A. The Return of Matsunaga Hisahide
Matsunaga Hisahide, never able to satisfy himself by settling down and abiding by the orders of a more powerful lord, soon joined the campaign by betraying Nobunaga in 1571. In addition to making amends with the Miyoshi Group of Three and followers of the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple, he initiated contacts with Takeda Shingen, made possible by the visit to Kawachi Province of Shingen’s father, Nobutora. In these difficult times for Nobunaga, Hisahide cast his vote against him by taking refuge in Shigisan Castle, a stronghold situated on the border between Yamato and Kawachi.
In the same year, however, Tsutsui Junkei, Hisahide’s former antagonist in Yamato Province, came out of hiding, only to side with Nobunaga. Junkei allied himself with Nobunaga through the offices of Akechi Mitsuhide on the condition that he offered his own mother as a hostage. Nobunaga directed him to garner control of Yamato, and he served along with Hashio Takaharu in support of Mitsuhide. In light of Hisahide’s betrayal, Nobunaga welcomed Junkei to counter the movements of Hisahide in Yamato.
As a result, the positions of Hisahide and Junkei relative to Nobunaga had reversed within a period of less than three years. Meanwhile, Miyoshi Yasunaga set aside differences with Hisahide to support the campaign against Nobunaga. These disparate armies carried out the campaign by launching guerrilla raids around the Kinai Region.
While Hisahide defied Nobunaga from Shigisan Castle, his son, Hisamichi, betrayed Nobunaga from nearby Tamonyama Castle. Near the end of 1572, Hisamichi fled to join his father after a large army besieged his former quarters. In the following month, Nobutada led an army to surround Shigisan Castle. Top commanders in this large contingent included Nobumori, Hideyoshi, and Mitsuhide. The army launched a night-time attack from all sides of the castle.
Hisahide was distraught that after almost two years of struggle, the encirclement campaign had failed to oust Nobunaga. Meanwhile, in route to the capital, Takeda Shingen succumbed to illness, eventually dying in 1573 in the town of Komaba in Shinano Province. He left instructions for his death to remain secret for a period of three years, so there were no ceremonies until 1576. Nevertheless, the sudden backtracking of his army belied the fact that the Takeda clan confronted a major problem. This turn of events eliminated one of the major threats to Nobunaga in the region, further dimming the outlook for his defeat.
Seeking to regain the sympathy of Nobunaga, he traveled to Gifu Castle and pled forgiveness, offering Nobunaga a valuable sword inscribed “fudo koku yūki.” Despite Hisahide’s betrayal, Nobunaga valued his conspiratorial prowess, so he listened to Hisahide’s pleas for a pardon. Hisahide shaved his head, assumed a monk’s name, and renounced the secular world, only to return soon thereafter as a subordinate of Sakuma Nobumori in Nobunaga’s army.
In the end, Ashikaga Yoshiaki stood alone, as the assorted cast of characters, united only by their opposition to Nobunaga, had surrendered, fled, or succumbed to illness or war. Despite the formidable opposition to Nobunaga, the leaders of the opposition and their disparate armies simply could not sustain a campaign against Nobunaga’s army. Early in 1573, Nobunaga proposed a reconciliation to Yoshiaki to be sealed by Yoshiaki pledging one of his sons as a hostage. Yoshiaki declined the offer, and instead placed troops at Imakatata Castle and Ishiyama Castle in Ōmi Province to validate the rebellion against Nobunaga. Both castles soon fell following several days of attacks.
Meanwhile, in the east, Takeda Shingen’s health worsened, and the Takeda army returned to Kai Province in the fourth month, during which time Shingen died of illness. Nobunaga went to Kyōto and set-up a base at the Chion-in Monastery, the headquarters of the jōdō shinshū sect of Buddhism. Hosokawa Fujitaka and Araki Murashige, retainers of the bakufu, pledged their support to Nobunaga. Yoshiaki hid away in the Karasu-Nakamikado-dai, a complex for officials of the bakufu, near the Imperial palace in Kyōto. Once again, Nobunaga petitioned Yoshiaki to make peace, but Yoshiaki refused the entreaty.
Nobunaga responded by torching the residences of all of his retainers and supporters in Kyōto, finally surrounding Yoshiaki in his quarters. Further maneuvers with the Court led to a reconciliation by means of an Imperial command on the fifth day of the fourth month in the first year of the Tenshō era. Just three months later, Yoshiaki spurned the settlement, and raised arms from Makishima Castle, a stronghold and base for the shugo in Yamato Province. Yoshiaki left some of his retainers in charge of Karasu-Nakamikado-dai, including Mitsubuchi Fujihide, Ise Sadaoki, Hino Terusuke, Takakura Nagasuke, in addition to various jikkin kugeshū.
Makishima Castle stood on an island where the Uji River drained into the Ogura wetlands, serving as the home base of Makishima Akimitsu, a close retainer of Yoshiaki. Fujihide and the others soon surrendered at Karasu-Nakamikado-dai on the tenth, and a massive contingent of seventy thousand surrounded Makishima. On the eighteenth day of the seventh month, the Oda army destroyed most of Makishima Castle, and upon urging by his retainers, Yoshiaki reluctantly agreed to surrender. In order to avoid in the eyes of other powerful sengoku daimyō the notoriety of having disposed of the shōgun, Nobunaga agreed with Yoshiaki to install his son, Ashikaga Gijin, to serve as Yoshiaki’s successor and also to serve the purpose of a hostage, but this appointment was scrapped after Nobunaga’s concerns subsided.
Thereafter, Nobunaga stripped Yoshiaki of his official title and the Muromachi bakufu disintegrated. In a final bid to restore the bakufu in 1576, Yoshiaki sought support from Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo Province, the Mōri clan, remnants of the Miyoshi clan, and the Hongan Temple, but before a plan could materialize, Hideyoshi succeeded Nobunaga as the paramount leader of Japan. Yoshiaki then renounced his bid to restore the bakufu, and removed himself from the secular world, living with a small fief of ten thousand koku in near Makishima in Yamato Province.
Miyoshi Nagayasu engaged in successive clashes with Nobunaga in Settsu and Kawachi until 1573, from which time his whereabouts became unknown. His peer, Iwanari Tomomichi, lost Yodo Castle in 1573 following an assault by Hosokawa Fujitaka and other patrons of Nobunaga. Some of his allies abandoned him in the midst of the battle. While attempting to ward-off the attackers, he fell into the castle moat and drowned. Meanwhile, Fujitaka, who years earlier had rescued Yoshiaki from Kōfuku Temple in Kyōto, sided with Nobunaga after commencement of the encirclement campaign. Nobunaga acknowledged his contributions toward expelling Yoshiaki by assigning him territory west of the Katsura River in Yamashiro Province.
Miyoshi Yasunaga resisted Nobunaga from Takaya Castle in 1574, but made peace in 1575 after Nobunaga severed relations with Hisahide. This time Nobunaga’s capable retainer, Matsui Yūkan, negotiated a declaration of surrender. Nobunaga valued Yasunaga’s abilities as a commander, and assigned him to govern Awa Province as a base from which to mount operations in Shikoku. Nobunaga depended upon Yasunaga’s influence among followers of the Hongan Temple in order to team up with Yūkan in negotiating a cessation of hostilities just one-half year after Yasunaga’s surrender. Yasunaga exemplified how Nobunaga made use of the abilities of former foes to strengthen and expand his own army. Nobunaga excelled at taking advantage of the constantly shifting patterns of alliance and opposition, and understood well that the strongest foes could serve as some of his most capable allies.
