Chapter 58 is a detailed part of chapter 22 Sengoku Period History. Please read chapter 22 Sengoku Period History before start reading this chapter.
The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section
The different way of dividing the time for political history and sword history was explained in 23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代). The middle timeline above shows the Sengoku Period (戦国時代) ends in 1596 for sword history. This is because the Keicho (慶長) Era started in 1596. The swords made after the Keicho Era is called Shin-to (new sword), swords before the Keicho Era is called Ko-to (old sword). Keicho Shin-to is the swords made during Keicho Era,
Chapter 22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代) described the overview of the Sengoku Period. At the beginning of the Sengoku Period, 30 or so small Sengoku Daimyo
fought fiercely each other by allying with a neighboring country on and off and sometimes betraying each other. The stronger ones took over the weaker Daimyo. Little by little, the number of Daimyo gets lesser. The names of known powerful Daimyos are Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元), Takeda Shingen (武田信玄), Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信), Hojo Soun (北条早雲), Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉). Their final goal was to defeat others and advance to Kyoto (京都) to be the top political power.
Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) defeats Imagawa Yoshimoto at Okehazama (桶狭間)
Around 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元 ) controlled a significant part of Suruga (today’s Shizuoka prefecture. See the map below). He was a quite powerful Sengoku Daimyo who could be the top ruler of the country. He decided to advance his army toward Kyoto to take over the government. He took 25,000 men troop with him. On his way up to Kyoto, Owari (尾張: Aichi prefecture today. See map below) is Oda Nobunaga’s territory. Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 ) was still a young man with much lesser means than Imagawa Yoshimoto. It was quite apparent that no chance for Oda Nobunaga to win. He just became the head of Owari after his father’s death. Also, at that time, Nobunaga was called the “idiot of Owari” because of his unconventional behavior (actually, he was a genius). Not too many people had much confidence in him. Among Oda vassals, some insisted on staying inside the castle instead of fighting since Nobunaga could only gather 3,000 men. But in the end, to everyone’s surprise, the Oda side won. Here is how it happened. While Imagawa Yoshimoto was advancing, Nobunaga scouted which route Imagawa will take. Imagawa side was sure to win this easy battle since the Oda clan is small, and the head of the clan is an idiot. Imagawa troops decided to stop and rest at the place called Okehazama. Okehazama is a long narrow road. Knowing Imagawa troop come this way, Nobunaga sent out his men disguised as farmers and offered food and sake to Imagawa soldiers. While they were having a good time, Oda Nobunaga made a surprise attack on the Imagawa troop. On top of it, all of a sudden, heavy rain started to pour. The rain was so heavy that the Imagawa troop could not even see the Oda troop were coming. In the end, Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed by the Oda side in the battle. After this, the Imagawa clan declined.
Bishu Okehazama Gassen (備州桶狭間合戦) by Utagawa Toyonobu (歌川豊信) Public Domain (http://morimiya.net/online/ukiyoe-big-files/U896.html)
Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) and Akechi Mitsuhide(明智光秀)
After the battle of Okehazama, the Oda clan grew bigger rapidly. Oda Nobunaga became the primary power. While his reign, he did several not so nice things like burning the Enryaku-Ji Temple (延暦寺) and killed many people, including ordinary people, yet his economic measure encouraged people’s commercial activity. Things were going somewhat smoothly for Nobunaga later part of his life. But in 1582, Nobunaga was killed by his own top vassal Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀) at Honnou-Ji (本能寺) Temple. He was 49 years old. A few theories about why Akecdhi attacked and killed Nobunaga, but we don’t know what exactly happened. One theory is Akechi had a grudge against Nobunaga. There were many incidents Nobunaga mistreated Akechi. Another theory is just simply Akechi saw a chance to attack Nobunaga (Nobunaga was with very few men that day) and took the opportunity. Another one is Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) ordered Akechi to kill Nobunaga since Akechi once worked under Shogun Yoshiaki and Shogun Yoshiaki was afraid that Nobunaga became too powerful.
More theories go on. We don’t know the real reason; we still have a debate over it. After this happened, the news was relayed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a counterpart of Akechi under Nobunaga, who happened to be a place called
Bicchu (備中, Okayama prefecture today), that is about 230 KM (143 miles) away from Kyoto. See the map below. Hideyoshi quickly returned to Kyoto with his troop to fight against Akechi and killed him. Here is another mystery. The time between Nobunaga was killed, and the time Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi was only ten days. Hideyoshi was 230 KM (143 miles) away. That means in 10 days, Hideyoshi received the information of Nobunaga’s death, hurried back 230 KM (143 miles) to Kyoto, and fought against Akechi and killed him with their limited means of transportation at the time. Even though Hideyoshi had a communication route established between Nobunaga’s inner circle all the time, it is an amazing speed. So there is another theory that Akechi and Hideyoshi both were behind together. After Hideyoshi killed Akechi, Hideyoshi maneuvered cleverly. He ended up at the top of the power. While he was in control, he mined a large amount of gold from the gold mine he owned. There is a record stating that Hideyoshi buried a vast amount of gold and its location. But we never found it yet. Hideyoshi was a poor farmer’s son who became the top of the power. His success story fascinates the Japanese. Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu is the three most depicted subject on TV programs and movies. After Hideyoshi’s natural death, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun, and the Edo period started.