Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Rule the World By Force"

In this post:

  • A new Shōgun presents an opportunity
  • Powerful enemies join together to crush the upstart Oda
  • Nobunaga shocks the rest of Japan and forever stains his reputation.


After Nobunaga took Inabayama Castle in 1564, he decided it was time for a little re-branding. He renamed the Castle "Gifu" (岐阜) and crafted a new motto for himself: Tenka Fubu (天下布武) which means, "Rule the World by Force." These were ambitious moves, since the character 岐 is the name of the mountain in China from which the Qin Dynasty was born (the Qin Dynasty unified ancient China). Make no mistake: he was openly declaring his intention to rule the whole of Japan.


As a practical move, he arranged a marriage between his sister Oichi and Azai Nagamasa, a Daimyō in Northern Omi Province, which lay between Nobunaga's lands and the capital city, Kyoto. This would prove very useful, as we shall see.


Four years later, Ashikaga Yoshiaki came to Gifu requesting Nobunaga's assistance in a quest for revenge. Yoshiaki's brother, Yoshiteru, was the 13th Ashikaga Shōgun, but was a puppet of the Miyoshi Clan. When he tried to establish himself as an actual ruler, the Miyoshi had taken up arms against him and murdered him cruelly, setting up one of his cousins as a new puppet. It was the opportunity that Nobunaga had been waiting for: a chance to march his troops into Kyoto legitimately.


After making short work of the Rokkaku Clan (who opposed Yoshiaki's claim), Nobunaga's forces drove the Miyoshi out of Kyoto without much effort or any notably impressive battles. Yoshiaki was installed as the 15th Ashikaga Shōgun and offered Nobunaga the post of Kanrei (), or Deputy, which Nobunaga refused. This wasn't because he lacked ambition; it was likely because the Shōgun's Deputy was expected to actually obey the Shōgun, which he had no intention of doing. In fact, he began to restrict Yoshiaki's authority, which didn't sit well with the young ruler who, despite his appreciation for helping avenge his brother's death, began to plot against Nobunaga through correspondences with rival clans, particularly the powerful Asakura.


No matter what period of history you are living in, there is one universal truth for successful people: haters gonna hate. The Asakura Clan in particular was growing increasingly jealous of Nobunaga's rising fame. They had sheltered Yoshiaki when he was just a political refugee, but had been unwilling to go against the Miyoshi. Couple this with the fact that the Oda had historically been vassals of the Asakura, and you've got a recipe for envious opposition.


The Asakura pulled strings and called upon their vassals the Azai (with whom Nobunaga had previously secured alliance through marriage) to take up arms with them and Azai Nagamasa agreed, choosing the Clan's traditional historic alliance over siding with his brother-in-law

Oichi - Oda Nobunaga's Sister
"Well! I guess someone wants to sleep on the couch tonight!"

Think about this for a moment. The Azai had just helped the Oda to drive the Rokkaku away so that they could march on Kyoto, risking the ire of the ruling Clan if his efforts failed. They had fought alongside Oda troops in Yoshiaki's cause, and now, just two years later, they were on the opposing side. This illustrates the stickiness of Feudal alliances during Sengoku Jidai - those who were your allies today might become your enemies tomorrow.


In addition to two fairly powerful Clans, Yoshiaki had also been corresponding with Ikko-Ikki leaders. The Ikko-Ikki were a radical militant Buddhist splinter group (yes, you read that correctly) who followed the teachings of Rennyō, a pacifist (lol - irony!) who preached a quasi-socialist/communist ideal for society, essentially, practical equality and the elimination of the social classes. Not that Yoshiaki agreed with any of their teachings, but he courted them because he was desperate for relief from Nobunaga's rather restrictive yoke. They jumped at the chance to gain further legitimacy for their cause, and publicly sided with the Asakura/Azai alliance, who opposed Nobunaga at the Battle of Anegawa.

Well, at this point you're probably expecting some detailed explanation of the battle, along with tactics, weaponry, famous Samurai earning their names, and maybe even a funny anecdote. Sorry, Anegawa is not that battle.

The Battle of Anegawa
But here's a handy diagram! The blue are the Azai/Asakura, the Red are the Oda and their allies.

What little we do know about the battle is that the Azai engaged the Oda and the Asakura engaged Oda's vassal clan the Matsudaira in the middle of the shallow Ane river and that eventually the Matsudaira drove the Asakura away and flanked the Azai. Nobunaga, gun-lover that he was, used 500 Arquebus Gunners at the battle (we don't know how, besides telling them, "Shoot those guys!"), and Kinoshita Hideyoshi led troops in open battle for the first time (as opposed to the commando-style action at the Siege of Inabayama). And we know that the Oda won, successfully containing the Azai-Asakura threat.

Nobunaga then embarked on a quest that would forever tarninsh his reputation and stain his honor - the quest to check the increasing power of militant Japanese Buddhism. The Tendai school had been training Warrior Monks (Sōhei 僧兵) for years and they lent their aid to any cause they deemed worthy and had even achieved a small amount of Imperial recognition. Worse yet, their primary Monstery, Enryaku-ji, was located in Kyoto, and not too far from Nobunaga's own personal residence at that!

The Azai and Asakura, though allied for generations, did not forge their plans to oppose Nobunaga by themselves. The Tendai monks had helped, serving them as couriers and mediators. Even though those beligerent clans had been fully dealt with, Nobunaga believed it was a matter of time before the Tendai found new puppets to string along, or before they tried something more audacious like an assassination!

So he promptly beseiged Enryaku-ji, eventually burning it down and killing the 3,000-4,000 people inside, including women and children. Then, he turned his attention to the even more dangerous anti-Samurai Ikko-Ikki sect, which had set up their headquarters on the borders of his own home province, Owari. He besieged Nagashima, a collection of buildings and farmsteads where they were based, and the Ikko-Ikki fought back, killing many of Nobunaga's men including some of his own brothers.

Persistence paid off, and in 1574 the remaining defenders and their families were trapped inside Nagashima Castle. Nobunaga again employed fire and razed the entire structure, killing around 30,000 people in the process, including unarmed men, women, and children.

This was a busy time for Nobunaga, and these weren't the only things to happen from 1568-1574. Next time we'll take a look at how he and his retainers dealt with the biggest threat to their rule: the powerful rival clan Takeda.


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