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Toyotomi Hideyori

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  • Born: 1593
  • Died: 1615
  • Titles: Sakon'e gon-shôshô (1597), Gon-chûnagon (1598), Naidaijin (1603)

Hideyori was the second natural son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (his elder brother Tsurumatsu had died a young child) and was named the eventual heir to the Toyotomi house. He was the maternal grandson of Asai Nagamasa and great-nephew of Oda Nobunaga and was first known as Hiroi. Hideyoshi lavished affection on him and named him as his heir after the fall of Toyotomi Hidetsugu in 1595. Hideyoshi fell ill shortly after Hidetsugu's destruction and various lords signed a document pledging their loyalty to Hiroi. Hiroi was given the name Hideyori in 1597 at an early coming of age ceremony that also saw him awarded with the rank of Sakon'e gon-shôshô. The folling spring he was given the title Gon-chûnagon. When Hideyoshi suffered his final illness in 1598 he continually urged his great vassals to protect and loyally serve Hideyori. Attended by his mother (the so-called Yodo-dono or Yodo-gimi) and a ward of Maeda Toshiie (who passed away in 1599), Hideyori resided in Osaka castle while the Regents Hideyoshi had named to rule until the boy reached manhood splintered and came to blows. In 1600, factions under Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari (a former member of the go-bugyô) clashed at Sekigahara while Hideyori and Osaka were guarded by Môri Terumoto. Following the Tokugawa victory, Hideyori was formally given Osaka Castle and a fief worth 650,000 koku. He met with Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1611 at Nijô in Kyoto and revealed himself to be intelligent and of good bearing. Ieyasu had come to distrust Hideyori, or at least those around him, whom he viewed as a threat to the fledgling Tokugawa bakufu. Tensions between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa reached their peak in 1614, when Ieyasu chose to take offense at the inscription on a bell cast for the Great Buddha in Kyoto Hideyori had rebuilt in honor of his father. Hideyori's own views - and motivations - during this period are rather unclear, but soon Osaka Castle was filled with displaced daimyô and ronin - providing Ieyasu with all the more reason to declare war. Later in that same year of 1614, the Osaka Winter Campaign began and while the Tokugawa were initially repulsed with considerable loss, Ieyasu compelled Hideyori and his mother to come to the tables after a concentrated bombardment was directed at the castle keep. Hideyori agreed to a peace treaty, but this proved only an opportunity for the Tokugawa to weaken Osaka's defenses. In the summer of 1615 the fighting at Osaka resumed and culminated in the Battle of Tennôji. when Hideyori heard that his supporters had been defeated on the field of battle, he committed suicide along with his mother. He had never actually made an appearance on the field of battle and in fact only infrequently met with the commanders who were fighting in his name. His infant son was later seized by the Tokugawa and executed. There is an enduring legend that Hideyori in fact escaped death at Osaka, being allowed to take up on Kyushu under an assumed name. Regardless, Hideyori cuts a reluctant and tragic figure in Japanese history.

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