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The Fall of the Takeda

"Let's spend this spring in the Kai mountains," Nobunaga said as he rode out of Azuchi at the head of his army. "We can view the cherry blossoms, pick flowers, and then sightsee around Mount Fuji on the coast on our way back."

The success of the expedition against Kai seemed assured this time, and the armys departure was almost leisurely. By the tenth day of the Second Month, the army had reached Shinano and had completed the disposition of men at the entrances to Ina, Kiso, and Hida. The Hojo clan would enter from the east, while the Tokugawa would attack from Suruga.

In comparison with the battles of the Ane River and Nagashino, Nobunaga was invading Kai as serenely as he might have gone out to pick vegetables from a garden. In the middle of the enemy province were forces that were no longer considered to be enemies at all. Both Naegi Kyubei of Naegi Castle and Kiso Yoshimasa of Fukushima were men who were eagerly waiting for Nobunaga's arrival, not Katsuyori's; and the troops that marched from Gifu into Iwamura did so without encountering any resistance. The various fortresses of the Takeda had been abandoned to the wind. When night turned to dawn, both Matsuo Castle and the castle at Iida were nothing but empty shells.

"We have advanced to Ina and found barely an enemy soldier to defend it."

That was the report Nobunaga received at the entrance to Kiso. There the soldiers also joked among themselves that their advance was almost too easy to be satisfying. What had made the Takeda so fragile? The cause was complicated, but the answer could be put into simple terms. This time the Takeda would not be able to preserve Kai.

Everyone associated with the Takeda clan was convinced of its inevitable defeat. Some, perhaps, had even been disposed to look forward to this day. Traditionally, however, samuraiof no matter what clandid not display an unseemly attitude at such times, even when they knew defeat was inevitable.

"We're going to let them know that we are here," said Nishina Nobumori, commander of Takato Castle and Katsuyori's younger brother.

Nobunaga's son Nobutada, whose forces had poured into the region, estimated that his prospects were generally good. After writing a letter, he summoned a strong archer and had the man shoot the message into the castle. It was, of course, an invitation to surrender.

An answer from the castle came quickly. "I have read over your letter" From the opening line to the ending, the letter had been written in an extremely stately style.

The men in this castle will one day compensate Lord Katsuyori's favors with their lives, and not one of them is likely to be a coward. You should have your men attack immediately. We will show you the tempered prowess and valor that has been ours since the time of Lord Shingen.

Nobumori had answered with a resolution that almost scented the ink. Nobunaga had made his son a general, even though he was still quite young. "Well, if that's the way they want it," Nobutada said, ordering the assault. The attacking forces were divided into two divisions, and they assaulted the castle simulltaneously from the mountain at the rear and from the area leading to the front gate. It was a battle worthy of the name. The one thousand defending soldiers expected to die. As might be imagined, the valor of the Kai warriors had not yet declined. From the beginning of the Second Month to the beginning of the Third, the stone walls of Takato Castle were drenched with the blood of both the attacking and the defending armies. After breaking through the first palisades, which stood fifty yards from the moat, the attacking troops filled the moat with stones, shrubs, trees, and earth. Then they crossed over very quickly to the base of the stone walls.

"Come on!" shouted the men from the clay bulwarks and roofed mud walls as they threw spears, timbers, and rocks and poured hot oil onto the men below. The attacking soldiers that had scrambled up the stone wall went tumbling down under the rocks, timbers and sprays of oil. But no matter how far they fell, they were even more gallant. Even ley tumbled to the earth, as long as they were conscious, they would jump to their feet and start to climb again.

The soldiers who came up behind these men shouted in admiration for their comrades' resolute courage, and clambered up the walls behind them. They were not going to be outdone. As they climbed and fell, climbed once again, and grasped the stone walls, it seemed that nothing could stand before their fury. But the defenders of the castle were not the least bit inferior in their own united, desperate effort. Those who accepted the challenge, who could be glimpsed above the clay bulwarks and the roofed dirt walls, gave the illusion that the castle was filled only with the sturdy warriors of Kai. But if the attacking forces had been able to see the activity inside, they would have known that the entire castle was involved in a pathetic but wholehearted struggle. While the castle was being besieged, the many people insidethe old and young, and even pregnant womeneach worked desperately along with the soldiers to help in the defense. The young women carried arrows, while the old men swept away the burnt refuse from the guns. They tended the wounded and worked at cooking the soldiers' meals. No one had given them any commands, but they worked in perfect order and without a single word of complaint.

"The castle will fall if we throw everything we've got at them." Thus spoke Kawajiri, one of the generals of the attacking troops, who had gone to see Nobutada.

"We've had too many dead and wounded," Nobutada said; he had been reflecting on the matter himself. "Do you have any good ideas?"

"It seems to me that the strength of the soldiers in the castle is dependent on their belief that Katsuyori is still in his new capital. With that in mind, we might withdraw from this field of action for the time being and attack Kofu and Nirasaki instead. That, however, would require a complete change in strategy. It would be better, perhaps, to convince the defenders of the castle that Nirasaki has fallen and that Katsuyori is dead." Nobutada nodded his agreement. On the morning of the first day of the Third Month, another message was tied to an arrow and shot into the castle.

