Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan (2021) s01e04 Episode Script

Complete Control

1 [suspenseful music playing.]
[groaning softly.]
[opening theme plays.]
After unifying much of Japan, fearsome samurai Oda Nobunaga is dead.
His loyal supporter Hideyoshi has launched a coup and seized power for himself.
Enraged, powerful General Katsuie has launched his own bid to control the nation.
He has moved to smash the three fortresses that guard the way into his enemy's lands.
Two have fallen.
The third, Shizugatake, remains.
To seize it, he sends his nephew, Morimasa.
If he succeeds, Hideyoshi is doomed.
[wind whistling.]
Sakuma Morimasa knew how important it was to capture the fortress Shizugatake… but the fortress held out.
And the longer it held out, the more chance there was of Hideyoshi moving to its rescue.
[dramatic music playing.]
The thing about any siege is that if you are the besieger, you are intensely vulnerable to an attack by a relief force.
Your attention is all on this castle, as it should be, which means your back is pretty much to the rest of the world.
Shibata Katsuie was so concerned… that he sent a messenger to Sakuma saying, "Abandon the siege of Shizugatake.
Occupy one of the other two fortresses that you've captured.
" [Ledbetter.]
Morimasa ignores the order.
He believed that he had time to continue the siege.
"Shizugatake will be mine by nightfall" was the message he sent back to his master.
Shibata was not convinced.
[slams table.]
[breathes heavily.]
He knew that Sakuma Morimasa was very vulnerable to a rear attack by Hideyoshi's army.
Even though he came from the lowest class of samurai warrior, Hideyoshi showed himself to be an incredibly strategic general.
A master tactician.
He's an very talented commander with a proven reputation on the battlefield.
And, so, when messages arrive, telling him what is happening at Shizugatake… he seems to have decided that this is a moment for him to seize.
[in Japanese.]
It is time to go! Hideyoshi told the messenger that he would send reinforcements immediately, so they have to hold on.
Follow me! [horse neighs.]
Hideyoshi has made his name because of his ability to move troops very quickly, and so he decides, if he can get a force to Shizugatake, he may have an opening here to counter-attack, to crush the besieging army and win a decisive advantage for himself.
The first Sakuma Morimasa knew of what was going on was when he looked down into the valley… [soldiers marching.]
…to see hundreds of Hideyoshi samurai marching up the well-trodden mountain paths.
It was a huge shock to Morimasa.
He tried desperately to re-order his army, to put down a firm defensive line against Hideyoshi's mountain advance… [yelling.]
…but it was already too late.
Morimasa's men were completely disorganized.
And Hideyoshi's army had the considerable advantage of surprise.
The Battle of Shizugatake was a particularly fierce one in terms of the hand-to-hand combat.
A scene of utter carnage… [screams.]
…in a very confined space.
[in Japanese.]
I have won.
Katsuie's life is in my hands! [yells.]
Soon, Sakuma's men were fleeing down the mountain for the security of Shibata's castle.
Hideyoshi's army followed in pursuit.
[groans loudly.]
After three days of siege, Katsuie knew that his cause was hopeless.
[in Japanese.]
 Katsuie eventually had to choose death.
So, he committed seppuku.
Hideyoshi's victory at Shizugatake was a decisive battle.
Hideyoshi was now the de facto ruler of Japan, and the inheritor of Oda Nobunaga's domain.
[dramatic music playing.]
[thunder rumbling.]
[horse nickers.]
Hideyoshi is the rare figure in political history who can actually be said to have had a vision, to have had a sense of new possibilities beyond what everybody had experienced.
We have to remember that civil war had, by this time, been raging for a century in Japan.
There's no one alive in Japan who hasn't seen war, and Hideyoshi is trying to create a stable political system, whereby the civil wars can come to an end.
But even though Hideyoshi has become the most powerful daimyo in Japan, he is still in great danger.
There are great daimyos who want to take power for themselves.
Then there's Tokugawa Ieyasu, with whom he has to come to some type of a firm alliance.
So, he's by no means out of the woods.
While both of them fought together side-by-side with Nobunaga at many of his battles… [groans.]
