ODA NOBUNAGA'S FAMILY LIFE PART 1
THE
LADY OICHI IMBROGLIO

 

Asai Oichi
Oda Nobunaga and a 19th century doll of Lady Oichi

 

Now we're getting at one of the most ridiculous historical items in Japanese history: Oda Nobunaga's elusive younger sister, Lady Oichi.

In 1564, Oda Nobunaga gave his sister to Lord Asai Nagamasa of Omi. Despite the fact that it was a politically-motivated nuptial (the Asai clan coveted the province of Mino, and Oda wanted to shoo them off), the Asai couple lived happily in a foursome situation -- year after year Oichi kept getting pregnant and by the time she reached late twenties there were already four kids, all female. Nagamasa's father, though, was still unhappy about what he called a shotgun marriage of his son to Oda's sister. The Asai clan kept alert around Oichi as long as she lived in Odani, their castle; lest she got into some espionage (which was actually rampant that way everywhere at the time). Asai Nagamasa was a good shooter and swordsman, and he did well in leading the clan after his daddy abdicated. Oda Nobunaga, who seemed to like no one at all except his General Toyotomi and his valet Mori Ranmaru (click here for pictures) -- oh, and his horses (click here for pictures) -- genuinely liked Asai. This made the subsequent tragedy even more crushing.

 

Oda Nobunaga, Oichi, Asai Nagamasa
The absolute tragedy of Oda Nobunaga, Oichi and Asai Nagamasa
is the most often talked of among the bytes of Oda's history.

 

By the way, Asai wasn't handsome like Oda; all descriptions and paintings from 16th century gave us a portrait of a rather stout and substantial man whose expression in general conveyed nothing at all. Oichi, on the other hand, was said to be extremely beautiful, fitting into all the requirements of 1600's Japanese belles -- what everybody said about her was sort of like what I say about Ito Hideaki today (click here if you really have so much time to waste).

 

Asai Nagamasa and OichiAsai family
Monument of Asai Nagamasa & Oichi, and the entire Asai family.
Today's people tend to see them as saintly victims of unseasoned brutality.

 

Asai Nagamasa
Lord Asai Nagamasa in his
official portrait of
16th century

 

Asai Nagamasa
A 2001 reconstruction of
Asai Nagamasa's looks

 

Asai Nagamasa
Asai Nagamasa in a
2005 computer game

 

Toyotomi Hideyoshi
TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI
was said to be unsightly
(people called him
'the Monkey King' even
when he was the ruler of Japan),
but Oda Nobunaga liked him more
than anybody else. He's carefree.
loved to improvise, and
unconventional.
Asai Nagamasa
Lord Asai Nagamasa in an
18th-century portrait

Asai family crest(Asai family crest)
ASAI NAGAMASA WAS SAID TO BE:

  • absolutely fulfilling filial piety
  • very loyal, to old friends & allies (to him, Oda was new)
  • loving Lady Oichi very much, and it was mutual
  • having no personal grudge against Oda Nobunaga, but
  • never returning Oda's sort of brotherly feeling for him, either
  • indifferent to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, though in the end he became, posthumously, Toyotomi's father in-law (!)

 

In 1573, when Oda Nobunaga went to war together with Tokugawa Ieyasu against the Takeda clan's ally the Asakura, all of a sudden he was attacked from the rear by none other than Asai Nagamasa. Tradition said that Nagamasa did it only because his dad and advisors wanted him to, out of respect for the Asakura clan that was their previous ally before Nagamasa joined Oda. Asai took it as a duty to defend the Asakura, an old-time chum, against the new one, Oda. Personally Nagamasa got pissed off because Oda didn't even leak his plan to him. Oda had his own reason: he clammed up about the plan to cut Takeda's backup precisely because of Asai's previous commitment with the Asakura. He thought that if Asai really knew nothing about it, then the clan could just refrain from any involvement without being disloyal to the Asakura. He didn't ask Asai to help him, either, for that same reason. He only expected Asai to keep neutral about the war. But it didn't work that way, and so the Asai and Oda clans were now at war.

Naturally Lady Oichi was supposed to get all heartbroken about it. But she didn't want to get back to her brother, although Asai, when it was certain (actually it was always certain from the onset!) that his clan would lose, repeatedly asked her to cross over to the Oda camp. Oichi wouldn't go even for the sake of her four daughters. Oda kept fidgeting about how to save his sister and nieces, so -- contrary to Oda's policy that says 'No Siege, No Hostage', he told his Generals to surround Odani without moving a single inch toward attacking it. Toyotomi Hideyoshi took this matter to his hands, since his men, too, were starting to get unsure about what to do. He went alone to the castle and personally asked Asai Nagamasa to return Oichi and the kids to the Odas. Asai said yes. Then the clan went to dust. And Lady Oichi started to hate her brother for the demise of her husband's clan, and didn't take the rescue as anything good.

