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Notes - Oda Nobuhide: Tiger of Owari (1)

Posted January 8th, 2018 at 11:01 PM by Lord Oda Nobunaga
Updated June 25th, 2018 at 10:00 PM by Lord Oda Nobunaga

Notes - Oda Nobuhide: Tiger of Owari

Owari Province: the Sengoku Jidai arrives
-Though Shiba Yoshimune was the lawful governor (Shugo) of Owari, both as the hereditary ruler of that province and by appointment of his clan from the Ashikaga Shogunate's mandate, he was in actuality powerless and depended on the support of his representatives (Shugodai) Oda Michikatsu and Oda Nobuyasu to keep his control. He resided in Kiyosu castle in south-western Owari, which was actually the castle of Oda Michikatsu. Incidentally Oda Nobuhide was one of three bugyo that served Oda Michikatsu in the governance of the south.

-The Oda clan had actually originated in Echizen province and served the local Shiba governors. In the early 1400's when the Ashikaga Shogun awarded Shiba Yoshishige with Owari province (establishing the seat of government at Orizu castle), the Oda clan came with them and relocated to Owari and in 1435 Shiba Yoshitake awarded them with Inuyama castle. Later when Shiba Yoshitake died in 1452 they rejected his successor Shiba Yoshitoshi and supported Shiba Yoshikado instead, who would then die in 1480. This provided them with a certain degree of autonomy and led to the partition of the Shiba domain by various branch families within the Shiba clan as well as their vassals, Orizu castle was destroyed during this succession war. Shiba Yoshitoshi supported the Hosokawa clan during the Onin War (1467-1477) and was then overthrown by his vassal Asakura Toshikage in Echizen in 1470 (defeating Shiba Yoshitoshi once and for all in 1479). Asakura Toshikage also took part in the Onin War and though initially supported the Yamana, he later changed his support to the Hosokawa clan.

-For a time the Shiba clan was also given control over Totomi province in the early 1400's, to the east of Mikawa province. During the Onin War and the contemporary struggles within the Shiba clan, control of Totomi province gradually evaporated until the Shiba clan was relegated only to nominal governors of Owari province. Totomi had been previously governed by the Imagawa clan and eventually they would attempt to reclaim Totomi. Starting in 1476 Imagawa Yoshitada invaded Totomi province and defeated the Katsumada and Yokota clans. When Yoshitada was returning to Suruga he was ambushed and killed at Shiokaizaka by these same clans. After assuming power in 1490 his son Imagawa Ujichika began to expand westward into Totomi and Mikawa. He finally established a meager foothold in Owari by building Nagoya castle in 1525 before dying the next year. All of these events provided the impetus for the eventual clash between the Imagawa clan and the Oda clan. As powerful as they were issues within the clan as well as with their other neighbors continually forced the Imagawa clan to halt their westward expansion and provided the Oda clan with much needed respite.

-The Oda clan claimed descent from Taira no Chikazane who himself was a grandson of Taira no Shigemori, a son of Taira no Kiyomori. In the 1280's Taira no Chikazane became lord of Oda castle in Echizen province and therefore changed his name to Oda no Chikazane, thus making him the progenitor of the Oda clan. When Shiba Takatsune aided Ashikaga Takauji to claim the Shogunate in 1335, he was awarded with control of Echizen and Wakasa provinces. The Oda clan served the Shiba clan since then as a a result.

-There had actually been a long rivalry between the Kiyosu branch of the Oda and the Iwakura branch of the Oda. Oda Toshisada was given Kiyosu castle and named vice-governor by Shiba Yoshishige after its construction in 1427. After the destruction of Orizu castle, the Shiba governor changed his residence to Kiyosu castle. Oda Toshisada had four sons the youngest of which was Oda Nobusada, the grandfather of Oda Nobunaga. Oda Nobusada was granted Katsubata castle by his father. After Oda Nobunaga had usurped his relatives of the main family in Kiyosu and overthrew the last Shiba shugo he then defeated the rival Iwakura branch and unified Owari province.

-The Oda Danjo no Jo, Oda Tozaemon, Oda Inaba no Kami and the Shugodai Oda Michikatsu in southern Owari were all relatives and descendants of Oda Toshisada. The Oda Danjo no Jo being the line of Oda Nobusada. Oda Michikatsu was therefore a cousin of Oda Nobuhide. Despite this difference in rank it was Nobuhide who proved himself the most active and capable. He and his brothers achieved the most prestige during this time and of course his son Nobunaga outdid all of these relatives.

