Siege of Shigisan Castle


Matsunaga Clan

Kawachi Province

Oda Clan

Date:  10/5 to 10/10 of Tenshō 5 (1577)

Location:  Shigisan Castle in the Ikoma mountain range on the border of Yamato and Kawachi provinces

Outcome:  Discontent after the appointment of his archrival to serve as the military governor of Yamato, Matsunaga Hisahide launched a rebellion against his lord, Oda Nobunaga, from Shigisan Castle.  Dependent upon reinforcements from the Uesugi army or the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple that failed to materialize, betrayed by his messenger, and vastly outnumbered, Hisahide was unable to withstand the mass assaults on the castle by the Oda forces.

Commanders:  Matsunaga Hisahide, Matsunaga Hisamichi, Ebina Katsumasa, Mori Hidemitsu

Forces:  8,000 (including 300 mounted soldiers known as umamawari)

Losses:  Near annihilation including Hisahide and Hisamichi; castle burned down

Lord:  Oda Nobunaga

Commanders:  Oda Nobutada (commander-in-chief), Tsutsui Junkei, Akechi Mitsuhide, Hosokawa Fujitaka, Sakuma Nobumori, Hashiba Hideyoshi, Niwa Nagahide

Forces:  40,000

Losses:  Unknown

Matsunaga Hisahide

Oda Nobutada

The Siege of Shigisan Castle occurred from 10/5 to 10/10 of Tenshō 5 (1577) at Shigisan Castle located on Mount Shigi in the Ikoma mountain range in the border area between Kawachi and Yamato provinces.  The conflict arose from a rebellion launched by Matsunaga Hisahide from his base at Shigisan Castle against Oda Nobunaga.  This is also known as the Battle to Subjugate Matsunaga Hisahide.


After the demise of Miyoshi Nagayoshi, Matsunaga Hisahide backed his nephew, Miyoshi Yoshitsugu and engaged in a power-struggle between the Miyoshi clan and the Miyoshi Group of Three (Miyoshi Nagayasu, Miyoshi Sōi, and Iwanari Tomomichi).  When Oda Nobunaga marched upon Kyōto, he submitted to the Oda while the conflict against the Miyoshi Group of Three in the Kinai progressed to his advantage.  Under the Oda, Hisahide continued to govern Yamato Province.  However, after being ousted from Kyōto, Ashikaga Yoshiaki (the fifteenth and final shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu) solicited support from assorted daimyō in a bid to confront Nobunaga.  Hisahide, along with Miyoshi Yoshitsugu, then joined the encirclement campaign against Nobunaga and wielded his power in Settsu and Kawachi provinces.  In the end, Nobunaga’s opponents were subdued, Yoshiaki expelled, and Yoshitsugu compelled to kill himself.  Although Hisahide received a pardon, he lost control of Yamato Province to Ban Naomasa.

On 5/3 of Tenshō 4 (1576), Naomasa commanded forces in the Battle of Ishiyama but was killed while attempting to flee in defeat.  While Hisahide was concerned about who would become the next military governor, Nobunaga appointed Hisahide’s archenemy, Tsutsui Junkei, to the position.  In the past, for approximately one-half year in 1567, at the Battle at the Giant Buddha of Tōdai Temple, Hisahide fought against Junkei and the Miyoshi Group of Three.

After Nobunaga marched upon Kyōto, Hisahide and Junkei were at the same rank, but after Junkei became the military governor of Yamato, their positions vis-à-vis one another changed.  From the perspective of Nobunaga, even though Hisahide reconciled, he had betrayed once before, so it was natural to appoint Junkei as the military governor.  To Hisahide, this was a cause for discontent, and likely became a major reason for his rebellion.   Moreover, Junkei had destroyed Tamonyama Castle which had formerly served as an important base for Hisahide, as well as taken steps to reduce the power of the Matsunaga clan.  This likely reinforced a sense of political crisis for Hisahide that was a factor steering him toward a rebellion.

