara was a turning point in Japanese history. In the flush of victory
Ieyasu began a major feudal reorganization of the home islands. Supporters were
rewarded, while those who failed to rally to the Tokugawa cause were punished.
Since land was the basis of a daimyo's wealth, Ieyasu reduced or
expanded holdings on the basis of perceived loyalty to his house.
Wealth was based in the koku, the amount of rice needed to feed one
man for a year. Even one koku implied a substantial amount. Tokugawa loyalist
Maeda Toshinaga, for example had his holding increased by 360,000 koku,
which made him second only to Ieyasu himself in overall wealth. The daimyo
who had their lands reduced were branded tozama, or "outer lords," as
a mark of Ieyasu's displeasure. Yet the tozama were luckier than
those who had everything taken away. Without land, a daimyo lost all
power and prestige.
Each daimyo had his own private army of lower-status samurai pledged
to fight for him and guard his domains. When a lord was completely
dispossessed, his samurai found themselves homeless and unemployed. Without
employment they became "ronin," masterless samurai, proud soldiers reduced to
It seemed that everything was going Ieyasu's way, but he still had to deal with
the troublesome reality of Toyotomi Hideyori. In 1600 Hideyori was a child of
seven, but he was heir to a powerful name. His father had been Toyotomi
Hideyoshi, one of the other great figures of the Sengoku Jidai. A
peasant by birth, Hideyoshi managed to achieve supreme power by 1590. Because
of his humble origins Hideyoshi could not become Shogun, but he eventually
became Taiko, or "retired regent, " for the emperor.
Hideyoshi died in 1598, leaving behind a five-year-old Hideyori as his son and
heir. The Taiko realized that without his strong hand to keep them in check the
feudal lords might engage in a war of succession. Hideyori might be pushed
aside, even killed, in the ensuing mad scramble for power.
To prevent this Hideyoshi set up a Council of Regents to rule until young
Hideyori came of age. The Regents pledged loyalty to the House of Toyotomi,
sealing the pact with blood from their fingers. The story may be apocryphal,
but it is said that when Ieyasu signed he engaged in some literal slight of
hand. He drew blood from behind his ear and not from his finger, while made the
sanguinary signature null and void. Such trickery was typical of the man, and
should have served as a warning to the Toyotomi faction.
As long as Hideyori was a child, Ieyasu felt he had little to fear. In the
aftermath of the Battle of Sekigahara Hideyori's status was reduced from the
future ruler of Japan to a mere daimyo. Yet Ieyasu was a seasoned campaigner in
war and a master politician in peace. No fool, he recognized the threat that
Hideyori represented. In 1603 Ieyasu's grand daughter was given to Hideyori in
marriage, the union lessening the tensions between the two rival houses.
The marriage might pour oil over troubled political waters, but Ieyasu knew the
union was only a temporary expedient. Hideyori was immensely rich, enjoying the
revenues of 657,000 koku. His feudal seat was at Osaka, one of the richest
trading centers of the Japanese home islands. The young man might have lacked
military experience, but he possessed Osaka Castle, the strongest fortress in
Above all he had the Toyotomi name, a name that was still potent a decade after
the taiko's death. The magic of that name was a magnet that might
attract all the disaffected elements of Japanese society. Worse still, Ieyasu
was getting old, while Hideori had not yet reached the prime of his young
manhood. Ieyasu's son Hidedata was competent but by no means brilliant. In
fact, the latter's poor-to-mediocre showing during the Sekigahara campaign left
substantial doubts about his performance after Ieyasu died.
Ieyasu's fears were somewhat assuaged by one of Hideyori's guardians, Katsumoto
Katagiri. Katagiri spread stories that Hideyori was growing up into an
effeminate youth of little intelligence. These stories were a ruse, meant to
lull Ieyasu into a false sense of security. The stratagem worked for several
years, but finally unraveled in 1611.
In that year there was a personal meeting between Hideyori and Ieyasu that
opened the old man's eyes. Hideyori, then eighteen, was intelligent and far
from effeminate. The two men met in Kyoto with all due pomp and ceremony; gifts
and flattering courtesies were the order of the day. But beneath the glittering
and cordial façade Ieyasu apparently resolved to eliminate this promising young
man before he could supplant the House of Tokugawa. In that sense, then, the
1611 meeting was the beginning of Hideyori's downfall.