In 1575, Nobunaga assigned control of Yamato to his retainer, Ban Naomasa, a loyal administrator in the Kinai Region. This disappointed Tsutsui Junkei, who, in the prior year, had visited Nobunga at Gifu Castle and coveted the assignment. Naomasa died in battle the following year, clearing the way for Junkei to become the shugo daimyō of Yamato. Nobunaga then ordered Ido Yoshihiro to mop-up the remainder of Naomasa’s family as retribution for the failed campaign and, the same year, appointed Yoshihiro as lord of Makishima Castle in Yamashiro with a fief of 20,000 koku.
B. Discord in Settsu Province
Meanwhile, Settsu Province, lying just to the west of Kyōto, underwent turbulent change. At the time of Nobunaga’s expansion into the Kinai Region, three deputies, including Wada Koremasa, Itami Tadachika, and Ikeda Katsumasa, shared control of Settsu. Araki Murashige stood as the prevailing daimyō in the struggle for provincial control. A former retainer of Katsumasa, Murashige married the daughter of Ikeda Nagamasa. The Miyoshi Group of Three lured Murashige and Ikeda Tomomasa to the Miyoshi clan, whereupon Tomomasa banished Katsumasa. Murashige then took advantage of the turmoil to wrest control away from the once dominant Ikeda clan.
Murashige, acting in collaboration with Matsunaga Hisahide from Yamato Province to the north of Settsu, killed Wada Koremasa in battle in 1571. Koremasa had earlier been in favor with Nobunaga due to his contributions in helping Yoshiaki to restore the bakufu. As a deputy of Settsu, he had become lord of Takatsuki Castle, and participated in the Battle at Noda-Fukushima in 1570. According to the chronicles of a Jesuit missionary, Koremasa invited scorn from Nobunaga by commiserating with Asayama Nichijō, who was infamous for persecuting Christians. Nobunaga himself tolerated the missionaries, primarily because of the valuable information they provided him of events occurring overseas, so the loss of Koremasa did not cause Nobunaga to condemn Murashige.
In 1571, Koremasa was killed at the Battle of Shiraikawara against Murashige and Nakagawa Kiyohide, a hikan of the Ikeda. Wada Korenaga succeeded his father, Koremasa, and became the lord of Takatsuki Castle. Korenaga, however, was only seventeen years old when he inherited the role, so his uncle, Wada Koremasu, provided supervision. For some reason, Korenaga killed his uncle. Korenaga had inherited the services of a retainer named Takayama Ukon. Born into a Christian family, Ukon underwent baptism at age twelve and assumed the name of Dom Justo Takayama. By this time, the Takayama did not serve as more than advisors, causing disdain among Korenaga’s retainers, who plotted to kill Ukon and his father, Tomoteru. In 1573, Korenaga summoned Ukon and his father on the pretense of a discussion, but Ukon had heard a rumor that this was a trap. Accompanied by fifteen retainers, he went to Takatsuki Castle and engaged in a fight with Korenaga and his men. The confrontation broke out in a room at night, causing the candles to be extinguished and the room to go dark, whereupon Ukon slashed Korenaga with his sword. Korenaga was spirited away by his retainers in a palanquin to their home province of Ōmi, but later died from his wounds. During the battle, Ukon sustained a severe cut to his neck by accident from one of his own men, but miraculously recovered.
After the demise of the Ikeda and the Wada, Itami Tadachika remained as the sole deputy from among the original three, and, at this stage, Murashige had become the dominant power. Nobunaga, however, had rewarded Tadachika for his contributions in the Battle at Noda-Fukushima, so Murashige could not strike out at him.
While steadily gaining control of Settsu, Murashige wisely maintained a cooperative relationship with the more powerful Nobunaga. He pleased Nobunaga by making a special trip to meet him along his route to Kyōto. Murashige further received the honor of being included at the ceremony held in 1573 to cut rare wood at the Tōdai Temple. The ceremony had symbolic importance to acknowledge Nobunaga as the most powerful figure in the capital. Senior commanders present from Nobunaga’s inner circle included Sakuma Nobumori and Shibata Katsuie. Murashige attended as the only tozama at the ceremony, serving as a testament to the stature he had acquired in the eyes of Nobunaga.
The confrontation between Nobunaga and Yoshiaki finally provided the opportunity for Murashige to expel Tadachika. Once pardoned for his resistance, Tadachika rebelled again in 1574. Murashige attacked late in the same year, forcing Tadachika to flee from Itami Castle. Murashige moved into the castle, renamed it Arioka Castle, and used this as his base from which to rule Settsu Province. Highly capable retainers supported Murashige, including Shiokawa Nagamitsu and Nakagawa Kiyohide, who served as lord of Ibaraki Castle. Nobunaga expressed his favor of Nagamitsu by the gift of a horse given early in the following year.
C. Attack on Ise-Nagashima
Hashiba Hidenaga supported Hideyoshi on the front lines in the Battle at Ise-Nagashima in the summer of 1574. The attackers fired canons to destroy the walls and turrets.
In the autumn of of 1574, Nobunaga attacked Ise-Nagashima to quell an uprising.
D. The Battle of Nagashino
1. Prelude to the Battle
The Battle of Nagashino occurred in 1575, triggered by an attempt by Takeda Katsuyori to retake Nagashino Castle in Mikawa after it had fallen to Ieyasu in 1573. Katsuyori first surrounded the castle with fifteen thousand troops. The lord of the castle was Okudaira Nobumasa. During the standoff, a retainer named Torii Sune-emon courageously slipped out at night through the forces encircling the castle to request support from Ieyasu. He informed Ieyasu that the supplies for the troops holding out in the castle would not last for long.
While attempting to return to the castle, the encircling forces captured Sune-emon and dragged him before Katsuyori, who showed displeasure upon learning of the secret excursion. In order to topple the castle prior to the arrival of Ieyasu’s men, Katsuyori proposed to Sune-emon that he would spare his life if Sune-emon informed the beleaguered men in the castle that no one would come to their rescue and they should surrender. Sune-emon consented, but when ushered near the castle, he yelled out to them to continue holding out because Ieyasu and his men were on the way. This encouraged the men in the castle to wait for help despite their increasingly desperate situation. As a penalty for this act, Katsuyori ordered Sune-emon strung from a cross.
2. Arrival of the Allied Forces
On the eighteenth day, an allied army dispatched by Nobunaga and Ieyasu arrived at the Shidara-ga-hara Plain, a short distance to the west of the castle. Nobunaga sent thirty thousand troops, and Ieyasu dispatched eight thousand men. In addition to the fifteen thousand opposing forces led by Katsuyori, as many as fifty-three thousand men readied for battle on the Shidara-ga-hara Plain.
In most instances, the arrival of an army to support a besieged castle resulted in an immediate clash with the encircling army, but this time Nobunaga spent three days to set up battle positions and prepare according to a meticulous plan. Each foot soldier carried a post and a rope to construct lines of wooden fences two and three deep that could block Katsuyori’s elite cavalry. As many as three thousand infantrymen divided into three equal lines, positioning themselves behind the fences for protection from the attack.
