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Fukui Castle and Yuki Hideyasu

First lord of Fukui Clan; Tragic, tamed lion died young

When you visit Fukui Castle Ruins, you'll find a large, modern building standing inside the premises. This is the Fukui prefectural government office. After being surprised (and dismayed) to find such a modern building in the Castle Ruins, if you turn to the right, the next thing you'll see is a statue of Yūki Hideyasu, the first lord of Fukui Han (region) looking gallant in samurai armor. When I saw this rather valiant statue, I felt sad, because I knew he'd never fought in any battles in his short life...

Background Yūki Hideyasu, the first lord of Fukui Han, was the second son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868). But Ieyasu had his first son executed in 1579, by the order of his lord, Oda Nobunaga. As a second son of Ieyasu, Yūki Hideyasu could have been Ieyasu's heir, but Ieyasu chose his third son, Hidetada, to be his heir. Why? Because Yūki Hideyasu was never supposed to be born.

Tragic birth of Yūki Hideyasu One day, Ieyasu picked up one of his wife's maids to spend the night with him. Next morning, he completely forgot about the night before, and didn't even remember the name of the maid he spent the night with. But later it was revealed that the maid had become pregnant. Ieyasu ignored it. But the maid gave birth to a boy (Hideyasu). Boys were important to preserve the family line in those days, so one of Ieyasu's loyal subjects took in the boy and raised him. Until the child became 3 years old, Ieyasu didn't even meet him. He was an unwanted, unloved child, and when Ieyasu's first son was killed, he chose his third son to be his heir, and ignored his second son, Hideyasu.

Adopted by Hideyoshi as a hostage When Toyotomi Hideyoshi took power and became a ruler of Japan, Ieyasu had to send a hostage to Hideyoshi as a token of loyalty to him. He sent Hideyasu, his second son. Since Hideyoshi didn't have his own children, he adopted Hideyasu and loved him as his own child. For your information, Hideyasu (秀康) was named after Hideyoshi's Hide(秀), and Ieyasu's Yasu (康). As Hideyasu grew up without knowing his father's love, he loved Hideyoshi, the first person who loved him as a child, dearly.

Yūki Hideyasu's character When Ieyasu gave Hideyasu away to be adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Hideyasu was still a child and his potential or talent was unknown. But he grew up into a very talented, gallant samurai with an air of confidence and authority. He was the kind of person nobody wanted to mess with. Just by being there, he exuded authority. In short, he was the kind of person who could rule Japan! And both Ieyasu and Hideyoshi slowly realized Hideyasu could be a threat to them for their own reasons...

What happend when Hideyoshi got his own child Toyotomi Hideyoshi had been suspected as being infertile and didn't have any children. But miraculously, one of his many mistresses bore his child for the first time (he had 2 children with this mistress, Yodo, but the first son died early). Until then, he had adopted many sons (including Hideyasu), but once he had his own child, he started to give them away lest they threaten his own heir Toyotomi Hideyori. Thus, our hero, Hideyasu was once again sent away, to be adopted by a good family with long history in the Kanto area, Yuki family, and his name changed into Yūki Hideyasu (till then, he had been called Toyotomi Hideyasu). While Hideyasu was still a Hideyoshi's adopted son, Hideyoshi didn't let Hideyasu fight in battles, lest his heir's position be threatened. (Hideyoshi didn't want Hideyasu to excel in battles and be admired and worshipped). When Hideyoshi died, at his death bed he again and again asked Hideyasu to 'take good care of Hideyori, his own son and heir; to be his guardian as an elder brother'.

What Ieyasu did He treated Hideyasu, his own second son, with utmost care and respect, but didn't let him fight in any battles, either (sounds familiar?). At the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu ordered Hideyasu to 'stay put', so Hideyasu couldn't participate in the biggest battle of the entire Samurai Period. The reason was simple; if Hideyasu excelled in the battle, many Tokugawa samurai would think he should be the heir, which would cause a disturbance within the Tokugawa family, in which the heir was already decided. Interestingly, Ieyasu's heir Hidetada, the third son, was so indecisive and slow that he arrived at Sekigahara too late to even participate in the battle at all!

Hideyasu's late years After the Battle of Sekigahara, Ieyasu gave Hideyasu the fiefdom of Echizen / Fukui region, 680,000 Goku (which yielded 500-million-dollars-worth of annual revenue in modern currency), not too small for a son of Ieyasu, but not big enough to be able to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate if/when he desired. When Hideyasu knew where his new fiefdom was, he said, 'It looks like my father (Ieyasu) locked me in a snow jail'. In those times, armies in snow country couldn't be mobilized in winter.

Hideyasu's death Hideyasu died from syphilis in 1607, at the age of 34, seven years after the Battle of Sekigahara, eight years before Tokugawa Ieyasu destroyed the Toyotomi Clan. Talented, gallant, born-to-be-a-leader, Hideyasu ended his life without having done anything gallant. People didn't let him. His existence and talent was such a threat that it decided his fate. Before he died, he left a will to his heir, "If Tokugawa ever attacks the Lord Toyotomi Hideyori (his adopted father's only child), support the Lord Hideyori no matter what, till the end". As he predicted, Tokugawa attacked Hideyori in 1615 and burnt down Osaka Castle. Hideyasu's heir ignored his father's will and sided with Tokugawa to preserve his own clan, thus, Fukui Clan continued till the end of the Samurai Era in1868.

What if? Knowing this history, I can't help wondering 'What if?'. What if he was the heir of the Tokugawa family instead of mediocre Hidetada? What if he lived longer and sided with Toyotomi Hideyori and fought with his own father Ieyasu? What if? What if? ... and those thoughts keep me awake at night!

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You wrote this a long time ago but I have to correct one thing, Yuki Hideyasu did fight in several battles when he was a hostage to Hideyoshi, including conquest of Kyushu. He's actually one of the four sons of Tokugawa Ieyasu to see actions prior to the foundation of Tokugawa shogunate, other three being Matsudaira Nobuyasu, Matsudaira Tadayoshi and Tokugawa Hidetada.
Takako Sakamoto Author 9 years ago
Hi Justin! Next month! I'll be looking forward to it, thanks!!
Justin Velgus 9 years ago
Takako, I will try to get some info on the statue maybe next month. It has A LOT of history and fun facts!! Keep up the great work!
Takako Sakamoto Author 9 years ago
Hi Justin! thanks for reading my article. Yes, the eyes of the statue are sad... I'm curious how the statues of Date Masamune in Sendai look like... he also was called as someone who was born too late? He was too young when 3 prominent samurai such as Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu reigned supreme and although he was ambitious he had to follow their orders... I've never seen any statues of him in Sendai and will visit them one day!
Justin Velgus 9 years ago
Lots of great info and great history lesson. When I look into the eyes of the statue I see sadness, but also a hint of resilience in someone that has accepted the responsibility and situation forced them.

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