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Samurai File / Ishida Mitsunari
Best remembered as the commander of the Western forces
at the Battle of Sekigahara, Ishida Mitsunari was born in Omi,
modern day Shiga Prefecture, in 1560, and at the age of
thirteen entered the services of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1585,
at the age of 25, Mitsunari was appointed Jibu-shosuke, one
of two principal commissioners below the administrator for genealogies, marriages, funeral rites, imperial tombs,
theatres and music. Mitsunari was also responsible for the
reception of foreigners, most notably the Spanish and
Portuguese who came in growing numbers bringing trade and spreading their religions.
Hideyoshi had come across the teenage Ishida Mitsunari
in 1573, not far from Nagahama Castle, where Mitsunari
made three cups of tea for the thirsty lord. The first was
in a big chawan teacup, filled with an unusually generous
serving of warm green tea. For a thirsty Hideyoshi,
the amount and temperature were just right, and he drank
it all at once.
The second cup was served in the same chawan, but a bit hotter than the last and only about
half as much. Relaxed, Hideyoshi took his time over this cup. Finally a third was brought forth,
a smaller serving in a smaller bowl, but much hotter than the previous two cups. Hideyoshi,
now totally composed, could enjoy this one.
Taken into Hideyoshi’s inner circle, Mistunari put his administrative talents to use, and was richly
rewarded for his services. Mitsunari was a gifted mathematician and was placed in charge of the famed
“sword hunt” conducted by Hideyoshi in an effort to disarm the non-military bulk of the population and
thus preserve peace. Most remaining portraits of the man show him holding a manuscript rather than a sword.
He had been allocated a stipend of 186,000 koku and the castle of Sawayama in Omi.
Although an able administrator, his position under Hideyoshi as bugyo was not awarded on his martial merit,
nor on his having performed heroic deeds or services, but due to his ability in the tea ceremony.
This fact and his rapid promotions and bureaucratic tendencies brought him into conflict with a number of his daimyo contemporaries, particularly following the Korean Campaign.
Upon the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Mistunari watched as his position, and that of his master’s son were
eroded by the Machiavellian advances of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the five regents installed to support
Hideyoshi’s infant son and heir, Hideyori. Challenging Ieyasu effectively ripped the nation in two, culminating
in the greatest of all samurai battles, fought on October 21 1600 at Sekigahara.
Despite having the better field positions, and greater numbers than the Tokugawa led Eastern forces,
the loyalist forces lost. Mitsunari was later captured and executed in Kyoto in November 1600.
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