石田三成 ISHIDA Mitsunari

1560 – 1600

The Most Faithful Samurai in the Japanese History

Mitsunari Might Have Changed History

“The Battle of Sekigahara” is the biggest war in Japanese history.  Ieyasu Tokugawa was the one who won the battle, unified Japan, and built a peaceful and stable country.  Whereas Mitsunari Ishida, this article’s main character, fought against Ieyasu and lost.  Mitsunari was a samurai who was not skilled at fighting in the front line at wars and was better with office and support work.  But how did Mitsunari end up participating in such an important and large battle, which immensely changed the history of Japan?

Served Tea for A Lifelong Boss

Mitsunari was born in 1560 in Shiga Prefecture.  Mitsunari worked and lived in a temple since he was a child, and was a thoughtful person.  One day, a samurai named Hideyoshi Hashiba (Hideyoshi Toyotomi), a servant of Nobunaga Oda, who had considerable power in Japan at the time, visited the temple.  When Mitsunari served a cup of tea to Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi was very impressed with Mitsunari’s tea serving skill.  Hideyoshi liked Mitsunari’s attentive heart very much and offered to work under him.

Mitsunari Didn’t Get Along with Others

After Nobunaga Oda, who was aiming to unify the country, died, Hideyoshi took over the ambition.  As Hideyoshi continued to win wars and conquer new territories, Mitsunari also got promoted.  Mitsunari had clerical jobs, such as supplying weapons and food, because he was good at calculations and management.  But on the other hand, he was not very good at fighting, and because of that, he didn’t have a good relationship with other barbaric samurais. 

Hideyoshi’s Death Destroyed Everything

Unfortunately, Hideyoshi died of an illness without realizing the unification of Japan.  Hideyoshi left his will to command Mitsunari to protect the Toyotomi clan.  However, as time passed, some people who were working faithfully with the Toyotomi family started acting selfishly, against Mitsunari.  Since Mitsunari was not in the best relationship with Ieyasu and his peers, Mitsunari has been attacked for his life several times.  Ieyasu gained more power within the Toyotomi clan.

Battle of Sekigahara

During 1600, the Battle of Sekigahara broke out.  This battle was between Ieyasu, who had been gaining the power to beat the Toyotomi clan and unify Japan independently, and Mitsunari, who faithfully tried to protect the Toyotomi family.  Some people from the Toyotomi clan resented Mitsunari and went to Ieyasu’s side because they were tired of Mitsunari sticking to Toyotomi’s ideas so much and wanted a change.  Mitsunari was superior in terms of the number of troops; however, some samurais betrayed Mitsunari in the middle of the battle.  This Battle of Sekigahara was a famous battle, but also the shortest battle in history, settled in just one day.  Mitsunari ended up losing and became arrested.  However, Mitsunari had no regrets as he continued to fight for the Toyotomi clan until the end.

Mitsunari’s Partner, Kanbee

Mitsunari was looking for an excellent subordinate who would fight the battle together.  There was a popular samurai, Kanbee and he was scouted by a number of daimyos for a deal of high salary.  Mitsunari also tried to scout him, but he was still unknown and has only been able to offer a salary that didn’t match with Kanbee’s rate.  Mitsunari told Kanbee, “I can only offer this now, but I’m going to be a daimyo who will make more money in the future, then I will pay a lot of money.” and paid all of his salaries to Kanbee.  Kanbee was impressed by Mitsunari’s passion to get him and decided to become a subordinate of Mitsunari’s.  At the battle of Sekigahara, when the battle was settled, Kanbee got a serious injury.  Mitsunari apologized for not being able to fulfill his promise to pay a large salary.  Kanbee’s last word was “It still was fun.”  Mitsunari had a good partner.

Strict with Himself Right Before He Died

Mitsunari was walking to the riverbank for execution, wearing tattered kimono that had holes.  Ieyasu felt pity for that and sent new clothes to Mitsunari.  Mitsunari asked the mailman who the sender was, and the mailman said it was from Ieyasu, the Lord of Edo.  Then Mitsunari refused the gift, and said that “there is no other Lord in Edo than Hideyoshi”.  After that, Mitsunari was hungry and asked for water from a guard, but the guard only gave him a persimmon.  Then Mitsunari refused that too, saying that he doesn’t eat persimmons because they are bad for his health.  The guard responds that “It doesn’t matter for you are going to die anyway.”  It is a famous and iconic Mitsunari’s line that “the one who has the ambition is the one who cherishes life to the end”.

Mitsunari’s Treasure

After Mitsunari died, the Ieyasu soldiers entered the Mitsunari’s castle and were surprised at the simple rooms.  Mitsunari should have received enough money to decorate his castle, but there were no luxury things, such as gold and silver, only a letter sent from Hideyoshi.  For Mitsunari, the letter from Hideyoshi was the only thing that had been encouraging him.

Is Mitsunari’s Personality, Good or Bad?

Due to Mitsunari getting betrayed by many of his peers and losing in the Battle of Sekigahara, it has been said that he had a bad personality.  However, it is also true that he once gathered 100,000 samurais to fight with him, and the number was more than the Ieyasu group.  If Mitsunari had been a disrespectful person, he would not have been able to gather that many people in the first place.  From his actions, such as never abandoning his loyalty to the Toyotomi family and paying most of his salary to his subordinates, proves that he was definitely a loyal person to his loved ones.