For his part Hideyori seemed to harbor no animosity towards the older man.
Certainly, there seems to be no evidence of political ambition either. Hideyori
had married Ieyasu's granddaughter, and thought of Ieyasu as a kind of adopted
uncle. Intelligent though he was, Hideyori was naive--in the end, fatally
naïve-- about "uncle" Ieyasu. Ieyasu's past unscrupulous actions were a matter
of public record, yet Hideyori chose to ignore the evidence.
Ieyasu now searched for a pretext to move against Hideyori. The young man and
his mother Yodogimi, Hideyori's widow, had been building a temple in Osaka. By
1612 the Daibutsu Temple was complete. One of its most prominent features was a
giant bronze statue of Buddha. This Great Buddha was the centerpiece of the
shrine, a masterpiece of art and piety. It was also determined that a great
bell would be cast for the complex.
It was said that Ieyasu had encouraged these building projects, secretly hoping
they would bankrupt his young rival. Hideyori's resources were abundant, and
his coffers bottomless, so the attempt to ruin him financial came to nothing.
Undaunted, Ieyasu tried a different tack. An inscription on Hideyori's great
bronze bell declared "In the east it greets the pale moon, and in the west bids
farewell to the setting sun." Ieyasu pretended to be offended by these
innocuous lines, supposedly because they were insulting to the House of
Tokugawa. Ieyasu, the lord of the east (Edo, now Tokyo, area) was linked with
the "inferior" moon, while Hideyori, the lord of the west was linked with the
The charge was ridiculous, even by the touchy face-saving norms of samurai daimyo.
Nevertheless, it was a beginning, the first political salvo in a campaign to
weaken the House of Toyotomi. Ieyasu was worried about the strength of Osaka
Castle. Though third parties he made it known that he might like to have
Hideyori leave Osaka and go to another fief. Once the young man was separated
from both his great revenues and his impregnable castle, the Toyotomi threat
would be neutralized.
Osaka was Hideyori's home. Rather than leave it, he told relatives he'd rather
make it his tomb. It seems that Hideyori still hoped for an accommodation with
his old "uncle," and harbored no ambitions to rule Japan. He was still wise
enough to know that, even if he were allowed to live as a petty lord, leaving
Osaka would be damaging to his House.
Today's tourist-oriented Osaka Castle, while impressive, is but a pale
reflection of the mighty 1614 fortress. To begin with the Osaka Castle of 1614
was a multilayered defense system of dry and wet moats, towers, stone walls,
and galleries. The massive walls of the inner complex--still in existence
today-- rose 120 feet, and if the outer defenses are included the castle
perimeter stretched nearly nine miles in circumference. 
The heart of Osaka Castle was its honmaru or inner bailey, which
featured a five-story tenshu (tower or keep) of probably eight
internal stories. In most castles the main tenshu was the main residence of the
lord and his family. At Osaka the main tenshu was largely a storehouse; nearby
another tower was a palatial home for Hideyori and mother Yodogimi. Osaka
castle wasn't merely impregnable, it was also dazzlingly opulent. It was said
the roofs were gilded, and the interiors were famous for their almost
Geography also played a major role in Osaka Castle's defense. The Temma, Yoda,
and Yamato Rivers converged to the north, probing finger of water that created
a labyrinth of muddy shoals, islands, and boggy rice paddies. The sea was
much closer than it is today, and formed a buffer on the castle's western
flank. The Huano River and Necoma stream flowed to the east, and the Ikutama
canal hugged the outer defenses to the west.
At the eleventh hour the ever-resourceful Katagiri suggested Hideyori's mother
Yodogiri go to Edo as a kind of peace assurance and honored "hostage." The
samurai confided that this suggestion was merely a ploy to gain time. Katagiri
reasoned, and rightly so, that it might be years before Yodogiri actual had to
leave, if ever. It would take time to find a suitable residence for such an
honored "guest," and if pressed Yodogiri could develop a diplomatic
"illness." Years might pass, and in the interim Ieyasu would probably die.
Hideyori would be in the prime of young manhood, ready to challenge the
mediocre talents of Ieyasu's son Hidetada.
It was a good plan, and well thought out, but in the end it was rejected. In
fact, Yodogiri actually suspected Katagiri of treachery. He left Osaka under a
cloud of suspicion and innuendo, never to return. With his departure, the House
of Toyotomi lost a major supporter.
