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明智 光秀

The so-called "13-day shogun", Oda Nobunaga's assassin Akechi Mitsuhide (1528-1582) is somewhat of a mystery. More of a bureaucrat than a warrior, Mitsuhide preferred negotiation to fighting and favored the more refined aspects of the samurai, taking great pride in his poetry, tea ceremony and calligraphy. Moreover he seemed to have very little ambition.

Mitsuhide began his career as an underling of Asakura Yoshikage of Echizen. When Yoshikage went over to Nobunaga in 1566, Mitsuhide went too, and gradually rose through the ranks of Nobunaga's army mostly through seniority rather than prowess in battle. In 1571 he was awarded Sakamoto estate in Omi province, worth 100,000 koku.

Suddenly in 1582, after years of faithful, if undistinguished service, Mitsuhide committed the ultimate act of betrayal. Revenge may have been involved. Five years before, Mitsuhide forced the surrender of Yakami Castle by Hatano Hideharu by kidnapping Hideharu's mother. Nobunaga, who bore a grudge against Hideharu, ordered his mother crucified. Hideharu responded by capturing and executing Mitsuhide's mother. Although he did nothing for five years, it is likely that Mitsuhide felt angered, shamed and embarrassed by this incident - not only did he lose his mother, but he lost face because he had guaranteed the safety of Hideharu's mother if he surrendered.

Perhaps Mitsuhide had gotten over the incident somewhat in by the spring of 1582, when he was again shamed by Nobunaga. After failing to defeat Mori Terumoto, Nobunaga withdrew Mitsuhide and sent Toyotomi Hideyoshi to finish the Mori. But Hideyoshi fared no better, and desperately sent to Nobunaga for reinforcements. Nobunaga, who was always a bit of a gambling man, sent every single man he had including Mitsuhide, leaving himself only 100 bodyguards instead of his normal 2000. Nobunaga then retired to Kyoto's Honnoji temple to await news of what he hoped would be a victory.

But Nobunaga had made a fatal miscalculation of Mitsuhide's loyalty. Supposedly marching to aid Hideyoshi, Mitsuhide marched to Kyoto instead and surrounded the Honnoji with his army of over 10,000 men on the night of June 1, 1582. Nobunaga and his tiny bodyguard were caught totally by surprise. Nobunaga retired to the temple and committed seppuku as his men were slaughtered and mansion burned around him. Mitsuhide gave no quarter.

Mitsuhide was now the defacto ruler of Japan, but had apparently given little thought to what he would do after killing Nobunaga, and retired to his castle at Sakamoto to think things over. on June 6, he sallied forth to attack and sieze Hideyoshi's stronghold at Nagahama and later captured Wakayama owned by Hideyoshi's ally Niwa Nagahide.

Meanwhile, news had reached Hideyoshi of Nobunaga's death on the 3rd. Fearing that his rival Tokugawa Ieyasu might reach and kill Mitsuhide before he could, Hideyoshi immediately made peace with Mori who he had been in the midst of besiging, and set about rallying the rest of Nobunaga's generals to his side.

Learning that Hideyoshi was on the march, Mitsuhide assembled his army near Hokoraga pass. On the night of June 12, Hideyoshi assembled his forces around nearby Yamazaki village. That morning Mitsuhide arrayed his forces on the far side of the Enmeiji River. That afternoon the armies clashed in a rainstorm, and Mitsuhide suffered a disastrous defeat when he became outflanked. Mitsuhide fled back to Shouryuji Castle, but the castle was soon surrounded by Hideyoshi's men. That night Mitsuhide snuck out of the castle under cover of darkness and headed for Kyoto. He died a coward's death when, while making his way through a rice paddy he was discovered and ignominiously killed by a farmer wielding a harvesting blade. Mitsuhide had ruled for 13 days. Hideyoshi was now master of Japan.

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