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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Takatoki demanded that the Ashikaga chief


DOWNFALL

OF THE HOJO

When the Emperor's escape from Oki became known, loyal samurai in great numbers espoused the Imperial cause, and a heavy blow was given to the prestige of the Hojo by Akamatsu Norimura who, after several successful engagements with the Rokuhara army in Settsu, pushed northward from the fortress of Maya, where his forces were almost within sight of Kyoto. Takatoki, appreciating that a crisis had now arisen in the fortunes of the Hojo, ordered Ashikaga Takauji to lead a powerful army westward. Takauji represented a junior branch of the Minamoto family. He was descended from the great Yoshiiye, and when Yoritomo rose against the Taira, in 1180, he had been immediately joined by the then Ashikaga chieftain, who was his brother-in-law. Takau ji, therefore, had ambitions of his own, and his mood towards the Hojo had been embittered by two recent events; the first, that, though in mourning for the death of his father, he had been required to join the attack on Masashige's fortress at Kasagi; the second, that his own illness after returning from that campaign had not availed to save him from frequent summonses to conference with Takatoki.

ENGRAVING: ASHIKAGA TAKAUJI

Thus, this second order to take the field found him disposed to join in the overthrow of the Hojo rather than in their support. Learning something of this mood, Takatoki demanded that the Ashikaga chief, before

commencing his march, should hand in a written oath of loyalty, and further, should leave his wife, his children, and his brother-in-law as hostages in Kamakura. Takauji, who shrunk from no sacrifice on the altar of his ambition, complied readily, and the confidence of the Bakufu having thus been restored, a parting banquet was given in his honour, at which the Hojo representative presented him with a steed, a suit of armour, a gold-mounted sword, and a white flag, this last being an heirloom from the time of Hachiman (Yoshiiye), transmitted through the hands of Yoritomo's spouse, Masa.

All these things did not turn Takauji by a hair's-breadth from his purpose. His army had not marched many miles westward before he despatched a message to the entrenchments in Hoki offering his services to the Emperor, who welcomed this signal accession of strength and commissioned Takauji to attack the Bakufu forces. Entirely ignorant of these things, Hojo Takaiye, who commanded at Rokuhara, made dispositions to move against the Hoki fortress in co-operation with Takauji. The plan of campaign was that Takaiye's army should march southward through Settsu, and, having crushed Akamatsu Norimura, who occupied that province, should advance through Harima and Mimasaka into Hoki; while Takauji, moving northward at first by the Tamba highway, should ultimately turn westward and reach Hoki by the littoral road of the Japan Sea. In addition to these two armies, the Hojo had a powerful force engaged in beleaguering the fortress of Chihaya, in Yamato, where Kusunoki Masashige commanded in person.

It will thus be seen that, at this time (May, 1333), the Imperialists were everywhere standing on the defensive, and the Bakufu armies were attacking on the southeast, south, and north of Kyoto. Nothing seemed less probable than that the Imperial capital itself should become the object of an assault by the partisans of Go-Daigo. But the unexpected took place. Hojo Takaiye was killed and his force shattered in the first collision with Norimura, who immediately set his troops in motion towards Kyoto, intending to take advantage of Rokuhara's denuded condition. Meanwhile, Takauji, whose march into Tamba had been very deliberate, learned the course events had taken in Settsu, and immediately proclaiming his allegiance to the Imperial cause, countermarched for Kyoto, his army receiving constant accessions of strength as it approached the city. Rokuhara, though taken by surprise, fought stoutly. Attacked simultaneously from three directions by the armies of Norimura, Takauji, and Minamoto Tadaaki, and in spite of the death of their commandant, Hojo Tokimasu, they held out until the evening, when Hojo Nakatoki escaped under cover of darkness, escorting the titular sovereign, Kogon, and the two ex-Emperors. Their idea was to flee to Kamakura, but taking an escort too large for rapid movement, they were overtaken; the three leaders together with four hundred men killed, and Kogon together with the two ex-Emperors seized and carried back to Kyoto.


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