Battle of Asainawate
Date: 8/9 of Keichō 5 (1600)
Location: Along the footpaths intersecting the rice fields to the east of Komatsu Castle in southern Kaga Province
Outcome: Niwa Nagashige of the Western Army set-up an ambush along the footpaths near Komatsu Castle to attack a large army of 25,000 soldiers led by Maeda Toshinaga of the Eastern Army during their withdrawal from Kaga Province. The Niwa imposed losses on the Maeda army but, later, the Maeda repelled the attack and finally withdrew.
The Battle of Asainawate occurred on 8/9 of Keichō 5 (1600) along the footpaths between rice fields to the east of Komatsu Castle in Kaga Province in the Hokuriku Region. The battle was waged between Maeda Toshinaga (of the Eastern Army) and Niwa Nagashige (of the Western Army). This conflict was regarded as the “Sekigahara” of the Hokuriku Region – a small-scale clash serving as one of many battles in outlying regions between the Western and Eastern armies leading up to the main Battle of Sekigahara.
After the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi on 8/18 of Keichō 3 (1598), Tokugawa Ieyasu rose to prominence as the next supreme leader of the country. Ieyasu, however, was opposed by other members of the Toyotomi administration led by Ishida Mitsunari, along with Ōtani Yoshitsugu and their allies. In the seventh month of 1598, after Ieyasu departed the Kinai to lead a large army on a march for the Conquest of Aizu, Mitsunari summoned Yoshitsugu and Mōri Motonari to launch a rebellion. While camped in Oyama in Shimotsuke Province en route to Aizu, Ieyasu held a military council with his commanders whereupon he decided to turn around his army and head west to eliminate the threat from Mitsunari. This event is known as the Oyama Deliberation.
Maeda Toshinaga, the eldest son of Maeda Toshiie and a member of the Council of Five Elders of the Toyotomi administration, had earlier (after the death of Toshiie) tendered his natural mother, Hōshunin (Matsu), as a hostage to Edo, so he joined the Eastern Army led by Ieyasu. Meanwhile, in a bid to block Toshinaga, Ōtani Yoshitsugu of the Western Army solicited support from daimyō located in Echizen Province and the southern portion of Kaga. As a result, many daimyō from Echizen joined the Western Army, including:
Aoki Kazunori: 210,000 koku at Kita-no-shō Castle in the Asuwa District
Aoyama Munekatsu: 46,000 koku in Maruoka (an elite mounted soldier who was a member of the kiboroshū or those who rode with yellow horo, or capes)
Oda Hidekatsu: 50,000 koku at Ōno District (Hidekatsu was the son of Oda Nobukatsu who was the second son of Oda Nobunaga)
Kinoshita Yoritsugu: 25,000 koku (Ōtani Yoshitsugu’s second son)
Niwa Nagashige: 125,000 koku at Komatsu in Kaga Province (the eldest son of Niwa Nagahide, a senior retainer of Oda Nobunaga)
Niwa Nagamasa: 50,000 koku in the Higashi neighborhood – the younger brother of Nagashige)
Toda Katsushige: 10,000 koku in Ago in the Asuwa District
Okuyama Masayuki: 11,000 koku
Akaza Naoyasu: 10,000 koku in Imajō
Ueda Shigeyasu: 10,000 koku
Mizoe Nagaharu: 10,000 koku at Kanazu Castle
Yamaguchi Munenaga: 50,000 koku at the Daishō Temple in Kaga Province
Yamaguchi Nagahiro: 13,000 koku (the eldest son of Munenaga)
Yoshitsugu’s efforts to solicit the daimyō were successful. As a result, the Western Army acquired the daimyō of Echizen and southern Kaga as allies without any fighting. In contrast, Maeda Toshinaga was beset by concerns that all of the daimyō to the south of Kaga became his enemies. In an effort to subjugate Echizen and southern Kaga, on 7/26 of Keichō 5 (1600), he led 25,000 soldiers to lay siege to Komatsu Castle, defended by Niwa Nagashige of the Western Army. Nagashige commanded a garrison of approximately 3,000 soldiers, but Komatsu Castle was praised as an impregnable fortress in Hokuriku. Therefore, although the Maeda army enjoyed numerical superiority, the forces could not topple the castle. After leaving a small number of troops behind to pin-down the castle, Toshinaga headed toward the Daishōji Castle defended by Yamaguchi Munenaga of the Western Army. On 8/2, he commenced a siege of the castle. Limited to about 2,000 troops, in the end, the defenders were defeated by the Maeda forces while Yamaguchi Munenaga and his son, Nobuhiro, killed themselves.
