Battle of Sekigahara
gigatos | January 23, 2022
The Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い, Sekigahara no tatakai?) was a decisive battle in the history of Japan that took place on October 21, 1600 (Keichō 5, fifteenth day of the ninth month according to its ancient calendar) in Sekigahara (now Gifu Prefecture). During this conflict, the armies of the two main factions of the country clashed: on the one hand, those who considered that Toyotomi Hideyori, son of one of the great unifiers of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was the one who should become the leader of the country. On the other hand, the faction of those who supported Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the country”s most prominent daimyō (feudal lords), to become the leader.
The victory of Ieyasu”s “Army of the East” earned him the title of “The last of the great unifiers of Japan” along with Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It also cleared the way for him to obtain the title of shōgun, the highest political and military authority in Japan during that time. From then on, the Tokugawa shogunate would be established, the last shogunate in history and which would last more than 250 years at the head of the government.
The importance of this battle, the denouement of an entire military campaign, lies in the fact that due to its outcome the country would emerge from a period of constant conflicts and internal struggles. It would also establish an almost absolute peace throughout the archipelago, only interrupted by minor revolts until the return of the Emperor of Japan as the highest authority during the Meiji Restoration in 1866-1869.
Although the exact number of soldiers present on the battlefield is not known, most scholars claim that between 170,000 and 200,000 warriors were present that day, and some even claim that this was the largest battle on Japanese soil in its history.
This historic battle, also commonly known in Japanese as Tenka Wakeme no Tatakai (天下分け目の戦い, ”Tenka Wakeme no Tatakai”? lit. “the decisive battle”), takes its name from the village where the war took place: Sekigahara, located in the Fuwa district of Gifu prefecture in Japan.
It is worth mentioning two fundamental aspects: although it is generally considered as a single battle, it was actually part of a whole military campaign. During this, both sides made previous movements, besieging enemy castles and fighting for control of the main communication routes to try to secure the advantage over the adversary. Another aspect to highlight is that, although both sides had prepared during the previous months for the combat, the choice of the place was a decision made quickly by the commander of one of the sides involved, Ishida Mitsunari, looking for the best position of his elements. Ironically, the very characteristics of the site would work against him when some of his allies changed sides.
Hideyoshi was the first man to truly unify Japan by completing the task begun by Oda Nobunaga, who was betrayed by one of his top generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, during the “Honnōji Incident”. However, Hideyoshi was never able to become shōgun due to his humble origin, which could never be disproved by the sycophantic biographers of the time, who no matter how hard they tried failed to link him familiarly to the legendary Fujiwara clan. Hideyoshi had to accept in exchange the lesser title of kanpaku (関白, ”kanpaku”? regent), a title he later transferred to his adopted son Hidetsugu, taking for himself that of taikō (太閤, ”taikō”? retired kanpaku).
Hideyoshi, at the age of 57, succeeded in having a son of his own, Toyotomi Hideyori, so he ordered Hidetsugu to commit seppuku, ritual suicide more commonly known in the West as harakiri. Aware of the disputes that would ensue upon his death, he appointed a group called the “Council of Five Regents” (preceded by Tokugawa Ieyasu and also composed of Maeda Toshiie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, Mōri Terumoto and Ukita Hideie) with the object that the council would rule until his son came of age, making them swear to treat him as they would treat himself.
After the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598 there was a major power vacuum. Tokugawa Ieyasu began to establish a series of alliances with powerful figures in the country through arranged marriages, so Ishida Mitsunari, one of the five bugyō (奉行, ”bugyō”? magistrate), began to unify all those against the figure of Ieyasu. Because no one dared to stand up to him, Mitsunari decided that the only option was for him to be assassinated. When Ieyasu”s top generals learned of the plan, they decided to eliminate Mitsunari, so he had to flee to Osaka Castle disguised as a woman and on a palanquin. Surprisingly, Mitsunari decided to ask for help and protection directly to Ieyasu, who agreed to receive him at Fushimi Castle as a guest, where he stayed until the spring of 1599 when Ieyasu asked him to return to his own castle, Sawayama Castle.
