Battle of Norada
Date: Middle of the eighth month of Eiroku 3 (1560)
Location: Norada (across the Uso River) in Ōmi Province
Outcome: Despite numerical superiority, the Rokkaku collapsed in the wake of fierce counterattacks by the Azai forces earning a victory for the Azai. This battle was followed by a period of decline in the Rokkaku clan.
The Battle of Norada occurred in the middle of the eighth month of Eiroku 3 (1560). The conflict was waged between Azai Nagamasa (the sengoku daimyō of northern Ōmi) and Rokkaku Yoshikata (the sengoku daimyō of southern Ōmi) at Norada in Ōmi Province. A victory by Nagamasa solidified the hegemony of the Azai clan in northern Ōmi.
Based on references to the location, the conflict is variously referred to as the Battle of Norada-Omote, the Battle of Hida, and the Battle of Usogawa.
Prelude to the battle
The Azai family was originally a retainer of the Kyōgoku clan – the military governors of the northern half of Ōmi Province. In the era of Azai Sukemasa, the Azai took advantage of vulnerabilities in the Kyōgoku to usurp them. With the support of the Asakura family from neighboring Echizen Province, Sukemasa progressed toward becoming a sengoku daimyō. After the demise of Sukemasa, however, his successor, Azai Hisamasa, lacked political acumen, so was unable to withstand pressure from Rokkaku Sadayori of southern Ōmi and came under their control. As a result, Hisamasa’s heir received one of the characters in his name from Sadayori’s heir, Rokkaku Yoshikata, and adopted the name of Katamasa. He also was compelled to receive the daughter of Hirai Sadatake, a senior retainer of the Rokkaku family, as his formal wife.
In 1559, retainers of the Azai family who were dissatisfied with the humiliating diplomacy of Hisamasa backed Katamasa in a coup d’état. Hisamasa was forced to transfer headship of the clan to Katamasa and retire. Meanwhile, Katamasa broke links with the Rokkaku by changing his name to Nagamasa and sent the daughter of the Hirai back to her family. This coup d’état appeared to have been meticulously planned well in advance. In parallel with executing the coup, Nagamasa lured kokujin landowners of the Rokkaku family residing along the border between the territories of the Rokkaku and the Azai. Owing to these efforts, in 1560, Takano Bizen-no-kami, the lord of Hida Castle in the Echi District, betrayed the Rokkaku in favor of the Azai.
Details of the battle
Upset at the betrayal by Bizen-no-kami, Rokkaku Jōtei (previously known as Yoshikata, having adopted a monk’s name in 1557 upon his retirement after which he continued to hold power in the clan alongside his son, Yoshiharu) quickly launched an attack against Hida Castle by means of flooding. This strategy, however, was not effective. Aware of the attack against Hida, Nagamasa headed to provide support, while Jōtei intercepted the Azai forces. This resulted in a clash in Norada, where both armies confronted one another across the Uso River.
At this time, the Rokkaku fielded 25,000 soldiers under Jōtei as the commander-in-chief. Gamō Sadahide and Nagahara Shigeoki served in the vanguard while Narasaki Iki-no-kami and Tanaka Jibu-taifu participated in the second division. The Azai army totaled 11,000 men, less than one-half the number of the Rokkaku, so, at the outset of the battle, the Azai enjoyed a significant advantage based on numbers. Nevertheless, the complacency of the Rokkaku at the outset left the susceptible to counterattacks by the Azai and assaults by fresh troops that caused them to collapse, resulting in a victory for the Azai. In the course of the fighting, the Rokkaku lost 920 men while the Azai lost 400 soldiers.
This victory enabled Azai Nagamasa to validate the political position of the Azai family with respect to the governance of Ōmi and made immovable his step toward becoming a sengoku daimyō of northern Ōmi. However, despite having retired, Hisamasa continued to maintain a degree of influence and opinions over family affairs, so Nagamasa was not vested with complete authority. Later, this had implications for the break in relations with Oda Nobunaga.
The defeat severely shook the Rokkaku clan. Three years later, in the tenth month of 1563, Jōtei’s son and designated heir, Rokkaku Yoshiharu, slaughtered the most powerful senior retainer in the clan, Gotō Katatoyo, in an event known as the Kannonji Disturbance. This led to the ouster of Jōtei and Yoshiharu from their base at Kannonji Castle. Through the efforts of a retainer named Gamō Sadahide, the two were able to return, but the decline of the Rokkaku clan was apparent. Eight years after the Battle of Norada, the Rokkaku attempted to stop the march by Oda Nobunaga to the capital of Kyōto, but, at the Battle of Kannonji Castle, were crushed instead.
Nevertheless, in the third month of 1561, the Rokkaku army fought back, toppling Sawayama Castle which was aligned with the Azai. There is a theory that the origins of the Kannonji Disturbance arose from conflict between Jōtei and Yoshiharu predating the Battle of Norada and that the consequences of the defeat may not have been as significant as previously believed.
Moreover, with regard to the marriage between Azai Nagamasa and Oichi-no-kata, the younger sister of Oda Nobunaga, there is a theory that Yoshikata served as an intermediary between the Azai and Oda families to prepare conditions for the march upon Kyōto by Ashikaga Yoshiaki to become the next shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu in the wake of the Eiroku Incident – an attack led by Matsunaga Hisamichi and the Miyoshi Group of Three that resulted in the death of Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun). If this is the case, then it is possible that the Azai and Rokkaku families had temporarily reconciled after the Eiroku Incident. Thereafter, however, the Rokkaku joined with the Miyoshi Group of Three to oppose Yoshiaki, inviting an attack by the allied forces of Azai Nagamasa and Oda Nobunaga.