Upon reading it, Nobumori laughed. "This letter is such a transparent deception that a child might have written it. It shows how disheartened the enemy has become with the siege."

The message read read as follows:

On the twenty-eighth day of the last month, Kai fell and Lord Katsuyori committed suicide. The other members of the clan either committed suicide with him or were taken prisoner. It is meaningless for this castle to continue to demonstrate its martial valor, for it is nothing more than a single fortress in a conquered domain. You should surrender the castle immediately and put your efforts into the relief of the province.

Oda Nobutada

"How sweet. Do they really think a transparent little trick like this is the art of war?" That night, Nobumori held a drinking party and showed the letter to his retainers. "If this moves anyone here, he can leave the castle without hesitation before dawn."

They beat the drum, intoned chants from Noh plays, and passed the evening happily. That night, the wives of all the generals were also called and offered a round of sake. Everyone quickly realized what Nobumori's intentions were. On the following morning, just as everyone had expected, he picked up a large halberd to use as a staff, fastened a straw sandal to his swollen left footinjured in the battle for the castleand hobbled over to the castle gate.

He summoned the defenders to assemble, climbed up inside the roofed gate tower, and surveyed his forces. He had less than a thousand soldiers, excluding the very young, old men, and the women, but there was not one fewer than the night before. He bowed his head for a while, as if in silent prayer. In fact, he was praying to the soul of his father, Shingen: Look! We still have such men in Kai. Finally he looked up. He could see his entire army from where he was.

He did not have his brother's full face and broad features. As he had contented himself for a long time with the simplicity of country life, he knew nothing of extravagant food or luxury. He had been endowed with looks like those of a young hawk brought up on the whistling winds that blew over the mountains and plains of Kai. At the age of thirty-three, he resembled his father, Shingen: thick hair, bushy brows, and a wide mouth.

"Well, I thought it was going to rain today, but it's cleared up nicely. With the cherry blossoms on the distant mountains, the season is giving us a beautiful day to die. We're certainly not going to throw away our reputations, hoping for the promise of material reward. As you have seen, I was wounded in the fighting two days ago. Because my mobility is so limited, I'm going to watch each of you fight your last battle as I wait here calmly for the enemy. Then I can finish it up by fighting to my heart's content. So go out! Force your way through the gates at both the front and the rear, and bravely show them how the mountain cherry blossoms fall!"

The responding shouts of the fierce warriors, proclaiming that they would do exactly as he commanded, were like a whirlwind. All of them looked up at the figure of their lord atop the entrance gate, and for a while the same proclamation was heard over and over: "This is our farewell."

It was not a question of living or dying. It was an desperate rush toward death. The front and rear gates of the castle were defiantly pushed wide open by the men inside, and a thousand warriors rushed out, war cries rising from their throats.

The besieging troops were routed. For a moment the confusion was such that even Nobutada's headquarters were threatened.

"Fall back! Regroup!" The commander of the castle forces watched for the proper moment, and called for a retreat into the castle.

"Fall back! Fall back!"

The men turned back toward the castle, each warrior displaying to Nobumori, who was still seated up in the roofed castle gate, the heads he had taken.

"I will come in and drink, then go out again," one of the warriors shouted. And so it went on. Resting for a moment at either the front or the back gate, then dashing back out and cutting through the enemythe men repeated this pattern of violent attack and retreat six times until four hundred thirty-seven heads had been taken. As the day came to a close, the numbers of the defenders were reduced conspicuously, and those who remained were covered with wounds. Almost no one was uninjured. Flames shot up with a roar from the burning trees around the castle. The enemy had already been flowing into the fortress from every direction. Nobumori unblinkingly watched the final moments of each of his warriors from the top of the gate.

"My lord! My lord! Where are you?" a retainer called out as he ran around at the bottom of the gate.

"I'm up here," Nobumori called, letting his retainer know he was alive and well. "My final hour is near. Let me see where you are." And he looked down from his seat. The retainer looked up through the smoke at the figure of his master.

"Nearly all the men have been killed. Have you made preparations for suicide, my lord?" he asked, panting for breath.

"Come up here to assist me."

"Yes, my lord." The man staggered around to the stairway inside the gate, but he never made it up to the balcony. Thick flames lapped at the entrance to the stairway Nobumori pushed in the shutters of another window and peered down. The only soldier: he could see beneath him belonged to the enemy. Then he saw one person fighting hard in the middle of a huge crowd of enemy soldiers. Amazingly, it was a woman, the wife of one of his retainers, and she was brandishing a halberd.

Even though Nobumori was about to die, he struggled to accept the unexpected emotion in which he was suddenly enveloped.

That woman is so shy she usually can't even speak in front of men, much less hold a halberd up to them, he thought. But now he was pressed by something he had to do, and he shouted out to the enemy from the narrow window by which he stood.

"All you men fighting for Nobunaga and Nobutada! Listen to the voice of the Void. Nobunaga is taking pride right now in his one moment of triumph, but every cherry blossom falls and every ruler's castle will burn. I'm going to show you something now that won't fall or burn for all eternity. I, Shingen's fifth son, Nobumori, am going to show you!"

When the Oda soldiers were finally able to climb up, they found a corpse with it stomach cut open in the pattern of a cross. But the head was no longer there. Then, an instant later, the spring night sky was enveloped by red and black pillars of flame and smoke.