-Nobuhide's father was Oda Nobusada, himself the fourth and youngest son of the vice-governor Oda Toshisada. Oda Nobusada was born around 1480, his death is usually given as the seventh year of the Tenbun Era which corresponds to the year 1538. It does appear that for a time Nobusada allowed his son Nobuhide to exercise control of the family, Nobusada exercising his own power and influence from behind the scenes then dying only a few years later.

Oda Nobuhide: The Tiger Lord
-Oda Nobuhide was born in Katsubata castle, his birth year is given as both 1510 and 1511. If he was in fact born in the eighth year of Eisho that would mean he was born in 1511. Interestingly this was the same year that his rival Matsudaira Kiyoyasu was born.

-Oda Nobuhide had four brothers: Oda Nobuyasu (died 1544), Oda Nobumitsu (1516-1556), Oda Nobutsugu (died 1574) and Oda Nobuzane. He also had one recorded sister, Lady Otsuya who was executed for treason on the orders of Nobunaga in 1575.

-Nobuhide could be described as somewhat austere with his subordinates and prone to anger, also having a penchant for the bottle. While his line distinguished themselves in the use of arms Nobuhide comes off as being the most competent of his brothers, and indeed most of his relatives in waging campaigns and ruling his domain. It is quite likely that he also doted on Nobunaga because it is never recorded anywhere that he scolded him for his behaviour.

-Nobuhide was friendly and persuasive indeed. He had befriended Imagawa Ujitoyo and committed an act of usurpation against him, seizing Nagoya castle. He had also been able to build Furuwatari castle, campaigned in Mikawa province soon after, making agreements with the vassals of the Matsudaira in the process and seizing Anjo castle. He had also been able to raise armies numbering up to 5,000 men and inspired the loyalty of his retainers and vassals while being a mere bugyo. In his second campaign against Saito Dosan he rebuilt his earlier army by recruiting from other families within Owari rather than those samurai families traditionally tied to his domain. In addition he quite capably made agreements with Toki Yorinari and later Saito Dosan in Mino province. No doubt his success alarmed Oda Michikatsu who then decided to wage war upon his own vassal, unable to defeat him he then was forced to negotiate a peace which was not broken until after both Michikatsu and Nobuhide had died.

-According to H. Mack Horton the bugyo, Oda Nobuhide, seized Nagoya from its lord Imagawa Ujitoyo in 1532. Imagawa Ujitoyo was one of many sons of Imagawa Ujichika, Ujitoyo had married the daughter of Shiba Yoshimune the governor of Owari at that time. The castle of Yanagi no maru was built either by Shiba Yoshimune or Imagawa Ujichika. After Oda Nobuhide carried out his act of usurpation he tore down this castle and ordered the construction of Nagoya castle to replace it.

-The exact year in which all of these events occurred prior to the 1540's is hard to determine. Due to multiple accounts or the occasional errors in the record sometimes the date could be seen as an approximation. There are instances in which the Chronicle of Oda Nobunaga (Shinchokoki) does not give an exact year for these early events. A notorious example is how Ota Gyuichi mistakenly writes that the Battle of Okehazama occurred in 1552 instead of 1560. Though this particular example is due to a lapse in memory from the author the point comes across.

-The year in which Matsudaira Kiyoyasu was killed is said to be 1535, 1536 or 1537. According to A.L. Sadler the murderer was actually the son of Abe Sadayoshi, Abe Yashichi, in an altercation surrounding the alleged arrest of his father for a claim of conspiring with Matsudaira Nobusada. A.L. Sadler is actually mistaking Abe Sadayoshi and his son with Abe Masatoyo.

-It is possible that Oda Nobuhide made an alliance with Tojo Yoshiyasu, a feudal lord of Ise province in the west, just prior to attacking Anjo castle. According to A.L. Sadler, Abe Sadayoshi and Matsudaira Hirotada had sought sanctuary with Tojo Mochihiro who was married to a younger sister of Kiyoyasu. When Tojo Mochihiro died and his son Tojo Yoshiyasu succeeded him they were forced to flee as the new lord of the Tojo clan was more favourable to the Oda clan.

-The Seven Spears of Azukizaka were: Oda Nobumitsu, Oda Nobufusa, Okada Shigeyoshi, Sassa Masatsugu, Sassa Magosuke, Nakano Shigeyoshi and Shimokata Sadakiyo.

