A. Contests with the Mōri
In 1576, Nobunaga ordered Akechi Mitsuhide and Hosokawa Fujitaka to attack the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple. The monks prepared for a long siege based on continuing support from the Mōri clan of Aki Province. Drawing upon a rich naval history in the Seto Inland Sea, the Mōri navy was notoriously strong and played a key role in supplying armaments and provisions to the Hongan Temple. Once the Oda forces had encircled the Hongan Temple on the ground, the support of the Mōri became even more important. Nobunaga knew that defeating the Mōri would cut a vital supply line to the Hongan Temple, so he embarked on plans for a naval attack.
The rise of the Mōri clan served to illustrate the phenomenon of gekokujō whereby ambitious warriors, clans, and local bodies usurped power from traditional institutions of authority. The Mōri of Aki Province rose from the status of kokujin to daimyo after Mōri Motonari defeated Ōuchi Yoshinaga and expanded his territory to include Suō and Nagato provinces in 1557. Prior to this event, the Ōuchi had been one of the most powerful families in all of Japan, exercising significant influence over the affairs of the shōgun in Kyōto. Motonari solidified his control by entering into a covenant with twelve other kokujin from Aki and Iwami provinces to guarantee that their soldiers would maintain discipline.
Nobunaga staged the first attack against the Mōri in the summer of 1576. On the appointed day, the Oda dispatched several hundred vessels to confront a similar number from the Mōri navy that were escorting an even larger fleet of supply ships to provision the Hongan Temple. The Oda navy interdicted this entourage at the mouth of the Kizu River. Although the Oda benefited from the ocean currents to gain an early advantage in the battle, the tides later changed in favor of the Mōri. Heaving copper grenades and launching a hailstorm flaming arrows laced with explosives, the Mōri wreaked havoc on the Oda, disabling and sinking scores of vessels in their fledgling navy.
This defeat forced Nobunaga to reconsider his naval strategy. Rather than attempting to defeat his opponents by relying on superior numbers of vessels, he ordered his naval commander from Ise, Kuki Yoshitaka, to oversee the construction of enormous steel-plated warships. This required the mobilization of a huge team of craftsmen and suppliers. In just two years, the effort yielded six floating fortresses over twenty-three meters long, twelve meters wide, and ten meters high. Shipbuilders made the immense steel-plated hulls three-millimeters thick to withstand a barrage of gunfire and exploding arrows. Castle craftsmen made the box-shaped turrets that extended from bow to stern. The design also featured reinforced decks and a swollen mid-section for superior stability. Gun ports opened on all sides and the top deck hosted three menacing cannons. Once completed, the warships proved to be highly maneuverable when powered by several hundred oarsmen. The innovations in design and materials shattered conventional approaches to shipbuilding and changed the course of battles on the high seas.
In the sixth month of 1578, the ships sailed in a victorious battle against the Saiga and Tannowa fleets. Then, late in 1578, Nobunaga dispatched his new fleet of warships to confront the Mōri once again at the confluence of Ōsaka Bay and the Kizu River. The vessels in the Mōri fleet encircled the warships, launching a barrage of gunfire, flaming arrows, and explosives, but the Oda responded with powerful cannon blasts and collisions that splintered and destroyed the smaller, more vulnerable vessels. The Oda warships proved to be unstoppable fortresses. Unlike the first engagement, on this occasion, the Oda decimated a massive fleet of six hundred vessels, and few escaped. This outcome enabled the Oda to gain command of Ōsaka Bay, and the loss of this supply line forced the Hongan Temple to capitulate and vacate Ōsaka by 1580.
B. Battles in Harima Province
In the autumn of 1575, Akamatsu Hirohide of Tatsuno Castle and Bessho Nagaharu, lord of Miki Castle with influence in eastern Harima, traveled to Kyōto to pay allegiance to Nobunaga. This enabled Hideyoshi to pacify the province with relatively little resistance, but he invested time in meeting with the kunishū throughout the province and taking hostages to reduce the risk of betrayals. He notified Nobunaga late in the year that the province had been pacified, and led his army to the neighboring province of Tajima. In the autumn of 1577, Hideyoshi received orders to invade Harima Province. After arriving in the province, Hideyoshi entered Himeji Castle, the base for Kodera Yoshitaka. Yoshitaka, an elder of Onodera Masanori, lord of Gochaku Castle, maintained a cordial relationship with Hideyoshi. Prior to his arrival in Harima, most of the kunishū were already cooperating with Nobunaga.
Hideyoshi then directed his army into the western portion of Harima Province. The powerful Ukita clan of Bizen Province controlled the castles of Kōzuki and Fukuhara, laying on the western edge of the province. The Ukita were loyal to the Mōri, forming the front line of defense for the territory controlled by the Mōri. Hideyoshi and his men attacked Kōzuki, while another contigent led by Takenaka Shigeharu and Kodera Yoshitaka attacked Fukuhara Castle. Seven days after initiating the attack, the soldiers from Kōzuki Castle brought out the head of their lord and surrendered, but Hideyoshi did not grant them a reprieve. He hauled away the men, women and children from the castle to the border of Harima, Bizen and Mimasaka, had them crucified, and left them on display. He also ordered the slaughter of two hundred and fifty people at Fukuhara Castle. The refusal to spare any of the defenders in these initial engagements served as a dire warning to other would-be enemies in the region. Nobunaga deployed the same tactic from time to time. Hideyoshi appointed Amako Katsuhisa and Yamanaka Shikanosuke to Kōzuki Castle and made this the front line against the Mōri.
