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THE BATTLE OF SEKIGAHARA:
Quadricentennial Celebrations Fill the 2000 Calendar
December 11, 2000
Tokugawa Ieyasu Versus Ishida Mitsunari
Taking advantage of this situation Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), the most powerful daimyo under Hideyoshi, moved to realize his ambition of grabbing the reins of power. He formed alliances with many daimyo, mainly in eastern Japan. His maneuverings led Ishida Mitsunari(1560-1600), Hideyoshi's closest aide, to call together powerful warriors in western Japan and declare war against Ieyasu.
On October 21, 1600 (September 15 under the old, or lunar, calendar), 75,000 soldiers in Ieyasu's eastern army and 79,000 soldiers in Mitsunari's western army clashed at Sekigahara. Though the battle was the biggest and most decisive in feudal Japanese history, it lasted only six hours. The western forces initially had the advantage, but under a plot Ieyasu hatched before the battle, Kobayakawa Hideaki, a powerful western Japanese daimyo, defected to the eastern army and tipped the scales in favor of its victory. Ieyasu subsequently consolidated his position as the ruler of Japan and became shogun in 1603. He set up his government in Edo, now Tokyo, and inaugurated the Edo period, an era dominated by the Tokugawa line of shoguns lasting two and a half centuries.
Novels and Dramas About Sekigahara a Hit
As Japan's most celebrated battle, Sekigahara has been the subject of countless novels and television dramas. Taichi Sakaiya, former director general of the Economic Planning Agency and an author, has written a bestselling novel titled Oinaru Kuwadate (Great Scheme) based on it. And a PlayStation 2 software that simulates the battle with striking computer graphics has been a hit since its appearance in March 2000.
A highlight of the festival was a reenactment of the battle, held on October 8 in the town of Sekigahara. A total of 800 members of the general public who applied to take part and descendants of the battle's commanders donned suits of armor and played out the decisive moment in history. As the eastern and western armies unfurled their banners, the normally quiet town was filled with the sounds of gunfire and shouting, and visitors who crowded the site were drawn into compelling scenes of the battle. In addition to the more spectacular events were services for the repose of warriors who lost their lives in the battle and memorial concerts.
Another noteworthy event was Ogaki Expo 2000, held in the city of Ogaki in Gifu Prefecture at the remains of Ogaki Castle, which served as the base for Ishida Mitsunari's western forces during the battle. An exhibition of arms and introduction of the commanders in the battle and a compelling reproduction of the battle on video proved particularly popular. Ogaki Expo 2000 attracted 748,000 people during the six months that it was open, from March 25 to October 9.
An elderly couple visiting the area commented as they gazed down upon the valley of Sekigahara from Mount Sasao, where Mitsunari's troops took position, "It's hard to believe 150,000 people actually came together in this place." Little about the area, lush with vegetation and covered with rice fields, hints at the glamorous role it played in history. Nevertheless, the dramas that unfolded at this spot have captured the hearts of the Japanese for four centuries and will undoubtedly continue to do so for many more to come.
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.