A. Nobunaga and the Muromachi Bakufu
By 1568, Nobunaga had achieved the major goals of unifying his home province of Owari, eliminating the threat of the once-powerful Imagawa clan, forging a crucial alliance with the Tokugawa of Mikawa Province, conquering Mino Province to the north of Owari, and garnering control of northern Ise.
By moving to Gifu Castle in Mino, Nobunaga secured a central location from which to launch his bid for national conquest. Nobunaga knew, however, that to gain the legitimacy for competing warlords to recognize him as the paramount ruler of the nation, he must obtain control of the Muromachi bakufu seated in the provincial capital of Kyōto.
Nobunaga received an imperial edict from Emperor Ōgimachi to pacify the provinces and restore the tax collections for the Court. Over a period of the several decades, wealthy regional families had largely wrested control from the Court over local territories, and the imperial family faced dire economic straits. In a bid to regain its former glory, the Emperor had sent imperial edicts to powerful warlords to request their support.
The order of governance at the inception of the Muromachi bakufu was pyramidal, with the Emperor and Imperial family, the Imperial Court, at the pinnacle. The shōgun and the bakufu, led by the Ashikaga family, occupied the next level, with the shugo daimyō, and the shugodai below them. The phenomenon of gekokujō constituted an inversion of this power structure, whereby the shōgun usurped the power formerly exercised by the emperor, who became only a figurehead, and then the shugo daimyō usurped the shōgun, and, in turn, the shugodai. Meanwhile, the diffusion of authority to outlying provinces, accompanied by the rise of regional clans such as the Oda and the Tokugawa, further weakened the original structure of governance. This created an opportunity for the arrival of a powerful figure to create a new system of governance.
The Ashikaga family failed to accept their loss of stature, and struggled in vain to restore their former position. The bakufu fell into a severely weakened state on the Sengoku stage, no longer wielding the power and influence as during earlier, more peaceful eras. Nevertheless, the bakufu remained an important symbol of authority to provincial warlords who highly prized official appointments.
In 1568, Ashikaga Yoshiteru served as the thirteenth shōgun in a long family line of rulers. The eldest son of Ashikaga Yoshiharu, Yoshiteru was born in 1536 at the Nanzen Temple in Kyōto. Following his birth, Yoshiharu entrusted Yoshiteru to the guardianship of his uncle, Konoe Hisamichi. An ongoing conflict between Yoshiharu and Hosokawa Harumoto caused Yoshiharu to seek refuge in the town of Sakamato in neighboring Ōmi Province. The Hosokawa were one of three high-ranking families in the bakufu, along with the Shiba and the Hatakeyama, who provided direct support to the shōgun in his governance. Yoshiharu made peace with Harumoto in 1548 and returned to Kyōto.
Yoshiteru was appointed as shōgun at the age of eleven in 1546 at a ceremony held at the Hiyoshi Shrine in Ōmi. Yoshiteru’s position was made precarious by a power struggle between the Hosokawa and the rival Miyoshi clan. Since the age of four, and even after his appointment, the fighting in the capital repeatedly forced him to take refuge in Ōmi. The Miyoshi finally prevailed in battle against the Hosokawa, driving out Yoshiteru to Ōmi again. The provinces under the control of the Miyoshi included: Yamashiro, Settsu, Tanba, Izumi, Awaji, and Harima in the Kinai region, in addition to the provinces of Awa, Sanuki, and Iyo on Shikoku Island in the south.
In 1552, Yoshiteru made peace with Miyoshi Nagayoshi on the condition that Hosokawa Ujitsuna be appointed kanrei, or governor-general, and returned to Kyōto. Despite holding the title of shōgun, Yoshiteru discovered that he would be relegated to a desultory role under the command of Nagayoshi and his retainer, Masanaga Hisahide. In 1553, Yoshiteru collaborated with Hosokawa Harumoto to commence action against Nagayoshi, but lost and fled to Kutsuki in Ōmi where he stayed for the next five years. In 1554, he changed his name from Yoshifuji to Yoshiteru.
Rokkaku Yoshikata, a shugo in Ōmi province and an influential figure in the Kinai Region, backed Yoshiteru at Nijō castle in 1558. With this support, Yoshiteru moved with Hosokawa Harumoto to Sakamoto, and secretly watched developments in Kyōto. The next month, he then set-up a base at Nyoigatake and clashed with Miyoshi Nagayasu. The Ashikaga, joining together with the Rokkaku, initially had the upper hand, but this advantage withered after a fierce counterattack by Miyoshi Jikkyū – the younger brother of Nagayasu – and the withdrawal of the Rokkaku. Several months later, Rokkaku Yoshikata mediated a cessation of hostilities between the opposing forces, enabling Yoshiteru to return to the capital for the first time in five years, and to reestablish the bakufu administration.
Miyoshi Nagayoshi, a retainer of Harumoto, betrayed him and joined forces with Hosokawa Ujitsuna, building the strongest force in the Kinai Region. In 1549, Ashikaga Yoshiharu and Yoshiteru were driven out of Kyōto along with Harumoto, fleeing to Sakamoto in Ōmi and taking refuge at the Jōzai Temple. After Yoshiharu died at this temple the following year, Yoshiteru moved to Katata, a town located on the western shore of Lake Biwa that served as an important transit point for shipping. He then moved to the town of Kutsuki.
Miyoshi Nagayoshi led the Miyoshi clan in a protracted struggle with their former masters, the Hosokawa clan, from 1548 to 1560. Originating from Settsu Province, Nagayoshi first made his mark by taking revenge against Hosokawa Harumoto, who had earlier defeated Nagayoshi’s father in battle. Nagayoshi then marched on to Kyōto, ultimately succeeding in the struggle for control at the expense of the Hosokawa. He also fought Yoshikata at Shirakawa in Kyōto, but they finally settled. At its peak, the Miyoshi clan under Nagayoshi’s leadership controlled nine provinces, both in the Kinai Region and on the southern island of Shikoku. Nagayoshi held the Court title of Provincial Governor of Chikuzen.
Nagayoshi’s lack of vision, however, and his nostalgia for the past, ultimately limited the rise of the Miyoshi clan. Rather than making a shift to the role of a contemporary warlord, without the traditional restraints tied to official rank and courtship, Nagayoshi followed his predecessors by seeking to establish his power base within the confines of the existing bakufu. He fashioned himself as a close confidant of the shogun rather than an independent leader, acting upon his passion for the cultural aspects of the Muromachi period, including the tea ceremony and meetings to engage in linked-verse poetry.