By June of 1614 it was clear to all that war was a virtual certainty between
Ieyasu and Hideyori. It was clear to all, that is, except Hideyori, who still
seemed to hope for peace and reconciliation. The young lord even sent back a
large shipment of English gunpowder because he couldn't sell it. Ieyasu
took swift action, not only buying up the gunpowder but also purchasing five
English artillery pieces. (At the time, European guns and powder were
considered to be far superior to their Asian counterparts--an irony, given that
gunpowder was invented in China.)
The five guns were typical of the period. Four of them were culverins, each
weighing 4,000 pounds and firing a shot of about eighteen pounds. The other gun
was a sasher, which fired a five-pound shot. There is some controversy over
Hideyori's artillery. Some sources claim he was well stocked with ordinance,
while others aver he largely had inferior quality Chinese guns.
It took time, but Hideyori finally awakened to the Tokugawa threat. Ieyasu's
"grandfatherly" concern and affable demeanor had lulled the young man into a
false sense of security. Now alerted, Hideyori issued an appeal for all loyal daimyo
to rally to the House of Toyotomi. Not one of the great lords responded,, mute
but eloquent testimony to the fourteen years of Ieyasu's rule. Even those who
might have been inclined to answer the summons had second thoughts when the
"terrible old man" held their families hostage.
The ronin or masterless samurai responded to Hideyori's call in
unprecedented numbers, eager at a chance for both military employment and
revenge. Ronin literally means "wave men," restless like the surging
ocean tides. They were well named, because ronin were a sea of
humanity, whose numbers and determination for revenge might tip the scales
Eventually Hideyori had a huge army of some 90,000 largely veteran
fighters. The daimyo who did support Hideyori were, like the ronin,
those who were nursing a grievance against Ieyasu. Chosokabe Shigenari, for
example, was the ex-lord of Tosa who had been stripped of all rank and power
and forced to live in obscurity.
Some of the Hideyori daimyo were Christians like Goto Motosugu and
Kimura Shienari. There had been intermittent persecutions of Japanese
Christians during this period, including some martyrdoms of converts and
missionary priests. A Jesuit recalled that in Hideyori's army "…there were so
many crosses, Jesu's and Sant'Iagos (Saint James) on their flags, tents, and
other martial insignia (it must) have made Ieyasu sick to his stomach."
These Christian samurai were eager to fight a man who they considered a devil
of war in the name of the Prince of Peace.
Hideyori's army, sometimes called the Osaka or Western forces, lacked a
paramount military leader. The young daimyo had been raised in all the
martial disciplines expected of a samurai, but he lacked practical military
experience. His name and his father's Golden Gourd uma-jiroshi (standard)
might raise an army, but it was quite another proposition to lead it. Most of
the daimyo who did respond to the call were men of competence but not
While there wasn't any supreme warlord to command the Osaka garrison forces,
Sanada Yukimura played an important role in siege preparations. A celebrated
master of defense, he had held up Ieyasu's son Hidetada at Ueda Castle in 1600.
With Sanada's defensive expertise, Osaka Castle was truly going to be a tough
nut to crack. Sanada was something of a swashbuckler; to join Hideyori he had
escaped from a monastery by stealing a horse. He had been forced to shave his
head and don monk's robes in a kind of forced exile, but now he was back with a
Sanada soon made his presence felt. To the west of Osaka Castle was the Ikutama
Canal, and to the east a stream called Nekoma. Thousands of ronin replaced
swords with spades and set to work building a moat that linked the canal and
stream. The resulting excavation was an impressive 240 feet wide and 36 feet
deep, and when the waters flowed in they rose to a depth of 12 to 24 feet.
Not content with this new moat, Sanada built a barbican in front of it and the
Hanchone Gate. Called the Sanada Maru or Sanada Barbican after its creator, the
outwork consisted of an earthworks and stockade behind a dry moat and palisade.
Though his fame rested on his successful castle defense of 1600, Sanada firmly
believed that the best defense is offense. In the fall of 1614 Hideyori
preceded over a grand council of war to discuss the situation. In the end a
purely defensive plan was adopted, a line of thinking encouraged by Osaka
Castle's apparent invincibility. Sanada disagreed; he favored a march on Kyoto
to seize the Emperor. His Majesty was a powerful symbol, a talisman of
national identity. If he was on Hideyori's side the Toyotomi cause would gain
added luster. Ieyasu might even be declared a rebel and traitor, a political
pariah few would want to follow. It was a brilliant plan, but Osaka Castle's
massive fortifications seem to have cast a spell on young Hideyori. He opted
for a purely passive strategy of waiting for Ieyasu's inevitable attack.
