Battle of Akatsuka
Date: 4/17 of Tenbun 21 (1552)
Location: Akatsuka in Owari Province
Outcome: After a battle lasting for only about two hours, including mounted soldiers and fighting with the bow and arrow as well as spears, the conflict ended in a draw, with the combatants exchanging captured men and horses before withdrawing.
The Battle of Akatsuka occurred on 4/17 of Tenbun 21 (1552) in Akatsuka in Owari Province in which forces led by Oda Nobunaga clashed with their opponents led by Yamaguchi Noriyoshi, the son of a former retainer of the Oda clan. This was the first battle in which Oda Nobunaga participated after inheriting the role as head of the Oda clan.
Under the Shiba, the Oda clan was divided into two branches, the Iwakura-Oda (Ise-no-kami) familty governing the upper four districts of Owari and the Kiyosu-Oda (Yamato-no-kami) family governing the lower four districts. The Iwakura-Oda were the lineal heirs to the Oda clan and therefore regarded to be in a superior position vis-à-vis the Kiyosu-Oda. The Kiyosu-Oda family was supported by three sub-branches, referred to as the Kiyosu sanbugyō, or three magistrates. These branches included the Inaba-no-kami family, the Tōzaemon family, and the Danjō-no-jō family. Oda Nobutomo served as the deputy military governor of the Kiyosu-Oda family while Sakai Taizen served as his matadai, a senior personal official to the deputy military governor.
As the head of the Danjō-no-jō sub-branch, Oda Nobuhide competed against these retainers to become the most influential figure in the Kiyosu-Oda clan (Yamato-no-kami) governing the four lower districts of Owari. Nobuhide expanded his influence to become a sengoku daimyō. Following Nobuhide’s death on 3/3 of 1552, he was succeeded by his son, Oda Nobunaga, while Sakai Taizen continued to wield power under the deputy military governor of the Kiyosu-Oda family, Oda Nobutomo.
After this change of leadership in the Danjō-no-jō sub-branch of the Kiyosu-Oda, Yamaguchi Noritsugu, the lord of Narumi Castle who had served a key role for Nobuhide, betrayed the Oda in favor of their longtime rival, Imagawa Yoshimoto of Suruga Province. Noritsugu left his son, Yamaguchi Noriyoshi, in charge of Narumi Castle, rebuilt Kasadera Castle, and brought in retainers including Okabe Motonobu, Miura Yoshinari, Inō Noritsura, Azai Masatoshi, and Katsurayama Nagayoshi. Noritsugu himself holed up in Sakuranakamura Castle.
On 4/17 of 1552, Nobunaga departed with 800 soldiers from Nagoya Castle, galloping through the village of Nakane en route to Konarumi, and then climbed Sannoyama. Yamaguchi Noriyoshi established a position north of Narumi and east of Sannoyama with 1,500 soldiers in Akatsuka. Observing their movements, Nobunaga had his forces march to Akatsuka, whereupon each side released their vanguard units into combat. Included in Nobunaga’s vanguard as commanders of the foot soldiers were Naitō Shōsuke (one of four elders of the clan who had served Nobunaga’s father, Nobuhide), Hasegawa Kyōsuke, and a member of the Hachiya family, possibly Hachiya Yoritaka.
After a fight with bows and arrows, the soldiers wielded spears, with the conflict lasting from around 10:00 in the morning until noon. Owing to the close hand-to-hand fighting, none of the heads were taken from those killed on the battlefield. Among the Oda, thirty soldiers were lost. The battle ended in a draw, with neither side able to claim victory. The soldiers fighting for the Oda knew their counterparts because the Yamaguchi were a former retainer of the clan, so, afterwards, the sides exchanged men and horses captured during the course of the battle.