zehi ni oyobazu...

The last words of Nobunaga Oda sum up perfectly the situation that he found himself in at Honnou Temple on the morning of June 2, 1582.

So it goes...

Nobunaga calmly resigned himself to the fact that he was had in Mitsuhide Akechi's opportunistic coup d'état and that his nearly accomplished ambition of conquering all of sengoku Japan, what he called tenka fubu, were awash. He then proceeded to put on his armor, pick up a yari and yumi, and engage in battle. Later, upon being wounded in the elbow, Nobunaga withdrew from the action to his rear guard and took his own life through jigai.

Normally arrogant, brash, and impatient when dealing with opponents on the battlefield and in the political arena, Nobunaga uncharacteristically proceeded into the foray amid the blaze of the burning Honnou Temple in what would be his last battle.

This however, was not the first time Nobunaga uttered the phrase zehi ni oyobazu and reacted in this manner to a trusted subordinate's betrayal. Nobunaga also said it when he received word that his brother-in-law Nagamasa Azai double-crossed him 12 years earlier in 1570.

But on New Year's Day 1574, Nobunaga was drinking traditional New Year's sake out of Azai's gold leaf covered skull. Needless to say, his sister was disgusted.

* There are many conflicting accounts of the Honnou Temple Incident (Honnouji no hen). Some sources say that his last words were “zehi mo nashi”, which has the same meaning as the above. Other sources offer different accounts of the way in which he died. This account is from "his diary", Shinchou Kouki, which was written after his death.

* In modern Japanese, we usually would't say eitherzehi ni oyobazu” or “zehi mo nashi”, but would say “shikata ga nai”. Personally, saying this phrase in English doesn't give me the same feeling as in Japanese though.

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