The arquebuses used in the battle originated from those first introduced by the Portuguese at Tanegashima, south of Kyūshū Island, in 1543. Nobunaga saw the value of arquebuses as early as 1549, when he ordered five hundred pieces from the Kunitomo Metal Works in the industrial port town of Sakai. Imai Sōkyū served Nobunaga in governing the metal works of Sakai. The craftsmen at the metal works primarily engaged in the manufacture of swords, but aptly applied many of these techniques to the making of high-quality arquebuses. Before long, the lethal range and accuracy of the arquebuses surpassed the performance of the original Portuguese models, but even with improvements, the bullets had a lethal range of less than one hundred meters, and it took over a minute to reload from the barrel after firing. Nobunaga overcame this shortcoming by ordering the men to work in teams of three, so that the front line of men would always have an arquebus ready to fire. This ingenious insight enabled the men to rain a continuous barrage of gunfire on the opposing cavalry. Serving as a new and superior weapon on the battlefield, arquebuses hastened the consolidation of power in Japan.
3. The Battle and its Aftermath
Early on the twenty-first day of the fifth month, the first shots pierced the morning silence and the approaching cavalry toppled one over another in what soon became a scene of mayhem. Katsuyori’s cavalry continued to rush headlong toward the fortifications built by Nobunaga and Ieyasu, but failed to breach the formidable line of defense. Of the fifteen thousand men who entered the battle, less than three thousand survived. Katsuyori himself narrowly escaped with only a few men to the town of Kōfu.
The slaughter of Katsuyori’s forces vindicated Nobunaga’s insight into the power of the arquebus as a battlefield weapon. He pioneered innovative tactics, and, at Nagashino, deployed these with devastating force on the battlefield. Other warlords took this as a lesson. As a result, the strategy of relying upon lesser numbers of heavily clad cavalry gave way to the use of much greater numbers of lightly clad foot soldiers wielding long spears and firing arquebuses. This transformed military organization, shifting the balance of power to those with large armies and access to weapons.
Nobunaga intended to use the momentum gained from the stunning victory at Nagashino to drive any remnants of the Takeda clan from Mino. The Takeda continued to execise influence from their base at Iwamura Castle. Akiyama Hironobu, a bushō of the Takeda clan, sought an opportunity to capture central portions of Mino from his post at Iwamura. After the Battle of Nagashino, Nobunaga ordered Nobutada, his elder son, to encircle the castle. Iwamura had earlier served as the base from which the Tōyama clan controlled significant portions of eastern Mino. At the time of Nobunaga’s campaign in eastern Mino, the Tōyama had allied with the Oda, symbolized by the marriage of Tōyama Kagetō, lord of Iwamura, to an aunt of Nobunaga. Kagetō died during the ensuing campaign by Takeda Shingen in Mino. Nobunaga’s aunt then proceeded to transfer control of Iwamura to Hironobu and wed him. As a result, Iwamura served as a forward base in the western campaign of the Takeda.
After a lengthy standoff that resulted in dwindling supplies in the castle, on the tenth day of the eleventh month of 1575, the defenders launched a night-time raid against the Oda forces encamped on Mount Suishō. Led by Kawajiri Hidetaka and Mōri Nagahide, the Oda fiercely repulsed the attackers, and, as more forces joined the fight, Nobutada joined to drive them away. Nobunaga could not participate in the encirclement owing to ceremonies and other official business in the capital, but after learning of Katsuyori’s plan to provide support to the castle defenders, he became concerned that Nobutada would need reinforcement. On the fourteenth day, Nobunaga returned from Kyōto to Gifu, but before he could get further involved, Hironobu offered to turn over the castle in exchange for sparing the lives of his men. Nobutada accepted the offer, and after their departure from the castle, had all of the men under Hironobu bound and sent to Nobunaga in Gifu. Nobunaga had them slain at the cross, and killed his aunt for earlier having turned over the castle to Hironobu.
E. Resistance in the Northern Provinces
1. Uprisings in Echizen
After crushing resistance by the Ikkō sect in Echizen, in 1575, Nobunaga ordered the construction of Kitanoshō Castle in the northwest portion of the province. This would serve as a base of operations to suppress continuing uprisings by the Ikkō sect in neighboring provinces. Kitanoshō stood on a plain between the Asuwa, Hino, Kuzuryū rivers. The imposing stone castle featured a nine-story tower with a moat to protect the main grounds. Nobunaga appointed Shibata Katsuie to serve as lord of the castle along with his responsibilities to lead the Northern campaign. Nobunaga constructed Ōno Castle to the east and Maruoka Castle to the north, and, to the south of Kitanoshō, he posted Fuwa Mitsuharu at Ryūmonji Castle, Sassa Narimasa at Komaru Castle, and Maeda Toshiie at Fuchū Castle. Together, these commanders played key roles in Nobunaga’s campaign in Echizen and beyond to Ettchū, Kaga, and Noto.
Nobunaga’s campaign to crush resistance by the Ikkō sect led to a break in his long-distance relationship with Uesugi Kenshin. Nobunaga’s last correspondence to Kenshin occurred in a letter dated in 1575. Kenshin may have had territorial ambitions, but Takeda Shingen and Honjō Shigenaga held him in check. The sudden demise of Shingen allowed Kenshin the opportunity to expand his territory to the west. Meanwhile, Nobunaga continued to expand to the north so conflict between the two appeared inevitable.
2. Relocation to Azuchi Castle
Having established his operations in Echizen, Nobunaga returned to his base in Gifu and assigned nominal leadership of the clan to his son, Nobutada. The defeat of Katsuyori at Nagashino secured the eastern flank, so he could turn his attention to the conquest of the Kinai Region in response to further resistance by adherents of the Ikkō sect. Gifu Castle resided too far east for this next stage of conquest. To serve as a new base of operations for his westward expansion and to prevent an attack from Kenshin in the north, in 1576, Nobunaga arranged for the construction of Azuchi Castle in Ōmi Province. The castle stood atop a large hill jutting out into Lake Biwa. This lake served as a gateway for commercial traffic leading to and from the capital. Ōmi offered a land of abundance, yielding a greater output of rice than any other province. It also linked the Kinai Region with the Tōkai Region and northern territories. Meanwhile, establishing his headquarters at Azuchi undeniably confirmed that Nobunaga would soon control Kyōto.
The construction of Azuchi Castle proved a momentous undertaking. It required the mobilization of tens of thousands of masons, artisans, carpenters and craftsmen who labored day and night for four years, unveiling a stunning castle built on a mammoth stone base. At its foundation, the castle spanned forty meters from north to south and thirty meters from east to west. Its seven stories reached over thirty meters in height. The glittering tile roof and gold crown captured the imagination of onlookers, including the Jesuit missionaries who chronicled their disbelief at its awe-inspiring beauty. Azuchi stood as a towering symbol of his authority and ambition to become the paramount ruler of Japan.
The building of Azuchi marked the final stage in a series of strategic moves by Nobunaga. Following the pattern set by his father, Nobunaga demonstrated his willingness to break with convention to further his objectives. Each new residence marked a step forward in the progress of his growing hegemony. Azuchi located him in close proximity to Kyōto, the historic seat of power for the ruling shogunate. After crossing the lake, travelers could reach Kyōto in one-half day of travel. Along with constructing the new compound, Nobunaga built ten boats to usher him across the lake.
