Battle of Shizugatake


Hashiba Hideyoshi

Ōmi Province

Shibata Katsuie

Date:  Fourth month of Tenshō 11 (1583)

Location:  Near Shizugatake in the Iga District of northern Ōmi Province

Outcome:  In a major battle that arose among former retainers of Oda Nobunaga to choose his successor, Hashiba Hideyoshi and his allies prevailed over Shibata Katsuie after fierce fighting by the combatants.

Shizugatake (by Utagawa Toyonobu)

Commanders:  Hashiba Hideyoshi, Hashiba Hidenaga, Niwa Nagahide, Oda Nobukatsu, Kuroda Yoshitaka, Maeno Nagayasu, Nakagawa Kiyohide, Katō Kiyomasa, Fukushima Masanori, Ishida Mitsunari

Forces:  50,000

Casualties:  Unknown

Commanders:  Shibata Katsuie, Sakuma Morimasa, Maeda Toshiie, Anegakōji Yoritsuna

Forces:  30,000

Casualties:  Unknown

The Battle of Shizugatake occurred in the fourth month of Tenshō 11 (1583) near Shizugatake in the Iga District of northern Ōmi Province.  The conflict was waged between Hashiba Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie, two former senior retainers of Oda Nobunaga.  This battle represented a violent split of the Oda forces following the death of Nobunaga.  After prevailing in this battle, Hideyoshi inherited the authority, resources and organization built by Nobunaga, providing a path to becoming the most powerful lord in the country.

The Kiyosu Conference

On 6/2 of 1582, a coup d’état led by Akechi Mitsuhide, a senior retainer of the Oda, led to the unexpected death of Oda Nobunaga and his son and designated heir, Oda Nobutada, in a momentous event known as the Honnō Temple Incident.  Soon thereafter, after eliminating Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki, Hashiba Hideyoshi (later known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi) wielded significant power among the former retainers of Nobunaga.  Following the loss of Nobunaga, on 6/27, a conference was held at Kiyosu Castle to determine the successor to the Oda clan.  This led to a furious confrontation between Shibata Katsuie (who supported Nobunaga’s third son, Oda Nobutaka) and Hideyoshi (who backed Sanpōshi, the two-year-old child of Oda Nobutada (the lineal heir who died in the coup along with Nobunaga)).  In the end, Niwa Nagahide and Ikeda Tsuneoki (who were also in attendance) agreed to back Sanpōshi, forcing Katsuie to cede his position so that the succession issue appeared, for the time being, to be resolved.

Prelude to the conflict

Thereafter, both sides actively engaged in tactics to lure supporters to their respective sides.  Uesugi Kagekatsu, an ally of Katsuie in the Hokuriku, along with Inaba Ittetsu, a strong commander from Mino who served as Nobutaka’s base of power, leaned toward Hideyoshi, providing him an advantage over Katsuie.  Meanwhile, Katsuie brought Chōsokabe Motochika of Tosa Province and the Saika group from Kii Province to his side.  The Saika group notably launched attacks against Kiwada Castle in Izumi during Hideyoshi’s deployment, threatening him from behind.

At the Kiyosu Conference, Nagahama Castle was assigned to Katsuie while Hideyoshi received Himeji Castle.  It is surmised that Hideyoshi identified Mount Tennō as a desirable location for a mountain fortress comparable to Odani Castle in Ōmi Province.  After having attacked Odani from 1570 to 1573, he understood the advantages of a mountain base.  Within twenty days after the Kiyosu Conference, on 7/17 of 1583, Hideyoshi began the renovation of Yamazaki Castle on Mount Tennō.  On 10/16, Katsuie sent a memorandum to Hori Hidemasa alleging a breach by Hideyoshi of the Kiyosu Conference and improper re-allocations of territory.  He also criticized the renovation of Yamazaki Castle.

