Torii Mototada

Torii Mototada

Torii Mototada (鳥居元忠 1539 - September 8, 1600) was a Japanese samurai who lived in the Sengoku Period and late Azuchi-Momoyama Period who served Tokugawa Ieyasu. Torii died at the Siege of Fushimi where his fortress was being destroyed by Ishida Mitsunari's army.

Being close to surrender, Mototada performed Seppuku when his army was greatly outnumbering the enemy army. He changed the history of Japan, allowing Tokugawa to escape and win the battle of Sekigahara.

Torii Mototada Early life

Torii was born in Okazaki, the son of Torii Tadayoshi. As a child he was sent as a hostage of the Imagawa clan along with Tokugawa Ieyasu. The young Mototada served as his page. After Ieyasu's return to the Tokugawa clan and the unification of Mikawa province, Mototada became one of his top generals.

In 1572, Mototada succeeded to the leadership of the Torii family upon the death of his father. He fought at the Battle of Mikatagahara and the Battle of Suwahara Castle in the following year and was wounded in the legs which caused him to have difficulty walking from that time on.

Torii Mototada Service under Ieyasu

Mototada served Ieyasu in all his major campaigns. With only 2,000 men he mounted a rearguard attack against an army of 10,000 men from the Hojo clan and defeated them. Shortly thereafter, Ieyasu gave him Tanimura Castle in Kai Province. In 1585 he joined Okubo Tamayo and Hiraiwa Chikayoshi in the siege of Ueda Castle of the Sanada clan.

After Ieyasu moved to the Kantō region, Torii received 40,000 koku of land in the Yasaku Domain in Shimōsa Province, which made him a daimyō.

Torii Mototada Last Battle and Death

In August 1600, Torii was alerted by spies that an army of 40,000 armed men followers of Ishida Mitsunari]] were annihilating everything in their path towards Fushimi Castle.

The Fushimi Castle guard was greatly outnumbered but they were still able to make their escape. In an act of loyalty to his lord Tokugawa Torii decided to stay with his army at the castle to fight to the end.

In a moving letter to his son Tadamasa, Torii described how the family had served the Tokugawa for generations and how his own brother had died in battle.

In the letter, Torii assured him that he would be honored to be the first to die so that this would bring courage to the rest of the Tokugawa warriors, he also asked his son to take an oath to serve the Tokugawa in both "rise and fall" and to remain humble without desiring lordship or financial rewards.

Being lifelong friends, Torii Mototada and Tokugawa Ieyasu each went their separate ways knowing they would never see each other again. Torii assured:

It is not the way of the warrior to be shamed and to avoid death even in circumstances that are not particularly important... For my part, I am resolved to brave the castle and die a quick death.

It would not be much trouble to break into their ranks and escape, no matter how many tens of hundreds of their horsemen came to attack or by how many columns we were surrounded. But that is not the meaning of being a true warrior, and it would hardly be considered loyalty.

Instead, I will face the forces of the entire country here and... die a resplendent death.

In the end, with the castle burning down around him, Torii ordered his men to face off in battle again and again until only ten men remained. The defenders of the castle fought heroically to the last man. As was customary, Torii committed seppuku rather than be taken alive.

The siege of Fushimi Castle withstood the onslaught for ten days from an army numbering 40,000 men allowing Tokugawa to escape.

Torii Mototada's actions changed the course of Japanese history. Tokugawa Ieyasu was able to raise an army of 90,000 men and confront Ishida's forces in the open field at the Battle of Sekigahara. In a bloody battle, more than 200,000 warriors would clash violently.

4,000 heads would be cut off in the first hours of the battle and 70,000 would die over the next two days while the remnant of Ishida's army was hunted down and executed. The Battle of Sekigahara was decisive in the unification of Japan. The Tokugawa family would rule the entire country for the next 268 years.

Mototada's suicide during the fall of Fushimi is one of the best known seppuku in Japanese history.

Torii Mototada In popular culture

Mototada appears in the video game Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, as a friend of the protagonist of the Japanese campaign, General Kichiro, who is under Tokugawa Ieyasu. Mototada narrates the story, and it is at the end of the 5th scenario that we see the invasion of his castle, and his subsequent suicide.

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