Nagayoshi’s desire to cling to a system of governance in serious decline led to a series of misfortunes that finally sealed the fate of the Miyoshi clan. The first blow came in 1562, when Nagayoshi’s younger brother and close advisor, Yoshikata, perished in battle. In the following year, his designated heir, Yoshioki, mysteriously died at age twenty-two from poisoning. This compelled Nagayoshi to adopt Yoshitsugu, the son of another brother, to serve as his successor. Fearing collapse, the dispirited Nagayoshi soon fell sick, while the fate of the clan hung precariously in the balance.
B. Matsunaga Hisahide and the Miyoshi Group of Three
Perhaps no event, fortuitous or otherwise, had as much impact on the fall of the Miyoshi clan as the misfortune that Nagayoshi had of forming an association with one of the most perilous men of the era – Matsunaga Hisahide. A dauntless character, Hisahide rose from obscure origins to serve as Nagayoshi’s scrivener, followed by other posts of higher responsibility. He eventually garnered control of Yamato Province, and built a splendid castle in Nara, but he harbored larger visions of grandeur. Similar to Saitō Dōsan, the “pit viper” of Mino, Hisahide had no reservations about eviscerating the same people to whom most indebted.
Hisahide employed various tricks to carry out his plot against the Miyoshi clan. First, he played a role in poisoning Yoshioki, accounting for his untimely demise. He then spread a rumor that one of Nagayoshi’s closest advisors, Atagi Fuyuyasu, had plotted a rebellion against his lord. This led to the execution of Fuyuyasu. After Nagayoshi passed away, Hisahide then took Nagayoshi’s formal wife as his own.
This scheme, carried out at the cost of the Miyoshi clan, was just the beginning for Hisahide. In spite of the preceding events, Nagayoshi’s adopted son and designated successor, Yoshitsugu, cooperated with Hisahide in a plot to assassinate the shōgun. At this time, Yoshitsugu was only fourteen years old. In 1565, they launched a surprise assault, together with Iwanari Tomomichi, Miyoshi Masayasu, and Miyoshi Nagayasu. These senior retainers of the Miyoshi clan, referred to as the Miyoshi Group of Three, collaborated on many engagements. On this occasion, they struck down Yoshiteru, the shōgun, at his official quarters at the Nijō Castle. During the attack, Yoshiteru brandished his prized sword, but to no avail, and at the age of twenty-nine, his turbulent reign came to a violent end.
Following this fearless event, Hisahide and his cohorts backed Ashikaga Yoshihide to serve as the fourteenth shōgun because they could control him. The members of the Miyoshi Group of Three opposed supporting Yoshihide, and, in the eleventh month of 1565, a split occurred with them facing off against Hisahide and Yoshitsugu. Sporadic clashes ensued. Nagayasu and his followers fought in the provinces of Kawachi and Yamato, and entered the capital in 1566. Hisahide fled to the bustling harbor town of Sakai in Izumi Province. Later, he launched a sudden attack against the Miyoshi Group of Three, who had set up a camp at the Tōdai Temple in Nara, whereupon Hisahide committed the inglorious act of torching the Great Buddha at the Tōdai Temple, a national treasure.
After the assassination of Yoshiteru, the breakup of the Miyoshi clan, and the confrontation between the Miyoshi Group of Three on one side and Hisahide and Yoshitsugu on the other, no local authority could impose control in the capital of Kyōto or its environs. This political and military power vacuum offered just the right opportunity for Nobunaga to seize control.
C. Ashikaga Yoshiaki and his Benefactors
Captors held Yoshiaki, the younger brother of Yoshiteru, at Kōfuku Temple in Nara. He later escaped with the help of Hosokawa Fujitaka, taking refuge at the home of Wada Koremasa, a powerful daimyō in Ōmi Province. Yoshiaki passionately desired to regain his rightful position as head of the family, and plead for support from powerful warlords including Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen. His requests went unanswered, as the men did not have either the willingness or capability to march upon the capital.
Yoshiaki strongly opposed plans by Hisahide and Yoshitsugu to install Yoshihide as the next shōgun. While traveling in Ōmi, he discovered that the Rokkaku clan planned with the Miyoshi Group of Three to kill him, so he fled to the home of Takeda Yoshimune in Wakasa. In 1567, he went further north to request protection from Asakura Yoshikage, lord of Ichijōdani Castle in Echizen Province. Wada Koremasa accompanied Yoshiaki as he moved from province to province and maintained frequent contact with Nobunaga, urging his lord to support Yoshiaki.
Yoshikage, a man of aristocratic taste, had close ties to the Court in Kyōtō, but opposed Yoshiaki’s bid to take revenge for the assassination of his brother and install him as the shōgun. The loss of his beloved wife and child not long after Yoshiaki’s arrival may have further dampened any interest he had in supporting Yoshiaki.
During his stay at Ichijōdani Castle, Yoshiaki became acquainted with Akechi Mitsuhide, who himself had been wandering between provinces, although under different circumstances. His family lost control of Akechi Castle in eastern Mino during the period of internecine battle among the Saitō, causing Mitsuhide to flee. Trained in military tactics and skillful with the arquebus, Mitsuhide had sufficiently impressed Yoshikage to garner a position in his army, and, on this occasion, served Yoshiaki. Mitsuhide’s ties to Nobunaga proved valuable for Yoshiaki after learning that Yoshikage would not support his plan. Through Mitsuhide, in addition to the contacts made by Koremasa, around the fourth month of 1568, Yoshiaki turned to Nobunaga for support to restore the bakufu.
For Mitsuhide, meeting Yoshiaki enabled him to regain the stature lost when forced to flee Mino. After several meetings, he obtained consent from Nobunaga and, in 1568, departed Echizen on a journey to Mino with Yoshiaki and his patrons. Mitsuhide later became a retainer of Nobunaga and served as a valuable source of information and leader in the army. Mitsuhide’s lack of a proven military background did not deter Nobunaga from rewarding him with four thousand kan mon.
On the twenty-seventh day of the seventh month, Yoshiaki met Nobunaga at the Risshō Temple in Mino, where Yoshiaki presented Nobunaga with gifts of money, swords, armor, weaponry, and horses. He further delivered an imperial edict from Emperor Ōgimachi to come to Kyōto. Nobunaga had earlier visited Kyōto to demonstrate to the shōgun that he had pacified Owari. On this occasion, he planned to use the Emperor and the shōgun to achieve his goal of marching upon the capital and establishing his governance of Japan. He controlled a large portion of the regional provinces, and now saw an opportunity to rule all of Japan from behind the scenes by installing Yoshiaki as shōgun. Moreover, Yoshiaki eagerly sought to succeed Yoshiteru as shōgun, and influential retainers of Nobunaga supported his bid. These included Fujitaka and Koremasa, who had helped extract Yoshiaki from his captors.
