March 01, 2012

Internal exile

During the Warring States period of the 16th century, defeated samurai were regularly exiled to Mt. Kôya. The lucky ones, like Kyôgoku Takatsugu, were confined there for only a few months.

In the run-up to the Battle of Sekigahara, Takatsugu swore allegiance to Ieyasu Tokugawa, despite being the lord of a castle deep in the territory controlled by Ishida Mitsunari, Ieyasu's arch-rival.

That the younger sister of Takatsugu's wife had married into the Tokugawa clan and Ieyasu had since proved himself a very generous in-law surely had something to do with the decision.

When his castle was besieged by overwhelming forces, Takatsugu surrendered and was exiled to Mt. Kôya. After Ieyasu defeated Mitsunari, Takatsugu was restored to his position and richly rewarded for his loyalty.

But a few, such as the unfortunate Toyotomi Hidetsugu, never left. He'd been Toyotomi Hideyoshi's heir apparent until Hideyoshi quite unexpectedly produced two sons (one who survived childhood) by Lady Yodo.

Hideyoshi started out crazy as a fox. At the end of his life he turned just plain crazy. In a paranoid rage, he ruthlessly eliminated anybody who might possibly challenge his son's succession after he died.

That meant Hidetsugu. Hidetsugu was exiled to Mt. Kôya on trumped-up charges of sedition, and later ordered to commit seppuku. Hidetsugu's entire family was subsequently executed.

Ironically, Tokugawa Ieyasu was one of the five warlords Hideyoshi appointed to serve as his son's regents. Ieyasu eventually did (had intended to do all along) exactly what Hidetsugu was accused of.

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