Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chapter 28. The End of an Era

After the Battle of Yozenawa, Tokugawa Ieayasue held absolute power over Japan, but he spared the life of Hideyori the Handsome, the son of Hideyoshi, whom he hath usurped. Partly, this was out of respect for the great general Hideyoshi but also because his youngest daughter, Lady Sen, fell in love with Hideyori.

Hideyori the Handsome. His death cemented the Tokugawa power.

For there were few women in Japan who could resist his immense charm, for he was not ugly like his father but handsome like his mother, or more so. And his skill with the haiku (four stanza poems) made him a playboy of his time, and one who was at one time the rightful Shogunal Heir of Japan.

And so, Ieayasue honored his promise to Hideyori and allowed his daughter to marry him. Upon becoming Shogun, Ieayasue even allowed Hideyori to become Lord of Chubu, his home state, while anointing his own eldest son Hidetada as Heir to the Shogun. For a time, all was peaceful and happy in Japan, for Lady Sen loved her husband and treated him with due respect.

However, Hideyori was rather ungrateful of his situation. When he grew up, he felt that he was the rightful Shogun of Japan and resented the Tokugawas. That his wife was a Tokugawa was irksome to him.

One day, he came home after heavy drinking, and Lady Sen tried to take good care of him, but he was in a bad mood.

Hideyori: “You know if I hath been Shogun of Japan, you would be a Dowager one day? Your father should never have usurped me.”

Lady Sen: “He treats you like a son and has spared you and allowed us to be married. What more can we ask for? I will always love you, Hideyori, even if you were a peasant.”

Now, the word peasant irked Hideyori so, for he was descended from the peasant stock, and in his drunkenness, he beat Lady Sen up real bad.

Now, Hidetada was a good brother, and one day, he visited Lady Sen and was shocked to see his beautiful sister in such a state. He immediately confronted Hideyori, “How dare you do this to the Shogun’s daughter?”

Hideyori, still drunk, replied, “I shall do what I want. This is my household. Speaking of Shogun, I wonder if the Tokugawas are even worthy of it. My father should have slain you guys a long time ago.”

Hidetada, more angry than before, shouted at him. “Hath my father not returned the favor by sparing your life and even making you Lord of Chubu, his own state?! You ungrateful bastard, come duel with me man to man if you think you are even worthy of the Shogunate or Chubu!”

And so, Hideyori took up the sword and accepted the challenge from Hidetada. He was a good swordsman and clearly hated the Tokugawas, but his posture was shaky for he was still drunk at the time of the duel.

The two men fought well. Granted, the duel was not as great as the one between Uesungi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen, but it was still a great one. The Lady Sen tried to intervene between the two men she loved, but the samurais blocked her. In the end, it was Hideyori who fell to Hidetada’s sword, and with him, the illustrious line of Hideyoshi died.

Ieayasue was most angry with his son for the homicide, but in the end, he reconciled to the fact that Hideyori did not fully accept him as Lord of Japan. Besides, it was all for the best, for now, the Tokugawa Shogunate would rule Japan for all eternity.

To prevent the mistakes made by Hideyoshi and Nobunaga before him, he appointed Hidetada as Shogun before he died and saw to it that all the daimyos accepted him. For hundreds of year, the Tokugawas would continue to rule Japan, for there was greatness in them…until they were overthrown by the Satsumas with the help of the Emperor himself.

And Japan modernized and became a world power that challenged America and Brittania for world dominance, for they hath not forgotten the greatness of the Sengoku period…a period so turbulent that new heroes arose from nowhere. Kenshin, the orphan of Heaven who would grow up to become the God of War. Nobunaga, the minor warlord who would unite Japan, and Hideyoshi, the peasant general who sought to conquer Europe in three months. True, certain things in life, we shall never achieve, but what is a man (or a nation for that matter!) without a dream.

Chapter 27. The Heroes of Yozenawa

And so in thirthieth year of the reign of Emperor Showa, the three heroes, Uesungi Nagamasa (son of Kenshin), Maeda Kaeji, and Rokuro decided to make their last stand against Tokugawa with an army of only 20,000 samurais at Yozenawa. Amassed against them was the powerful Ieayasue with over 300,000 men. Ieayasue’s envoy Mori Homatsu begged the heroes to see reason, but they wouldst not. For Kaeji treasured honor and dignity above life and victory itself, and so Kaeji urged the Tokugawas to throw as many of their demons before him as they could spare. Such was the bravery of Kaeji.

Uesungi Nagamsa, son of Kenshin. He led the heroes against Tokugawa Ieyasue in the Battle of Yozenawa.

At one point, Homatsu dramatized the situation, saying “A thousand armies of the Tokugawa Shogunate descend upon you. Their arrows will blot out the sun.”

Whereupon, the fearless Kaeji nonchantly replied, “Good! Then, we shall fight in the shade.” Then, he ordered his men to send the annoying Homatsu back to the Tokugawa camp and shouted to the Uesungi army: “Uesungis, tonight, we dine in Hell!”

And there were loud cheers from the Uesungi clan, so loud that even the Tokugawas should shudder in fear, for what man could stand up against such odds with such ease.

And so the brave men of Uesungi fought hard against the Tokugawa horde. The Tokugawas were not only more numerous. They were wealthier, better supplied, and better armed. They seem to have infinite firepower, and many brave men of the Uesungi clan died, and yet, men continued to fight. For Nagamasa was a noble lord, and men were loyal to him.

Kaeji fought like a mad man, and so did Nagamasa, but it seems their supplies were soon to be spent. Yet, Nagamasa put on a brave face as Ieayasue came forth and urged him to surrender.

Nagamasa: “Did you not pray to my father, the God of War, prior to the Battle of Sekigahara? How will he support you now!?”

Ieayasue: “I did no such thing, and no god shall save you from the sorry fate now, unless you surrender to me.”

But Nagamasa didst not surrender, though deep down inside, his despair was deep, and he considered suicide. It was Kaeji  who stopped him just before he could complete the act.

Kaeji: “How wouldst Kenshin look upon this? If he saw that you are about to give up and commit suicide?”

Nagamasa: “I have nothing left, Kaeji. My father has deserted me. I am not the Dragon of Echido, merely a desperate warrior who has no chance of challenging the might of Ieayasue.”

But Kaeji wouldst not accept this and so he slapped Nagamasa hard on the face and said, “The Nagamasa I know wouldst say no such thing. He was the true son of Kenshin!”

And upon hearing this, Nagamasa remembered himself, arose and said to Kaeji , Rokuro, and all the allies of Uesungi. “Come. Even if we canst not win, let us die like true men. Men of Uesungi. Men blessed by my father Kenshin, the god of war.”

And so, they fought with such spirit that surprised the Tokugawas, for it seemed the Uesungis were becoming stronger even they lacked supplies and were low on men. And the Tokugawas suffered great casualty, but there were so many of them, that eventually victory would still be there. It was said that the spirit of Kenshin possessed them.

After eight days of severe fighting and on top of countless Tokugawa deads, Kaeji and Nagamasa stood back to back, grimy blood streaking about them from all sides. Perhaps, it was that the spirit of Kenshin left them or simply that their strength hath failed, but neither Nagamasa nor Kaeji were able to lift their swords and eventually the two heroes were killed by the Tokugawas.

Rokoru fought with bitter determination too, and he was unwilling to surrender.

Ieayasue shouted, “Know that my will is the law, and if you do not surrender, you shall die, Rokoru. A waste for a soldier so fine.”

But Rokoru only retorted, “My only error is that I slew Jiro Zaburo and not you on the onset of the Sekigahara Battle.”

Whereupon, Ieayasue ordered his men to finish the last hero of Yozenawa.

Nevertheless, he was a man of admiration and art, and so Ieayasue commented in the end, “Never had Sengoku hath such heroes as Nagamasa, Kaeji, and Rokuro. A glorious age in Japan dies with them today.”

But now, his powers were complete, and Tokugawa Ieayasue was Lord of Japan in both name and fact. He pondered how he, a descendant of the Minamoto clan and Takeda’s 24 generals, hath triumphed where others have not and vowed to make the Tokugawa Shogunate a power for all of eternity.

Chapter 26. Maeda the Brave

It is impossible to appreciate the importance of the Battle of Yozenawa without knowing the greatest of its heroes, Maeda Kaeji. In truth, Kaeji was the heir to the Maeda clan, but not much was expected of him in childhood. For it seems that Kaeji was an irresponsible young man, more prone to fights and womanizing than the important role of being a nobie in the Sengoku period.

Fifth Regent Maeda Kaeji, one of the greatest warriors of the Sengoku period

Kaeji’s exploits became well known even before he attained adulthood. His romance with many women were also well-known, but there was none who enamored him more than the Lady Akechi Mariko. At one time, the Lord of Ryukyu, Chikuzabe Korusho (later Admiral of Japan), saw the Lady Mariko and wanted to make her his mistress.

He sent a small contingent men to kidnap her from her father’s domain in Mino, but Kaeji who was passing by stopped them.

The twenty samurais saw that he was alone and said, “How dare you block us? We are the cream of the Lord Korusho’s samurais? Do you think you can even defeat us?”

But Kaeji looked at them in disdain and said, “How can the noble Lord Korusho stoop to such lowly deeds? As far as I’m concerned, you are no more than a bunch of brigands claiming to serve him.”

The samurais were angry, but their true mission was to kidnap the Lady Mariko and not to fight with the unruly young noble, so some of them surrounded him and fought. But Kaeji was more than a match for any of them, for he hath been trained by the famous ronin Harada Kuruzami, originally one of Takeda Shingen’s 24 disgraced generals.

Some of these samurais managed to capture Lady Mariko, took her on a fast ship, and were returning back to Ryukyu. Suddenly, they realized that their sail was cut. Lo and behold, it was Kaeji!! Somehow, he hath managed to steal into the ship. The samurais fought with him, but were again defeated. He forced the remaining  sailors to bring him back to Mino where he returned Lady Mariko to her father.

It was clear that despite his cavalier lifestyle, the Lady Mariko hath fallen in love with him, and he said unto her father Akechi Jinsai, “One day, I will marry your daughter.”

Whereupon Jinsai replied, “Would you do so without my consent? As Lord Korusho hath attempted.”

But Kaeji confidently replied, “You shall consent,” and then he left without need to explain.

Many years later, the Maeda clan surrendered to the Oda Shogunate. Kaeji was one of the most celebrated generals and a young one at that.  The Lord Shogun Nobunaga granted Lady Mariko’s hand to Kaeji. Needless to say, …Jinsai consented.

After the death of his father, Kaeji succeeded to the daimyoate of Maeda, while Toyotomi Hideyoshi, his rival for the hand of Lady Mariko, became Shogun of Japan. At first, Hideyoshi resented him, but Kaeji was indispensible to his campaign in Korea. Was it not the brave Kaeji who defeated the Chinese general Cheng Yin in the Battle of Pyongyang?

Therefore, when Hideyoshi was about to die, he promoted Maeda Kaeji to Fifth Regent. Sure, it was still junior to all the other regents, but for a minor daimyo of the Maeda clan to attain such status was not normal.

Now, there was another troubled young man in the Sengoku period, and he was the illegitimate son of Tokugawa Ieayasue by a minor mistress. Originally, his name was Ieyomi, but Hideyoshi hath adopted this young man. Though he was the Shogun’s adopted son, the servants despised him and did not treat him with due respect.

