Battle of Sekigahara, 21 October 1600 (Japan)

One of the most important battles in the history of Japan it marked the end of the power struggle that began with the death of the Warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi who had risen far from his peasant beginning but because of them could not claim the title of Shogun. His fleet had sailed to conquer China in 1592 landing in Korea with 130,000 Samurai, but the campaign soon became bogged down. Negotiations with the Chinese failed and finally in 1598 Hideyoshi died leaving two main rivals for power, Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Their struggle was to be finally decided in a small mountain valley in central Japan. The politics leading up to the battle can be illustrated with a few name changes by the plot of the novel 'Shogun' which has a loose historical basis. Fog lifted from the battlefield at 8am on 21st October 1600, with each commander having about 60,000 men. Tokugawa matchlock gunners (Teppo-tai) caused great damage as the battle continued, the enemy gunners also returned fire filling the valley with smoke and the screams of the dying.

By 10am despite their efforts the Tokugawa forces were slowly being driven back, Mitsunari then signalled Kobayakawa Hideaki with his 15,000 fresh troops to attack but nothing happened, the Mori clan had abandoned him. Hideaki forces did not attack their former allies either but sat on the side lines waiting until Ieyasu forced his hand by directing some musket fire on the Mori clan troops. Finally Kobayakawa attacked bringing with him four other generals who decided to change sides and the turncoats fell upon Ishida's rear deciding the battle. By the end of the battle 40,000 had died and Ieyasu was master of Japan, 3 years later to become Shogun.

SekigaharaSekigahara 1600, Anthony Bryant. A detailed book but not as heavily illustrated as others in the series. This is for the more serious student of Japanese military history. The book does include a lovely political map of 1600 Japan and a brief section on war gaming the battle. [see more]
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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (29 July 2000), Battle of Sekigahara, 21 October 1600,

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