D. Ōmi, Ise, and Iga Provinces
1. Ōmi Province – Bridge to the Capital
Ōmi Province served as the territorial bridge between Nobunaga’s headquarters at Gifu Castle and the ancient capital of Kyōto. Ōmi also linked northern and eastern Japan to the capital. Lake Biwa, the largest inland lake in Japan, lay at the center of Ōmi. Major arterial roads surrounding Lake Biwa served for the distribution of goods throughout central Japan, and Ōmi served as the commercial engine for Kyōto. Nobunaga knew that garnering control of Ōmi meant possession of the economic base of the capital, but that proved a challenging task. In addition to Lake Biwa, the cavernous mountains of Ōmi hindered the movement of his troops. Beginning in 1568, Nobunaga commenced an eight-year campaign to subjugate Ōmi.
Ōmi served as the gateway to Kyōto for travelers from northern and eastern Japan. The proximity of Ōmi to the north of Kyōto, together with free-market policies initiated by the Rokkaku clan, gave rise to bustling trading centers in the region surrounding Lake Biwa.
At the time that Nobunaga agreed with Yoshiaki to restore the bakufu, Azai Nagamasa controlled northern Ōmi. Nobunaga maintained a political alliance with Nagamasa based on the marriage of his beautiful younger sister, Oichi-no-kata. This enabled Nobunaga to secure safe passage across Ōmi from his base at Gifu Castle to Kyōto. The Rokkaku, headed by Rokkaku Yoshikata and his son, Yoshiharu, ruled southern Ōmi. In 1549, the Rokkaku pioneered the use of open markets under the policy of rakuichi-rakuza in the town below their headquarters at Kannonji Castle. The flourishing economy and village groups organized to conduct trade naturally resisted the imposition of control by Nobunaga, providing a base of support to make the Rokkaku a tenacious opponent.
In 1563, Yoshikata and Yoshiharu invited Gotō Katatoyo, an elder retainer who had made significant contributions to the clan, and his son, to Kannonji. Unfortunately, Yoshiharu took a strong dislike to Katatoyo, perhaps envying his popularity and the recognition of his achievements, whereupon Yoshiharu killed both Katatoyo and his son. This news enraged other senior retainers who responded by burning down Kannonji and a Rokkaku residence below the castle. With support from the Azai, these retainers proceeded to attack Yoshikata and Yoshiharu, who sought protection from others, including Gamō Sadahide and Mikumo Katamochi. Sadahide brokered a settlement with Azai Nagamasa, but the internal strife besetting the clan partially alleviated the threat posed by the Rokkaku to Nobunaga. Meanwhile, Nagamasa took advantage of the situation to encroach upon southern Ōmi.
Four years later witnessed publication of the feudal code of the Rokkaku clan. Yoshikata, Yoshiharu, and twenty senior retainers of the clan signed and affixed their personal seals on the document.
The Rokkaku’s support for the bakufu led them to battle against the Miyoshi clan. In a bid for their cooperation, Nobunaga traveled to Ōmi to meet Yoshikata at Sawayama Castle. Nagamasa served as an intermediary during arduous negotiations for seven days, only to end without a final resolution. Yoshikata refused to help Nobunaga for two reasons. First, he had no desire to relinquish his position of elevated status under the bakufu to become a servant of Nobunaga. In fact, given his stature, he did not even feel obliged to allow Nobunaga to travel through his territory. Second, he opposed Nobunaga’s invasion of northern Ise to the south of Ōmi. From the latter part of 1567 until the spring of 1568, Nobunaga attacked and pacified the Seki and Kudō clans in Ise. The Rokkaku had ties to both clans. These victories enabled Nobunaga to seize desirable shipping lanes through Ise Bay and to curtail support that the Rokkaku formerly enjoyed along the southern perimeter of Ōmi. As a result, Nobunaga’s efforts to forge an alliance with the Rokkaku failed to bear fruit.
2. Ise and Iga Provinces
Prior to marching upon the ancient capital of Kyōto to declare his hegemony, Nobunaga devised a plan to control central Japan. This included the Kinai Region – the provinces of Izumi, Kawachi, Settsu, Yamashiro, and Yamato – surrounding Kyōto. He also sought to rule the provinces of Ise and Iga. Nobunaga viewed Ise and Iga important for several reasons. Owing to the proximity of these provinces to the capital, Nobunaga needed to ensure stability in the region. The transportation routes proved vital. Ise lay to the south of Owari, its long coastline serving as a gateway to the eastern provinces. The bustling ports along the Ise Bay hosted traffic from Mikawa Bay. Important roadways crossing Ise allowed travelers to pass over mountains into Ōmi Province and on to the capital, or through Iga and on to the provinces of Yamato and Kii. The commercial trade conducted in the provinces provided a source of revenue and information for the ruling clans. Finally, the Kitabatake, together with a host of local lords and refugees from other families, including the Rokkaku, formed a mosaic of opposition to Nobunaga.
In the latter half of the 1560’s, the Kitabatake governed the five southern districts of Ise Province, while the Nagano, the Kanbe, the Kudō, and the Seki competed for control of the eight northern districts. Dating back to 1532, the Kitabatake and Nagano clans clashed sporadically, finally leading to reconciliation in 1558, when they settled their differences. Nagano Fujisada, the fifteenth-generation lord of the clan, did not have a son, so he sealed the alliance by adopting Tomofuji, the second son of Kitabatake Tomonori. Following the death of Fujisada in 1562, Tomofuji became lord of the Nagano clan, under the command of the Kitabatake. He ruled the Anō District, overseeing five thousand men, including a cavalry of five hundred men, allying himself with the Rokkaku in opposition to the Seki clan.
Centuries earlier, the Kitabatake supported Emperor Godaigo, who, in 1333, fled to Mount Senjō in Hōki Province after the collapse of his brief reign in Kyōto at the hands of the Ashikaga. The flight of Godaigo to Yoshino marked the beginning of the Nanbokuchō period during which the Imperial Court was split between Kyōto and Yoshino for sixty years. Battles raged throughout the provinces until the Ashikaga succeeded in establishing the bakufu. Following this period, the third generation of Kitabatake clan pledged support to the ruling shōgun in Kyōto.
In this era, the Kitabatake operated from Tamaru Castle, located at the crossroads of the Yoshino-Kumano and Hase coastal routes near the town of Ōminato on Ise Bay. The harbor provided access for the Kitabatake to sail to eastern provinces, where they established friendly relations with the Date and Yūki clans. An attack by the forces supporting the Ashikaga caused the Kitabatake to flee Tamaru Castle in southern Ise and establish new quarters at Kiriyama Castle in western Ise.