…Ieyasu had not been so much a subordinate of Nobunaga, he was an ally.
So, it was a little bit galling for Ieyasu to have one of Nobunaga's subordinates suddenly acting as if he was in charge of all of Japan.
[dramatic music playing.]
Ieyasu had his own ambitions to perhaps supplant Hideyoshi and become the most powerful man in Japan.
He's a very patient strategist.
He knows that he should only strike and only commit his forces when he has the preponderance of power.
So, he has to make sure that he allies with the right daimyo to defeat Hideyoshi.
Ieyasu sees that his best move is to throw his support behind Oda Nobunaga's second son, Oda Nobukatsu.
Oda Nobukatsu's claim was quite simply that he was the true heir of Nobunaga, and Hideyoshi had performed an illegal coup.
[Oleg Benesch.]
Tokugawa Ieyasu saw allying himself with Oda Nobukatsu as an opportunity to potentially overthrow Hideyoshi before he became too powerful.
And he probably feels that when the time is ripe, he will simply discard Nobukatsu and take power for himself.
It was quite a gamble for Ieyasu.
He had a reputation for being a patient, careful thinker, but sometimes even the most patient people have to take risks, and this could have been one of the greatest gambles of Ieyasu's career.
With Nobukatsu's troops in support, Ieyasu leads his army against Hideyoshi's much larger force.
There are several bloody clashes, but the fighting ends in stalemate.
Ieyasu's plan has backfired.
Now, hoping to salvage what he can of his army and potentially live to fight another day, the wily Ieyasu gambles once again.
He decides to meet with Hideyoshi and see if they can make peace.
[suspenseful music playing.]
Now, this is potentially fatal for Ieyasu.
There's a chance that Hideyoshi is going to double-cross him.
Meeting with Hideyoshi provided the potential opportunity for Hideyoshi to have him killed.
I have no doubt that neither man truly trusted the other.
From Hideyoshi's perspective, there were some advantages to keeping Ieyasu around.
He had a large standing army, was clearly a proven general.
So, for him, there were benefits in having Ieyasu as a loyal ally.
Ieyasu would nominally submit and acknowledge Hideyoshi as his superior, in return for an end to the hostilities and a position almost as Hideyoshi's right-hand man.
They do the traditional thing, which is to trade hostages.
Ieyasu gives his second son to Hideyoshi to be adopted.
And Hideyoshi actually gives his mother, who he loved very dearly, to Ieyasu.
The principle behind the hostage system was quite simple… If the other warlord broke the peace, then the hostages would be executed.
Hideyoshi's gambling he'll be able to maintain this alliance with Ieyasu and that Ieyasu won't become too strong to one day challenge him for ultimate supremacy.
After decades of civil war in Japan, none of these daimyo can trust each other.
The change that has to come is where they accept that they can begin to live with each other, as opposed to destroy each other.
And that's what you're seeing right at this moment.
This very important alliance allows Ieyasu to protect Hideyoshi's eastern flank, which allowed Hideyoshi to concentrate on unifying the center of the country.
But in order to unify the country, Hideyoshi needed legitimacy.
[dramatic music playing.]
There's no question that Hideyoshi earned his place at the top, but obviously in a society that was still very conscious of title, of prestige, of bloodlines, Hideyoshi had what may have seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.
True legitimacy in Japan comes ultimately from the figure of the emperor, but the emperor as a figure is one who is essentially a symbolic, rather than a ruling, figure.
As a result, over Japanese history, authority has been held more often by prime ministers.
In Hideyoshi's case, he saw that a way to legitimize his power would be to become prime minister.
However, in order to become prime minister, one had to be of the correct lineage.
You had to be from a specific branch of the noble Fujiwara family and Hideyoshi, of course, as the son of a peasant, was not.
The Fujiwara had literally dominated the court for at least 400 years.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi's strategy was to work very closely with the court.
He was asking the court to present him with possible family lineages and other things that would help legitimize him.
In return, he would help the court and help rebuild palaces that had been destroyed and build the court's prestige.
[suspenseful music playing.]