Ieyomi was angered and murdered the servant in cold blood. After that, no one dared to challenge him. Not only was Ieyomi the adopted son of a Shogun, but he was also a great warrior.

One day, he heard the beautiful song sung by Kaeji’s wife and was eager to take Lady Mariko back to his court, when he was stopped by Kaeji. Some of Kaeji’s retainers said unto him, “You will leave the Regent’s wife here, and we will not find fault with you.”

But the haughty Ieyomi replied, “Am I to fear some perfumed Regent of my Father? I shall take that which I have the ability to take.”

Whereupon, Kaeji appeared before him in person and said, “How dare you compare with the perfumed nobles of your father’s court? I am my own man. I was fighting by the Shogun’s side before you learned how to hold a sword, little boy.”

Now, Ieyomi did not like being called a little boy, so he charged at Kaeji but was defeated twice. In the end, he acknowledged Kaeji as a senior, and both of them came to enjoy the songs of Lady Mariko.

Another story that added to Kaeji’s fame was his thunderous horse known as the Matsukaze, or “winds in the pine”, for the wild stallion was bred of the best horses, but he was wild and ill-tempered. No warrior could tame his unruly spirit. One day, the Lord Shogun Hideyoshi was about to kill the horse, when Kaeji asked him to give him the chance. And so Kaeji was able to tame Matsukaze, which eventually became his horse. It was said that Kaeji was as wild as Matsukaze himself, and so they were kindred spirits. Kaeji was never seen in a fight without this great steed.

Many years hath passed, and by then, Ieayasue hath declared himself Shogun. Though Ieyomi hated his true father, he was compelled to fight on his behalf. In the great duel at He-hizea Pine Groves, Kaeji defeated Ieyomi thrice before slaying him. Such was his great nobility and sadness at slaying his own disciple.

Now, Kaeji was the greatest swordsman in Japan, both in terms of strength and agility, and Ieayasue would have loved to have him serve him, but this could not be. For Kaeji was a best friend of Fourth Regent Uesungi Nagamasa, who was now enemy of Ieayasue.

Nevertheless, Ieayasue hoped that Kaeji would be spared if he did not intervene, and so he sent a messenger to tell Kaeji as much. That messenger was none other than the disgraced and deposed Third Regent Mori Homatsu, who at one time was more senior than Kaeji himself.

But Kaeji looked at Homatsu in disdain and said, “It behooves me to see that the great Lord Mori Homatsu of Nagasaki is no more than one of the Tokugawa lapdogs, but let Ieayasue know this that Maeda Kaeji fears no more, Regent, Shogun, or not.”

Whereupon, Homatsu said, “You will pay for your arrogance, Kaeji. Is my example not enough yet?”

To this statement, Kaeji  replied, “Perhaps, I will pay for this with my life, but certainly, I will not pay with it with my dignity as you have, my Lord.”

With these words, Kaeji rode on Matsukaze with just five thousand men and the famed warrior Rokuro to the city of Echido, where the Uesungi capital was located. Rokuro was honored to ride with Kaeji for in Japan, Kaeji was the only man alive who could match him in swordplay.

But before, Kaeji could reach Echido, he realized the city hath been occupied by Tokugawa forces. Now, only a small contingent of 15,000 men led by the former Fourth Regent Uesungi Nagamasa, son of Kenshin (the God of War), met him at Yozenawa. Here, they would make their last stand against the greatest army in Japanese history.

Chapter 25. The Road to Sekigahara

The rise of Ieayasue and the replacement of Homatsu by a Tokugawa crony like Sugiyama was something the other Regents found most irksome. They hath come to view Ieayasue as first amongst equals, but now his deeds showed that he thought himself superior to them. So the other Regents sided with Ishida Misunari, and soon it seem the capital city of Osaka was no longer a safe place for Ieayasue and his followers.

First Regent Tokugawa Ieayasue’s steady rise to power broke the carefully crafted peace of Hideyoshi

In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Showa, Ieyasue and his loyal follower Jiro Zaburo left the capital and marched towards Chubu, his homeland. Misunari declared this as an avoidance of his duty. Then, he proclaimed himself First Regent.

Not only that, Misunari hath Sugiyama tortured to death and restored Homatsu, who was imprisoned in Osaka, to his former position. He then appointed Satsuma Zaitaka, Ieayasue’s estranged half-brother and daimyo of Hokkaido, as Second Regent. With the help of Misunari’s large army, Zaitaka conquered Chikuzabe territory and also became Admiral of Japan. Now, the Assembly of Regents were firmly in Misunari’s hands and focused on destroying Ieayasue. It was even rumored that Dowager Ochiba, mother of the heir, was having an affair with Misunari.

And yet, the political victory in Osaka was not enough for Misunari. He was bent on destroying Ieayasue and the entire Tokugawa clan, so he conspired with Zaitaka to achieve this. Zaitaka held Lady Meiko, who was his mother as well as Ieayasue, as hostage and told his half-brother that she wouldst be slain if he did not give up the daimyoate of Chubu and retire to the Monastery.

Ieayasue bided his time through lengthy negotiations with Zaitaka while ordering Choshu Tensei, his loyal general, to rescue his mother. The conflict between the Choshu and Satsuma clans would resonate in Japan again many centuries later, for it was Choshu Tensei and a few hundred hardy men who scaled the unclimbable walls of Okinawa and rescued Lady Meiko.

After his mother was safe, Ieyasue thought to himself, “I have relinquished the quest for power, and yet Ishida Misunari will not leave me be, so there is nothing I can do but fight this out with them.”

So despite his cautious nature, Ieayasue led a great host to do battle with the Ishida clan. In truth, the Ishida now hadst more men on their side than the Tokugawas, but their armies were dispersed. Misunari ordered the four allied forces to converge with him at the Plain of Sekigahara, where they would join forces against the rebel Ieayasue, and everyone promised to do as the First Regent said.

But the forces led by Maeda Kaeji, Mori Homatsu, and Uesungi Nagamasa all took a great deal of time to reach Sekigahara, for they were not as close as Musinari or Zaitaka’s forces. First, Ieayasue marched north and defeated the Satsumas, whose forces were much smaller than his 200,000 men. He captured Zaitaka and said, “You are not my brother, but a villain who will take his own mother as hostage. I hereby sentence thee to death.”

And so, he beheaded Zaitaka before the Battle of Sekigahara could begin. In his stead, he appointed Lord Satsuma Saitama, who was a cousin of Zaitaka on his father’s side and hath served him loyally, as daimyo of the Satsuma clan in Okinawa, and then marched to meet the main force of Misunari in Sekigahara.

But Misunari was no fool. He too realized that until his allies arrived, his forces would be outnumbered, so he sent the great warrior Rokura to assassinate Ieayasue while this camp was resting. Constantly by Ieayasue’s side was the master ninja Jiro Zaburo, who was both cunning and skilled in warfare. Now, Jiro Zaburo knew that he looked exactly like his daimyo lord Tokugawa Ieayasue, so he thought of the ploy the moment Rokuro attacked them in stealth.

He shouted to his Lord and said, “Move away from me, you peasant. I shall fight this battle myself.”

Ieayasue was too surprised to respond. Meanwhile, Jiro and Rokoru engaged in a great combat, but alas, no man was a match for Rokuro, who finally slew the Shadow General Jiro with the famous Yoshimoto blade that his master Misunari hath received from Hideyoshi himself. Understanding that Jiro was in truth Ieayasue, he fled back to Misunari’s camp to report the great victory.

Ieayasue cupped the dying Jiro in his arms and wept, “Why have you done this, Jiro? I would gladly give my life to a loyal warrior as yourself. Why!?!”

But in his dying words, Jiro said unto the Lord of Chubu, “I can not allow you to do that, my Lord. Your  life is worth a hundred Jiro Zaburos.” Then, he took Ieayasue’s hands in his and squeezed it. “Promise me that I will not die in vain. Bring peace and glory back to the Empire of Yamato.”

Ieayasue simply replied, “I promised,” as more tears left his eye for the dying hero, so alike himself in both greatness of character and looks.

At this point, Jiro smiled his last and died. Ieayasue spun back to his men and shouted, “What is the life of a good man…a hero such as Jiro Zaburo worth? Men of Chubu, will you not avenge upon him with Misunari’s blood?!”

And a thousand voices shouted back, “Jiro, Jiro!! Tokugawa, Tokugawa! Death to the Ishida clan.”

And as Ieayasue’s men marched to Sekigahara for the great battle, they were bloodthirsty and all fired up for revenge for the death of their hero.

Beleiving that Ieayasue was truly dead, the Ishida army marched day and night to Sekigahara. By the time, they reached it, they were exhausted. Now, Ieayasue himself appeared before Musinari, showing his birthmark on the right hand. Now, the power balance hath shifted, for the Ishida clan could see for themselves that they hath killed the wrong man and that Ieayasue was very much still alive.

The Tokugawas were well-armed and outnumbered the Ishida clan by more than 40,000 men. In the Battle of Sekigahara, they fought with anger and vengeance, and soon death was everywhere. After three days of heavy fighting, Misunari knew he was defeated. He sent Rokoru to warn his remaining allies, while he himself was captured by Ieayasue.

Ieayasue ordered Misunari buried alive and said, “You are not worthy of being a Regent. You are nothing but a peasant-born. I have relinquished by regency, and yet you were not content. You have torn the shreds of my brotherhood and killed my greatest comrade Jiro Zaburo. For these crimes are more heinous than an attempt on my own life, so thou shalt not be pardoned.”

And so, Misunari died in the sun, as the scorpions crawled over him. The Tokugawas were now in control of Osaka. Mori Homatsu surrendered his regency and the city of Nagasaki to the Tokugawas, wherepon Ieayasue appointed his own eldest son, Tokugawa Hidetada, to the daimyoate of Mori. Since then, the Mori clan’s power came to an end, though the Tokugawas honorably allowed Homatsu to live in disgrace.

In the twenty-third year of the Emperor Showa, Ieayasue proclaimed an end to the Toyotomi Shogunate and dissembled the Assembly of Regents. He also outlawed the two remaining regents, Uesung Nagamasa and Maeda Kaeji, but offered them pardon if they would loyally serve him. From that day onwards, he moved the capital of Japan to Yedo (now Tokyo) and proclaimed himself Shogun. This was the beginning of the magnificent Tokugawa Shogunate.

Chapter 24. The Assembly of Regents

In the seventh year of the reign of the Emperor Showa, Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi realized that death was approaching him. The yellow fever he caught in Korea hath never recovered, and the shame and disappointment of defeat at Pyongyang hath sapped his strength to fight the disease. Some days, he would openly talk about the beauty of Lady Maeda Mariko or Princess Seong Yon. On other days, he would rant like a madman about those he hath slain in combat such as Asakura Tadatatsu.

Ishida Misunari, Hideyoshi’s loyal general, was made Second Regent of the Toyotomi Shogunate. His rivalry with Tokugawa Ieayasue would tear the land apart.

Hideyoshi’s only son by Ochiba, Hideyori, was still very young, and he was worried that the boy could not rule the Empire, so he called Tokugawa Ieayasue in to meet him.