Nobunaga devised a two-stage plan to conquer the Ise Peninsula. First, he intended to force the surrender of the dogō in northern Ise and appoint members of the Oda clan as their successors. Next, he planned a massive campaign against Kitabatake Tomonori in southern Ise. Prior to launching the campaign, Nobunaga assigned Takigawa Kazumasu to a post located on the border of Ise and Owari provinces to hold any would-be attackers at bay. Two of his deputies issued a proclamation to the Daifukuden Temple in the Kuwana District of northern Ise prohibiting the conduct of any military activities in the area. He intended to put the dogō and jizamurai on notice that resistance would lead to the use of force.
Soon thereafter, in the spring of 1567, Kazumasu launched the first attacks in Ise, and again in 1568. With the support of Takigawa Katsutoshi, he plotted against the younger brother of Tomonari, Kozukuri Tomomasa, to seize Ōkōchi Castle while Tomonari was away. After this, Kazumasu was ordered to secure Tsu, Shibumi, and Kotsukuri castles.
Several months later, Nobunaga led tens of thousands of men from Mino and Owari into northern Ise, commencing operations in the Kuwana and Inbe districts. The army soon toppled Kusu Castle, only to be repelled in an attack against Kanbe Tomomori, lord of Kanbe Castle. Tomomori headed a wealthy family in Ise, allied with the Rokkaku clan. In the following month, Nobunaga retreated from an unstable situation in northern Ise to Mino, next making plans to capture Inabayama Castle.
Nobunaga led a second invasion early in 1568, departing Gifu Castle with a contingent of forty thousand men. Kazumasu convinced several kokujin from northern Ise, including the Akahori, the Chigusa, the Inō, and the Unobe to join forces with the Oda. The targets included the Kanbe and Seki clans in control of the Kuwana and Suzuka districts and the Nagano clan in the Angi and Anō districts.
The forces encircled Kanbe Castle, defended by Kanbe Tomomori, setting fire to the surrounding villages of Hirata, Kanbe, Kō, Wakamatsu, and Yanagi. Tomomori drew support from hundreds of members of the Nagano and Seki clans to the south and west, and, as the days wore on, both the invaders and the defenders suffered losses. During a strategy meeting at Akahori Castle, Takenaka Shigeharu proposed to Nobunaga that he offer Tomomori a conditional settlement. Nobunaga agreed, and the following day rode south to the encampment, sending a messenger to Tomomori offering to lift the siege and form a political alliance sealed by the marriage of his third son, Nobutaka, to Tomomori’s daughter, an eleven-year-old whom he described as a bright child with dark eyes and fair skin.
Tomomori had no natural successor. Knowing the proud heritage of the Kanbe based on their association with the Seki clan, he knew that acceptance of the offer would mean the end of his governance. Moreover, he had hoped for Seki Morinobu’s son to marry his daughter. Nevertheless, rather than face the prospect of more losses, he accepted the offer, upon which Nobutaka moved into Kanbe Castle with two hundred soldiers for his protection, including Kōda Takayuki and Okamoto Yoshikatsu, as well as some trusted bushō from northern Ise who had collaborated with the Oda. Tomomori later supported Nobunaga in campaigns against the Kitabatake to the south and the Rokkaku in Ōmi Province.
Other clans affiliated with the Kanbe, including the Kabuto, Kō and Mine families, followed in suit with the Kanbe, in addition to many of the hikan and bushō from the Seki clan. However, owing to the political alliance between the Oda and Kanbe, Seki Morinobu resented the fact that his son would not become Tomomori’s successor. Rather than surrender, Morinobu colluded with the Rokkaku to oppose Nobunaga’s expanding hegemony.
In late 1568, a contingent of forty thousand men led by Takigawa Kazumasu departed from Akahori, Kanbe, Kuwana, and other castles and advanced south toward Anotsu in northern Ise. The Kanbe and portions of the Seki clan fell under their command, aiding in the confrontation with the Kitabatake. Tsu Castle stood on a delta region between the Anō and Iwata rivers, in the center of the vast Anō Plain overseeing Ise Bay. Owing to its location, it did not serve its defenders well in the event of an assault.
Hosono Fujiatsu, an elder of the Nagano clan, served as lord of Tsu castle and adamantly sought to defend against an impending assault. While he did not act out of loyalty to the Kitabatake, the invasion of Ise by the Oda, heralding from an outside territory, filled him with indignation and passion to resist. To Fujiatsu, failing to do so would be a breach of honor. Meanwhile, Wakebe Mitsuyoshi, Fujiatsu’s younger brother, took a more pragmatic view by arguing in favor of settling with Nobunaga. He believed that accepting Nobunaga’s younger brother, Nobutaka, into the Nagano clan would enable them a way to avoid conflict.
In the end, Fujiatsu choose to move his operations eight kilometers west to Anō Castle, from where he, together with members of the Nagano clan, could resist the invaders. When the Oda army reached Tsu Castle, only to find it vacated, advance forces then headed west toward Anō. Along the way, the forces destroyed Nakagawahara, Shibumi and other forts, killing the defenders. Anō Castle, a modest structure, stood astride the Anō River with hills behind. Over the next month, defenders would launch attacks from the castle with limited success, only to fall to the surrounding forces.
Takigawa then secretly won over the husband of Fujiatsu’s younger sister, using him to attempt to disrupt the resistance from within its own ranks. This plot failed after discovery by the defenders, causing him to flee the castle. Fierce battles ensued, with losses on both sides. Thereafter, Mitsuyoshi visited Fujiatsu to inform him that Kazumasu had directions from his superiors to prevail, and that Anō Castle would turn into hell if he did not settle. In these circumstances, doing so would not betray the Nagano clan, and they would continue to be servants of Tomofuji.
Soon thereafter, a ninja from Iga earlier recruited by Kazumasu spread a rumor among the defenders that Fujiatsu had already conspired to join the Oda, and had finalized his plans with his younger brother. Those hearing the news sought to confirm the source of the rumor, but remained skeptical in view of the dire conditions confronting them. When the rumor reached Tomofuji in Nagano Castle, he notified the Kitabatake that Fujiatsu had betrayed them, and ordered an attack against the Hosono clan. Some of the Hosono rushed in disbelief to Nagano Castle, but, by the time of their arrival, Tomofuji had already fled in fear of the ensuing chaos to Tamaru Castle in southern Ise. Moreover, he had neither the fortitude nor the skills to resist the invaders. After further discussion, the defenders at Anō Castle decided to surrender.
Following this event, Nobunaga arranged for his younger brother, Nobutaka, to marry the daughter of Kanbe Tomomori. He appointed Nobutaka as head of the Nagano clan and lord of Tsu Castle, from which he ruled northern Ise. Fujitatsu, however, did not get along well with Nobutaka. Early in 1569, while Nobutaka was en route to Kiyosu, Fujiatsu assaulted Ueno Castle. Nobutaka’s wife barely escaped to Kanbe Castle, but Fujiatsu succeeded in taking hostage the wives and children of other soldiers.