In the foothills surrounding Azuchi castle arose a bustling town in which Nobunaga instituted his free market policies known as rakuichi-rakuza. In this environment, craftsmen and tradesmen could go about their business free from the trappings of restrictive trade guilds common to other territories. These policies boosted commerce and garnered support for Nobunaga by those who benefited from his governance.
3. Akechi Mitsuhide and the Pacification of Tanba
The Isshiki clan served as shugo in Tanba and Tango provinces. The Naitō clan, a shugodai, competed with the Utsu, Hatano, and Akai clans for control of Tanba, whereas the Isshiki barely maintained their influence in Tango. The Naitō and Utsu were originally loyal to Nagaoka Fujitaka. In the third month of 1575, Nobunaga assigned to Fujitaka the bushi in the Funai and Kuwada districts of Tanba near Kyōto. The refusal of the Naitō and Utsu clans to comply with these assignments prompted Nobunaga to plan an invasion. In the sixth month of 1575, Nobunaga sent edicts to influential persons in Tanba, including Kawakatsu Tsuguuji and Obata Samanosuke, ordering them to provide support to Akechi Mitsuhide to drive out the Naitō and Utsu and pacify the province.
Nobunaga had ample justification for these plans because the Naitō had supported Shogun Yoshiaki in his campaign against Nobunaga, leading forces into the capital. Meanwhile, after dispossessing the Yamaguni landowners of their property in the Kuwada District, the Utsu had ignored orders from Nobunaga to cease these activities. In the eighth month of 1575, Mitsuhide battled the Ikkō uprisings in Echizen, removing himself from the operations in the following month. Thereafter, he returned to Sakamoto Castle to prepare for his assignment in Tanba.
Mitsuhide pacified the Naitō and Utsu in the eastern portion of Tanba without significant resistance, including the powerful Hatano clan based in the Taki District. Akai Naomasa and his supporters continued their opposition to Nobunaga from the three central districts of Amata, Ikaruga, and Hikami. Naomasa carried a reputation as a fierce warrior. At the time that Mitsuhide launched his operations in Tanba, Naomasa attacked Yamana Akihiro at Takeda castle in Tajima Province. Upon learning of these developments, Naomasa returned to his home base at Kuroi Castle, whereupon Mitsuhide surrounded the castle.
In the first month of 1576, Hatano Hideharu, lord of Yagami Castle in Tanba and head of the Hatano clan, interrupted the smooth progress of the campaign when he betrayed Mitsuhide and attacked his camp. In 1570, Hideharu had earlier submitted to Nobunaga’s march upon the capital, and Nobunaga had bestowed him with a fine sword and horse. Although he had not actively fought on behalf of Nobunaga, he had supported him in his showdown with Yoshiaki, the shōgun. The betrayal at this point compelled Mitsuhide to retreat to his home base at Sakamoto Castle.
Nobunaga realized that the pacification of Tanba would take longer than expected and made decisions in view of the broader operations in the Kinai Region. Mitsuhide entered Tanba in the following month to post some men and soon returned to Sakamoto.
During the next two years, Mitsuhide participated in battles against the Saiga clan and an attack on Shigisan Castle. Mitsuhide entered Tanba again late in 1577 to attack Momii Castle. He returned with Nagaoka Fujitaka early the following year to surround Yakami Castle, home base of the Hatano clan. Mitsuhide called in the army led by Takigawa Kazumasu and Niwa Nagahide to topple Saikusho Castle defended by Araki Ujitsuna, an ally of the Hatano. During the siege of Yakami Castle, Mitsuhide actively engaged in the campaigns conducted in western provinces, including the capture of Miki Castle in Harima, Arioka Castle in Settsu, and battles in Ōsaka. As a result, the operations in Tanba proceeded at an incremental pace, with the capture of one castle at a time.
In 1578, Akai Naomasa died of illness at Kuroi Castle.
Early in 1579, Mitsuhide departed Sakamoto and established a base of operations at Kameyama Castle in Tanba. Kameyama had served as the former headquarters for the Naitō clan. In the fifth month, following stiff resistance, Mitsuhide captured Hikami Castle, defended by Hatano Munenaga and his son, who promptly killed himself. Mitsuhide then turned his full attention to the stand-off at Yakami Castle. Hideharu managed to hold out for one year and three months, but after hundreds died from starvation, some of the defenders turned Hideharu over to Mitsuhide in the month after the fall of Yakami on the condition that the Oda would spare their lives. The Oda carted Hideharu and his brethren around Kyōto before taking them to Nobunaga’s home base at Azuchi Castle to have them summarily executed. In the eight month, Akai Tadaie led the remnants of the Akai clan at Kuroi Castle on a last ditch effort to attack the encircling forces. Tadaie fled as the castle fell to Mitsuhide.
Meanwhile, Mitsuhide pacified neighboring Tango Province with the support of Nagaoka Fujitaka. At the time, Isshiki Yoshimichi, a shugo and lord of Takebeyama Castle, wielded the most power in Tango. Yoshimichi enjoyed friendly relations with Nobunaga at the time of the initial incursion by the Oda army into Echizen in 1570. Later, during Nobunaga’s campaign against the Ikkō monks in Echizen in 1575, Yoshimichi led a fleet of vessels on an attack in Tsutsu-uraura. In recognition of his contributions, Nobunaga had awarded him control of Tango. Nevertheless, owing to the important role of the Isshiki clan in administering the Muromachi bakufu for over 250 years, Yoshimichi naturally sided with Yoshiaki after the split from Nobunaga. This prompted Nobunaga to order two attacks in 1576 by an army led by Mitsuhide and Fujitaka. Yoshimichi managed to survive these clashes, but his dire lack of popularity resulted in many retainers switching loyalties to the Oda. His castle fell to the Oda in 1577, and his son, Isshiki Mitsunobu, inherited his position. After an attack by Fujitaka in 1579, Mitsunobu agreed to a settlement whereby he would marry Fujitaka’s daughter, once again placing the Isshiki clan under control of the Oda.
In the later part of 1579, Mitsuhide traveled to Azuchi Castle to report to Nobunaga his success after a four-year effort to pacify the provinces of Tanba and Tango. Nobunaga praised this achievement, and assigned Mitsuhide to Tanba and Fujitaka to Tango, thereby placing both provinces under his control.
F. Struggle with the Ikkō Sect of Kaga
In 1575, the Oda clan controlled the two southern districts of Kaga, posting Yanada Hiromasa on the front lines at Daishōji and Hinoya castles. The monks in Kaga built forts and encircled Daishōji, soon retaking the southern districts and turning into the aggressor against Hiromasa and his men. After summoning Hiromasa to Owari to discuss these developments, Nobunaga responded by ordering Shibata Katsuie to lead a contingent of ten thousand men on a northern expedition, including daimyō such as Sassa Narimasa, Maeda Toshiie, and Fuwa Mitsuharu, previously assigned to castles in Echizen. After arriving in Kaga, the contingent first came upon Tenshinyama fort occupied by supporters of the Ikkō sect. The Oda army launched attacks all day and night, forcing the survivors to abandon the fort and flee under fire to Iburibashi fortress. The monks unfurled banners proclaiming “namu amida butsu,” or “Glory to merciful Buddha,” and resisted with arquebuses, only to be overwhelmed by the superior firepower of the Oda forces. Once again, the monks fled with the Oda in hot pursuit. On this occasion, however, the monks entered northern territory controlled by Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo, so Katsuie halted the advance and notified Nobunaga of the situation.