In November Ieyasu marshaled his troops for an attack on Osaka. The old man's
son, Shogun Hidedata, was his willing accomplice. Between them they raised
194,000 troops, roughly double that of the Osaka forces. The coming
operation would be known as the Winter campaign, a contest that would
ultimately chart the course of Japanese history.
Ieyasu's first task was to drive in the various Osaka outposts that guarded the
approaches to the main castle. An Osaka fort at the mouth of the Kizu River
guarded the supply routes into the castle, though provisions on hand were
enough to last several years.
Of course Ieyasu didn't know how well stocked Osaka was, so cutting off the
castle's supply route made perfect sense.
The fort was garrisoned by 800 men under a Christian daimyo named Akashi
Morishige. A force of 3,000 Eastern troops were dispatched under Hachisuka
Yoshishige to take the outpost by land and water. Yoshishige crowded his
samurai into 40 boats for a perilous river crossing, while some of his men
simultaneously attacked from the fort's landward side. The Easterners were
roughlyhanded by some Osaka guard boats, placed there to block a water
crossing. Musket fire peppered the advancing vessels, a steady stream of
bullets that splintered wooden sides and drilled though samurai armor and
Casualties were heavy, but bloodied boats pressed forward and finally reached
the opposite shore. In the meantime, the landward attack diverted the attention
of at least some of the defenders. Assaulted on two sides, the garrison was
finally overwhelmed and put to the sword. The fort was razed, and Eastern
troops stationed in the area to prevent any supplies from reaching the
The capture of the Kizu Fort set the pattern for the next weeks. One by one the
outposts were reduced, but the main Osaka Castle works were as yet untested. To
try both the strength of the Osaka and the mettle of its defenders, Ieyasu
ordered a major attack on the castle's southern flank. The old warrior was well
aware of Osaka castle's formidable reputation, but probably dreaded a lengthily
siege. Sieges can be drawn-out affairs, and Ieyasu knew that time was on
Hideyori's side. The longer he held out, the weaker Ieyasu would seem in the
eyes of daimyo waiting the chance to throw off his yoke.
It was the political survival of his family that was uppermost in the old man's
mind. An all-out attack on such formidable defenses was a risky maneuver, but
Ieyasu had taken risks his entire life. He cared little if a victory was dearly
bought, as long as he achieved his ends. Unfortunately Ieyasu couldn't have
picked a worse place to launch a major assault. The castle's southern defenses
were held by the redoubtable Sanada, a man who was probably Hideyori's best
The southern attack was given to Maeda Toshitsune, an Eastern general who was
able but not in Sanada's league. Sanada had been forewarned of the Eastern
attack by alert scouts. Knowing the Eastern army would try and seize his
outpost at Sasayama, Sanada purposely evacuated its garrison. When the eastern
troops took the deserted fort they were elated by the bloodless victory,
scrambling about the battlements with a mighty shout.
The main southern assault was to begin before dawn on the fourth of the twelfth
moon--January 3, 1615 by the western solar calendar. Sanada's officers stood by
in amazement as he leaned against a post apparently sleeping. This nonchalance
in the face of the enemy was genuine, but it also was a way of putting heart
into his men. After all, Ieyasu's troops couldn't be much of a threat if Sanada
could take a nap before battle.
The sun finally rose over Osaka, its beams gilding 10,000 Eastern soldiers
poised for the assault. Each samurai had a hashimono or flag attached to his
back by means of a pole. As the soldiers advanced their bellowing flags shook
with each footfall, the undulations moving like a multihued cloth sea. It was a
hypnotic effect, made even more dazzling by the presence of Ii Naotaka's "Red
Devils." These troops wore red lacquered armor, their units cutting a crimson
swath though the Eastern army's tight formations.
Sanada was unimpressed by all this color and panoply. He wanted to goad his
enemies into a rash attack, so he had a soldier shout insults from the
palisade. "How was hunting at Sasayama?" the soldier asked, then added
ironically that "the game (the garrison) had been scared away." "If you have
any leisure," the soldier taunted, "come and fall upon us: we have a few
country-made arrows for you."