Nobunaga then demanded as a condition of settlement that the Hosono adopt Kazumasu’s son-in-law. Kazumasu relied on members of the Inao, the Kanbe, the Kawakita, and the Wakebe families to succeed in persuading the Hosono to accept this offer. Thereafter, Nobutaka, along with Wakebe Mitsuyoshi, oversaw a fiefdom of sixty thousand koku for the next twenty years.
The Oda forces later captured Kameyama Castle, forcing Seki Morinobu to surrender. By the end of 1568, the three most influential families in northern Ise, including the Kanbe, the Nagano, and the Seki, all came under Oda control. Other clans associated with the Nagano, including the Hosono, the Iedoko, the Kusawa, the Naako, the Otobe, and the Ujii further joined the Oda. Within a period of three years, Nobunaga had succeeded in pacifying the eight northern districts of Ise, while Nobutaka remained in Ise during Nobunaga’s campaign to Kyōto.
E. Restoration of the Muromachi Bakufu
Nobunaga commenced his plan to march upon the capital by ordering an attack on Shōryūji Castle early in 1568.
Nobunaga soon came to believe that Rokkaku Yoshikata would refuse to pledge his allegiance, so he sent a messenger to Gifu, ordering the troops to ready for battle in two or three days. Every extra day that he could earn allowed him time to organize the vast contingent. On the seventh day of the ninth month of 1568, Nobunaga bid farewell to Yoshiaki and departed Gifu Castle with upwards of fifty thousand men hailing from the provinces of Owari, Mikawa, Mino, Tōtōmi, and Ise. He proceeded confidently on the basis of alliances forged with Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo and Takeda Shingen of Kai and his control of northern and central Ise. Kanbe Tomomori and other bushō from Ise mobilized at Sawayama Castle to serve as another line of defense if needed. Nevertheless, he remained vigilant of the Rokkaku, who threatened to interrupt his campaign just as Nobunaga had earlier succeeded in halting Imagawa Yoshimoto.
The men traveled through the town of Hirao, arriving at Takamiya in Ōmi the next day. After a two-day sojourn, the army proceeded on the eleventh day to the Echi River, observing the movements of the Rokkaku clan. As expected, he learned that, operating from Kannonji Castle, Rokkaku Yoshikata and his sons, Yoshiharu and Yoshisada, had assembled a contingent of five thousand men in the surrounding area. Owing to the size of his army, however, these small castles in their vicinity did not raise concern. Nobunaga then sent a messenger to Yoshikata, asking for their support to assure safe passage to the capital so Yoshiaki could ascend to his role of shōgun. Yoshikata, however, scornfully rejected the offer, arguing that Yoshihide had already become the fourteenth shōgun in a ceremony held at the Fumon Temple in Settsu Province the second month of that same year. He therefore saw no justification to promote Yoshiaki as his successor.
Early in the morning on the twelfth day, he sent an advance force led by Inaba Yoshimichi, then with his some of closest bushō, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Sakuma Nobumori, and Takigawa Kazumasu, crossed the Echi River to attack Mitsukuri Castle. The defenders capitulated within hours. The invading forces then pressed on toward the headquarters of the Rokkaku at Kannonji Castle. Yoshikata may not have anticipated that such a daunting army would come thundering in to Ōmi. When the Rokkaku forces saw the tremendous force moving through the fields and mountain valleys, their spirits sank and many surrendered. Even some of Yoshikata’s senior bushō, Gotō Takayasu and Shindō Katamori, sided with Nobunaga. Before the Oda arrived at Kannonji, Yoshikata and his sons set fire to the castle and fled to the mountains in the Koga District of Ōmi. The remnants of the clan and the dogō in Ōmi collectively pledged their allegiance to Nobunaga.
Unwilling to surrender, Gamō Katahide, a retainer of the Rokkaku, led one thousand men to Hino Castle in a plan to resist to the end. Nobunaga responded by ordering men to attack, soon after which Kanbe Tomomori rode to Hino Castle to plead with Katahide. Only six months prior, Tomomori bravely fought against the Oda, only to make peace and receive Nobutaka as lord of Kanbe Castle. Having received Katahide’s younger sister as his wife, he felt distressed at the inevitable demise of the Gamō clan. Tomomori succeeded to escort Katahide and his eldest son, Ujisato, to Kanonnji Castle to surrender. Nobunaga then kept Ujisato as a hostage at Gifu Castle, but he proved to be a bright and capable young man, learning the military arts from Inaba Yoshimichi. He wed Fuyuhime, a beloved daughter of Nobunaga, after which he fought for Nobunaga against the Kitabatake at Ōkōchi Castle. He then became lord of Matsusaka Castle in Ise managing a fiefdom of sixteen thousand koku, and, over the ensuing years, joined in numerous major battles on behalf of Nobunaga and his successors.
With the Rokkaku subdued, and Ōmi under his control, Nobunaga continued toward the capital, crossing Lake Biwa by boat and lodging at the Gokuraku house of the Mii Temple in the town of Ōtsu, while the infantrymen stayed at the Matsumoto horse stables. On the twenty-eighth day of the ninth month of 1568, Nobunaga moved his encampment to Tōfuku Temple, dispatching an advance force led by senior bushō including Shibata Katsuie, Mori Yoshinari, Hachiya Yoritaka, and Sakai Masahisa. Yoritaka had garnered recognition in recent battles with the Gamō, while Masahisa had engaged in battle with the Kitabatake and the Rokkaku. This group launched a frontal attack on Shōryūji Castle, defended by Iwanari Tomomichi, one of the Miyoshi Group of Three. Tomomichi had collaborated with Rokkaku Yoshikata to oppose Nobunaga, relying on his light cavalry to defend the castle grounds, but, over the course of several days, the invading forces took the upper hand, killing over fifty men. After hearing this report, Nobunaga led his main contingent near the castle, causing Tomomichi’s men to surrender. Meanwhile, Tomomichi fled to the harbor town of Sakai.
Within days after the initial attacks, Miyoshi Nagayasu fled Ōtsu Castle to Awa Province in northeast Shikoku. Miyoshi Yasunaga and Ashikaga Yoshihide followed, bringing to an unceremonious end the short reign of Yoshihide as the fourteenth shōgun. Nagayasu hailed from the powerful Miyoshi Group of Three, and Yasunaga formerly commanded the Miyoshi army during its peak years. Despite the overwhelming superiority of Nobunaga’s army, the Miyoshi refused to abandon their homeland. Instead, they regrouped their forces and waited for the opportune moment to strike.