G. Uesugi Kenshin and the Northern Campaign
Kenshin, one of the most powerful daimyō of the north, posed a formidable threat to Nobunaga’s bid for a national hegemony. Kenshin was a classical strategist with a mighty army. Takeda Shingen of Kai Province stood as his primary rival, and Nobunaga made an utmost effort to avoid engaging either of them. Their northern bases far from central Japan allowed Nobunaga to avoid a purposeful engagement for many years. Nobunaga had a long relationship with Kenshin, dating back to correspondence in 1564. Allied in their mutual opposition to Takeda Shingen, they continued on amicable terms after Nobunaga’s march to the capital in 1568. By the time that Shingen died of illness in 1573, Nobunaga and Kenshin had both succeeded in expanding their territories. In the eighth month of 1575, Nobunaga defeated uprisings by the Ikkō sect in Echizen and moved toward Kaga and an inevitable confrontation with Kenshin. Their final correspondence ended with a letter from Nobunaga to Kenshin two months earlier.
Nobunaga received information that Kenshin planned to use the uprisings in Kaga as an opportunity to attack castles held by the Oda in Kaga and Noto provinces on the Sea of Japan. This was confirmed when Kenshin soon began advances into Etchū, Kaga, and Noto. First, he defeated the kunishū of Etchū. His army then toppled two castles under control by the Oda located in Noto. Next, he set his sights on Nanao Castle located at the heart of Noto. Nanao served as the home base of the Hatakeyama, a clan that once controlled Ettchū and Noto, but had since fallen into a weakened state of affairs. Following a confrontation between its senior members, in 1566, the clan banished Yoshitsuna, the head of the clan, and Yoshitsugu, his father. As a result, Yoshinori, a youth, acted as nominal head of the clan until his demise in 1574. Thereafter, an assortment of elders from the Chō, the Hei, the Mitaku, the Nukui, and the Yusa families controlled the clan. The advance of Kenshin’s forces triggered a split in the clan. Yusa Tsugumitsu led those attempting to hold on to their power with the support of Kenshin, whereas Chō Tsunatsura favored Nobunaga.
In 1577, Kenshin set up a camp in Ettchū as a base from which to attack Nanao castle. Tsunatsura secretly dispatched his younger brother, Tsuratatsu, as a messenger to Azuchi castle to solicit help from Nobunaga. Tsuratatsu informed Nobunaga of Kenshin’s advance into Noto and the crisis at Nanao. The potential capture of Nanao and ensuing control of Noto by Kenshin would imperil Nobunaga’s position in Kaga, so Nobunaga determined that he must stop Kenshin, but the onset of the winter season would make it difficult. The alternative would be to strengthen their defensive posture at Daishōji Castle and Miyukizuka castle in Kaga, allowing them to focus on the threats in the Kinai Region and to counter the second rebellion launched by Matsunaga Hisahide.
The situation in the Kinai Region prevented Nobunaga himself from venturing to the northern provinces. He knew that Katsuie and his army of ten thousand men were not sufficient to confront Kenshin’s army, so he called together an impressive contingent of bushō. These included Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Niwa Nagahide, and Takigawa Kazumasu to lead twenty thousand soldiers from Mino and Wakasa to join Katsuie in the northern provinces. The army camped at Kitanoshō Castle in Echizen, and launched attacks against forts of the Ikkō sect in Kaga. Katsuie and some of the other bushō led their men into territory controlled by Kenshin, torching strongholds of the Ikkō sect in the Nomi District of Kaga, including the villages of Ataka, Komatsu, Motoori, and rice fields. With the onset of winter, Hideyoshi differed with Katsuie over the merits of continuing the campaign, and ordered his men to withdraw. Hideyoshi may have concluded it necessary to confront Hisahide in the Kinai Region.
Kenshin responded to the news of this advance by dispatching over thirty thousand men southward along the coast of Kaga to Matsutō Castle. He planned to use this location as a base to launch an attack aimed at wiping out the Oda forces in a single blow just six kilometers away on Mizu Island in the Tedori River. In the following month, Kenshin’s army captured Nanao and Suemori castles in Noto and, with the backing of the monks in Kaga and Noto, readied to press further south toward Kaga. Katsuie acknowledged his miscalculation and ordered the entire army to head south. Enemy scouts reported these movements to Kenshin, who promptly led an attack on the hurriedly retreating forces.
On the night of the twenty-third day of the ninth month of 1577, Kenshin’s forces caught up with the retreating soldiers. A cavalry numbering in the thousands from Ettchū and Noto joined Kenshin to press the attack. The Oda men could hear distant war cries followed by the thundering rush of the cavalry, striking them with fear and panic. Heavy rain in the days leading up to the night of the retreat swelled the Tedori River, so the torrential current of the flooded river swept away many of the men attempting to flee in the dark. Others died in battle before entering the river. In the end, over one thousand men were lost on this dark, chilly night, marking one of the worst defeats for the Oda army.
Kenshin’s warriors relentlessly pursued them to the southern end of Kaga, launching attacks on the Oda castles of Daishōji and Miyukizuka. After the fall of Daishōji Castle, the fleeing men crossed a peak into northern Echizen Province and regrouped at Kanezu Castle. Fearing an attack on nearby Kitanoshō castle, they moved from Kanezu to Fukui. Confronted with the onset of winter in the coming weeks, and determined to pacify the Kantō Region before heading toward the capital, Kenshin decided to venture no further and called his men back from Echizen. On the twenty-sixth day of the ninth month, Kenshin’s men returned north to Nanao Castle in Noto, never again to engage the Oda in combat. The following week, the Oda army set out for their return to Gifu.
In addition to weather and geography, mutual hostilities between Kenshin and Shingen dating back to the series of five battles at Kawanakashima prevented them from further engaging Nobunaga. This series of battles occurred between 1553 and 1564 at Kawanakashima at the convergence of the Shinano River. Shingen’s demise and the sudden death of Kenshin in the year after the attack at the Tedori River were blessings for Nobunaga. Two of the most dangerous daimyō of the era expired with minimal engagement.
H. Return to the Kinai Region
1. Matsunaga Hisahide’s Second Rebellion
Since the time of his first alignment with Nobunaga, the situation for Hisahide had dramatically changed. Owing to the failed alliance with Yoshiaki, Hisahide had lost Tamonyama Castle, valuable assets in the castle, and his status as governor of Yamato Province. He remained a tozama, but now the mistrust caused by his earlier act of betrayal complicated his status as an outsider. Meanwhile, Junkei, his bitter rival, had leveraged his connections with Akechi Mitsuhide to gain support among top commanders in the Oda clan. Junkei furthered his position in the Oda clan by arranging a marriage between his son and a daughter of Nobunaga, and by adopting the second son of Mitsuhide. Under these circumstances, Hisahide could not expand his own influence in Yamato. Nobunaga dispatched him to Tenōji fortress as part of the campaign led by Sakuma Nobumori against the Hongan Temple. Although not a coveted assignment, Hisahide benefited from a rare act of mercy after his first rebellion.