On August 22, while Ieyasu was organizing his army with the intention of confronting a rebel daimyō, Uesugi Kagekatsu, Mitsunari decided to act, backed by the other bugyō and three of the four tairō (大老, ”tairō”? lit. “great elder”), who sent a formal complaint against Ieyasu accusing him of 13 separate charges, including giving daughters and sons in marriage for political purposes and taking possession of Osaka Castle, Hideyoshi”s former residence, as his own. Among the charges were that he had given daughters and sons in marriage for political purposes and had taken possession of Osaka Castle, Hideyoshi”s former residence, as if it were his own. Ieyasu interpreted the missive as a clear declaration of war, so virtually every daimyō in the country enlisted, either in Mitsunari”s so-called “Army of the West” or Ieyasu”s “Army of the East.”
For months on both sides plans and preparations were made for the battle that was about to take place near a small village called Sekigahara.
Uesugi Kagekatsu, daimyō of Aizu Province, began to rapidly build and expand new defenses in his manor. When Ieyasu asked him for an explanation, he, through one of his chief vassals, replied wryly that “while the samurai in the city spent their time collecting tea gadgets, those in the countryside collected weaponry.” Ieyasu ordered Kagekatsu to appear personally to offer an explanation for his behavior, but, receiving no response, he decided to call his allies to council in Osaka on July 12. Finally, on the 24th of the same month, Ieyasu and his army left Osaka for Aizu.
Although Kagekatsu was aware of the situation, he showed no concern, for he knew that before he was in danger, Mitsunari and his army would attack Ieyasu”s army. Kagekatsu then decided to take the initiative and attack, so almost immediately both Mōgami Yoshiakira, and Date Masamune, allies of the Tokugawa clan, counterattacked, bringing the situation under control.
Ieyasu took a break on July 25 at Fushimi Castle, which was guarded by one of his chief vassals, Torii Mototada, with whom he spent the afternoon chatting and drinking. They both knew that one of Mitsunari”s first actions would be to storm this castle and if that happened, Mototada would have no chance of emerging from that battle victorious. Mototada assured that the castle would fall only if his strength was surpassed tenfold. The farewell of both of them the next morning was truly emotional.
As the “Army of the East” marched toward its destination, Mitsunari had summoned the leading conspirators, including Ukita Hideie, Mitsunari”s right-hand man, Shimazu Yoshihiro, daimyō of Satsuma, Kobayakawa Hideaki, Nabeshima Katsushige, Chōsokabe Morichika and Ōtani Yoshitsugu at Sawayama Castle.
Tokugawa and his army advanced slowly waiting for the movements of the enemy army and finally reached Edo on August 10. They remained there until September 1, when they resumed their march north to Ōyama with an army consisting of fifty thousand fighters.
Meanwhile in Osaka, Kikkawa Hiroie was angry because Mitsunari had not allowed his clan to go into action, so he began to send messages to the generals under Tokugawa”s command, Kuroda Nagamasa and Ii Naomasa, assuring them that at the time of battle, the 36 000 soldiers of the Mōri clan would not face the “Army of the East”.
On August 27, the forces of the “Western Army” arrived at Fushimi Castle as Ieyasu and Mototada had planned. Along with the western forces was Shimazu Yoshihiro, who had originally allied himself with Tokugawa, but had now switched sides because of Mototada”s insult to him by not letting him into the castle to help him. In the castle there were also a hundred ninja warriors from the Kōga region. These ninja provided support inside the castle while others waged guerrilla warfare in the surrounding area. The defenders withstood the siege of forty thousand soldiers Knowing that he had to hold off the invading army for as long as possible so that Ieyasu could take the enemy castles along the Nakasendō, surrender was not in Mototada”s plans. At the end of those ten days, a traitor, whom Mitsunari had threatened to crucify his wife and son, set fire to one of the towers, so the invaders were able to enter as far as the central castle. With only two hundred men surviving and the castle in flames, Mototada made five counterattacks until he had only ten men left. It was at this point that Mototada and the survivors decided to commit seppuku to avoid being captured alive. That same day, on September 6, Mitsunari and his men were finally able to take over the castle, which cost them about three thousand casualties.
After the fall of Fushimi Castle, the allies of the “Army of the West” had a clear path to safely assemble at Ōgaki Castle and march together to the north and east, in order to attack Ieyasu”s army from the rear, cornering it in its fiefdom in Mikawa Province. By September 10 Ieyasu was back in Edo preparing his army for the final battle and by the 15th Mitsunari and his troops reached Ōgaki, so Ieyasu considered returning to Osaka.
