After the vile assassination of Shogun Oda Nobunaga, the upstart Akechi Jinsai marched with a large army to Kobe in an attempt to seize the capital and proclaim himself Shogun. Maeda Kaeji, bravest of the brave, hath no fear of Jinsai, but fearing the tears of his beloved wife Mariko (who was Jinsai’s daughter), he hesitated to give battle and did not march against the Akechi clan. Without the leadership of Kaeji, it seems as though the Oda Shogunate would fall to the traitor Jinsai.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ambitious peasant general who chose to defy Akechi Jinsai at the critical turning point of Japanese history.
As the nobles of the Oda Shogunate including Tokugawa Ieayasue and the Shogunal Heir Oda Nobonori pondered upon the Empire’s fate, it was even suggested that Nobonori abdicate his birthright in favor of Akechi Jinsai, but then…one man spoke out!!
It was Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In truth, he was the ablest of Nobunaga’s generals, but his origins were only those of a peasant. Nobunaga used to make fun of him and call him “Monkey”, for he was not a handsome man. And he hated Jinsai to the core for having denied him the hand of Lady Mariko.
“Surrender!?”, Hideyoshi blurted out, “How can you even consider this, Nobonori? You are son of Nobunaga! Do you not think of avenging your father and regaining the family honor? Shame on you! Let us fight Jinsai and show him what we got. Surely, the nobles of the Oda clan do not fear the traitor.”
And in truth, the Oda clan was still more powerful than the Akechi rebels, but the forces were dispersed, and nobles that were conquered by Oda, such as the Moris or the Chikuzabes further north in Okinawa, were of questionable loyalty. On the other hand, Jinsai hath mustered a formidable force heading for the capital even as Hideyoshi spoke.
Nevertheless, the forceful nature of Hideyoshi’s audacity shocked all, and Nobonori himself was at a loss for words. It was then that Tokugawa Ieayasue countered him with these words:
“General Toyotomi, you do Lord Nobonori much dishonor by speaking of cowardice to him in such manner. Surely, our loyalties to the Oda clan is unquestioned, but let us face the reality. I do not know if the Moris, Chikuzabes, and Uesungi will come to our aid. Can you truly expect to defend the capital against the Akechis?”
To which Hideyoshi replied without hesitation, “I am not a Minamoto descent like you and Akechi, but I have built the fortress in a single night in the Battle of Okinawa when I humbled the mighty fleet of Chikuzabe. I’ll be damned if I could not hold the Kobe Castle against the forces of Akechi. Let me lead this war, if you think it is already lost.”
Both Councillor Ieaysue and the Heir Nobonori pondered upon his words, as an envoy of Jinsai reached Kobe and said, “Surrender now, and Lord Akechi Jinsai will be merciful. Only Nobunaga will be held responsible for the death of his mother, and you will all be spared, including Lord Nobonori.”
But Hideyoshi took out his famous Tadatatsu Sword and slew the haughty envoy in one fell blow. He ordered the envoy’s head tied to a horse and sent back to Jinsai as a declaration of war.
“The die is cast,” Hideyoshi proclaimed. And in this manner, Lord Nobonori hath no choice but to appoint Hideyoshi as Supreme Commander in the coming war with Councilor Tokugawa Ieayasue acting as his second-in-command or Left General. At the same time, Ieayasue dispatched loyal envoys to the Chikuzabe, Mori, and Uesungi clans to ask for aid.
Hideyoshi pointed the Tadatatsu Sword at Akechi Jinsai, who was at the head of the formidable army. “Men of the Kobe Castle, hear me! The traitor Akechi Jinsai has shown himself unworthy of the great name Matsuhide granted by the Lord Shogun. You have nothing to fear of him. Follow me, and I will show you victory. Destroy Akechi, and I will teach you to conquer fear itself.”
Ieayasue, ever the cautious one, tried to stop Hideyoshi, “Do not be rash, General. Akechi Jinsai leads a larger army than you. Great man though you may be, I urge you to wait for him from behind the safety of the Kobe walls. Our allies and the vassals of the Oda clan will come to our rescue.”
But Hideyoshi the Courageous brushed him aside, “The coy kimono wearer will not win this battle, Ieyasue! I have nothing to fear of this vermin Jinsai, nor anything in this world. I shall not wait for the minor warlords but will show them who the true leader is.”
And so with these words, the Supreme Commander ordered the opening of the Gates and marched out to meet the Akechis for there was no fear in his heart. Although they were slightly outnumbered by the Akechis, the Odas under Hideyoshi were much better trained and armed with the best Portuguese rifles of Sakai. Hideyoshi’s own example of leading from the front and the vitality…almost recklessness of his attack inspired them. The casualties of the Akechis were greater than the Odas, and the battle started to shift in favor of the defenders. The Akechis were weary from the long march to Kobe, and Hideyoshi gave them no time to rest but forced them to engage immediately in the wearisome attack.
At the same time, the Oda envoys reached the stronghold of the vassal states. The envoy was unable to meet with Admiral Chikuzabe Korusho, for it was said that he was sick, but in reality, Kurusho was at the Nagasaki Castle, consulting with his ally, fellow maritime warlord Mori Homatsu.
The second envoy said unto the wealthy daimyo, “By the grace of Lord Shogun Nobunaga, you have ruled the Mori clan. Now, the Shogunate requests that you send reinforcements to Kobe as quickly as possible on pain of death.”
But Mori Homatsu bided his time, for if there was anyone in danger now, it was the second envoy and the Oda Shogunate itself. But suddenly, one of the Mori spies returned to report to him, “The valor of Hideyoshi is unprecedented, My Lord. The Akechi rebels are already giving grounds.”
Upon hearing this, both the Mori and Chikuzabe warlords pledged their allegiance to the Shogunate once more, as there armies and navies sailed towards Kobe to assist their Lord against the rebels.
In the meantime, the third envoy reached the Uesungi clan, whereupon Uesungi Nagamasa the Noble, son of Kenshin, immediately pledged his army to Oda’s rescue. Suddenly, the three great forces emerged in the fields outside Kobe, and now, it was clear that the Shogunate would triumph over the rebels.
Noble Nagamasa, though his army was far smaller than Jinsais, shouted in full blast, for his spirit was second to none but Maeda Kaeji himself.
“Listen to me, Traitor Jinsai. I am sent here by Izanami, the Goddess of Death, herself. She invites you to dinner, and I will serve you vengenance with this mighty Sword given unto me by my father Kenshin, the God of War!”
But Jinsai’s heart shook with fear. It was true that he was one of Takeda Shingen’s 24 original generals, but old he was now, and no match for the young and raw courage of Nagamasa. Seeing it fruitless to continue the fight, Jinsai ordered the rebels into full retreat.
But Hideyoshi ordered his general Ishido Misunari into chase. Finally, Misunari and Nagamasa captured Akechi Jinsai, the man who betrayed Nobunaga, and destroyed his vast army. The day was saved, and Hideyoshi ordered Jinsai beheaded. Thereupon, Hideyoshi came into possession of Nobunaga’s famous sword the Yoshimoto and all lands that were once ruled by the Hosokawas, the Minos, and the Akechis.
His star rising high, Hideyoshi now believed that he was the true successor of Nobunaga, despite Nobonori’s birthrights, and therein lies the peril.