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Oda Nobunaga: Conqueror of Owari (3)

Posted October 1st, 2017 at 04:02 PM by Lord Oda Nobunaga
Updated November 6th, 2017 at 12:31 PM by Lord Oda Nobunaga

Claiming Owari Province

At that time Oda Nobukata of Iwakura castle, who ruled the four upper districts in northern Owari, made an alliance with Saito Yoshitatsu against Oda Nobunaga, who now ruled the four lower districts of southern Owari. The loyalty of the feudal clans in the lower districts was also questionable given the situation. Not long after, Oda Nobukata attacked a village called Shimo no Go with his Iwakura army, which was located 2 kilometers from Nobunaga's Kiyosu castle. In retaliation Nobunaga ordered his army to take to the field and reduce the area in the vicinity of Iwakura, burning that fief to ash, then returned with his army that same day.

There was a temple of the Soto Zen sect called the Shogenji, it was located in the hamlet of Orizu, only 3,200 meters from where Kiyosu castle stood. That place was ideal for a fortress and it was rumored that Oda Nobukata intended to build a stronghold there. In response to the hearsay Nobunaga conscripted the local peasants of his fief and ordered them to clear the bamboo grove at Shogenji. The mounted troops which were sent to muster and oversee the townspeople numbered only 83 horsemen. The Oda of Iwakura sent about 3,000 troops into the area and deployed in nearby Tanbarano. While they deployed, Nobunaga rode about his position trying to establish a command post and ordered the peasant laborers to be equipped with bamboo spears. He placed light infantry at the front of his formation, in support of what infantry troops, peasants and mounted samurai that he had on hand. An engagement was appearing to commence but ultimately both sides chose to withdraw instead.

In the fourth month of 1556 peace talks between the governor Kira Yoshiaki of Mikawa and Shiba Yoshikane of Owari were arranged by Oda Nobunaga. Kira Yoshiaki was supported by Imagawa Yoshimoto where as Shiba Yoshikane was supported by Oda Nobunaga. Both the Oda clan and Imagawa clan sent their armies to Ueno on the behalf of their respective governors and arrayed their troops there in Mikawa province. The opposing sides were close together, only 160 meters separated them. Stools were set up between both armies, both governors walking to the negotiating table ten steps at a time, so as to not upset rank and etiquette, and governors Kira and Shiba sat on opposite ends of each other. After this ceremony and the acceptance of the agreement both governors returned to their respective sides. Nobunaga returned with his army in Owari, in short he forced Imagawa Yoshimoto to make peace with him by using governors Shiba and Kira as the arbiters for both parties. As a show of respect to governor Shiba Yoshikane, he gave Kiyosu castle to him while Nobunaga himself inhabited the northern tower.

Shiba Yoshikane was technically in control of Owari, something which his predecessor could not truly claim, Kira Yoshiaki had agreed to peace between the Imagawa and the Oda clans and Nobunaga remained the master of his own house, under the control of the Shiba governor as a formality. In the far east of Owari near the border lived Lord Ishibashi and at his residence a meeting between governor Kira Yoshiaki of Mikawa and Shiba Yoshikane occurred. The three of them agreed to call upon Hattori Sakyo no Suke of southern Owari to allow Imagawa troops to enter his lands by sea and by forming a coalition they would overthrow Oda Nobunaga. A retainer of Lord Ishibashi leaked this information to Oda Nobunaga and before their plans could come to fruition Nobunaga chased Ishibashi, Hattori and Shiba Yoshikane out of Owari province. As a result the Shiba control of Owari province which had lasted since the early 1400's and the servitude of the Oda clan which stretched back some centuries further, the late 1200's in Echizen province, was at an end.

