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Kato Kiyamasa (July 25 1561- August 2, 1611)
Kato Kiyomasa was a much respected warrior and
castle architect of the 16th and early 17th Centuries.
Historical records of Kiyomasa paint him as a great
leader of men, awe inspiring, yet not unfriendly.
Spartan like in his militaristic life, he was known as
a samurai among samurai. Despite his castle building
expertise, Kiyomasa had a brutal side to him.
In suppressing Christianity during the Battle of Hondo
for example, it was recorded that he ruthlessly ordered
the bellies of any pregnant Christian women be cut open
and the babies’ heads be sliced off.
Kiyomasa was born in modern day Nakamura Ward,
Nagoya City.He entered the services of his relative,
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, at the age of 15, and was with his cousin
at the Battle of Yamazaki (1582) against Akechi Mitsuhide
following the assassination of Oda Nobunaga, and at the Battle of Shizugatake (1583) against
Shibata Katsuie and Oda Nobutaka.
He was one of the three senior commanders in the Korean Campaign, capturing Seoul and Pusan amongst
other cities. Kato’s 16,000 samurai, backed by 13,000 reinforcements from Mori Hidemoto famously held
off 60,000 Korean and Chinese warriors while in the Kiyomasa designed castle in the Siege of Ulsan.
Kiyomasa is also remembered for having spear hunted tigers during his time in Korea, bringing the pelts back
During the Battle of Sekigahara, Kato Kiyomasa surprisingly sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Although he was not present at the actual battle site, he fought against the Tokugawa enemies in Kyushu,
notably his neighboring fief, Konishi Yukunaga’s army. Konishi was a Christian, a religion much detested
by the Nichiren sect Buddhist, and Konishi had sided with Ishida Mitsunari, another samurai Kiyomasa had
often conflicted with.
Kiyomasa’s castle building skills were exceptional. He designed a number of strategic castles during
the Korean Campaigns, and is known as the architect of the superb Kumamoto Castle, and was later
engaged by Tokugawa Ieyasu to build Nagoya Castle.
While working on the construction of Nagoya Castle, Kiyomasa used surplus building materials to erect
the Myoko-Ji temple on the site of his birth. That temple now stands on the east side of Nakamura Koen.
The same park also features the Kiyomasa Hideyoshi Memorial Museum, featuring items and displays
relevant to the two local heroes. In fact, there are more statues of Kato Kiyomasa around Nagoya city
than there are of any other historical figure.
When Kiyomasa died suddenly aged only 50, it was rumored that Tokugawa Ieyasu may have had a hand
in the mans’ death. As architect, Kiyomasa was privy to strengths and weaknesses of Nagoya Castle,
he was a close relative of the Toyotomi clan, and he had been mediating to improve relations between
Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyori. Having completed one such meeting, he was on his way home
by ship when he suddenly became ill and died shortly after arriving in Kumamoto.
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