What Is He Really Planning
10 mins read

What Is He Really Planning

WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Shōgun episode 3.




  • Toranaga fled Osaka by switching places with Lady Kiri.
  • Toranaga resigned to thwart Ishido’s plan of impeaching the Lord of Kanto, buying time for his strategy.
  • Toranaga cut a deal with Portuguese merchants to sail away from Osaka on the Black Ship.

Lord Toranaga is playing the long game in Shōgun, but episode 3 has offered more context on what his plan really is. Based on Tokugawa Ieyasu, Yoshii Toranaga has been front and center in FX’s Shōgun. Played by Hiroyuki Sanada, who leads the cast of Shōgun, Toranaga carefully plans every move he makes and is slowly becoming more dangerous to the other regents. Toranaga was essentially a hostage of Ishido in the first two Shōgun episodes, but he has now fled Osaka at the end of episode 3 and is heading to Edo.

Between Lady Kiri’s travel fakeout and the emergency deal cut with the Portuguese merchants, Toranaga’s plan to leave Osaka and go to Edo was very risky. Even with the help of Yabushige, whose allegiances are very malleable, Toranaga and his men were almost caught twice and had to engage in battle to reach the shore. Still, by the end of Shōgun episode 3, the Lord of Kanto was safely on his way to Edo and communicated his resignation from the Council of Regents.

Lord Toranaga Fled Osaka With The Help Of Lady Kiri

Lady kiri leaving her room in Shogun episode 3

Shōgun‘s Lord Toranaga had been a prisoner in Osaka since the beginning of the show, even though he was never officially labeled as such. Ishido and the rest of the Council of Regents were worried that Toranaga was growing too powerful ever since the death of the Taikō, bringing more and more allies into his inner circle and forging other powerful alliances through marriages. Even though Yoshii once refused to rule as sole regent, Ishido believes that it was only a matter of time before Lord Toranaga made a move against the other Regents.

Tokugawa Ieyasu established his Shogunate in Edo in 1603, marking the beginning of Japan’s Edo era, of which he was the first shōgun. He consolidated his power after the Battle of Sekigahara, which had Ishida Mitsunari’s loyalists on the other side.

After Ishido announced the council’s plan to impeach Yoshii, the Lord of Kanto became a prisoner in the Osaka castle. However, following the attempt on John Blackthorne’s life, Toranaga realized it was no longer safe to remain there. Between Ishido, the Christian lords, and the Portuguese merchants, Toranaga now had way too many enemies to deal with, especially after the arrival of Blackthorne. This is why Toranaga decided to secretly flee from Osaka. To do so, he orchestrated a trip for his wife and some of his regiment from Osaka to Ajiro but with a twist.



Real-Life Inspiration

Yoshii Toranaga

Hiroyuki Sanada

Tokugawa Ieyasu

John Blackthorne

Cosmo Jarvis

William Adams

Toda Mariko

Anna Sawai

Hosokawa Gracia

Kashigi Yabushige

Tadanobu Asano

Honda Masanobu

Kashigi Omi

Hiroto Kanai

Honda Masazumi

Ishido Kazunari

Takehiro Hira

Ishida Mitsunari

Just before the entourage left the castle, Toranaga switched places with Lady Kiri. The Lord of Kanto was essentially smuggled out of the castle, a risky idea but that worked out in the end. Neither Lady Kiri nor any other member of Toranaga’s family was prohibited from exiting Osaka as only they informed Ishido first. Lord Ishido and his men searched for any irregularities on the travelers before they exited the castle but did not find any issues, as the switch was carefully done when they were no longer looking.

Why Lord Toranaga Resigned From The Council Of Regents

Custom image of Lord Toranaga and the other regents in Shogun
Custom Image by Simone Ashmoore

Lord Toranaga resigned from the Council of Regents to put Ishido’s plan of impeaching him in check. If Ishido ignores the resignation letter and proceeds with the impeachment process, the Council of Regents will not be able to make any official decisions going forward. This is because all decisions made by the council need to be approved by all of its five members. If, however, Ishido accepts Toranaga’s resignation to get rid of Yoshii’s influence over the council, then the impeachment can no longer happen. It was a clever stratagem that bought Toranaga time.


