Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chapter 20. Hideyoshi Challenges Nobonori

The great victory of Kobe made Hideyoshi proud and arrogant, and soon, he deigned it possible to challenge Oda Nobonori himself. He refused to recognize Nobonori as Shogun, and once again there was turmoil in the land as the various warlords and nobles chose sides between the two leaders. Chikuzabe Korusho, Maeda Kaeji, and Ishido Misunari sided with Hideyoshi, while Tokugawa Ieayasue (the Lord Councilor) and Uesungi Nagamasa (son of Kenshin) rallied around Nobonori. Needless to say, the cunning Mori Homatsu remained neutral and sought favors with both sides.

Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle. Hideyoshi moved the capital from Kobe to Osaka after his victory over the Odas.

And so, it was in this manner that another great conflict started, for Hideyoshi saw no leadership in Nobonori. Did the Heir not relinquish his claims to succeed his great father Nobunaga by almost surrendering to the traitor Akechi Jinsai? Meanwhile, the haughty Nobonori and patrician warrior Ieayasue saw Hideyoshi as nothing more than a peasant. Since he now raised his sword against Nobonori, Nobonori called him a rebel.

In the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Emperor Haisan-jo, Nobonori declared himself Shogun and Hideyoshi an outlaw, depriving him of the title, “The Hero of Kobe.” Then, he annointed Tokugawa Ieayasue of Chubu as Supreme Commander in his stead. To further provoke the Toyotomis, he burned down the Osano Orchards in Toyotomi territory, saying, “My father and brother perished here. Cursed be the the sakura blossoms here.”

Now, the Osano Orchards were more beautiful than heavens on Earth. It was a paradise and national treasure, so Hideyoshi was furious. He said that Nobonori was neither a leader nor Shogun. Destroying such a national treasure showed that he was a rebel against the Emperor Haisan-jo himself!! With these provocations over, Hideyoshi marched out to meet Nobonori and Ieayasue in the Battle of Nanegudecke.

Though his young concubine Asanoe was pregnant at that time, Ieayasue led the battle in person, and it could be said that he played a bigger role in the Battle of Nanegudecke than his Lord Nobonori.
Now, Ieayasue was as cautious and cunning as Hideyoshi was brave and brash, so the two foes seemed equally matched. Hideyoshi and Kaeji stationed their forces near the foot of the hill where the water supply was strong and the sun was not too hot. Their men were well supplied by Mori despite the latter’s professed neutrality. It would not be easy for Ieayasue’s Oda loyalist forces to dislodge Hideyoshi from this strong position, but he was unfazed.

He called forth Jiro Zaburo, one of his look-alikes and a famous bandit and arsonist. Jiro was skilled in stealth, having trained as a master ninja, and some people called him the Shadow Warrior.

Ieayasue: “Get behind the Toyotomi lines and burn their supplies. Nagamasa will provide you any support you need.”

And so in the stealth of night, Jiro Zaburo and a small number of ninjas sneaked into behind the Toyotomi lines and torched their supplies. After that, the Odas led by Ieyasue led a hit and run battle against the Toyotomis. Hideyoshi was unwilling to leave his strategic position, so it was a stalemate.

But this worked in Ieyasue’s advantage, for Hideyoshi’s food supplies were running out. True, his allies (the Chikuzabes and Maedas) would come to his rescue, but how couldst he feed such a large army?

And so, Hideyoshi sent Misunari as an envoy to the Oda camp. According to the terms, Hideyoshi would accept Nobonori as his Shogun and overlord in return for peace. The only condition was that he be made a Councilor of equal status with Ieayasue himself.

Now, Nobonori was not the great man his father was. He too wanted peace and full recognition of his shogunal status, so he agreed. When Ieayasue objected saying, “My Lordship, Hideyoshi is a rebel, not unlike Akechi Jinsai. We are on our way to crushing him. Do not let this opportunity slip away.”

Nobonori brushed him aside, saying “How many more men must die for your vanity, Ieayasue? You are only objecting to this, because I have not rewarded you enough and because Hideyoshi the peasant will now be your equal. Let us both make sacrifices for the sake of peace.”

And so in this manner, Nobonori and Hideyoshi signed their treaty, much to Ieayasue’s disappointment. When Ieayasue returned home, he realised that his concubine Asanoe had miscarriaged, and he was much aggreived…

“I had given away my family for the sake of Nobonori, but he sees more value in the rebel Hideyoshi. Perhaps, he is not worthy to be Nobunaga’s heir after all.”

And so, Ieayasue lost heart and did not attend to the summons of Nobonori. In the meantime, Hideyoshi’s power rose to the extent that it would eclipse even Nobonori himself. In such manner did Hideyoshi turn the defeat of Nanegudecke into a victory.

In the thirtieth year of the reign of the Emperor Haisan-jo, Shogun Nobonori repeated the fatal mistake of the Hojos a century earlier by asking the Emperor to abdicate in favor of his son. Hideyoshi presented himself as the loyal protector and defeated Nobonori. The disappointment of Nanegudecke was still deep in Ieayasue’s heart, so he did not return to help the Shogun.

In this manner, the House that Nobunaga built fell. Nobonori was spared in memory of his father but reduced to the status of a minor warlord. In the thirty third year of the reign of Emperor Haisan-jo, Nobonori was murdered in his home. Many suspected that it was the work of the new Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi or that of the Supreme Commander Ishido Misunari, but there was no proof.

Hideyoshi had great respect for Tokugawa Ieayasue as his most worthy adversary. In time, he appointed Ieayasue to many important positions, such as Councilor, Advisor, or Marquis of Chubu, and a genuine friendship developed between the two great men of Japan.

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