Ii Naomasa is known as the Red Demon. A historic figure and one of the Four Guardians of the Tokugawa in Japanese history. He is best known for his fearsome blood-red samurai armour and nasty habit of killing people over mistakes. That’s the guy I’m set to become in this year’s Spring parade.
Naomasa distinguished himself from other generals with his courage and also political ability, earning him the prestigious role as one of the Four Guardians serving and protecting the legendary Tokugawa Ieyasu, Shogun and one of the major unifiers of Japan.
However, it is said that he had a rather disagreeable personality and would often end up killing people, even over small mistakes. This included many of his subordinates, so it does not surprise me to hear that it earnt him the nickname ‘The Killing Machine’ (人斬り兵部) and that many of his followers defected to another of the Four Guardians, Honda Tadakatsu.
His crowning battle that he is remembered most for is the Battle of Sekigahara on October 21, 1600. It is arguably the most important battle in Japanese history with 160,000 men fighting and ended in a complete Tokugawa victory, beginning Tokugawa’s reign as Shogun. You can see his troops clearly standing out in the screen depiction below:
In the battle, Naomasa’s unit of Red Demons outpaced the enemy and drew first blood. He is said to have used the blood-red colour for psychological impact to unnerve his enemies, although it was not a tactic he devised himself, having learned it from a previous general.
Naomasa was also said to be extremely violent in battle, often breaking formation in a rush and not being present to command the troops, the role always falling back on his reluctant chief minister. Unfortunately, Naomasa was wounded in the very same battle that he is most remembered for, which ultimately led to his premature death. In the time of the Warring States, it was common for subordinates to commit suicide and martyr themselves after their master’s death, but in the case of Naomasa, not one person did so…
Which leads me to wonder if I’m really suited to play his part in the upcoming spring parade in my city. Should I even want to..?? He was a great warrior and well respected by Tokugawa Ieyasu, so I don’t doubt the fearlessness and tenacity of the man. But should his soul briefly overpower me, would I be likely to knock the guy in front off his horse? Might it spur some deep-rooted fit of rage? It would make a great excuse, anyway… ^^;
I shall of course be posting pictures and an account of the day when it finally comes in early April. Until then, I have 4 weeks of training to do to get ready for the role, including learning how to ride a horse. I’ll be sure to grow the customary moustache too!
This is my entry into this month’s JapanSoc Matsuri hosted by Loneleeplanet.