Ishida Mitsunari


Kanji: 石田 三成

Dates: 1560-Novermber 6, 1600

Other Known Names: Sakichi (childhood name)

Ishida clan crest

Ishida clan mon

Ishida Mitsunari was a samurai bureaucrat who served under Toyotomi Hideyoshi and was the commander of the Western Army at The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He is most famous for his defeat at the battle, and tends to be overlooked in most English sources that focus on the samurai.

Ishida Mitsunari was the second son of Ishida Masatsugu, who served as a retainer for the Azai clan of Omi Province. He later withdrew his support for the Azai clan after the daimyo, Azai Nagamasa, was defeated at Odani in 1573.

It was around 1578 that Ishida Mitsunari was taken into Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s service. He was originally taken in for his skill in the art of the tea ceremony, but Mitsunari later proved that he also possessed talents in administration and finance. He and his brother, Masazumi, served the Toyotomi as administrators at Sakai Province from 1585. Later, Hideyoshi made him the daimyo of Sawayama in Omi.

Although Mitsunari was trusted by Hideysohi, many who served the Toyotomi did not trust him because of his nonmilitary bearing and scheming. He made even more enemies during the Second Korean Campaign. Mitsunari developed a hatred for Kuroda Kanbei and Kobayakawa Hideaki after an incident that happened during the campaign. The campaign ended in failure, to which Mitsunari blamed the two generals for, and wrote a letter to Hideyoshi stating that Hideaki was an incompetent leader. Hideyoshi ordered his wife’s nephew to resign and return to Japan in disgrace. Tokugawa Ieyasu innerved, however, and got Hideyoshi to reconsider. This was the beginning of the strained relationship between Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Before Hideyoshi’s death, Mitsunari became one of the five administrators put in charge by Hideyoshi to help govern Japan until his son, Hideyori became of age. Hostilities arose after Hideyoshi’s death between Ieyasu and Mitsunari, causing a split in the Toyotomi faction. They would face off against one another for the control of Japan on October 21, 1600: the Battle of Sekigahara.

Once he saw that he was losing, Ishida Mitsunari made an attempt to escape the battlefield. He was captured by the Eastern Army not long after and was transported to Kyōto. It is said the night before his execution, he refused his last meal, believing that he would not be killed. On Novermber 6, 1600, Ishida Mitsunari was executed via beheading and his head was displayed publicly afterward.