Nobunaga gave Mitsuhide free reign to conquer the neighboring provinces of Tanba and Tango. Hisahide’s younger brother, Nagayori, had earlier garnered control of Tanba. In the wake of Nagayori’s demise, Hisahide had set his sights on Tanba, but this opportunity also seemed to be slipping away. Despite the nearly fatal consequences of their earlier rebellion, in 1577, Hisahide and his son, Hisamichi, abandoned the Tenōji fort at the height of a battle against followers of the Hongan Temple, and once again took refuge in Shigisan Castle. Hisahide had carefully timed this betrayal to boost his chances for success. Nobunaga had dispatched his most trusted bushō, led by Shibata Katsuie, to engage in battle with followers of the Ikkō sect in Kaga and Uesugi Kenshin in surrounding provinces to the north. Hisahide also knew the Hongan Temple would continue their resistance in the southern provinces. Meanwhile, two days prior to the betrayal, Tsutsui Junkei had departed the Kinai Region upon orders to engage the Saiga clan in Kii Province. Hisahide believed these events would place Nobunaga in the middle of a very dangerous situation.
Nobunaga dispatched Matsui Yūkan in an attempt to convince Hisahide to surrender. This was unusual because Nobunaga had never given other betrayers a second chance. It served as a testament to the value Nobunaga placed on Hisahide, not to mention his lack of a military option when most of his men were outside of the vicinity. Nobunaga heavily counted on Yūkan to serve as a mediator with his foes. After establishment of the bakufu, Yūkan served as an administrator for Nobunaga in the Kinai Region. He also followed orders from Nobunaga to procure coveted utensils for the tea ceremony made in Sakai and Kyōto. Yūkan was a master of the tea ceremony himself, and received the honor of conducting some of the tea ceremonies on Nobunaga’s behalf. Beginning in 1575, he served as deputy administrator of Sakai for ten years, where he practiced his mediation skills to govern the self-willed residents of Sakai. In this case, however, attempts at mediation with Hisahide were in vain, owing either to a bet by Hisahide on his odds or simple obstinacy. Nobunaga responded by ordering his two captive grandsons held in Kyōto to be executed. The grandsons were brave to the end, stirring the emotions of onlookers.
Hisahide had been counting on Kenshin’s forces to push further south than the Tedori River, but the onset of winter foreclosed this option. This allowed Nobunaga to dispatch more men to Yamato Province. Then, on the first day of the tenth month of 1577, forces led by Akechi Mitsuhide, Nagaoka Fujitaka, and Tsutsui Junkei attacked and captured Kataoka Castle from supporters of Hisahide. Several days later, Oda Nobutada led a large contingent, including Sakuma Nobumori and Akechi Mitsuhide, to encircle Shigisan Castle. On the night of the tenth, they attacked from all sides. Hisahide acknowledged that time had run out for his misguided rebellions, but instead of surrendering and renouncing the secular world as he had done once before, this time he acted with dramatic conviction. To make his own personal statement, he torched the castle tower, shattered a lacquer teakettle known as “hiragumo” that was coveted by Nobunaga, and blew-up himself by setting fire to a stock of gunpowder, ending a turbulent life of sixty-eight years. Hisamichi either committed suicide in the castle or was cut-down attempting to flee to Ōsaka. Their violent deaths may have appeared as just retribution to onlookers for committing the sacrilegious act of destroying the Great Buddha at the Battle of Tōdai Temple in 1567.
2. Battles with the Saiga
Suzuki Magoichi served as head of the Saiga clan. Together with the Kumano and Atagi clans, the Saiga ruled the waterways of Kii. These clans were loyal to the Ikkō sect headed by Sugimori Gobō. Nobunaga determined that he would need to crush the Saiga before attacking the Hongan Temple, so he attacked Negoro Temple that connected the Saiga with adherents of the Hongan Temple. The Oda captured Negoro Temple in the third month of 1576, allowing Nobunaga to focus on the Hongan Temple.
An attack occurred toward the end of 1577 on the Saiga clan of Kii Province.
Kenshin died in early 1578 without an appointed successor, soon leading to an internecine struggle for control of the clan between his son-in-laws – Kagekatsu and Kagetora. This turn of events created an opportunity for Nobunaga to stage an advance into Etchū. The Tomiyama clan was the shugo of the province, with the rival Jinbō and Shiina clans serving as shugodai. Jinbō Nagasumi cast his lot with the Oda. Following a dispute with his father, Nagamoto, Nagasumi fled Ettchū, but hearing of Nagamoto’s subsequent demise, was eager to return. He arrived under orders from Nobunaga to garner support of the kunishū in the province. Through his efforts, he persuaded Kikuchi Takekatsu, lord of Ao Castle, Saitō Nobutoshi, lord of Jōno Castle, and Jinbō Ujiharu, lord of Moriyama Castle, to betray the Uesugi and pledge support to Nobunaga.
While this served to further Nobunaga’s influence in Etchū, control of the province required him to expel a bushō named Kawada Nagechika and members of the Shiina clan from Imaizumi castle in the Niikawa District. To assist Nagasumi, Nobunaga called upon Saitō Toshiharu, the last son of the infamous Saitō Dōsan and a strongman hailing from eastern Mino Province. Toshiharu had parted ways with Tatsuoki before the Battle of Nagashino, forging ties with Nobutada and his men in Mino and Owari. Based at Kajita Castle in Mino, Toshiharu commanded a relatively large territory from the Mugi District to the Kamo District.
Traveling through Kaga would offer the most direct route to invade Etchū, but owing to the continued resistance, Nobunaga ordered Toshiharu to proceed via Hida Province. Toshiharu departed from Kajita Castle on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of 1578. He entered Etchū on the western road, moving north alongside the Jinzū River. In the southern portion of Etchū lay Tsuge Castle, defended by members of the Kawada and Shiina clans. They scattered upon learning of the advancing army. Jinbō Nagazumi met with Toshiharu and his men and they entered the castle. The primary forces from the Kawada and Shiina clans remained in Imaizumi Castle. Toshiharu established a base at Ōta-Hongō Castle, proceeding to torch the surroundings of Imaizumi Castle in a nighttime raid. During the withdrawal, defenders from the castle chased them. Toshiharu passed near the castle and drew enemy men to Tsukiokano, using the mountainous terrain to his advantage to turn and mount a counterattack. Although the defenders outnumbered his forces, the surprise assault launched by Toshiharu led to disarray and the loss of over three hundred and fifty men. Saitō Nobutoshi responded to a call for support by toppling Imaizumi Castle. The outcome resulted in a loss of control for the Uesugi in the central portions of Etchū Province.
Chō Tsuratatsu survived the slaughter of his family at the hands of Kenshin’s forces. He sought to capture Nanao Castle, and exacted his revenge by setting fires around Noto and defeating Nukui [Kagetaka], an ally of the Uesugi, at Inoyama. After Kenshin’s demise, the Nukui and Yusa based at Nanao lost their will to fight. Tsuratatsu then beat the Nukui at the Battle of Hishiwake, capturing two districts in the following month. In the summer of 1578, the Nukui and Miyake had exhausted their options, surrendering Nanao Castle to the northern armies.
