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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

He carried it hastily to Hideyori


Of

course this answer profoundly enraged the Osaka party. They appreciated for the first time that they had been deceived throughout, and that by a series of adroit manoeuvres they had been removed from an almost impregnable position to a practically helpless plight. Not a few turned their backs on the castle, but a great majority determined to renew the conflict and to die at their posts. The circumstances, however, had now undergone a radical change. The castle had been converted from the strongest fortress in Japan into a mere semblance of strength, and no garrison, however brave and however resolute, could have defended it successfully against the forces that the Tokugawa were able to marshal.

As for Ieyasu, he knew that his task had been immensely lightened. On the 3rd of May, 1615, he started from Sumpu for Osaka at the head of an army numbering scarcely one-third of the force previously led against the castle. Nevertheless, one contingency presented itself in a dangerous light. It was always possible that Hideyori himself should make a sortie from the fortress, and, in that event, the prestige attaching to the memory of his father, Hideyoshi, might have demoralized a large section of the Tokugawa troops. To avert this danger, Ieyasu had recourse to his wonted methods of deception. It has been shown that he held Harunaga's son, as a hostage. This youth was required to write a letter to his father stating that collusion existed between parties

within and without the fortress, and that the traitors had plotted to induce Hideyori to make a sortie, whereupon the castle would be given up and Hideyori would be delivered into the hands of his enemies. Harunaga does not appear to have entertained any doubt as to the trustworthiness of this letter. He carried it hastily to Hideyori, who was in the act of preparing to sally out of the castle and throw himself upon the beleaguering forces.

The receipt of the letter naturally led to a change of plan, and although desperate fighting subsequently took place, the castle was finally set on fire by traitors and its fate was seen to be hopeless. Hideyori's wife, granddaughter of Ieyasu, repaired to the Tokugawa headquarters to plead for the life of her husband and his mother. But Ieyasu was inexorable. He granted asylum to his granddaughter, but replied to her prayer by ordering a renewal of the attack upon the castle. On June 4th, Hideyori committed suicide, and his mother, Yodo, was killed by one of his retainers. Some thirty men and women killed themselves at the same time.

Men spoke of the first fruitless assault upon the castle as the "Winter Campaign," and of the second and successful assault as the "Summer Campaign." But the two operations were radically different in their character. For, whereas in the first assault the garrison--numbering something like one hundred and eighty thousand men--stood strictly on the defensive, wisely relying on the immense strength of the fortress, on the second occasion most of the fighting took place outside the walls, the garrison preferring to rely upon strategy and courage rather than on ruined parapets and half-filled moats. Thus, the details of the second campaign occupy a large space in Japanese histories, but these tedious features of strategy and tactics are abbreviated here. There can be no doubt that Ieyasu, so far from seeking to save Hideyori's life, deliberately planned his destruction. Moreover, when it became known that an illegitimate son of Hideyori, called Kunimatsu, had been carried from the castle by some common soldiers and secreted at a farmhouse in Fushimi, Ieyasu caused this child of six to be seized and beheaded by a common executioner at Sanjo-kawara in Kyoto. This episode reflects no credit whatever on the Tokugawa leader. That he should extirpate every scion of the Toyotomi family was not inconsistent with the canons of the tune or with the interests of his own security. But death at the hands of a common executioner ought never to have been decreed for the son of the u-daijin, and the cruelty of the order finds no excuse. No tenet of bushido can be reconciled with such inhumanity.


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