When Nobunaga arrived in Kyōtō none of the remaining warlords dared attempt to stop him from installing Yoshiaki as the fifteenth shōgun. This ceremony occurred on the eighteenth day of the tenth month of 1568. Following his appointment, Yoshiaki dreamed of reviving the Muromachi bakufu, which by this time had been relegated to a ceremonial role.
This event posed a critical moment of decision for local lords in the capital and the greater Kinai Region. The old system of governance headed by the bakufu had given way to regional autonomies in Kyōto and Sakai, the rising influence of the Hongan Temple, and the threat posed by Nobunaga. This recasting of the political and military landscape came down to a choice to surrender to Nobunaga, flee the region, or go to war. Nobunaga compelled the local warlords to decide by ordering them to contribute to the restoration of the bakufu.
Nobunaga ordered the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple to offer five thousand kan in support of his expanding military campaign. These offerings were known as yasen or munabeisen, and served as a symbol of submission to the ruling authority. After learning of the Emperor’s sanction of Nobunaga, sect leaders complied in the hope this offering would prevent them from later having to donate their lands. The impending advance of the Oda army struck fear in the citizens of Kyōto and its environs. Some fled to outlying areas. Members of the aristocracy buried family heirlooms underground in a desperate attempt to preserve their riches. Since the end of the Heian era in the latter part of the twelfth century, the citizens of Kyōto had endured numerous raids and battles in and around the capital. Locals knew that Nobunaga’s army engaged in indiscriminate behavior, stirring fear in the hearts and minds of those compelled to stay. The Emperor voiced concern, prompting him to send an edict to Nobunaga, requesting that he maintain order among his men and protect the Imperial household from attack. Nobunaga honored this request, restraining his troops by means of a policy to punish those who violated his military code. The enforcement of rules proved necessary to control the contingent of men from outlying provinces.
Nobunaga restored the position of Emperor Ōgimachi, the kuge, and the temples and shrine holdings in Kyōto. Meanwhile, he embarked on ambitious plans to build an elegant estate for Yoshiaki, perhaps to alleviate the bitterness that Yoshiaki felt after having his powers trimmed. Nobunaga arranged for construction of the new, heavily fortified residence, named Nijō Castle, on the site where the slain Ashikaga Yoshiteru once resided. Luís Fróis, a Portuguese missionary, noted in his diary that as many as 25,000 men regularly worked on the site, including an array of artisans and members of the local aristocracy. Rattan staff in hand, Nobunaga personally supervised the work. While touring the site, Nobunaga witnessed one of the workers flirting with a woman. He viewed this as a gross violation of discipline, severing the worker’s head on the spot.
After using all of the stones for the castle walls, the workers pulled down stone statues with ropes and dragged them to the site. They created both inner and outer moats to host a variety of wild fowl. A suspension bridge led to the castle entrance, featuring a spacious and exquisite garden inside the gate. A project of this scope would normally require two to three years, but, with Nobunaga in charge, the laborers completed the stonework and castle structure in just over two months. This served as a testament to Nobunaga’s ability to mobilize a large number of people and procure resources. In addition to Nijō Castle, Nobunaga constructed a palace for Emperor Ōgimachi and his first son, complete with stunning gilded rooms. These were some of the most resplendent structures in the capital. Nobunaga needed to dedicate available resources to his military campaign, but he realized the importance of the shōgun and the Emperor to provide legitimacy to his planned governance.
Prior to Nobunaga’s departure from the capital, the Emperor offered him the title of deputy shōgun. This may have been an expression of gratitude for Nobunaga’s support. Likewise, Yoshiaki may have orchestrated the offer through the Emperor in an attempt to appease Nobunaga with a ceremonial title that kept him below the rank of shōgun. Having no desire to accept such a designation, Nobunaga rejected the offer. Nobunaga left the capital in the latter part of the tenth month of 1568, returning to Gifu Castle just two days later. Nobunaga did not remain in Kyōto for long because it would have been difficult to supply adequate food to his men and to maintain order. Meanwhile, the concentration of forces in the capital exposed other territories to attack. Nobunaga allocated the territory to bushō based on merit. This included men who had surrendered early to Nobunaga, such as Miyoshi Yoshitsugu, along with Matsunaga Hisahide of Yamato, Wada Koremasa and Itami Chikaoki of Settsu, and Hosokawa Fujitaka of Yamashiro. He also posted administrators in the military and economic centers of Sakai in Izumi Province and Ōtsu in Ōmi Province.
Soon after Nobunaga’s departure from the capital, Nagamasa and Yasunaga, along with Iwanari Tomomichi, commanded a bold attack against Yoshiaki at Honkoku Temple. Knowing the ill fate of his brother at the hands of assassins, Yoshiaki feared the worst. He called upon his retainers and troops from the provinces of Mino, Owari, and Wakasa to defend the temple. A fierce fight ensued, with the Miyoshi calling in reinforcements. Two days after the initial attack, a messenger arrived in Gifu to notify Nobunaga of the precarious situation faced by Yoshiaki. Without hesitation, Nobunaga quickly readied his horse and headed out in a winter storm to mount a counterattack. Accompanied by Hosokawa Fujitaka and Miyoshi Yoshitsugu, Nobunaga’s men overcame the attacking forces and restored order to Kyōto. Itami Tadachika, a daimyō from Settsu Province, defended Yoshiaki.
In the wake of the unsuccessful attack against Yoshiaki, Nagayasu fled to Nakashima Castle in Settsu, and Yasunaga sheltered in Fukushima Castle, from where he continued his opposition to Nobunaga. Wada Koremasa, a key intermediary between Yoshiaki and Nobunaga leading up to the march on Kyōto, had become lord of Takatsuki Castle in Settsu.
Scores of clan members fled to the commercial center of Sakai. Along with Hakata located to the west on Kyūshū Island, Sakai accounted for the largest accumulation of wealth in Japan. Nobunaga desired to bring Sakai under his control for a number of strategic reasons. In addition to the funding needed for his army, Sakai boasted a large metals industry that produced the most advanced firearms and swords in Japan. As a harbor town, Sakai further served as an invaluable source of information generated by people from different regions traveling through the town. Nobunaga pressured the town elders to furnish his men with arms and supplies, and reiterated a demand for twenty thousand kan mon that had been rejected the prior year.
The fiercely independent group of thirty-six town elders who governed Sakai opposed control by an outside warlord. The concentration of local wealth allowed them the unusual opportunity to fund and maintain their own local militia. With stirred passions, the town elders refused to pay. Instead, they set about bolstering their defenses in anticipation of a retaliatory attack. They hired laborers to deepen and expand the moats around parts of the town; they ordered the militia to build and repair watchtowers and to stand guard from above and on the ground; and they counted upon the Miyoshi clan to continue providing support. The Miyoshi had a strong incentive to assist in protecting Sakai because Nobunaga threatened their hegemony in the Kinai Region.