C. The Battle of Miki Castle
Through his concerted efforts, Hideyoshi pacified the majority of Harima Province in a short time. Then, early in 1578, Bessho Nagaharu, lord of Miki Castle, began to collude with the Mōri and forsake his alliance with Nobunaga. Nagaharu controlled the kokujin in the eastern portion of Harima and maintained many auxiliary castles in support of the base at Miki Castle. Twenty-four years old at the time, Nagaharu was subordinate to his uncle, Yoshichika, who expressed distrust of Nobunaga and encouraged Nagaharu to rebel. This shift in alliances burdened Hideyoshi at the time that he planned to engage the Mōri, resulting in threats from his opponents in territories to the east and the west of his own. Surrounded by rivers and highlands, Miki Castle was a stronghold protected by several thousand men. Outlying castles, including Kanki, Nogichi, Ōgo, Shikata, and Takasago, provided a further line of defense.
On the twenty-ninth day of the third month, Hideyoshi proceeded to encircle Miki Castle with a force of ten thousand men. The Oda army had toppled most of the auxiliary castles in Harima that formerly provided a defense to Miki Castle, leaving the Bessho clan with few allies in the area. To take advantage of these circumstances, Hideyoshi planned to starve the defenders out of the castle. As long as the Mōri did not advance into eastern Harima, there was no risk of attack from the rear flank, so Hideyoshi dispersed his men around the castle while he took a position on Mount Hirai.
On the third day of the fourth month, Hideyoshi began his advance by toppling Noguchi Castle. A few weeks later, a large contingent of the Mōri entered Harima and encircled Kōzuki Castle. Accompanied by Araki Murashige, the bushō in charge of Settsu Province, Hideyoshi headed west in an effort to protect Kōzuki Castle. The army set up camp on Mount Takakura to the east of Kōzuki Castle with a river separating his forces from the Mōri, but enemy forces to the east prevented Hideyoshi from staging an attack and the contingent remained in the vicinity for two months.
Nobunaga aimed to break the stalemate by sending in a support contingent led by Nobutada, his son-in-law. Several members of the inner circle including Sakuma Nobumori, Takigawa Kazumasu, Niwa Nagahide, and Akechi Mitsuhide also led the forces, but rather than advancing into western Harima, the army attacked the outlying castles of Kanki, Shikata, and Takasago. Without the support of these forces, Hideyoshi and Murashige could not stop the encirclement of Kōzuki Castle from the rear flank. After seeking further instructions from Nobunaga in Kyōto, Hideyshi abandoned the defense of Kōzuki Castle and joined in the attacks on the outlying castles. Katsuhisa and Shikanosuke faced a bitter defeat as Kōzuki Castle fell to the Mōri.
A fierce battle for Kanki Castle ensued, with the attacking forces firing cannons and digging tunnels in its advance against the outer perimeter. Following breaches of the walls and towers of the castle, the defenders signaled a desire to surrender, but a messenger from Nobunaga conveyed his orders to continue the assault. On the second day of the seventh month, the attackers captured the main castle grounds and killed its lord, Kanki Minbunoshō. The forces then turned on Shikata Castle, where Nobunaga accepted their pleas for surrender, sparing the lives of its lord and his men. The large contigent headed by Nobutada withdrew from Harima and Nobunaga then placed Kanki and Shikata under the control of Hideyoshi.
As many as seven thousand five hundred men defended Miki Castle, ordinarily requiring a much larger number of invaders for a successful assault against a well-fortified position. However, even if the Bessho succeeded in repelling the attackers, the loss of their position in Harima made them vulnerable to subsequent attacks. Rather than wait for support from the Mōri, on the twenty-second day of the tenth month of 1578, a force of two thousand five hundred men headed by Bessho Harusada departed the castle and headed toward Mount Hirai. Hideyoshi monitored these movements, waiting until they reached the base of the mountain. The army began to ascend the mountain and head straight toward Hideyoshi’s main camp without flanking. When the advancing forces came within one kilometer, Hideyoshi ordered his younger brother Hidenaga and a group of men to storm down the hills and attack. Hideyoshi followed with a larger contingent. The enemy forces could not stop the assault and struggled to retreat as their horses ran out of breath. Many, including Harusada, were lost in the battle, while others fled back to the castle or scattered.
Out of concern regarding the continuing siege by Hideyoshi of Miki Castle, Nobunaga ordered Nobutada to lead a contingent from Settsu into Harima. This army took Ōgo Castle and built forts in the surroundings. They also captured Gochaku Castle before returning to Settsu. Then, on the tenth day of the ninth month of 1579, forces from the Mōri and the Hongan Temple launched an attack against a fort defended by Tani Nomoriyoshi in Hirata to facilitate the provisioning of Miki Castle. Nomoriyoshi died during the defense and the invaders occupied the fort. Other forces led by Bessho Yoshichika from Miki Castle aided in the attack.