The Kiyosu and Gifu castles were located approximately twenty-four kilometers away from Ōgaki and, due to their proximity to the Nakasendō and Tōkaidō roads, whoever controlled them would dominate the traffic. Kiyosu Castle was held by Ōsaki Gemba (known to his enemies as “Oni (Gifu Castle, meanwhile, was in the hands of Oda Hidenobu, grandson of Oda Nobunaga, who had colluded with the Mitsunari side. Aware of the danger Hidenobu represented, Ieyasu sent sixteen thousand men under the command of Fukushima Masanori, Kuroda Nagamasa, Honda Tadakatsu, Ii Naomasa and Hosokawa Tadaoki to first secure the Kiyosu castle and later to expugn the Gifu castle at any cost. He then sent fifteen thousand more soldiers under Ikeda Terumasa, Asano Yoshinaga and Yamanouchi Kazutoyo and made a final dispatch of thirty-six thousand men with his son Hidetada at the head to travel up the Nakasendō to ensure the achievement of the objective.
The forces at Tōkaidō, numbering 31,000 soldiers, besieged Gifu Castle on September 28, which the “Army of the East” seized the next day. Hidenobu was sent under guard to a monastery so that, after the battle, Ieyasu could decide his future.
On October 7, Ieyasu decided to leave Edo with his army of thirty thousand men to march westward. Unlike the outward journey, which he had made in forty days with only a few hundred men, this time he covered the same distance in only two weeks.
Hidetada marched from Edo down the Nakasendō with the aim of taking Ueda Castle, controlled by the Sanada clan, which was loyal to the Mitsunari clan, to later join his father somewhere in Mino Province on October 20. The siege of the castle defended by the Sanada clan and the defenders, commanded by Sanada Masayuki, managed to resist the onslaught of the enemy thanks to a deadly combination of musket fire and infantry charges that demoralized the Tokugawa troops and made them flee. Another point in favor of the Sanada was that the famous samurai Sanada Yukimura was defending the castle, and the Tokugawa troops fled only when they saw him in battle. This maintained a game of continuous defense and counterattack by the Sanada clan; most of the thousands of casualties of the siege were on the side of the Tokugawa clan. The besiegers, fearing they had taken too long, decided to make a final push; thanks to the arrival of Tokugawa Hidetada”s troops, the siege was finally broken on October 16 and Tokugawa Hidetada resumed his journey. By the time he reached Sekigahara, the battle was over.
Ōtsu Castle was held by Kyōgoku Takatsugu, a supporter of Ieyasu, and because of its strategic position on the shores of Lake Biwa, both sides were interested in controlling it.
On October 13, a force of thirteen thousand men under the command of Mōri Motoyasu, Tachibana Muneshige and Tsukushi Hirakodo took up positions around the castle, along with the naval forces of Mashita Magamori, to begin the siege. This clash served as entertainment for the inhabitants of Kyoto, who stationed themselves on the neighboring hills carrying food to enjoy the event as a theatrical play. The defenders, three thousand strong, resisted the attacks and by the sixth day Takatsugu sent a group of ninja to the Mōri clan”s camp to steal some of their insignia and flags. By the next morning, the flags were flying inside the castle, but this was not enough to demoralize the besiegers. On the contrary, both the embarrassed Mōri and the Tachibana, who had at first thought that the castle had indeed fallen and they had not participated in the conquest, redoubled their efforts to seize the fortress. The castle finally fell on October 21; although Takatsugu had lost the battle, he had managed to keep fifteen thousand soldiers on Mitsunari”s side away from the main engagement.
After a slow march, Mitsunari and his men arrived at Ōgaki, from where he sent a group of messengers with instructions for Mōri Terumoto to mobilize his troops to Osaka. Unfortunately these were captured by soldiers of the “Army of the East”, so a second group of messengers was sent who were finally able to deliver the message. Terumoto began to advance with 30,000 elements. At the same time, Kobayakawa Hideaki sent his own messengers, only they were sent to Ieyasu”s presence where they assured him that they would receive his support once the decisive battle began.
Three days after receiving Hideaki”s message, on October 17, Ieyasu arrived in Kiyosu and two days later he was already at Gifu Castle.
Ieyasu and his men arrived at Akasaka on October 20, where he set up a small camp on a small hill called Okayama. The proximity of the enemy dismayed the side loyal to Mitsunari and they were surprised at the speed of their advance. Other daimyō requested authorization to carry out reconnaissance work on the enemy camp, so Shima Sakon and Akashi Masataka, along with 1300 men, left the camp. The two sides then engaged in a skirmish in the middle of the Kuisegawa River, during which the bridge was destroyed. The engagement ended as night began to fall.
