1600: Ishida Mitsunari, Konishi Yukinaga and Ankokuji Ekei for the Tokugawa Shogunate

1 comment November 6th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1600, the emergent Tokugawa Shogunate beheaded three men as rebels in Kyoto after they lost one of the pivotal battles in Japanese history.

The Battle of Sekigahara, on Oct. 21 of that same year, had pitted the shogunate’s founder Tokugawa Ieyasu against a coalition known as the Western Army.

This was the culmination of Japan’s bloody process of national unification.

The preceding ruler, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, had more or less unified Japan under central authority to end a century of civil war. But when Hideyoshi shuffled off leaving a five-year-old heir, a squabbling coterie of regents began elbowing for position.

The political scene eventually crystallized into one of those regents — the said Tokugawa Ieyasu — against all the others. Give yourself a gold star if you guessed that the guys who had their heads lopped off by the Tokugawa Shogunate played for the “all others” team.

Ishida Mitsunari

Ishida Mitsunari, a daimyo who served the late national unifier Hideyoshi, became the focal point of the opposition to Ieyasu.*

Mitsunari failed in a 1599 assassination bid on Ieyasu, and so the two came to outright warfare the following year — a war that Ieyasu economically won by routing Mitsunari at the Battle of Sekigahara.

That, in turn, cleared the way for Tokugawa Ieyasu eventually to take the title of shogun and found his eponymous dynasty — a dynasty whose intellectuals circled that decisive battle as the keystone in the arch.

“Evildoers and bandits were vanquished and the entire realm submitted to Lord Ieyasu, praising the establishment of peace and extolling his martial virtue. That this glorious era that he founded may continue for ten thousands upon ten thousands of generations, coeval with heaven and earth!”

Hayashi Gaho, a little on the optimistic side

Captured after Sekigahara, the “evildoer” Mitsunari was beheaded this date alongside two of his allies: a Christian convert named Konishi Yukinaga, and Ankokuji Ekei of the powerful Mori clan.

* Ishida Mitsunari wasn’t one of the regents; rather, the anti-Ieyasu regents ended up adhering to him.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,Nobility,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Soldiers

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1594: Ishikawa Goemon, bandit

Add comment August 23rd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1594, legendary Japanese outlaw and folk hero Ishikawa Goemon was boiled to death in oil for attempting to assassinate Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

And he’s supposed to have had his son thrown into the kettle* with him, and, boiling to death himself, to have held the boy aloft out of harm’s way.

A 19th-century image painted by Toyokuni III of Goemon in one of the several kabuki plays he features in.

Ishikawa is a sort of Japanese Robin Hood figure, and the (very much) that isn’t offered by the documentary record is helpfully expanded in folklore.

Trained in forbidden ninja ways? Check.

Or maybe a samurai? Why not?

Henchman named “rat boy”? Oh, yes.

Just what his beef with national unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi might have been is also subject to the exigencies of the story at hand. Let it be oppression or something, good enough for one of those classic outlaw-with-a-heart-of-gold retorts against condemnation for his thieving career.

It is you who are the robber who stole the whole country!

He gets to be the title character of the 2009 film Goemon:

Thanks to the inevitable marketing tie-ins, the world also has a Goemon action figure.

Personally, and especially because I would lose all these nifty accessories, I much prefer the adorable Goemon Cosbaby series.

* As a result of this famous exit, a Goeomon-buro (Goemon bath) in Japanese refers to a large iron kettle-shaped bathtub.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Arts and Literature,Assassins,Attempted Murder,Boiled,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Gruesome Methods,History,Innocent Bystanders,Japan,Language,Notable for their Victims,Outlaws,Popular Culture,Power,Public Executions

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1579: Hatano Hideharu, en route to the Tokugawa Shogunate

5 comments June 25th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1579, the treacherous execution of a rebellious Japanese lord set events in motion that would shape the nation’s destiny.

For two centuries, Japan had been shaken with civil strife in the Sengoku, or “Warring States”, period.

Hatano Hideharu, chief of the minor Hatano clan, got himself on the outs with powerful daimyo Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga’s samurai general Akechi Mitsuhide forced Hideharu’s capitulation, convincing him to lay down his arms by offering his own mother as a hostage.*

And here’s where the bodies start piling up.

Nobunaga overruled Mitsuhide’s promise of safe conduct and had Hatano Hideharu put to death.

Outraged, the Hatano clan retaliated by crucifying Akechi Mitsuhide’s mother.

Since Mitsuhide suffered the consequences for the bad behavior of his boss, this tit-for-tat left a bit of tension between the two. (The Hatano were done as a factor in Japanese politics, so having served to poison this relationship, our story takes its leave of them here.)

Perhaps as a result — there’s no single agreed-upon reason, but the personal vendetta has drawn the most commentary — Mitsuhide himself rebelled and forced Oba Nobunaga to commit seppuku.

It probably wasn’t exactly like this fanvid of Samurai Warriors 2 scenes.

Mitsuhide’s betrayal opened the door for another Nobunaga retainer, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to in turn crush Mitsuhide,** and seize power for himself.

From that station, Hideyoshi completed the national unificiation that Nobunaga had commenced and set the stage for the Edo period under the shogunate founded by his successor, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

And maybe — with a stretch — they owe it all to Hatano Hideharu.

* The online sourcing on the death of Makiko, Akechi Mitsuhide’s mother, is a bit inconsistent; some suggest that the Hatano didn’t have her a hostage, but found a way to kidnap her for revenge.

** Mitsuhide’s daughter Hosokawa Gracia, became a legendary Christian convert after his death.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,No Formal Charge,Notable Participants,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions,Wrongful Executions

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