Stung by the Osaka insults, Maeda's troops rushed forward to scale the wall,
only to be met with a withering fire from Sanada's musketmen. Muskets flamed in
gray white gouts of smoke, each discharge spitting lead that felled scores of
climbing samurai. Decimated survivors fell back to regroup their shattered
formations while fresh units took their place. None of Maeda's divisions could
make any headway.
A bit further down the castle's southern defenses the "red devils" actually
succeeded in scaling the walls and descended into the outer bailey like a
crimson flood. Osaka commander Kimura Shiemaru was ready to seal the break with
8,000 troops, many of them armed with muskets. Once again muskets pumped a
steady rain of lead into closely packed ranks, felling hundreds within minutes.
Soon the outer bailey was choked with scarlet corpses, their blood dying their
armor a deeper shade of red.
Ieyasu had had his answer; Osaka Castle was indeed impregnable. Shogun Hidetada
was all for renewing the assault, but was sternly overruled by his father.
Instead Ieyasu ordered a stockade and rampart be built around the fortress, the
action signaling a formal siege. It was January, in the depth of a bitter
Japanese winter, and the besieging troops found themselves literally out in the
The black snouts of some 300 Ieyasu guns ringed the castle. The larger
artillery pieces didn't have wheeled gun carriages, but were supported by rice
straw bags stuffed with straw. Samurai and common ashigaru (common soldiers)
shivered in the cold, their breath misting into vapor in the frigid air.
Officers found a degree of warmth in quilted cotton haori (surcoats), but
whatever the rank, all were united in cold-numbed misery.
Since Osaka castle's defenses proved too strong, Ieyasu was prepared to use
less conventional methods. Completely unscrupulous, a past master of political
deception and intrigue, the old man decided to use bribery to gain entrance to
the castle. But unfortunately Ieyasu's usually keen instincts seem to have
deserted him, or at least became diluted with age.
The man he attempted to bribe was Sanada, whose contempt for the Tokugawas was
equaled by his personal integrity. Sanada briskly rejected the offer, and
publicly published the bribery attempt so all could witness the old man's
shame. Ieyasu tried again, this time bribing a subordinate Osaka commander
named Nanjo Tadashige. Najo readily agreed to open the gates for a price-- but
was found out before his treachery could be accomplished. The traitor was
beheaded, and Ieyasu still stood outside Osaka Castle's formidable gates.
Ieyasu now went for bigger game. He knew that Hideyori's mother Yodogimi had
influence over her son, and that she was not as courageous as some of her
public statements would suggest. She, not Hideyori, might be the flaw in the
defense, the weakest link in the chain. On January 15, 1615 Ieyasu had his best
gunners train their culverins on the palace tower where Yodogimi kept her
private apartments. The palace was distinct from the main tenshu or keep.
After a few trial shots, the gunners found the range. A thirteen pound ball
crashed through the palace walls and smashed into a tea cabinet, in the process
killing two of Yodogimi's ladies. Another shot crashed into the family
shrine room, narrowly missing Hideyori himself. Even near misses rattled nerves
with their ear-splitting din, and by most accounts--though this is disputed--
Osaka castle could not respond in kind. The castle had many Ming Chinese bronze
cannon of inferior quality to European designs, and this artillery was further
handicapped by short ranges.
The physical bombardment was accompanied by a diplomatic salvo. Peace
negotiations were opened, a barrage of honeyed words and alluring promises
designed to sap the strength and weaken the resolve of the defenders.
Predictably Yodogimi added her voice to the counsels of peace, and she was
joined in this by several of Hideyori's daimyo. It's hard to determine
motivations after 400 years, but probably Hideyori's subordinates hoped to
curry favor with Ieyasu. If they were instrumental in making peace, the old man
might reward them by restoring all or part of their former domains.
Sanada vehemently disagreed with the peace faction, arguing that Ieyasu was
untrustworthy. The "terrible old man" was famous for twisting agreements to
suit his own ends. Years before, Ieyasu had entered into an agreement with some
monks swearing their temples would be restored "to their original state." Once
the pact was signed, Ieyasu torched the temples and burned them to the ground.
This was no breech of faith, Ieyasu declared with a straight face, because the
temple site had been restored to its original state-- empty fields!