Hideyoshi responded by mobilizing his forces camped on Mount Hirai into two divisions. He dispatched half of the men to defend the fort in Hirata and the other half to confront the Bessho army. Weak from a lack of food and supplies, the Bessho army fled back to Miki Castle. Meanwhile, the counterattack by Hideyoshi’s men against the Mōri and Hongan forces resulted in their collapse after losing seven to eight hundred men. These successes averted a major crisis and enabled Hideyoshi to tighten the encirclement of Miki.
Following this engagement, the castle defenders held their position, while Hideyoshi continued the siege. On the sixth day of the first month of 1580, Hideyoshi mobilized his forces. Hideyoshi led a contingent to occupy Miya-no-Ue fort on the highest land near Miki Castle from where he launched attacks. The long siege had taken its toll, and even those who still had the will did not have the energy to fight and found it difficult in their weakened state to move about while dressed in armor.
On the fifteenth day, Nagaharu stated his conditions for surrender from the main building in which he resided. In exchange for his promise to commit seppuku along with his younger brother and uncle, he requested that Hideyoshi spare the lives of his troops. Hideyoshi accepted the offer, Nagaharu admirably complied, and, after almost two years, the operations finally ended. Hideyoshi then attacked allies of the Bessho clan including Uno Mitsutoki at Chōzui Castle and Onodera Noritaka at Aga Castle to bring to a close the final chapter in the battle for Miki Castle.
The shugo in Tajima was Yamana Akihiro, located in Izushi Castle. Akihiro had reconciled differences with the formidable Mōri clan in 1575, and had paid allegiance to Nobunaga at the time of his march into Kyōtō. Once the Oda and Mōri entered into conflict, Akihiro found himself caught between the parties and maintained a neutral posture. Akihiro did not control Tajima. Independent clans, including the Kakiya, the Ōtagaki, the Tayuishō, and the Yagi battled for control. After invading, Hideyoshi’s men first toppled Iwasu Castle, and then attacked the Ōtagaki at Takeda Castle. The Ōtagaki scattered, and Hideyoshi appointed his younger brother, Hidenaga, to rule the castle.
D. The Battle of Arioka Castle
Araki Murashige attacked Itami Tadachika in the eleventh month of 1575, and driving him out of Itami castle. Thereafter, he established his headquarters, renaming to Arioka castle. Murashige undertook the primary responsibility of engaging the Hongan sect based in Ōsaka. Along with Hosokawa Fujitaka and Ban Naomasa, he intended to serve as a key figure in the campaign. However, this contingent dissolved following Naomasa’s death in battle in the fifth month of 1576, and Sakuma Nobumori took over to head the campaign instead. Murashige performed a supporting role, in addition to fighting in battles in Harima Province to the west.
Hideyoshi’s arrival on the western front relegated Murashige to an auxiliary role. Perhaps out of anger toward Nobunaga regarding his roles, around the fifth month of 1577, Murashige began to collaborate with the enemy Mōri clan, and rumors spread that he sent them provisions. This collaboration may also have caused him to forego the opportunity while camped on Mount Takakura to attack the Mōri during the siege of Kōzuki Castle. In the tenth month of 1578, he suddenly deserted his post at the western front and sheltered in Arioka Castle to rebel against Nobunaga. His retainers, Takayama Nagafusa and Nakagawa Kiyohide, followed suit by rebelling from Takatsuki and Ibaraki castles respectively.
Nobunaga responded by dispatching Nobutada and a large contingent of forces to encircle Arioka. Takigawa Kazumasu served as the second in command, but rather than launch an immediate attack, Nobunaga first opted for negotiation. Nobutada was in command at the site, whereas Nobunaga exercised supervisory control from Azuchi through the efforts of Murai Sadanari and other retainers who raced between Azuchi, Kyōto, and Arioka to send messages and give directions from Nobunaga to those on the ground.
Although Murashige was an outsider, his considerable stature in the Oda army was a testament to his superior abilities. Nobunaga hoped that his trusted negotiators could strike a deal with the malcontent Murashige so he would not lose the support of the outstanding commander. Besides, Nobunaga reserved the option to attack if Murashige refused to comply.
As part of his strategy to focus resources on defeating Murashige, Nobunaga spent his time in Kyōto to negotiate a temporary cessation of hostilities with the Hongan Temple. Confident of his plan, Nobunaga withdrew a request for an imperial edict to settle with the Hongan Temple.
Nobunaga relied upon his trusted intermediary, Matsui Yūkan, to initiate the negotiations. He also sent Akechi Mitsuhide and Manmi Shigemoto, a trusted assistant and messenger. At the same time, Nobunaga dispatched missionaries to negotiate with Takayama Ukon, a devout Christian. Upon learning that Kuki Yoshikata had won in naval battle against the Mōri at the mouth of the Kizu River, Kiyohide and Ukon pledged their allegiance to Nobunaga, causing Murashige to lose the support of castles located on both flanks of Arioka. Kiyohide surrendered following negotiations with Oroshi Yorishige, who assumed Kiyohide’s position as lord of Ibaraki Castle while Kiyohide joined Ukon and the forces encircling his former lord. Ukon surrendered at Takatsuki Castle and joined in the encirclement of Murashige in Arioka Castle. Nobunaga may have believed that undermining support for Murashige would increase the pressure on him to surrender, but, instead, Murashige remained defiantly united with the Mōri and the Hongan sect.
