15th October, 1600
It was a day when young men felt old, and old men felt young.
Following the precise discipline, the Eastern Forces under Tokugawa Ieyasu had hacked trees throughout most of the night, constructing earthworks and palisades to protect their gunners from the Western cavalry.
The Tokugawa forces would seem to be in poor position - surrounded on three sides. They had superior firearms, but the driving rain of the night had soaked much of the gunpowder and the prowled the air like a stray dog on a stone street.
Fires. Light fires. Get that gunpowder dry. We're dead without gunpowder.
Mitsunari, Supreme Command of the Western Forces, felt confident in the position. The Tokugawa were surrounded on three sides, and they had the high ground.
Light the signal fires to Hideaki. "Attack. Attack. Attack."
Mitsunari growled. Mitsunari was always a half-yeller, half-growler. He was a strict disciplinarian and a fanatic with details. He lacked... what you'd call the human touch.
"Get runners! Dispatch to Mount Matsuo, top speed! Tell Hideaki to attack! He should have attacked already!"
Tokugawa's Eastern forces held their defensive position, some of the Eastern allies had been skirmishing along the perimeter. The gunpowder was drying out. Time was to Tokugawa's advantage.
Gunshots rang out and the sounds of skirmish played in a half-muted fashion as the fog hung heavy and obscured all.
Tokugawa Ieyasu inclined his head slowly. "Has Hideaki declared?"
The captain's eyes started to widen, and then stopped.
He paused, then -- "Yes sir!"
Tokugawa raised his gold-flowered Gunbai, his commander's fan.
The captain spoke. "Gunners! Aim on position -- Mount Matsuo!"
All waited on the fan to drop.
Tokugawa said, "Wake them up! Don't kill too many!"
The gunners re-trained their aim.
The fan dropped. Shots rang out.
Trust is a necessary but not sufficient condition to accomplish things. The more important the weight of an action, the more important trust is... but the less sufficient it is, too.
The Battle of Sekigahara later reached near-mythological status, being labeled Tenka Wakeme no Tatakai, "The Battle For the Sundered Realm." It set the stage for the next 250 years of rule of unified Japan.
Tokugawa Ieyasu's drop of his fan, and his gunners shooting at Hideaki's position on Mount Matsuo -- this might have been the most important hand movement in Japanese history.
Hideaki was officially a member of the Western forces, but had been abused, insulted, and otherwise treated poorly by Ishida Mitsunari.
Hideaki's story was well-known, and Tokugawa spies and diplomats felt out the young Hideaki's position. He was not a particularly loyal person to any particular side, and still bore a grudge against Mitsunari.
He had tentatively agreed to join the Eastern side and declare for the Tokugawa. If he did declare for Tokugawa, the whole Western position would fall apart. Instead of Mitsunari having the Tokugawa forces surrounded on three sides, he would instead find his best melee fighters flanked and high-grounded by Hideaki.
The gunshots fell just short of Hideaki's position.
He'd dismissed the messengers with excuses. Too much fog. There was too much fog. Gomenasai, Mitsunari-sama, there is too much fog. There's too much fog, we can't see anything. Fog. Gomen. Fog.
He held his hands to his temples. His head hurt. This was a bad situation. He didn't want to choose. Which side would win?
The gunshots ringing near his position got his attention, and he shook himself out of it.
"Tokugawa's gunners have fired on us!"
"Did they hit?"
"Near miss. Next round won't."
"Open fire on the Western position. We're joining the Tokugawa."
Mitsunari sat cross-legged in the jail cell. He'd been beaten, and had his face rubbed in the mud, and led in ropes and chains to Kyoto. He took it stoically, half-proud to die in service, but quite annoyed that he'd failed to commit Seppuku.
Even after the Western forces fell apart, there was a chance if he'd regrouped, and he was the only person with a chance of welding the West back together for a counteroffensive, or so he thought. So, attempting to get away was service, which is honorable, but getting caught and led to the Rokujogahara execution grounds was dishonorable.
I was right about Hideaki. I was right to demote him. I should have had him commit seppuku after Korea.
"Your execution is to be brutal, Lord Mitsunari. The people want a spectacle. Our instructions are to try to to make you cry like a little girl before you expire."
"It will be an honor to die for the memory of Lord Toyotomi, killed by his usurper."
I hope I sounded brave.
I should have committed seppuku.
Torii Tadamasa let his eyes move slowly over the scroll, reaching the final paragraph of the last will and testament of his father: "Be first of all prudent in your conduct and have correct manners, develop harmony between master and retainers, and have compassion on those beneath you. Be correct in the degree of rewards and punishments, and let there be no partiality in your degree of intimacy with your retainers. The foundation of man’s duty as a man is in “truth”. Beyond this, there is nothing to be said."
