Is Yabushige Dead in Shogun?

FX’s ‘Shogun’ comes to an end with its tenth episode, where all the secret plans are revealed, all the treacheries come to light, all possible connections and loyalties are tested, and the characters receive the ending that their arc had been building up to all this while. One of the main characters in the series is Yabushige, whose loyalties are continually conflicting, making the audience and every other character in the show wonder about the true nature of his allegiance. There is no telling when Yabushige will favor whom, and this makes him quite a dangerous character. However, karma has a way of catching up with people, and Yabushige finally gets his due in the final episode. But by that time, the audience has formed a love-hate relationship with him, and his ending, though justifiable, feels tragic nonetheless. SPOILERS AHEAD

Yabushige Faces the Consequences of His Actions

Like almost every other character in ‘Shogun,’ the only thing Yabushige is loyal to is power. While some, like Toranaga, are good at keeping their desire to be more powerful under wraps, Yabushige’s intentions about what he wants have almost always been transparent, which also made him rather predictable in the eyes of his frenemies. Since the beginning of the show, it was clear that while he was under Toranaga’s banner, he wouldn’t hesitate to jump ship and join Ishido or anyone else if it meant that he would survive and come out more powerful from the conflict.

Toranaga was well aware of Yabushige’s nature, and while anyone else wouldn’t have felt comfortable having a disloyal person like him under their command, Toranaga was smarter than that. To him, Yabushige’s seemingly fickle nature was actually the most predictable thing about him. This allowed Toranaga to manipulate him in ways that would eventually come around to serve him. But even with all that, there had to come a point where Toranaga would put a stop to Yabushige’s shifting loyalties and cut him out completely. Mariko’s death becomes that point.


Toranaga knew that once Yabushige went to Osaka, he would try to curry favor with Ishido. It wasn’t just what he expected, but he actually counted on it for his own plan to work. Toranaga intended to use his betrayal as a sign to show Ishido and the other regents that Toranaga was beaten, leading them to let their guard down and allowing Mariko to walk in and do her job. In all of this, Toranaga must have expected Ishido to find a way to use Yabushige for her purpose, especially after it became clear that war was imminent. What Toranaga, perhaps, didn’t expect was how desperate Yabushige would get and what he would be ready to do to save himself, even if unknowingly.

Once Mariko succeeded in breaking down Ishido and forcing him to let her and Toranaga’s family go back to Edo, Ishido came up with a different way to go about things. He tried to have Mariko kidnapped and held captive without it coming back at him. He needed an easy way in, and that’s where Yabushige came into the picture. But then, Mariko died, which isn’t what either Ishido or Yabushige had expected. While Ishido deluded himself that her death would have no impact whatsoever on his plans, Yabushige was so guilt-ridden by Mariko’s death that he lost track of himself for a while.

Ishido had hoped that Yabushige would return home to prepare his armies to join Ishido in the war against Toranaga, but by then, not only did Toranaga find out about Mariko’s death, but he also came to know that Yabushige was the one to facilitate it. If it hadn’t been for this, perhaps Toranaga would have let Yabushige live, but his involvement in Mariko’s death wasn’t something he could so easily forgive. To him, it proved that Yabushige had gotten so desperate that he could, in the future, take a similar step, and it might cost Toranaga his own life. It wasn’t the risk he could afford, especially with the war on the horizon. He also couldn’t let Yabushige go unpunished, owing it to Mariko and his family to have the traitor responsible for her death pay for his actions.

By this time, even Yabushige had made peace with what was coming for him. He had realized that it was Toranaga’s plan all along to send Mariko to Osaka and sow division between the regents. If there had been any doubt about Toranaga’s inability to fight against Ishido and the regents, it was washed away because Yabushige realized that he had severely underestimated Toranaga, who always knew more than he let on. There was no point in trying to deny or fight the allegations. He knew he had done wrong, and there was no way he would be allowed to walk away from it with his head intact. So, as asked of him, the day after he arrives in Izu, he commits seppuku, with Toranaga acting as his second.

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