Kuroda Kanbei, a brilliant warlord from Harima, also tried to negotiate surrender with Murashige. Kanbei’s acquaintance with Murashige raised hope for a breakthrough, but Murashige responded by tossing Kanbei in the gallows, where he was forced to wait over a year until his rescue by Nobunaga’s men. The barbarous conditions caused him to lose the use of his right leg, but he continued for years thereafter to serve as a close confidant and strategist of Hideyoshi.
Following a refusal by Murashige to come to Azuchi Castle to resolve the crisis, Nobunaga ordered his most senior commanders to lead a contingent of thirty thousand men to Arioka Castle. Led by Oda Nobutada, other senior members included Takigawa Kazumasu, Akechi Mitsuhide, Niwa Nagahide, Hachiya Yoritaka, and the Mino Group of Three. The size of the contingent attested to the importance that Nobunaga placed on defeating this rebellion. Together with the Bessho in Harima, the Hatano in Tanba, and the Hongan Temple in Osaka, the rebellion by Murashige posed a serious threat to the progress of his campaign in the western provinces reaching from Tanba to Settsu. Nobunaga knew that this would need to be resolved quickly to avoid losing the momentum in his campaign. Following the departure of the army, Nobunaga made a brief stop in Kyōto before heading toward Settsu Province.
The Oda controlled Ibaraki and Takatsuki castles, but the strongholds of Amazaki and Hanakuma remained under Araki control along the coastline. These locations enabled communication and the provisioning of the Mōri navy and the Hongan Temple. Instead of attacking these castles, Nobunaga ordered his men to tighten the encirclement of Arioka Castle as a means to sever any support from Amazaki Castle. The construction of Arioka, however, took advantage of differences in elevations between the plains and surrounding hills. The Ina River served as a natural barrier on the east side of the castle, and several forts protected the village below the castle, making an attack perilous.
Despite the circumstances, on the eighth day of the twelfth month, Nobunaga ordered an attack on the village. Led by Hori Hidemasa and Manmi Shigemoto, the cavalry stormed the town, but failed to breach its protective fences and walls. Shigemoto died from an attack with a long sword during this assault. Meanwhile, archers, including Nakano Kazuyasu and Hirai Kyueimon, shot flaming arrows into the town. Clogged with smoke and flame, the village turned into a scene of mayhem but the attackers did not prevail. The outcome caused Nobunaga to proceed with a large encirclement covering the eastern half of Settsu, including many forts near Arioka Castle. Nobunaga then departed.
Nobunaga ushered in the year of 1579 at Azuchi, firm in the belief that the encirclement of Arioka would lead to ultimate victory over Murashige. A month later, he spent several weeks in Kyōto, taking time to enjoy his childhood passion of falconry. Accompanied by Nobutada and the rengishū, he departed from Kyōtō to join his contingent in Settsu. While in Settsu, he continued to engage in personal pursuits and enjoyed visiting the waterfall in Minoo to the north of Ōsaka. Confronted with the Takeda to the east, the Uesugi to the north, and the Mōri to the west, Nobunaga could not conduct offensive operations at this time. By maintaining a tight noose on Arioka, he knew that the defenders would eventually lose their resolve.
After the standoff had continued for over a year, those remaining in Arioka castle were plagued with dwindling supplies of food and water. Murashige secretly fled under the cover of darkness with a few close companions to Amazaki castle, occupied by Muratsugu, his heir, who was married to the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide. Forces led by Katsura Motomasa had earlier come to Amazaki and offered support to Murashige. This enabled Murashige to collaborate with the Mōri, whose support he needed to prevail against Nobunaga.
Surprised to discover that their lord had vanished, other retainers opened the castle and fled to Amazaki, but Murashige refused to allow them refuge, so they scattered. Women, children, and other followers of Murashige totaling over five hundred remained in Arioka castle with no one to defend them. The siege of Arioka advanced further after four leaders among the defenders rebelled and allowed Takigawa Kazumasu and his men into the territory earlier controlled by the castle lord. The troops proceeded to torch the town and toppled the surrounding forts one after another, leaving Arioka isolated.
This turn of events caused the elders in the Araki clan to enter into negotiations with Nobunaga to surrender. As head of the negotiations, Murashige offered to turn over Amazaki and Hanakuma castles in exchange for sparing the lives of the women, children, and defending troops under his command. The defenders then turned over Arioka Castle to Hideyoshi. The elders left the women and children as hostages and traveled to Amazaki. Murashige, however, refused to turn over Amazaki and Hanakuma, causing the elders to flee. The Araki clan met with atrocities. First, the captors crucified one hundred and twenty-two retainers, women, and children near Amazaki. Then, they locked five hundred and twelve people including subordinates and their families in houses and burned them to death in a hellish scene. Finally, the captors led sixteen relatives, including the wife of Murashige, to Kyōto and had them decapitated. The rebellion and subsequent denial of the terms of surrender by Murashige led to an unimaginable tragedy for the Araki clan. In an ironic twist of fate, Murashige went on to become a master of the tea ceremony. Studying under the famed Sen no Rikyū, he became one of an elite group of seven tea masters and outlived Nobunaga himself.
