Second Siege of Takatenjin Castle
Date: Tenshō 9 (1581)
Location: The village of Hijikata in the Kitō District of Tōtōmi Province
Synopsis: Takatenjin Castle was strategically located on the borders of Tōtōmi and Suruga provinces. Consequently, both the Kai-Takeda and Tokugawa clans vied for control of the castle to serve as a base from which to exert control over Tōtōmi. In 1574, during the First Siege of Takatenjin Castle, Takeda Katsuyori captured the castle; however, during this second contest, the tables were turned against the Takeda. In the absence of reinforcements from Katsuyori, and faced with dwindling provisions in the castle, the remaining defenders charged the Tokugawa forces in a valorous end to the siege.
The Second Siege of Takatenjin Castle occurred in 1581 (Tenshō 9) in Hijikata in the Kitō District of Tōtōmi Province. This conflict was waged between Takeda Katsuyori (a sengoku daimyō and the seventeenth head of the Kai-Takeda clan) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (a sengoku daimyō and, later, the supreme shōgun of the Edo period). This was preceded, in 1574, by the First Siege of Takatenjin Castle between the same lords and their clans but with the Tokugawa, instead of the Takeda, prevailing.
Originally, Takatenjin Castle was an auxiliary site of the Imagawa clan located near the provincial borders of Tōtōmi and Suruga. Ogasawara Ujioki served as its lord. Owing to the decline and eventual decimation of the Imagawa beginning with their defeat to the Oda at the Battle of Okehazama in 1560 until the Invasion of Suruga in 1568 by the Kai-Takeda, Ujioki submitted to the Tokugawa clan. From the perspective of the Tokugawa, Takatenjin stood in a critical location for the governance of Tōtōmi.
After the death of Takeda Shingen in the fourth month of 1573, his successor, Takeda Katsuyori, aimed to capture Takatenjin Castle as a means to strengthen the governance of Tōtōmi. Consequently, the Takeda and Tokugawa clans battled for control of Takatenjin Castle as a base from which to exert their influence in Tōtōmi. In 1574, during the First Siege of Taketenjin Castle, Takeda Katsuyori sent an army of 25,000 soldiers to attack the castle. After holding out for almost two months, and without the prospect of reinforcements, Ogasawara Nobuoki finally surrendered. Katsuyori generously spared the lives of the defenders, some of whom joined the Takeda and others who returned to the Tokugawa.
In the fifth month of 1575, at the Battle of Nagashino, the Takeda army suffered a major defeat to the allied forces of the Oda and Tokugawa. Thereafter, counteroffensives by the Tokugawa and their followers began at Futamata Castle, Inui Castle and other locations. In the eighth month, the Tokugawa attacked Kunō Castle defended by Imafuku Tomokiyo and Suwahara Castle defended by Muroga Mitsumasa on critical supply routes to Takatenjin Castle. Following the succession by Katsuyori, the Takeda had yet to complete their reorganization so could not be counted upon for reinforcements. Unable to maintain their defenses, the respective garrisons vacated these castles and evacuated to Oyama Castle. After seizing Suwahara Castle, the Tokugawa assigned Imagawa Ujizane to serve as its nominal lord, overseeing the expansion and reinforcement of the castle. This enabled them to pressure the supply route alongside the Ōi River on the side of the Takeda. Ujizane was the former lord of Okabe Motonobu who served as the commander of Takatenjin Castle.
Continuing their offensive operations, the Tokugawa forces attacked Oyama Castle defended by Kano Kagenobu and Ōkuma Tomohide. Takeda Katsuyori responded by dispatching 20,000 (or 13,000) reinforcements, preventing the Tokugawa from toppling the castle. To address the earlier loss of Suwahara Castle, in the third month of 1576, the Takeda sought to maintain their supply route to Takatenjin Castle by building Sagara Castle in-between Oyama Castle and Takatenjin Castle. Meanwhile, the Tokugawa aimed to capture surrounding castles so the two sides contended against one another for control of the supply routes to Takatenjin Castle.