The confusion at Nirasaki Castle in the new capital was as great as if people were proclaiming the end of the world.

"Takato Castle has fallen and everyone, including your brother, has been killed."

As he listened to his retainer, Katsuyori seemed completely unmoved. Still, his expression showed that he clearly perceived that his own strength was no longer sufficient The next report came in.

"The soldiers of Oda Nobutada have already broken into Kai from Suwa, and our men are being killed without mercy, whether they fight or surrender. Their severed heads are exposed on the roadside, and the enemy is flowing in this direction like a tide."

Another urgent message arrived. "Shingen's kinsman, the blind priest Ryuho, was captured and butchered by the enemy."

This time Katsuyori raised his eyes and spoke abusively of the enemy.

"The Oda forces have no compassion. What fault could they find in a blind priest? How could he even have had the power to resist?" But now he was able to think more deeply about his own death. He bit steadily on his lip and repressed the waves roiling at the bottom of his heart. If I give vent to my anger like this, he thought, they may think I've become distracted, and even the retainers around me will feel disgraced. There were many people who saw nothing more than Katsuyori's manly exterior and who considered him bold and even coarse. But the truth was that he was very deliberate in his actions toward his retainers. In addition, he was extremely strict in adhering to his own principlesto his honor as a lord and to self-reflection. He had continued in his father's tradition and had been taught the principles of Zen by Kaisen. But although he had had the same teacher and had studied Zen, he was unable to bring it to life as Shingen had done.

How could Takato Castle have fallen? I was sure it could hold out for another two weeks to a month, Katsuyori thought, which showed that the situation had resulted less from a miscalculation of defensive strategy than from a lack of human maturity. Now, however, regardless of what his natural temperament might be, he had to meet this new tide of fortune.

The sliding partitions had been taken from the wide conference room and even from the outlying rooms of the main citadel; and now the entire clan lived together as though they were refugees from a great cataclysm that continued day and night. Naturally, curtains were set up even in the garden, shields were set up side by side, and soldiers went without sleep, holding large paper lanterns and policing the area at night. Messengers with reports of the situation were taken hourly directly from the entrance through the central gate to the garden, so that Katsuyori listened to the dispatches in person. Everything that had just been part of the construction the year beforethe scent of new wood, the gold and silver inlay, the beauty of the furniture and utensilsnow seemed only to be in the way.

Accompanied by a maid and binding up the train of her kimono, a lady-in-waiting with a message from Katsuyori's wife stepped out of the confusion of the garden and into the dark hall, and bravely looked through the crowd of men. At that time, the room was full of generals, both young and old, all noisily expressing their opinions about what to do next.

The woman finally came before Katsuyori and appealed to him with the message from his wife. "The women are all standing around crying in confusion, and won't stop no matter how we console them. Your wife has said that our last moment comes only once, and she thinks that perhaps the women would be a little more easily resolved if they could be here with the samurai. If she has your permission, she will move here immediately. What are my lord's wishes?"

"That's fine," Katsuyori answered quickly. "Bring my wife here and the young ones too."

At that moment his fifteen-year-old heir, Taro Nobukatsu, came forward and tried to dissuade him. "Father, that wouldn't be very good, would it?"

Katsuyori turned to his son, less with displeasure than with a nervous preoccupation. Why?"

"Well, if the women come here, they'll just get in the way. And if the men see them crying, even the bravest samurai may become disheartened." Taro was still a boy, but he inisted on giving his opinion. He continued to argue that Kai had been their ancestral land since the time of Shinra Saburo, and it should be their land to the very end, even if they have to fight and die. To abandon Nirasaki and flee, as one general had just recommnded, would bring the greatest shame to the Takeda clan.

A general argued the opposite position: "Nevertheless, the enemy is on all four sides, and Kofu is situated in a basin. Once the enemy invades, it will be like water rushing into a lake. Wouldn't it be better to escape to Agatsuma in Joshu? If you got to the Mikuni mountain range, there would be any number of provinces where you might find asylum.

Once you called together your allies, you could certainly reestablish yourself."

Nagasaka Chokan agreed, and Katsuyori's mind was inclined in that direction. He set his eyes on Taro and was silent for a moment. He then turned toward the lady-in-waiting and said, "We will go."

Taro's advice was thus refused by his father. Taro turned away silently and hung his head. The remaining question was whether to flee to Agatsuma or to entrench themselves in the area of Mount Iwadono. But whichever route they chose, abandoning their new capital and fleeing was the unavoidable fate to which both Katsuyori and his generals were resigned.

It was the third day of the Third Month. If it had been any other year, Katsuyori and his retinue would have been enjoying the Doll Festival in the inner citadel. But on this bright day, the entire clan was driven from behind by black smoke as they abandoned Nirasaki. Katsuyori, of course, also left the castle, as did every samurai that served him. But as he turned and looked at his entire force, his expression was one of amazement.

"Is this all?" he asked. At some point, senior retainers and even kinsmen had disappeared. He was told that they had taken advantage of the confusion during the darknes of dawn, and had fled each to his own castle with his retainers.


