Bitō Dōkyū served as a bushō during the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
On the evening of 2/25 of Tenshō 17 (1589), on a white wall of the guardhouse for the palace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Kyōto known as the jurakutei, graffiti regarding Hideyoshi and social conditions was discovered. Maeda Gen’i discreetly covered it up, but, after hearing about the incident, Hideyoshi ordered the execution of 17 members of the guardhouse staff.
The punishment was severe. First, on 2/29, their noses were chopped off, then, on 2/30, their ears, finally, they were crucified while hung upside down on posts.
On 3/1, Hideyoshi dispatched Mashita Nagamori and Ishida Mitsunari to the Hongan Temple in Tenma in Ōsaka. The visit was occasioned by suspicions that the Hongan Temple was harboring rōnin, or wandering samurai, who had been expelled and were involved or complicit in the graffiti incident. Prior to this incident, Hideyoshi had earlier examined affairs relating to the rōnin at the temple. Dōkyū was a member of this group of rōnin. Kennyo, the eleventh high priest of the temple, promptly responded to the inquiry, had Dōkyū take his own life in the temple, and tendered his head to those who came for the investigation.
The next day, the town within the fortified area of the temple grounds where Dōkyū and Buei Kenyū resided (or Shiba Yoshikane or his younger brother, Hachiya 謙入) was burned down while a monk named Kengo and his wife, along with persons residing near Dōkyū, were apprehended. Kengo then took his own life. The arrests of suspects continued over a three-day period and, on the fourth day, Kennyo and those below him, including bushi, townspeople, and landlords were required to execute written pledges not to harbor criminal suspects. Pledges dated 3/2 and sealed in blood were then given to Hideyoshi and the investigation at the Hongan Temple was, for the time being, closed.
On 3/9, a total of 63 persons were taken to Kyōto. Three of these individuals took their own lives while the remaining 60 persons were crucified on a killing grounds known as rokujō-gawara along the Kamo River. All together, over 80 persons, including some as young as seven years old, men and women, priests from the Hongan Temple, traveling merchants, those guilty as well as the innocent were, without reserve, all executed. With determinations of guilt or innocence made by random drawing, it was noted as a pitiable sight.
In Ōsaka, an additional 50 persons were sentenced, resulting in a total of 113 executions. On 3/18, a notice of five rules was posted on the grounds of the temple, signed by Mashita Nagamori and Ishida Mitsunari, stating:
1. Engaging disinherited rōnin is prohibited.
2. Thiefs and criminal parties must be thoroughly investigated.
3. Engaging bushi serving the public in the town is prohibited.
4. Everyone must look after the town without regard to your affiliation.
5. Persons from other locations shall not become involved in problems with salaried persons or officials.
On 3/19, Nagamori and Mitsunari initiated a land survey of the temple grounds.