Real-Life Mariko & Her Death In ‘Shogun’ Explained: Who Was Gracia?


The character of Toda Mariko, played by beautiful Anna Sawai, is based on a real-life person, Hosokawa Gracia (also named Akechi Tama), who belonged to an aristocratic family in Japan. Gracia was the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide (or Akechi Jinasi in the series), who, just like his fictional counterpart, was accused of conspiring against the emperor, Oda Nobunaga, and killing him in cold blood in 1582. After her father’s treacherous acts, the entire Akechi clan was executed for their crimes, except for Gracia. Then, the five Regents took control of Japan until Nobunaga’s heir came of age. However, Gracia was already married to Hosokawa Tadaoki (or Toda Buntaro), who, in order to protect his wife, sent her to the mountains to live a life in hiding until things cooled down. In 1584, she was brought back to Osaka and lived in the family mansion for the rest of her life. And even though Gracia’s life was spared, nobody spared her the reminders of her father’s actions, forcing her to live a life of shame and disgrace.

Spoiler Alert

The ninth episode of Shogun presented a similar story for the fictional Mariko, where we found her in the wilderness of the Shonai Region with a child in her belly. She most likely ran away from Osaka after her father’s execution and wanted to end her life herself but was found and arrested. It was up to her husband, Buntaro, to decide Mariko’s “fate,” and he decided to show her mercy instead of killing her. For those who remember, Mariko never understood why her father got her married at such a tender age (16, in real life). But now, when things are out in the open, it is easy to connect the dots. Mitsuhide might have had a plan in mind, and he didn’t want any tragedy to befall his beloved daughter because of him, which is why he gave the responsibility of taking care of her to Buntaro and made him the master of her fate. And that’s how a young and intelligent Mariko, who took pride in her independence, became a prisoner of her own fate. 

As per the historical records, the real-life Akechi Tama was baptized by her Christian maid and her husband at the Hosokawa mansion in 1587 and that was when she finally got her Christian name, Gracia, which she used throughout her life. Mariko, on the other hand, was converted to Christianity by Father Martin Alvito at her house, just like her real-life counterpart. Alvito gave her her Christian name, Maria, which was quite surprising. In real life, Gracia’s maid was named Maria, too.

Gracia was a quick learner and was well versed with the foreign languages such as Latin and Portuguese, which allowed her to converse with foreigners, just like her fictional counterpart. However, there are hardly any records to suggest a romantic relationship with John Blackthorne. Additionally, much like the rest of the royal families, Gracia remained in the Osaka mansion with her children when war broke out between Tokugawa Ieyasu (or Toranaga) and Ishida (or Ishido in the series). Her husband, Tadaoki, along with other generals, decided to side with Ieyasu, thereby weakening Ishida’s prospects of winning the battle. But Ishida had a plan in mind. He took control of Osaka Castle and held the members of the royal families hostage in order to force the generals to break their loyalties with Ieyasu and support Ishida to win the war against his nemesis. While many put down their weapons, Tadaoki refused to bend down. Ishida tried to attack Tadaoki’s mansion and take his wife hostage to have leverage over him. It is said that Tadaoki asked his servants to kill his wife in order to save her honor. Some records also suggest that Gracia ordered her own death to avoid being captured. Whatever the reason might be, Gracia finally lost her life in the siege, and her house was lit on fire, whose very flames ignited a mass rebellion within the walls of the city. After Gracia’s death, many royal families, who were mostly Christians, revolted against Ishida and broke all ties with him. Ishida’s mistake not only ruined his hard-earned reputation but also led to his defeat in the Battle of Sekigahara.

Now that we know exactly what took place in real life, it will be easy to understand Toranaga’s real intentions here. He only sent Mariko, a Christian, to Osaka to sow the seeds of a rebellion at the very heart of the city. Toranaga knew that a dedicated Christian like Kiyama Ukon Sadanaga wouldn’t let Mariko die in vain. That’s why Mariko staged a mini-revolt inside the city walls to make Kiyama and others believe that Ishido had kept them hostage and wouldn’t shy away from taking their lives. At first, Ishido accepted Mariko’s demands and gave her the permit to leave the city. But as per Toranaga’s plan, other royal families demanded the same, and Ishido knew that he wouldn’t be able to control the situation, which was why he sent his ninjas to kidnap Mariko. Yes. Ishido’s plan was not to kill Mariko but to make her disappear so that he could tell the council that she ran away and close the chapter for good. But Mariko was done playing the game. She no longer wanted men to dictate her fate to her, and that was why she finally died by suicide, changing the course of the war with its aftermath. Mariko’s death (which took place in a similar manner in the book) would most likely bring a sense of insecurity and fear among the Regents and their families, who would raise arms against Ishido and demand their freedom, thereby putting an end to Ishido’s treacherous schemes. Ishido, on the other hand, would have no other option but to release these hostages, giving Toranaga an upper hand in the battle. The final episode of Shogun will now decide the fate of these two Regents and who will take control of Japan in the end.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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