5. 1600 Kato Kiyomasa, Kumamoto Castle and Korean Invasions

Primer questions:

1. Who built Kumamoto Castle, and when? How long did it take?
2. What is Kumamoto Castle famous for?
3. Why are Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa well known (and disliked) in Korea?

In 1587, the Otomo clan requested help from Toyotomi Hideyoshi to defend Kyushu against Satsuma. He succeeded, but gave Higo to Sassa Narimasa (ancestor of Sassa Narifusa?), who had trouble stopping local rebellions. Sassa was ordered to commit seppuku in 1588, and northern Higo was given to Kato Kiyomasa, while southern Kyushu went to Konishi Yukinaga (except the Sagara clan holdings in Hitoyoshi). Both were deeply indebted to Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Because of this, Kiyomasa and Konishi were involved in the Korean invasions (Imjin war) of 1592-3 and 1597-8. They are bitterly hated in Korea, with good reason. Most Koreans know about a place in Kyoto called Mimizuka 耳塚 which actually was the final resting place for thousands of Korean noses, taken by Kato and Konishi during the invasions. Although the first invasion was relatively successful from the Japanese standpoint, the second one proved disastrous as the invaders were forced to withdraw after the death of Hideyoshi.

Back in Kyushu, Kato Kiyomasa was busy building Kumamoto Castle (1600-1607) as we know it today. Based on his bitter experiences in the second Imjin battles, he created Kumamoto Castle as an impregnable fortress, complete with food and water resources in case of a siege, including edible tatami-mats! The famous musha-gaeshi walls were also created with impregnability in mind. Another reason for this castle was that Kiyomasa, still loyal to Tokugawa, was ready to house Hideyoshi’s son Hideyori in the event he could escape to Kyushu.

Many people do not know that Kiyomasa had great experience in castle-building up to the time he built Kumamoto Castle, which could be considered his masterpiece. He was also involved in building Nagoya Castle and even left a castle in Ulsan, Korea, the ruins of which remain today. On the Kumamoto tram, there is a station called urusan-machi, which is supposed to hark back to Ulsan, Korea, to a time when prisoners from the Imjin wars were possibly housed in that area. A famous story is that one young, highly intelligent Korean boy whose life was spared by Kato grew up to be the third priest of Honmyoji temple, where Kiyomasa’s remains may reside today.

The story of the Kato reign in Kumamoto in many ways parallels Tokutomi’s short rule over Japan. Kato’s own son Tadahiro ruled Kumamoto after Kiyomasa died (of leprosy?) in 1611, but he was arrested in 1632 by the Tokugawa government, who gave the domain to the Hosokawa family. The first Hosokawa lord, Tadatoshi, was the son of Hosokawa Tadaoki and Gracia, and he built Taishoji near Kumamoto university to honor her.

Tadatoshi also invited the famous sword master Miyamoto Musashi, creator of the Nitoryu who defeated Kojiro Sasaki at Dan-no-Ura in 1612 to live in Kumamoto and work for him. It was at this time when Musashi wrote the Book of Five Rings, living in Reigando, a cave in the hills of Kimpozan in western Kumamoto.

The Edo era began in 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the capital to what is now Tokyo. It was very isolationist, so we see little international history for the following 400 years, until the events of the Bakumatsu period led to the Meiji Restoration.

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