 

Oichi

Lady Oichi's official portrait in 16th century

Yodogimi

Lady Yodo in old age
was like this 19th century pic

Yodogimi

Yodogimi mask in traditional drama

Yodogimi cenotaph

Yodogimi cenotaph
in Osaka

     

Oichi

Lady Oichi according to a videogame in 2005. At the back is the Catholic converter Luis Frois.

Yodogimi

Lady Oichi's grave are always full of flowers from her admirers for the last 500 years.

Yodogimi

Lady Yodo when young, according to a videogame in 2003

 

Lady Oichi statue
Statue of Lady
Oda/Asai/Shibata Oichi

in Fukui in 2005
Oichi
Oichi in a computer game
in 2005

LADY OICHI WAS SAID TO BE:

  • very beautiful, gentle & kind and all such usual complimentary descriptions
  • obedient to Oda Nobunaga
  • loving Asai Nagamasa very much, and it was mutual
  • wanting to die with Asai
  • wanting to die with Shibata, and this time she did die
  • never returning Oda's sort of brotherly feeling for her, after Asai's death
  • indifferent to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who would be her son in-law

 

Shibata Katsuie
Lord Shibata Katsuie
in a ceramic artist's eyes in 2005

 

Shibata family crest
Shibata Katsuie

Shibata Katsuie,
Lord of Echizen
(above him is the Shibata family crest)

 

Shibata Katsuie
Lord Shibata Katsuie
in official portrait of 16th century

 

SHIBATA KATSUIE
WAS SAID TO BE:

  • one of 'the Four Princes of Oda', i.e. indisposible vassals
  • an outstanding manowar and very sensible strategician
  • never indubitably loyal to Oda Nobunaga; he had conspired against Oda before, but somehow Oda forgave him and never even brought it up
Shibata Katsuie
Lord Shibata Katsuie
in an 18th century prints
  • calling Oichi 'Her Ladyship' out of habit, even after they got married
  • very jealous to Toyotomi Hideyoshi because such a 'lowborn' had risen to the rank equal to his own, and was Oda's favorite, too
  • trying everything he could to prevent Toyotomi from getting into Oda's shoes after the death of the latter (but he lost this battle for supremacy partly because he was too square to follow and counter Toyotomi's inborn unconventionalism)

CLICK HERE
for their battles of succession

 

Lady Asai Oichi and the kids rescued from Odani
A comic book visualization of Lady Asai Oichi and her 4 kids
being rescued from the Odani castle by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Asai Nagamasa monument
Monument for Asai Nagamasa
at the area of 16th century Odani,
right where he committed suicide.

 

Because Oichi even refused to talk with him, Oda Nobunaga's impatience with the world got to its blasting point. "Allright," he said, "Then go to some place where you'll never see me again!" -- Lady Oichi did go to such a place -- the snow-covered mountains of Echizen, Lord Shibata Katsuie's domain. She married him. The four daughters of Asai Nagamasa's went to live there, too.

Oichi never saw Oda Nobunaga again, for real. After Oda's death in 1582, Shibata was at war against Oda's successor Toyotomi. He lost. Once more Lady Oichi found herself and her kids in a besieged castle, with no way out. All was a deja vu: Shibata, too, asked her to leave. But now she really refused to. She committed suicide with him, as the castle went in flames.

Her daughters, though, survived. Toyotomi Hideyoshi wanted to save Oichi and them once again for the sake of his memory of Oda, but he was too late; only the kids were smuggled out by his ninjas. And the next bizarre event took place years after: Toyotomi married the most beautiful daughter of Lady Oichi's, who was said to be looking like her mom, a girl who would be remembered for her own stuff, Lady Yodo (or Yodogimi). This niece of Oda Nobunaga's was the mother of Toyotomi's heir, Hideyori, who was, then, Oda's grandson.

In 1815, Tokugawa Hidetada, the second Shogun, and his dad Ieyasu, crushed Toyotomi Hideyori and Lady Yodo's army at Osaka castle. That way Japan was on their hands. This still happened even though Tokugawa Hidetada had married one of Lady Yodo's sisters. Their son was Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Shogun. History really freaks one out, doesn't it? (Click here for pictures and stuff of Tokugawa Iemitsu).

Roll on to next page for even more bizarre events in Oda Nobunaga's family, including that of Toyotomi's and Tokugawa's, because in this sphere, too, their bios are inseparable.

 

NEXT: Oda Nobunaga's Encore

 

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