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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Nagamasa had withdrawn to his stronghold of Otani


*See

A New Life of Toyolomi Hideyoshi, by W. Dening.

This episode was, of course, not conclusive. It merely showed that so long as Nagamasa and Yoshikage worked in combination, Nobunaga's position in Kyoto and his communications with his base in Mino must remain insecure. He himself would have directed his forces at once against Nagamasa, but Hideyoshi contended that the wiser plan would be to endeavour to win over some of the minor barons whose strongholds lay on the confines of Omi and Mino. This was gradually accomplished, and after an unsuccessful attempt upon the part of Sasaki Shotei of Omi to capture a castle (Choko-ji) which was under the command of Nobunaga's chief general, Katsuiye, the Owari forces were put in motion against Nagamasa's principal strongholds, Otani and Yoko-yama. The former was attacked first, Nobunaga being assisted by a contingent of five thousand men under the command of Ieyasu. Three days of repeated assaults failed to reduce the castle, and during that interval Nagamasa and Yoshikage were able to enter the field at the head of a force which greatly outnumbered the Owari army.

In midsummer, 1570, there was fought, on the banks of the Ane-gawa, one of the great battles of Japanese history. It resulted in the complete discomfiture of the Echizen chieftains. The records say that three thousand of their followers were killed and that among them were ten general officers. The castle of Otani,

however, remained in Nagamasa's hands. Nobunaga now retired to his headquarters in Gifu to rest his forces.

But he was quickly summoned again to the field by a revolt on the part of the Buddhist priests in the province of Settsu, under the banner of Miyoshi Yoshitsugu and Saito Tatsuoki. Nobunaga's attempt to quell this insurrection was unsuccessful, and immediately Nagamasa and Yoshikage seized the occasion to march upon Kyoto. The priests of Hiei-zan received them with open arms, and they occupied on the monastery's commanding site, a position well-nigh impregnable, from which they constantly menaced the capital. It was now the commencement of winter. For the invading troops to hold their own upon Hiei-zan throughout the winter would have been even more difficult than for Nobunaga's army to cut off their avenues of retreat and supply.

In these circumstances peace presented itself to both sides as the most feasible plan, and the forces of Nagamasa and Yoshikage were allowed to march away unmolested to Omi and Echizen, respectively. This result was intensely mortifying to Hideyoshi, who had devoted his whole energies to the destruction of these dangerous enemies. But the final issue was only postponed. By contrivances, which need not be related in detail, Nagamasa was again induced to take the field, and, in 1573, the Owari forces found themselves once more confronted by the allied armies of Echizen and Omi. By clever strategy the Echizen baron was induced to take the fatal step of separating himself from his Omi colleague, and at Tone-yama he sustained a crushing defeat, leaving two thousand of his men and twenty-three of his captains dead upon the field. He himself fled and for a time remained concealed, but ultimately, being closely menaced with capture, he committed suicide. Meanwhile, Nagamasa had withdrawn to his stronghold of Otani, where he was besieged by Nobunaga. The castle ultimately fell, Nagamasa and his son dying by their own hands.

This year witnessed also the death of Takeda Shingen, and thus Nobunaga not only established his sway over the whole of the provinces of Omi and Echizen but also was relieved from the constant menace of a formidable attack by a captain to whom public opinion justly attributed the leading place among Japanese strategists. The whole of Nagamasa's estates, yielding an annual return of 180,000 koku, was given to Hideyoshi, and he was ordered to assume the command of Otani Castle, whence, however, he moved shortly afterwards to Nagahama.


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