In the direction of the capital, Ōtani Yoshitsugu was engaged in a siege of Fushimi Castle so, for a while, he could not conduct military operations in the Hokuriku. On 8/3, however, he entered Tsuruga in Echizen and engage in military action in the Hokuriku, albeit with a force of approximately only 6,000 soldiers. Meanwhile, Yoshitsugu spread rumors among the Maeda army full of wiles and tricks, such as Uesugi Kagekatsu had subjugated Echigo and was eyeing Kaga, the Western Army had toppled Fushimi Castle, the Western Army had subdued Kyōto and its environs, Ōtani Yoshitsugu was headed toward northern Echizen as reinforcements, or a detached unit under Ōtani Yoshitsugu was headed north by sea to launch an assault against Kanazawa Castle. These rumors shook Maeda Toshinaga.
Moreover, Yoshinaga threatened Nakagawa Mitsushige (the brother-in-law of Toshinaga), who had been captured during a rebellion by the Western Army, and forced him to write a fabricated letter to Toshinaga.
Owing to the series of tactics deployed by Yoshitsugu, Toshinaga was concerned that, during his absence, his base at Kanazawa Castle would be attacked from the sea. On 8/8, Toshinaga returned with his forces to Kanazawa.
Course of events
A withdrawal posed risks. When Maeda Toshinaga invaded southern Kaga, his forces did not attack Komatsu Castle, and, after leaving a small force to pin-down the castle, marched to the Daishōji Castle. Consequently, there was a possibility that, during a retreat, the Niwa army would pursue and attack the Maeda army. As much as possible, Toshinaga sought to withdraw covertly, but, that could not be done with such a large army of 25,000 troops. After Niwa Nagashige learned of the withdrawal of the Maeda army from Kanazawa, he led forces from Komatsu Castle to attack.
Komatsu Castle was surrounded by swamps and muddy rice fields. This area was intersected by narrow footpaths between the rice fields. To the east of Komatsu Castle were the Asai footpaths referred to as the Asainawate. Nagashige prepared for his forces to ambush the Maeda army along these footpaths. On 8/9, when the Maeda army traveled on the Asai footpaths, the Niwa army including Eguchi Masayoshi and others laying in wait attacked. Owing to the narrow footpaths, the large army could not effectively wield its power. As a result the Maeda forces suffered losses but, owing to the efforts of bushō in the Maeda army such as Chō Tsuratatsu and Yamazaki Naganori, the Niwa army was repelled and the forces were, in the end, able to withdraw from Kanazawa.
At the end of the eighth month, Toshinaga, upon orders of Ieyasu, took steps again to advance into Mino Province. Niwa Nagashige offered to surrender to Toshinaga, but at last not in time for the main Battle of Sekigahara. Moreover, at this time, Maeda Toshimasa, the younger brother of Toshinaga who participated in the battle, holed-up in Nanao Castle without moving, so did not join the Eastern Army. It is also said that Toshimasa had earlier advocated for joining the Western Army. There is also a theory that, knowing that the Western Army had taken his wife and children hostage, he hesitated to deploy and did not have a desire to join the Western Army.
The valiant fighting of the Western Army in the Hokuriku was not rewarded. On 9/15 of Keichō 5 (1600), the Western Army was decimated at the main Battle of Sekigahara. As a result, the daimyō in Echizen and southern Kaga were compelled to surrender to the Eastern Army. Beginning with Niwa Nagashige and Maeda Toshimasa, many of the daimyō were removed from their positions by Ieyasu. Komatsu Castle was assigned to Maeda Toshinaga while his brother-in-law, Maeda Nagatane, served as the chamberlain.
According to the Akechi Military Chronicles, when Akechi Mitsuhide inquired with Asakura Yoshikage (the sengoku daimyō of Echizen) where would be a difficult place to attack, Yoshikage responded that would be around the area of Komatsu in Kaga.