Back at the camp, both Shimazu Yoshihiro and Ukita Hideie proposed a large-scale night attack on the enemy camp, since their soldiers were tired and had eaten and slept with their armor on for two weeks, with which they would achieve a definitive victory. Sakon refused the proposal, alleging that such night attacks were “cowardly” and used by smaller armies against a superior enemy, and because they had more elements, they would come out with the victory. The idea of the night attack was discarded. Mitsunari then made the decision to order a general retreat to Sekigahara, a place where, according to him, they would have the advantage on the battlefield.
By 4:30 in the morning the troops of the “Army of the West” were formed and in battle position. By midnight, when Ieyasu received the news that the enemy troops were moving and after determining the direction the enemy army was taking, he ordered his army to move to the new location. Both armies arrived almost at the same time at the place where the battle took place. Although it is impossible to know the actual number of samurai who were present in this battle, some sources claim that about 250,000 soldiers participated that day.
The day dawned rainy. A thick fog covered the valley so that visibility was reduced to a few meters and the troops had difficulty identifying the enemy. At eight o”clock in the morning the fog dispersed and after a few moments the confrontation began. It is not entirely clear which side started the attack, although the first to mobilize were 30 mounted warriors from the eastern side, members of Ii Naomasa”s “red devils”, who attacked Ukita Hideie”s position, and the fighting spread immediately in both armies.
Naomasa”s initial attack was so surprising and violent that they reached the lines of the Shimazu clan. On the other side of the battlefield, the attack of Kyōgoku Takamoto, Tōdō Takatora and Terazawa Hirotaka threatened Ōtani Yoshitsugu”s position but he was able to contain them thanks to the veteran forces that made up his army, the military genius he had, the loyalty of his troops and his generals.
About 20,000 men from the forces of Kuroda Nagamasa, Tanaka Yoshimasa, Hosokawa Tadaoki, Katō Yoshiaki and Tsutsui Sadatsugu made a direct charge against the Mitsunari checkpoint. A makeshift defensive ring was created to prevent them from reaching where Mitsunari was located and they managed to stop their advance thanks to counterattacks by Sakon Shima”s and Satoi Gamo”s forces. Together, the forces of Sakon Shima and Satoi Gamo managed to resist the onslaught of Kuroda Nagamasa and Hosakawa Tadaoki, therefore the position of Mitsunari managed to resist the eastern onslaught.
To support Nagamasa, Togawa Michiyasu and Ikoma Masumasa brought with them arquebusiers, who fired on the right flank of the “Army of the West” front lines. Shima Sakon, who had emerged unscathed from the skirmish at Akasaka, was shot and wounded and had to retreat to the rear lines.
The Tokugawa troops were motivated and redoubled their efforts, so Mitsunari decided to use five cannons to fire at the enemy. Because cannons in Japan were not often used during battle, Mitsunari achieved the desired effect and the enemy troops retreated. He ordered his soldiers to advance to attack Tanaka Yoshimasa, but Katō Yoshiaki”s and Hosokawa Tadaoki”s forces reacted in time, managing to push Ishida”s troops back into defensive positions.
On the other side of Mount Nangū, Asano Yukinaga led his 6510 samurai to attack Natsuka Masaie directly. Interspersed arquebus fire followed from one side and the other, though without much order or strategy. Ota Gyūichi later wrote about the first phase of the battle:
Allies and adversaries pressed against each other. Harquebus fire and shouts echoed in the skies and shook the earth. Black smoke rose, making day like night.
Ōtani Yoshitsugu engaged in heavy combat with the troops of Tōdō Takatora and Kyōgoku Takatomo, while those of Konishi Yukinaga were engaged in fierce hand-to-hand combat with those of Oda Yūraku and Terezawa Hirotaka. But until that moment there was no place more chaotic than the scene where Fukishima Masanori and Ukita Hideie were facing each other, due to the constant attacks and counterattacks from both sides, therefore the Ukita forces had to endure more and more attacks from the forces of Masanori Fukushima and gradually cede territory for when the time came the troops of Kobayakawa would charge against the flank of the eastern troops and tear them to pieces. tr.
At around 10:00 a.m. Ieyasu decided to move his command center closer to the enemy”s, while Mitsunari had sent a messenger to Shimazu Yoshihiro to join the battle since, of his nearly 80,000 soldiers, only about 35,000 had entered the battle due to the low loyalty of some generals.
