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Notes - Oda Nobunaga: Fool of Owari (2)

Posted January 10th, 2018 at 07:28 PM by Lord Oda Nobunaga

Notes - Oda Nobunaga: Fool of Owari

The Fool of Owari
-Arguably the death of Nobuhide gave the Imagawa a chance to make incursions into Owari itself. This was not an issue in the reign of Nobuhide. What was more they received support from some lords within Owari which they capitalized on early in Nobunaga's reign.

-Nobusada and his son Nobuhide were patrons of temples. They supported the Ryusen temple in Owari and Nobuhide had constructed the Bansho temple. Nobuhide himself was also ordained as a Tendai (Lotus) monk, only as a formality as was in style in those days. The construction of temples stimulated the economy by encouraging pilgrimage and the arrival of learned monks from other provinces. For the pious it meant that they would receive blessings and prayers. In addition to religious reasons a temple usually contained valuable relics and a hostel for a lord to rest in while on campaign. Sometimes these temples were also used to carry out negotiations or to pass along valuable information. For a lord building and supporting temples was a matter of prestige. However these temples were not free from war and were often raided and even fortified to sustain siege and to hold troops when required. Nobunaga was also ordained as a monk of the Tendai sect but was not unfavourable to the Pure Land sect. He would also raid and seize temples and go a step further by taxing them, however he also used monks as diplomats and was known to support temples across his domain.

-Seemingly in line with his irreverent personality, Nobunaga made a mockery of the funerary ritual. His outrageous behaviour was used against him by those who preferred to support his younger brother Nobuyuki. Why exactly he chose to act out this way is unknown but it has fueled the idea that Nobunaga did not believe in religion, among many other actions directed against Buddhist monks...

-There is a more extreme anecdote about Nobuhide's death. Some monks in Owari were asked to pray on Nobuhide's behalf during a period of illness and they promised that as a result of their prayer Nobuhide would recover. When instead his condition worsened and he died the furious Nobunaga ordered their temple to be lit aflame and as the monks fled the burning temple he ordered them killed with firearms. The anecdote is not mentioned in the Shinchokoki and is probably meant to exaggerate Nobunaga's dislike of the clergy.

-Though the narrative typically has Hirate Masahide's suicide as the turning point to Nobunaga's behaviour, according to the Shinchokoki this was not the case. It might actually be the case that Masahide committed seppuku because he was blamed for Nobunaga's behaviour, being the young lord's guardian and tutor. An anecdote in the Shinchokoki also has Nobunaga quarreling with Masahide's son over the ownership of a horse which Nobunaga wanted for himself, this was prior to the act of seppuku in question. Whatever the case it seems that Hirate Masahide found himself in a precarious situation and his decision was prompted by a desire to regain his honour, although his son fled Owari soon after.

-It is odd that Nobunaga is calling himself Governor of Owari and using imperial titles this early on despite having no recognition and choosing to support the Shiba governor against the usurpers in Kiyosu later on. Though it seems more odd that so many in Owari are clinging to the title since Nobunaga is rightfully the strongest lord in the entire province.

-Yamaguchi Sama no Suke openly committed treason against his Oda overlords and joined the Imagawa clan, who sent troops into the province. One wonders whether the Imagawa had planned this for some time or merely saw an opportunity when Nobuhide had died. Though according to the Shinchokoki they did not make their move until several months after Nobuhide had died.

-It could be that the Yamaguchi clan were simply troublesome. Nobuhide had banished a branch of this family from Owari. In 1554 Nobunaga actually had that other branch of the Yamaguchi clan return to Owari and gave them back their lands.

-The Shinchokoki emphasizes that Nobunaga was only 18 years old during this campaign against the Yamaguchi clan. His opponent, the son of Sama no Suke, was only 19 and despite neither having much experience Nobunaga's conduct was many times better even though he had taken part in one minor campaign prior to Akatsuka.

-Not only did he outmaneuver both Noriyoshi and his father but he took the hill at San no Yama which provided him with the ability to observe his enemy's movements and secure the high ground. Though the Shinchokoki does not make it clear Nobunaga's decision to negotiate with Sama no Suke was most likely motivated by the fact that he had neutralized the enemy's ability to stay in the field but also he must not have wanted to take part in along siege with the possibility of the Imagawa sending relief and being forced to stay away from Owari politics in the meantime. He might not have had the resources to lay siege anyway. Either way he defeated the Yamaguchi and ended this quick operation in the span of a day.

-The main family of the Kiyosu branch must have seen this as an opportunity to wage war against Nobunaga. Their plan seems to have been to threaten local lords, demanding that they give hostages and possibly accept a garrison of the Kiyosu Oda in their castles to secure the area or at least ensure neutrality in a potential conflict with Nobunaga. For the most part this was a plan made by Sakai Daizen, the foremost retainer of the Kiyosu Oda.

-Whether they wanted to grab some lands or were planning for a longer war with Nobunaga is moot because their actions backfired spectacularly. It prompted an immediate response from Nobunaga who waged a large campaign against them, which succeeded extremely rapidly and resulted in their army being wiped out. Their only saving grace was that Nobunaga was not willing to engage in a long siege of Kiyosu at that time. When he liberated the castles captured by the enemy, its lords could now be counted as being within Nobunaga's alliance.