Soon after the ouster of Murashige, Nobunaga ordered Ikeda Tsuneoki, his son, Motosuke, and Shiokawa Nagamitsu to sweep up the remnants of opposition in Settsu. Together, they toppled Hanakuma Castle in 1580, where the lord had held out in support of Murashige. In return for his efforts, Nobunaga appointed Tsuneoki as the new lord of Arioka.
Afterwards, Nobunaga once again demonstrated his ability to reward cooperation. Motosuke received a coveted horse. Kiyohide received thirty pieces of gold, a fine bounty on top of the horse he had received a few years earlier. Nobunaga assigned him to serve Tsuneoki. Nobunaga was also generous to Takayama Ukon, allotting him a fief of forty thousand koku and allowing him to continue as lord of Takatsuki from where he could attend to his Christian activities. Ukon built several churches and seminaries in the surrounding area. Under his guidance, the town became a prominent refuge for Christians, with as many as eighteen thousand believers out of a total population of twenty-five thousand.
E. Conflict in Iga Province
Covered by mountainous terrain, Iga Province provided a vital transit route from the provinces of Yamato and Yamashiro to Ise and beyond to the Tōkai Region. Iga remained the only province in central Japan outside of Oda control.
Throughout a large part of the Muromachi period, the Nikki clan served as the shugo in Iga, but after the Ōnin-Bunmei no ran from 1467 to 1477, their governance became less visible. In their place, a multitude of kokujin and dogō maneuvered for control. A multitude of castles and official residences dotted the small province. Despite the lack of a central authority, those residing in the northern portions of the province tended to affiliate with the powerful Rokkaku clan of southern Ōmi, while those in the south supported the Kitabatake clan of Ise. In 1569, Nikki Nagamasa, a shugo, pledged his allegiance to Nobunaga through the offices of Takigawa Kazumasu. However, the Nikki clan exercised nominal authority in Iga at this time so this did not bring the province within Oda control. Soon after this declaration, other influential residents had Nagamasa expelled and then members from several leading clans including the Fukuchi, the Hattori, the Kawachi, and the Tsuge met at Heiraku Temple to discuss the governance of Iga.
In 1576, after Oda Nobukatsu consolidated power in southern Ise by eliminating the remainder of the Kitabatake clan, he made plans to conquer Iga. A local bushi from Iga facilitated these plans by colluding with Nobukatsu. Then, without consulting Nobunaga, in 1579, Nobukatsu led more than ten thousand men into Iga. The men entered in two separate contingents. The main contingent led by Nobukatsu crossed into the province through the town of Mano and the other group led by forces from Yamato passed through the Nabari District of southern Iga.
While trying to negotiate the narrow valleys, the main contingent stalled in the rugged terrain of Iga. Nobukatsu then ordered the army to withdraw, prompting the local armies to attack. The retreating forces took losses, including Tsuge Sanburō-zaeimon, a senior commander from Ise. Upon learning of this failed foray into Iga, Nobunaga sent a written renounciation to Nobukatsu in which he said that, even though Nobukatsu was his son, he could not forgive such a mistake. Nobunaga did not attempt to pacify Iga until two years later after the Fukuchi clan in the town of Tsuge in northern Iga gave their support to him.
In 1581, senior commanders led as many as forty-two thousand troops from the Oda army into Iga from the surrounding provinces. The main contingent led by Takigawa Kazumasu and Niwa Nagahide entered from Ōmi through Koka in the northern Abe District. Other forces originating from Ōmi and led by Hori Hidemasa came through Shigaraki. Takigawa Katsutoshi and Oda Nobutaka, elders of Nobukatsu, used Kabuto as their entry point, and Tsutsui Junkei led forces from Yamato into Iga. Despite the earlier failure, Nobunaga assigned Nobukatsu lead the operation. Although some clans soon surrendered, many of the local warriors fiercely resisted the advancing armies. Smoke and flame rose from battle sites across the province.
The Ōmi forces that entered through Koka and Shigaraki joined in attacks on the castles of Mibuno and Sanagu. The battle for Sanagu proved to be one of the fiercest engagements during the Iga campaign. On the tenth day, the defenders launched an attack against the joint forces of Kazumasu and Hidemasa, only to be repelled. The castle fell the next day and the Oda army took control. Battles then ensued for one castle after another. The Oda assigned commanders to be in charge of each of the four districts of Iga, including Nobukatsu for the Iga District, Nobutaka for the Yamada District, Nagahide and Junkei for the Nabari District, and Kazumasu and Hidemasa for the Abe District. Acts of indiscriminate slaughter occurred in contested areas across the province. Persistent attacks led to the deaths of countless locals who fled to the mountains by the hundreds, including men and women, old and young, commoners and the wealthy. Having come from the neighboring province of Yamato, Junkei knew many persons in Iga and eased the attacks, resulting in a written admonishment from Nobunaga.
