Battle of Hiketa

引田の戦い

Chōsokabe Clan

Sanuki Province

Sengoku Clan

Date:  Fourth month of Tenshō 11 (1583)

Location:  In the environs of Hiketa Castle in the Ōchi District of Sanuki Province

Synopsis:  Following the demise of Oda Nobunaga in the sixth month of 1582, Chōsokabe Motochika, a sengoku daimyō in Tosa Province, sought to capitalize on the situation by taking over all of the provinces in Shikoku.  Upon orders of Hashiba Hideyoshi, Sengoku Hidehisa led 2,000 soldiers to attack sites in Sanuki aligned with the Chōsokabe, but was eventually defeated by a larger army sent by Motochika to stop them.

Lord:  Chōsokabe Motochika

Commanders:  Kagawa Nobukage, Ōnishi Yorikane, Kuwana Chikamitsu

Forces:  Approximately 5,000 forces from Sanuki and Awa + reinforcements from Tosa

Losses:  Nakajima Shigekatsu, Kuwana Tōjūrō, others

Lord:  Hashiba Hideyoshi

Commanders:  Sengoku Hidehisa, Mori Kurōemon

Forces:  Approximately 2,000 (or less owing to failed assaults on castles prior to the battle)

Losses:  Sengoku Kageyu, Mori Gonpei, others

The Battle of Hiketa occurred in the fourth month of Tenshō 11 (1583) in the environs of Hiketa Castle in the Ōchi District of Sanuki Province.  This conflict was waged between the army of Chōsokabe Motochika and Sengoku Hisahide who was dispatched by Hashiba Hideyoshi (later known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi).

Antagonism between Nobunaga and Hideyoshi

In an effort to unify Shikoku under his control, Motochika sent troops to Awa and Sanuki provinces, expelling the Miyoshi clan who were the most powerful force in both provinces.  By 1580, he nearly achieved his goal.  While making advances in the western provinces, Oda Nobunaga disapproved of the rise to prominence of Motochika.  Nobunaga pressured Motochika to become a retainer in exchange for recognition of Motochika’s rights to govern Tosa and Awa provinces, but, having the ardent desire to unify all of Shikoku, Motochika rejected the offer.  Despite having earlier fostered friendly relations with Nobunaga, he chose the path of confrontation.  Taking advantage of the deteriorating relationship between Nobunaga and Motochika, Sogō Masayasu approached Nobunaga having eyed an opportunity to recover the territory earlier lost by the Miyoshi clan to the Chōsokabe.

After succeeding in his mission to garner the support of Nobunaga, in 1581, Masayasu initiated counterattacks in Sanuki again.  In 1582, Nobunaga assembled an army to conquer Shikoku, assigning his third son, Oda Nobutaka, as the commander-in-chief, supported by Niwa Nagahide, Tsuda Nobuzumi, and Hachiya Yoritaka.  In Sakai, the army began preparations for the conquest.  However, after the unexpected death of Oda Nobunaga in a coup d’état led by Akechi Mitsuhide known as the Honnō Temple Incident on 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), Nobukata and Nagahide suspected that the son-in-law of Mitsuhide, Nobuzumi, was colluding with the Akechi, so they went to Noda Castle to kill him.  Meanwhile, chaos erupted among the forces assembled to attack Motochika so the plans to conquer Shikoku fell through.

In the wake of Nobunaga’s demise, Miyoshi Yasunaga fled to the Kinki region while opposition forces within the Miyoshi lost momentum.  Motochika used this opportunity to sweep-up his opposition in Awa and Sanuki, aiming to bring both provinces under his control.  At the Battle of Nakatomigawa, Motochika defeated Sogō Masayasu and, in the eighth month, with the support of the Saika group from Kii Province, succeeded in attacking and toppling Shōzui Castle where Masayasu was holed-up.  Unable to remain in Awa, Masayasu fled to Toramaru Castle in Sanuki, and sought help from Hideyoshi.

Dispatch of Sengoku Hidehisa by Hideyoshi

In 1583, a power-struggle between Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie over leadership intensified, leading to the Battle of Shizugatake in the fourth month of the same year.  This prevented him from cleaving-off forces to spare for Masayasu.  Upon orders of Hideyoshi, Sengoku Hidehisa led a small contingent of 2,000 forces, including Konishi Yukinaga and Mori Kurōzaemon, to counter the Chōsokabe in Sanuki Province.  These forces headed-out to attack Kioka Castle defended by Takamatsu Yorisato, Mure Castle and other sites.  The attacks, however, provided unsuccessful, causing the forces to temporarily retreat to Shōdo Island.  In the fourth month, Hidehisa and Kurōzaemon invaded Sanuki again, and entered Hiketa Castle which was readily accessible after landing from the sea.

Course of events

Around this time, after gathering in Shiroji in Awa, Motochika led an army of 20,000 troops to invade Sanuki.  The forces set-up a camp on Mount Tamo in the Sangawa District, commencing attacks against Toramaru Castle.  On 4/21, Hidehisa received news that a Chōsokabe army totaling 5,000 troops comprised of forces from Sanuki led by Kagawa Nobukage and forces from Awa led by Ōnishi Yorikane were marching toward Hiketa.  To launch a surprise attack, Hidehisa divided his forces into three battalions commanded by Sengoku Kageyu, Sengoku Kakuemon, and Mori Gonpei respectively.  These forces set-up ambushes in the foothills of Mount Irino.  Hidehisa plan was on target.  As the forces from Awa and Sanuki entered the Irino Plain, his troops rained down a hail of fire from arquebuses, forcing the temporary retreat of the enemy forces.  The main division under Hidehisa chased them and appeared to have the upper hand, but the greater number of forces from Sanuki and Awa were able to quickly reconstitute and gradually turn the tide of the battle to their favor.  After learning of the conflict, Motochika sent reinforcements led by Kuwana Chikamitsu and Nakajima Shigekatsu to the battlefield.  With the support of additional forces from Tosa, the Chōsokabe army was able to completely overwhelm the Sengoku battalions, and, in the course of losing many of their commanders, the Sengoku army was forced to retreat to Hiketa Castle. 

In this conflict, Sengoku Kageyu was killed by Maeda Heibei, while Mori Gonpei, who was serving in the rear guard, was struck down by Inayoshi Shinkurando.  There is an anecdote that, in the midst of the battle, Hidehisa committed the blunder of losing his war banner.  Meanwhile, on the side of the Chōsokabe, Nakajima Shigekatsu and Kuwana Tōjūrō were killed in action.

The Chōsokabe forces charged without delay to Hiketa and set-up a position.  On the next day, the forces surrounded Hiketa Castle (where Hidehisa was holed-up) and then launched an all-out assault but, having already lost their zeal to fight, the garrison could not muster a meaningful defense and were forced to scatter from the castle.

Aftermath

After the defeat, Hidehisa fled to Awaji and Shōdo islands where he bolstered the defenses in a bid to maintain command of the Seto Inland Sea.  Meanwhile, by the sixth month of 1584, Motochika subdued Sogō and Toramaru castles which served as bases for Sogō Masayasu; without any prospect for victory, Masayasu’s only option was to escape from Sanuki and seek assistance from Hideyoshi in Ōsaka.