The commander of the army, legendary warrior with his white face mask.
Otani was born in the Omi prefecture, like Ishida Mitsunari, but was born to the Kajin of the Rokkaku clan. He was taught how to fight at a young age, as an important part of being a Kajin, protecting their lords.
Following Mitsunari’s steps, Otani was the next faithful commander under Hideyoshi. He fought battle after battle starting from 1577 and built up a strong reputation following his victory against the rebellious army in 1578.
Otani and Mitsunari first met in 1586, in a battle at Kyushu. They worked together to help Hideyoshi to take Kyushu, and with their excellent support, Hideyoshi eventually succeeded.
Mitsunari remembered this young and incredible intelligence behind his white face mask which mysteriously hid his illness. This attracted the attention of Mitsunari further.
Prior to Sekigahara
Despite fighting several wars together with Mitsunari, Otani seemed to be more supportive of Tokugawa. In 1599, realising that there might be an assasination plan against Tokugawa, he ordered his elite soldiers to protect Tokugawa and stopped the plan successfully. Tokugawa, seeing Otani’s sincerity and will to protect him, believed that Otani would side with him no matter what would happen.
However, just a few days after Tokugawa declared war against Mitsunari, to Tokugawa’s surprise, Otani joined the Western Army.
Otani was more emotionally attached to Mitsunari, who showed kindness and acceptance towards him. During a tea party at the time when they both worked for Hideyoshi, no one would like to take the tea served by him, as they were all aware of Otani’s illness and kept their distance from him. It was only Mitsunari, who went straight to Otani and drank all the tea he served in mere seconds. “Thank you for the tea, Otani.”
Mitsunari’s actions moved Otani greatly. He tried to persuade Mitsunari not to fight against Tokugawa after knowing his plans. “Mitsunari, you know you stand no chance of winning this war.” he sounded as if he was begging, unwilling to lose his dearest friend.
“Otani, I do know.” Mitsunari replied in a calm tone, “But this is a war that has to be done, for my name and for all those who worked for me.”
The Battle of Sekigahara
It was right before the Battle of Sekigahara and Otani was leading his unit of 5000, meeting up with Mitsunari, waiting for the Eastern Army to arrive.
“Otani, do you regret fighting the impossible war with me, instead of keeping your name as the glorious victor?” Mitsunari asked as he looked into Otani.
“Mitsunari, my friend,” Otani answered without any hesitation, “I choose to side with you and for that decision, I hold no hesitation or regret.” Otani smiled, although that was hidden under his white face mask, he knew that Mitsunari would understand.
He grabbed his katana and ordered his troop to advance into the battlefield as their first enemy appeared.
Otani’s unit parted with Mitsunari’s unit and the rest. He led his 4 commanders to fight at the very front, where the elite forces of both the Western and the Eastern Army gathered. While in the furious battle, Otani did not forget to plan ahead.
Kobayakawa was a commander, joining the Western Army at a late time and had close links to Tokugawa. “If I was Tokugawa, Kobayakawa would, undoubtedly, be my spy to ensure my victory in this war.”
He ordered his generals, Toda and Haratsuka to set up a trap at Matsuoyama, where Kobayakawa had his unit of 15000 in case he chose to betray Mitsunari.
In the middle of the war, as what Otani expected, Kobayakawa burnt the flag of the Western Army and led his 15000 men to join with the Eastern Army, destroying soldiers from other units of the Western Army.
Hearing the news of Kobayakawa’s rebellion, Otani ordered his elite of 600 to launch a surprise attack on Kobayakawa as he was defending the strong blows from the main Eastern Army. His elite, faithful men of 600 shocked Kobayakawa, and the Eastern Army general who kept watch of Kobayakawa was killed by the elites. Kobayakawa was afraid, shaking in fear with his army, retreating for more than 3 times facing Otani’s men.
However, while Kobayakawa was troubled by Otani’s calculation and amazing strategies, the 4 generals under Otani decided to rebel, seeing Kobayakawa’s example.
Otani had no choice but saw himself trapped with enemies all against him.
“Why wouldn’t you all trust in our lord?”, he let out a desperate cry, as another main Tokugawa force joined in together with the generals that betrayed him.
“I curse you all who had no faith and all the traitors in this very Sekigahara!”
Seeing his own army completely wiped out, Otani took out his knife from his armour and ended his life with Seppuku, the most glorious form of death for a samurai.
“Kobayakawa…you filthy traitor…you shall be damned in 3 years time! I swear to my own name!”
Otani’s last words lingered in Kobayakawa’s mind and he died 2 years later, with his close servants reporting seeing the ghost of Otani in his blood-stained white mask…
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