Samurai Gaiden: Date Masamune (Updated)

If you’ve ever played a game or watched an anime that has samurai in it, you’re probably at least vaguely aware of Date Masamune. One of the most popular daimyo in modern media regarding samurai. So today, let’s talk about some of the stories that make Masamune such an interesting person. Now, Masamune’s life is full of interesting stories, because even though he came on the scene in the later part of the Sengoku Period he was definitely a unique and interesting individual.

masamune

Date Masamune (1566-1636)

Masamune was the son of the daimyo of Rikuzen-Mutsu, Date Terumune. You might remember him as being one of the men who received the ‘Teru’ character from our first video on Ashikaga Yoshiteru. Terumune was married to Mogami Yoshiko, the daughter of neighboring daimyo Mogami Yoshimori.

The Date clan was descended from the Isa clan of the Fujiwara who were sent to northern Mutsu by Minamoto no Yoritomo for thanks in helping in the Genpei war and in the wars with his brother.

To get an idea of the situation the Date was in, they were surrounded on all sides by other clans: The Soma, Hatakeyama, Ando, Kasai, Ashina, and the aforementioned Mogami clan.

Masamune was a brash, arrogant young man who was married and had led troops in battle by the time he was fifteen. In the year 1584 Terumune decided to retire from the daily life of being daimyo and planned to install Masamune on the throne. It sounds like a good plan, retire from your job at the age of forty-one, make your son rule, it’s really not a bad idea. However there are a few concerns that had to be dealt with.

First of all…the clan elders didn’t appreciate Masamune’s brashness, among other things. They also thought he was unfit to rule for a physical reason.

Now would be a good time to mention that when Masamune was a child he was afflicted with small pox which damaged his right eye. It is said that the eye was so badly damaged that it actually hung from the socket.

During a council session with the clan retainers, one of the elder samurai remarked that Masamune could not be a warleader. “What if you got into a duel and the enemy grabbed you by the loose eye?”

Masamune responded by laughing, reaching to his face, and tearing the eye right out of the socket. He then casually tossed the eye to the elder.

“I’d better keep an eye on you.”

Another theory is that Masamune’s trusted retainer, Katakura Kojuro, was made to gouge it out in protest of the elder’s accusation of his inability to fight. However this story is both believable and dubious for the same reasons.

You see, the relationship between Masamune and Kojuro has been romanticized for years. Not to say that Kojuro, also known by his proper name Katakura Kagetsuna, wasn’t a trusted aid of Masamune’s through most of their lives. So the romanticization of their closeness makes the claim of Kojuro plucking the eye out dubious.

Katakura Kojuro

Katakura Kojuro

 

At the same time, plucking your own eye out is incredibly painful and nerve-wracking, so having someone else do it for you would be preferred. Still not a great thing, but preferred. So if Masamune had to choose someone he trusted to cut out his eye…Kagetsuna would probably be the preferred person.

So, fearing having anymore eyeballs thrown at them, the clan elders were on Masamune’s side. Just one more major obstacle: Masamune’s mother, Mogami Yoshiko. You see Yoshiko felt that Masamune was too brash and openly claimed that he was unfit to rule, seeing as how he was now missing an eye.

Yoshiko wanted Terumune to retire in favor of their younger son, Date Kojiro. Terumune didn’t seem to favor the idea, so Yoshiko decided to take matters into her own hands. She attempted to poison to Masamune.

Does she really look like the kind of woman who would kill your own son?  Yeah, kind of, actually.

Does she really look like the kind of woman who would kill your own son? Yeah, kind of, actually.

The story goes that she prepared Masamune dinner one night and for whatever reason, he didn’t eat it. Whether he was suspicious or just not hungry is not known, but apparently he fed the meal to his hunting dogs and one of them collapsed and died.

Masamune, ever the diplomatic sort, marched up to his mother’s chambers of the castle and executed his younger brother. His mother responded by packing whatever she could carry and fleeing to her brothers’ castle in Mogami lands.

~RCS

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