Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chapter 25. The Road to Sekigahara

The rise of Ieayasue and the replacement of Homatsu by a Tokugawa crony like Sugiyama was something the other Regents found most irksome. They hath come to view Ieayasue as first amongst equals, but now his deeds showed that he thought himself superior to them. So the other Regents sided with Ishida Misunari, and soon it seem the capital city of Osaka was no longer a safe place for Ieayasue and his followers.

First Regent Tokugawa Ieayasue’s steady rise to power broke the carefully crafted peace of Hideyoshi

In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Showa, Ieyasue and his loyal follower Jiro Zaburo left the capital and marched towards Chubu, his homeland. Misunari declared this as an avoidance of his duty. Then, he proclaimed himself First Regent.

Not only that, Misunari hath Sugiyama tortured to death and restored Homatsu, who was imprisoned in Osaka, to his former position. He then appointed Satsuma Zaitaka, Ieayasue’s estranged half-brother and daimyo of Hokkaido, as Second Regent. With the help of Misunari’s large army, Zaitaka conquered Chikuzabe territory and also became Admiral of Japan. Now, the Assembly of Regents were firmly in Misunari’s hands and focused on destroying Ieayasue. It was even rumored that Dowager Ochiba, mother of the heir, was having an affair with Misunari.

And yet, the political victory in Osaka was not enough for Misunari. He was bent on destroying Ieayasue and the entire Tokugawa clan, so he conspired with Zaitaka to achieve this. Zaitaka held Lady Meiko, who was his mother as well as Ieayasue, as hostage and told his half-brother that she wouldst be slain if he did not give up the daimyoate of Chubu and retire to the Monastery.

Ieayasue bided his time through lengthy negotiations with Zaitaka while ordering Choshu Tensei, his loyal general, to rescue his mother. The conflict between the Choshu and Satsuma clans would resonate in Japan again many centuries later, for it was Choshu Tensei and a few hundred hardy men who scaled the unclimbable walls of Okinawa and rescued Lady Meiko.

After his mother was safe, Ieyasue thought to himself, “I have relinquished the quest for power, and yet Ishida Misunari will not leave me be, so there is nothing I can do but fight this out with them.”

So despite his cautious nature, Ieayasue led a great host to do battle with the Ishida clan. In truth, the Ishida now hadst more men on their side than the Tokugawas, but their armies were dispersed. Misunari ordered the four allied forces to converge with him at the Plain of Sekigahara, where they would join forces against the rebel Ieayasue, and everyone promised to do as the First Regent said.

But the forces led by Maeda Kaeji, Mori Homatsu, and Uesungi Nagamasa all took a great deal of time to reach Sekigahara, for they were not as close as Musinari or Zaitaka’s forces. First, Ieayasue marched north and defeated the Satsumas, whose forces were much smaller than his 200,000 men. He captured Zaitaka and said, “You are not my brother, but a villain who will take his own mother as hostage. I hereby sentence thee to death.”

And so, he beheaded Zaitaka before the Battle of Sekigahara could begin. In his stead, he appointed Lord Satsuma Saitama, who was a cousin of Zaitaka on his father’s side and hath served him loyally, as daimyo of the Satsuma clan in Okinawa, and then marched to meet the main force of Misunari in Sekigahara.

But Misunari was no fool. He too realized that until his allies arrived, his forces would be outnumbered, so he sent the great warrior Rokura to assassinate Ieayasue while this camp was resting. Constantly by Ieayasue’s side was the master ninja Jiro Zaburo, who was both cunning and skilled in warfare. Now, Jiro Zaburo knew that he looked exactly like his daimyo lord Tokugawa Ieayasue, so he thought of the ploy the moment Rokuro attacked them in stealth.

He shouted to his Lord and said, “Move away from me, you peasant. I shall fight this battle myself.”

Ieayasue was too surprised to respond. Meanwhile, Jiro and Rokoru engaged in a great combat, but alas, no man was a match for Rokuro, who finally slew the Shadow General Jiro with the famous Yoshimoto blade that his master Misunari hath received from Hideyoshi himself. Understanding that Jiro was in truth Ieayasue, he fled back to Misunari’s camp to report the great victory.

Ieayasue cupped the dying Jiro in his arms and wept, “Why have you done this, Jiro? I would gladly give my life to a loyal warrior as yourself. Why!?!”

But in his dying words, Jiro said unto the Lord of Chubu, “I can not allow you to do that, my Lord. Your  life is worth a hundred Jiro Zaburos.” Then, he took Ieayasue’s hands in his and squeezed it. “Promise me that I will not die in vain. Bring peace and glory back to the Empire of Yamato.”

Ieayasue simply replied, “I promised,” as more tears left his eye for the dying hero, so alike himself in both greatness of character and looks.

At this point, Jiro smiled his last and died. Ieayasue spun back to his men and shouted, “What is the life of a good man…a hero such as Jiro Zaburo worth? Men of Chubu, will you not avenge upon him with Misunari’s blood?!”

And a thousand voices shouted back, “Jiro, Jiro!! Tokugawa, Tokugawa! Death to the Ishida clan.”

And as Ieayasue’s men marched to Sekigahara for the great battle, they were bloodthirsty and all fired up for revenge for the death of their hero.

Beleiving that Ieayasue was truly dead, the Ishida army marched day and night to Sekigahara. By the time, they reached it, they were exhausted. Now, Ieayasue himself appeared before Musinari, showing his birthmark on the right hand. Now, the power balance hath shifted, for the Ishida clan could see for themselves that they hath killed the wrong man and that Ieayasue was very much still alive.

The Tokugawas were well-armed and outnumbered the Ishida clan by more than 40,000 men. In the Battle of Sekigahara, they fought with anger and vengeance, and soon death was everywhere. After three days of heavy fighting, Misunari knew he was defeated. He sent Rokoru to warn his remaining allies, while he himself was captured by Ieayasue.

Ieayasue ordered Misunari buried alive and said, “You are not worthy of being a Regent. You are nothing but a peasant-born. I have relinquished by regency, and yet you were not content. You have torn the shreds of my brotherhood and killed my greatest comrade Jiro Zaburo. For these crimes are more heinous than an attempt on my own life, so thou shalt not be pardoned.”

And so, Misunari died in the sun, as the scorpions crawled over him. The Tokugawas were now in control of Osaka. Mori Homatsu surrendered his regency and the city of Nagasaki to the Tokugawas, wherepon Ieayasue appointed his own eldest son, Tokugawa Hidetada, to the daimyoate of Mori. Since then, the Mori clan’s power came to an end, though the Tokugawas honorably allowed Homatsu to live in disgrace.

In the twenty-third year of the Emperor Showa, Ieayasue proclaimed an end to the Toyotomi Shogunate and dissembled the Assembly of Regents. He also outlawed the two remaining regents, Uesung Nagamasa and Maeda Kaeji, but offered them pardon if they would loyally serve him. From that day onwards, he moved the capital of Japan to Yedo (now Tokyo) and proclaimed himself Shogun. This was the beginning of the magnificent Tokugawa Shogunate.

No comments:

Post a Comment