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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

He made preparation for defence against Mitsuhide


Mitsuhide

concluded that his opportunity had now come. He determined to kill Nobunaga, and then to join hands with Mori Terumoto. He made known his design to a few of his retainers, and these attempted fruitlessly to dissuade him, but, seeing that his resolution was irrevocable, they agreed to assist him. The troops were duly assembled and put in motion, but instead of taking the road westward, they received an unexpected intimation, "The enemy is in Honno-ji," and their route was altered accordingly. Nobunaga defended himself valiantly. But being at last severely wounded and recognizing the hopelessness of resistance, he set fire to the temple and committed suicide, his fourteen-year-old son, Katsunaga, perishing with him. His eldest son, Nobutada, who had just returned from the campaign in the east, followed his father to Kyoto, and was sojourning in the temple Myogaku-ji when news reached him of Mitsuhide's treachery. He attempted to succour his father, but arrived too late. Then he repaired to the Nijo palace and, having entrusted his infant son to the care of Maeda Gen-i with instructions to carry him to Kiyosu, he made preparation for defence against Mitsuhide. Finally, overwhelmed by numbers, he killed himself, and his example was followed by ninety of his retainers. Mitsuhide then proceeded to Azuchi and having pillaged the castle, returned to Kyoto, where he was received in audience by the Emperor, and he then took the title of shogun.

AFTER THE

ASSASSINATION

Nobunaga was assassinated on the second day of the sixth month, according to Japanese reckoning. News of the event reached the camp of the besiegers of Takamatsu almost immediately, but a messenger sent by Mitsuhide to convey the intelligence to Mori and to solicit his alliance was intercepted by Hideyoshi's men. A great deal of historical confusion envelops immediately subsequent events, but the facts seem simple enough. Hideyoshi found himself in a position of great difficulty. His presence in Kyoto was almost a necessity, yet he could not withdraw from Takamatsu without sacrificing all the fruits of the campaign in the west and exposing himself to a probably disastrous attack by Mori's army. In this emergency he acted with his usual talent. Summoning a famous priest, Ekei, of a temple in Aki, who enjoyed the confidence of all parties, he despatched him to Mori's camp with proposals for peace and for the delimitation of the frontiers of Mori and Nobunaga, on condition that the castle of Takamatsu should be surrendered and the head of its commander, Shimizu Muneharu, presented to his conquerer.

Mori was acting entirely by the advice of his two uncles, Kikkawa and Kohayakawa, both men of profound insight. They fully admitted the desirability of peace, since Hideyoshi's army effectually commanded the communications between the eastern and western parts of Chugoku, but they resolutely rejected the notion of sacrificing the life of Shimizu on the altar of any compact. When the priest carried this answer to Hideyoshi, the latter suggested, as the only recourse, that Shimizu himself should be consulted. Ekei accordingly repaired to the castle and explained the situation to its commandant. Shimizu had not a moment's hesitation. He declared himself more than willing to die for the sake of his liege-lord and his comrades, and he asked only that fish and wine, to give the garrison the rare treat of a good meal, should be furnished. On the 5th of the sixth month this agreement was carried into effect. Shimizu committed suicide, the compact between Mori and Hideyoshi was signed, and the latter, striking his camp, prepared to set out for Kyoto. It was then for the first time that Mori and his generals learned of the death of Nobunaga. Immediately there was an outcry in favour of disregarding the compact and falling upon the enemy in his retreat; but Kikkawa and Kohayakawa stubbornly opposed anything of the kind. They declared that such a course would disgrace the house of Mori, whereas, by keeping faith, the friendship of Hideyoshi and his fellow barons would be secured. Accordingly the withdrawal was allowed to take place unmolested.


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