Samurai Gaiden: Hosokawa Tadaoki and Akechi Garasha


Aaah, February; the month of love and romance. Valentine’s Day is in just a little over a week. In the spirit of Valetine’s Day we’re going to talk about a love story. The love story of Hosokawa Tadaoki and Akechi Tamako, also known as…Garasha.

Hosokawa Tadaoki (1564-1645) Akechi Tamako (1563-1600)

Hosokawa Tadaoki was the eldest son of Hosokawa Fujitaka, also known as Hosokawa Yusai. Fujitaka had been a courtier of Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the Kengo Shogun we’ve mentioned…numerous times because we’re huge fans of his story. When Yoshiteru was killed Fujitaka was one of the primary forces in the push to bring Ashikaga Yoshiaki to power and he was one of the men who brought Yoshiaki to Oda Nobunaga.

When Nobunaga and Yoshiaki had a falling out, Fujitaka actually stayed in Nobunaga’s service. This is where Tadaoki comes in. At the age of fifteen Fujitaka’s boy fought in his first battle on the Oda side. For the Hosokawa’s loyalty and good service they were made the lords of Tango, worth some 110 thousand koku.

It was around this time that a certain associate of Fujitaka came calling, another lord in Oda Nobunaga’s service: Akechi Mitsuhide. You see, Mitsuhide had a daughter, Tamako, that he felt would be a perfect wife for young Tadaoki.

They were the same age, she was well-educated and poetic, and their fathers were close friends. The perfect arrangement! So Tadaoki and Tamako were married and began a happy life that eventually resulted in the births of several children.

You wouldn't believe, but this girl popped out 6 kids by the time she was 37!

You wouldn’t believe, but she popped out six kids by the time she was 37!

However, just as every rose has its thorns, every marriage, too, has its own set of hurdles to pass over. The incredibly romantic marriage of the Hosokawa boy and the Akechi girl, for political gain on both sides, was no different.

You see, just a few years after they were married  in case you haven’t been following along the last few months’ worth of videos) Tamako’s father betrayed Nobunaga and killed him at Honnoji. Mitsuhide quickly went about getting support from his political allies, such as the Hosokawa.

Fujitaka and Tadaoki decided…not to support the Akechi and sided with his enemy, Toyotomi. This makes perfect sense since Toyotomi would almost have to go through their lands to get to his battle with Mitsuhide so that made them fodder in the political arrangement.

Tadaoki had Tamako locked up and planned to send her back to her father. However this didn’t come to fruition because Mitsuhide lost at the battle of Yamazaki, as we mentioned before, and Tamako was left in a bit of limbo. She was the daughter of the most notorious traitor in the country, at least at that particular moment in time.

An unexpected savior came in the form of…Toyotomi Hideyoshi himself. Hideyoshi pardoned Tamako and convinced Tadaoki to take her back and keep her as a wife.

So the romance was allowed to blossom, once more.

Fast forward about fifteen years to when Tadaoki was fighting for Toyotomi during the Invasions of Korea which occurred in 1592 and 1597, each for about a year’s time. During this time a fellow we’ve discussed recently, Takayama Ukon Shigetomo, introduced Tamako to a thing called Christianity. Although some records suggest that she had already been introduced to it by a handmaid who had converted years earlier.

Either way Shigetomo helped her get baptized, taking the name Gracia, which is where we get her more common name: Garasha, the Japanese pronunciation of Gracia. When Tadaoki returned from Korea to find out that his wife had converted to Christianity he was overjoyed.

Sorry, did I say overjoyed? I meant to say infuriated. He had her locked in a tower where she remained for about a year. Some sources say he demanded she recant her conversion and she refused. Either way she spent some time locked up.

Strange...he looks like such a level-headed fellow.

Strange…he looks like such a level-headed fellow.

It seems that after a year Tadaoki softened up some and released her from her confinement. She seems to have spent much of her time housed in the Hosokawa mansion in Toyotomi-held Osaka, even as Tadaoki got his own castle at Nakatsu in Buzen province.

Finally we come to 1600, Toyotomi Hideyoshi is dead, his young son Hideyori is the nominal leader of Japan and Tokugawa Ieyasu is about to wage a war against the rest of the country to take that position away from Hideyori.

Tadaoki is on the fence about who to side with. On the one hand, he’s a Toyotomi loyalist, on the other hand…Tokugawa Ieyasu gave him a bunch of money to pay off Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s brother-in-law, Hidetsugu. Hidetsugu was a pretty cruel guy and being in his debt was probably not a good thing, especially when he annoyed Hideyoshi and got killed taking numerous associates down with him.

The leader of the pro-Toyotomi forces, Ishida Mitsunari, decided that he needed an extra few cards in his deck and he tried to kidnap all of the daimyos’ families staying in Osaka. One of those families was the Hosokawa.

Tamako saw that the Ishida forces were intent on taking her captive and, as legend has it, she called upon a faithful retainer to murder her because she knew that Christians were forbidden to take their own lives. The retainer killed her to prevent her from being used as a political pawn against her beloved husband.

Lord? I know I prayed for it to warm up this Autumn, but this was not what I meant!

“Lord? I know I prayed for it to warm up this Autumn, but this was not what I meant!”

In reality…European sources of the time suggests that every time Tadaoki left his wife he had standing orders for them to kill her if she might come to danger of dishonoring the family name.

This is also pretty believable because some old writings suggest that Tadaoki had a thing for murdering handmaidens. When he or his wife’s maids made him angry, he was not above simply drawing his sword and cutting them down where they stood, apparently.

All right, so maybe the romance of Tadaoki and Tamako is just a revisionist legend and the truth was that Tadaoki was a brutal, psychotic man who married an unlucky chick.

In the game Kannou Mukashibanashi, Tadaoki is a loving, devoted husband...and this is how they portray him.

In the game Kannou Mukashibanashi, Tadaoki is a loving, devoted husband…and this is still how they portray him.

To further this point in James Clavell’s novel, Shogun, which is a fanciful tale based on the period around Sekigahara, several of the characters are based on the Hosokawa household. The love interest of the main character, John Blackthorne, is named Toda Mariko; she is loosely based on Tamako. Likewise her husband, the violent and scary Buntaro, is based on Tadaoki, and “Iron Fist” Hiromatsu is supposed to be based on his father, Fujitaka.

Even so, Tadaoki and Tamako’s relationship is often shown as one of the most romantic tragedies in Japanese lore; even though in reality there was very little love between the two of them.