-In 1542 the Imagawa clan had actually experienced a brief respite from wars in the east. Despite the defeat of his vanguard at Azukizaka and his advance being checked at Yahagi, the lord Imagawa Yoshimoto withdrew knowing that the Matsudaira had been saved for the time being by his impressive show of force. Though the Imagawa preferred to play the more subtle diplomatic game. In this occasion he made an alliance with the Matsudaira clan. Yoshimoto had also made agreements with the Kira governors of Mikawa province and the Asahi lords of Totomi province. In 1540 he involved himself in a succession struggle, siding with Takeda Shingen against his father Takeda Nobutora, but giving sanctuary to the latter after this conflict. In 1544 Yoshimoto found himself in conflict with their traditional enemies the Hojo clan. In fact his father Ujichika had at one point established a short lived presence in Owari, as was mentioned earlier, using similar methods. In the long run the rivalry between the Oda and Matsudaira was beneficial to the Imagawa. As can be gauged from the examples of the Imagawa and Oda clans, coalition building was typically how the groundwork for these states was laid down.

Saito Dosan: the merchant Viper
-The details of Saito Dosan's rise to power in Mino province will be dealt with in the next chapter. Though of note here is that Toki Yorinari gave his concubine to his vassal, this was not uncommon in Japan and might be considered an honor to the vassal. The problem here was the implication that Dosan gave Toki Yorinari little choice but to give him rewards. Later on the claim spread that Saito Yoshitatsu was not the son of Saito Dosan because the father was actually Toki Yorinari. This claim is most likely an invention meant to slight father or son.

-The year of Nobuhide's early invasion of Mino province is mistakenly recorded in the Shinchokoki as 1547. After this campaign it seems that Toki Yorinari was forced to retreat with his small army of loyalists into Mino province. After 1548 Toki Yorinari was forced to abandon the governorship and spent his life as an exile moving from one province to another. He would die around 1583 after attempting to return to Mino, whether he intended merely to reside there or perhaps reclaim power is unknown.

-Despite suffering setbacks it was Nobuhide's quick response and his ability to replace his losses that made him a capable military leader. This was most notable when he lifted the Saito clan's Siege of Ogaki shortly after suffering a defeat at the hands of the same Saito Dosan in 1544. After his defeat at the hands of Sessai he was set upon by the lords of Inuyama and Gakuden in 1548, here again he demonstrated this same capacity and moved quickly to defeat their uprising. Nobunaga would inherit these traits and put them to use on a much grander scale.

-The marriage between Kicho and Nobunaga was beneficial to both the Saito clan and the Oda clan since it gave Saito Dosan recognition in his new role as daimyo and provided Oda Nobuhide with a much needed ally. In the long term it also provided Nobunaga with the means to conquer Mino province. However it should be said that Kicho never provided Nobunaga with any children and because she is scarcely mentioned by any sources piecing together the events of her life is nearly impossible except as part of Nobunaga's life. When it comes to the women of the Oda clan none of his wives or daughters would achieve the prominence that some of the other women of this clan would gain.

-Nobunaga often spent his time playing soldier with his retainers and the local peasants, staging mock battles in the country side. Nobunaga could be considered to be physically capable since he spent most of his time training with weaponry, wrestling and horseback riding. Indeed he was known for his ability to ride from province to province very rapidly and his prowess as a warrior was well regarded, taking part in combat many times later in his career and also taking several injuries throughout his life. He especially took an affinity to training with guns and bows with his instructors. He frequently went hawking which to him was an expression of military strategy. At some point it occurred to Nobunaga to develop the long spear with which he began to equip his attendants and later his armies. His only military action at this time was when he was sent to raid Mikawa in 1547 when he was 12 years of age, most likely to gain campaign experience after becoming officially an adult. It is interesting then that his vassals did not question his military abilities but for whatever reason was often considered the underdog in many of his early campaigns.

-The term “Fool” applied here seems rather odd. Though Nobunaga was apparently called “baka dono” which translates to “Lord Fool” or “Owari no Outsuke” meaning “The Great Fool of Owari”. George Sansom translates this as “idiot”. In his translation of the Shinchokoki Jeroen Lamers uses the term “fool”. Whether this is an indication of his lacking in intelligence or merely a reference to his eccentric behavior is difficult to say. On the one hand Nobunaga was acknowledged as a capable military commander and a clever individual. But still the claim of many that Nobunaga was unfit to lead or his being disregarded as a fool makes the exact significance of his strange behavior very difficult to say for certain. It could be that his behavior gave the impression that he was crazy or mentally incapable. Still his strange personality persisted throughout the years even if he became more refined later in life. The derision which met his peculiar actions would later turn into fear of how very unpredictable he could become. Unpredictability is really the underlying theme with Nobunaga. Anecdotes of him giving no quarter to an enemy and acting ruthlessly or his forgiveness to a defeated enemy or rebellious vassal or even generosity to what appeared to be a random peasant or merchant and even attempts to slay a fabled giant serpent at the behest of one of his vassals are just the tip of the iceberg.