Hideyoshi: “What is to prevent you from usurping my son once I am gone?”

Ieayasue: “In truth, my Lord Shogun, nothing.”

Hideyoshi (Laughing): “Then, I shall have you beheaded. Haha…what if the other nobles remain loyal to Hideyori? Will they be able to stop you?”

Ieayasue: “No my Lord. If it is your wish, I shall commit hara-kiri now.”

Hideyoshi: “No, no…You shall join the Assembly of Regents and be first amongst them. It is you who shall protect Toyotomi”

Ieayasue (Bowing): “Yes, my Lord.”

And so, in this manner, Hideyoshi appointed Hideyori as his Heir and acting Shogun. Hideyori was to become Ieayasue’s foster son, so the bonds of fatherhood would prevent betrayal. In addition, Hideyori was to marry Ieayasue’s daughter when they came of age. In return, an Assembly of Regents was formed. Councilor Ieayasue was made First Regent and leader of this powerful Assembly.

“Ishida Misunari, Supreme Commander, was made Second Regent and Lord of all Lands once ruled by Akechi Jinsai,” the herald continued. “Lord Mori Homatsu of Nagasaki shall be Third Regent and Treasurer of the Realm. Lord Uesungi Nagamasa shall be created Fourth Regent and made Lord of Owari (Nobunaga’s homeland) in addition to his current position. Finally, the brave Lord Maeda Kaeji shall be made Fifth Regent and given the Island of Ryukyu to enlarge his power.”

And in this way, the Regents were strengthened, and Hideyoshi rested easy in the knowledge that no other noble would challenge the claim of his son to the Shogunal Throne. The Regents themselves would join force against one another and favor Hideyori if one of them was to betray the Heir, and how couldst the powerful Ieayasue betray his own son and son-in-law? Surely, the plan was full-proof.

After setting up this arrangement, the Shogun Hideyoshi died a peaceful death in the eight year of the reign of the Showa Emperor.

Immediately after the death of Hideyoshi, tensions arose between the Regents. The two who barely got along were First Regent Ieayasue and the Treasurer Mori Homatsu. Homatsu got along with everyone else. He was best friends with Lady Ochiba, Mother to the Heir, but Ieayasue felt that he did not treat him with respect. So conflicts arose between the two men.

When his trade route was blocked by Homatsu’s men, Ieayasue demanded that the situation be resolved, but Homatsu merely said, “I too am Regent”, meaning that he was Ieayasue’s equal. At another time, the Christians of Nagasaki resurged after the death of Hideyoshi, who curbed activity of the Church, and the gaijins made fun of Ieayasue.

This was the last straw. In the twelfth year of the Emperor Showa, Ieayasue marched to Nagasaki and besieged the port city. Chikuzabe Daito, son of Admiral Korusho, became an ally to the Tokugawas, and helped blockade Nagasaki by sea. Finally, the city fell. Ieayasue removed Homatsu from control of his clan and replaced him with his distant cousin Mori Sugiyama, who had no claim to glory or wealth. He also hath Sugiyama appointed as Third Regent and Treasurer in Homatsu’s stead.

Ieayasue’s presence was now overbearing and an annoyance to the other regents, especially Second Regent Ishida Misunari, who was also Supreme Commander of Japan, and it seem that one day, the tensions would simply break into a full scale war between the powerful lords of Japan.

Chapter 23. The Battle of Pyongyang

And so, after three years of unprecedented vacancy on the Chrysanthemum Throne, the Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi appointed a young Yamato prince as Emperor Showa. He was eager to invade Korea with a great force, but Tokugawa Ieayasue refused to go with him, so he appointed Ieayasue as Regent of Japan and sailed across the Korean Straits with his general Ishida Misunari.

King Yi San of Joseong (Korea). With the help of the Chinese Emperor, he fought against Hideyoshi’s invading Japanese forces.

In the meantime, his sworn enemy Yi San did not sit easy, but requested for aid from the Ming Emperor, who sent a great force to help him repel the Japanese invasion. At first, the Chinese Admiral Cheng Ching, who was a descendant of the great explorer Cheng Ho, met him in the Great Sea Battle of the Korean Straits.

The Korean ships were well-built, but the Chinese ones were cobbled together in haste. Hideyoshi’s Japanese navy rode on the magnificent Chikuzabe fleet led by Korusho. Korusho ordered the Japanese archers to fire all their arrows in one shot. Although the Chinese had more ships, the Japanese had better firearms and greater fighting spirit.

Some of the samurais led by the fearless general Ishida Misunari jumped abroad the Chinese flagship and surrounded Cheng Ching himself. A giant Chinese warrior jumped to Cheng Ching’s rescue, but he was easily slain by Maeda Kaeji in one fell swoop. The Japanese were winning! Suddenly, Cheng Ching ordered a hasty retreat, and the Korean ships hath to follow his orders.

The entire formation of the Koreans and Chinese fleet broke down, and now Korusho was able to land. Hideyoshi hath reached Korea and now occupied the southern city of Kwongju.

As he sat with his favorite general drinking warm sake, he pondered upon his great success. He liked Misunari, because the general was much like him…a peasant who hath risen by merit, not some bum noble who did not know how to do a really good fight.

Misunari: “My Lord, we Japanese have fought amongst ourselves for too long. Now, it is great to see battle on the outside world and to show our superior bravery.”

As he warmed his wet clothes by the fireside, Hideyoshi smiled warmly and replied, “Yes, indeed. At least, my world conquest hath begun.”

General Cheng Yin, brother of Admiral Cheng Ching, was sent by the Chinese Emperor to aid Joseong against the Japanese invasion. The Cheng family hath indeed become favorites of the Imperial Court in Peking ever since the famous Admiral Cheng Ho sailed to Malacca and beyond. So now, Cheng Yin arrived with a large force to Pyongyang, but the Japanese led by Hideyoshi were superior in firearms and fighting spirit. Furthermore, they had longer lances, swords, and spears than the Chinese and Korean armies.

In the initial fight, Hideyoshi did well, and probably slew three enemies to one Japanese soldier. Cheng Yin himself ran to the front and challenged Hideyoshi to a duel in full view of the three armies, but Hideyoshi simply pointed to the man and ordered Maeda Kaeji, “Bring me his head!”

So Kaeji and Cheng Yin fought…and they fought like lions. But what man couldst defy the ungodly strength of Kaeji. With the thundering speed, he slew Cheng Yin after fifty bouts, forcing the large Chinese army into retreat. The remaining troops fled to the Pyongyang Castle, and King Yi San forbade his soldiers and Chinese allies from engaging the Japanese in further combat. He hath stocked Pyongyang to the brim and prepared the wells, so poisoning was impossible. Yi San hath learned well from the mistake of the Hojo Brothers in the Battle of Odawara. Such was the level of his preparation against Hideyoshi.

In the first few days, the Japanese spirit remained high. It was more like a joyous camping trip than a bitter war. Hideyoshi and Misunari would sit by the fireside and eat roast mutton and wine generously with the men, laughing and joking.

However, the Koreans would come out on hit-and-run attacks, sometimes led by Yi San himself. The Japanese would be lured to the fortress and gunned down by Korean arrows and artillery. Soon, the casualties on the Japanese side would outnumber the Korean side, and this was something Hideyoshi could hardly afford. For though the Chinese army had little time to muster its force, the Chinese general Cheng Ching who hath replaced his brother on land as well had more than enough men to outnumber Hideyoshi if the opportunity of counterattack came for him to do so. In the meantime, he was able to rest easy in the comfort and abundance of the Pyongyang Castle.

Soon, the tide turned against Japan in summer, for many men died of leprosy. They called the Koreans and Chinese armies the Garlic-Eaters, but perhaps it was garlic and other local food that saved them from the disease. To this day,  nobody knows.

Unfortunately, one of the first to suffer was the Japanese Admiral Chikuzabe Korusho. The sturdy warhorse was now dying, and Hideyoshi paid him a personal visit.

Korusho: “I have always respected you, Shogun. The Little Monkey General who defeated me. You built the One-Night Fortress and evaded my patrols at Hokkaido.”

Hideyoshi: “Enemies we have been, and Comrades we have become. But never in my career hath I ceased to have respect for you, Korusho.”

Korusho: “Your words do me great honor. More than gold in its worth.”

And with these words, there were tears in Hideyoshi’s eyes, for Korusho hath served him well but was no more. Such was the great charisma of Hideyoshi that the troops admired him so.

And the fate of Japan worsened by the day. While the Koreans and Chinese hath ample supply, Hideyoshi’s men were reduced to eating horsemeat and living off the impoverished land around Pyongyang. The Regent Tokugawa Ieayasue repeated sent him messages that Japan could ill-afford to financially support his campaign, sending men, money, and supplies across the Straits in such large distance. The peasants hath become restless, and Ieayasue along with his two faithful lieutenants, Choshu Aechi and Satsuma Saitama, were forced to resort to force to quell the rebellion. Over 3,500 rebels hath been beheaded, but unless the war taxes stopped, more would take their chances against the Toyotomi Shogunate.

It was adamant that Hideyoshi accept the failure of the Pyongyang campaign lest the Shogunate fall under its weight.

In the fifth year of the reign of the Showa Emperor, Hideyoshi himself fell ill, and the Supreme Commander Ishida Misunari ordered a retreat for fear of the Lord Shogun’s life, for he loved Hideyoshi as a son would love a father. The few Japanese troops left behind to guard the Japanese conquests in Kwongju were easily crushed by Yi San and Cheng Ching.

The Pyongyang campaign was coming to an end. The Japanese fleet was returning to Nagasaki in disgrace. The Lord Shogun Hideyoshi hath dreamed of conquering Europe in three months. The campaign hath last much longer, but he couldst not even conquer Pyongyang. Such was the punishment of the gods, for Hideyoshi’s hubris hath angered them thus. The goddess Amaterasu hath raised a common buffalo-riding peasant to the status of Lord Shogun, something that t’was never happened in history of the status-concious Japan, but he would dream of world conquest.

Haha, the follies of mortals. The warnings of Ieayasue hath come true, and yet, he could find no joy in his wisdom as the Lord Shogun, still bed-ridden, returned to the Osaka Castle.

Chapter 22. The Ambition of a Peasant

In the forty-third year of the reign of the Haisan-jo Emperor, the peace of the Toyotomi Shogunate hath once again been torn. In reality, Hideyoshi hath no right to be Shogun for he was but a peasant, but he had himself adopted into the Fujiwara family, who were Imperial Regents of Japan. Now, the Fujiwaras and Hojos were sworn enemies. After many years of peace, the warlord Hojo Totomi, who hath been installed by Oda Nobunaga, thought he could challenge Hideyoshi.

The Hojo capital of Odawara that was torched for its defiance of Hideyoshi

With the help of his brother Kanechori, Totomi declared the Shogun Hideyoshi a usurper and said that the Fujiwaras hath betrayed the Emperor by betraying him. Of course, Hideyoshi who remained in firm control of the Imperial Court got sanctions to denounce the Hojo brothers. He then set off with the same army that conquered Nagasaki against the Hojos at Odawara. Some 300 gaijins, mainly Portuguese and Dutch mercenaries who were spared in the Battle of Nagasaki, was also forced to serve in his army on pain of death.