The messenger insulted old Shimazu”s pride by giving the message without first getting off his horse, so Mitsunari himself had to go and give the order to attack. Shimazu replied, “In battle, one must mind one”s own business and fight one”s own fights there is no time to worry about the affairs of others, whether in the front, rear or flanks.” Mitsunari returned to his position to observe the prevailing situation and consider necessary adjustments. In the face of the Shimazu clan”s refusal which meant a great loss of manpower for the battle, it was now up to the Mōri clan who were if they were to mobilize and Kobayakawa Hideaki”s troops who were to charge down the hill against the entire Takatora flank and sweep the Tokugawa line.
The “Army of the West” had been heavily attacked but had been able to regroup thanks to the leadership of Ukita Hideie. Everything was going according to plan: Hideie would support Tokugawa”s main attack, Kobayakawa Hideaki would descend and attack the enemy troops from one flank, Mitsunari from the other and the Mōri clan contingent from the rear, imprisoning Tokugawa without giving him a chance to flee. It was around 11 a.m. when Mitsunari felt it was the right time to send the signal for Kobayakawa Hideaki and his 15,000 men to proceed according to plan, so they lit the fire signals they had agreed upon in advance.
Seeing the signs, Ankokuji Ekei and Natsuka Masaie understood that it was time to enter the fight, but when they saw that Kikkawa Hiroie was not making any movement, they sent a messenger to ask if they had a problem. Hiroie only replied that he was too busy eating so he asked not to be disturbed for the moment. They then decided to wait for Hiroie to go into action as well, so the Mōri and Chosakabe forces would not go into battle until Kikkawa Hiroie mobilized, which was a big tactical mistake for the western side and a waste of time for Mitsunari”s plan.
Both Ieyasu and Mitsunari were anxious to see how Hideaki would proceed: whether he would support the eastern or western army. Ieyasu decided to send a contingent of arquebusiers to attack Kobayakawa”s position just behind Hideaki, who seemed to come out of lethargy at the gunfire and finally shouted, “Our target is Ōtani Yoshitsugu!”.
Ōtani Yoshitsugu was prepared for the possibility of Hideaki”s betrayal, so he had kept two divisions in the rear. Unfortunately for him the enemy”s attack had been too intense and as soon as he was attacked by the traitor”s troops, his men and generals began to fall one by one. Knowing that neither retreat nor flight was feasible, Yoshitsugu asked one of his vassals to cut off his head and hide it in such a way that the enemy could not obtain it as a trophy.
Once the rumor of the betrayal spread, the “Army of the West” lost all order and the spirits of the samurai collapsed.
The Shimazu were finally overtaken by Ii Naomasa and Shimazu Toyohisa was killed. Yoshihiro realized that there was no choice but to flee, so he regrouped his army and set off in retreat, leaving some arquebusiers behind in order to stop the advance of the “red devils”. In the midst of the Shimazu arquebusiers” gunfire, Ii Naomasa was hit in the shoulder by a bullet and was forced to retreat and let the Shimazu escape.
Kikkawa Hiroie, commanding 3,000 men in the advance guard of the Mōri clan”s troops, refused to participate, so Mōri Hidemoto did the same with his 15,000 warriors. During their flight, the Shimazu ran into Chōsokabe Morichika”s division, who upon learning of the situation decided that they would not enter the battle either.
The remaining army began to flee in disarray. Mitsunari, surrounded by only a few of his top generals, decided to flee to the mountains. Around 2:00 in the afternoon, Ieyasu declared the war over.
Once in his camp, Ieyasu sat down with his main advisors and generals and ordered the preparation of the ceremony in which the severed heads of the main generals of the enemy army were presented. Such a ceremony was traditional among the samurai and consisted of a ritual in which the following steps were followed: First the severed heads of the enemies were washed and combed. Once this was done, the teeth were blackened by applying a dye called ohaguro. Finally the heads were carefully arranged on a board for display.
As the ceremony was being prepared, the leading generals began to arrive at the camp. The first to appear was Kuroda Nagamasa, who received a tantō as a gift and Ieyasu congratulated him, assuring him that the victory had been achieved due to his loyalty and effort. Honda Tadakatsu and Fukushima Masanori arrived next, followed by Ii Naomasa, who had to be helped due to the injury he received. Kobayakawa Hideaki arrived at the camp and immediately prostrated himself in front of Ieyasu, apologizing for the siege of Uedahara Castle and requesting that he be allowed to lead the attack on Sawayama Castle to make up for “his mistake”.
