Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chapter 12. Tears of a Brother

In the eleventh year of the Emperor Teijo’s reign, the fragile alliance between Japan’s two powerful daimyos, Oda Nobunaga and Hojo Chinosuke, was breaking down. By now, Matsumoto Tokei hath become Regent of Hojo and his influence with Chinosuke was very high. Those who hated the Hojos said that Tokei was the true Lord of Odawara.

Taira Kiyomori, the strongman who dominated Japan before the first Shogunate. It is believed Nobunaga and his brother Hiroshi were Kiyomori’s direct descendants.

His constant provocations ruined the relationship between his master and Nobunaga, whom he hated with venom and blamed for the death of Imagawa Yoshimoto, to whom his true loyalty was owed. Nobunaga knew Tokei was no longer a man of honor for he hath served three lords now: Takeda Shingen, Imagawa Yoshimoto, and Hojo Chinosuke, though Tokei and many of his followers saw this otherwise. Like Nobunaga himself, Tokei the Elder wanted to change Japan and uproot Ashikaga. That year, a massive Hojo force moved from Odawara and threatened the much weakened Ashikaga Shogun Yoshiaki at his capital in Muromachi.

At this time, the imbecile Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki summoned all the loyalist forces to aid him against the Hojo rebels. The first to respond was Uesungi Nagamasa, who remained true to his father’s vision of preserving the Ashikaga Shogunate. Though Nobunaga did not want to preserve the Ashikaga Shogunate, he saw it as an opportunity to gain power and so responded to the call as well. He promised his sister Ryuko to Asakura Tadatatsu, son of the Asakura daimyo, if he would join their alliance. Because Oda now led the largest of the allied forces, he was made joint commander with the Shogun, who was seldom on the field. Nagamasa was not happy with this, for he had to report to Nobunaga during the campaign, but he did so out of loyalty to the Ashikagas.

Before the Battle of Kamakura, Nobunaga justified his actions, saying these words to the Hojos: “Brother Chinosuke, I have always valued your friendship, but your ingratitude against Lord Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the rightfully anointed Shogun of Japan, grieves my heart, for I can not side with injustice. Henceforth today, I shall punish you for your impudence!”

Then, Nobunaga ordered the allied forces into action. If Chinosuke and his Regent Tokei thought they would have an easy victory against Nobunaga, they were in for a big surprise. The Oda forces were rapid in fire and swift in maneuver. By the third day of the battle, the Hojos were forced into  retreat. Regent Tokei fled into an unknown territory. The allies pursued the Hojos into Odawara, and there was no mercy. Soon, all of the Hojo territory was occupied by the allies. Nobunaga asked that he safeguard these lands as a liege to Ashikaga, and the Shogun granted him permission after receiving many rich gifts from Nobunaga. Although Uesungi Nagamasa could see through Nobunaga’s ruse and counseled the Shogun against doing so, the foolish Shogun did not listen to him.

Nobunaga personally beheaded his former accomplice Hojo Chinosuke himself to impress the Shogun. A cousin of Chinosuke was made vassal of the Odas. His name was Hojo Totomi. With his forces now in control of Odawara and both the Imagawas and Hojos vanquished, there was no question that Nobunaga was now the most powerful warlord in Japan. His only rival was Takeda Nobukatsu, who was licking his wounds in Kai and had not participated in the campaign out of disdain for the Shogun.

After the great war, the friendship between Asakura and Oda was cemented by the marriage that made Tadatatsu Nobunaga’s brother-in-law.

Nobunaga was at the top of the world when bad news forced him to return to his capital in Owari. His younger brother Hiroshi had staged yet another rebellion against him. He was supported by other Oda clan members who resented Nobunaga and the fugitive general Matsumoto Teiko, former Regent of the Hojos.

Nobunaga’s forces easily outflanked and defeated Hiroshi and members of the Oda clan. He released his brother but ordered the execution of Matsumoto Teiko.

“It is the eight time he has rebelled against me, Harada. What should I do with him?”, Nobunaga asked his general.

“It is not for me to say, sire, but I fear you already know the answer,” replied Harada.

Many months later, Nobunaga was gravely ill, and all the Oda clan was summoned to come before the daimyo, but only Hiroshi, his only brother, was granted audience. Hiroshi remembered how the Oda clan had always sided with him in all his 8 rebellions against Nobunaga, but Nobunaga’s army and generalship was too strong to overcome.

Even with the help of Teiko, he hath failed, but now, his brother would hand over leadership to him without a fight. In his death, there was no other heir.

“Brother!” Hiroshi rushed to Nobunaga’s deathbed and embraced him.

…But then suddenly, Nobunaga stabbed him with a hidden knife, “I am well, brother.”

Hiroshi was both shocked and shaken, only uttering, “Why?”

Nobunaga: “You have raised your sword against me eight times, and I have always spared you. Do you still dare ask more of me?”

Hiroshi speaking through blood, “I would have spared you, elder brother, if I had won and become daimyo of the Oda clan.”

Nobunaga: “That is why you MUST NOT be daimyo of Oda!! You are indecisive and weak. The family loves you because of this, but Oda would never claim the glory of the Taira era under weak leadership. If you had won and succeeded in killing me ruthlessly as I do today, you will have earned the rights to be Daimyo. I love you, brother, but you must die. The Oda clan must be Lord of Japan one day.”

“I understand. I do not regret dying in your arms,” Hiroshi said.

Nobunaga’s mother ran into the room, seeing him kill even his own brother, calling him a demon and monster and cursing the day he was born, but she could not see the tears in his eyes. In the winter of the seventeenth year in the reign of Emperor Teiko, the Demon of Owari wept for his only brother’s death.

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