On the ninth day of the tenth month, Nobunaga departed Azuchi Castle to observe firsthand the status of these battles to conquer Iga. Nobutada, his son-in-law, and Nobusumi, his nephew, accompanied him. Arriving in Ichinomiya on the tenth, Nobukatsu and the other commanders of the campaign prepared a special seat of honor and delicacies for him. Nobunaga used Ichinomiya as a base from which to make several visits in Iga, taking satisfaction in the progress of the campaign. He returned to Azuchi on the thirteenth. After his forces consolidated control throughout Iga, he appointed Nobutaka to be in charge of the Yamada District and Nobukatsu to be in charge of the remaining three districts in the province.
The Akamatsu clan served as shugo of the provinces of Bittchū and Mimasaka as well as Harima. In an event symbolic of the era, retainers known as the Uragami rose to power and acquired control of all three provinces from the Akamatsu. During the period from 1555 to 1570, Uragami Munekage, based in Tenjinyama Castle in Bizen Province, expanded his influence throughout Bizen and its environs. Following Nobunaga’s march upon Kyōtō in the ninth month of 1568, Munekage quickly expressed his support for Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the new shōgun. In the midst of continuing conflict with remnants of the Akamatsu clan, Munekage could not win the support of Yoshiaki, who ordered three shugo from Settsu Province – the Itami, the Ikeda, and the Wada – to attack Uragami Castle in Harima. Munekage then clashed with the Mōri, and, upon their request, Nobunaga dispatched forces to Harima.
With enemies to the east and west, Ukita Naoie, a retainer of the Uragami, extended his influence, and began to resist in a bid for independence from the Uragami clan. For the next several years, the Uragami, the Ukita, and the Mōri battled for control of Bizen, while Yoshiaki and Nobunaga made efforts to control the situation. When the clans finally reconciled in 1572, the discord between Nobunaga and Yoshiaki had deepened, and Munekage supported Nobunaga. The Oda and the Uragami allied themselves against the Mōri and the Ukita. While the Oda and Mōri initially avoided conflict in Bizen, in 1576, the forces clashed directly in a naval battle at the mouth of the Kizu River. Naoie then sent forces to Harima to attack the Oda at Kōzuki Castle.
The prolonged conflict between the Uragami and Ukita reached a climax when Naoie captured Tenjinyama Castle and Munekage fled from Bizen. Naoie expanded his influence from Bizen to the western portions of Harima, and, owing to this geographic location, served as the front line of defense for the Mōri against the Oda.
In 1578, the Mōri advanced to Harima and made designs to capture Kōzuki Castle from Hideyoshi. Naoie participated in the initial plans, but then fell ill and remained in his base at Okayama Castle. Owing to efforts by Hideyoshi, Naoie stayed apart from further planning. Then, in 1579, he allied himself with the Oda and, in the third month following the capture of several surrounding castles, staged an attack on the Mōri base of Mitsuboshi Castle, defended by Gotō Motomasa, in Mimasaka Province. Without support from the Mōri, the castle fell. The support of Naoie, who controlled territory from Bizen to Mimasaka, provided a significant boost to Hideyoshi’s campaign. With the betrayal of the Bessho clan in Harima, Hideyoshi did not have the resources to focus on Bizen and Mimasaka. Thereafter, Naoie fought on behalf of Hideyoshi against the Mōri.
Early in 1580, the Ukita army, together with forces under the command of Hideyoshi, attacked Kannō castle, defended by Yuhara Harutsuna, dispatched by the Mōri. Kikkawa Motoharu headed toward the castle to provide support, but, after departing from the location, the Ukita attacked a second time and captured the castle. In the following month, the Ukita and Hideyoshi’s forces attacked Takayama Castle near Inaba Province, defended by Kusakari Shigetsugu. He attempted to defend against the large contingent encircling the castle, but finally fled.
Later that year, the Ukita attacked Haga Castle, defended by a lord who had betrayed the Ukita in favor of the Mōri. The men in the castle succeeded in repelling the attack, and the Mōri went on the offensive against the Ukita. In the sixth month, Sasabuki Castle fell to the Mōri. In the sixth month of 1581, Nakamura Yorimune, a retainer of the Mōri, attacked and recaptured Iwaya Castle from the Ukita in a night raid.
The Ukita and the Mōri engaged in pitched battles for control of castles in Mimasaka for over three years. Ukita Naoie fought valiantly against the imposing Mōri army with minimal support from Hideyoshi.
F. The Battle of Tottori Castle
After having pacified Harima with the toppling of the Bessho at Miki Castle and their supporters, in 1580, Hideyoshi set his sights on the neighboring province of Inaba Province. Yamana Toyokuni served as lord of Tottori Castle in Inaba. Tottori stood on the peak of Mount Kyūshō at an elevation of 263 meters. Hideyoshi sent an advance guard that arrived at the foot of the mountain and began preparations to encircle the site, whereupon Toyokuni quickly surrendered and pledged his allegiance to Nobunaga. Hideyoshi allowed him to remain, but many in the castle remained loyal to the Mōri. Led by Morishita Dōyo and Nakamura Harutsugu, they pled with Toyokuni to restore his allegiance to the Mōri, but having given a hostage to Nobunaga, he would not agree.