The looming attack would not be the first time for the citizens of Sakai to be swept up in battle. In 1399, a confrontation and the ensuing fire that swept the town destroyed over ten thousand residences. The townspeople feared nothing more than losing their wealth in another war, but their faith in the ability of the Miyoshi to defend the town gave them enough courage to resist Nobunaga. The Miyoshi had wielded power in and around Kyōto for a long time preceding the advent of Nobunaga, during which they forged strong ties with the townspeople and the ruling elders of Sakai.
If Nobunaga had chosen to attack following the refusal by the elders to make the offering, his army could have leveled the town, but he decided to wait instead. Nobunaga believed the elders to be pragmatic, and that they would come to understand that compliance would be in their own best interests. Nobunaga sought allies from within the group to convince the opposition that by cooperating they could protect their wealth. Unable to achieve resolution, Nobunaga dispatched a messenger to deliver an ultimatum – either the elders pay the requested amount or he would attack Sakai with a large army.
Some of the elders viewed Nobunaga as an upstart posing no match for the Miyoshi. The influential Beni and Noto houses were particularly opposed to complying with his demands. Other elders, led by Imai Sōkyū, differed in opinion. Sōkyū, a successful merchant engaged in the gunpowder and firearm business, had his own interests at stake, in addition to those of the town. Sōkyū had earlier acted against the wishes of some elders by traveling to Kyōto to pay homage to Nobunaga. Sōkyū, however, believed that other elders should not place their faith in the Miyoshi, who had brought the town to the brink of war. Relying upon his diplomatic skills, he persuaded Nobunaga and the ruling elders to reach an agreement. Nobunaga admired his efforts, and later retained Sōkyū to perform administrative functions in Kyōto.
The Emperor invited Nobunaga and five hundred retainers for festivities held at the Imperial household, using the opportunity to express his appreciation to Nobunaga for protecting Yoshiaki during the attack on Honkoku Temple. Nobunaga left early, feeling slighted that the hosts did not serve a special bottle of sake on time. His stature vis-à-vis the Emperor allowed him the discretion to do as he pleased. Nevertheless, Nobunaga respected the importance of the authority conveyed by the positions of the Emperor and the shōgun. The Emperor enjoyed the support of the kuge and the members of main temples and shrines with major landholdings, including the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple, and the bushi in the Kinai Region remained loyal to the shōgun. Nobunaga artfully manipulated this authority as part of his broader strategy to unify and govern all of the provinces.
Matsunaga Hisahide stood as one of the most powerful lords in Kinai. A master conspirator, he had successfully exploited the breakdown of the shogunate and the old system of governance to build a strong base of local power, but the desperate Miyoshi clan, along with members of the Kōfuku Temple led by Tsutsui Junkei, and other kokujin, engaged in attacks that hampered his position. Viewing the arrival of Nobunaga as a timely opportunity to sweep away all of his enemies and consolidate his authority in Kinai, he took the initiative to curry favor with Nobunaga by meeting him at Takatsuki Castle en route to the capital. Hisahide presented Nobunaga with an exquisite lacquer tea canister and pledged his allegiance. Sōkyū, who shared an interest in the tea ceremony, accompanied him and served as an important ally of Hisahide in Sakai.
Hisahide had gained notoriety by assassinating Yoshiteru, driving Yoshiaki out of the capital, and torching the sacred and giant statue of Buddha at the Tōdai Temple in Nara after his falling out with the Miyoshi clan. Nobunaga did not trust him, but he recognized the value of Hisahide in his effort to eliminate opposition in the Kinai Region. Meanwhile, Hisahide needed the backing of Nobunaga to overcome his opponents, so they entered into a fragile alliance built solely on the pursuit of their own agendas.
In return for Hisahide’s pledge of allegiance, Nobunaga gave him free reign to subjugate Yamato Province, where Hisahide had formerly wielded substantial influence. Tsutsui Junkei, Hashio Tametsuna, and Ido Yoshihiro fiercely contested Hisahide’s designs for Yamato. Junkei allied with the Miyoshi Group of Three following their split with Hisahide in late 1565, and gained the support of Tametsuna. Prior to the arrival of Nobunaga, Junkei had achieved the upper hand in battle for control of Yamato, but Nobunaga provided the support needed for Hisahide to defeat him. This forced Junkei into hiding with his men. Tametsuna promptly switched his allegiance to Hisahide. Yoshihiro battled with Hisahide from his headquarters at Ido castle and elsewhere in the province, but finally fled south in the third month of 1570. Yoshihiro later returned to Yamato to support Junkei in opposition to Hisahide’s rule.
In the midst of the struggle for control of Yamato, Hisahide joined the battles in neighboring Settsu on behalf of Nobunaga. Despite these contributions, Hisahide pledged his allegiance to the reformed shogunate, refusing to eliminate Nobunaga’s opposition in Kinai. Beyond his reputation for treachery, Hisahide was a tozama, and doubted that he could gain influence within Nobunaga’s clan no matter how successful on the battlefield. Later betrayals confirmed the utter absence of loyalty in his relationship with Nobunaga.
F. Defeat of the Kitabatake
Once Nobunaga had installed Yoshiaki as shōgun, he still had to overcome formidable resistance outside of the Kinai Region. Takigawa Kazumasu had succeeded in pacifying northern Ise. Nevertheless, in order to capture the entire Ise Peninsula, Nobunaga needed to confront the Kitabatake, who remained in control of the five districts of southern Ise. Kitabatake Tomonori, a powerful daimyō and lord of the clan, remained loyal to the Court. Based at Tagi Castle, he served as the eighth deputy administrator in a long succession of leaders beginning with the appointment of his ancestor by Emperor Godaigo. He opposed Nobunaga’s regional hegemony. Kitabatake Tomofusa, Tomonori’s eldest son and designated heir, ran day-to-day affairs of the clan from his base at Ōkōchi Castle.
Kotsukuri Tomomasa, lord of Kotsukuri Castle and the younger brother of Tomonori, viewed the situation differently. He recognized the presence of the Oda in northern Ise, Nobunaga’s march upon the capital, and the inevitability of an advance upon his territory. In these times, individual lords placed strategy ahead of family ties in the struggle to survive, so Tomomasa betrayed Tomonori in favor of Nobunaga, mirroring the earlier split between brothers within the Nagano clan.