On 8/17 of Tenshō 5 (1577), during an attack by the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple, Hisahide was cornered in the Tennōji fortress, so he  burned it down and fled with his son, Matsunaga Hisamichi, to hole-up in Shigisan Castle.  At this time, he had an army of over 8000 troops including 300 mounted soldiers.  Known as a master of modern castle building, the day after arriving, he had his forces commence work to reinforce Shigisan Castle.

Hisahide had two plans – Kennyo (the eleventh high priest of the Hongan Temple for the Jōdo sect who was holed-up in the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple), and Uesugi Kenshin (the powerful daimyō from Echigo Province who sought to march upon the capital of Kyōto).

At the Battle of Tennō Temple, Kennyo’s army earlier killed Ban Naomasa and, at the First Battle of Kizugawaguchi, received armaments and food provisions from the Mōri so possessed significant military strength.  As for the Uesugi army, Kenshin sought to march on the capital with 20,000 men and, upon orders of Kennyo, the Kaga Ikkō-ikki forces utilized guerilla warfare to hinder the movements of the army led by Shibata Katsuie, providing lateral support to the Uesugi army.  Acting on his own, it would be a difficult feat for Hisahide to overthrow Nobunaga, but it appeared possible that he could arrange some type of secret pact or connection among the three parties.

At this time, while Nobunaga was in Azuchi Castle, he dispatched Matsui Yūkan (his representative in Sakai) as a messenger to Shigisan Castle either because he was surprised at the rebellion or because he valued the veteran Hisahide.  After arriving, Yūkan encouraged Hisahide to speak openly about his concerns so that he could be pardoned for his actions.  After two betrayals, Nobunaga took an extraordinary step by giving Hisahide an opportunity to explain, but Hisahide refused.

Resentful at Hisahide’s refusal to cooperate, in the latter half of the ninth month of 1577, Nobunaga ordered Tsutsui Junkei, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Hosokawa Fujitaka to deploy whereupon the commanders assembled at the Hōryū Temple and formed the vanguard for an attack on Shigisan Castle.  On 10/1, the Oda army with approximately 5,000 troops attacked the outlying base of Kataoka Castle defended by 1,000 troops on the side of the Matsunaga army led by Ebina Katsumasa (Tomokiyo) and Mori Hidemitsu (Masatomo).  In the violent battle, the Tsutsui battalion experienced many losses while over 150 defenders, including Katsumasa and Hidemitsu, were killed in action during the fall of the castle.

On 10/3, Nobunaga received a direct report from Shibata Katsuie at Azuchi Castle that, after prevailing against Oda forces on 9/23 at the Battle of Tedorigawa, the army of Uesugi Kenshin stopped its advance from Nanao Castle.  There are assorted theories as to the reason why Kenshin halted his forces, but one is that he may have feared heavy snowfall or that it was a response to the deployment by Hōjō Ujimasa to the Kantō in defense of his home province.  Concluding that Kenshin’s forces would not proceed further, Nobunaga sent, under the command of his eldest son, Oda Nobutada, battalions led by Sakuma Nobumori, Hashiba Hideyoshi, and Niwa Nagahide (who had been deployed to Kaga) to serve as reinforcements for an attack on Shigisan Castle.  The Oda army totaled 40,000 soldiers.  Meanwhile, having previously failed in a rebellion after the death of Takeda Shingen, and without the movement of Kenshin’s forces, the fall of Kataoka Castle placed Hisahide in a precarious situation.

On 10/4, it is not certain which side initiated hostilities, but the main entrance to Shigisan Castle was burned down.

Course of events

The battle commenced on 10/5 with a mass assault by an army of 40,000 soldiers, but the castle did not easily fall.  A bushō under Hisahide named Iida Mototsugu led 200 men on a brazen counterattack, causing casualties among several hundred of the Oda soldiers.  Without expectations of winning against such a large force, the Matsunaga troops engaged in a desperate resistance as the conflict showed signs of turning into a war of attrition.  On this day, Nobunaga paraded his hostage from Hisahide (the son of Matsunaga Hisamichi and grandson of Hisahide who was twelve or thirteen years old at the time) around Kyōto and then had him executed at Rokujō-gawara along the Kamo River.