Hideyori should have held out. His troops were brave, loyal, and fanatically
anti-Tokugawa. The defenses might be battered in spots, but they were still
basically impregnable. Water was plentiful, and there was enough rice and other
stocks of food to last several years. Ieyasu's allies might grow restive, or
even defect, if the siege lasted two or three years.
Unfortunately for the Toyotomi cause Hideyori allowed himself to be swayed by
he peace faction. It was said that his mother Yodogiri was particularly
frightened when Ieyasu had his entire army shout battle cries-- almost 200,000
voices combined to produce a swelling roar. A "peace" was concluded by
which Ieyasu withdrew his army from Osaka and lifted the siege. There would be
a general amnesty and Hideyori would continue to rule in Osaka. Ieyasu sealed
the pact with blood from his own fingertip, as was the custom.
The bulk of the Eastern army did withdraw, but other units remained ominously
in place. Without any prior consultation with Hideyori the remaining Eastern
commander began filling in Osaka Castle's outer moat. During the course of the
negotiations the moats were mentioned in passing, but there was nothing in the
final treaty that said anything about filling them in. Soon the entire outer
moat was filled with soil, and then Ieyasu's men began filling in the second
moat as well
Hideyori and his subordinates were aghast and protested the action, but were
put off by excuses and apologies. After 26 days the second moat was also a
thing of the past. Now Osaka castle's defenses were seriously compromised,
as Ieyasu had intended from the start. Deceit had accomplished what military
action could not.
Finally the moat-filling controversy reached he ears of Ieyasu himself.
Disingenuous as always. Ieyasu claimed the moat filling had no official
sanction from him. He was somewhat puzzled by the protest, however. After all,
he reasoned, peace had been restored. There were no need for defensive moats!
Peace lasted only a few months. Ieyasu intended to crush the House of Toyotomi
"finally, effectively, drastically." Ironically when Hideyori attempted to
excavate the filled moats again, Ieyasu used the action as a pretext for war.
Wasn't digging moats a "hostile" act?
In the sense the summer campaign of 1615 was a postscript to the previous
fighting. Hideyori's troops had lost none of their skills, but they were
mishandled in open battle. Due in part to a series of unfortunate tactical
mistakes, Hideyori's army was defeated and forced to fall back on Osaka Castle.
The fortress was not the mighty work it had been six months earlier, and it
soon fell. The tower that sheltered Hideyori and his mother were soon engulfed
in flame. Hideyori committed suicide, and Yodogiri either followed suit or was
dispatched by a retainer.
To make sure the Toyotomi family would never rise again Ieyasu had Hideyori's
eight year old son executed. The boy was Ieyasu's own grandson, but the old
samurai never let sentiment interfere with politics.
Osaka Castle was destroyed in the final fighting, but Ieyasu restored it on a
small scale later. The 120-foot walls that surround today's Osaka Castle are
original, but the keep is a twentieth century concrete reconstruction. Osaka
Castle, the mightiest fortress in all Japan, could withstand military force but
not the calculated wiles of an old samurai.
Show Footnotes and
Stephen Turnbull, "Samurai Warfare" (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1997), p. 10
Turnbull, p. 248
Stephen Turnbull, "Samurai: A Military History" (London: Osprey, 1979), p. 250
James McClian "Osaka: The Merchant Capital of Early Modern Japan" Cornell University Press, 1991, p. 17
James Murdock, "History of Japan (Vol. II) Frederick Ungar, 1969, pp. 515-516
Turnbull, "Samurai-a Military History," p. 250
Ibid, p. 251
Murdock, pp. 521-52.
Turnbull, p. 251
Turnbull, "Samurai Warfare," p. 128
Turnbull, "Samurai: A Military History," p. 125
Murdock, p. 524
Turnbull, "Samurai Warfare," p. 128
Ibid, p. 129
Murdock, p. 531
Murdock, p. 533
Murdock, p. 535
Turnbull, "Samurai Warfare," p. 129
Turnbull, "Samurai: A Military History," p. 256
Copyright © 2008 Eric Niderost
Written by Eric Niderost. If you have questions or comments on this article,
please contact Eric Niderost at:
About the author:
Eric Niderost teaches history at Chbaot College, a community college in Hayward, California.
A regular contributor to a number of magazines, he also is the co-author of Civil War Firsts (2001)
and A Nation Transformed (2007).
Published online: 05/26/2008. Originally appeared in Military Heritage Magazine.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.