Nobunaga saw this as an opportunity to attack a divided enemy. In the eighth month of 1569, he departed Gifu Castle with a massive force of as many as eighty thousand men. The contingent included a cavalry, foot soldiers, and troops trained in the spear and arquebus. On the first day of the march, the troops advanced to Kuwana in northern Ise. The contingent included almost every one of Nobunaga’s top commanders. Shindō Katamori and Gotō Takayasu, former commanders of the Rokkaku clan, also joined in the campaign. Tomonori, however, proved elusive. Skilled in the military arts, he prepared for the inevitable siege by moving his headquarters from Tagi castle to the stronghold of Ōkōchi Castle where he planned to stage his defense. This included posting troops at the small outposts of Azaka and Funae situated along the route to Ōkōchi.
A few days after departure, Nobunaga took harbor from the rainy weather at Kotsukuri Castle to the north of Ōkōchi and rested with his men and horses for three days. Hideyoshi then led an advance guard against Azaka Castle, defended by the Ōmiya family. The invading forces advanced to the surrounding walls, retreated, and then attacked again. Despite an earnest fight, the castle fell in one day and the prevailing army set fires in a raid on a nearby village. Forces under the command of Takigawa Kazumasu took over the castle, while other troops took positions in the ensuing days in the foothills surrounding Ōkōchi, on hilly terrain between the Sakanai and Yazu river valleys. After a tour of the area on horseback, Nobunaga opted for an encirclement strategy. In the following days, he deployed numerous senior commanders including Kazumasu, Oda Nobutaka, Niwa Nagahide, and Inaba Ittetsu to the south, Sakuma Nobumori and Toyotomi Hideyoshi to the west, Sakai Masahisa and Hachiya Yoritaka to the north, and his own force, together with Shibata Katsuie, Mori Yoshinari, and Sassa Narimasa, on a hill to the east. Nobunaga ordered the men to lash together two to three lines of fences around the perimeter of the castle grounds and to post scouts to prevent escape.
The stronghold would be difficult to attack, so the army prepared for a long engagement. Nobunaga, however, did not have much experience in long standoffs, and with an enormous contingent to keep fed and sheltered, he could not afford to allow the operation to carry on for long. Less than two weeks after encircling the castle, Nobunaga ordered Niwa Nagahide, Ikeda Tsuneoki, and Inaba Ittetsu to lead a small contingent on a nighttime assault against the rear entrance on the west side of the castle. A sudden rain caused the firearms to fail and over twenty men, including some prominent horesemen, died in a hail of gunfire from the defenders.
Nobunaga realized that Tomonori could continue to repel attacks on Ōkōchi, so, instead of risking further losses, he chose to starve Tomonori and his men out of the castle. Nobunaga initiated the plan by ordering Takigawa Kazumasu to attack and burn down the nearby estate of the Tagiya family – the quarters for the local deputy administrators. The men pillaged and torched the surrounding village and destroyed the crops, driving the villagers into Ōkōchi Castle to impose further pressure on the defenders. Within a month, the food supplies ran out, and once the defenders began to starve, they pled for forgiveness and capitulated. As a condition of surrender, Tomonori was compelled to accept Nobunaga’s second son, Nobukatsu, as his successor. Transferring control to the Oda clan humiliated Tomonori, but he had no choice. The defeat meant that he would relinquish to Nobunaga the clan domain expanding from northern Ise to the southern province of Kii. Tomonori then turned over the castle to Kazumasu, and he and his son withdrew to Kasagi and Sakanai.
Nobunaga required strict allegiance from the provincial magistrates, and, beginning with Tamaru Castle, he ordered the dismantling of other castles in Ise and the elimination of customs fees that had burdened travelers in the past. Prior to departing Ise, Nobunaga visited the Ise Shrine in Yamada, then to Asamayama, and finally traveled with his mounted soldiers to Ueno Castle. He assigned Kazumasu to tend to Anō, Shibumi, and Kotsukuri castles, Oda Nobutaka to Ueno, and directed the other soliders to return to their home provinces. He then headed over the Chigusa Ridge with his mounted soldiers through a heavy snowfall toward Kyōto to announce to Yoshiaki the pacification of Ise. Several days later, he returned to Gifu having achieved his objectives.
In 1569, Nobukatsu assumed his role as the appointed heir of Kitabatake Tomofusa, the eldest son of Tomonori, with Tsuda serving under him. In the summer of 1571, Nobukatsu married one of Tomonori’s daughters, and the following year participated in a coming-of-age ceremony together with his older brother, Nobutada, and half-brother, Nobutaka. Nobukatsu succeeded Tomofusa in 1574, whereupon he moved his quarters from Ōkōchi to Tamaru Castle. Tomofusa followed Nobukatsu to Tamaru, but many of his retainers traveled to quarters in Ichinose. Nobukatsu desired a more impressive castle, arranging for the construction of a wall around the central portions of the castle and tower where he made his quarters. Oda Tadahiro, an assistant of Nobukatsu, supervised the work performed by artisans of the Kitabatake clan, but, jealous of the authority wielded by Nobukatsu, he slandered him. Upon hearing of this dishonor, Nobukatsu had Tadahiro slain on the construction site.
Meanwhile, Tomonori had since retired to the town of Misse. Having regretted the loss of his territory, he harbored a desire to oust Nobunaga and restore the Kitabatake clan to their former glory. Lacking the means to act on these ambitions, he reached out to Takeda Katsuyori for support. Retainers of Nobunaga soon became privy to these plans. In the summer of 1576, remnants of the Kumano family launched a revolt on land and at sea that culminated in the fall of Nagashima castle in Kii Province. Believing that Tomonori instigated the revolt, Nobunaga ordered the killing of him and his patrons in Misse, in addition to clan members remaining in Ōkōchi. Late in 1576, former retainers attacked Tomonori with spears. Although an accomplished swordsman, he fell to the superior numbers. Thereafter, Nobukatsu invited a visit by Tomonori’s second and third sons under the pretext of a banquet, only to have them slain at the sound of a bell. Finally, men pretending to make a consolatory visit owing to a recent illness in the family killed more members of the Kitabatake family in Ōkōchi.
Following this fateful day, the remaining lineal members of the Kitabatake clan gathered in Kiriyama Castle deep in the mountainous Take District. An assortment of other bushi from Ise, Iga, Kii, and Yamato provinces joined forces under the leadership of Kitabatake Masanari. They busily undertook a plan of defense by reinforcing the castle gate, installing fences, and building forts in surrounding valleys. Nobukatsu responded in the twelfth month by ordering a full assault on the fortified positions, and, after a fierce engagement, overran the defenders.
By this time, Nobukatsu and his men had decimated the Kitabatake of Ise. Kitabatake Tomochika, the younger brother of Tomonori and a monk at Kōfuku Temple in Nara, survived the untimely demise of other family members. After learning of the attack on Tomonori in Misse, he called upon soldiers who had been benefactors of the Kitabatake, but Nobukatsu dispatched men from Iwade Castle to suppress them. Tomochika fled to Aki Province and sought help from the Mōri clan.