Other Sekigahara Sideshows

Map of Japan before Sekigahara

Sekigahara was not just the battle that was fought on October 21, 1600. There were campaigns in the north and south and all over the main island of Honshū. Unfortunately, since Sekigahara gets all the attention from historians, many of these other battles and sieges get set aside. Research on many of these come up with very little results and sometimes the information can be conflicting, especially in English sources. Nevertheless, they deserve some recognition. We have already covered many of the sieges that took place during the Sekigahara Campaign, but in this article, we are going to look at the ones that were “sideshows”, meaning that they were just one and done sieges, like Ueda Castle, that took place leading up to the Battle of Sekigahara. In this article we will be covering the sieges of Minakuchi, Kuisegawa, Tanabe and the most famous out of them all, Fushimi.

The Siege of Minakuchi, 1600

Ruins of the Minakuchi Okayama

Unfortunately, I have only been able to find two sources that even mention this. You cannot even go to Wikipedia for general information on this siege for a page does not even exist for Minakuchi. Considering what I have found, it makes me wonder if this was actually a siege.

The first mention of Minakuchi comes from The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull. Published in 2000, this book is always my go to for general information on anything that comes up for the Sengoku Jidai. When it comes to Minakuchi, however, there is barely a paragraph. All that is said about the siege of Minakuchi is that “Minakuchi castle in Ōmi province was held by Nagatsuka Masaie. He was besieged and killed as the castle fell.”(1) I have found out that the name is actually Natsuka Masaie.

Go forward eighteen years to the book Sengoku Jidai: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu: Three Unifiers of Japan by Danny Chaplin, and a completely different story is told. According to Chaplin, Natsuka Masaie was present at Sekigahara, but fled when Western Army collapsed. He made it back to Minakuchi Castle, but Tokugawa Ieyasu sent a messenger basically ordering him to commit suicide.(2) Though not always a great way to fact check, Wikipedia does collaborate this story, but adds more, saying that he set fire to the castle before committing seppuku.(3)

The jury is still out on whether this was a siege or not considering that we have next to nothing on Minakuchi.

The Siege of Kuisegawa: October 20, 1600

Ōgaki Castle keep with Toyotomi and Ishida banners

Forces: Western Army vs. Eastern Army

Numbers: 1,300 (Western) vs. 6,000 (Eastern)

Casualties: Unknown for the Western Army/4,000 men

Again, this one is not much of a siege, at it is sometimes referred to as the Skirmish at Akasaka.(4) This took place on October 20, 1600, the day before the fateful battle at Sekigahara. This was a battle that was fought between the Western and Eastern Armies. This was fought by the Western Army in hopes of bringing up army morale before the big battle that was to take place the next day.

The Western Army was stationed at Ōgaki Castle, which sat near the Kuisegawa, located only a few miles away from the village of Sekigahara. Tokugawa Ieyasu’s troops arrived on the other side of the Kuisegawa around noon on October 20, 1600. Their numbers vastly outnumbered the Western Army, which brought the morale of the Western Army way down. Considering where Ieyasu was, many of the Western generals believed that Ieyasu was going to directly attack them there while others believed that Ieyasu was in no position to fight. One of Ishida Mitsunari’s generals, Shima Sakon, had a different view altogether. Hearing out both sides, Sakon advised Mitsunari that they should test the enemy’s position by leading a small raiding party.(5) With the plan approved, Sakon and Akashi Masataka took 1,300 men and set out to test their foe.

Sakon took five hundred men and split them up, half lying in wait for an ambush, while the rest of the force went with Masataka and crossed the river. Then, the two sides clashed. The Western Army feigned a retreat, and as predicted, the Eastern Army pursued them back across the river, only this time, an ambush was waiting for them. The Eastern Army general Noisshiki Sukeyoshi was killed during this ambush while two others were wounded. Honda Tadakatsu was able to help out his allies by creating a distraction back at the Western Army’s camp, which allowed for the Eastern Army troops to withdraw back to the camp on the other side of the river.(6) The fighting finally ended when the sun set, unable to continue fighting without the light of day. The bridge over the Kuisegawa was destroyed by the time the skirmish was over and Western Army’s spirits were lifted.(7) During the skirmish, Ieyasu watched it unfold from his encampment while enjoying his evening meal, impressed by the Western Army’s performance.(8)

The Siege of Tanabe, 1600

Tanabe Castle

Forces: Eastern Army (Hosokawa) vs. Western Army (Ikoma)

Numbers: 500 (Eastern) vs. 15,000 (Western)

Casualties: Unknown (if any)

Out of all the sieges that took place during the Sekigahara Campaign, this one is probably the most interesting for it was really all show. This was fought between Hosokawa Fujitaka and Ikoma Chikamasa, but it ended with no real gains for either side. This came about following the death of Fujitaka’s daughter-in-law, Hosokawa Gracia.

On August 25, 1600, Ishida Mitsunari marched onto the Hosokawa mansion in Ōsaka, hoping to take Gracia as a hostage to get the support of the Hosokawa.(9) Instead, the mansion was set ablaze by a loyal retainer and Gracia was killed.(10) When word got back to Fujitaka, he was furious and in response, he began fortifying his castle of Tanabe. While Hosokawa Tadaoki, Gracia’s husband, would go on to support the Tokugawa at Sekigahara, Fujitaka stayed behind with his wife, Numata Jakō, at Tanabe.(11) Not long after Fujitaka began fortifying Tanabe, the Western Army arrived at the gates.