Mysteriously, the court was able to find documents that proved that Hideyoshi was actually a descendant of the aristocratic Fujiwara family.
He fabricated a new lineage for himself out of whole cloth.
And by being adopted into the Fujiwara, Hideyoshi was able to claim the title of Prime Minister.
[dramatic music playing.]
Hideyoshi's meteoric rise has made him the most powerful man in Japan.
In just five years, he has managed to expand his territory from one-third of the nation to roughly half, and he is now keen to grab the rest.
But powerful enemies still oppose his bid for total control.
To the east, the Hōjō see themselves as Japan's rightful rulers and in the north, from within the Date, a new challenger is rising, a young, ambitious and fearless leader who is determined to stand in Hideyoshi's way: Date Masamune.
As the eldest son of his clan, Masamune had a certain sense of entitlement, but that was exacerbated by the fact that, early in life, he was struck down by smallpox… which was seen as a commoner's disease.
And not only did it affect his entire body, it also caused an infection in one of the tear ducts in his eyes, which caused the eye to protrude from his head.
And almost immediately after he had been… named successor, his own mother attempted to have him assassinated and replaced by his brother.
His still-damaged right eye made him, in her sight, less than a whole man.
- [breathing quickly.]
- [squishing.]
And in that moment, Masamune decided to just rip the eye clean out to remove that vulnerability.
[groaning loudly.]
He has come to be known as Dokuganryu, the One-Eyed Dragon of Oshu.
He demanded submission.
He wanted power, and, most importantly, respect.
[Masamune groans.]
This became Masamune's driving force.
[Masamune groaning.]
Those who were loyal to him, scarred and pockmarked as he was, could be counted on.
Anyone else was to be cut down.
Masamune had to trample these people underfoot.
Very early in Masamune's career, he faces his first serious challenge.
One of his father's closest allies, Ouchi Sadatsuna, was tempted away from the support of Masamune by the clan's old enemies, the Ashina.
And I believe that Sadatsuna had seen in the young lord an unstable personality, who could not hold the clan together.
Sadatsuna's rebellion had to be crushed immediately.
And Masamune decides to act decisively and go to war against Ouchi Sadatsuna.
[dramatic music playing.]
Masamune commands his forces to attack Odemori Castle.
It was absolutely necessary that he send the most brutal statement of intent in his attack on the Ouchi.
The strength of the blow would be a mark of the man himself.
After encircling the castle, [soldiers shouting.]
Masamune commanded his forces to slaughter all those within the castle walls.
And Masamune writes that, "We spared no one, including women and children.
Killing everyone, down to the dogs.
" [groans.]
The fact that Masamune would be willing to put everyone to the sword had to have a point behind it, and I think that point was the development of fear.
A one-eyed monster descending on rebellious vassals to be taught the ultimate lesson.
Hideyoshi hears of Masamune's rise.
He recognizes that Masamune is an up-and-coming force in the north.
And he realizes that at some point, if things continue in the direction they're headed, the two men are going to have to either come to terms or go to war.
Hideyoshi's concerns about Masamune are confirmed when the One-Eyed Dragon unleashes a new wave of attacks against his rivals, plunging the north into all-out civil war.
Masamune's actions help drive Hideyoshi to consider a bold new course of action, one he hopes will finally end the bloodshed of the last century and unify all of Japan under his banner.
To make it a reality, this time he plans to use something other than the sword.
[birds chirping.]
No sooner had Hideyoshi consolidated his own power then he started to produce legislation that was aimed at reshaping the fabric of Japanese society in the most profound ways.
[horse neighs.]
One of the first really striking reforms that Hideyoshi carried out was to order what has come to be known as a "sword hunt.
" [dog barking.]
[horse neighs.]
In other words, he sent out his emissaries throughout the countryside to requisition all weapons from commoners.
In the late medieval period, weapons had been very widespread, and this is one of the factors that contributes to both instability and political resistance.
It is much harder to resist the political rule of the warriors if you yourself have no weapons.
So what he was doing, in a sense, was trying to stabilize the social structure of the country by creating a gulf between a heavily-armed warrior class elite, which was a tiny minority, and a vast commoner population, which was suddenly unable to resist the warrior class.
