Saturday, December 6, 2014

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.

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