Battle of Yasugawara
Date: 6/4 of Genki 1 (1570)
Location: Ochikubo in the Shiga District of Ōmi Province
Synopsis: Shibata Katsuie and Sakuma Nobumori (senior retainers of Oda Nobunaga) led forces in a clash against the Rokkaku clan and local samurai. At the subsequent Siege of Chōkōji Castle, Rokkaku Yoshikata and his son, Yoshiharu, surrounded Katsuie and his men, cutting off the water supply to the castle. Katsuie then inspired his troops by smashing the remaining bottles of water and charging out of the castle, killing scores of enemy soldiers.
The Battle of Yasugawara occurred on 6/4 of Genki 1 (1570) in the Shiga District of Ōmi Province. The conflict was waged between the Oda clan and the Rokkaku clan. It is also known as the Battle of Ochikubo.
In 1570, during the conquest aimed at Asakura Yoshikage, Azai Nagamasa rebelled against Oda Nobunaga, joining with the Asakura to defeat Nobunaga at the Battle of Kanegasaki. To reconstitute his forces, Nobunaga positioned Mori Yoshinari at Usayama Castle, Sakuma Nobumori at Nagahara Castle, Shibata Katsuie at Chōkōji Castle, and Nakagawa Shigemasa at Azuchi Castle. Rokkaku Yoshikata and his son, Rokkaku Yoshiharu, who had earlier fled to Iga Province after losing to the Oda army at the Siege of Kannonji Castle, rallied with local samurai from the Kōka District in Ōmi and marched north.
On 6/4 of 1570, senior retainers of Nobunaga including Shibata Katsuie and Sakuma Nobumori clashed with the Rokakku army at Yasugawara. The ensuing battle at Ochikubo resulted in the death of over 780 soldiers fighting for the Rokakku including Mikumo Sadamochi and his son, along with troops from the Takanose, Mizuhara, Iga, and Kōka clans. After the battle, on 6/28, the allied forces of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu battled against the allied forces of Azai Nagamasa and Asakura Yoshikage at the Battle of Anegawa, resulting in a loss for the Azai-Asakura forces.
Siege of Chōkōji Castle and Shibata Katsuie
Prior to the Battle of Yasugahara, a clash occurred at Chōkōji Castle, protected by Shibata Katsuie. This gave rise to an unsubstantiated anecdote and the nickname “Shibata the Bottle Breaker.” According to the story, in the sixth month of 1570, Rokkaku Yoshikata and his son, Yoshiharu, surrounded Katsuie at Chōkōji Castle. Yoshikata heard from locals that water was unavailable from within the castle grounds, and that it had to supplied by troughs from a valley behind the castle, whereupon Yoshikata ordered Hirai Jinsuke to cut-off the water supply. Katsuie put the remaining water in three bottles, and declared that without a fresh supply, everyone would die of thirst, so instead they should fight to the death while they still had the strength to do so, and everyone agreed. He then proceeded to break the bottles, and, on the following day, burst out of the castle to fight against the Rokkaku forces, killing members of the Mikumo, Takanose, and Mizuhara clans. This served as the basis for his nickname.
This story was gradually embellished such that, after the Rokkaku severed the water supply, Hirai Jinsuke entered the castle under the pretext of making a peace offer. After the meeting, Jinsuke asked to wash his hands, for which Katsuie had two servants bring a bowl of water, and after Jinsuke was finished, discarded the water in the garden. Jinsuke then reported that there was an ample supply of water in the castle, causing confusion among the Rokkaku. After Katsuie hosted the final meal and everyone drank, he smashed the bowl with the butt-end of a naginata and launched a sudden attack against the Rokkaku that same evening, overwhelming the enemy forces and claiming over 800 heads. Nobunaga provided a letter of commendation to Katsuie, and he received the nickname of “Shibata the Bowl Breaker.”
On 5/21 of 1570, the Rokkaku made an unsuccessful attempt to capture Chōkōji Castle, defended by over 800 soldiers, resulting in many losses among the attackers. Yoshikata plotted with one of his elders, Mikumo Shinsaemon and cut-off the water supply to the castle. Yoshikata sent Hirai Jinsuke as a messenger, offering to spare the lives of the soldiers in exchange for surrender, but Katsuie declined the offer. As Jinsuke left the room, a large number of soldiers were bathing in the garden. Jinsuke then returned and reported that there was an ample supply of water in the castle. Meanwhile, Katsuie put the remaining water in three bottles and set them in the garden. Declaring that he would die in battle, he told the elderly and children to leave the castle for safety, and but no one opted to depart. Katsuie then allowed everyone to drink as much water as desired and determining there was no use in saving any more, broke the bottles with the butt-end of a long sword. In the early morning on 6/3, Katsuie burst out of the castle to catch the enemy forces off-guard, killing over 300 men. Yoshikata fled to Ishibe Castle.
Sakuma Nobumori does not appear in this story, but instead Kinoshita Hideyoshi attained meritorious results. While at Nagahama Castle, Hideyoshi heard of the difficult situation at Chōkōji Castle, but concluded that with Katsuie leading the defense, the castle would not easily fall. He determined that if he attacked Namazue Castle from which Yoshikata was absent, those laying siege to Chōkōji Castle would be forced to withdraw, producing double benefits. Hideyoshi then assigned Katō Kiyomasa and Fukushima Masanori to deploy with 1,000 troops, and through trickery seized control of Namazue Castle. However, at this time, Kiyomasa and Masanori should have still been in their youth, while Hideyoshi became lord of Nagahama Castle in 1573, and Namazue Castle was captured by Sakuma Morimasa, Gamō Katahide, Niwa Nagahide, and Shibata Katsuie in that same year. Consequently, this story appears to be fictional.