It was a most impressive sight, but the Hojo brothers were also ready for him. They were well-stocked with supplies and ammunitions. In addition, they had a large army at their disposal and were well-fortified. Perhaps, the great Hideyoshi hath finally met his match.

As the great Toyotomi army marched through Hojo territory and was forced to stop before the rebel’s capital, the two Hojo brothers came forth at the battlement and taunted him.

Kanechori: “Hey, peasant boy, go back to your farm. The dirt stench on you is polluting the Imperial Palace and our beautiful Castle.”

Totomi: “Haha, that’s right, my brother. What is the Monkey doing on the Shogunal throne? Haha, so funny, man.”

And Hideyoshi was so angry at their taunts that he pointed his finger to the Hojo brothers high above and said, “One day, I will bring you down, and you will die a most disgraceful death. Mark my words!!”

The Toyotomis and their gaijin soldiers tried to storm Odawara Castle, but to no avail. And in truth, Hideyoshi did lose many men. Just then, he got a plan. He ordered the gaijins to locate the source of the well into Odawara Castle and poisoned the source. Now, Odawara was left without water supplies. True, they were well-stocked with food, but without water, they couldst not hold out for long.

Then, Hideyoshi prepared for a long drawn out war, and the Hojo brothers were forced to seek truce. However, at the peace table, they were suddenly seized by Maeda Kaeji’s men. Hideyoshi did not forgive them for their insults. The Hojo brothers were beheaded, and their heads were piked to the city gates in European fashion. The great city of Odawara that produced great men like Hojo Tokimasa and rulers like Ise Chinkaro was burned to the ground. Such was the punishment for those who defied Toyotomi Hideyoshi. To reward the gaijins for their work, Hideyoshi gave each of them a Japanese wife.

And so in this manner, Hideyoshi grew even prouder of himself. Was he not a mere peasant? And yet, he was the only man of lowly origins to ever set foot upon the Shogunal throne. Did he not humble the noble families of Akechi and Hojo?! Surely, the gods would hand the world unto him as they did many years ago when that barbarian lord Genghis Khan. Some say that Genghis Khan was really Minamoto Yoshitsune, who did not really die after the Battle of Daniera but hath fled to the mainland.

Anyway, Hideyoshi grew bolder, and when the Emperor Haisan-jo died in the fiftieth year of his reign, he even pondered about seizing the Imperial throne for himself, but his advisors such as Tokugawa Ieayasue opposed the idea. Hideyoshi was already in firm control of the Empire. Why was there a need to anger the sun goddess Amaterasu by defiling the holy line of Yamato?

So Hideyoshi abandoned that idea, but when he heard that the Korean princess Song Yoen was beautiful, he demanded that the King of Joseong (Korea) send her over to be his concubine, but Yisan, King of Joseong, refused.

The letter was most haughty. Yisan simply said, “I am the King of Joseong, and you are no king. At most, thou art only a general, which is what Shogun means. Do not think us ignorant of the Japanese ways, for we are not barbarians. Call upon Thy Emperor to speak unto me, but utter not one more word to Us, who am King of Joseong.”

And in truth, Joseong was only a small country…and a vassal state of Ming China at that. To address Hideyoshi, Lord of Japan, in such manner was unthinkable!! So Hideyoshi planned to invade Joseong, whereupon the ever cautious Ieayasue again warned him:

“Do not tempt the gods, my Lord. They have been good unto you. Be content that you are Lord of Japan, for if we shall invade Joseong (Korea), surely their Chinese overlords will intervene, and no nation can withstand the armies of the Ming Emperor.”

But Hideyoshi hath accomplished much in his life, and he saw the best years still ahead of him, so this was his reply to Ieayasue.

“Have you no faith in me? Did I not defeat the gaijins who were conquering all of Asia in the Battle of Nagasaki? Did I not crush Akechi Jinsai when you warned me to surrender?! Listen to me, Lord Tokugawa Ieayasue, and listen to me well. In three months, I shall conquer not only Joseong, but also Ming China itself, and make the Ming Emperor bow unto me…and then I shall conquer the homeland of the gaijins (Europe) itself that the entire world shall bow to Hideyoshi.”

And there was confidence that was supernatural. Ishida Misunari clapped at the Shogun’s word and cheered him on, but Ieayasue knew this was the speech of a madman eager to tempt the patience of the gods. He sighed and looked at the ground in desolate hopelessness and left the Grand Council room, for he knew disaster was to fall upon Japan…and all he could say in his heart were this:

“The nail that stands out will be hammered. Beware, Hideyoshi, the gods do not tolerate such arrogance, great man, though you may be.”

Chapter 21. The Catholics of Nagasaki

Just as Nobunaga was distrustful of the Buddhists, so Hideyoshi was wary of the Portuguese Catholics of Nagasaki, for they were in control of firearms and could at any moment support a rival warlord against him, or perhaps even try to conquer the Empire themselves. The Portuguese, led by Father Alfonso and the merchant Henrique de Sequiera, did not honor the Shogun, and their nonchalant attitude irked him very much.

The Oura Church of Nagasaki. The great port town has always had a large population of Catholics even in the Sengoku period.

In the fortieth year of the reign of the Haisan-jo Emperor, Hideyoshi marched against Nagasaki with a great force. The daimyo who ruled it, Mori Homatsu, was a coward in the best of times. He vacated the city, declared de Sequiera an outlaw, and came out to greet Hideyoshi.

And so, the Portuguese soldiers seized control of Nagasaki. De Sequiera claimed the city for the King of Portugal and named Father Alfonso as the Bishop of Nagasaki. Now, it was easy for Hideyoshi to rally the rest of Japan against Nagasaki, which he claimed was infested by Portuguese invaders.

De Sequiera was a disillusioned man if he thought he could win, for although he had the better guns than Hideyoshi, there were really only 1,500 Portuguese who controlled the city. The Shogun, on the other hand, has 150,000 soldiers with him.

Even then, the Shogun took no chances. He ordered Admiral Chikuzabe Korusho to blockade the port of Nagasaki, so that Portugal or any of de Sequiera’s allies could not send him any reinforcements, ammunitions, or additional guns.

Then, he formed an alliance with 500 Dutch mercenaries and traders led by Djork van Houten, who hath just arrived from the Dutch colony of Batavia (Indonesia), promising them entry into Nagasaki and more trade with Japan.
And so, the Battle of Nagasaki began in earnest. Many Dutch soldiers, serving in the front lines, died in this battle. De Sequiera remained confident of the strong fortress of Nagasaki and railed his men on: “Christians in arms, know that the Lord above is our Savior. The fortress of Nagasaki is strong, and our guns are superior to the junk carried by the Shogun’s men.”

The Portuguese fought hard, and they fought like heroes. But as their bullets and food supply ran short, it was clear they would be defeated. The Japanese in the city rebelled against them and captured both de Sequiera and Bishop Alfonso and opened the gates to Hideyoshi. The 200 remaining Dutch soldiers were the first to enter Nagasaki, followed by Hideyoshi’s army. The great Shogun hath triumphed over the foreign devils!!

The gaijins (foreingers) were defeated. Now, Hideyoshi was a great reader of European history, so he ordered the Portuguese crucified, including Bishop Alfonso, who thought himself a matyr.

Van Houten now claimed that he should be made Govenor of Nagasaki in de Sequiera’s place, but Hideyoshi did not listen to him. With only 200 men…and injured ones at that, Van Houten was no match for the Shogun. Fighting broke out between the Japanese and the Dutch, and the entire Dutch army was wiped out. In this manner, Hideyoshi regained control of Nagasaki, and Mori Homatsu became even more subservient to him than before.

Chapter 20. Hideyoshi Challenges Nobonori

The great victory of Kobe made Hideyoshi proud and arrogant, and soon, he deigned it possible to challenge Oda Nobonori himself. He refused to recognize Nobonori as Shogun, and once again there was turmoil in the land as the various warlords and nobles chose sides between the two leaders. Chikuzabe Korusho, Maeda Kaeji, and Ishido Misunari sided with Hideyoshi, while Tokugawa Ieayasue (the Lord Councilor) and Uesungi Nagamasa (son of Kenshin) rallied around Nobonori. Needless to say, the cunning Mori Homatsu remained neutral and sought favors with both sides.

Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle. Hideyoshi moved the capital from Kobe to Osaka after his victory over the Odas.

And so, it was in this manner that another great conflict started, for Hideyoshi saw no leadership in Nobonori. Did the Heir not relinquish his claims to succeed his great father Nobunaga by almost surrendering to the traitor Akechi Jinsai? Meanwhile, the haughty Nobonori and patrician warrior Ieayasue saw Hideyoshi as nothing more than a peasant. Since he now raised his sword against Nobonori, Nobonori called him a rebel.

In the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Emperor Haisan-jo, Nobonori declared himself Shogun and Hideyoshi an outlaw, depriving him of the title, “The Hero of Kobe.” Then, he annointed Tokugawa Ieayasue of Chubu as Supreme Commander in his stead. To further provoke the Toyotomis, he burned down the Osano Orchards in Toyotomi territory, saying, “My father and brother perished here. Cursed be the the sakura blossoms here.”

Now, the Osano Orchards were more beautiful than heavens on Earth. It was a paradise and national treasure, so Hideyoshi was furious. He said that Nobonori was neither a leader nor Shogun. Destroying such a national treasure showed that he was a rebel against the Emperor Haisan-jo himself!! With these provocations over, Hideyoshi marched out to meet Nobonori and Ieayasue in the Battle of Nanegudecke.

Though his young concubine Asanoe was pregnant at that time, Ieayasue led the battle in person, and it could be said that he played a bigger role in the Battle of Nanegudecke than his Lord Nobonori.
Now, Ieayasue was as cautious and cunning as Hideyoshi was brave and brash, so the two foes seemed equally matched. Hideyoshi and Kaeji stationed their forces near the foot of the hill where the water supply was strong and the sun was not too hot. Their men were well supplied by Mori despite the latter’s professed neutrality. It would not be easy for Ieayasue’s Oda loyalist forces to dislodge Hideyoshi from this strong position, but he was unfazed.

He called forth Jiro Zaburo, one of his look-alikes and a famous bandit and arsonist. Jiro was skilled in stealth, having trained as a master ninja, and some people called him the Shadow Warrior.

Ieayasue: “Get behind the Toyotomi lines and burn their supplies. Nagamasa will provide you any support you need.”

And so in the stealth of night, Jiro Zaburo and a small number of ninjas sneaked into behind the Toyotomi lines and torched their supplies. After that, the Odas led by Ieyasue led a hit and run battle against the Toyotomis. Hideyoshi was unwilling to leave his strategic position, so it was a stalemate.

But this worked in Ieyasue’s advantage, for Hideyoshi’s food supplies were running out. True, his allies (the Chikuzabes and Maedas) would come to his rescue, but how couldst he feed such a large army?

And so, Hideyoshi sent Misunari as an envoy to the Oda camp. According to the terms, Hideyoshi would accept Nobonori as his Shogun and overlord in return for peace. The only condition was that he be made a Councilor of equal status with Ieayasue himself.

Now, Nobonori was not the great man his father was. He too wanted peace and full recognition of his shogunal status, so he agreed. When Ieayasue objected saying, “My Lordship, Hideyoshi is a rebel, not unlike Akechi Jinsai. We are on our way to crushing him. Do not let this opportunity slip away.”