Toyokuni ultimately fled the castle with a small contingent of foot soldiers and pled for help from Hideyoshi. As a result, those remaining in Tottori Castle reverted to being allies of the Mōri. In the absence of Toyokuni, neither of the ringleaders wielded sufficient authority to manage the affairs of the castle, so they requested Kikkawa Motoharu to dispatch a person appropriate to serve as lord of the castle. Motoharu responded by sending Kikkawa Tsuneie, the eldest son of Kikkawa Tsuneyasu, lord of Iwami-Fukumitsu Castle in Tottori. Tsuneie, a handsome man of thirty-five years, left his home castle with a firm sense of determination, arriving at Tottori in 1581.
These events did not cause Hideyoshi to become anxious. He had decided to prepare for an attack on Tottori. Owing to its location atop the mountain, he decided that the preferred strategy would be to sever their source of food and supplies. He achieved this by encircling the castle prior to the harvest in neighboring Hōki Province so that the engagement would end before the onset of winter. This required him to mobilize men to surround the main castle and auxiliary castles and to shut off the delivery of supplies to the enemy by closely guarding the mouth of the Sendai River. Hideyoshi planned for the engagement at Tottori the year before by harvesting and purchasing the rice crops in Inaba and Hōki from the prior year.
Tsuneie also knew that adequate supplies would be the key to surviving the encirclement. He believed that if he and his men could hold out for several months, the impending snowfall would compel the encircling forces to withdraw. Soon after arriving at the castle, he tried to stockpile rice, but, despite the efforts, his men could not obtain as much as needed.
In the summer months, Hideyoshi sent his younger brother, Hidenaga, to lead an advance force. Hideyoshi then departed Himeji Castle with more than twenty thousand men. Hideyoshi and his men arrived at the base of Tottori Castle soon after his brother. Hideyoshi’s forces formed a tight encirclement of Mount Kyūshō, and assumed positions at the outlying castles of Maruyama and Kariganeyama. The forces constructed a fort near the mouth of the Sendai River and began patrols by boat but did not attempt an assault on the fortress. In the eighth month, a rumor arose that the Mōri army planned to enter the engagement in support of the defenders. Nobunaga responded by making plans to lead a contingent including Akechi Mitsuhide, Nagaoka Fujitaka, Ikeda Tsuneoki, Takayama Shigetomo, and Nakagawa Kiyohide to the scene. The rumor, however, did not materialize and the circumstances for the defenders further deteriorated. Tsuneie became anxious as dwindling supplies led to incessant quarreling among his men. Finally, the Mōri listened to his pleas for the delivery of rice. A fleet of boats loaded with rice and supplies headed for Tottori. Patrol boats manned by Hideyoshi’s men along with supply boats commanded by Matsui Yasunosuke intercepted the Mōri boats at the mouth of the Sendai River. The ensuing clash resulted in the sinking over sixty of the Mōri vessels and their cargo.
Kikkawa Motoharu dispatched his son-in-law, Motonaga, to Tottori. This force proceeded from Izumo Province into Hōki Province, where they encountered and lost in battle to Nanjō Mototsugu at Ueshi Castle. Owing to the instability in their respective home provinces, neither Motoharu nor Mōri Terumoto could actively support the defense of Tottori. Despite his best intentions, Tsuneie and his men confronted an increasingly desperate situation as the supplies at Tottori ran out and starvation loomed. Troops as well as local peasants had taken refuge in the castle, causing severe pressure on supplies. The residents turned for nourishment to grass, leaves, cows, and horses. The scene turned hellish when men engaged in acts of cannibalism with defenders of the castle who fell in battle.
As an escape from the desperation, Tsuneie proposed to Hideyoshi to sacrifice his own life in exchange for the freedom of the residents of the castle. Hideyoshi declined because he did not intend to compel Tsuneie to commit the act of seppuku. Motoharu had sent Tsuneie to serve as a replacement lord, but Tsuneie had not initiated the rebellion. Hideyoshi sought the execution of the ringleaders – Morishita Dōyo and Nakamura Haruzuku – but viewed Tsuneie as a forthright leader of former retainers of the Yamana clan. Following several days of negotiations, Hideyoshi finally accepted the wishes of Tsuneie to sacrifice himself on behalf of the defenders. Upon receipt of a written pledge that Hideyoshi would spare the defenders, Tsuneie committed seppuku. Despite his act of valor, both Dōyo and Haruzuku committed seppuku on the preceding evening. Hideyoshi honored his pledge and spared the lives of the men in the castle, over half of whom died from over-consumption when gorging on food after a long period of starvation.
G. The Seige of Takamatsu Castle
By 1578, Nobunaga’s steel-plated warships had decimated the Mōri navy, but the influence of the clan hindered Nobunaga’s expansion in the western provinces, and, in particular, Bitchū and Bizen. This led Hideyoshi to organize an attack against Shimizu Muneharu, lord of Takamatsu Castle, and a senior commander in the Mōri clan for several years. Muneharu, a tonosama, stood as the most influential kunishū of the Mōri in the eastern portions of Bittchū Province. Hideyoshi initally attempted to solicit his surrender, but Muneharu obstinately refused.