"I'm here, Father." Taro drew his horse up to the solitary figure of his father. With all the retainers, the common samurai, and the foot soldiers combinedthere were less than a thousand men. There were large numbers, however, of lacquered palanquins and litters for his wife and her court ladies, and the pathetic figures of veiled women, both walkin and on horseback, filled the road.

"Oh! It's burning!"

"The flames are so high!"

The crowd of women could hardly stand to leave, and when they had traveled only about a league from Nirasaki, they turned to look even as they walked. Flames and black smoke rose high in the morning sky as the castle at the new capital burned. They had set the fires at dawn.

"I don't want to live a long life," said one of the women. "What kind of future would I see? Is this the end of Lord Shingen's clan?" The nun who was Katsuyori's aunt, the charming young girl who was Shingen's granddaughter, the wives of the clan members and their servant ladiesall of them were drowning in their tears, holding each other as they cried, or calling out the names of children. Golden hairpins and other ornaments were left on the road, and no one even bothered to pick them up. Cosmetics and jewelry were smeared with mud, but no one gazed at them with regret.

"Hurry up! Why are you crying? This is what it is to be born a human being. You're going to shame yourselves in front of the farmers!" Katsuyori rode in among the slow-moving palanquins and litters, urging them on, to escape farther and farther to the east.

Hoping to reach Oyamada Nobushige's castle, they looked at the old castle in Kofu as they passed by but could only walk on toward the mountains. As they walked on, the carriers who shouldered the palanquins gradually disappeared, the menials who carried the baggage and litters ran off one after another, and their number was reduced by half and then by half again. By the time they had entered the mountains near Katsunuma, their entire force numbered only two hundred men, and less than twenty of those were mounted, counting Katsuyori and his son. When Katsuyori and his followers had struggled along as far as the mountain village of Komagai, they found that the one man they had been relying upon had suddenly had a change of heart.

"Take refuge somewhere else!" Obstructing the summit path to Sasago, Oyamada Nobushige prevented Katsuyori's party from passing through. Katsuyori, his son, and the entire group were at a complete loss. There was nothing they could do but change their direction, and they now fled toward Tago, a village at the foot of Mount Temmoku. Spring was in full bloom, but the mountains and fields, as far as the eye could see, held neither comfort nor hope. So now the small group that remained put all their trust in Katsuyori, as they might in a staff or a pillar. Katsuyori himself was at his wits' end. Huddling together in Tago, his followers waited in a daze, swept over by the mountain wind.

The combined forces of the Oda and the Tokugawa entered Kai like raging waves. Led by Anayama, Ieyasu's army marched from Minobu to Ichikawaguchi. Oda Nobutada attacked upper Suwa and burned the Suwa Myojin Shrine and a number of Buddhist temples. The common people's homes along the road he burned to ashes as he hunted for surviving enemy soldiers and pushed onday and nighttoward Nirasaki and Kofu. Finally, the end came. It was the morning of the eleventh day of the Third Month.

One of Katsuyori's personal attendants had gone to the village the night before and returned after reconnoitering the enemy positions. That morning he gave the report to his lord as he gasped for breath.

"The vanguard of the Oda forces has entered the nearby villages and seems to have learned from the villagers that you and your family are here, my lord. It appears that the Oda have surrounded the area and cut off all the roads, finally starting their last push in this direction."

Their group now numbered only ninety-onethe forty-one remaining samurai with Katsuyori and his son, and Katsuyori's wife and her ladies-in-waiting. In the preceding days they had ensconced themselves in a place called Hirayashiki and had even erected a sort of palisade. But when they heard the report, every one of them knew that the time had come, and they hurried to prepare themselves for death. Among them, Katsuyori's wife sat as though she were still in the mansion of the inner citadel. Her face was like a white flower as she looked off in a daze. The women who surrounded her had broken into tears.

"If it was going to come to this, it would have been better to stay in the new castle at Nirasaki. How pitiful. Is this how the wife of the lord of the Takeda should look?"

Left to themselves, the women cried miserably and lamented to each other without end.

Katsuyori went to his wife and pressed her to leave. "I've just ordered my attendant to bring you a horse. Even if we could stay here for a long time, our regrets would never end, and now the enemy is closing in on the foothills. I've heard that we're close to Sagami, so you should go there as quickly as possible. Cross the mountains and go back to the Hojo clan." His wife's eyes were filled with tears, but she made no move to leave. Rather, she looked as though she resented her husband's words.

"Tsuchiya! Tsuchiya Uemon!" Katsuyori called, summoning a retainer. "Get my wife on the back of a horse."

The attendant strode up to Katsuyori's wife, but she suddenly turned to her husband and said, "It is said that a true samurai will not have two masters. In the same way, once a woman has taken a husband, she should not go back to live with her family again. Though it may seem to be compassionate of you to send me back to Odawara by myself, just those words feel so unsympatheticI'm not moving from this place. I'll be at your side until the very end. Then, perhaps, you will let me go with you to the hereafter." Just at that moment, two retainers rushed up with the information that the enemy was closing in.

"They've reached the temple in the foothills."

Katsuyori's wife strictly scolded her attendants for their sudden wailing. "There is no time to do anything but grieve. Come here and help with the preparations."

This woman was not yet twenty years old, yet she did not lose her sense of propriety even as death pressed in. She was as serene as a pool of water, and Katsuyori himself felt reproved by her composure.

