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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Met his death in the Mitsuhide affair



It was plainly in Hideyoshi's interests that he should figure publicly as the avenger of Nobunaga's murder, and to this end his speedy arrival in Kyoto was essential. He therefore set out at once, after the fall of Takamatsu, with only a small number of immediate followers. Mitsuhide attempted to destroy him on the way, and the details of this attempt have been magnified by tradition to incredible dimensions. All that can be said with certainty is that Hideyoshi was, for a moment, in extreme danger but that he escaped scathless. Immediately on arriving in Kyoto, he issued an appeal to all Nobunaga's vassal-barons, inviting them to join in exterminating Mitsuhide, whose heinous crime "provoked both heaven and earth."

But it was no part of Hideyoshi's policy to await the arrival of these barons. He had already at his command an army of some thirty thousand men, and with this he moved out, challenging Mitsuhide to fight on the plains of Yamazaki. Mitsuhide did not hesitate to put his fortunes to the supreme test. He accepted Hideyoshi's challenge, and, on the 12th of June, a great battle was fought, the issue of which was decided by two things; first, the defection of Tsutsui Junkei, who refrained from striking until the superior strength of Hideyoshi had been manifested, and secondly, the able strategy of Hideyoshi, who anticipated Mitsuhide's attempt to occupy the position of Tenno-zan, which commanded

the field. From the carnage that ensued Mitsuhide himself escaped, but while passing through a wood he received from a bamboo spear in the hands of a peasant a thrust which disabled him, and he presently committed suicide. Thus, on the thirteenth day after Nobunaga's death, the head of his assassin was exposed in Kyoto in front of the temple of Honno-ji where the murder had taken place, and Mitsuhide's name went down in history as the "Three days' shogun" (Mikkakubo).


By this time the principal of Nobunaga's vassal-barons were on their way at the head of contingents to attack Mitsuhide. On learning of the assassin's death, these barons all directed their march to Kiyosu, and in the castle from which Nobunaga had moved to his early conquests thirty years previously, a momentous council was held for the purpose of determining his successor. The choice would have fallen naturally on Samboshi, eldest son of Nobunaga's first-born, Nobutada, who, as already described, met his death in the Mitsuhide affair. But Hideyoshi was well understood to favour Samboshi's succession, and this sufficed to array in opposition several of the barons habitually hostile to Hideyoshi. Thus, in spite of the fact that both were illegitimate and had already been adopted into other families, Nobunaga's two sons, Nobukatsu and Nobutaka, were put forward as proper candidates, the former supported by Ikeda Nobuteru and Gamo Katahide; the latter, by Shibata Katsuiye and Takigawa Kazumasu.

At one moment it seemed as though this question would be solved by an appeal to violence, but ultimately, at the suggestion of Tsutsui Junkei, it was agreed that Samboshi should be nominated Nobunaga's successor; that Nobukatsu and Nobutaka should be appointed his guardians, and that the administrative duties should be entrusted to a council consisting of Shibata Katsuiye, Niwa Nagahide, Ikeda Nobuteru, and Hideyoshi, each taking it in turn to discharge these functions and each residing for that purpose in Kyoto three months during the year. An income of one hundred thousand koku in the province of Omi was assigned to Samboshi pending the attainment of his majority, when he should be placed in possession of much larger estates, which were to be entrusted in the meanwhile to the keeping of one of the four barons mentioned above. Nobukatsu received the province of Owari, and Nobutaka that of Mino, the remainder of Nobunaga's dominions being apportioned to his generals, with the exception of Hideyoshi, to whom were assigned the provinces recently overrun by him in the midlands--Tajima, Harima, Inaba, and Tamba.

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