The main character, in other words the person you will be playing as, in The Sickle Upon Sekigahara is the young medieval warlord Kobayakawa Hideaki. For those who don’t know much about the climactic Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Hideaki is not a particularly well known figure. So who was he exactly, and why did we make a game where you play as him?
Kobayakawa Hideaki was born Kinoshita Tatsunosuke, the 5th son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s brother-in-law, Kinoshita Iesada. Doomed to mediocrity as the 5th son of the most powerful man in the country’s low-rank brother-in-law, young Tatsunosuke could well have been a nobody forgotten by history.
But by luck the powerful son of the legendary warlord Mori Motonari – whom the main character of Kurosawa’s film Ran was loosely based on – was childless. Toyotomi plucked the newly minted Tatsunosuke when he became an adult (around age 15) Toyotomi snatched him up, issued him the new name of Hidetoshi, and had the aforementioned son of Motonari adopt him. Hidetoshi’s new father had taken over the Kobayakawa clan and turned it into a branch of the Mori family, but he was also getting on in years.
Now officially known as Kobayakawa Hideaki, the young son of a no-name samurai who only owned a 25,000 koku domain was about to inherit the gigantic Kobayakawa domain in northern Kyushu. The Kobyakawa domain was worth over 300,000 koku – meaning it could, ostensibly, feed over a quarter million people a year with a normal harvest.
Hideaki, by luck of his new adoption, would be thrust into greatness. Assigned as Commander-In-Chief of the second invasion of Korea he is said to have done poorly in Ishida Mitsunari’s reports back home and as a result was deprived of his old domain until a few years later when Toyotomi Hideyoshi gave the young man back his old lands shortly before dying.
Toyotomi’s death caused a political ripple that could only end in war. Ostensibly the entire Sekigahara Campaign was over who would be regent of, and therefore have control over, Toyotomi’s child heir. It all culminated, after a series of lesser battles and sieges, in the battle of Sekigahara in central Japan in the month October, 1600.
Hideaki had shrewdly, or foolishly – no one is sure, promised his support to both sides of the battle. With fighting beginning in the misty morning around 8am and, though both sides demanded he act, Hideaki refused to move until around noon. After Tokugawa advanced a force within range to fire upon his unit to shock him into action, of course.
At that time, historically speaking, Hideaki defected to Tokugawa’s side and urged the combined army of his 15,000+ soldiers down the hill he had took up on, along with another 4,000 soldiers who had promised to throw their lots in with him.
He attacked the Otani and Ukita lines from behind, though had some difficulty with them because apparently Otani Yoshitsugu had expected the betrayal and set defenses in place for just such an occasion. Even so, Otani was badly outnumbered and held out for only a short while.
The force under Ukita Hideie was already being attacked from three sides, but were holding their ground and some sources even say he was technically winning the fight. But surrounded on his rear flank by a force equal in size to his own was too much to withstand. Within two hours the battle was over, Ukita himself was dragged from the battlefield by his retainers after attempting to challenge Hideaki to a duel.
Hideaki was rewarded by Tokugawa with a new domain larger than his old one, but is said to have gone mad from the guilt of his betrayal and bad reputation and died mysteriously two years later.
So why would we bother to make a game about such a strange and polarizing character in Japanese history? Samurai-Archives.com’s own bio on the warlord ends with this line: “He is a little explored figure and surrounded by questions even today.”
So we decided to explore him a bit. And we hope you’ll explore him even more by picking up a copy of The Sickle Upon Sekigahara and playing through the greatest moments of Kobayakawa Hideaki’s adult life.