Nobonori brushed him aside, saying “How many more men must die for your vanity, Ieayasue? You are only objecting to this, because I have not rewarded you enough and because Hideyoshi the peasant will now be your equal. Let us both make sacrifices for the sake of peace.”

And so in this manner, Nobonori and Hideyoshi signed their treaty, much to Ieayasue’s disappointment. When Ieayasue returned home, he realised that his concubine Asanoe had miscarriaged, and he was much aggreived…

“I had given away my family for the sake of Nobonori, but he sees more value in the rebel Hideyoshi. Perhaps, he is not worthy to be Nobunaga’s heir after all.”

And so, Ieayasue lost heart and did not attend to the summons of Nobonori. In the meantime, Hideyoshi’s power rose to the extent that it would eclipse even Nobonori himself. In such manner did Hideyoshi turn the defeat of Nanegudecke into a victory.

In the thirtieth year of the reign of the Emperor Haisan-jo, Shogun Nobonori repeated the fatal mistake of the Hojos a century earlier by asking the Emperor to abdicate in favor of his son. Hideyoshi presented himself as the loyal protector and defeated Nobonori. The disappointment of Nanegudecke was still deep in Ieayasue’s heart, so he did not return to help the Shogun.

In this manner, the House that Nobunaga built fell. Nobonori was spared in memory of his father but reduced to the status of a minor warlord. In the thirty third year of the reign of Emperor Haisan-jo, Nobonori was murdered in his home. Many suspected that it was the work of the new Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi or that of the Supreme Commander Ishido Misunari, but there was no proof.

Hideyoshi had great respect for Tokugawa Ieayasue as his most worthy adversary. In time, he appointed Ieayasue to many important positions, such as Councilor, Advisor, or Marquis of Chubu, and a genuine friendship developed between the two great men of Japan.

Chapter 19. Toyotomi

After the vile assassination of Shogun Oda Nobunaga, the upstart Akechi Jinsai marched with a large army to Kobe in an attempt to seize the capital and proclaim himself Shogun. Maeda Kaeji, bravest of the brave, hath no fear of Jinsai, but fearing the tears of his beloved wife Mariko (who was Jinsai’s daughter), he hesitated to give battle and did not march against the Akechi clan. Without the leadership of Kaeji, it seems as though the Oda Shogunate would fall to the traitor Jinsai.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ambitious peasant general  who chose to defy Akechi Jinsai at the critical turning point of Japanese history.

As the nobles of the Oda Shogunate including Tokugawa Ieayasue and the Shogunal Heir Oda Nobonori pondered upon the Empire’s fate, it was even suggested that Nobonori abdicate his birthright in favor of Akechi Jinsai, but then…one man spoke out!!

It was Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In truth, he was the ablest of Nobunaga’s generals, but his origins were only those of a peasant. Nobunaga used to make fun of him and call him “Monkey”, for he was not a handsome man. And he hated Jinsai to the core for having denied him the hand of Lady Mariko.

“Surrender!?”, Hideyoshi blurted out, “How can you even consider this, Nobonori? You are son of Nobunaga! Do you not think of avenging your father and regaining the family honor? Shame on you! Let us fight Jinsai and show him what we got. Surely, the nobles of the Oda clan do not fear the traitor.”

And in truth, the Oda clan was still more powerful than the Akechi rebels, but the forces were dispersed, and nobles that were conquered by Oda, such as the Moris or the Chikuzabes further north in Okinawa, were of questionable loyalty. On the other hand, Jinsai hath mustered a formidable force heading for the capital even as Hideyoshi spoke.

Nevertheless, the forceful nature of Hideyoshi’s audacity shocked all, and Nobonori himself was at a loss for words. It was then that Tokugawa Ieayasue countered him with these words:

“General Toyotomi, you do Lord Nobonori much dishonor by speaking of cowardice to him in such manner. Surely, our loyalties to the Oda clan is unquestioned, but let us face the reality. I do not know if the Moris, Chikuzabes, and Uesungi will come to our aid. Can you truly expect to defend the capital against the Akechis?”

To which Hideyoshi replied without hesitation, “I am not a Minamoto descent like you and Akechi, but I have built the fortress in a single night in the Battle of Okinawa when I humbled the mighty fleet of Chikuzabe. I’ll be damned if I could not hold the Kobe Castle against the forces of Akechi. Let me lead this war, if you think it is already lost.”

Both Councillor Ieaysue and the Heir Nobonori pondered upon his words, as an envoy of Jinsai reached Kobe and said, “Surrender now, and Lord Akechi Jinsai will be merciful. Only Nobunaga will be held responsible for the death of his mother, and you will all be spared, including Lord Nobonori.”

But Hideyoshi took out his famous Tadatatsu Sword and slew the haughty envoy in one fell blow. He ordered the envoy’s head tied to a horse and sent back to Jinsai as a declaration of war.

“The die is cast,” Hideyoshi proclaimed. And in this manner, Lord Nobonori hath no choice but to appoint Hideyoshi as Supreme Commander in the coming war with Councilor Tokugawa Ieayasue acting as his second-in-command or Left General. At the same time, Ieayasue dispatched loyal envoys to the Chikuzabe, Mori, and Uesungi clans to ask for aid.

Hideyoshi pointed the Tadatatsu Sword at Akechi Jinsai, who was at the head of the formidable army. “Men of the Kobe Castle, hear me! The traitor Akechi Jinsai has shown himself unworthy of the great name Matsuhide granted by the Lord Shogun. You have nothing to fear of him. Follow me, and I will show you victory. Destroy Akechi, and I will teach you to conquer fear itself.”

Ieayasue, ever the cautious one, tried to stop Hideyoshi, “Do not be rash, General. Akechi Jinsai leads a larger army than you. Great man though you may be, I urge you to wait for him from behind the safety of the Kobe walls. Our allies and the vassals of the Oda clan will come to our rescue.”

But Hideyoshi the Courageous brushed him aside, “The coy kimono wearer will not win this battle, Ieyasue! I have nothing to fear of this vermin Jinsai, nor anything in this world. I shall not wait for the minor warlords but will show them who the true leader is.”

And so with these words, the Supreme Commander ordered the opening of the Gates and marched out to meet the Akechis for there was no fear in his heart. Although they were slightly outnumbered by the Akechis, the Odas under Hideyoshi were much better trained and armed with the best Portuguese rifles of Sakai. Hideyoshi’s own example of leading from the front and the vitality…almost recklessness of his attack inspired them. The casualties of the Akechis were greater than the Odas, and the battle started to shift in favor of the defenders. The Akechis were weary from the long march to Kobe, and Hideyoshi gave them no time to rest but forced them to engage immediately in the wearisome attack.

At the same time, the Oda envoys reached the stronghold of the vassal states. The envoy was unable to meet with Admiral Chikuzabe Korusho, for it was said that he was sick, but in reality, Kurusho was at the Nagasaki Castle, consulting with his ally, fellow maritime warlord Mori Homatsu.

The second envoy said unto the wealthy daimyo, “By the grace of Lord Shogun Nobunaga, you have ruled the Mori clan. Now, the Shogunate requests that you send reinforcements to Kobe as quickly as possible on pain of death.”

But Mori Homatsu bided his time, for if there was anyone in danger now, it was the second envoy and the Oda Shogunate itself. But suddenly, one of the Mori spies returned to report to him, “The valor of Hideyoshi is unprecedented, My Lord. The Akechi rebels are already giving grounds.”

Upon hearing this, both the Mori and Chikuzabe warlords pledged their allegiance to the Shogunate once more, as there armies and navies sailed towards Kobe to assist their Lord against the rebels.

In the meantime, the third envoy reached the Uesungi clan, whereupon Uesungi Nagamasa the Noble, son of Kenshin, immediately pledged his army to Oda’s rescue. Suddenly, the three great forces emerged in the fields outside Kobe, and now, it was clear that the Shogunate would triumph over the rebels.

Noble Nagamasa, though his army was far smaller than Jinsais, shouted in full blast, for his spirit was second to none but Maeda Kaeji himself.

“Listen to me, Traitor Jinsai. I am sent here by Izanami, the Goddess of Death, herself. She invites you to dinner, and I will serve you vengenance with this mighty Sword given unto me by my father Kenshin, the God of War!”

But Jinsai’s heart shook with fear. It was true that he was one of Takeda Shingen’s 24 original generals, but old he was now, and no match for the young and raw courage of Nagamasa. Seeing it fruitless to continue the fight, Jinsai ordered the rebels into full retreat.

But Hideyoshi ordered his general Ishido Misunari into chase. Finally, Misunari and Nagamasa captured Akechi Jinsai, the man who betrayed Nobunaga, and destroyed his vast army. The day was saved, and Hideyoshi ordered Jinsai beheaded. Thereupon, Hideyoshi came into possession of Nobunaga’s famous sword the Yoshimoto and all lands that were once ruled by the Hosokawas, the Minos, and the Akechis.

His star rising high, Hideyoshi now believed that he was the true successor of Nobunaga, despite Nobonori’s birthrights, and therein lies the peril.

Shogun, Age of Chaos

Chapter 1. Murder at the Heisei Monastery

Chapter 2. Chinkaro Defeats the Allies

Chapter 3. Rise of the Hojos

Chapter 4. The Orphan of Heaven

Chapter 5. The Father of Asurangi

Chapter 6. The Hand of Lady Sakura

Chapter 7. Clash of the Titans

Chapter 8. The Fate of Ueasungi Kenshin

Chapter 9. For Love or Loyalty

Chapter 10. The Demon of Owari

Chapter 11. The Mighty Imagawa

Chapter 12. Tears of a Brother

Chapter 13. The One-Night Fortress

Chapter 14. The Heirs of Takeda Shingen

Chapter 15. The Merchants of Sakai

Chapter 16. The Fall of Ashikaga

Chapter 17. The Great Cleansing

Chapter 18. The Betrayal of Akeshi Jinsai

Chapter 19. Toyotomi

Chapter 20. Hideyoshi Challenges Nobonori

Chapter 21. The Catholics of Nagasaki

Chapter 22. The Ambition of a Peasant

Chapter 23. The Battle of Pyongyang

Chapter 24. The Assembly of Regents

Chapter 25. The Road to Sekigahara

Chapter 26. Maeda the Brave

Chapter 27. The Heroes of Yozenawa

Chapter 28. The End of an Era

Chapter 18. The Betrayal of Akeshi Jinsai

In the twentieth year of the reign of Emperor Haisan-jo, the Daimyo of Mino, Akechi Jinsai, feared for his life, for he knew of the suspicions of the Shogun Oda Nobunaga. Hence, Jinsai sought to gain his favor by offering his beautiful daughter to the Shogun, and though the Shogun was much attracted to Akechi Mariko, his first thoughts were always political. For he hath many a beautiful women besides him, but what he sought more was the security of the Empire after his death.

Akechi Mitsuhide

Akechi “Matsuhide” Jinsai, the man who betrayed Nobunaga

And Nobunaga could see that the young eyes of Maeda Kaeji burned with passion for Mariko, and so did the uncouth General Toyotomi Hideyoshi. For she was as fair as Lady Uesungi Sakura in her younger days. But though Nobunaga had great respect for Hideyoshi, he made fun of him by the nickname “Monkey”.

