Yodo-gimi -- 1567-1615

Yodo-gimi, or Lady Yodo as she is also known, was one of the many wives of the great Japanese general, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. His first wife, Ne-Ne given the title Kita-no-Mandokoro, never produced any children and despite a large number of second wives and consorts it looked like Hideyoshi might die childless. He adopted many, until September 1593.

In Osaka castle, the beautiful Yodo-gimi gave birth to a son, Hiroi. Later named Hideyori, he was Hideyoshi’s first biological son. Yodo-gimi had always been popular but now her place was assured. To have her support or favour was almost equal to having that of her husband’s.

Her power grew even more with her husband’s death in 1598. Far too young to succeed his father, the generals Maeda Toshiie and Tokugawa Ieyasu were entrusted with raising and protecting the heir, Toyotomi Hideyori. But as the heir’s mother, she had a fair deal of influence over the daimyo. Aside from her position and power, her beauty also gave her influence with the nobles. Many were eager to marry her.

After the defeat of the forces loyal to her and her son at the Battle of Sekigahara, Yodo-gimi’s dreams of power for Hideyori were finished. But Ieyasu could not risk an assault on Osaka. Not only were the castle’s defences greatly impressive, but he could not guarantee the support of many daimyo. Many loyalist generals and their men had escaped Sekigahara and some under his command had only sided with him against Ishida Mitsunari, rather than against the Toyotomi family. Thus she was allowed to live out the rest of her life in Osaka castle until the end. Her son was given the three provinces of Settsu, Kawachi and Izumi. In addition, Ieyasu promised him one of his granddaughters as his wife in 1603. However, Hideyori’s fortune did not last. In the year of 1615 Osaka Castle was laid siege to on a pretext by Tokugawa forces. In exchange for a truce, Hideyori agreed to dismantle the castle’s defences. Within months the truce was broken. Hideyori and his family committed suicide, his mother included.

Despite first the death of her husband and therefore greatest protector, and then the military defeat of the loyalist forces in 1600, she almost succeeded in surviving both these tragedies. Had Ieyasu not been so hell-bent on destroying her son, she may have seen her son continue the line with children and grandchildren. Though in the end she did not have this satisfaction, that she got as far as she did on her own steam is fairly remarkable.

A History of Japan 1334-1615, George Sansom
Sekigahara 1600, Anthony Bryant
A History of Japan, Conrad Totman

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