The Tokugawa positioned Ōsuga Yasutaka at Mamushizuka Castle while Atsumi Katsuyoshi, Sakabe Hirokatsu, and Kuze Hironobu (who had experienced the fall of Takatenjin Castle to the Takeda in 1574) were assigned as yoriki, or security officers, of the Ōsuga clan. Together, these yoriki were known as the Yokosuka Group. In 1578, from the newly constructed Yokosuka Castle, Yasutaka followed orders to block numerous attempts by the Takeda to provision Takatenjin Castle. On several occasions, the Tokugawa forces burned down the fields below the castle. Owing to these actions, it is surmised that day-by-day, the food supplies in the castle ran lower. The Tokugawa launched repeated assaults against Oyama Castle, further imperiling the ability of the Takeda to supply Takatenjin Castle. In an effort to secure their supply routes, the Takeda attacked Yokosuka Castle but Ōsuga Yasutaka and the Yokosuka Group resisted these attempts. Despite the symbolic value of maintaining their hold on Takatenjin Castle, the Takeda bore a significant burden owing to the length and difficulty of utilizing the supply routes.
Course of events
By the eighth month of 1580, six auxiliary sites including Fort Ogasayama, Fort Nogasaka, Fort Higamine, Fort Shishigahana, Fort Nakamura, and Fort Mitsuisan were completed. Together, these were known as the Six Forts of Takatenjin, serving as bases for the Tokugawa from which to surround and sever the provisioning of Takatenjin Castle by the Takeda.
In the tenth month, Tokugawa Ieyasu led a contingent of 5,000 soldiers with the aim of recapturing Takatenjin Castle. Rather than storm the castle, Ieyasu planned to lay siege, install barriers, and deny the defenders of provisions. Okabe Motonobu, along with members of the garrison, sent a jointly signed letter to Takeda Katsuyori to urgently request reinforcements to address the severe conditions at Takatenjin Castle but Katsuyori did not dispatch troops. According to the authenticated biography of Oda Nobunaga known as the Shinchō-kōki, Katsuyori did not send troops to Takatenjin Castle owing to his fears of the military prowess of Nobunaga. From the perspective of the Takeda, the circumstances differ. Namely, in the third month of 1578, after the succession struggle in the Uesugi clan of Echigo Province known as the Otate Conflict, Katsuyori entered into an alliance with Uesugi Kagekatsu known as the Alliance between Kai and Echigo. This ruptured the alliance of the Takeda and the Odawara-Hōjō who were opposed to Kagekatsu, known as the Alliance between Kai and Sagami. This resulted in attacks by Hōjō Ujimasa against the Takeda in the eastern portion of Suruga Province. Ujimasa then entered into an alliance with the Oda and Tokugawa clans and the Tokugawa intensified offensives from the western portion of Suruga. In the third month of 1580, Katsuyori returned Oda Nobufusa (the fifth son of Nobunaga) to the Oda. Nobufusa had been held as a hostage by the Takeda family and was released in a bid by Katsuyori to foster peace with Nobunaga. As a result, Katsuyori may have feared the consequences for his negotiations with the Oda as a result of sending reinforcements to Takatenjin Castle. In a military chronicle entitled Kōyō-gunkan, there is a story that Katsuyori desired to send reinforcements to Takatenjin Castle but was opposed by Takeda Nobutoyo and a close associate named Atobe Katsusuke who feared provoking Nobunaga. This, however, has not been confirmed by authenticated sources. As noted below, there is a letter from Yokota Tadatoshi, a division commander at the castle, to the Takeda requesting that reinforcements not be sent.
On 1/3 of Tenshō 9 (1581), the Oda heard a rumor that Takeda Katsuyori deployed so, to prepare, Oda Nobutada entered Kiyosu Castle in Owari. There are no traces, however, the Katsuyori deployed so this appears to have been misinformation.
With respect to the assault on Takatenjin Castle, Nobunaga sent a letter to Ieyasu stating not to permit a surrender by the defenders. Unlike the prior instance, Katsuyori was allowing those in the castle to die without assistance, so Nobunaga apparently aimed to undermine the prestige of the Takeda. Based on letters, Nobunaga appeared to conclude that Katsuyori would definitely not come to the aid of the garrison. In the twelfth month of 1580, Nobunaga dispatched close associates including Fukuzumi Hidekatsu, Inoko Hyōsuke, Hasegawa Hidekazu, and Nishio Yoshitsugu to the camp of Ieyasu in the midst of the siege to have them observe the operation and adjust the endgame of their strategy.