On the 12th day of the seventh month of 1558 Nobunaga began an envelopment of the Oda of Iwakura castle. The distance between Kiyosu and Iwakura was only 9 kilometers however the terrain in between was too difficult for Nobunaga's army to advance efficiently. To achieve his ends Nobunaga rapidly maneuvered his army over 16 kilometers around Iwakura and occupied a strong position behind that castle. Then advancing from that position he deployed his army in a place called Ukino. Nobunaga ordered his vanguard, consisting of light infantry, forward onto Iwakura castle. Seeing this 3,000 men with high morale sortied from Iwakura castle to oppose their advance. At noon Nobunaga began his attack on the south-east in the direction of Iwakura and their 3,000 man army. After a few hours of fighting the men of Iwakura were routed and they retreated to their castle. During the retreat Nobunaga's instructor, the famous gunner Hashimoto Ippa, chased after the famous archer and swordsman Hayashi Yashichiro, his one time friend. Having agreed during the engagement that this was a fight to the death the fleeing Yashichiro pulled an arrow back 12 centimeters from his bow, turned to face his pursuer and fired the arrow into the underarm of Hashimoto Ippa. Ippa had loaded his arquebus with a double charge and fired it at Yashichiro, hitting him with immense force and knocking him to the ground. One of Nobunaga's pages, Sawaki Tohachi, ran towards the fight so that he might claim Yashichiro's head. Yashichiro lying on the ground, unsheathed his blade and removed Tohachi's left arm but Tohachi continued to attack in spite of that and took Hayashi Yashichiro's head. Such was the death of a famed retainer, a great swordsman and an archer without peer. Later that day Nobunaga retreated back to Kiyosu. On the next day, the 13th, he inspected the heads and saw more than 1,250 samurai, the strength of Iwakura which had been bled dry.

Matsudaira Motoyasu: the Hostage Prince

The commander of the Imagawa troops in Mikawa province, Taigen Sessai, had died recently in Suruga province from gout (around 1555). Incidentally the young hostage Takechiyo had taken the name Matsudaira Motonobu (born 1543), was allowed to return on his own to his clan holdings at Okazaki castle as a vassal in 1556. Mikawa province was under the control of the Imagawa and its governor Lord Kira Yoshiaki, whom the Imagawa clan had attempted to subordinate albeit subtly and administered the province from Okazaki castle itself. As such the governor Lord Kira, Matsudaira Motonobu and the Imagawa garrison shared the castle and though Lord Kira offered to vacate the castle Lord Matsudaira refused and took up residence within the castle. This was an awkward time for Lord Matsudaira but it must have been much more uncomfortable for his retainers who had to suffer this indignity, as well as the idea of their hostage lord, for the past decade. The peasants also suffered due to the presence of the Imagawa garrisons and the taxes which were taken off to Imagawa Yoshimoto who spent lavishly. Not only the Imagawa clan was to blame but also the Oda clan, who fought the soldiers of Mikawa at the whims of the Imagawa overlords and who often failed to protect the province from raids. To sum up the situation the people of Mikawa did not appreciate their Imagawa masters but much like Lord Matsudaira they did not complain for fear of the Imagawa, the Oda or the resulting power struggle that might occur should the lords in the province rise up against each other. The return of the young Matsudaira lord brought hope for the future but he was still very much untested and a puppet of the Imagawa clan. It ought to be said that this was a new taste of freedom and to see the management and state of affairs in Mikawa province.