Her attendants went off but returned shortly with an unglazed cup and a sake flask, and set them down in front of Katsuyori and his son. It appeared that his wife had thought far enough ahead to prepare even for this moment. Silendy she offered her husband the cup. Katsuyori held it in his hand, took a sip, and passed it to his son. He then shared it with his wife.

"My lord, a cup for the Tsuchiya brothers," his wife said. "Tsuchiya, you must say farewell while we are all still in this world."

Tsuchiya Sozo, Katsuyori's personal attendant, and his two younger brothers had truly been devoted to their lord. Sozo was twenty-six years old, the next oldest was twenty-one, and the youngest brother was only eighteen. Together they had protected their ill-fated lord with fidelity all along the way, from the fall of the new capital to their last stand on Mount Temmoku.

"With this, I can leave without regrets." Emptying the cup he had received, Sozo turned and smiled at his younger brothers. Then he turned to Katsuyori and his wife. "Your misfortune this time is due entirely to the defection of your kinsmen. It must be fearful and unsettling for both you, my lord, and your wife to go through this without knowing what was in people's hearts. But the world is not filled only with people like those who betrayed you. Here at your final moment, at least, everyone with you is of one heart and one body. You can now believe in both man and the world, and walk through the portals of death with grace and an easy mind." Sozo stood straight up and walked over to his wife, who was with her ladies.

Suddenly there was the heartrending shriek of a child, and Katsuyori yelled out frantically, "Sozo! What have you done?"

Sozo had stabbed his own four-year-old son to death right before his wife's eyes, and now she was sobbing. Without even putting away his bloody sword, Sozo prostrated himself toward Katsuyori from a distance.

"As proof of what I have just declared to you, I have sent my own son ahead on the road of death. Certainly he would have been an encumbrance otherwise. My lord, I am going to accompany you; and whether I be first or last, it will take only an instant."

How sad to see the flowers

I knew would fall

Departing before me,

Not one to remain

Until the end of spring.

Covering her face with her sleeves, Katsuyori's wife chanted these lines and cried pathetically. One of her ladies-in-waiting choked back her tears and continued:

When they bloomed,

Their numbers were beyond measure;

But with the end of spring

They fell without one blossom left behind.

As her voice trailed off, a number of women unsheathed their daggers and cut through their own breasts or stabbed their own throats, the flowing blood soaking their black hair. Suddenly the hum of an arrow sounded close by, and soon arrows were thudding into the ground all around them. The echo of guns could be heard in the distance.

"They've come!"

"Prepare yourself, my lord!" The warriors stood up together. Katsuyori looked at his son, ascertaining Taro's resolution.

"Are you ready?" Taro bowed and stood up. "I am ready to die right here at your ide," he answered.

"This is good-bye, then." As father and son seemed ready to dash into the enemy, Katsuyori's wife shouted to her husband from behind, "I will depart before you."

Katsuyori stood stock-still and fixed his eyes on his wife. Holding a short sword, his wife looked up and closed her eyes. Her face was as pure and white as the moon rising over the edge of the mountain. She calmly intoned a verse from the Lotus Sutra, which he had loved to recite in former times.

"Tsuchiya! Tsuchiya!" Katsuyori called out.

"My lord?"

"Assist her."

But Katsuyori's wife did not wait for the man's blade, and pressed her own dagger straight into her mouth as she recited the sutra.

The instant the figure of his wife fell forward, one of her attendants began to encourage those left behind. "Her Ladyship departed ahead of us. None of us should be late in ccompanying her on the road of death." With these words, she bared her throat to her own dagger and fell.

"It's time." Crying and calling to each other, the fifty remaining women were soon scattered like flowers in a garden blown by a winter storm. They lay either sideways or face down, or stabbed themselves while embracing one another. In the midst of this pathetic scene, one could hear the crying of infants not yet weaned or too small to leave their mothers' laps.

Sozo desperately put four women and the infants on horseback and lashed them to the saddles.

"It will not be counted as disloyalty if you do not die here. If you can get away with your lives, bring up your children and see that they hold memorial services for their pitiful former master's clan." Thus reprimanding those mothers who were crying so loud with their children, Sozo ruthlessly beat the three horses he had set them on with the shaft of his spear. The horses galloped away as the mothers and their children sobbed and wailed.

Sozo then turned to his younger brothers. "Well, then, let's go." By that time they could see the faces of the Oda soldiers coming up the mountain. Katsuyori and his son were surrounded by the enemy. As Sozo ran to their side to assist them, he saw one of his lord's retainers running in the opposite direction in flight.

"You traitor!" Sozo shouted, chasing after the man. "Where are you going?" And he stabbed the man in the back. Then, wiping the blood from his sword, he ran straight into the midst of the enemy.

"Give me another bow! Sozo, give me another bow!" Katsuyori had broken the string of his bow twice already, and now took hold of a new one. Sozo stood close to his lords side, shielding him as well as he could. When Katsuyori had loosed all his arrows, he threw down the bow and picked up a halberd, and then brandished a long sword. By this time the enemy was right in front of him, and a battle of naked cutting blades would last no more than a moment.

"This is the end!"

"Lord Katsuyori! Lord Taro! I'm going to precede you!"