-Nobunaga was unwilling to take part in the politics and management of the Oda domain. His guardians, especially Hayashi Hidesada and Hirate Masahide, were in charge of managing his fief and overseeing important matters. Nobunaga probably spent more time being raised and instructed by these retainers than he did his own family, in fact he had been castellan of Nagoya since about the age of 6. Though he was not unintelligent since he was a fan of the Chinese classics and also took to reading the history of Japan in the form of the famed stories and chronicles, particularly the Tale of Heike and the exploits of generals and warriors such as Minamoto Yoshitsune and Taira Atsumori. Aside from this he spent much time going to drink tea. He was not a skilled poet but enjoyed prose nonetheless and oddly only liked to dance a single part from the Atsumori, though he also danced parts meant for women from time to time wearing a kimono. He had a strange affinity for sweets and had poor manners, he would often travel to towns with his entourage and loiter in the middle of the town, spitting seeds and acting like an uncouth boor. Sometimes he had his attendants carry him from place to place and he did not like to stand straight but rather slouched or leaned on people who were next to him. His attire was considered ridiculous since he usually wore a sleeveless bath robe with bright and strange colors. Though he did not always wear pants when he did they were extravagant, he liked to wear hakamas made from tiger pelts or wore a tiger pelt over his shoulders. He often carried a large sword or an arquebus along with many pouches with ammunition. His hair was also rather unkempt and it was this disregard for social norms which many considered to be odd. What was more he did not refer to his peers in a respectful manner but preferred to be personal with them, calling them by their names or nicknames, and tried to relate to his vassals and subjects on a personal level. For whatever reason this appealed to those serving under him and many of his vassals were personal friends, some even asked to serve under him by which he attracted the youth of Owari province. However among the aristocracy of his clan he was considered to be unfit to rule because of his eccentricity. Regardless he was still seen as the legitimate heir by both his father and many within the clan that he was able to succeed Nobuhide upon his death.

A monk called Sessai
-Sessai had been trained as a monk in the Kennin temple but had never received any martial training. He supported Imagawa Yoshimoto in the succession struggle that resulted from the death of Yoshimoto's elder brother Imagawa Ujiteru in 1536. After 1542 the monk Sessai was given more authority over matters of state so that by 1547 he was commanding armies in the west and then by 1550 he was effectively governing Mikawa province. His final act was to negotiate the Imagawa-Hojo-Takeda alliance.

-The defeat which Nobuhide suffered at the hands of Sessai is not mentioned by Ota Gyuichi in the Shinchokoki. Most likely this was an attempt by the author to make Nobuhide appear more favourably.

-”The dogs of Inuyama” is a play on words. “Inu” can be interpreted to mean dog and so the Oda of Inuyama are jokingly referred to as dogs. Oda Nobumitsu, a brother of Nobuhide distinguished himself in this battle on the Kasugai plain, in those days he controlled the castle of Moriyama.

-Who exactly the rebellious lord of Inuyama castle was is not stated. The previous lord who was Oda Nobuyasu was killed in 1544 and was succeeded by his son Oda Nobukiyo, however Nobukiyo is not known to have rebelled against his uncle Oda Nobuhide. It is possible that his retainers rebelled and he was powerless to stop them. Although it is also possible that the young Nobukiyo foolishly chose to rebel, something which he must have soon regretted because upon the death of Nobuhide he decided to support his cousin Oda Nobunaga. Nobukiyo then took part in Nobunaga's campaigns against the Iwakura Oda. But even his loyalty was not without limits as would be seen later on.

-Despite being the older brother Nobuhiro was not considered as a suitable heir. For whatever reason it was Nobunaga who was designated as the heir of Nobuhide. It could be that Nobunaga's mother was the legitimate wife of Nobuhide and was likely herself the daughter of Dota Masahisa, a prominent samurai of the province. Despite her very limited role and lack of a close relationship with Nobunaga she was still able to wield some influence, she outlived Nobunaga by 12 years. Nobuhiro for his part was the son of a concubine though it is curious that he was given more responsibilities than Nobunaga, who did very little until he succeeded their father.

