Shōgun: Is Lady Ochiba Inspired by a Real Person?

Tensions rise in FX’s ‘Shogun’ as Lord Yoshii Toranaga prepares for war against the regents who had conspired to impeach him. He makes a clever move that renders his enemies helpless, but he knows this is a temporary situation and things will eventually escalate to war. And war is exactly what Ochiba no Kata has in mind.

The consort of the Taiko and the only one to bear him an heir, Lady Ochiba, has garnered both admiration and fear from the people around her. Shrewd and calculative, she is more in touch with Toranaga’s schemes than the regents, which is also what makes her one of his most dangerous enemies. Considering how the show borrows from real-life figures to tell the fictional tale, one is bound to wonder: who serves as the inspiration for the fearless Lady Ochiba? SPOILERS AHEAD

Lady Ochiba is Inspired by a Real Life King Consort

Based on the novel of the same name by James Clavell, ‘Shogun’ takes place in the early 1600s, presenting a fictionalised version of the power struggle between Tokugawa Ieyasu and the other regents. Lady Ochiba’s character is modeled on Yodo-no-kata, born Azai Chacha, who served as one of the consorts of ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi and gave birth to his heir, Hideyori. As shown in the FX series, the events pretty much happened the same way, as Hideyoshi’s death led to the five regents fighting each other to take control of power, in which Yodo-no-kata emerged as one of the major players.

Tracing the origins of Yodo-no-kata, we see that she led a turbulent life from her childhood. She was born to a warlord named Azai Nagamasa and his wife, Oichi-no-kata, who was the sister of Oda Nobunaga. Trouble erupted in the second half of the sixteenth century when Nagamasa and Nobunaga went to war, which lasted three years. In the end, Nobunaga, surrounding Nagamasa’s castle, asked for the return of his sister, and Oichi left her husband, along with her three daughters, including Yodo.

The women remained with Nobunaga for a few years, but when he died in 1582, they went to live with Shibata Katsuie, to whom Yodo was betrothed. Soon, another war erupted between Hideyoshi and Katsuie, in which the latter lost. His death was accompanied by the death of Yodo’s mother, Oichi, who left her and her other two daughters under the care of Hideyoshi. By 1588, Yodo became one of Hideyoshi’s consorts.

The events in ‘Shogun’ reflect the life of Lady Yodo from a fictional lens, but it keeps her fierce spirit and exceptional political acumen. Her backstory has been manipulated considerably to make it fall in line with the cutthroat politics of feudal Japan and give her a better motive to hate Toranaga and his rise to power. Other basic details about her remain the same, and Fumi Nikaido plays the role exceptionally.

How did Yodo-no-kata Die?

Lady Yodo’s death remains one of the mysteries of that period in Japan, though it is widely believed that she may have died, along with her son, following the siege of Osaka.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

As a consort to Hideyoshi, she gave birth to two sons, Tsurumatsu and Hideyori. The first one died at a young age, leaving Hideyori as the only heir to Hideyoshi, whose death spurred Yodo into action as she knew that until her underage son came to power, he and every other member of their family would be unsafe. Her knowledge of politics and a keen sense of tactics made her a force to be reckoned with. She had fine taste in arts and literature as well and employed that to elevate her status in court rather than remain just another of Hideyoshi’s consorts.

Yodo would probably have succeeded in wielding more power, especially once her son became the next ruler, but the trouble between the regents, with Ieyasu on the other end, turned things against her. A truce was briefly reached, but eventually, war came knocking on their door, and the fall of Osaka sealed her and her son’s fate. It is believed that she may have died by suicide, but because there are no confirmed sightings of the act, theories abound about her fate. ‘Shogun’ uses the mystery surrounding her, as well as her powerful persona, to concoct the character of Lady Ochiba and present a powerful and tactful enemy against Toranaga.

Read More: Shogun: Is Lady Mariko Based on an Actual Person?