Saturday, December 6, 2014

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.

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