In the spring of 1557 Matsudaira Motonobu was recalled to Sumpu and Imagawa Yoshimoto had him married off to his niece, Lady Tsukiyama, the daughter of Sekiguchi Chikanaga (married to Yoshimoto's sister), who was also the lord of Mochibune castle with a stipend of 27,000 koku. Together with this marriage the young Matsudaira became known as Matsudaira Motoyasu in honor of his grandfather Matsudaira Kiyoyasu, who had long been dead. He was also gifted a fine warhorse by the Mikawa retainers which he would later give to the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru. The next year in 1558, when Matsudaira Motoyasu was 17 years old he was allowed to return to Mikawa once again though his wife was kept as a hostage in Suruga province. Imagawa Yoshimoto sent him on his first campaign, subtly he hinted “Western Mikawa was always your territory and now Suzuki Shigeteru, lord of Terabe castle, has defected to the ranks of Oda Nobunaga. This is a grave problem” and so Motoyasu took it upon himself to campaign against Suzuki Shigeteru. That spring Motoyasu assembled his army and placed Terabe castle under siege. Leading the attack against the outer defenses and burnt them he then attacked several posts nearby. The castle itself was positioned so as not to be attacked easily due to the positioning of several surrounding forts which could disrupt a besieging army if the garrisons were to sortie and attack the besiegers in the rear. Matsudaira Motoyasu did not believe he had the time to destroy these forts and so he set fire to the main castle, doing some damage, and withdrew from Terabe. In fact his hunch was correct as Oda Nobunaga had sent a relief force which had been ordered to attack the Matsudaira in the rear. During his retreat Matsudaira Motoyasu positioned himself behind the Oda relief force and engaging them with that considerable advantage he routed them and gave them relatively high losses. Unable to actually attack the castle itself he continued his retreat and returned to Okazaki. Though it was a slight tactical victory for the Matsudaira it was a strategic victory for the Oda and a minor setback. Hearing of the news of Matsudaira Motoyasu's victory Imagawa Yoshimoto rewarded his vassal and son-in-law with gifts and 300 kwan of land, from Matsudaira Motoyasu's own fief no doubt. The Matsudaira retainers were pleased with Matudaira Motoyasu and petitioned Imagawa Yoshimoto so that he might allow their lord to stay in Okazaki permanently. This ran contrary to Imagawa Yoshimoto's own designs but as he had now begun contemplating a large campaign against the Oda clan, indeed to Kyoto itself, he did not recall Motoyasu.

Lord Nobunaga: the Unification of Owari

In Owari province the Oda hold was still somewhat unstable. The presence of Matsudaira Motoyasu in the east had given new spirits to the Matsudaira clan and had given Imagawa Yoshimoto a valuable asset. In the north Oda Nobukata was still at war with Oda Nobunaga, although considerably weakened. In the far north, Mino province, Saito Yoshitatsu had become a dangerous enemy to Oda Nobunaga. But within Nobunaga's own family his younger brother Nobuyuki had decided to transform the Ryusen temple into a fort. He and Oda Nobukata, the lord of Iwakura and the upper districts, had agreed to a secret plan and join forces so that they might attack the three villages of Shinoki, part of Nobunaga's personal fief and an area of some monetary value. Shibata Katsuie, who had earlier supported Oda Nobuyuki's revolt and been pardoned but had also come into conflict with a retainer of Nobuyuki's called Tsuzuki Kurando, decided to inform Oda Nobunaga of the younger brother's plans. Nobunaga feigned illness and would not leave his estate and as a result Shibata Katsuie urged Nobuyuki to visit his brother, so too did their mother Lady Gozen though perhaps unaware of what was truly happening. Oda Nobuyuki eventually went to visit his elder brother at Kiyosu on the 2nd day of the eleventh month of 1558. In the antechamber of the northern tower Oda Nobuyuki was killed by the retainers Kawajiri Hidetaka and Aokai, on Nobunaga's orders. Nobunaga would be sure to remember Shibata Katsuie's loyalty during this event but it was said that this caused a permanent rift between Nobunaga and his mother Lady Gozen. But the results were effective and no more would Nobunaga be threatened by his own family.

At the start of 1559 Nobunaga began his final campaign against the Iwakura Oda. Indeed Nobunaga advanced on Iwakura one day, suddenly and without warning, and put the town to the torch. He then ordered the castle to be placed under siege and built up to three bamboo palisades all around it, also having a patrol around the vicinity of the castle at all times. For almost three months Nobunaga ordered attacks against the castle and constantly ordered archers and gunners to fire upon the defenders. The defenders of Iwakura were desperate and had no one to aid them and so finally they surrendered the castle to Oda Nobunaga and scattered in all directions, some fled so as not to incur Nobunaga's vengeance and Oda Nobukata was exiled from the province. Nobunaga ordered that Iwakura castle be razed and after three months of siege he returned to Kiyosu. Nobunaga had now unified Owari province and was its ruler in all but name. Moreover he still needed to secure his domain from the Saito clan who controlled Mino province and the Imagawa clan who controlled Suruga, Totomi and Mikawa.