The siege was not a hard fought one. Many of the Western Army commanders held Fujitaka in high regard, so the besieging army put very little effort into the fight, going so far as to “forgetting” to load the cannons.(12)

Fujitaka was a historian as well, and the castle held many valuable books and scrolls on Japan’s history. Not wanting them destroyed, Fujitaka sent a letter to the emperor, asking if he could send these documents to him so that they would not be destroyed if the siege were to take a turn. An envoy was sent and a ceasefire was called. The envoy begged for Fujitaka to surrender the castle, but Fujitaka refused. Finally, fearing for Fujitaka’s life, the emperor himself ordered Fujitaka to surrender Tanabe. Not wanting to go against the emperor, Hosokawa Fujitaka surrendered the castle on October 19, 1600: two days before Sekigahara. Fujitaka did manage to keep the force of 15,000 from reaching the main battlefield, so at least to the Eastern Army, Tanabe was not so much of a loss.(13)

The Siege of Fushimi: August 27-September 8, 1600

Fushimi Castle in Autumn

Forces: Western Army (Ishida) vs. Eastern Army (Torii)

Numbers: 40,000 (Western) vs. 2,000 (Eastern)

Casualties: 3,000 (Western)/Entire force (Eastern)

Out of all the sieges that took place leading up to the Battle of Sekigahara, the siege of Fushimi is the most famous. It is also the most desperate and the most tragic siege of the entire campaign. This siege was fought from August 27 to September 8, 1600 between the Western Army led by Ishida Mitsunari and the Eastern Army led by Torii Mototada. It was a significant castle to have control over mainly for its significance. Fushimi Castle was originally built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and he lived there towards the end of his life. It was rebuilt in 1596 after an earthquake completely destroyed it and Torii Mototada became its new lord.(14)

Fushimi Castle sat in a spot that made it a prime target for the Western Army, for it was close to Kyōto and had great vantage points near and beyond the city. Knowing this, Ieyasu visited Mototada at Fushimi and expressed his concerns, however, his old friend told him that he would sacrifice himself and the castle before he would let it fall into the enemies’ hands. Mototada even suggested giving a majority of the forces to Ieyasu to help him with other battles they would have to fight. Both men knew that Fushimi would fall if attacked.(15)

It seemed that Mitsunari understood the castle’s significance, for he began laying siege to the castle on August 27, 1600, with an army of 40,000. With only 2,000 men, Mototada and his men managed to hold out for ten days. During this time, one of the towers was set ablaze by fire arrows. The fire was eventually put out but the samurai who did so ended up losing his life.(16) Sadly, even though the defenders could have pushed on, they could not have predicted that they would have fallen to betrayal from within.

The Western Army sent a message to a man within the walls via an arrow stating that Mitsunari would have his wife and children crucified if he did not help them take down the castle. He complied. On September 8, 1600, the turncoat set fire to another tower in Fushimi and used the fire to cover for an assault behind the castle walls.(17) Mototada, who now only had two hundred men, fought back against their attackers fiercely, however, they began to lose men and Fushimi had become a lost cause. Mototada and the last ten men who managed to survive thus far committed seppuku as Fushimi burned around them.(18) Despite this being a Western Army victory, it cost Mitsunari 3,000 men to take the castle.(19) Fushimi was rebuilt after Sekigahara and the floors of the original castle were placed in the ceiling of Hōsen-in in Kyōto. Apparently, one of the rooms has the floor panels were stained with the blood of Mototada and his retainers who committed seppuku.(20)

The Battle of Sekigahara is one of the most famous battles that comes from the Sengoku Jidai. It is easy to see why as it is the considered the last battle for power during this age of civil war in Japan. There are also a lot of questions for themotives of certain people, like Ishida Mitsunari, which keep people intrigued. Yet, Sekigahara is not the only thing that happened in the two years from the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi to the battle itself. There were so many sieges, each clan taking a stand for what they believed in, whether it was siding with Tokugawa Ieyasu or Ishida Mitsunari. These sieges tend to get pushed to the side for a battle that lasted approximately six hours. Yes, Sekigahara is fascinating, but we need to give the other battles that were fought leading up to, during and even fought after Sekigahara more thought and research. These side battles and sieges are just as important as the main event.

Sources

  1. Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Sourcebook (2000), p. 254. Direct quote from book.
  2. Chaplin, Danny. Sengoku Jidai: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu: Three Unifiers of Japan (2018), p. 475
  3. “Natsuka Masaie”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsuka_Masaie, last visited 9/16/2021
  4. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 48: Calls it the Skirmish at Akasaka.
  5. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 48
  6. Chaplin, Danny. Sengoku Jidai: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu: Three Unifiers of Japan (2018), p. 462
  7. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 48
  8. Chaplin, Danny. Sengoku Jidai: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu: Three Unifiers of Japan (2018), p. 462
  9. Chaplin, Danny. Sengoku Jidai: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu: Three Unifiers of Japan (2018), p. 455
  10. For more information on Gracia and her death, check out this article here.
  11. “Numata Jakō”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numata_Jakō, last visited 9/16/2021. She is also known as Hosokawa Maria for she converted to Christianity after her daughter-in-law Gracia did.
  12. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 42
  13. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), pp. 42-43
  14. “Fushimi Castle”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fushimi_Castle, last visited 9/16/2021
  15. “Siege of Fushimi Castle”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Fushimi_Castle, last visited 9/16/2021
  16. Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Sourcebook (2000), p. 290
  17. Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Sourcebook (2000), p. 290
  18. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 38
  19. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 38
  20. “Hōsen-in”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hōsen-in, last visited 9/16/2021