The dangers to the Oda Shogunate were few in those days, what he needed was a young man like Kaeji to serve his son Nobukatsue when his day as Shogun came. And so, it was in this manner that Nobunaga gave Akechi Mariko in marriage to Kaeji.

Now, Kaeji was a powerfully built man who could shoot arrows beyond the river and best hundreds of warriors in combat. His courageous exploits even before rising to the daimyoate was legendary, and now his great loyalty for the Shogun was greatly cemented. In light of this, Nobunaga forgot his suspicions for Jinsai and promoted him to Daimyo of all lands formerly held by the Hosokawas. He also awarded him with 100 pairs of silk and the honorary title of Matsuhide. Such was the joy of the Shogun as he hosted this glorious marriage himself.

Now, the lands that Akechi “Matsuhide” Jinsai ruled were beautiful, and in the spring, the blossoming of the sakura (cherry blossoms) were truly thing of poetry. So Jinsai invited the Lord Shogun and his son Nobukatsue to visit the Osana Orchards that he tended to with expert care, and the two men were greatly overjoyed by this invitation.

Little did they know of Jinsai’s malicious intent towards them, and so he lured him deeper and deeper into the Osana Orchards. And Nobunaga was unsuspecting for the

interior of the Osana Orchards were more beautiful than the heavens where the gods dwelled in Fuji. But then, suddenly, the armed men of Mino surrounded the Lord of Japan, and Nobunaga’s quick mind realized that he hath been tricked and betrayed.

Nobunaga: “Why have you done this, Matsuhide? You were a mere regent of Mino, and I raised you to this position of glory. Yet, you will betray me!?”

Jinsai: “How dare you ask me of such thing, Lord? Did the Minamoto clan from which I and Tokugawa Ieayasue were descended from not enemies of your ancestors the Tairas? Did you not kill my mother in the Battle of Hononji? How can I forgive you for such things?”

Nobunaga: “I see, so you will betray me as the Minamotos betray the Tairas? Then, raise your sword and fight, for I am Se-i-Tai-Shogun Lord of Japan. The Unifier who hath defeated all of Honshu and Hokkaido in the most turbulent times, and I will not beg thee, thou worthless dog unfit to smell my shoe, for mercy.”

And so, Nobunaga and his retainers fought, and one by one, they were cut down by Jinsai’s men, including Nobunaga’s eldest son Nobukatsue. Finally, Nobunaga was left alone in the fight.

At this point, he said, “My younger son Nobonori remains well and alive. He will be Shogun after me and with the help of Hideyoshi and Kaeji, he will avenge me”

To which, Jinsai replied, “Do you not forget that Kaeji is my son-in-law and how much he loves Mariko, my daughter. The Oda Shogunate will fall once you die. The Empire of Blood stands only with your strength, Devil of Owari. Now, with my holy Tensho Sword, I will bring the vengeance of thousands (including my mother) upon you and rename it the Nobunaga Sword.”

But Jinsai never had the chance, for Shogun Nobunaga took his own life. And so, it was in this manner that Nobunaga, probably the greatest warlord of the Sengoku period, perished. The unity of Japan depended on strong hands as his, and now with Nobunaga’s death, another epic struggle for power would begin.

Chapter 17. The Great Cleansing

In the fifth year of the reign of the Emperor Haisan-jo, Shogun Oda Nobunaga’s power was at its height, but one entity that continued to defy his authority was the Buddhist temple, particularly the Hisei Monastery where Ise Chinkaro hath once been a monk. The state temple was now so powerful that the chief abbot, Momaru Taro (one of Takeda Shingen’s former generals), had a private army of his own. It was said that another of Shingen’s generals, Huru Katzuno, was also a monk here, but he did not hold any high positions. He simply was eager to cleanse his life of sins following many years of warfare. Discipline was so lax that there were women and prostitutes residing openly in the temple, and money passed hand daily.

Ikkyu, an Imperial Prince of the Yamato line. Later poet and monk, he founded the Hisei Monastery, which became powerful during the time of Nobunaga.

Though a practical man, Nobunaga was now 50 and was eager to uphold some idealism and make a stamp on the Empire, and so he was determined to cleanse Hisei of its corruption and decay. Some of his generals were reluctant to do so, particularly Harada and Takano (who was the Shogun’s kinsman and one of Shingen’s generals), so Nobunaga assigned them to the task of inspecting the Hisei Monastery and seeing the best way to its salvation.

And so it was in this manner that Harada and Takano visited Hisei Monastery as the Shogunal Inspectors. If there were any troubles, General Toyotomi Hideyoshi would lead an army to their rescue.

Initially, they were politely and honorably invited to spend a night at the Monastery, but what they saw was drunken debauchery and gambling amongst the night. That night, Harada told Takano how disgusted he was of the Temple as he was about to sleep in the reception bedroom.

“I realize that Japanese monks are allowed to marry so that men can lead normal lives in monkhood, but this is probably well beyond what Lord Ikkyu intended when he founded the Hisei Monastery,” Hararda said.

“True that,” replied Takano, just as there was a gentle tapping on the walls.

Suddenly, a beautiful woman appeared when Harada opened the door. Next thing they knew, she was undressing. Takano quickly declined, saying that they would do no such thing in the temple, but then…she was holding a blade and attacking Takano.

He was briefly injured on his left arm, but then he recovered, and Harada slew her with his samurai sword. Many more armed women stood outside the room. Now, the two Inspectors realized these people were sent by the Chief Abbot Lord Taro to assassinate them, but Harada and Takano were great warriors. The two of them slew all the women, and rushed out of the danger zone.

Just then, a cloaked monk warrior appeared. It was Katzuno the Big!! Takano remembered him from the days in their service to Lord Takeda Shingen. Katzuno blocked the monk warriors, allowing Takano and Harada to jump over the wall back to Hideyoshi’s camp.

Upon hearing this, General Hideyoshi said, “An attack on the Shogun’s Inspectors is an attack on the Shogun himself.” With these words, he ordered the army to attack the Hisei Monastery.

The war against state and religion would begin in Nobunaga’s Japan.

Hideyoshi’s men attacked the Hisei Monastery with venom. As the warrior monks barred the temple door, Harada, now convinced that Hisei must be crushed, ordered the Shogun’s men to destroy the door with the massive battering ram. Once the main gate was breached, the warriors of Oda killed the monk warriors with no mercy. The monks fought back hard, but they were both outnumbered and less well armed. Most of them were killed. It was said that some of the women and prostitutes residing in the monastery were raped and ruthlessly killed by the Shogun’s men, but such things were normal and probably happened in every war.

As Takano led some shock troops to the Abbot’s Residence, they realized that Taro hath fled north riding on his White Stallion. It was said that in the days that he served Lord Shingen, he was one of the greater riders in the clan. He fled to the Mino clan which was ruled by Lord Akechi Jinsai, whose mother was a fervent worshipper of Buddhism and gave him refuge there.

The monks of Hisei tried to secure as much gold as possible before fleeing, but Katzuno the Big ordered them instead to save the Eternal Flame of Ikkyu. At first, they refused to

do his bidding, but then Katzuno threatened to kill anyone who disobeyed him. Since leaving the service of Takeda Shingen, Katzuno hath not been a high-ranking monk, but he was a religious man and a great warrior. In such situation, he gained moral authority and could be said to have become the true leader of Hisei in the moment of its disaster.

As the men carried the Eternal Flame, however, they were cut down by Takano’s men. It was then that Takano and Katzuno confronted each other. Takano said, “I have always respected you in the Takeda days and for saving my life, but you must surrender to the Shogun. Only then, shall you live. In any case, I must burn down this place of sacrilege. The cult of Ikkyu must come to an end.”

But Katzuno refused to surrender. He fought like a madman, and Takano was forced to retreat twenty paces. Anyway, at this moment, General Hideyoshi entered the scene and ordered his men to open fire on Katzuno, who died defending the Eternal Flame.

When Hideyoshi heard of how Katzuno bravely defended the Eternal Flame of Ikkyu, he ordered the flame toppled, and it consumed all the corpses along with the Great Temple itself, and so in this manner, Hideyoshi destroyed the Hisei Monastery and all of its inhabitants. Soon, the flame died, for there was nothing left to consume.

The Lord Shogun watched from the mountaintop and said, “Like a upturned candle, it quenches its own flame. What Ikkyu has founded, I shall uproot.”

Thereupon, he ordered the men to move onto the Mino Castle where Taro hath now fled to. It was rumored that Lady Sasako, the mother of Akechi Jinsai, hath forced her son out of the Castle. The Mino now openly rebelled against the Shogun, for they were mostly devout Buddhists. An army of Taro’s followers protected the Mino Castle, and they were led by two former Takeda (Original 24) generals Hatamoto Koizumi and Hoshino Kurusawa. Both of these men were sworn brothers of the charismatic Taro.

Before he became Chief Abbot of Hisei, he was known as Taro the Fair for his good looks. Taro’s army amounted to a high number of 10,000 men, and they were moving to attack Owari, which was Nobunaga’s home state located close to Mino. Nobunaga was surprised by the number of men that Taro could muster, and now, he felt even more determined to destroy him. It was no longer a religious cleansing. It was a full-scale rebellion that could threaten his Empire.

Taro the Fair now addressed his followers. “Let us not only think that he fight to protect the Sect of Ikkyu. We shall also rid the land of the Demon of Owari and avenge the Blessed Lord Takeda Shingen!!”

And with these words, many Takeda warriors rushed to his side, and they were led by a Takeda general who used to ride along with Taro himself. His name was Usumi Hazama. So many generals now rode at the head of this great force, for Hazama had bought 7,000 Takeda rebels with him.

Shogun Nobunaga now realized that he hath to take matters in his own hands. The Takeda and Buddhist rebels hath dared to encroach on his homeland of Owari and taken many Oda nobles as captives. Nobunaga ordered the shogunal troops to spare no effort and attack like crazy. The expenses meant nothing to him, men, arrows, gunpowder. It was all-out war.

After eight days of intense fighting, more than ten thousand soldiers died on each side. It was even bloodier than the Battle of Muromachi that gained Nobunaga his Shogunal position, but it was a great victory. Dead people were everywhere. Hazama hath died in action, and Kurusowa the Swift committed hara-kiri rather than surrender to Nobunaga.

Now, Nobunaga laid siege to Mino Castle, as his Councillor Akechi Jinsai watched on the sidelines. The Buddhist rebels knew that without the help of the Takeda clan, there was no way to win. It was said that Nobunaga called in reinforcements from all parts of Honshu to besiege the Castle. Unable to fight, Taro the Fair and Lady Sasako committed suicide. Before they died, the bloodied fingers wrote the words, “Death to the Demon of Owari! Curse his soul to Hell for he is unworthy of the Shogunate” on the castle walls.

Akechi Jinsai was much hurt by the death of his mother. It was Koizumi the Loyal who bought the news of Mino’s surrender to Nobunaga. More than 2,000 civilians hath committed suicide along with Taro the Fair. After giving the Shogun the formal sword of surrender, Koizumi asked Jinsai to take his head, for they hath both served Lord Takeda Shingen in their younger days. After that, the blood of Lady Sasako was on Jinsai’s sword, which he named the Koizumi Sword thereafter.