In the eleventh month, Katsuie sent Maeda Toshiie, Kanamori Nagachika, and Fuwa Naomitsu as messengers to Hideyoshi to engage in negotiations for a settlement.  These were initiated on the pretext that Katsuie was located in territory in the Hokuriku and his movement was restricted during the winter months.  Hideyoshi saw through this reasoning, and, instead, endeavored to lure the three messengers to his side.  Furthermore, he placed hostages with Takayama Ukon, Nakagawa Kiyohide, Tsutsui Junkei, Miyoshi Yasunaga and others, while strengthening his castles in the Kinai.

On 12/2, Hideyoshi addressed the threat posed by the Mōri clan by positioning Miyabe Keijun in the Sanin Region and Hachisuka Masakatsu in the Sanyō Region.  Flaunting the agreement, he led a large army on a deployment to Ōmi and attacked Nagahama Castle.  By this time, the Hokuriku was blanketed in snow, so Katsuie could not send reinforcements.  As a result, after only a few days, Shibata Katsutoyo (Katsuie’s adopted son and the commander of the castle) surrendered.  Hideyoshi’s army then occupied Mino, received hostages from Inaba Ittetsu, and, on 12/20 of 1582, forced the surrender of Oda Nobutaka at Gifu Castle.

In the first month of 1583, Takigawa Kazumasa from Ise Province made clear that he was under the flag of Katsuie and raised arms.  While Seki Moribu and Seki Kazumasa (father and son) were away, he maneuvered to attract to his side Kameyama, Mine, Seki, Kokufu, and Kabuto castles in Ise, and placed Takigawa Masuuji in Kameyama, Takigawa Masushige in Mine, and Takigawa Tadayuki in Seki.  Kazumasa himself located in Nagashima Castle from which to intercept Hideyoshi’s army.

Facing efforts by assorted forces to lure away or contain his allies, Hideyoshi temporarily withdrew his troops to the capital of Kyōto, but, the following month, he led a large army to recommence attacks against these forces.  On 2/20, his army felled Kokufu Castle.  From the middle of the second month, he attacked Kazumasu’s main base at Nagashima Castle, but the Takigawa put-up stiff resistance.  The defenders held Kameyama until 3/3 and Mine until 4/12 while the garrisons converged at Nagashima Castle.  At this time, the commanders in charge of Kameyama and Mine castles – Masuuji and Masushige – were praised for their courage and Masushige later served Hideyoshi.

Meanwhile, owing to the snowfall, Katsuie was stranded at Kita-no-shō Castle in Echizen Province.  When he could no longer bear the situation, at the end of the second month, he headed toward Ōmi for a deployment.

Details of the battle

On 3/12, Shibata Katsuie, along with Sakuma Morimasa and Maeda Toshiie, led a contingent of 30,000 soldiers to Yanagase in Ōmi Province and set-up an encampment.  At the time, Hideyoshi was surrounding Takigawa Kazumasu at Nagashima Castle so he left a force of 10,000 men under Oda Nobukatsu and Gamō Ujisato.  On 3/19, he led a contingent of 50,000 troops and set-up a camp at Kinomoto.  Neither side immediately launched attacks and, instead, directed their efforts to build camps and fortresses.  Meanwhile, Niwa Nagahide prepared for Katsuie’s westward advance by sending men to Kaizu and Tsuruga to secure the lines of battle.  On 3/27, Hideyoshi led a portion of his forces to return to Nagahama Castle to continue preparations in both Ise and Ōmi.  Hideyoshi sent a letter to Hidenaga dated 3/30 ordering him to destroy dwellings near his fortress with units under Maeno Nagayasu, Kuroda Kanbei, and Kimura Hayato, but the order was not implemented.

