Oda Nobunaga

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Oda Nobunaga : biography

June 23, 1534 – June 21, 1582

After taking possession of the castle, Nobunaga changed the name of both the castle and the surrounding town to Gifu. Remains of Nobunaga’s residence in Gifu can be found today in Gifu Park. Naming it after the legendary Mount Qi (岐山 Qi in Standard Chinese) in China, on which the Zhou dynasty started, Nobunaga revealed his ambition to conquer the whole of Japan. He also started using a new personal seal that read Tenka Fubu (天下布武),. Oumi-castle.net. Retrieved December 5, 2007. which means "All the world by force of arms". In 1564, Nobunaga had his sister, Oichi, marry Azai Nagamasa, a daimyo in northern Ōmi Province. This would later help pave the way to Kyoto.

In 1568, Ashikaga Yoshiaki went to Gifu to ask Nobunaga to start a campaign toward Kyoto. Yoshiaki was the brother of the murdered thirteenth shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, Yoshiteru, and wanted revenge against the killers who had already set up a puppet shogun, Ashikaga Yoshihide. Nobunaga agreed to install Yoshiaki as the new shogun and, grasping the opportunity to enter Kyoto, started his campaign. An obstacle in southern Ōmi Province, however, was the Rokkaku clan. Led by Rokkaku Yoshikata, the clan refused to recognize Yoshiaki as shogun and was ready to go to war. In response, Nobunaga launched a rapid attack, driving the Rokkaku clan out of their castles.

Within a short amount of time, Nobunaga had reached Kyoto and driven the Miyoshi clan out of the city. Yoshiaki was made the 15th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. Nobunaga refused the post of Kanrei and eventually began to restrict the powers of the shogun, making it clear that he intended to use him as a facade to justify his future conquests. Yoshiaki, however, was not pleased about being a puppet and secretly corresponded with various daimyo, forging an anti-Nobunaga alliance.

The Asakura clan was particularly disdainful of the Oda clan’s increasing power because, historically, the Oda clan had been subordinate to the Asakura clan. Furthermore, Asakura Yoshikage had also protected Ashikaga Yoshiaki, but had not been willing to march toward Kyoto. Thus, the Asakura clan also despised Nobunaga the most for his success.

When Nobunaga launched a campaign into the Asakura clan’s domain, Azai Nagamasa, to whom Oichi was married, broke the alliance with Oda to honor the Azai-Asakura alliance which had lasted for generations. With the help of Ikko rebels, the anti-Nobunaga alliance sprang into full force, taking a heavy toll on the Oda clan. At the Battle of Anegawa, Tokugawa Ieyasu joined forces with Nobunaga and defeated the combined forces of the Asakura and Azai clans.

Nobunaga waged war against Buddhists. The Enryaku-ji monastery on Mt. Hiei, with its sōhei (warrior monks) of the Tendai school who aided the anti-Nobunaga group by helping Azai-Asakura alliance, was an issue for Nobunada since the monastery was so close to his residency. Nobunaga attacked Enryaku-ji and burnt it to the ground in 1571, even though it had been admired as a significant cultural symbol at the time, and killed between 3,000 and 4,000 men, women and children in the process.

During the siege of Nagashima, Nobunaga suffered tremendous losses, including the death of a couple of his brothers, to the Ikkō-ikki resistance, a coalition of peasant farmers, monks, Shinto priests and local nobles that opposed samurai rule. The siege finally ended when Nobunaga surrounded the enemy complex and set fire to it, killing tens of thousands of non-combatants, including women and children. He later succeeded in taking their main stronghold at Ishiyama Hongan-ji after an 11-year siege that ended with its surrender.

One of the strongest rulers in the anti-Nobunaga alliance was Takeda Shingen, in spite of his generally peaceful relationship and a nominal alliance with the Oda clan. In 1572, at the urgings of the shogun, Shingen decided to make a drive for the capital starting with invading Tokugawa’s territory. Tied down on the Western front, Nobunaga sent lackluster aid to Ieyasu, who suffered defeat at the Battle of Mikatagahara in 1573. However, after the battle, Tokugawa’s forces launched night raids and convinced Takeda of an imminent counter-attack, thus saving the vulnerable Tokugawa with the bluff. This would play a pivotal role in Tokugawa’s philosophy of strategic patience in his campaigns with Oda Nobunaga. Shortly thereafter, the Takeda forces retreated after Shingen died of illness in 1573. This was a relief for Nobunaga because he could now focus on Yoshiaki, who had openly declared hostility more than once, despite the imperial court’s intervention. Nobunaga was able to defeat Yoshiaki’s forces and send him into exile, bringing the Ashikaga shogunate to an end in the same year.