Having captured Tottori, Hideyoshi headed toward Ueshi Castle, surrounded by Kikkawa forces, and succeeded in provisioning the defenders. These swift actions stunned Motoharu, causing him to withdraw his forces. As a result, the territory under Oda control in the Sanin Region extended, without interference, to the eastern portion of Hōki Province. Hideyoshi then turned his attention to the Sanyō Region.
Similar to the clashes in Mimasaka, the Ukita and the Mōri skirmished along the border of Bitchū and Bizen, an area that Hideyoshi aimed to control. In the third month of 1582, Hideyoshi departed Himeji Castle to head west with plans to capture Takamatsu Castle. The contingent totaled over twenty-seven thousand men, including ten thousand men loyal to the Ukita. The men hailed from Bizen, Harima, Inaba, Mimasaka, and Tajima provinces. The army entered Bittchū and quickly captured the outlying castles of Kanmuriyama and Miyajiyama.
The army finally arrived at Takamatsu Castle to confront over five thousand defenders. In the early stages of the siege, the Mōri responded by sending forty thousand troops in support of the defenders, but then encountered some setbacks, including betrayals after losses in the earlier skirmishes. The start of the rainy season slowed the movement of their large contingent and Hideyoshi set up camps to defend against attacks by the Mōri in the surrounding plains.
Takamatsu Castle stood on the northern end of the Okayama Plain, protected by swampland on three sides and a moat on the fourth. Hideyoshi saw that a direct attack would be difficult, so he made plans to divert a nearby river to flood the castle instead. By building a dam on the Ashimori River to the south of the castle, the area surrounding the castle would flood. Hideyoshi called upon local peasants, working day and night for twelve days, to construct a four-kilometer dam in the lowland area to the southeast of the castle. Before long, the castle stood as a lone island in a lake formed by the water from the Ashimori River. Hearing of the encirclement, Mōri Terumoto, joined by Kikkawa Motoharu and Kobayakawa Takakage, led a large contingent of forces toward Takamatsu. Terumoto stopped at Sarukake Castle, twenty kilometers to the west of Takamatsu, but the other forces advanced to Takamatsu.
Estimating the opposition to be as many as fifty thousand men, Hideyoshi knew he needed help, so he quickly dispatched a messenger to Azuchi to request supporting troops. After receiving this request, Nobunaga promptly ordered Akechi Mitsuhide, Nagaoka Tadaoki, Ikeda Tsuneoki, Takayama Shigetomo, and Nakagawa Kiyohide to prepare for dispatch. These men headed the lead contingent, while Nobunaga readied plans to follow with a small band of twenty to thirty men, further ordering Hideyoshi to maintain his ground with the opposing forces. In the summer of 1582, Nobunaga arrived at the Honnō Temple in Kyōto, planning to lodge for one night.
Meanwhile, Mitsuhide launched plans for a coup de’état. After departing from Kameyama Castle in Tanba Province on the evening of the first, he surrounded Honnō Temple with a large contingent early the next morning. Nobunaga heard shouting, perhaps a fight going on outside. Then, Mori Ranmaru, a close attendant, informed him that Mitsuhide had arrived. Nobunaga grabbed a bow and shot at the attackers, but it was in vain, and he soon fell to the attack. In the end, neither the lead contingent nor Nobunaga made it to Bitchū. On the second day of the sixth month of 1582, Mitsuhide’s stunning pre-dawn attack toppled Nobunaga.
Lacking knowledge of this epochal event, the defenders in Takamatsu lost faith that they could prevent the castle from sinking. The Mōri commanders concluded they could not call upon the forces needed elsewhere to oppose threats from other enemies, but that Hideyoshi would receive further support from Nobunaga. The result was a decision to opt for a negotiated settlement.
The Mōri dispatched Ankokuji Ekei, or Ekei of Ankoku Temple, to negotiate the terms of the settlement with Hideyoshi, who relied upon his capable commanders, Hachisuka Masakatsu and Kuroda Kanbei, to serve as negotiators. Under the terms of the settlement, Muneharu sacrificed himself to vindicate Hideyoshi. In exchange, Hideyoshi agreed to spare the lives of the other men holding out in the castle and compromise with respect to the division of five provinces under the control of the Mōri.
Late at night on the third day of the sixth month of 1582, Muneharu rowed from the castle in a small boat, and, after drinking sake and singing songs, took his life in accord with the settlement. When Muneharu sacrificed himself, the Mōri had not yet received news of the assassination the day before at the Honnō Temple in Kyōto. After hearing this news, Motoharu urged them to attack Hideyoshi’s rapidly retreating forces, but Kobayakawa Takakage, another superior commander in the Mōri army, opposed the idea. He prevailed by insisting that warrior valor prevented them from exploiting the misfortune of their enemy. Instead, he convinced the others that the Mōri should seize the opportunity to solidify their defenses at home rather than confront the Oda. Dissension within the Mōri clan dissipated at a celebratory party following the settlement.
The Seige of Takamatsu marked the final engagement in Hideyoshi’s campaign in the western provinces while under the command of Nobunaga.