The Battle of Sekigahara – Then and Now

Where is Sekigahara?

Sekigahara Japan Map

Sekighara is a small town located at the edge of Gifu prefecture in the region of Chiba in Japan. Despite its size, it played an important role in the history of Japan. It is also the resting place of many of the commanders and lords of powerful clans during the Tokugawa period.

Sekigahara Japan Transportation

There are many different ways to reach Sekigahara. One way is to take the JR Tokaido line. Sekigahara station is located between Osaka and Nagoya. For those traveling from far distances, the Shinkansen also has a station near the area. The closest would be Maibara station.

Since the place is just a small town, walking around is quite a breeze. However, a lot of travelers prefer to tour the town with the help of bicycles. This is due to the fact that tourist spots are not found next to each other. The base camps of clans are located at a strategic distance. Walking might take longer than taking the bicycle.

The Battle of Sekigahara

What happened?

At the time, Japan had already been in a civil war. Clans from different parts of Japan had banded together to fight one another. There are factions from the East and the West, dividing the nation into two.

Tokugawa Ieyasu is known to be one of the most powerful samurai lords during this time. He is unparalleled when it comes to wealth, rank, and reputation. Tokugawa was the star samurai of his time with his clan being in power for more than 250 years. He had his own palaces and castles where the construction costs have been collected from his supporting clans. He was stationed in Kyoto, the capital city of Japan during this era.

However, there are rumors that started that Ieyasu Tokugawa would take his role into a more powerful position. This had lead to a series of assassination attempts on Ieyasu, and it is suspected that the perpetrators are from the Toyotomi clan.

Because of this, Ieyasu rallied all his allies to attack the supporters of the Toyotomi clan particularly the Uesugi clan. This was the beginning of the war. Soon, armies supporting the Toyotomi clan (including Ishida Mitsunari and Kobayakawa Hideki) tried to ambush the army of Ieyasu who is now traveling back home after attacking the Uesugi clan.

Although Ieyasu’s troops were severely outnumbered at first, his forces were well prepared and well trained for battle. They easily reduced the number of troops of the western army and outnumbered them by the end of the battle. Realizing that they are to lose the battle, the western forces decided to retreat with its commanders fleeing from the field.


By そらみみ (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Some of these commanders have been captured and killed, like the troops of Shimazu Yoshihiro. Others have chosen to take their own lives. The other commanders have been captured but were also released under the favors of Ieyasu. Although the battle was short, it is one of the most important events in Japanese history. It is said that it is because of the battle of Sekigahara that the unification of Japan was achieved.

Who was involved?

The army of the west involves clans that sided with Toyotomi Hideyori and the armies of the east are clans that sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the most powerful feudal lords in Japan’s Feudal era. The Western army was bigger at 120,000 troops with the Eastern army outnumbered at 75,000.  It was a bloody war that claimed the lives of very powerful samurai at the time.

What was difficult during this war for its commanders is the fact that the loyalty of the flag bearers was questionable. Some of the flag bearers, daimyo, were quite undecided to fight or even refused to join the battle. Sadly as well, there are some daimyos that decided to switch sides in the middle of the fighting.

When did this happen?

The battle happened on the 21st of October in the year 1600. The battle lasted only six hours in a small piece of land somewhere in Gifu. However, despite the battle being so short the preparation for the war actually took quite some time.


By Rage against [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


The tensions between the eastern and western forces took centuries to become ripe. It was only after Tokugawa gained so much power that other clans started to stop him from gaining more. It took some provocation for the western clans to finally decide that they want to put an end to the rule of Tokugawa.

The troops of Tokugawa came from a battle attacking the Uesugi clan. The western forces lead by Ishida took a few weeks to rally. It was only a day before the battle that Tokugawa was able to prepare for what is coming for him. Both sides took up strategy with the very limited number of troops that they have.

How did Sekigahara help in the Unification of Japan?

Some say that this is the bloodiest samurai wars in all of Japan’s history. More than 30,000 warriors lost their lives in just a short span of six hours. It has helped in establishing ruling power over the feudal lords which have probably helped in creating a single governance all over Japan.

The problem, perhaps, in this battle was that the flag bearers of the western troops were unsure of the side they were fighting for. Some troops chose to change sides in the middle of the battle. This has proved problematic and may have caused them the war. Those who have fled, after realizing that they will lose to Tokugawa, were captured and killed. Some powerful commanders chose to end their life then think of being captured as a prisoner and suffer endless shame for fighting for the wrong clan.

Places to visit in Sekigahara Japan

Sekigahara Battlefield

The battlefield can already be seen starting from the Museum of History and folklore with an entrance fee of 350 yen. There is a map showing the base camps of the different warlords such as Ishida, Tokugawa, and the like. There are flags for which these troops were positioned during the battle. It will only take a few hours to tour the entire battlefield.

There is a stop where the bulk of the fighting took place, on top of Mt. Sasao. There are graves inside the battlefield where the bodies of prominent commanders still lie. There are hiking trails up Mt. Matsuo to the base camp of Kobayakawa that changed sides in the middle of the battle. There are head mounds located in Mt. Matsuo as well.

Sekigahara Museum of History and Folklore

This museum is best for history lovers as it gives a very clear description of the Battle of Sekigahara. The Battle of Sekigahara is an important event in the history of Japan and it is only proper that it is given such an honorable commemoration. There are ancient artworks, records, data and the like of the Battle of Sekigahara. There are exhibits of armor, helmets, weapons and the like. The museum also features all important characters in the battle.

The museum has maps of the important sites of the Battle of Sekigahara which is quite easy to walk or drive around in. Some people tend to rent bicycles to easily travel around the town. What is special about this museum is that most of its exhibits are in English, which provides ease for its foreign tourists. It is also only a few minutes’ walk from the train station, making it very accessible.

Yoshitsugu Otani Grave

Yoshitsugu Otani is one of the most important samurai warriors that fought in the Battle of Sekigahara in the 1600s. He died fighting for his army and for his clans. He headed thousands of men to the battlefield and had led small victories during the battle. He is well-known in history and in literature as a hero. He is often depicted in poetry and literature as a brave and courageous leader.  He fought the Kobayakawa clan up to his capabilities but still failed. Out of remorse and disappointment, he decided to take his own life by stabbing his own stomach with a sphere. The grave of this man is a popular tourist destination because of the role that Yoshitsugu Otani played in the unification of Eastern and Western Japan.


This mountain is one of the high points in the region. A lot of visitors travel to this mountain to enjoy the hiking trails and other adventurous activities it can offer. Other than that, a lot of people go here because it is believed that this mountain is sacred. It is home to a number of Buddhist temples and shrines which have been built as early as 600 AD. People travel to this place as a pilgrimage. There is an access from Sekigahara going to the summit, which is why it is a travel highlight when going to this town.

Sekigahara Cave

Other than the Sekigahara battlefield, this cave is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. The total length of the cave is about 500 meters where the passages are narrow with the very low head room. However, people still enjoy going here because of the destination at the heart of the cave.

Inside the cave is a large body of water where fishes are abundant. Visitors can go here to appreciate the rock formations. During the summertime, when the temperatures are high people can go here to swim and cool down.

Tsuzuraike Park

This place is located on the eastern side of the Sekigahara-cho and it is one of the tourist destinations which is best for appreciating nature. This particular park is home to a large pond that is famous to both local and foreign tourists. This is due to the fact that it is a habitat of a rare species of water lily known as the kohone. It is the kind of water lily that is found only in specific places in Japan. The place where it has an abundance is in the Tsuzuraike park in Sekigahara-cho. There are only specific times of the year when this particular water lily is in full bloom. What makes the park even special is that the pond located here is all natural.

User: (WT-shared) 耕太郎 at wts wikivoyage [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Game Centers

What is interesting is that there are some spots within the battlefield which have been developed into a replica of the battle field. There are replicas of armor, helmets, and weapons available for visitors. Tourists can take photos with the gear, with the “battlefield” and even play games inside. There are fields where visitors can play Frisbee, fly a kite, and the like. The problem with this is that it can be a bit expensive to rent out the field, the equipment, and the armor.

Peace Forest 400 years park

This place is located in Fuwa-gun, Sekighahara-cho in Gifu prefecture. It is a popular nature and wildlife preserve in the area. Those who wish to enjoy the beauty of nature can go to this place to see not only the animals that are local to Gifu but also all the plant life. There are groves of different species of trees like maple, cherry, and plum in the area. This is a great place to visit any time of the year. However, it may be quite dangerous during the wintertime. It is called a peace forest park because it was established to commemorate the lives of all the warriors that died during the battle of Sekigahara.

Sekigahara Seisakusho LTD Japan

The name is so popular that a shipping company has been named after the famous battle. The Sekigahara Seisakusho Ltd is a shipping and marine supplier in Japan. They supply marine equipment worldwide.

Sekigahara Unification of Japan game and rules

The overall theme of this game is based on the true to life Battle of Sekigahara. It is a game that involves the formulation of techniques and strategy at war. It is a block and card game that involves the formation of loyalties and alliances. The more blocks a person can collect, the larger the army becomes.