Historical Characters - "Ichi"

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Japanese history with Makoto!


One of my students, Makoto, has been writing about Japanese history for his homework assignments. I think most Japanese people already know these stories, so perhaps it will be easy to follow along in English. Also, Makoto likes to focus on characters more than events, so you might learn some interesting details about these famous historical characters. Thank you for your hard work Makoto! Here we go!

Nobunaga Oda was the most charismatic Shogun during the Sengoku period. With great support from many outstanding subordinates like Hideyoshi, he rapidly expanded his territory, and was about to become the first-ever conquerer of all Japan.

Nobunaga was often described as an eccentric and cruel person. In fact, he did not care about common sense at all, and he always did whatever he wanted. Annnyyyway,

he had a beautiful little sister, Ichi.

Ichi married Asai, who was the lord of Shiga. He used to be kind and considerate to people, and he was also a family man in this crazy, dog-eat-dog era.

Ichi and Asai were happy with two sons and three daughters.

But one day, Asai betrayed Nobunaga and sided with an old friend who was an enemy of Nobunaga. Asai chose to be loyal to his friend over his overwhelmingly powerful brother-in-law.

Nobunaga got mad at him of course, and in 1571 he ordered Hideyoshi to kill Asai and his sons, and burn down one of the head temples which had long supported Asai secretly along with thousands of people. As a brother, Nobunaga took care of Ichi and his three nieces and treated them very well.

Ichi hated Hideyoshi because it was he who directly conducted the murder of her husband and sons. Since Ichi was so beautiful, Hideyoshi asked her to become his second wife, but she strongly rejected the offer saying, ‘I’d rather kill myself than become a monkey's wife!’, as Hideyoshi had a face that resembled a monkey.

Instead, she got married for the second time to Shibata, who was a colleague and rival of Hideyoshi. Meanwhile, Nobunaga had gone too far by burning down the head temple, and had lost many followers. Finally, one of his head generals, Mitsuhide, killed Nobunaga at Honnoji-temple in 1582.


Immediately Hideyoshi took revenge and became the first ruler of Japan as the successor to Nobunaga. Following the revenge, Hideyoshi defeated Ichi's husband and attempted to rescue Ichi when she commit suicide by her husband’s side.

She left a message filled with hatred for Hideyoshi, but also pleaded for him to take good care of her three daughters.


Ichi lived as she wanted as an independent woman in a strict patriarchy. In a sense, she resembled her brother, but she was also a mother, and unable to sacrifice her children for anything.

This DNA was apparently inherited by her three beautiful daughters who would also be very sought after and go down in history.


To be continued…

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