Siege of Odawara (1590)

gigatos | May 27, 2022


The third siege of Odawara (小田原征伐 Odawara seibatsu?), which took place in the spring-summer of 1590, was Toyotomi Hideyoshi”s main battle during his campaign to subjugate the Hōjō clan, the only powerful clan of the Sengoku period that had not yet submitted to the attempt to reunify Japan under his command.

After subjugating the Shimazu clan in 1587, the only clan that still enjoyed some independence and power was the Hōjō clan of Sagami province. At that time the daimyō of the Hōjō was Hōjō Ujinao, although important decisions were still made by his father Hōjō Ujimasa. The break with Hideyoshi came about 1588 when the latter had sent a messenger to Odawara with a demand for submission. Tokugawa Ieyasu, an ally of the Hōjō pressured his old friend Hōjō Ujinori to agree. But the Hōjō refused, and even after Ujinori”s visit to Kyoto to meet Hideyoshi the positions did not change, despite the fact that the latter decided in favor of the Hōjō a dispute with the Sanada clan over Numata Castle.However, in November it seems that Hōjō forces led by the servant Inomata Kuninori, set out from Numata Castle, besieged and captured Nagurumi Castle, under the control of the Sanada clan, and killed the commander.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi had long imposed a rule prohibiting daimyō from engaging in battle over private matters. Hideyoshi, declaring that the actions of the Hōjō were inexcusable, declared war, and the following year invaded the Kantō with a huge army, led by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Importantly, Hideyoshi had been ready for some time. He had already ordered the families of his vassals to assemble in Kyoto as hostages to prevent treachery.

The Hōjō, knowing that they would not be able to fight in the open, retreated with their troops to their stronghold of Odawara in the hope of repeating the victories that had occurred in the previous sieges of 1561 (by the Uesugi clan) and 1569 (Takeda clan).

In fact, Odawara was never attacked frontally, as Hideyoshi realized that in order to achieve the success that even the great Takeda Shingen had not achieved, there was only one means: he had to place the capital city of Hōjō under an uninterrupted siege. Moreover, unlike previous sieges, for the first time a besieger had as much time as he wished with no rival to catch him from behind.

The massive army surrounded the castle in what has been called ”the least conventional siege lines in samurai history.” The besiegers” camp turned into a veritable village. The samurai were entertained in any way through concubines, prostitutes, musicians, acrobats, fire-eaters, jugglers and others. Hideyoshi knew that a head-on clash would become carnage for both armies; therefore, instead of attacking, he tried to fold the castle due to a shortage of supplies.

After three months of siege, the confidence of the Hōjō clan began to waver. The stalemate was insurmountable, and the first plots of treason began. The castle surrendered after a long negotiation. It was Hōjō Ujinao who went to negotiate the surrender of the castle.

The Hōjō offered the seppuku of Ujinao and his father and the surrender of the castle. After consultation with Hideyoshi the agreement called for the suicide of only Ujimasa and two senior advisors, while Ujinao would be pardoned. The next day Ujimasa and his brother Hōjō Ujiteru were recommended to commit seppuku according to the agreement. The two washed, dressed for the ceremony, and composed their farewell verses. Then, in accordance with tradition, they pierced each other and drew the dagger from their bodies. Ujinori, as an assistant, had to sever their heads with a blow. He was about to turn the sword against himself, when Ii Naomasa blocked his hand and prevented him.

In addition to conquering Odawara Castle, Hideyoshi defeated the Hōjō in their outposts at Hachiōji, Yorii, and Shizuoka in and around the southwestern part of the Kantō region. The Chiba clan, allied with the Hōjō in Shimōsa, lost Sakura Castle to Honda Tadakatsu and Sakai Ietsugu of the Tokugawa army during the campaign. Chiba Shigetane, daimyō of the Chiba, surrendered with the castle to the besieging forces on the condition that his clan would not be eliminated. The Chiba consequently were stripped of all their possessions, while many of their senior members were taken into service by Ii Naomasa, thanks to the aid he had received many years earlier from the clan during the occupation of Takeda Katsuyori”s Tsutsujigasaki castle.

The only castle that did not capitulate and surrender after learning of Odawara”s surrender was Oshi Castle, which withstood Ishida Mitsunari”s siege.

The fall of the Hōjō clan was total. Tokugawa Ieyasu was assigned all clan territories, and most of the old clans and samurai loyal to the Hōjō became servants of the Tokugawa.

His father and uncle committed seppuku while Ujinao was spared probably because of his connection to the Tokugawa. He was, however, exiled together with his wife to Mount Kōya. Ujinao was then moved to Kawachi along with his uncle Hōjō Ujinori, where he is believed to have died of smallpox shortly thereafter.


  1. Assedio di Odawara (1590)
  2. Siege of Odawara (1590)
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