Saturday, December 6, 2014

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.

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