Finally, after the head-collecting ceremony, Tokugawa Hidetada arrived. Ieyasu did not agree to see him immediately and only received him late in the afternoon, without a word.
The first action of the triumphant Ieyasu was to take the castle belonging to Mitsunari, which was guarded by Ishida Masazumi, Mitsunari”s brother. Kobayakawa Hideaki had “the honor” of leading the attack against the castle and only two days later Masazumi surrendered committing seppuku.
A few days after the battle Ishida Mitsunari was captured along with Ankokuji Ekei and Konishi Yukinaga, and they were escorted to Kyoto where they were beheaded at Rokujō-ga-hara. Ukita Hideie fled the battlefield and went into hiding with the Shimazu in Satsuma and during his absence his fief of three provinces was confiscated and distributed. In 1603 Shimazu Iehisa revealed his hiding place and was promptly sentenced to death, although he was subsequently only forced into exile on the island of Hachijō-jima, where he died in 1655.
Ieyasu gained almost absolute supremacy in the country and decided to install Toyotomi Hideyori in Osaka Castle (from which he would take up arms against the shogunate in 1614 in what is known as the “Siege of Osaka”). He also granted him a fiefdom valued at 650,000 koku. Finally in 1603, Ieyasu was officially appointed by Emperor Go-Yōzei as shōgun, thus establishing the Tokugawa shogunate, which would last more than 250 years.
To reward all those who had supported him in victory and punish his detractors, Ieyasu confiscated the lands of 90 families, which in total amounted to 6.5 million koku Of the 204 fiefdoms that existed during Toyotomi Hideyoshi”s rule, by 1602 and with the reallocation, only 188 remained, distributed as follows.
Similarly, two types of feudal lords were established: the fudai-daimyō (譜代大名, ”fudai-daimyō”?) and the tozama-daimyō (外様大名, ”tozama-daimyō”?). The fudai were those who had been loyal prior to or during the battle of Sekigahara, while the tozama were those whose loyalty had been secured only after the battle, so they were relegated from the main circle of government influence.
Although the exact number of soldiers present on the battlefield is not known, most scholars claim that between 170,000 and 200,000 warriors were present that day. The American historian Anthony J. Bryant claims that the troops present at the battle were composed as follows.
The main weapon used in this battle was the yari, a kind of Japanese spear that could well be used by infantry foot troops called ashigaru (足軽, ”ashigaru”? lit. “light-footed”) and even mounted samurai, albeit in a shorter length known as mochi yari.
The secondary weapon was the nihontō, more commonly known in the West as the katana. Although today it is the weapon most closely associated with the samurai, it was not until the Edo period, a time of peace, that it came to be regarded as “the soul of the samurai”. The katana was used in conjunction with a short sword called a wakizashi and together they were called daishō (大小, ”daishō”? lit. “large and small”).
When a samurai wore his full armor, the katana hung with the blade down and the wakizashi was replaced by a tantō. The katana came to be considered one of the most important weapons on the battlefield because it was used to define close combat and the heads of defeated enemies were cut off with the same weapon.
For most of the history of the samurai, the Japanese bow (called yumi) was their weapon of choice and only the sword was usually resorted to when descending from horseback and engaging in close combat, so samurai were usually skilled in kyūba no michi “bow and horse handling”. Historic Japanese bows closely resembled those used today in the kyūdō, which had to be raised to the height of the rider”s head in order to shoot properly. The practice of horse and bow gave rise to yabusame, which is practiced to this day.
In 1510, the samurai were introduced to the metal cannon and in the same year, Hōjō Ujimasa bought a Chinese pistol. By 1548, the use of firearms was recorded during the battle of Uedahara, so in one way or another their use had spread among the various clans. In 1543, Portuguese merchants arrived in Japan seeking trade, and among the items they exchanged were European arquebuses. From 1549, various craftsmen developed the necessary technique to reproduce these weapons and began to make their own arquebuses called teppō (鉄砲, ”teppō”? lit. “steel cannon”). Although many samurai opposed its implementation because with these new conditions any soldier was in a position to kill a trained and skilled martial arts master (even a lowly ashigaru) with a single shot, its use spread throughout the country and became a typical element in war conflicts. The battle of Sekigahara was no exception, so the fire of the arquebus was combined with the use of the bow, although the latter was already considered rustic and archaic.