Suddenly Oda Nobunaga announced to his vassals that he would go to Kyoto accompanied by eighty men of his choosing. They journeyed secretly to Kyoto and on the way there a group of six men from Mikawa hired by the Saito clan went to assassinate Nobunaga using harquebuses. A retainer called Niwa Hyozo discovered them and learning of their plan traveled to Kyoto to inform Nobunaga. He had this retainer return to the assassins where he warned them that Nobunaga was aware of their presence and convinced them to seek out Nobunaga in the Kogawa neighborhood of Kyoto. They were surprised when Nobunaga himself appeared in that neighborhood to confront them, he derided them and demanded that they kill him on the spot but out of fear and shame they did not attempt anything. Nobunaga and his retinue dressed for the role of visiting the Shogun, they wore large swords with golden sheaths and dressed in luxury. Nobunaga's audience with the Shogun was inherently fruitful as he paid his respects to the court and legitimized his position as the unofficial governor of Owari. Some five days later Nobunaga and his retinue made their way back and spent the night in Moriyama, in Omi province, he set out the next day in the rain and crossed the Happu Pass into Ise province and crossed the 106 kilometers back to Kiyosu in a single day.

Imagawa Yoshimoto: the Chess Master

In 1559 Matsudaira Motoyasu had some fortune, that year his first son Takechiyo was born but one day it would be to that child's misfortune that the Oda clan and the Matsudaira clan had ever come into contact at all. That year Matsudaira Motoyasu would take to the field on the behalf of the Imagawa yet again. Oda Nobunaga had constructed a chain of fortresses one of which was the frontier fort of Otaka, it had been bribed over to the Imagawa by Lord Yoshimoto. Otaka was now under the control of an Imagawa garrison commanded by the retainer Udono Nagamochi and he had been given orders to hold the fortress fiercely against the Oda clan. Nobunaga ordered his local garrison commanders to blockade Otaka so that it could be starved out over time. Otaka was situated in a salient that led towards Nobunaga's territory hence these officers did not have a particularly difficult task as bringing supplies from outside Owari would normally have been harder than entering the castle from outside this province.

The Imagawa generals were unenthusiastic about any attempts to resupply Otaka, escorting a convoy into the frontier areas of Owari was not a glorious task nor did it require large amounts of troops. It was Imagawa Yoshimoto who suggested that Motoyasu be sent for this task since in his eyes the young lord was capable and had a small core of skilled soldiers and officers. Matsudaira Motoyasu immediately agreed to take on this operation, he seemed as though he was willing to carry out these actions which others rejected in service to the Imagawa house. The five frontier forts in that area were Otaka, Washizu, Marune, Terabe and Umezu. Motoyasu directed 1,000 men in a midnight attack on Terabe and Umezu while he personally went with 800 men to bring pack animals laden with supplies to within a mile of Otaka. The 1,000 Matsudaira troops attacked Terabe and Umezu and set fire to the area, it was an amazing distraction which drew the bulk of the forces within Washizu and Marune towards them. He then organized his 800 man detachment into three columns and brought some 1,200 pack animals into Otaka while the remaining garrisons of Washizu and Marune watched helplessly, as their small numbers were not enough to face that detachment. After successfully provisioning Otaka he withdrew back to Okazaki and received the accolades of Imagawa Yoshimoto. As a reward of sorts Matsudaira Motoyasu continued in leading small patrol operations and minor raids along the frontier. This had all been in preparation for the great endeavor which was to come.

The Battle of Okehazama

Nobunaga was clearly well aware of Imagawa Yoshimoto's constant incursions.
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