Tadamasa inhaled quickly, exhaled slowly, and nodded slightly.
"Thank you, Ieyasu-sama. There's no sadness in me. My father lived a long life, and died in service to you. It was, I suppose, a beautiful death."
Ieyasu looked at the boy. He was 33 years old and a father of his own accord now, but he'd always be a boy to Ieysu.
Torii Mototada, his father, had been like an older brother to Ieyasu, and then one of his only true friends. He died "one of the most beautiful deaths" in Japanese history, fighting to the last man to stall the Western juggernaut's assault on the Eastern position at Fushimi Castle, giving Ieyasu time to raise troops, and to turn the tide of the battle.
Sekigahara was Motoada's battle, he died to make it happen. And now his son was having tea with the undisputed ruler of Japan, being given awards, promotions, gifts, but most importantly -- the last letters from his father, expressing sincerity, faithfulness, and piety.
"Ieyasu-sama, you rarely talk casually of strategy, and few know what you truly think in your heart."
"This is true."
"But may I ask a question, ask freely, because I seek to understand my father's message?"
Ieyasu thinks. It is an unusual request, but the circumstances warrant it. "Yes."
"Who do you trust?"
Tadamasa continues, "Gomen, I know it's a strange question. I live and die for you. What I want to understand is... my father says the duty is to truth. Loyalty is truth, ne? But Hideaki, the battle turned on Hideaki. He was untruthful... by making promises and commitments to two sides, he was by nature going to betray someone, and there was no truth. How do you... navigate... that...?"
"This is a good question."
And the silence hung, stillness in the air. You could hear the cicadas chirping.
It was the kind of question Ieyasu never answered outright. He'd tell a vague hand-waving point about butterflies or zen or about one of his prized falcons.
"Gomenasai, Ieyasu-sama. It is the wrong question to ask."
"No, Tadamasa, it is good. Today. Today it is good."
Ieyasu frowned. He was about to tell the unvarnished truth. It came unnaturally to him... whereas Nobunaga was ruled by his passions, and died for it, and Toyotomi was ruled by his ambition, which destroyed his empire, and Mitsunari was ruled by his rigidness, which led to a most gruesome betrayal and ending... Tokugawa Ieyasu was ruled by his patience. Speaking plainly was rarely natural to him, which is perhaps why he was the last man standing.
Thus, he was doing something unnatural to him when he spoke, "Tadamasa... duty and truth are the same thing."
Tadamasa nods, but obviously doesn't understand.
"A man cannot fulfill his duty without truth. Truth, duty, honor, loyalty, and trust -- these are the same things."
"Why did you trust Hideaki, then?"
The cicadas kept chirping. Ieyasu allowed himself to smile a rare smile.
"Because I had dry gunpowder."
Not relating to trust, but this reminds me of the different meanings of the word "maybe." Growing up, I knew some adults would always give in if they replied "maybe" while for others "maybe" meant no. Because Hideaki hadn't decided, it was a maybe that put him in Tokugawa's favor.
History shows us that we should not play things halfway.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi was Undisputed Ruler of Japan. He had brought all the Japanese generals under his loyalty, set an extremely durable and efficient legal structure, and had achieved more than anyone in Japanese history - rising from a peasant servant to the height of command.
Unsatisfied with the fastest and largest ascent in all of Japanese history, Hideyoshi wanted to conquer all of Korea and China. In the year 1597, he launched the Second Korean Campaign.
In the most desperate times, strong cultures produce great heroes - and Korean Grand Admiral Yi Sun-Sin rose to the challenge, shattering the Japanese naval forces and cutting the supply lines. The Japanese forces pinned down in Korea had land superiority, solid defensive fortifications, and better artillery. But the Ming China/Joseon Korean alliance was winning the gradual war of attrition after establishing naval superiority.
Toyotomi had won basically every engagement he'd fought in throughout history. A scuffling defeat here and there, but he had seemed blessed by the gods themselves. He was, naturally, furious at the inability of his forces to conquer Korea.
Happy new year!
I am hoping you would share your resources for your reading on Japanese history. Book titles and/or urls would be very helpful.
I got that a week ago, and I kind of sat there staring at the email. Japanese history is some of the most confusing to start to learn, because different elements of Japanese history and culture all play on and influence each other. I could run you through the military history of Japan from The Battle of Okehazama to Sekigahara to the Boshin War, from there into Dai Nippon Tekoku Era, from there into defeat and the Occupation under McArthur, and then we could do a little post-war history.