Shogun’s Osaka Castle Explained: Japanese History & Modern Purpose

Shogun’s premiere episode establishes Osaka Castle as a key location. Here’s the historical context for the location, and how it fits into the show.

Of course, this was only possible because Toranaga is no longer in Osaka. Yoshii made sure that his resignation would only be brought to the Council of Regents after he and his regiment were as far away from Ishido’s domains as possible, allowing the plan to continue. What Ishido and the Christian lord will do now that Toranaga has made such a critical move remains to be seen. Any other moves from either side could mean war, and it seems like it will not take long before battles begin to be waged in Shōgun.

Lord Toranaga’s Proposed Deal With The Portuguese Explained

Hiroyuki Sanada as Lord Toranaga in Shogun in front of ships arriving in Japan
Custom image by Sam MacLennan

In Shōgun episode 2, Lord Toranaga did not authorize Portugal’s Black Ship, which is how the Japanese referred to the commercial ships used by the Portuguese to conduct commerce in the region, to leave Japan. This was after Toranaga learned from Blackthorne that there was a Portuguese base in Macau employing Ronin and acting as the middlemen in the commerce between Japan and China. Toranaga and the Portuguese were not on good terms, but they ended up cutting a deal at the end of Shōgun episode 3 that helped both of them.

Considering the real historical figure Toranaga is based on, Tokugawa Ieyasu, it’s safe to say Hiroyuki Sanada’s character will soon make a more definitive move in

In exchange for boarding the Portuguese Black Ship, Toranaga offered the priests and merchants 10,000 silver coins and the clearance to leave Japan without any repercussions. Toranaga and his men would get to sail in safety as quickly as possible, whereas the Portuguese would keep their commerce operation without any issues. The only term that Toranaga was not happy with was that John Blackthorne would have to stay behind. Fortunately, the Anjin managed to pilot a small boat alongside the local fishermen and escape the blockade set up by the Christian lords just in time to rejoin Toranaga.

Why Lord Toranaga Is Having John Train His Regiment

Custom image of Lord Toranaga and John Blackthorne in Shogun episode 3
Custom image by Marcelo Leite.

John Blackthorne’s feat at the end of Shōgun episode 3 not only assured his survival but also impressed Toranaga, who now realizes the Anjin has valuable military knowledge that can help him and his men in the wars to come. The English pilot, who was only being referred to as “the barbarian” by Toranaga and others in his court, now has the honor of being called “Hatamoto.” This means that John is now a vassal of Toranaga who holds a significant amount of prestige and will be integrated into the Lord of Kanto’s inner circle.


Shogun’s Ranks & Ruling Order Explained

Shōgun features a strict and intentional hierarchical system that is accurate to that of feudal Japan, consisting of regents, daimyos, and samurai.

Toranaga has commanded John to train his regiment in his maritime strategies and techniques, many of which the Japanese are not familiar with. Considering that the three Christian lords from the Council of Regents should have Portugal on their side going forward, Toranaga needs to be ready for all different types of threats. Likewise, having John’s experience as a navigator can give Toranaga an advantage that Ishido will not have. The Anjin is expected to share all of his techniques and tricks, particularly for sea battles, with the samurai. John is even helping Yoshii learn how to dive.

What Is Lord Toranaga’s Goal In Shōgun?

When offered the role of sole regent by the Taikō, Yoshii Toranaga refused it. According to the Lord of Kanto, becoming the only regent would make him an easy target for the other lords to aim at. This would also put the life of the heir in danger. Still, despite his initial refusal, it is clear that Toranaga does have some ambition to rule. However, he is being very careful to achieve this goal without unnecessary bloodshed. Considering the real historical figure Toranaga is based on, Tokugawa Ieyasu, it’s safe to say Hiroyuki Sanada’s character will soon make a more definitive move in Shōgun.

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Shogun is an FX original mini-series set in 17th Century Japan. Shogun follows John Blackthorne, who becomes a samurai warrior but is unknowingly a pawn in Yoshii Toranaga’s plan to become Shogun. The series stars Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne and Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga, along with Anna Sawai, Tadanobu Asano, and Yûki Kedôin.

Cosmo Jarvis , Hiroyuki Sanada , Anna Sawai , Tadanobu Asano , Yûki Kedôin


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