Photos courtesy of FunkyBuddha Experience
Sekigahara was probably the most important battle in the history of Japan. It was fought in Gifu Prefecture in a tiny village called Sekigahara, which is viewed today as the dividing point between eastern and western Japan. It was the Gettysburg of Japanese history.
On one side, were Ieyasu Tokugawa, a powerful feudal lord from the east and his allies, and on the other were the forces of Mitsunari Ishida, the most powerful man in western Japan. After the death of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the de facto shogun of Japan in 1598, Tokugawa conspired against Toyotomi’s young son, Hideyori, who was supported by Ishida. He created an alliance of feudal lords from the eastern prefectures, and moved against Ishida and the western army in 1600. After much manouvering, the two forces came together at Sekigahara, a village on the Nakasendo Highway, which joined Tokyo and Kyoto.
The battle was a terrible bloodbath in which the soldiers of a divided country slaughtered one another to decide the fate of the nation. More than 170,000 men fought at Sekigahara, and some 60,000 men were killed on the losing side. The Tokugawa alliance won the battle after several of the western generals turned traitor and fought on the their side. After the battle, the Tokugawa Shogunate took over Japan, ruling the country for the next 250 plus years.
On the actual battlefield, of course, there is a solemn monument, but some business person seems to have decided that that was not enough. They decided the area also needs a 30,000 square meter theme park with lifesize concrete statues of the battle, complete with recreations of hand-to-hand combat, beheadings, and ritual suicides.
As you wander the grounds enjoying the carnage, a song entitled “Ah, the Decisive Battle of Sekigahara” serenades you on an endless loop. There are 202 statues in all, including an image of Takeda Shingen (who died 25 years before the battle) holding a standard that says “No More Sekigaharas!”
Photo courtesy of FunkyBuddha Experience
There are tons more photos at the wonderful FunkyBuddha Experience website, an incredible guide to bizarre places in Japan. Unfortunately, it’s all in Japanese, but even if you don’t understand what it says, just click through and look at the photos: http://www41.tok2.com/home/kanihei5/asano-sekigahara.html. The main page is at: http://www41.tok2.com/home/kanihei5/index.html
Another good place to see photos is this page full of pictures of two guys clowning around on the statues: http://underzero.net/html/tz/tz_432_1.htm
There’s a good historical description of the battle here: http://everything2.com/title/battle%2520of%2520Sekigahara
Official website: http://www.kanko-sekigahara.jp/kankou/ko-02.htm (Japanese only)
Getting there: 20 minutes walk from Sekigahara Station on the JR Tokaido Line.
Address: Gifu Perfectuere, Fuha^Gun, Sekigahara-Chou Ikedera
Hours: (Apr.-Oct. 9AM-5PM, Nov.-Mar. 9:30-4:30