Nobunaga was truly a monster, for the Shogun looked at the Mino Castle but there was no pity in his heart even for dead civilians. The people who rebelled against their Shogun deserved death. With this, he restored Akechi Jinsai to Lordship of Mino, while he moved back to the capital in Kobe nonchalantly as if nothing happened. Jinsai watched the Shogun’s back in bitter hatred for his cruelty.

In the seventh year of the Lord Emperor Haisan-jo’s reign, the Sect of Ikkyu, which hath lasted seven decades under the rule of Ashikaga, was wiped out. Such was the greatness of Shogun Oda Nobunaga.

Chapter 16. The Fall of Ashikaga

In the thirtieth year of His reign, the Emperor Teijo passed away and died of leprosy and was succeeded by his younger brother Emperor Haisanjo. The Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki was disgusted of leprosy and did not attend the Imperial funeral, much to the anger of Emperor Haisanjo, who summoned Oda Nobunaga, the most powerful daimyo in Japan, to meet him.

Oda Nobunaga, the Demon of Owari, ended two centuries of Ashikaga rule. He is recognized as the greatest strategist of the Sengoku period.

“Do you know the importance of the Sei-Tai-Shogun position, Nobunaga?” The Emperor stood asking him from the plush palace in Kyoto.

“The Sei-Tai-Shogun is the general who protects the House of Yamato from all barbarians internal and external,” replied Nobunaga.

“And what is the greatest virtue of the man entrusted to such esteemed position?”, continued the Emperor.

“Why? Of course. It is unquestioning loyalty to your Majesty’s Chrysanthemum Throne,” replied Nobunaga without hesitation.

“Good,” the Emperor concluded, “I no longer trust Yoshiaki. His obvious insults to my Heavenly brother can not go unpunished. If you destroy him, then I shall name you Shogun in his stead.”

With these words, Nobunaga knew he would soon reach the apex of his career. All he had to do was crush the Ashikaga and any loyalist. But with the secret edict of Emperor Haisan-jo in his hands, the formidable asurangi army, and more Portuguese guns supplied by the Christian merchants and priests of Nagaski, how could victory fall from his grasp?

So Nobunaga replied with the simple words, “Thy Will be Done.”…and now the die was cast. The Ashikaga hath ruled Japan for two centuries. Now, the once minor warlord of Owari would challenge him as the Hojos hath done before him.

As Nobunaga marched out against the Ashikaga, the Uesungi clan led by Nagamasa, son of Uesungi Kenshin, opposed him, branding him as a traitor who turned the Emperor

against the Shogun. The Asakura clan was led by Asakura Keita. In reality, Keita’s son Tadatatsu was Nobunaga’s brother-in-law, but Keita himself was an ally of the Uesungi. There was great controversy within the clan. In the end, daimyo Keita overruled his son and pledged his cooperation with the Shogun. A dutiful son, Nagamasa vowed to fight Nobunaga to a bitter end, despite his affections he clearly had for his wife.

Nobunaga was not without allies…and vassals, of course. As his five generals helped him command the brunt of the Oda army, Tokugawa Ieayasu marched by his side on the left flank, while the Maeda clan led by the young warrior Maeda Kaeji, son of the daimyo, formed his frontal attack. It was the Hojos who formed the formidable right flank. Nobunaga also ordered Chikuzabe fleet to attack the Ashikaga and their allies from the northern seas.

Amongst his vassals, only the Takedas refused to mobilize. In fact, the Takedas remained hateful of Nobunaga. Three of the original generals joined the Shogun’s alliance. Nosaku Maruto, one of Shingen’s favorite generals, was made Supreme Commander of the Ashikaga Grand Army. Nishimura Aesako, the only female general to serve Shingen as one of the original 24 generals, helped the Asakuras. She was said to be beautiful in her younger years, but she was old now. Nevertheless, there was some strong grace that remained in her. Finally, Uzumi Hashimoto served the Uesungis, despite the Takedas being traditional enemies of the Uesungis. Hashimoto said that his vengeance for Nobunaga’s blood overrode all else.

And in this manner, the great Japanese Civil War began…

For the first time in many years, the Ashikaga finally had a capable commander in Nosaku Maruto. Maruto looked at the troops and said, “I realize that Ashikaga has improved by using asurangi gunmen as the Takeda and Oda armies, but it is not enough to defeat Nobunaga! We must be ingenious. In this war, we will use cavalry and speed. Charge into their lines before the gunmen can recover!”

Certainly, Nobunaga hath not expected this from Maruto, for he did not have wooden walls ready like in the battle against Takeda Nobukatsu, but he saw the danger as Maruto led the light cavalry charging against him, for the asurangi would not have been able to fire many shots in that time. So Nobunaga ordered men to fish out caltrops in the space ahead of them and ordered archers and asurangi gunmen to stand side by side. They shot as many horsemen as they could, but it was not enough.

Soon Maruto’s men reached the Oda lines, but luckily, many fell off the horse due to the caltrops. They were spikey irons that always fell with at least one sharp side up. As the horsemen in front fell, Nobunaga’s infantry samurai rushed in to finish them, but it was a bitter fight but both sides suffered severe losses. The Ashikaga asurangis dared not shoot for fear of hitting their own well-trained cavalry. After bitter losses, Maruto retreated with half of his cavalry killed, but Nobunaga’s main army was barely in the shape to pursue them.

Luckily, the Hojo army led by Hojo Totomi swooped down with another cavalry army and crushed the Ashikaga. Nevertheless, Maruto and many Ashikaga troops safely made it back to the shogunal capital of Muromachi safely.

Nobunaga looked at Maruto and said, “This is a man to remember. We defeated him with only great pain to ourselves…if I can even call this victory.”

Meanwhile, Uesungi Nagamasa attempted to come to the Maruto’s rescue, but he was blockaded by Tokugawa Ieayasue and Maeda Kaeji in a sandwich attack. Nagamasa fought bravely, and was almost able to push the Tokugawas and Maedas back. But Kaeji challenged Nagamasa to a duel.

The brave Nagamasa, son of the hero Kenshin himself, took up the challenge, and fought well, but Kaeji’s strengths were superhuman and his swordplay was amongst the finest in Japan. After a long fight, Kenshin bested him and captured him, and so the Uesungi clan surrendered before reinforcements arrived.

Realising that the Uesungi clan hath surrendered and that Nagamasa was captured, Asakura Keita sought to relieve him, but just as he arrived, he heard that an army led by the Mori clan and the Chikuzabe navy was now threatening his stronghold in Hiroshima. Because of this, Keita returned to Hiroshima.

Nobunaga was worried about the safety of his sister and so ordered Harada and Hideyoshi to rescue her from the citadel of Hiroshima. In truth, her husband Tadatatsu realized the purpose, but he also felt she would be safer back in Owari, so he allowed Hideyoshi to scale the citadels and rescue her. Keita, the Daimyo of Asakura, was so furious, for he hath hoped to use his daughter-in-law as a hostage against Nobunaga.

Seeing no other means left, Keita marched out to fight the Oda army to a bitter end, but alas, the Oda allies were now too great for him. The combined force of the Chikuzabe navy, the Mori army, and forces led by Harada overwhelmed him. In the end, Keita died from a stray shot.

Tadatatsu locked himself up in the room, while Hideyoshi delivered the ultimatum, “Come out, Tadatatsu. Let there be no blood feud between us. Lord Nobunaga will soon be Shogun. He forgives you and will appoint you as daimyo of the Asakura clan in Hiroshima.”

But Tadatatsu did not reply. His honor was tainted by defeat, and so he committed hara-kiri. Nobunaga’s sister Ryuko jumped from the top of the citadel and followed her husband to death.

The last defenders led by Aesako was gunned down by Hideyoshi. As she died in the hand of her lover Akechi Jinsai, she breathed her last words, “Take care of our child, Mariko. She deserves a good husband.”

Jinsai wept as he heard these words. He had performed his duty well, for he was now one of Nobunaga’s generals but the pain of the service was eating him. He did not even have time to make his promise to her…and so in this manner, the House of Asakura fell without an heir.

The siege of Muromachi lasted six months, but eventually in that winter, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki surrendered to Nobunaga. Both Supreme Commander Maruto and General Hashimoto committed hara-kiri rather than follow the Shogun into disgrace. Hojo Totomi urged his Lord Nobunaga to execute Yoshiaki, for he hated the Ashikaga deeply. They hath been enemies of the Hojos since the time of his uncle Hojo Soeun, but Nobunaga refused to do so. He allowed Yoshiaki to live in exile.

In the fourth year of his reign, Nobunaga ordered a pompous entourage to escort the Emperor Haisan-jo from Kamakura to his new capital in Kobe. There, the sakura petals fell. Men and women sang his praises, and the Emperor bestowed the position of Sei-tai-Shogun to Oda Nobunaga, Lord of Owari. Henceforth, no one dared to call Nobunaga the ‘Demon of Owari’ anymore, for he was now blessed of the Yamato Emperor and rightful Lord of Japan.

Nobunaga and the warrior Maeda Kaeji visited Uesungi Nagamasa, son of the hero Kenshin, in his cell and urged him to serve the new Oda Bakufu (military government). At first, Nagamasa rejected him outright, but Nobunaga asked, “Is this what your father, Lord Kenshin, would have wanted? He was the only man who ever defeated me in a fair fight.”

Whereupon Nagamasa said, “In truth, it is. You are the Demon of Owari, though men no longer call you so. I swore to oppose you till the ends of my days.”

Nobunaga was rather fond of his alias. He laughed and asked Nagamasa, “I see, so your father would rather see the Uesungi clan reside with the Demon of Owari and have no noble man from Uesungi to fend for them.”

Nagamasa was furious, but he realized the truth of Nobunaga’s words. In due time, he agreed to pay allegiance to Nobunaga on the understanding that he was to govern the Uesungi clan as daimyo again. Nagamasa also became sworn brothers with Maeda Kaeji, and so in this manner, the Empire was pacified under Nobunaga’s rule.

Chapter 15. The Merchants of Sakai

Lord Nobunaga was now one of the most powerful man in Japan. Only his overlord Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki could rival him. He rewarded his men well and appointed Harada, Akechi Jinsai, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Oda Takano, and his ally Tokugawa Ieayasu to the five man Council of Advisors but refused to name any of them Regents or Supreme Commander, because he wanted to be in full command of the army himself.

Only two states now remained a challenge to his power. One was the Mori clan led by the wealthy Shoda in Nagasaki which traded with the Portuguese regularly. The other was the Ashikaga proper itself. The merchants of Sakai had the latest model of guns shipped in from Portugal.

Emblem of the Mori clan, the wealthiest daimyo in Japan and liege lord of Sakai

Despite his superior Asurangi formation and iron discipline of the troops, Nobunaga could not overcome the Moris and Ashikagas without the guns, so he set forth to meet the merchants of Sakai and offered to buy the guns.

Tori Komatsu, the Chief Magistrate of Sakai, was also its most powerful merchant. He and the Merchants of Sakai met with Nobunaga but politely refused to sell any high-end guns to the Daimyo, saying that the guns were not for sale to outsiders and that they were to honor the exclusive contract with the Ashikaga Shogun and their liege lord, Mori Shoda.