On 4/16, despite having once surrendered to Hideyoshi, Oda Nobutaka joined with Takigawa Kazumasu to raise arms again and advanced to the area below Gifu Castle.  Consequently, Hideyoshi was forced to devise a strategy to confront enemies from three directions (in Ōmi, Ise, and Mino).  On 4/17, his forces proceeded to Mino, but entered Ōgaki Castle owing to flooding at the Ibi River.  Katsuie viewed the departure of many of Hideyoshi’s forces from Ōmi as an opportunity, and with input from Sakuma Morimasa, on 4/19, sent Morimasa to attack Ōiwayama fortress.  As the commander in charge of the fortress, Nakagawa Kiyohide could not withstand the assault and was killed in action.  Next, forces commanded by Kuroda Yoshitaka were attacked by Morimasa, but through valiant fighting, Yoshitaka’s men defended themselves.  Morimasa then attacked the base of Takayama Ukon at Mount Iwasaki.  Unable to stop the assault, Ukon retreated to the base of Hashiba Hidenaga at Kinomoto.  Having achieved these results, Katsuie ordered Morimasa to withdraw, but, despite receiving the order three times, Morimasa refused to comply and remained on the front lines of the battle.

On 4/20, the commander in charge of Shizugatake fortress, Kuwayama Shigeharu, determined that he was outnumbered and began to withdraw.  Morimasa thereby concluded that his occupation of Shizugatake fortresss was only a matter of time.  However, around this time, Niwa Nagahide (who was crossing Lake Biwa by boat at the same time) disregarded the input of subordinates who said he should return to Sakamoto. Instead, he decided it was either now or never so he changed course and daringly landed in Kaizu, soon leading to a change in the tide of the battle.  As 2,000 forces led by Nagahide came across the forces led by Kuwayama Shigeharu who were starting to retreat, the forces converged and proceeded to destroy Morimasa’s army near Shizugatake while securing Shizugatake fortress.

That same day, Hideyoshi (while in Ōgaki Castle in Mino) learned that bases such as Ōiwayama fortress had fallen so he immediately sent back his army.  After departing Ōgaki Castle at 14:00, Hideyoshi’s army traveled approximately fifty-two kilometers over a five-hour period to Kinomoto in Ōmi.  This event is known as the Great Return from Mino.  At early dawn on the next day, the forces led by Sakuma Morimasa fought against a violent attack by Hideyoshi’s powerful army.  Concluding that Morimasa’s forces would not collapse on their own, Hideyoshi redirected his assault toward Shibata Katsumasa (the younger brother of Morimasa) and, with Morimasa’s forces supporting Katsumasa, the two armies engaged in a violent clash.

At the height of the furious battle, forces based on Mount Shige fighting under Maeda Toshiie on the side of Katsuie suddenly abandoned the front lines.  As a result, the formation protecting the flank collapsed, the spirits of the battalion led by Sakuma Morimasa sank, and the will of Katsuie’s entire army fell.  It is surmised that Toshiie may have been responding early to persuasion by Hideyoshi to switch sides.  As a result, the forces confronting Toshie’s battalion joined the attack against Katsuie’s forces.  Next, the forces led by Fuwa Naomitsu and Kanamori Nagachika withdrew so, after decimating Morimasa’s forces, Hideyoshi’s forces charged the main division of Katsuie’s army.  Outnumbered, Katsuie’s forces crumbled, forcing Katsuie to retreat to Kita-no-shō Castle in Echizen.

After Katsuie fled to Kita-no-shō Castle, on 4/23, he was surrounded by Hideyoshi’s forces led by Maeda Toshiie.  On the next day, he and his wife, Oichi-no-kata (a sister of Oda Nobunaga), killed themselves.  Sakuma Morimasa attempted to flee but was captured by forces under Kuroda Yoshitaka.  He was decapitated and his head left exposed to the elements at an execution site along the Kamo River outside of Kyōto.  Meanwhile, after losing the support of Katsuie, Oda Nobutaka in Mino was surrounded by his older brother, Oda Nobukatsu, and surrendered.  Nobutaka was moved to Owari and, on 4/29, received a messenger from Nobukatsu ordering him to commit seppuku whereupon he killed himself.  Takigawa Kazumasu holed-up in a castle in Ise for another month, but, in the end, vacated the castle, undertook the rites of tonsure and entered the priesthood.  Under the supervision of Niwa Nagahide, he was confined to home in Ōno in Echizen Province.

