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.