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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

This same Mitsuhide treacherously compassed Nobunaga's death


It was now possible for Nobunaga to devote his entire attention to the soldier-priests who had allied themselves with his enemies. It has been shown that the monastery of Hiei-zan had afforded shelter and sustenance to the forces of Echizen and Omi during the winter of 1570-1571, and it has been shown also that Nobunaga, underrating the strength of the priests in the province of Settsu, sustained defeat at their hands. He now (1574) sent an army to hold the soldier-monks of Settsu in check while he himself dealt with Hiei-zan. This great monastery, as already shown, was erected in the ninth century in obedience to the Buddhist superstition that the northeastern quarter of the heavens is the "Demon's Gate," and that a temple must be erected there to afford security against evil influences. The temple on Hiei-zan had received the munificent patronage of monarch after monarch, and had grown to be a huge monastery, containing some three thousand priests. This miniature city completely commanded Kyoto, and was guarded in front by a great lake. But, above all, it was sanctified by the superstition of the people, and when Nobunaga invested it, he found the greatest reluctance on the part of his generals to proceed to extremities. Nevertheless, he overcame these scruples, and drawing a cordon of troops round the great monastery, he applied the torch to the buildings, burnt to death nearly all its inmates, including women, confiscated its estates, and built, for purposes of future prevention, a castle at Sakamoto, which was placed under the command of Akechi Mitsuhide. When, in after years, this same Mitsuhide treacherously compassed Nobunaga's death, men said that the opening of the Demon's Gate had entailed its due penalty.


It was not in Settsu and at Hiei-zan only that the Buddhist soldiers turned their weapons against Nobunaga. The Asai sept received assistance from no less than ten temples in Omi; the Asakura family had the ranks of its soldiers recruited from monasteries in Echizen and Kaga; the Saito clan received aid from the bonzes in Izumi and Iga, and the priests of the great temple Hongwan-ji in Osaka were in friendly communication with the Mori sept in the west, with the Takeda in Kai, and with the Hojo in Sagami. In fact, the difficulties encountered by Nobunaga in his attempts to bring the whole empire under the affective sway of the Throne were incalculably accentuated by the hostility of the great Shin sect of Buddhism. He dealt effectually with all except the monastery at Ishi-yama in Osaka. The immense natural strength of the position and the strategical ability of its lord-abbot, Kosa, enabled it to defy all the assaults of the Owari chief, and it was not until 1588--six years after Nobunaga's death--that, through the intervention of the Emperor, peace was finally restored. After eleven years of almost incessant struggle, his Majesty's envoy, Konoe Sakihisa, succeeded in inducing the Ikko priests to lay down their arms. It will be presently seen that the inveterate hostility shown by the Buddhists to Nobunaga was largely responsible for his favourable attitude towards Christianity.

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