The Seven Spears of Shizugatke

Seven of the soldiers who fought meritoriously for Hideyoshi were in later eras called the Seven Spears of Shizugatake.  These were Wakizaka Yasuharu, Katagiri Katsumoto, Hirano Nagayasu, Fukushima Masanori, Katō Kiyomasa, Kasuya Takenori, and Katō Yoshiakira.  Others, including Sakurai Iekazu and Ishikawa Kazumitsu, also received letters of commendation and stipends of several thousand koku.  The name for this group first appeared in an account from the early Edo period.  According to one account, the name of seven is a play on words, whereas there were in fact fourteen young bushō affiliated with the Hashiba family who contributed on the front lines of the battle, including Ishida Mitsunari, Ōtani Yoshitsugu, and Hitotsuyanagi Naomori.

A chronicle written by Ōmura Yūko in the Tenshō era identifies, in addition to the seven figures, Sakurai Iekazu and Ishikawa Kazumitsu for a total of nine.  In later years, these men had important roles in the Toyotomi administration, but given that Hideyoshi did not have any multi-generational retainers, he may have over-publicized the exploits of his favored retainers.  According to anecdotes, Fukushima Masanori expressed dissatisfaction at being ranked on the same level as Wakizaka Yasuharu.  Katō Kiyomasu also expressed displeasure at his portrayal given that his greatest contributions to the Hashiba family were in the fields of finances and civil administration whereas his association with Shizugatake was an exception.  It is surmised that this was generally regarded as a fictional characterization from this time onward.

Character of the battle

This battle was waged between the leadership of the Oda political administration, including Shibata Katsuie and Takigawa Kazumasu on one side, and Hashiba Hideyoshi and Niwa Nagahide on the other.  At the same time, this represented a conflict between Oda Nobukatsu (Nobunaga’s second son) and Oda Nobutaka (Nobunaga’s third son).  This resembled the internal struggle besetting the Ashikaga shōgun family of the Muromachi bakufu during the Sengoku period.  Moreover, in the case of Katsuie, he even tried to back Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the supreme shōgun, who sought to return from his place of refuge in Tomonoura in Bingo Province to the capital of Kyōto.

In this battle, followers of the Ikkō sect of the Hongan Temple offered to support Hideyoshi.  The Hongan Temple mobilized ikki forces from Kaga Province and offered to pay allegiance to Hideyoshi, which Hideyoshi approved and responded that if the ikki forces took action on Katsuie’s territory in Kaga and Echizen, he would return Kaga to the Hongan Temple.  Nevertheless, the Hongan Temple did not have that much power remaining and, in fact, Katsuie did not appear to threaten the remaining members of the Ikkō sect.

Consequences of the battle

As a result of this battle, many former retainers of the Oda clan approached Hideyoshi and served as his retainers.  On 4/25 of 1583, two days after the battle, Hideyoshi sent a letter to Kobayakawa Takakage, a senior retainer (and third son) of Mōri Motonari, the sengoku daimyō of the Chūgoku Region, to announce that the battle ended in victory for his army.  Further, he implicitly urged the Mōri to yield allegiance to himself in lieu of the current state of neutrality.  Soon after addressing the end of the battle, Hideyoshi initiated the construction of Ōsaka Castle on the remains of the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple in the Kinai and, in the fifth month, was invested by the Imperial court with the title of Junior Fourth Rank (Lower) and State Councilor.  After the battle, influential daimyō such as Tokugawa Ieyasu, Uesugi Kenshin, Mōri Motonari and Ōtomo Yoshimune sent messengers one after another to convey their congratulations for the victory and to request friendly relations.  This response served to signify the grip on power achieved by Hideyoshi in the Kinai.  However, despite these forces submitting to him, former retainers of the Oda family such as Niwa Nagahide, Ikeda Tsuneoki, Mori Nagayoshi, Gamō Ujisato, Hori Hidemasa, and Hasegawa Hidekazu received significant increases in the size of their respective territories.