There's some irony to this policy.
The man, Hideyoshi, who rose possibly from being a commoner, a villager, all the way to the pinnacle of power was essentially disempowering his peers.
He was essentially closing the door behind himself.
- [blade slashes.]
- [man groans.]
Besides issuing these laws that would separate the classes and disarm the population against the samurai, Hideyoshi issues one other edict with huge consequences, the so-called "peace edict.
" This edict would make it illegal for any daimyo independently to go to war, and instead left Hideyoshi as the only man in Japan who could decide when a war would start and how it would be waged.
Hideyoshi's all-encompassing peace edict seems to have only held temporarily in the north.
By the late 1580s, Date Masamune had rapidly and dramatically expanded the power of the Date family.
Hideyoshi's followers had conveyed to Date Masamune that if Masamune continued to engage in wars against his neighbors, Hideyoshi would have to take action against him.
Hideyoshi simply expects that Masamune will fold to his command.
[dramatic music playing.]
And yet he doesn't.
He will not bend.
[wind whistling.]
Masamune wished to armor the north against the west… to wall in his domain and his allies and send a clear message to anyone, not just Hideyoshi, that the north was not to be trifled with.
For Masamune, defeating the Ashina clan was one of his top priorities.
The Ashina family had a very long pedigree in the north.
They were one of the most well-respected and highly-ranked families among the warriors in that region.
And Masamune always viewed the Ashina clan as one of his most important rivals and a serious threat.
If able to conquer the Ashina and seize their territories, Masamune would thereafter emerge as one of the most powerful landholders in the country, with control essentially over the entire northeastern portion of Japan.
[dramatic music playing.]
At the end of the 1580s, an interesting opportunity fell into Masamune's lap.
An Ashina lord by the name of Morikuni defected to the Date, revealing that the Ashina themselves were, as a consequence of political infighting, greatly reduced.
Even though the ban on inter-province warfare by Hideyoshi was now in effect, I think Masamune saw this as an opportunity far too tempting a prize not to pluck.
Masamune knows victory over the Ashina will make him the most powerful lord in Northern Japan.
But victory is far from certain.
The Ashina are ferocious, and if he loses, he will face certain death.
But, despite these risks, he invades with a force of over 20,000 men.
A slightly smaller number of Ashina warriors are dispatched to intercept him, setting the stage for what will be one of the most notorious battles of the age.
When the Date forces invade Izu, they meet the defenders at a place known as Suriagehara.
Masamune retreats with his cavalry guard to the rear, and the two forces settle down for the night and raise their own defenses.
Masamune was certain that this was going to be a massacre the likes of which the Ashina had never known.
As dawn broke, Ashina forces confront the Date forces head on.
[soldiers shouting.]
They were in a press of melee, fighting in a savage, hand-to-hand brawl.
But just after dawn, a great dust storm erupts… and blows straight into the eyes of these troops.
And things at this point go very badly.
By mid-morning, the Date lines are beginning to crumble.
Masamune recognized very clearly that the fate of his clan was in jeopardy.
[horse nickers.]
Masamune himself rode to the front on the left flank with his cavalry bodyguard.
[soldiers battling.]
And they hit the Ashina flank with the force of a hammer.
[man screams.]
All they had to do was encircle their opponents and cut them down where they stood.
[men screaming.]
This was no battle.
This was a massacre.
- [blade slicing.]
- [groans.]
[in Japanese.]
Victory! [men cheering.]
According to the records of the battle, over 2,500 heads were taken and formally displayed for Masamune after the battle.
Here was a man who was willing to take chances to win what was his.
Having won against the Ashina, who really were a major power in the north, Masamune now takes on that title himself and becomes the most powerful warlord of the northern region.
This makes him a very powerful force.
He is somebody to be watched and to be reckoned with.
For Hideyoshi, Masamune's presence was something he could no longer ignore.
Less than a year after the Battle of Suriagehara, Hideyoshi and his immense army ride north to Masamune's own doorstep.
Hideyoshi's target is the Hōjō clan, one of the last warrior families to oppose his rule.