During this battle two main types of armor prevailed: those of the infantry troops (ashigaru soldiers) and those of the rest of the samurai.
The ashigaru had the least expensive armor of all the troops. Their protection consisted mainly of body armor made of small plates joined together by chain mail in such a way that it could be folded and was called tatami gusoku. It consisted of a dō (torso armor) or a hara ate (armor that only covered the front but not the back), a kusazuri (a kind of skirt) and a war helmet known as a jingasa, which could even be used to cook rice inside it.
The rest of the troops wore body armor called dō, which formed the basis of this defensive clothing. On the battlefield, samurai wore socks known as tabi, strappy sandals called waraji or zori and sometimes a pair of geta (clog-like shoes). Samurai of this period wore suneate (脛当て, ”Suneate”? ) or shin guards, as well as haidate, thigh guards that became famous after the Sengoku period. Gloves called yugake were also worn along with kote (小手, ”kote”? sleeves) to protect arms and hands. An uwaobi (上帯, ”uwaobi”?) (outer belt) held the whole set of clothing and armor together. A nodowa was used to protect their neck, plus a hachimaki (鉢巻き, ”hachimaki”?) was placed around the head to receive the weight of the kabuto (兜, ”kabuto”? helmet). Some samurai used to wear some kind of masks to protect the face known as hoate and these could be full, half masks that protected even under the eyes and may or may not include a nose piece.
A characteristic feature in both types of armor was the implementation of the sashimono, a long flag carried on the back of the warriors, which were engraved with the Mon or emblem of the clan to which they belonged, allowing them to be recognized on the battlefield.
Thanks to Japan”s efficient train system, it is easy to reach the site. In the center of Sekigahara village is marked the site of Ieyasu”s last command post, where he attended the ceremony of displaying the severed heads of the enemy taken during the battle. Across the street is the Sekigahara Public Museum, where weapons, armor, maps and documents relating to the battle are on display.
In the place where the battle was decided, in the middle of some rice fields and called kassenba, an obelisk was erected and the flags with the insignia of the samurai clans that were present are displayed.
Near the train station is a theme park called Sekigahara Warland, where some full-scale plastic statues representing the weapons and clothing used during this conflict are displayed, as well as a small museum where different types of armor from the late sixteenth century and war helmets are shown.
In the area there is also a temple that was built in honor of the leaders of the “Army of the West” killed in combat.
In 2000, several events were held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the battle event, in which more than 800 descendants of the warriors who were present at the battle donated armor and participated in a reenactment of the battle on October 8 of that year.
Another important celebration took place during the Ogaki Expo 2000 held at the Ōgaki Castle ruins, where period weapons and armor were on display, a video reenactment of the battle was staged, and a review of the commanders present was given to visitors. In total, more than 748,000 people attended this exhibition between March 25 and October 9 of that year.
The Battle of Sekigahara has served as the main theme of several novels, movies and television series, especially in Japan.
Among the main novels are Oinaru Kuwadate by Taichi Sakaiya, Sekigahara by Shiba Ryōtarō and Shogun: Lord of Samurai by James Clavell, which describes the events that led to the outcome of the battle.
Within the manga genre is the Azumi series, which is recreated at the end of this battle and is based on a female assassin who, after being hired by the Tokugawa shōgun, tries to eliminate the allies of the Toyotomi clan. This manga was adapted in 2003 to film, winning 5 awards in Japan.
In the dorama genre are Sekigahara, from 1981, which was an adaptation of Shiba Ryōtarō”s novel, Aoi Tokugawa Sandai, produced by NHK in 2000, and Sengoku Jieitai:Sekigahara no Tatakai, a 2006 series based mainly on two fantasy films: Sengoku Jieitai from 1976 and Sengoku Jieitai 1549 from 2005.
Among the video games, two games for PlayStation 2 stand out: Kessen and Samurai Warriors 2, which present the probable scenarios that could have occurred with different situations. A computer game that recreates this historical battle is Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, which is part of the Japanese campaign.
Among the board games and within the wargame genre, Samurai, volume 5 of the Great Battles of History collection, stands out. Published by GMT Games in 1997 and reprinted in 2007, the game contains a highly detailed historical simulation of the battle of Sekigahara. The most important events that affected the contest are represented in the game. In addition the title contains 5 other battles of the Sengoku period: Anegawa, Kawanakajima, Okehazama, Nagashino and Mikata-ga-hara.