This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 25 Edo Period History (江戸時代歴史). Please read Chapter 25 before reading this section.
The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原合戦)
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), the most powerful man during the Sengoku period (and Momoyama period), died in 1598. At that time, his heir, Hideyori (秀頼), was only five years old. Before Hideyoshi’s death, he set up a council system that consisted of the top five Daimyos to take care of the jobs for Hideyori as his regents until he grew up to be an adult. At Hideyoshi’s death bed, all the five Daimyos agreed to be the guardians of Hideyori. But, little by little, Ishida Mitsunari (石田三成) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) began disagreeing with each other. In 1600, finally, those two main Daimyos clashed, and the Battle of Sekigahara broke out. One side is called Seigun (the western army), led by Ishida Mitsunari, and the other, Togun (the eastern army) by Tokugawa Ieyasu.
All the Daimyos in the country took either Tokugawa or Ishida Mitsunari’s side. It is said that the Mitsunari’s Seigun had 100,000 men, while the Tokugawa’s Togun, 70,000 men. Ieyasu had fewer soldiers, but he won in the end. Ieyasu became the Toyotomi clan’s chief retainer, which means that he was virtually the top person because Hideyori was still a child.
In 1603 Ieyasu became the Shogun. Now Ieyasu seized control of Japan, and he established the Tokugawa Bakufu (government) in Edo and eliminated the council system.
Toyotomi Hideyori was still there with his mother, Yodo-gimi (淀君or Yodo-dono淀殿), in Osaka Castle, which Hideyoshi built before he died. After a while, the relationship between Hideyori-Yodogimi, the Osaka side, and Ieyasu, the Edo side, became awkward. Yodo-gimi was a very proud and headstrong person with good reasons. She was a niece of Oda Nobunaga, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the mother of Hideyori, the head of the Toyotomi clan. Later, her pride got her into trouble and led to the destruction of the Toyotomi clan.
Siege of Osaka: Winter (1614) and Summer ( 1615) Campaigns
During the 15 years between the Battle of Sekigahara and Osaka Castle’s Siege, the tension between the Tokugawa Bakufu and Toyotomi clan built up little by little. Before the Battle of Sekigahara, the Toyotomi clan ruled Japan. After the Sekigahara, the Tokugawa Bakufu began to rule Japan. The Toyotomi clan lost many top advisers and vassals in the battle. As a result, all the power of the Toyotomi’s centered around Yodo-gimi.
By the time of the siege, Hideyori grew up to be a fine man, but Yodo-gimi had overprotected her son and controlled him. She even did not allow Hideyori to practice Kendo (Japanese traditional martial art of swordsmanship), saying it was too dangerous.
She persistently acted as if the Toyotomi clan was still in supreme power. Tokugawa Ieyasu tried to calm the friction by having his grand-daughter, Sen-hime, married to Hideyori. A few advisors suggested Yodo-gimi yield to Tokugawa, but she insisted that Tokugawa had to subordinate himself to Toyotomi. A rumor began to spread that the Toyotomi side started to hire and gather many Ronins (Samurai without a lord) inside the Osaka Castle. Several key persons tried to mediate the Toyotomi clan and the Tokugawa but failed.
Finally, Ieyasu led his army to Osaka, and in November 1614, began a campaign to siege the Osaka Castle (the Winter Campaign). It is said that the Toyotomi side had 100,000 soldiers, but some of them were just mercenaries. However, Osaka Castle was built almost like a fortress itself, very hard to attack. The Tokugawa army attacked hard and fired cannon every day, but they realized that the castle was so solid that it was a waste of time to continue.
Eventually, both sides went to a peace negotiation. They agreed on several items of the treaty. One of them was to fill the outer moat of the Osaka Castle. But the Tokugawa side filled both the outer and the inner moats. That made the Toyotomi side angry, and they became suspicious that the Tokugawa might not keep the agreement.
Another agreement was the disarmament of the Toyotomi clan. Yet the Toyotomi side kept having their soldiers inside the castle. Tokugawa gave the last ultimatum to Toyotomi’s side to dismiss all soldiers from the castle or for them to move out from the castle. Yodo-gimi refused both.
After that, another siege started in the summer of 1615 (the Summer Campaign). It is said that the Toyotomi had 70,000 men, and the Tokugawa had 150,000 men. Both sides had several battles here and there, but the fights did not go well for both sides in the beginning because of the thick fog, delayed arrival of troops, miscommunications, etc. The last battlefield was in Osaka Castle. The Toyotomis decided to stay inside the castle, but soon a fire broke out from inside and burned the castle. Yodo-dono and Hideyori hid inside the storage building, waiting for Ieyasu’s answer to the plea for their lives. They hoped their daughter-in-law could achieve the bargain. But It was not accepted, and they both died inside the storage building.
Nene and Yodo-gimi
Nene was the lawful wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. She was a brilliant and sensible person but not a high born. Everybody respected her, including Tokugawa Ieyasu. Even Hideyoshi often followed her opinions on political matters. She helped Hideyoshi to climb up his ranks. However, Nene could not bear a child. Toyotomi Hideyoshi went around other women everywhere, hoping to get his heir, but nobody could have his child except Yodo-gim. Naturally, a rumor went around about who the true birth father was. The speculation indicated several men, and one of them was Ishida Mitsunari.
伝 淀殿画像（It is said to be a portrait of Yodo-dono but no evidence.）Owned by Nara Museum of Art Drawn in 17th century Public Domain: Yodo-dono cropped.jpg from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository