While the Battle of Sekigahara was the greatest battle in Japanese history, the Siege of Osaka plays a greater role in Tale of Ronin. The label ‘Siege of Osaka’ actually refers to two separate battles, the Winter Siege of Osaka and the Summer Siege of Osaka, during which the Edo bakufu destroyed the Toyotomi clan. The actual conflict occurred during 1614–1615, but the build-up to the war between Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyori began much earlier.
Tokugawa Ieyasu had unified Japan under him in the wake of the 1600 Battle of Sekigahara. He had ruled as shogun for a while before abdicating in favor of his son. However, the military ruler of Japan before him had been Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Hideyori’s father. Although Ieyasu had seized power while Hideyori was just a child and lowered his status from heir of the nation to a mere daimyo, the possibility remained that Hideyori could challenge Ieyasu’s reign.
To make matters worse, Hideyori ruled from Osaka Castle, the strongest fortress in Japan. Even a marriage between Hideyori and Ieyasu’s granddaughter could not hold off the brewing conflict forever.
In 1612, Ieyasu began looking for an opportunity to move against Hideyori. He found it in 1614 when he took offense to an inscription on a temple Hideyori had built. Ieyasu also tried to have Hideyori removed from Osaka Castle, but although Hideyori was naive, he refused to leave his castle. Doing so would damage his House irreparably. Finally, Hideyori realized the threat and began rallying ronin to protect him. He gathered an army of about 90,000 veteran fighters.
The Winter Siege of Osaka saw Ieyasu order the bombing of the castle and try to dig under the walls. He aimed at Hideyori’s mother’s quarters and bombed the temple on the anniversary of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s death. Hideyori tried to open peace talks with the bakufu, but Ieyasu took advantage of the talks to tear down the castle’s outer defenses and fill in the moats. When hostilities resumed in the Summer Siege of Osaka, Ieyasu’s campaign was more successful.
In 1615, Ieyasu’s forces killed Hideyori’s general and set Osaka Castle ablaze. Hideyori took his own life in the flames while his wife Senhime fled. Hideyori’s eight-year-old son Kunimatsu was executed. Senhime adopted his daughter Naahime to save her life, provided she become a nun and stay in Tokeiji Temple for the rest of her life.
Tale of Ronin begins about twenty years later. The Edo bakufu continues to rule Japan and the Tokugawa clan remains in power. However, when rumors begin to circulate that Hideyori may have survived, ronin once again begin to gather under his name. Some of these discontent warriors once served the Toyotomi and many have good reason to hate the Tokugawa clan. You may play as one of them.