Calling back and forth to one another, the remaining Takeda men were struck down. Katsuyori's armor was stained in red.

"Taro!" He called for his son, but his vision was blurred by his own blood. All the men around him looked like the enemy.

"My lord! I'm still here! Sozo is still at your side!"

"Sozo, quickly I'm going to commit seppuku."

Leaning on the man's shoulder, Katsuyori retreated about a hundred paces. He knelt but having received so many spear and arrow wounds, he could not use his hands at all. The more he hurried, the less his hands were able to function.

"Forgive me!" Unable to watch any more, Sozo quickly acted as second and cut off his lord's head. As Katsuyori fell forward, Sozo snatched up his head and held it, wailing in grief.

Handing Katsuyori's head to his eighteen-year-old brother, Sozo told him to take it and flee. But in tears, the younger man declared that he would die with his brother no matter what.

"Fool! Go now!" Sozo thrust him away, but it was too late. The enemy soldiers were now like an iron ring around them. Covered with wounds from numberless swords and spears, the Tsuchiya brothers died gloriously.

The middle brother had stayed with Katsuyori's son from beginning to end. The young lord and retainer were also struck down and killed at the same time. Taro was regarded as a beautiful youth, and even the writer of The Chronicles of Nobunaga, who showed no sympathy in describing the death of the Takeda clan, praised his wholehearted and beautiful death.

As he was but fifteen and from an illustrious family, Taro's face was quite refined and his skin was as white as snow. He had excelled others in manliness, had been reluctant to stain the family name, and had kept this spirit right up to the death of his father. There was no one who felt that his actions could be matched.

The entire affair was finished by the Hour of the Serpent. It was thus that the Takeda clan met its end.

* * *

The Oda soldiers who had attacked Kiso and Ina assembled at Suwa, eventually filling the city. Nobunaga's quarters were located at the Hoyo Temple, which had now become the headquarters for the entire campaign. On the twenty-ninth day of the month, the distribution of awards for the entire army was posted at the temple gate, and on the next day Nobunaga met with all his generals and held a congratulatory banquet in honor of their victories.

"It seems that you've done some heavy drinking today, Lord Mitsuhide. Quite rare for you, I think," Takigawa Kazumasu said to his neighbor.

"I'm drunk, but what am I going to do?" Mitsuhide looked completely inebriated, a condition he was never in. His face, which Nobunaga liked to compare to a kumquat, was bright red all the way up to his slightly receding hairline.

"How about another cup?" Pressing Kazumasu for more, Mitsuhide continued to talk in an excessively cheerful manner. "We don't often experience happy occasions like the one today, even if we live a long time. Look at that. We've gotten results from all our years of taking painsnot just on the other side of these walls or even just in all of Suwabut now both Kai and Shinano are buried in the flags and banners of our allies. The desire we've cherished for so many years is being realized right before our eyes." His voice, as usual, was not very loud, but his words were heard quite distinctly by every person there. All those who had been talking noisily had fallen silent and were looking back and forth between Nobunaga and Mitsuhide.

Nobunaga was staring fixedly at Mitsuhide's bald head. There are times when the eye that is too perceptive discovers an unfortunate state of affairs that would have been better left unnoticed; this creates unnecessary disasters. Nobunaga had been perceiving Mitsuhide in just such a fashion for two days now. Mitsuhide had been doing his best to affect a bright and loquacious manner that did not fit him at all, and in Nobunaga's view there was absolutely no good reason for him to be doing that. There was a reason, however, for Nobunaga's view, which was quite clearly that at the distribution of awards he had intentionally excluded Mitsuhide.

To be left out of the distribution of awards should cause a warrior an acute feeling of desolation, and his shame at being a man without merit was worse than the actual rebuff itself. Mitsuhide had not been displaying that sense of dejection at all. On the contrary, he mixed with the other generals, talking happily and exhibiting a smiling face.

That was not honest. Mitsuhide was a man who would never really open himself up, and there was not much that was lovable in him. Why couldn't he grumble just once? The more Nobunaga stared at him, the more severe his look became. His drunken state probably intensified his feeling, but his reaction had been unconscious. Hideyoshi was absent, but if Nobunaga had been looking at him instead of Mitsuhide, there would have been no danger of such emotions being provoked. Even when he looked at Ieyasu, he did not become so ill-tempered. But when his eyes lighted upon Mitsuhide's balding head, they underwent a sudden change. It had not always been like this, and he could not have said for certain when the change had occurred.

But it was not a matter of a sudden change at a particular time or on a specific occasion. Indeed, if one searched for such a time, one came upon the period whenout of an excess of gratitudeNobunaga had presented Mitsuhide with Sakamoto Castle, awarded him the castle at Kameyama, arranged his daughter's wedding, and finally endowed him with a province of five hundred thousand bushels.

This was extremely kind treatment, but it was soon after that that Nobunaga's perception of Mitsuhide had begun to change. And there was one clear cause: the fact that in Mitsuhide's bearing and character there was no trace of a willingness to change. When Nobunaga looked at the clear luster on the hairline of that "kumquat head" that never made a mistakeeverNobunaga's emotions turned their attention toward what he perceived as the stink of Mitsuhide's character. Perverse, almost scorched feelings would arise within him.

