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HISTORY

Samurai File 16 ; Torii Suneemon

2013.06.25 [HISTORY,WHAT'S NEW]

Torii Suneemon  (1540-May 16, 1575)

Torii Suneemon was the hero of the Siege of Nagashino. Very little is known of his early life
other than he was an ashigaru foot soldier serving Tokugawa Ieyasu’s vassal, Okudaira Sadamasa,
master of Nagashino Castle.

 

On June 17, 1575, having failed to take Yoshida Castle in Toyohashi, some 15,000 samurai of
Takeda Katsuyori surrounded and attacked Nagashino Castle just outside of modern day Shinshiro City,
Aichi Prefecture. Nagashino with just 500 men inside, was built high on a cliff edge, where the Ure and
the Kansa Rivers split and acted as a natural moat. It was a strategically important castle, guarding the
Tokugawa held Mikawa provinces from the threat of the Takeda of the north. Takeda Katsuyori, son
of the famed Takeda Shingen was on a major campaign to reach the capital, Kyoto in an effort to gain
control the nation.

 

To get to Kyoto, they first had to take Mikawa and Owari, lands held by allies Tokugawa Ieuyasu
and Oda Nobunaga. Nagashino Castle was important as it threatened the Takeda’s supply lines,
vital for taking the nation.

 

 

The Takeda forces had surrounded the castle, laying siege for just over a week before the low ranked
but brave Torii volunteered to leave the castle, swimming the river and cutting through nets set by
the enemy, before making his way by foot 25 Km to Okazaki to call for back up from Tokugawa Ieyasu.
After alerting Ieyasu and requesting reinforcements, Torii quickly returned to Nagashino where he had
been captured trying to get back into the castle.

 

The well known story tells of how the ashigaru was then bound spread-eagled with straw ropes on a
double horizontal-beamed wooden cross. Torii Suneemon was put on display in full view of his 
compatriots across the river from Nagashino Castle. “Tell them reinforcements aren’t coming, tell
them to give up the castle and come out!” hissed one of his captors. Torii looked up at the castle, he
could see the samurai inside watching him from the lookout towers and from behind the fortress walls.
“Men of Nagashino Castle….,” he yelled in a loud voice, “Don’t give up! Ieyasu’s men are on the way!
Hold on a little longer!” he blurted before being silenced by a spear thrust to the stomach.

 

  

 

The Tokugawa and allied Oda clan forces finally arrived at the scene a week later with 38,000 soldiers,
leading to a major turning point in Japan’s history and samurai warfare, the Battle of Nagashino and
Shitaragahara.

 

 

 

Interestingly, one of the Takeda forces samurai, a man called Ochiai Michihisa had been so impressed
by the low ranked Torii’s bravery and loyalty, he had a battle flag made featuring an image of the
crucified Torii which he used from then on. That flag is now kept in the University of Tokyo Library.

 

 

The martyr Torii was posthumously promoted to samurai class, and his family continued to serve
the Okudaira clan until the end of the Edo period. He has gone down in history books as one of the
bravest, most loyal of samurai.

 

A railway station bearing the brave warriors name, Torii Station, was opened on the Iida Line in
1923 not far from where he was crucified.


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