-Oda Nobuhide fathered many children throughout his life. They were as follows: Oda Nobuhiro (1530-1574), Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582, son of Lady Gozen), Oda Nobuyuki (1536-1557, son of Lady Gozen), Oda Nobukane (1543-1614, son of Lady Gozen), Oda Nobuharu (1544-1570), Oda Hidetoshi (1544-1556, adopted by his uncle Oda Nobuyasu), Oda Nobuoki (1545-1570), Oda Hidetaka (1545-1555, son of Lady Gozen), Oda Hidenari (1546-1574), Oda Nobuteru (1546-1610), Oda Nagamasu (1547-1622), Lady Oichi (1547-1583, daughter of Lady Gozen), Oda Nagatoshi (1549-1582), Lady Oinu (1550-1582, daughter of Lady Gozen)

Sources - Books and Papers

-A History of Japan 1334-1615 by George Sansom

-Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan by N. McMullin

-Firearms: a Global History to 1700 by Kenneth Chase

-Guns and Government: A Comparative Study of Europe and Japan by Stephen Morillo

-Hideyoshi by Mary Elizabeth Berry

-Historia da Igreja no Japao (History of the Church in Japan) by Joao Rodrigues

-Historia do Japao (History of Japan) by Luis Frois

-Japonius Tyrannus: the Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered by Jeroen Pieter Lamers

-Letters of Luis Frois, Organtino Gnechi Soldo, Joao Rodrigues and Alessandro Valignano

-Maker of Modern Japan: the Life of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu by A.L. Sadler

-Nagashino 1575: Slaughter at the Barricades by Stephen Turnbull

-Oda Nobunaga: the Battle of Okehazama by Les Paterson

-Oda Nobunaga, Guns, and Early Modern Warfare in Japan by Paul Varley

-Samurai Warfare by Stephen Turnbull

-Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan by Karl Friday

-Shinto in History: Ways of the Kami by John Breen and Mark Teeuwen

-Shogun and Samurai: Tales of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu by Okanoya Shigezane

-Shinchokoki (Chronicle of Oda Nobunaga) by Ota Gyuichi

-Society at War: Eyewitness Accounts of Sixteenth-Century Japan by David Neilsen

-Song in an Age of Discord: The Journal of Socho and Poetic Life in Late Medieval Japan by H. Mack Horton

-The Cambridge History of Japan - volume 4: Early Modern Japan

-The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto by Mary Elizabeth Berry

-The Emergence of the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan: From Oda to Tokugawa by Wakita Osamu

-The Making of Modern Japan by Marius Jansen

-The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull

-They Came to Japan: An Anthology of European Reports on Japan , 1543-1640 by Michael Cooper

-Toki Wa Ima (The Time Is Now) by Brandon C. Schindewolf
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Total Comments 2


  1. Old Comment
    Duke Valentino's Avatar
    Really nice blog. I've been interested in learning more about Nobunaga and his father. They seem somewhat similar to the dynamic of Philip and Alexander, though also a lot different as well.
    Posted January 27th, 2018 at 05:46 PM by Duke Valentino Duke Valentino is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Lord Oda Nobunaga's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Duke Valentino View Comment
    Really nice blog. I've been interested in learning more about Nobunaga and his father. They seem somewhat similar to the dynamic of Philip and Alexander, though also a lot different as well.
    Yes they are somewhat similar in many ways.

    Philip had to campaign to secure his position in Macedonia, much like Nobuhide was required to do. Both Philip and Nobuhide had many wives but generally they had preferential treatment towards their heirs. Both seemed to have a problem with excessive alcohol consumption. Both died before their time, Philip from assassination and Nobuhide from either a long illness or a plague outbreak.

    Alexander and Nobunaga are also somewhat similar as well. Both were trained by the best officers and scholars their parents could afford. Both were very active warriors who enjoyed taking part in battles. Both were cultural chameleons of sorts. Alexander was a Macedonian who spoke Koine Greek and had little trouble fitting in amongst the Anatolians, Egyptians and Persians. Nobunaga was an uncultured provincial from Owari who rebuilt himself as a Kyoto nobleman, he also was extremely interested in Chinese culture and had little trouble with the European Jesuits. Both of them also had a close circle of friends; Alexander's best friend was Hephaestion and Nobunaga's best friend was Ikeda Tsuneoki (Tsuneoki actually outlived Nobunaga by about 2 years). Both seemingly had a problem controlling their anger; with Nobunaga this seems more evident but in a controlled Machiavellian way and he was generally rough and angry, unlike Alexander who generally came off as being contained and amicable but with almost psychotic bursts of rage. Both were also very philosophical and clever, in an almost Machiavellian way though with Nobunaga this was more overt and he was likely regarded as a fearsome warlord rather than as a just ruler. Most of Nobunaga's authority actually came from his sheer military power and from his support of the Emperor as his figurehead, this gave him the pretext to expand his feudal domain.
    Posted May 15th, 2018 at 11:51 PM by Lord Oda Nobunaga Lord Oda Nobunaga is offline

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