Hideyoshi's forces lay siege to the Hōjō stronghold, Odawara Castle.
As a test of loyalty, Hideyoshi orders all other northern daimyo to swear allegiance to him and join him in the battle against the Hōjō.
Nearly all of them agree immediately.
But one dares to delay his response.
Having ignored all of Hideyoshi's previous orders to attend court, the Date lord now receives one missive from Hideyoshi.
[dramatic music playing.]
An order to join him at the siege of the Hōjō castle of Odawara.
His attendance at the siege was merely a formality.
Obedience to Hideyoshi.
Here was the final gamble.
Masamune was well aware that if Hideyoshi defeated the Hōjō, he would be the next target, and that was a battle that Masamune was well aware he could not win.
Masamune would go to the siege of Odawara.
But it would be on his terms.
[dramatic music playing.]
He packed up his army and set off on a slow march across country to the siege.
He makes many excuses: "The roads are bad.
" "I'm delayed by this or that.
" It's very possible that Masamune felt Hideyoshi might win, he might not.
And before he commits to either side, he wants to see who he thinks has an advantage.
Eventually, Hideyoshi has mobilized so many resources and so many men, that Hideyoshi would defeat the Hōjō and take Odawara.
[chuckles softly.]
[blade slashes.]
[wind whistling.]
[horse approaching.]
Eventually, Masamune and his troops arrive at Hideyoshi's base camp… clad in his finest, white, long kimono and bearing only a short sword.
White represents purity, and, in this context, it represents death, reinforced by him carrying his short sword… which he would use to commit ritual suicide, should Hideyoshi order it.
Perhaps this was an acknowledgment that he might be put to death for his unwillingness to join the Hideyoshi forces prior to this.
Perhaps it was a ploy to try to win Hideyoshi's sympathy.
But he certainly was not cowardly in any way in his approach.
Hideyoshi has Masamune placed before a tribunal of his greatest generals, including Tokugawa Ieyasu.
And they question him about why he didn't acknowledge Hideyoshi's position sooner or respond to Hideyoshi's missives.
And Masamune tries to play this off, saying, "I'm just a bit of a country bumpkin.
I'm not used to the ways of great leaders like yourselves.
" [yells.]
Even in the face of death, Masamune does not give one inch.
He is here, and he has given his reasons, and if the reasons aren't sufficient, he's ready to die for them.
But he will not bend to anyone.
[in Japanese.]
 If you'd been a little later, your head would have been chopped off.
- [Matsamune.]
I understand.
- [laughing.]
And so Hideyoshi spared his life.
[in Japanese.]
I like you.
Hideyoshi seems to have sensed that Masamune could be a far greater asset for him in the future if left alive.
[in Japanese.]
Thank you.
Bring some sake.
Hideyoshi figured out a way to neutralize Masamune, and he does it without the final, all-consuming, apocalyptic bloodbath that many assumed would have to happen.
He forces his enemies to come to the table.
He forces his enemies to agree to this political equilibrium.
In essence, what he does, is he forces the great daimyo to agree it's time to stop.
It's time to stop this civil war.
With Masamune brought to heel and the Hōjō defeated, Hideyoshi has finally achieved what Nobunaga could not.
For the first time in over 120 years, all of Japan is ruled by one warlord.
Through his daring use of violence, politics and diplomacy, a man born a peasant has climbed to the very peak of power.
[birds chirping.]
Hideyoshi, by around 1590, is confronting a kind of ironic problem, which is he has been so successful, so swiftly, and he has this now huge following of daimyo, and he no doubt feels the need to keep them busy.
[men battling.]
These men were conquerors.
They had grown up in a society in which, if you didn't conquer, you died, and your family died, and your lands were taken from you.
Once there's no more land to conquer in Japan, what do you do? That's really a conundrum for Hideyoshi, who has worked for decades now to end the war.
What do you do with the samurai? [dramatic music playing.]
And so he conceives of a fantastical and completely megalomaniacal kind of proposition.
For a warrior who had never made a mistake in battle, he's about to commit one of his greatest strategic blunders and bring on Japan one of the greatest catastrophes in its history.
[closing theme plays.]

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