It was the second year of Heijo in the reign of Emperor Yamato Oshikawa when the allies of the Ashikaga Shogun decided to ally themselves against the rebel Ise Chinkaro. Naturally, the Hosokawa dogs who served Ashikaga was by their side, but it was with a strange twist of fate that the wealthy Moris who cared nothing for warfare and everything about trade would do so.
Ashikaga Takeuji, founder of the Ashikaga shogunate and ancestor of Yoshitori
“He is your son!” the Lady Ashikaga Ochiba reminded the daimyo Mori Shoda.
Shoda had no intention of going to war against so skilled a general as Ise Chinkaro, rebel and peasant though he may be, and he hated the Hosokawas no more than the haughty Ashikagas themselves, but yet he felt honor bound to avenge his son’s death.
Many years ago, as Yoshitaka neglected his young wife, the chubby merchant prince Shoda met her in his many visits to the shogunal palace and immediately fell for her. Ochiba did not take note of him at first, but soon her loneliness got the better of her and she forgot the honor of being wife to the Shogun and sister of the Emperor. The result of their affair was the young Prince Onomatsu. Guiltless though he may be and not even the true son of the Shogun, the Prince was slain by Chinkaro.
And so for this reason, Shoda rode from his port city of Osaka to join his new allies, the Hosokawas led by Kanematsu and the Ashikaga led by the new and inexperienced Shogun Yoshitori to the fields of Odawara, where it was believed Chinkaro had stationed his forces. Even though the allies had little time to gather their forces, their army amounted to 60,000 samurais and seemed more than a match for Chinkaro’s 40,000 rebels. Apart from that, Kanematsu’s commander Miyamoto Musashi the One-Eyed was said to be as good a warrior as any man in Japan. Surely, it was time to punish the rebels once and for all.
From behind his iron mask, Chinkaro watched the three armies amassed before Odawara from the back of his white stallion and smiled.
“Look upon our enemies, Yanitaka,” he said, “The three great families of Japan are here before us to fight a peasant orphan from the temple like me. Even if I should fall today, is this not something to be proud of?”
“Your courage is commendable, my Lord, but the odds facing us today is nothing to joke of. We have no chance of winning. Surely, it is better if we have some other means of facing them,” replied his more practical subordinate.
“How many days have they faced us without launching an attack, Yanitaka?” asked Chinkaro. “I think Kanematsu knows full well who the true victor of Otaku was and has not the heart to face me in battle. If he does not attack us today, then you should follow my plans.”
True to Chinkaro’s words, even after the fifth day, the allied armies did not advance. It was at this time that Yanitaka went forth as a envoy to meet Kanematsu, now Grand Commander of the Allied Forces.
Yanitaka cut a handsome figure as he marched into Kanematsu’s rather luxurious makeshift camp, his shoulder army shining brightly in the summer sun.
“Ah, Commander Yanitaka,” Kanematsu beckoned, “Looks like you’ve dug yourself into quite a hole. A trusted warrior of the Ashikaga, and yet you threw your lot in with the rebels…and a peasant no less.”
“It is every samurai’s duty to be loyal to his Lord. I am sure your Highness realizes that Ashikaga may not have fared so well against the Hojos had it not been for General Chinkaro,” Yanitaka replied.
“Perhaps so,” Kanematsu replied sleepily, “but how may I be of help to you today?”
“No doubt the Hosokawas and the allies can be victorious over us, but to what profit shall this bring you? Our grievance is with the Ashikaga and the unfair treatment my Lord received at their hands. We have no issues with your Highness,” Yanitaka continued.
“Rightly so. But pray, what is it you want from this meeting?” Kanematsu continued.
“Form an alliance with us. It will be easier than crushing an egg, and the treasure of the Moris will be yours.” Yanitaka replied firmly.
Kanematsu pondered upon the suggestion. To betray Ashikaga was unheard of, but the element of surprise would ensure easy victory, and the legendary treasure of the Moris would fall into his hand. Perhaps, he could even capture and ransom Shoda.
“You are a wise man, Yanitaka. I agree.”
The next morning, Ise Chinkaro led his army charging into the Ashikaga line. The Shogun ordered the One-Eyed to face him, but that general turned upon his forces. The Ashikaga did not have an able general and was easily defeated by Chinkaro and One-Eyed. As the allied line broke, the Hosokawas plundered the Mori camp, but was unable to capture Shoda. If there were any talent possessed by Mori Shoda and the Shogun Yoshitori, it was the ability to retreat, for they hath escaped capture once more.
But the Battle of Odawara was not over. Once victorious, Chinkaro ordered his men to turn on the Hosokawas and avenge him of the insults from the early days when both he and Kanematsu served the Ashikagas. Now outnumbered and deserted by the allies they betrayed, Kanematsu was fleeing for his life.
Yanitaka pursued him, but the One-Eyed was a valiant general. Unable to defeat him, Yanitaka was forced to let the Hosokawa daimyo escape, but now the result was clear. The rebellion would not end, and Ise Chinkaro would become a daimyo in his own right with the treasures left by Mori at his disposal. The allies grew distrustful of each other because of Hosokawa’s betrayal, and it was every man for himself.
Without a trusting alliance between them, the allies were now on the defensive, and it would be Chinkaro’s turn to turn on their homelands.