-Nobunaga's meeting with Saito Dosan is the turning point in Nobunaga's character arc. From this point on he ceased to be a fool. As the Shinchokoki claims Nobunaga was playing the fool so that he would not be considered a threat by his enemies. Nobunaga was very secretive and did not often reveal his intentions. This gave him the reputation of being extremely unpredictable both on and off the battle field. However he still kept some of his eccentric behaviour and so one must ask whether the more refined Nobunaga was not in fact the true act, philosophical questions aside.

The Conspirators in Kiyosu Castle
-Oda Nobutomo was in fact the adopted son of Oda Michikatsu from one of his relatives. Michikatsu had died at some point just before or after Nobuhide. Oda Nobutomo was young and inexperienced as well as weak, this gave rise to Sakai Daizen who influenced Nobutomo and is suggested to have been the true mastermind behind the war against Nobunaga and the assassination of the governor Shiba Yoshimune. He obviously did not account for everything since the young Shiba Yoshikane escaped to Nobunaga.

-Again Nobunaga made a rapid response and annihilated the Kiyosu Oda in the field. But again we see Nobunaga unwilling to lay siege to Kiyosu. This is either because he does not wish to damage Kiyosu castle, which was a decent prize or because he did not wish to compromise himself for a long siege with so many potential enemies at his back and a lack of resources to carry out this operation.

-Rather than taking these castles by force the Imagawa must have blockaded them and forced them to surrender. Whether the Imagawa sent a large army or only a garrison for these castles is not stated but judging by the surrender of these castles and the fear that more castles would follow suite means that the Imagawa army numbered at least in the couple thousands. Also consider that Nobunaga's army was able to defeat the Imagawa garrison at Muraki rather easily and this was in spite of being denied support by some of his vassals.

-The decision to rely on support from Saito Dosan was very controversial. Saito Dosan was mistrusted and perhaps with good reason, if Dosan had ill intent Nobunaga did not give him a chance to act on it. To Dosan's astonishment Nobunaga carried out this campaign in a couple of days and helped to dispel any notions that Dosan would have an easy time against him. Nobunaga met the Mino lord Ando Morinari, who would prove useful in later campaigns in Mino province.

-As quoted in the Shinchokoki the exact words between Nobunaga and the sailors were:
“Your lordship cannot possibly cross the sea today” to which Nobunaga responded “There must have been a similarly strong wind a long time ago, when the Minamoto generals quarreled over the back oars at Watanabe and Fukushima. I absolutely must make this crossing today regardless of what happens, so bring your ships out to sea”.
Nobunaga is referring to the Tale of Heike when Minamoto Yoshitsune quarreled with Kajiwara Kagetoki during their crossing to the island of Shikoku.

-Nobunaga often made it a habit of traveling rapidly with only a few escorts. He could cover a great distance on horse, moving from province to province, in only half the time.

-Nobunaga's tactics at Muraki are a good example of firearms used offensively. By laying covering fire upon an enemy wall an assault group could be sent to scale the walls and take it by assault. This was the common tactic of assaulting walls using firearms. It was actually Oda Nobumitsu who entered the castle with his contingent and for this he was regarded as having obtained the highest honour during the siege. Later on it seems that Oda Nobumitsu began to have ambitions of grandeur and not only played the lead role in taking Kiyosu castle but went so far as to ask for two of the four lower districts from Nobunaga. It is also claimed that he had secret agreements with Matsudaira Kiyoyasu when his elder brother Nobuhide ruled the Oda branch of the Danjo no Jo. This led either to his assassination by Nobunaga or his assassination by an angry vassal. It could be said that his hubris was his downfall.

-A good example of Sengoku era bureaucratic ineptitude. Sakai Daizen was given the title essentially of the vice vice governor. This was quite common in Japan for example during the Minamoto Shogunate the regent to the Shogun was the Jikken. This resulted in a long hierarchy whereby the Emperor passed on his power to the Shogun who in turn was aided by the Jikken. Likewise this was seen in the Kanto region where the Kanto Kubo was aided by the Kanto Kanrei, though ultimately what happened was that the Kanto Kanrei wielded more power than the Kanto Kubo. The Kanrei in turn became dependent on support from their vassals to even keep their feudal domains from the hands of their enemies. This was also seen with Nobunaga both in Owari and later on in Kyoto, Nobunaga did not take any official titles and was content to be acknowledged as the most powerful ruler in Japan. This is also somewhat in line with Nobunaga's irreverence towards authority. In an era of all out war relying on empty titles instead of military force was a disastrous mistake.

-Sakai Daizen is never mentioned again in the Shinchokoki. He fled to Suruga province and was apparently not employed by Imagawa Yoshimoto in any noteworthy capacity.

