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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

He declared war against Asakura Yoshikage


NOBUNAGA'S

SITUATION

Oda Nobunaga was now in fact shogun. So far as concerned legalized power he had no equal in the empire, but his military strength was by no means proportionate. In the north, in the east, in the west, and in the south, there were great territorial nobles who could put into the field armies much larger than all the Owari chief's troops. Takeda Shingen, in the Kwanto, was the most formidable of these opponents. In the year 1570, when the events now to be related occurred, the Hojo sept was under the rule of Ujimasa, and with him Shingen had concluded an alliance which rendered the latter secure against attack on the rear in the event of movement against Kyoto. The better to ensure himself against Hojo designs, Shingen joined hands with the Satomi family in Awa, and the Satake family in Hitachi; while to provide against irruptions by the Uesugi family he enlisted the co-operation of the priests in Kaga, Echizen, and Noto. Shingen further established relations of friendship with Matsunaga Hisahide in the far west. It was this baron that had attacked the palace of Nijo when Yoshiteru, the shogun, had to commit suicide, and Shingen's object in approaching him was to sow seeds of discord between the shogunate and Nobunaga. Most imminent of all perils, however, was the menace of the Asai family in Omi, and the Asakura family in Echizen. A glance at the map shows that the Asai were in a position to sever Nobunaga's communications with his base

in Mino, and that the Asakura were in a position to cut off his communications with Kyoto. In this perilous situation Nobunaga's sole resource lay in Tokugawa Ieyasu and in the latter's alliance with the Uesugi, which compact the Owari chief spared no pains to solidify. But from a military point of view Ieyasu was incomparably weaker than Shingen.

THE STRUGGLE WITH THE ASAKURA AND THE ASAI

In 1570, Nobunaga determined to put his fortunes to a final test. Having concentrated a large body of troops in Kyoto, he declared war against Asakura Yoshikage, who had refused to recognize the new shogun. Success crowned the early efforts of the Owari forces in this war, but the whole situation was changed by Asai Nagamasa, who suddenly marched out of Omi and threatened to attack Nobunaga's rear. It is true that before setting out for Kyoto originally, Nobunaga had given his sister in marriage to Nagamasa, and had thus invited the latter's friendship. But Nagamasa had always been on terms of close amity with Yoshikage, and, indeed, had stipulated from the outset that Nobunaga should not make war against the latter. It cannot be said, therefore, that Nagamasa's move constituted a surprise. Nobunaga should have been well prepared for such contingencies. He was not prepared, however, and the result was that he found himself menaced by Yoshikage's army in front and by Nagamasa's in rear. Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had associated himself by invitation with this expedition into Echizen, advised Nobunaga to countermarch with all rapidity for Kyoto, and it was so determined. Hideyoshi was left with three thousand men to hold Yoshikage's forces in some degree of check.

The situation at that moment was well-nigh desperate. There seemed to be no hope for either Nobunaga or Hideyoshi. But Nobunaga was saved by the slowness of Nagamasa, who, had he moved with any rapidity, must have reached Kyoto in advance of Nobunaga's forces; and Hideyoshi was saved by an exercise of the wonderful resourcefulness which peril always awoke in this great man. Calculating that Yoshikage's army would reach Kanagasaki Castle at nightfall, Hideyoshi, by means of thousands of lanterns and banners gave to a few scores of men a semblance of a numerous army. Yoshikage, who believed that Nobunaga had retired, was visited by doubts at the aspect of this great array, and instead of advancing to attack at once, he decided to await the morning. Meanwhile, Hideyoshi with his little band of troops, moved round Yoshikage's flank, and delivering a fierce attack at midnight, completely defeated the Echizen forces.*


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