Real-Life Yabushige & His Death In ‘Shogun’ Explained: Did He Find Himself Guilty Of Mariko’s Death?


Kashigi Yabushige is what you will find at the end of your search for an absolute void of integrity. From the very beginning of the Shogun series, Yabushige’s been jumping ship at the first opportunity he gets. Initially, I thought Yabushige was an extremely cunning man who wanted the best of both worlds. But by the end, it became quite evident that he was just a foolish general whose greed made him shortsighted. He failed to see the consequences of his actions and lost the trust of both Toranaga and Ishido, which eventually led to his death.

Yabushige’s character is based on a real-life Japanese samurai, Honda Masazumi, who served under Tokugawa Ieyasu (or Lord Toranaga in the series). The FX series introduced Yabushige as the Lord of Izu, who arrived at the fishing village of Ajiro after his cousin seized John Blackthorne’s ship. Yabushige had sworn loyalty to Regent Toranaga but soon found himself conspiring with his nemesis, Ishido Kazunari, as soon as Toranaga was accused of treason against Nakamura Hidetoshi’s heir. However, in real life, it was Masazumi’s father, Masanobu, who led an uprising against the Tokugawa clan in the Battle of Batogahara in 1563 but later joined Ieyasu somewhere around the 1580s. 

Born in 1565, Masazumi stayed loyal to Ieyasu throughout his life and later joined him in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), where the father-son duo played an important role in turning the tides in Ieyasu’s favor. In return for Masazumi’s bravery, Ieyasu made him a daimyo who enjoyed increased pay in the Tokugawa empire. He also took part in the siege of Osaka, where his bravery and valor earned him more accolades and even better pay. However, following Ieyasu’s death in 1616, Masazumi’s luck ran out too. He served the second shogun for a brief period of time but ended up fighting against Ieyasu’s eldest daughter in 1622, because of which he was stripped of all his titles and was exiled to Yokote, where he eventually died at the age of 73 in 1637.

Coming back to the fictional Yabushige, his death happens to be more dramatic than his real-life counterpart. Toranaga always knew that Yabushige was greedy and ambitious, someone who couldn’t be trusted on the battlefield. Yabushige’s words and actions made it quite clear to the audience, yet I was hopeful that he would eventually turn out to be a good person in the end, especially because of the way he treated John Blackthorne and tried to help him get back to his crew members. It was Yabushige’s fear that played an important role in shaping his personality. You might have noticed that he acted like a Shakespearean flatterer who always said what his lord wanted to hear, whether it was Toranaga or Ishido. Yabushige’s mantra for success was quite simple: always be in the good books of those in power. However, due to this feeble stance, he ended up making a fool of himself. 

But, whatever the case might be, Yabushige’s last act of betrayal was the final nail in the coffin. In the end, he had his hands stained with Mariko’s death. Yes, she herself wanted to commit seppuku, but it was Yabushige who opened the gates for Ishidos’s ninjas so that they could kidnap Mariko and put an end to Toranaga’s strategy to ignite an uprising in Osaka. After Mariko’s death, Yabushige lost the sanity of his mind and begged for forgiveness from whichever god he worshiped. He knew at this exact moment that he would never be forgiven for Mariko’s death, which was why he wanted Anjin to take him to England, or somewhere far away from Toranaga’s gaze.

Toranaga knew that Yabushige was corrupt, but he never thought that he would kill the members of his own clan in his greed or selfishness, whatever one may want to call it. Even Yabushige didn’t expect such an outcome because Ishido had made him believe that the ninjas would only kidnap Mariko and wouldn’t harm the woman. However, Mariko’s sudden decision to sacrifice herself took them both by surprise. That’s what I was getting at earlier: even though Yabushige saw himself as a cunning man, he lacked the foresight to predict the outcome of his actions, which resulted in his death. As soon as he arrived in Ajiro, Toranaga accused him of treason and ordered him to commit seppuku.

During Shogun’s ending, Yabushige’s death symbolized the fact that only the dead would ever find out Toranaga’s real plan. He wanted to become a shogun to bring peace and prosperity to Japan but never really shared his true intentions with anyone, except Yabushige. As Toranaga said in the end, he had expected Yabushige to understand his plans because he always believed the Lord of Izu to be an intelligent person. But at the end of his journey, Yabushige just made a mockery of himself. Hopefully, his cousin, Omi will bring honor to the Kashigi clan and take it to the heights that Yabushige once dreamed of.

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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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