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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But Yoshiteru bade him live for further service



Kusunoki Masashige had but five hundred men under his command when he entrenched himself at Akasaka. There for twenty days he held out against the attacks of the greatly superior Hojo forces, until finally, no help arriving and his provisions being exhausted, he would have committed suicide had he not realized that his life belonged to the Imperial cause. He contrived to escape through the enemy's lines, and thus the only organized loyal force that remained in the field was that operating in Bingo under the command of Sakurayama Koretoshi. Thither a false rumour of Masashige's death having been carried, Koretoshi's troops dispersed and he himself committed suicide. Kojima Takanori, too, commonly known as Bingo no Saburo, was about to raise the banner of loyalty when the false news of Masashige's death reached him. This Takanori is the hero of an incident which appeals strongly to the Japanese love of the romantic. Learning that the Emperor was being transported into exile in the island of Oki, and having essayed to rescue him en route, he made his way during the night into the enclosure of the inn where the Imperial party had halted, and having scraped off part of the bark of a cherry tree, he inscribed on the trunk the couplet:

Heaven destroy not Kou Chien, He is not without a Fan Li.

This alluded to an old-time Chinese king (Kou Chien) who, after twenty

years of exile, was restored to power by the efforts of a vassal (Fan Li). The Emperor's guards, being too illiterate to comprehend the reference, showed the writing to Go-Daigo, who thus learned that friends were at hand. But Takanori could not accomplish anything more, and for a season the fortunes of the Throne were at a very low ebb, while at Kamakura the regent resumed his life of debauchery. Neither Prince Morinaga nor Masashige was idle, however. By skilful co-operation they recovered the entrenchments at Akasaka and overran the two provinces of Izumi and Kawachi, gaining many adherents. The fall of 1332 saw Masashige strongly posted at the Chihaya fortress on Kongo Mountain; his lieutenants holding Akasaka; Prince Morinaga in possession of Yoshino Castle, and Akamatsu Norimura of Harima blocking the two highways called the Sanindo and the Sanyodo.

In other words, the Imperialists held the group of provinces forming the northern littoral of the Inland Sea and commanded the approaches from the south. But now again Kamakura put forth its strength. At the close of February, 1333, a numerous force under the Hojo banners attacked Yoshino and its fall became inevitable. Prince Morinaga, wounded in several places, had resolved to make the castle his "death-pillow," when he was saved by one of those acts of heroic devotion so frequently recorded in the annals of the Japanese bushi. Murakami Yoshiteru insisted on donning the prince's armour and personating him so as to cover his retreat. At the supreme moment, Yoshiteru ascended the tower of the entrenchments and loudly proclaiming himself the prince, committed suicide. His son would fain have shared his fate, but Yoshiteru bade him live for further service. Subsequently, he fell fighting against Morinaga's pursuers, but the prince escaped safely to the great monastery of Koya in Kishu.* The victorious Hojo then turned their arms against Akasaka, and having carried that position, attacked Chihaya where Masashige commanded in person. But the great soldier held his foes successfully at bay and inflicted heavy losses on them. Thus, the early months of 1333 witnessed a brighter state of affairs for the Imperial cause. It was supported by Kusunoki Masashige, in Yamato, with Chihaya for headquarters; Prince Morinaga, at Koya-san in Kishu; Akamatsu Norimura, in Harima and Settsu, whence his fortress of Maya menaced Rokuhara, and by Doi Michiharu and Tokuno Michikoto, in Iyo, whence, crossing to Nagato, they had attacked and defeated Hojo Tokinao, the tandai of the province.

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