Katagiri Katsumoto

Katagiri Katsumoto (片桐 且元, born 1556 and died June 24, 1615) was a daimyo (feudal lord) of the Azuchi Momoyama and early Edo period.

After the battle of Shizugatake in 1583, Katagiri Katumoto became one of the "seven spears of Shizugatake", i.e. one of the closest generals of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Katagiri Katsumoto Biography

Katsumoto comes from an ancient samurai clan with a long and distinguished history. In the early medieval period, the Katagiri clan served the Minamoto family, the traditional leader of the samurai who provided the first shoguns and their government and ruled the southernmost part of the Shinano region for nearly five hundred years.

Despite his lineage and promising start at Shizugatake, Katsumoto's rise under Toyotomi Hideyoshi was relatively slow, compared to his fellow "seven spears" including Katō Kiyomasa and Fukushima Masanori. More of a court samurai than a warrior like Katō and Fukushima, Katsumoto was kept in the Osaka area, the de facto capital of Japan under the Toyotomi family, and his holdings were in the Ibaraki area to the north (where a small bronze statue stands today).

After the battle of Sekigahara, in 1600, which followed Hideyoshi's death, Katsumoto was appointed chamberlain of the Toyotomi house whose fortunes, with an infant (Hideyori), Hideyoshi's only son, as head of the dynasty, became increasingly precarious in the face of the powerful and ambitious Tokugawa Ieyasu.

During the next fifteen years, Katsumoto tries to negotiate a compromise between the ruthless Ieyasu who has already decided to destroy once and for all the dynasty of his former master and is only waiting for the right moment to act on the one hand, and the stubborn and arrogant Yodo-Dono, the mother of the young Hideyori, who is hopelessly out of touch with the new Tokugawa domination on the other.

Increasingly suspicious of Katsumoto's loyalty, Yodo-Dono finally banished him from Osaka Castle which directly resulted in the siege of Osaka (1614-1615) by Ieyasu's 200,000 strong army. The following summer, the Toyotomi family was annihilated with the mother and son committing suicide in the burning castle.

The precise role of Katsumoto in this whole saga is not clear. However, his understandable anguish is later dramatized in Kabuki theater where Katsumoto represents a tragic figure in the mold of Hamlet.

In Tsubouchi Shoyo's play Kiri-hitoha, which describes the fall of the house of Toyotomi, Katsumoto, the main character, is a faithful servant with good intentions and a strong sense of reality but helpless, caught up in the whirlwind of a dynastic struggle.

At the climax of the play, Katsumoto famously laments that fate has finally caught up with the house of Toyotomi.

The play, which is perhaps the best work of modern kabuki written by the best playwright of modern Japan (published in 1894-1895, first staged in 1904), makes Katagiri Katsumoto a household name and remains one of the most famous and popular plays of modern kabuki.

Katsumoto died only twenty days after the fall of Osaka Castle for unknown reasons, although the rumor of seppuku is recurrent.

Although his line died out later in the seventeenth century, Katsumoto's younger brother and his family maintained the name of Katagiri and his position as a daimyo. Their descendants were ennobled in 1884 and retained the title of viscount until 1946 when the kazoku system was abolished.

For the history of Katagiri family as daimyo and their ancestors of Katagiri clan which lasts from about 1100 to 1582 in Shinano area, see the link below (in Japanese).