Nobunaga then replied, “I understand the guns are not for sale for cash, but what about barter? I have here the Nishimura bowl, which is an antique more than a thousand years old transported from China in the early days of Japan.”

But Komatsu declined the offer, whereupon Nobunaga broke the bowl with the hilt of his sword. If Komatsu would not accept it, then even the national treasure was worthless to him.

Then, Nobunaga brought out another antique he found from the Imagawa clan, “This is the Chi-zen vase said to be worth a fortune enough to buy ten ships. Could you sell me one of these Portuguese guns in exchange for it?”

But Komatsu declined the offer again, whereupon Nobunaga again broke the vase with no regret. Komatsu was deeply disturbed by the destruction of such national treasure for he was a true connoisseur of antiques.

Finally, Nobunaga took up the Hasahmi cup, the oldest and most precious treasure that he seized from the Takeda clan, and offered it to Komatsu in exchange for one Portuguese gun. When Komatsu hesitated, Nobunaga raised his sword hilt as if to destroy it too, whereupon Komatsu beckoned him to stop and agreed to sell him the guns.

In this manner, Nobunaga was able to procure guns from Komatsu, replicate them, and greatly improved the firearms of his army. Now, he was ready to march to the port of Nagaski where he would face down the might of Mori Shoda, the wealthiest daimyo in Japan who had many mercenaries at his disposal.

As Nobunaga’s forces marched to Nagaski, however, the Sakai merchants and their hired troops dared to block him. Because of this, Nobunaga’s army annihilated the Sakai and killed all the eighteen merchant families, including Komatsu who had foolishly traded his power away to Nobunaga for a precious cup.

After the capture of Sakai, Nobunaga laid siege of Nagaski. Though it was a wealthy city, it was unable to get food supplies in by land, so Mori Shoda ordered food in by sea, but again, it was intercepted by the Chikuzabe fleet jointly led by Hideyoshi and Nobunaga’s vassal, the warlord Chikuzabe Korusho.

Shoda then came to the battlements and screamed curses at Nobunaga’s face, whereupon Nobunaga personally shot him down. After the death of Shoda, the citizens of Nagaski surrendered and open the fortress to him. Many of the inhabitants were Catholics due to the work of the Portuguese priests, and Nobunaga befriended the Christians, because he did not like the Buddhists. Also, they were useful in supplying more weapons and funds to him.

In the end, Nobunaga became far more powerful than he was when he started the year. He anointed Shoda’s Christian nephew, Mori Homatsu, as the new daimyo of Nagaski, and Homatsu remained a loyal vassal of the Odas.

Chapter 14. The Heirs of Takeda Shingen

In the fifteenth year of the Emperor Teijo’s reign, tension erupted on the border between the two greatest clans of Japan, namely Oda and Takeda. Rumors were that the Takedas were inciting trouble in Odawara hoping that the conquered Hojos would rise against the Odas. As usual, Nobunaga did not leave things to chance and marched to fight the Takedas immediately.

Fujiwara Yoshifusa, the first Regent of Japan

Takeda Nobukatsu was eager to destroy Nobunaga. He was the son of the hero Takeda Shingen, and three of his father’s generals hath already passed away due to old age. In this campaign against Nobunaga, he hath only three generals left under his command. One was the Supreme Commander Kenzaitta. Another was Fujiwara Hatami ‘Double-Sword’. Hatami was said to be the greatest warrior in Japan and the descendant of the first Regent of Japan, Fujiwara Yoshifusa in the days preceding even Taira Kiyomori. Another was Oda Takano, who is said to be a kinsmen of Nobunaga, but his loyalty was firmly with the Takeda clan.

In the first battle, Nobunaga sent his eldest son Nobutada against the Takedas, but Takeda Nobukatsu used his first-class cavalry to defeat the Odas. Nobutada was shamed by his defeat and offered to commit suicide (hara-kiri), but Nobunaga forgave him.

“I too have been defeated by Kenshin before, but one must not give up and live to see victory in later days,” Nobunaga taught his son.

In order to provoke the Takedas into taking the offence, Nobunaga invaded the Hosokawa lands conquered by the Takedas in the time of Shingen. The territory was closer to Owari than Kai, prompting Nobukatsu to attack. Kenzaitta urged Nobukatsu to caution, but Nobukatsu was an impatient young man emboldened by victory. He felt that the Takeda cavalry was peerless and decided to attack.

Though Kenzaitta did not approve of Nobukatsu’s rash actions, he decided to take the lead of the attack. In that war, Nobunaga fortified his men with makeshift wooden wall and hid the asurangi behind them. As Kenzaitta marched, his men were blocked by this wall and slain by the asurangi’s bullets. The cream of the Takeda force was destroyed, but Kenzaitta jumped over the wall and attacked Nobunaga with only a small force. Hideyoshi ordered all the men to shoot at Kenzaitta, and this was how the honorable and valiant general, the most senior of Shingen’s 24 generals, died. The Takeda force was utterly defeated. The Hosokawa lands were lost to Nobunaga, who forced Nobukatsu to retreat to Kai.

Nobunaga bombarded the Takeda Castle of Kai for nine days, before Hatami “Double Sword” challenged the Odas to a duel. Nobunaga sent the warrior Hatori who hath slain one of the 24 Takeda generals Horo-Ochi to fight Hatami. Hatori was a great warrior, swifter than the wind, but it seemed Hatami was always one step ahead of him. As Hatori fended one of Hatami’s sword, another sword slew him. Then, his comrade Kemumagi took up the challenge but was also slain by Hatami.

Finally, Nobunaga ordered his army to surround Hatami. “I shall not waste another great warrior on one of Takeda Nobukatsu’s samurais.”  Upon saying this, he ordered the asurangis led by Harada to fire at Hatami, and so this was how the noble warrior Fujiwara Hatami ended his life.

Akechi Jinsai flinched at the treachery of Nobunaga, and many of the Takeda warriors on top of the building cried foul, but it was no use. The winners always wrote history. Nobunaga ordered his men to retreat a distance from the Takeda Castle. They starved the Takeda army in the Castle, and after two months, they stormed it and caught both the daimyo Takeda Nobukatsu, many loyal retainers, and the general Oda Takano.

Because he was also an Oda, Takano agreed to surrender to Nobunaga and also tried to get his Lord Nobukatsu to become a vassal of Nobunaga, but Nobukatsu spat at Takano’s face and called him a traitor. He then said to Nobunaga, “Know that my defeat will not go unavenged. The generals of Takeda will one day avenge me.”

Nobunaga looked at General Akechi Jinsai, who hath been one of the Takedas, but Jinsai showed no emotion. Finally, Nobunaga ignored the comment and executed Nobukatsu, son of Takeda Shingen (the Tiger of Kai).

With the death of Shingen’s line, Nobunaga set out to pacify the vast Takeda territory. The province of Chubu was governed by one of Shingen’s 24 generals, namely Tokugawa Aechi, but as Nobunaga’s men besieged Chubu, Aechi died of fever. Aechi’s son Tokugawa Ieayasu opened negotiations with Nobunaga.

Nobunaga decided to honor Ieayasu who was a descendant of the first Minamoto Shogun. According to the treaty, Chubu would not be conquered. It would pay tribute to the Odas and be an ally, supporting them in times of trouble. When Ieayasu accepted these terms, Oda felt the Takeda lands were now pacified, and so he marched back to his capital Owari in great pomp and victory.

Now, Nobunaga was by far the most powerful daimyo in Japan. Perhaps, he was even stronger than the Ashikaga Shogun Yoshiaki, to whom he pledged his allegiance.

Chapter 13. The One-Night Fortress

While Nobunaga became Lord of one-third of the Honshu mainland, it was the formidable navy of Chikuzabe Korusho that continued to rule southern Hokkaido and Ryuku Islands. This navy prowled over waters almost to the borders of Aleutia in eastern Russia. Korusho sometimes blockaded Nobunaga’s ships. Sometimes, he would plunder the Oda merchant ships. He held Nobunaga in contempt, as he felt he was the Lord of the Seas much as Nobunaga was Lord of Honshu.

Nobunaga wanted to put an end to his impertinence, but how could he crush the mighty Chikuzabe navy and put an end to their power? Suddenly, a short ugly peasant who was only a butler, not even a real soldier, called Toyotomi Hideyoshi presented himself. Harada was Hideyoshi’s commanding officer at that time, and he insulted him, “How dare you present yourself to Lord Nobunaga, you little monkey?! Out with you now this instant!!”

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, later Shogun of Japan. Hideyoshi first gained prominence during the Chikuzabe campaign in Nobunaga’s service.

Harada was hot with rage, but Nobunaga put up a hand to calm him, “It is OK, General. If the little man has a solution, I will hear it.”

It was then that Hideyoshi outlined his plan, “In conclusion, my Lord, give me ten thousand men and rafts. I shall build a fortress in one night and turn the haughty Chikuazabe into your vassals.”

Harada: “What nonsense is this!”

Nobunaga: “Come now, Harada. The idea sounds good though risky. Let us give him a try.”

And so it was in this manner that Hideyoshi, a mere peasant with not a silver to his name, led the expedition against Chikuzabe’s mighty fortress in Ryuku Islands crossing the Chinese seas.

Hideyoshi commanded the 10,000 across the Chinese Seas, and it was a great risk. But miraculously, they made it through without being noticed by the Chikuzabe fleet in the cloak of night. Once onshore, Hideyoshi ordered the men to turn the wooden rafts into a makeshift fortress. This amazing feat happened in just one night. By morning, the Chikuzabe army was forced to fight Hideyoshi on land.

At this time, Nobunaga and General Harada sailed forth with a large fleet and attacked the Chikuzabe fleet. Shocked by the reality that Nobunaga’s army was now on Ryukyu shores, many Chikuzabe fleet fled to Hokkaido, allowing Nobunaga to enter Ryukyu. After just fifteen days of heavy fighting, Korusho submitted to Nobunaga’s rule, and Hideyoshi was promoted to the rank of General, much to the envy of noble-born men such as Jinsai and Harada.

However, the Chikuzabe sailors who fled to Hokkaido did not give up so easily. Their leader was Namatada Hosune, one of Takeda’s 24 generals who was seconded to Chikuzabe (a Takeda ally) and made General. Hosune held out against Nobunaga for another two years in Hokkaido despite the surrender of his overlord.

The Ainu natives befriended him and helped him defend the land against Nobunaga. The fighting was heavy, but Nobunaga used heavy Portugese artillery against them. Finally, he ordered Hideyoshi to scale Mount Inabe, where Hosune’s forces were hidden. Finally, Hideyoshi captured Hosune.

Nobunaga greatly admired Hosune and his sailing skills, offering the job of Admiral to him, but Hosune said, “Don’t patronize me. Allow me to die a warrior’s death.”

Upon hearing this, Nobunaga told Hideyoshi, “It will be an honor to have the blood of a hero such as Hosune upon thy sword. Take him, Hideyoshi. You have earned this great honor.”

And so, with these words, Hideyoshi nodded and slew Hosune. From that day onwards, Hideyoshi’s sword was known as the Hosune Sword. If Takeda Shingen was willing to allow peasants to become asurangi warriors, Nobunaga would democratize Japan further by making Hideyoshi, one of the lowliest peasants, one of his most trusted generals.