Tsuratatsu took refuge with Jinbō Nagazumi in Ettchū, and then resumed operations in Noto. He captured Anamizu Castle, establishing a base for his operations against the Uesugi. Nobunaga recognized him for his military achievements, awarding him control of Fukumitsu castle and a portion of the Kugashima District. These developments significantly contributed to the Oda campaign in the north, but holding Anamizu Castle with his isolated forces in the midst of the enemy proved difficult, so he abandoned the castle and took refuge again with Ujiharu. Tsuratatsu pled for support from Nobunaga, but, preoccupied with operations in Settsu and Harima, the Oda could not dispatch any men to him. In these circumstances, Tsuratatsu slowly reclaimed territory in Noto.
With the help of Saitō Toshiharu and Chō Tsunatsura [Tsuratatsu?] to pacify Kaga in 1580, the northern army proceeded toward Noto and Ettchū. The kokujin in each province who formerly allied with the Uesugi began to cooperate with Nobunaga owing to discord in the Uesugi clan following the death of Kenshin. In short time, all of Noto and a large portion of Ettchū came under Oda control.
Meanwhile, Shibata Katsuie took advantage of the weakness in the Uesugi clan to make inroads in Kaga. In the autumn of 1579, Katsuie led forces that torched the villages of Ataka, Motoori, and Komatsu that remained in the hands of the monks. The resistance ensued, with no tangible signs of progress in pacifying the province.
In a letter dated in 1580, Suzuki Yoshiaki, lord of Bekku Castle in the Nomi District and a ringleader of the uprisings, requested monks at the Honsei Temple in Matsutō to support the resistance against the Oda.
Attacks by Katsuie’s forces intensified. In the third month, Katsuie toppled Nonoichi fortress near Kanazawa, advancing to the northern border of Kaga and Noto. Kanazawa Midō, commander of the resistance in the north in association with the Hongan Temple, reportedly died in the conflict, resulting in a major breakthrough for Katsuie.
Nobunaga proposed the terms for peace to the Hongan Temple, and based on a pledge issued by the Hongan Temple, the opponents signed the peace accord. In accordance with its terms, Nobunaga lifted the blockade of Ōsaka Bay the same month, ordering Katsuie to halt operations in Kaga.
The terms of the accord, however, gave way to further conflict. Kennyo incited monks from surrounding provinces to violate the terms of the accord. One of the terms of the accord called for the return of Kaga to the Hongan Temple, but, if compelled to submit to Nobunaga, the monks preferred to continue the resistance, leading to an escalation of the conflict and extinguishing four years of effort expended by Katsuie in the province.
In a letter dated the thirtieth day of the third month, Nobunaga encouraged Katsuie to continue the war, contrary to the declaration to halt operations. Battles between the Oda and the Hongan Temple continued until the withdrawal by Kennyo from Osaka in the eighth month, and battles in Kaga ensued until the eleventh month without regard to developments at the higher levels. Kennyo resettled in Saginomori of Kii Province. In the eleventh month, Katsuie killed the ringleaders and sent their heads to Azuchi. These included Wakabayashi [Chōmon-no-kami], long-time leader of the resistance in the northern territories and his family, and Suzuki Yoshiaki and his family.
In the second month of 1581, Nobunaga sent Sassa Narimasa to pacify the remaining areas of Etchū. Based in Toyama, he battled Uesugi supporters in Etchū. Then, in the eighth month, he assigned Maeda Toshiie to serve as ruler of Noto from Nanao Castle. After many years of struggle, the conflict focused on the central portions of Etchū.
In Noto, former senior retainers of the Hatakeyama clan, including Yusa Tsugumitsu, Nukui Kagetaka, and Miyake Nagamori, and, in Etchū, Jinbō Ujiharu, Ishiguro Naritsuna [Sakon], and Saitō Toshimichi pledged allegiance to Nobunaga. Meanwhile, the Uesugi clan reconsolidated its forces in Etchigo Province. Others in Noto and Ettchū who did not trust Nobunaga continued to collude with the opposition. Nobunaga did not trust them either, leading to an escalation of violence.
In 1581, Sugaya Nagayori, a representative of Nobunaga, traveled to Noto on behalf of Nanao Castle. He went under orders to sweep up remaining mistrusted elements among the former retainers of the Hatakeyama, ordering the extermination of the most powerful families including the Miyake, the Nukui, and the Yusa. In the midst of the purge, Yusa Tsugumitsu fled his castle, only to later to meet his fate along with his son and grandchild at the hands of Chō Tsunatsura. Members of the Miyake and the Nukui sought refuge with the Uesugi clan.
The campaign against these families reached into neighboring Ettchū. Nagayori summoned Terasaki Morinaga from his base at Gankaiji Castle to Noto and then had him executed. His son made a vain attempt to defend the castle from forces under Nagayori’s command, but he finally committed seppuku at Sawayama Castle.
Upon invitation of Nobunaga, Ishiguro Naritsuna, lord of Kibune Castle, traveled with thirty retainers to Ōmi. Nobunaga plotted to have them killed at Sawayama Castle, but, after arriving in Nagahama, Naritsuna sensed the danger and ended the sojourn. Niwa Nagahide, a participant in the plot, headed toward Nagahama. His forces then encountered and slayed Naritsuna and his retainers in the nearby village of Machiya.
Kojima Motoshige of Etchū refused surrender, choosing instead to capture Toyama Castle. Very few kunishū from Etchū or Noto escaped the purge. Some of those exterminated had been colluding with the Uesugi, because they did not trust Nobunaga and his army. Uozu castle, together with Matsukura castle to the southeast, served as key remaining bases for the Uesugi to prevent an advance by the Oda into Echigo Province. Under the command of Katsuie, the Oda recaptured Toyama castle in the third month of 1582. The forces then encircled Uozu and Matsukura castles. Thirteen defenders of Uozu readied for battle, pleading feverishly for support to Uesugi Kagekatsu, lord of Kasugayama Castle in Echigo. He responded by dispatching members of the Miyake, the Nukui, and the Yusa clans who had earlier fled to Echigo. Meanwhile, he confronted a rebellion in Echigo led by Shibata Shigeie, an ally of Nobunaga. Morinaga Yoshi of neighboring Shinano posed yet one more threat to Kagekatsu.
The Oda army breached the walls of Uozu Castle. By the sixth day of the fifth month, they surrounded the inner grounds of the castle. Despite the challenges confronting him in Echigo, Kagekatsu departed Kasugayama with a contingent of men, arriving to the east of Uozu Castle on the fifteenth to establish a camp on Mount Tenjin. The arrival of the Uesugi, which initially lifted the spirits of the castle defenders, suddenly turned to despair when Kagekatsu broke camp just ten days later based on news that Morinaga Yoshi from Shinano and Takigawa Kazumasu from Kōzuke planned to invade Echigo. This led to a major assault on the third day of the sixth month. No one knew that Nobunaga had died a day earlier. Katsuie, Sassa Narimasa, and Maeda Toshiie entered the main grounds of the castle, finding dead twelve of the defenders with tags on their ears.