Owing to the siege and subsequent depletion of supplies, many members of the garrison starved. Around 10:00 PM on 3/25, after the surviving soldiers including Ema Nobumori held a subdued banquet, they charged out of the castle led by Okabe Motonobu and rushed the most undermanned camp of Ishikawa Yasumichi under the command of the Tokugawa. Ōkubo Tadayo, Ōsuga Yasutaka and others in the Tokugawa army countered the attack and, despite valiant fighting, the Takeda were outnumbered and lost 688 soldiers including Motonobu. After Honda Tadakatsu, Torii Mototada, and Toda Yasunaga forced their way into the castle to mop-up any survivors, the castle fell to the Tokugawa army. Unlike after the First Siege of Takatenjin Castle when Katsuyori generously spared the lives of all of the defenders, on this occasion, all notable prisoners were executed.
When the defenders conducted an all-out charge, Okabe Motonobu, as the commander of the castle, led the garrison. The party was intercepted by Ōkubo Tadataka, the younger brother of Ōkubo Tadayo. Tadataka, however, did not expect that the commander of the castle would be leading the charge so, after an initial clash of long swords, he delegated to a retainer named Honda Mondo to pursue the enemy soldiers. Mondo engaged Motonobu in a scuffle and Motonobu bravely fought back but was killed after falling down on a steep slope. At the time, Motonobu is surmised to have been around seventy years old. Mondo did not understand that he had killed the commander of the opposing forces and, at the later inspection of heads, was surprised to learn that it was Motonobu. Tadataka later reminisced that if he knew at the outset that his opponent was Motonobu, he would have fought him himself rather than delegate to a retainer.
Yokota Tadatoshi (who served as a division commander) succeeded in escaping and announced that Takatenjin Castle had fallen. Haramiishi Motoyasu, a relative of Ieyasu, also escaped but was captured the next day and forced to commit seppuku. During the era that Ieyasu was a hostage of the Imagawa family, the Haramiishi were neighbors and frequently complained of the mess caused by Ieyasu’s falconry activities resulting in lingering enmity between them. This may have played a role in the orders to have him commit seppuku. Kurita Kankyū, the head of the Zenkō Temple in Shinano and Kai provinces, was also captured and killed. Prior to his execution, he sought to observe a recitative dance by Kōwakamai Yoshinari who was in Ieyasu’s camp and, after Ieyasu honored his request, was killed.
There is a view that this battle dealt a fatal blow to the prestige of the Takeda clan. In a completely opposite outcome from the first siege in 1574, Katsuyori was unable to respond to the urgent requests for help from Okabe Motonobu. As a result, Motonobu and many soldiers in the garrison under his command were left to die during the siege. Nevertheless, contrary to the letter jointly signed by Motonobu and those below him to plead for reinforcements, a letter from Yokota Tadatoki who was holed-up in the castle at the same time, recommended that Takatenjin Castle be abandoned to preserve the Takeda forces and because it was a burden for the Takeda clan.
During the Conquest of Kōshū by Oda Nobunaga commencing in the beginning of the second month of 1582, many retainers of the Takeda including members of branches of the clan such as Kiso Yoshimasa and Anayama Nobutada as well as prominent hereditary retainers such as Oyamada Nobushige defected or rebelled, decimating the clan from within. There is a view, however, that the outcome of the fall of Takatenjin Castle was a factor in the defection of the band of retainers. This is emphasized in the Shinchō-kōki but there is correspondence in which Nobunaga instructed Ieyasu to refuse surrender by those holed-up in the castle. Therefore, even though, from early on, the defenders communicated to Ieyasu an intent to surrender and turn-over the castle, as the siege persisted and became more dramatic, it appears that Nobunaga aimed to intentionally undermine the prestige of Katsuyori by announcing that he would not send reinforcements. When the castle fell during the first siege by the Takeda, in the absence of reinforcements the defenders from the Tokugawa were abandoned. In this case, Ieyasu caused harm to the prestige of Nobunaga.
Kuze Hironobu from the Yokosuka Group in the forces of Ōsuga Yasutaka who intercepted the attackers noted that, amidst the chaos of a nighttime attack on a pitch-black battlefield, he distinguished the faces of enemies and allies by the sparks emitted from the clash of swords.
After the fall of the castle, a retainer of the Tokugawa named Ōkawachi Masachika who had been held in the castle dungeon for seven years because turning over the castle to the Takeda during the first siege was against his conscience, was finally rescued.