So it was not simply Nobunaga aiming his ill-tempered eye at someone, but rather Mitsuhide himself instigating the situation. One could see that Nobunaga's perversity manifested itself in his words and expression to the same extent that Mitsuhide's wise reasoning power shone. To be fair, it would be like judging whether the right or left hand claps first. At any rate, Mitsuhide was presently chatting with Takigawa Kazumasu, and the eyes that were staring fixedly at him were clearly in no laughing mood.

Mitsuhide noticedperhaps something startled him unconsciouslyfor Nobunaga suddenly got up from his seat.

"Hey, Kumquat Head!"

Mitsuhide restrained himself and prostrated himself at Nobunaga's feet. He could feel the cold ribs of a fan lightly strike the nape of his neck two or three times.

"Yes, my lord?" Mitsuhide's color, his drunkenness, and even the shine on his forehead suddenly faded and changed to the color of clay.

"Leave the room." Nobunaga's fan left the nape of his neck, but the fan that pointed to the corridor looked just like a sword.

"I don't know what I've done, but if I've been an affront to you, my lord, and the company, I'm not sure where I should go. Please be fully critical of whatever it is that I've done wrong. I don't mind if you rebuke me right here." Even as he humbly apologized, he remained prostrate, slipped his body around, and somehow crawled out onto the broad veranda.

Nobunaga followed him. Wondering what could be the matter, the men filling the room quickly sobered up and suddenly felt their mouths become dry. Hearing a thudding noise echo from the wooden-floored veranda, even the generals who had looked away from the pitiful figure of Mitsuhide now turned their eyes back outside the room with a start.

Nobunaga had thrown his fan behind him. The generals could see that Nobunaga had Mitsuhide by the scruff of the neck. Each time the poor man struggled to lift his head to say something, Nobunaga would jerk it down and strike it against the balustrade of the veranda.

"What was that you said? What did you say just now? Something about the results we've gotten after all our pains, and what a truly happy day it is, as we see the army of the Oda clan filling Kai? You were saying something like that, weren't you?"

"That's that's correct."

"Fool! When did you take pains? What kind of meritorious deeds did you accomplish in the invasion of Kai?"



"Even though I was drunk, I shouldn't have said such arrogant words."

"That's exactly right. You have no reason to be arrogant. You were careless with what you were hiding in your mind. You thought that I was distracted by the drinking and listening to someone else, and that you could finally complain."

"Heaven forbid! Let the gods of heaven and earth be my witnesses! Why, I've received so many favors from you you raised me up from a man who wore rags and a single word."

"Shut up."

"Please let me go."

"Most certainly!" Nobunaga thrust him away. "Ranmaru! Water!" he called out in a loud voice. Ranmaru filled a vessel with water and brought it to him. As Nobunaga took the water, his eyes appeared to be on fire. His shoulders heaved with every breath.

Mitsuhide, however, had at some point gotten away from his master's feet and was now seven or eight feet down the corridor, adjusting his collar and smoothing his hair. He was prostrating himself so low that his chest was touching the wooden floor. The figure of Mitsuhide trying to look unruffled even now was hardly going to be seen in a favorable light, and Nobunaga's foot was starting for the man again.

If Ranmaru had not actually restrained him by the sleeve, the floor of the veranda would most likely have rung out again. Ranmaru did not directly touch on the event right before his eyes, but said only, "Please go back to your seat, my lord. Lord Nobutada, Lord Nobusumi, Lord Niwa, and all the generals are waiting."

Nobunaga went tamely back to the crowded room, but he did not sit down. He stood and looked around.

"Forgive me. I suppose I've been a bit of a killjoy. Each of you eat and drink to your heart's content." With these words he walked hastily off and shut himself up in his private quarters.

* * *

A flock of swallows was chirping under the eaves of the block of storehouses. Even though the sun was setting, the adults still appeared to be bringing food to the little ones in the nest.

"It could be the subject of a painting, don't you think?" In a room of a building situated some distance from the large garden, Saito Toshimitsu, a senior Akechi retainer, was entertaining a guest. The guest was the painter Yusho, who was not a native of Suwa. He must have been about fifty years old, and his robust physique gave no hint that he might be a painter. He spoke very little. Twilight settled on the white walls of the line of bean-paste warehouses.

"You must forgive me for suddenly calling on you in wartime like this, and talking on about nothing but the tedious affairs of a man no longer involved with the world. I'm sure you have many campaign responsibilities." Yusho seemed to be announcing his leave and began to rise from the cushion.

"No, please." Saito Toshimitsu was a very composed man, and without even moving, he detained his guest.

"Since you've come all the way here, it would not be polite to let you leave before you had talked to Lord Mitsuhide. If, after you leave, I tell my lord that Yusho had visited during his absence, he'll scold me and ask me why I didn't keep you here." And he intentionally started off on a new subject, doing his best to keep the unexpected caller entertained. At that time, Yusho was keeping a house in Kyoto, but he was originally from Omi in Mitsuhide's province. Not only that, but at one time, Yusho had received a warrior's stipend from the Saito clan in Mino. At that same time Toshimitsulong before he had become a retainer of the Akechi clanwas serving the Saito clan.