Despite a major defeat at Nagashino, Takeda Katsuyori had managed to retain control of the eastern provinces of Kai, Shinano, and Suruga. Over time, however, his retainers had lost faith in his leadership. The unwinding of support began with the tozama. In the second month of 1582, Kiso Yoshimasa colluded with Nobunaga through Tōyama Tomosada of Mino. Sensing danger, Katsuyori left Shinpu castle in Nirasaki to Suwa. Nobunaga responded by sending forces to Shinano, appointing Nobutada to lead them against the Takeda. An advance guard led by Mori Nagayoshi and Dan Tadamasa departed within three days of the order, leading some of the forces from Owari and Mino toward Kiso. Nobutada departed from Gifu Castle on the twelfth day with a contingent including Takigawa Kazumasu, Kawajiri Hidetaka, Mōri Nagahide, and Mizuno Tadashige. The men in the castles in southern Shinano that should have provided the first line of defense chose to flee rather than engage the advancing forces. Takizawa Castle stood vacated. Ogasawara Nobumine, lord of Matsuo Castle, quickly surrendered and even served as a guide for the invading forces on the roads of Shinano. Oribe Banzai, head of the main base at Iida castle in southern Shinano, followed the lead of others by fleeing before the arrival of the advancing forces.
Beginning in the second month of 1582, Yoshimasa, Tomosada, and Nobutada’s cavalry clashed with Takeda forces led by Imafuku Masakazu on Torii Ridge. The Oda prevailed after Masakazu fell in battle early in the fourth month. Meanwhile, Nobutada crossed into Shinano via Iwamura, soon arriving in the village of Iida. To the north, Takeda Shingen’s younger brother, Nobukado, prepared a defense with Hinata Sōei, lord of Ōshima Castle. When Nobutada’s forces approached, they fled. The retainers of the Takeda clan displayed a lack of loyalty to the cause. Anayama Nobukimi, a brother-in-law and appointed successor of Katsuyori, followed suit by betraying the clan. Nobukimi, lord of Ejiri Castle in Suruga, also had influence in Tōtōmi Province. He negotiated the recovery of his wife and child held hostage in the village of Kōfu in Kai Province in exchange for colluding with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Katsuyori remained camped in Suwa, but, after learning of Anayama’s betrayal, he knew he must return to Kōfu. Less than one thousand men out of seven to eight thousand returned with him to Kōfu, while all of the others deserted.
Nobutada’s army proceeded north through Shinano unopposed, while Takeda-controlled castles throughout the province fell one after another. News of the rapid progress may have caused Nobunaga concern while he made preparations at Azuchi, as danger always lurked in the shadows of easy victory. He ordered Takigawa Kazumasu and Kawajiri Hidetaka to halt Nobutada’s advance, prompted by concern that Nobutada, at the youthful age of twenty-six, and Mori Nagayoshi, at the age of twenty-five, would, owing to their inexperience, fall into a trap. Nobunaga may further have wished to partake in the defeat of the Takeda clan.
Nobutada’s men encountered resistance for the first time at Takatō Castle, defended by Katsuyori’s younger brother, Nishina Morinobu. The hilltop castle had cliffs and a river on three of its sides. Nobutada sent him a letter to demand surrender, but Morinobu refused, preparing to fight to the end. On the second day of the third month of 1582, Nobutada and his contingent of thirty thousand men surrounded the castle and soon launched an attack. Mori Nagayoshi, Dan Tadamasa, Mōri Nagahide, and Kawajiri Hidetaka led their forces on a frontal assault by crossing the river and scaling cliffs. Nobutada led men from Mount Onetsuzuki located behind the castle, breaching fences and commanding the forces from atop a wall in a ferocious assault. The defenders fought valiantly. Oyamada Masayuki, a leader among the defenders, battled the attackers in an effort to engage Nobutada. Women grabbed swords to fight and young men shot a flury of arrows at the enemy. Despite the valiant efforts, the defenders could not success against so many attackers and the castle fell in just one day. Over four hundred defenders, including all of their senior commanders, died in the battle. As was customary in these times, Nobutada sent Morinobu’s head to Nobunaga in celebration of the victory.
After the fall of Takatō Castle in one day, Katsuyori knew that the Oda forces would advance from Shinano to Kai, so he departed from Shinpu Castle in Nirasaki. He decided to request help from his relative, Oyamada Nobushige, in the Tsuru District. Katsuyori set fire to the quarters to which he had just moved at the end of the prior year. Hostages, including women and children, died in the fire. On the fifth day, Nobunaga departed from Azuchi Castle and stayed at Gifu on the seventh. On the same day, Nobutada advanced to Kōfu. He sought and slaughtered members of the Takeda clan and important retainers from various locations. Those lost included Shingen’s blind second brother, Nobuchika, Shingen’s younger brother, Nobukane, and many others.
On the eleventh day, Katsuyori’s followers traveled on a mountain road via Katsunuma to Komakai, whereupon a messenger of Nobushige informed them that even if they arrived, he would not offer protection. Nobushige began to support the Oda. In the midst of increasingly dire circumstances, the small band of survivors built a perimeter fence in the narrow Tano Valley near Mount Temmoku, and hurriedly constructed a fort. The contingent that numbered between 500 to 600 men upon departure from Shinpu had fallen to a mere forty. Takigawa Kazumasu’s forces spotted and quickly surrounded the group. The men fought for their lord, only to die in battle. Katsuyori, his wife, Nobukatsu, and servants committed seppuku in the fort, marking the end of the once infamous and powerful Takeda clan. At the time, Nobunaga was in Iwamura, and had not yet crossed into Shinano.
Nobunaga traveled via Iida to Suwa, where he took time to assess the proper division of governance in his newly conquered territories as well as to formulate ordinances for the provinces of Kai and Shinano. The following month, he went through Kōfu to Suruga, viewed Mount Fuji, and slowly traversed the Tōkaidō to the west, valiantly returning to Azuchi Castle several weeks later. On the way, he accepted a special visit from Tokugawa Ieyasu, whereupon he confirmed his control of the eastern provinces of Mikawa, Suruga, and Tōtōmi.
Just several days after returning to Azuchi, questions arose in the capital of Kyōto concerning which of three titles to award Nobunaga. Murai Sadakatsu, an administrator of the Court, proposed the alternatives to Nobunaga, but Nobunaga refused all of them. He had no ambition for a public title, preferring simply to use political power where it served his ends toward the creation of a national hegemony. Leading to the surrender of the Mōri, he wanted Nobutada to assume an appropriate title while he would exercise power from behind the scenes – a king with no title, further believing that the historical titles offered could not fully capture the degree of irreverence warranted him.
Nobunaga’s birthday occurred in the second week of the fifth month. Luís Fróis, a Jesuit missionary in Japan at the time, wrote that Nobunaga believed he embodied God. In making his birthday a spiritual holiday, he called upon thousands of visitors to worship at the temple on the grounds of Azuchi Castle. Whether Nobunaga claimed self-diefication is unproved.
Following Nobunaga’s initial march upon the capital in 1568, Asayama Nichijō served as a highly valued diplomatic monk operating between the Tennō Temple, the shōgun, and Nobunaga. Ankokuji Ekei performed a similar role for the Mōri clan – also giving lectures to the court nobles regarding Buddhist scriptures. Mōri Motonari ordered Ekei into service while a youthful monk. Known as an astute advisor, Ekei accompanied Motonari on many campaigns. After Motonari died in 1572, Ekei traveled for some time before returning to serve Mōri Terumoto and become the abbot of the Ankoku Temple. During the long war with the Oda, Ekei served as a mediator with Hideyoshi, whom he had met in 1573. Hideyoshi valued Ekei as a close confidant, awarding him a fief worth 60,000 koku in Iyo Province. Ekei became a member of Hideyoshi’s entourage, along with Hosokawa Fujitaka and Sen no Rikyū.