Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Honnoji Incident: what happened between May and June 1582

Everyone is charmed by the Honnoji Incident, that staged Mitsuhide's unexpected betrayal against his Lord Oda Nobunaga, settling the world upside down for the next 13 days, but what was happening around in those days is still obscure and cloudy for us mere Nobu fans.
In this article I'll try to figure things out and put all the protagonists in place so to provide a clearer image of those confused days.

Following the datas that I could aquire from Japonius Tyrannus, The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga and the decipheration of the Japanese Wikipedia, this is how things were once the campaign against the Takeda was over, on the month of May:
As Ieyasu, whose new acquisitions of Sunpu castle and the Totomi Province made extraordinarly zealous, was entertained by Mitsuhide and Nobunaga at Azuchi Castle on a three days feast, Hideyoshi was still busy on the Western Front, trying to defeat the Mouri of Aki.

With a strong central region under his control, Nobunaga was fancying to annex the regions of Chugoku and Shikoku next.
As Hideyoshi was struggling in Chugoku, Nobunaga wasn't really impressed by the clans of the Shikoku region, and it's said that he already split the fiefs among his retainers even before starting to attack it.
For the simple task, Nobunaga decided to use the strenght of his third son, Nobutaka, now head of the Kanbe clan in Ise region, assigning him the Sanuki Province in advance.

As for what concerned the deal with the other sons, it must be said that on March 28, Nobunaga gave his troops leave to go home after the Shinano campaign, so it's plausible to assume that Nobutada, after his magnificent tasks, was simply cooling it off at his home castle in Gifu.
There are no records of Nobukatsu's activities after the successful invasion of Iga dated 1581, so it's safe to assume that he, too, was minding his business as the head of the Kitabake family in his home castle of Matsugashima, also in the Ise Province.

Excitement sparkled when Hideyoshi asked for support during the siege of Takamatsu castle, in Bitchu Province.
Nobunaga's plans for total conquest were set in action, and as he sent Mitsuhide off to the west to help Hideyoshi, he kept on entertaining Ieyasu, suggesting him on a tour of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Sakai.
Mitsuhide obeyed and he moved to Sakamoto Castle, then travelled to a shrine on Mount Atago to look for divine inspiration and protection, and ultimately reached his home castle of Kameyama in Tanba Province to prepare for his departure to the front.
Nobunaga was really looking forward to the invasion of Chugoku and the defeat of the Mouri Clan, and before leaving for Kyoto for another moment of relax, he made sure to keep Azuchi castle well-guarded and he let out an official notice to his retainers to start adequate preparations because the campaign in the West was about to start.
As he did so, his son Nobutada joined his father to his Kyoto's trip as Nobutaka propped himself in Sakai, ready for his campaign in the Shikoku region.

Unfortunately, Mitsuhide had other plans, and instead of heading to the Bitchu province to help Hideyoshi, he set from Kameyama to Kyoto to attack Nobunaga, that at the moment was resting in Honno Temple.

On this map you can see the exact positions of the places that saw the end of the Oda's rise to power on that faithful day:
As the word of Mitsuhide's attack to Honnoji reached Nobutada, who himself was resting with his escort in Myokaku temple, the first thing that he decided to do was to join forces with his father, but as he was about to, Oda retainers tipped him off about Nobunaga's death and suggested him to try to make a stand to Nijo castle instead of getting attacked at Myokakuji, which was a defenseless temple.

So, the men of Akechi and Nobutada and his men fought an epic and tragic battle of will, deemed to end with an overpowered Nobutada committing seppuku.

What followed the confused but prompt news from Kyoto was absolute chaos.
The first who got the news were probably the people in Azuchi: the retainers and soldiers from Mino and Owari who populated the city, quickly left to return to their home countries.
The castle was left in the care of Kimura Jirozaemon, who took care of evacuating the women and children before, apparently, leaving the castle to the looting of Akechi and his men.
Similar scenes happened in Gifu castle, the residence of Nobutada, but at least here Maeda Ken'i and Hasegawa Yoji managed to secure the safety of Sanposhi, the young son of Nobutada.
Then the news reached Nobutaka, who was now stationed in Sakai, and Ieyasu, who was en route to the same city, following his Kansai tour.
As Ieyasu promptly escaped the region through Omi Province (the "escape through Iga" with the help of the ninja is pretty much a legend) to re-organize his troops, Nobutaka reached for Osaka, where he killed his cousin, Nobusumi, who was suspected a traitor for his ties with the Akechi clan via marriage.
At the same time the men of Hideyoshi caught an Akechi messanger, who was bringing the news of Nobunaga's death and offering peace to the Mouri.
Aware opf the situation, Hideyoshi arranged a truce with the Mouri and rushed to the Capital.

In the general chaos, Hideyoshi was the only one who could keep his mind cool enough and organize an effective (and legitimating!) punitive expedition against the traitor.
Thirteen days after the Incident of Honnoji, Mitsuhide will meet his end in the Battle of Yamazaki by the hands of random delinquents, but drove in the angle by the forces of Nobutaka, Katsuie and other former Oda retainers, under the command of Hideyoshi.

As for Nobukatsu, we don't have any certain information of his whereabouts during the first days of june, but according to some recent studies, he's said to have attempted an attack on Mitsuhide army by leading his troops through the province of Omi, but retired once he realized that Hideyoshi beat him to the punch, heading back to Matsugashima while waiting for further developments, that will lead the the Conference of Kiyosu--

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