In the clashes on 10/5, the Matsunaga army prevailed, but, owing to the huge imbalance in the size of their respective forces, Hisahide issued an urgent request to Kennyo with whom he had a secret pact to send reinforcements.  Hisahide chose Mori Yoshihisa to serve as the messenger for this request.  On 10/7, Yoshihisa departed from Shigisan Castle and, on 10/8, led a battalion of 200 arquebusiers from Kaga sent by the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple, returned to Shigisan, and established a position near the outer citadel of the castle.  According to the report from Yoshihisa, additional reinforcements from the Mōri would arrive in two or three days, and, further, if that occurred, then Kennyo offered to send more reinforcements.  Hisahide was delighted to receive this news.

This battalion of arquebusiers, however, served as the catalyst for the fall of Shigisan Castle.  Mori Hisayoshi was originally a hereditary retainer of Tsutsui Junkei, and, after the fall of Junkei’s base at Tsutsui Castle, he became a rōnin,or wandering samurai.  Later, he came into service of Hisahide and, owing to his resourcefulness, earned the trust of Hisahide just prior to the fall of the castle.  Nevertheless, after Yoshihisa departed from Shigisan Castle on his mission, he rode into the encampment of Matsukura Shigenobu, a bushō serving under Junkei, and informed him of the situation inside the castle.  Junkei awarded Yoshihisa with thirty gold pieces, assigned him 200 valued arquebusiers, and ordered them to lay in ambush.

Thereafter, hostilities ensured from around 6:00 PM on 10/9, while, from the morning of 10/10, the Oda launched another full-scale assault on the castle.  With the permission of Oda Nobutada, Tsutsui Junkei served on the front lines of the attack.  The Matsunaga army resisted with bow and arrow as well as arquebus fire, with some defenders charging out of the gate in a bid to fend-off the attack, at one point repelling the Tsutsui battalion.  In the midst of these clashes, flames arose from the outermost areas of the castle near the watchtowers, signaling that the battalion of 200 arquebusiers led by Mori Hisayoshi had rebelled, whereupon Hisahide lost control over his forces.

In the end, Hisahide and his son, Hisamichi, set the four castle towers on fire and committed seppuku.  Hisahide was sixty-eight while Hisamichi was thirty-five years old.  Based on a famous anecdote, in a final act of defiance, Hisahide destroyed a precious tea kettle coveted by Nobunaga known as the Kotenmyō-hiragumo to prevent the kettle from coming into the possession of his former lord.

According to historical accounts, Hisahide’s head was taken along with others to Azuchi Castle while his archrival, Tsutsui Junkei, carefully buried his body at the Daruma Temple.


Tsutsui Junkei achieved meritorious results in this battle which occurred in his home province against his archrival, Matsunaga Hisahide.  After returning to his base, Junkei held numerous victory celebrations with his retainers.  He was appointed as the military governor by Nobunaga and brought honor to the vanguard force as a warrior.  He understood that spending his days idly would lead to timidness and disloyalty, so he needed to take action to topple the castle.

On 10/11, with the embers still flickering on the ruins of the castle, it started to rain, and, at the Battle at the Giant Buddha of Tōdai Temple which ended ten years earlier on 10/11 of Eiroku 10 (1567), rain fell there as well.

After the loss by the Oda forces to the Uesugi army at the Battle of Tedorigawa, the victory at the Siege of Shigisan Castle raised their morale.  Hashiba Hideyoshi then launched the Invasion of Chūgoku (a five-year conflict to wrest control of the western provinces from the Mōri clan) while Akechi Mitsuhide and Hosokawa Fujitaka led the Siege of Kuroi Castle in Tanba Province.