A Death in the Family
-It appears as if Nobunaga was actually attempting to balance the various powers within his clan. When his brother Nobuyuki was probably trying to use the incident as an excuse to take Moriyama. Instead Nobunaga played off the incident as inconsequential and negotiated with the retainers in the castle to accept his brother Oda Hidetoshi as their lord. It is interesting that Nobunaga scolds the dead Oda Hidetaka for traveling without his attendants despite when he himself is traveling to the besieged castle by himself. Though it gives a good look into his personality and secrecy it is also a good indication that no one could call him out for what might be deemed hypocritical, he was after all the clan lord.

-Rather than support Nobunaga earlier during the Siege of Muraki, the Hayashi brothers made their displeasure known and withdrew. This was the beginning of a tumultuous relationship between Nobunaga and the Hayashi brothers. It came to a head during the revolt of Oda Nobuyuki where they largely masterminded the conspiracy though the older Hayashi and Nobuyuki did not take part in the actual campaigns and instead the troops were led by the younger Hayashi and Shibata Katsuie. Their motivation for revolt is not clear but is probably anything from fear that Nobunaga himself was becoming too powerful or a return to the original claims that Nobunaga was unfit to lead. The fact that they placed their trust in the less capable Nobuyuki indicates that these lords intended to use him as a puppet.

-If the Shinchokoki is to be believed Nobunaga's decision to take part in the combat was the turning point in the first part of the battle. It states “The two sides clashed and the battle raged. Nobunaga roared. The enemy soldiers, who were after all his kinsmen and retainers, saw that Nobunaga's fury was real. They halted in their tracks, awed by his grandeur. In the end, the enemy collapsed and fled”. Though in reality a good deal of prominent samurai on both sides were killed. Nobunaga's line was giving way and those who were routing rallied around Nobunaga and his guard, at which point Nobunaga decided to personally enter the battle and lead his men in an assault, giving his side an increase in morale. Opposing them was Shibata Katsuie, a capable tactician. His being injured in the battle and carried off the field was to Nobunaga's favour. That in addition to Nobunaga intercepting the unsuspecting Katsuie and cutting him off from his reinforcements was another factor that aided Nobunaga in his victory. He used these circumstances to his advantage and defeated an army larger than his. It was this maneuver that allowed Nobunaga to take up a central position between the armies of Shibata Katsuie and Hayashi Mimasaka.

-When Hayashi Mimasaka was challenged by Nobunaga the former was already exhausted from battling with Kuroda Yoshitaka (Kanbei). Nobunaga may have noticed this and targeted him specifically to eliminate one of the enemy generals but also to do away with one of the troublesome and the more belligerent of the Hayashi brothers. The result was no contest and in the record Nobunaga is credited with taking his head. It should be said that Nobunaga was a more than capable warrior, as Kuwata Tadachika puts it he was a “demon-like warrior whose very name instilled fear”.

-Lady Gozen demonstrated her influence in this instance as can be seen by her calling upon Murai Sadakatsu and Shimada Hidemitsu to mediate. There are claims that she favoured her younger son Nobuyuki over Nobunaga, it is true at least that she resided with Nobuyuki in Suemori castle and interceded on his behalf after Nobunaga defeated his supporters. It is likely that Nobunaga actually accepted the terms of his wayward vassals in order to strengthen his clan since not only did he pardon Nobuhide but also many of his supporters, in particular the architect of the revolt Hayashi Hidesada.

-It has long been claimed that Saito Dosan was also trying to overcome Nobunaga and to that end he used his daughter Kicho to spy on the Oda clan. There has been no evidence to substantiate these claims but the idea is not far-fetched. In fact Nobunaga's sister Oichi vied for her brother's interests when she was married off to the Azai clan. Nobunaga's daughter Gotoku was said to provide him with information about the ongoing of the Tokugawa clan. However Saito Dosan's schemes go beyond that since it is mentioned that when he sent Ando Morinari to reinforce Nobunaga he also wanted his general to acquire information. The foiled conspiracy with Oda Nobuhiro is another good example of this, though Nobunaga must have seen the Saito clan as a valued ally because he did not press the matter, and yet he did not punish his older brother Nobuhiro.

-As was covered previously the dreaded Saito Dosan had once been a monk and later an oil merchant in Yamashiro province. He later became a retainer to his friend Nagai Tozaemon, a feudal lord of Mino province. After usurping his lord Dosan, then called Matsunami, tried to take control of the Nagai clan and changed his name to Nagai Shinkuro. When the Nagai clan rebelled against him the lord of Mino province, the unfortunate Toki Yorinari, intervened but on the behalf of the usurper. Gradually the usurper gained more power and eventually he challenged his lord Toki Yorinari, took his vassals and chased him out of Mino province. To legitimize his power Saito Dosan made alliances with clans in neighboring Omi province to his west and with the Oda clan to his south in Owari province.

-Saito Dosan gained the support of the Mino vassals against Toki Yorinari. Later in the conflict against his own son these vassals would support Saito Yoshitatsu. Later when Nobunaga campaigned against Saito Tatsuoki he used the killing of Saito Dosan as a pretext to gain the support of the Mino vassals. With enough victories over the Saito clan the majority of these vassals chose to join Nobunaga.
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