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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

While the sovereign took refuge at Hiei zan


quasi-historical record, the Taiheiki, ascribes this to Yoshinaga's infatuated reluctance to quit the company of a Court beauty whom the Emperor had bestowed on him. Probably the truth is that the Imperialists were seriously in want of rest and that Yoshisada fell ill with fever. Something must also be attributed to a clever ruse on the part of Akamatsu Norimura. He sent to Yoshisada's headquarters a message promising to give his support to the Imperialists if he was appointed high constable of Harima. Ten days were needed to obtain the commission from Kyoto, and Norimura utilized the interval to place the defenses of Shirahata fortress in a thoroughly secure condition. Thus, when his patent of high constable arrived, he rejected it with disdain, saying that he had already received a patent from the shogun, Takauji, and was in no need of an Imperial grant which "could be altered as easily as turning one's hand."

Yoshisada, enraged at having been duped, laid siege to Shirahata but found it almost invulnerable. It was on March 11, 1336, that Takauji went westward from Bingo; it was on the 2nd of April that Yoshisada invested Shirahata, and it was on the 3rd of July that the siege was raised. The Ashikaga brothers had enjoyed a respite of more than three months, and had utilized it vigorously. They were at the Dazai-fu in Chikuzen in June when a message reached them that Shirahata could not hold out much longer. Immediately they set their forces

in motion, advancing by land and water with an army said to have numbered twenty thousand and a fleet of transports and war-junks totalling seven thousand. At the island, Itsukushima, they were met by a Buddhist priest, Kenshun, bearer of a mandate signed by the ex-Emperor Kogon of the senior branch, and thus, in his final advance, the Ashikaga chief was able to fly the brocade banner. In the face of this formidable force the Imperialists fell back to Hyogo--the present Kobe--and it became necessary to determine a line of strategy.


Go-Daigo, in Kyoto, summoned Kusunoki Masashige to a conference. That able general spoke in definite tones. He declared it hopeless for the Imperialists with their comparatively petty force of worn-out warriors to make head against the great Ashikuga host of fresh fighters. The only wise course was to suffer the enemy to enter Kyoto, and then, while the sovereign took refuge at Hiei-zan, to muster his Majesty's partisans in the home provinces for an unceasing war upon the Ashikaga's long line of communications--a war culminating in an attack from the front and the rear simultaneously. Thus, out of temporary defeat, final victory would be wrested.

All present at the conference, with one exception, endorsed Masashige's view as that of a proved strategist. The exception was a councillor, Fujiwara Kiyotada. He showed himself a veritable example of "those whom the gods wish to destroy." Declaring that all previous successes had been achieved by divine aid, which took no count of numerical disparity, he urged that if the sovereign quitted the capital before his troops had struck a blow, officers and men alike would be disheartened; and if refuge was again taken at Hiei-zan, the Imperial prestige would suffer. To these light words the Emperor hearkened. Masashige uttered no remonstrance. The time for controversy had passed. He hastened to the camp and bid farewell to his son, Masatsura: "I do not think that I shall see you again in life. If I fall to-day, the country will pass under the sway of the Ashikaga. It will be for you to judge in which direction your real welfare lies. Do not sully your father's loyalty by forgetting the right and remembering only the expedient. So long as a single member of our family remains alive, or so much as one of our retainers, you will defend the old castle of Kongo-zan and give your life for your native land."

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