After living as a ronin, Yusho had become an artist, citing the fall of Gifu as the reason for his course of action. Toshimitsu, however, had abandoned his former allegiance to the Saito. The discord that grew between Toshimitsu and his former masters was displayed even in front of Nobunaga, and disputes had been carried on almost as if they were asking for judgment. But now everyone had forgotten the stories that had excited society so much at that time, and those who looked upon his pure white sidelocks considered him to be a retainer the Akechi clan could not do without. Everyone respected his character and his position as an elder.

The allotment of lodgings had not been sufficient within Nobunaga's main camp at the Hoyo Temple, so some of the generals were quartered in various houses in Suwa.

The Akechi were bivouacked in the ancient buildings of a beanpaste wholesaler, and both the soldiers and their officers were relaxing after many days of hard fighting.

A youth who appeared to be the son of the master of the house came up and spoke to Toshimitsu.

"Won't you come and take a bath, Your Honor? All the samurai and even the foot soldiers have finished their evening meal."

"No, I'll wait until His Lordship comes back."

"His Lordship is rather late tonight, isn't he?"

"There's been a victory banquet today at the main camp. My lord very rarely touches sake, but perhaps he drank a little and is getting a bit tipsy with all the toasts."

"May I serve you your evening meal?"

"No, no, I'll wait for my meal as well, until I see that he's come back. I do feel sorry for the guest I've detained, though. Why don't you show him to the bath?"

"Would that be the traveling artist who's been here all afternoon?"

"That's right. The man who's crouched over there by himself looking at the tree peonies in the garden. He looks a little bored. Why don't you call him over?"

The youth withdrew, and then looked around at the back of the building. In front of the dark, luxuriantly blooming tree peonies, Yusho was sitting holding his knees, staring vacantly. A little while later, when Toshimitsu came through the gate, both the youth and Yusho were already gone.

Toshimitsu was apprehensive. He thought that Mitsuhide was far too late in returning. Even though he was well aware that a victory banquet would last well into the night.

Leading out through the ancient thatch-roofed gate, the path quickly joined the lakeside road. The last heat of the day still glimmered in the western sky over Lake Suwa. Toshihimitsu looked down the road for some time. Sure enough, he finally saw his lord coming toward him. Horses, spearmen, and attendants all followed in one group. But the concern on Toshimitsu's brow did not diminish as they came closer. Something was not as it should be. Nothing in Mitsuhide's appearance suggested that he was returning from a victory banquet. His lord should have been riding home in brilliant array, swaying gallantly on horseback, drunk along with his attendants on today's gift of sake. But Mitsuhide was walking along, looking crestfallen.

A retainer was leading his horse, which loped along cheerlessly, while the attendants walked silently behind in exactly the same manner.

"I came out here to meet you. You must be tired." When Toshimitsu bowed before him, Mitsuhide looked as though he had been taken by surprise.

"Toshimitsu? I've been inconsiderate. You were good enough to worry about my coming home late. Forgive me. I drank a little too much today, so I intentionally walked home by the lake trying to sober up. Don't be worried by my color. I feel a lot better now.

Toshimitsu could see that his master had met with some unhappy experience. He had been Mitsuhide's close attendant for many years, so such a thing was unlikely to escape his notice. He did not, however, presume to ask about the matter. The old retainer was quick to look after his master's needs, hoping to cheer him up.

"How about a bowl of tea, and then a bath?"

Toshimitsu's reputation was enough to strike fear in the enemy on the battlefield, but as he helped Mitsuhide out of his clothes, Mitsuhide could only think of him as a solicitous old relative.

"A bath? Yes. A bath might be very refreshing at a time like this." And he followed Toshimitsu to the bathhouse.

For a while Toshimitsu listened to the sound of Mitsuhide splashing in the hot water in the bath. "Shall I scrub your back, my lord?" Toshimitsu called in.

"Send in the page," Mitsuhide replied. "I don't feel right about having you put your old body to work."

"Not at all."

Toshimitsu entered the bathroom, scooped up some hot water in a small wooden

bucket, and went around behind his master. Certainly he had never done this before, but at that moment he only wanted to raise his master's unusually low spirits.

"Is it proper to have a general scrub the dirt from one's back?" Mitsuhide asked. He was modest to the very end. He always exhibited reserve even with his retainers, and it was questionable whether this was one of his good or bad points. Toshimitsu's own opinion was that it was not particularly good.

"Now, now. When this old warrior fights under your honored banner, he's Saito Toshimitsu of the Akechi clan. But Toshimitsu himself is not an Akechi. That being so, it will be a good memory for me, while I'm alive and serving you, to have washed the dirt off your skin just once."

Toshimitsu had bound up his sleeves and began to wash his master's back. As his back was being scrubbed, Mitsuhide bowed his head contentedly in silence. He reflected deeply on Toshimitsu's concern for him, and then on the relationship between himself and Nobunaga.

Ah, I've been wrong, he thought. Deep in his own heart, Mitsuhide blamed himself. What was it that was displeasing Mitsuhide and making him so unhappy? Certainly Nobunaga was a good master, but was his own loyalty equal to that of the old retainer who was now scrubbing his back? How shameful. It was just as though Toshimitsu were washing his heart with the hot water he poured down his back.

When he left the bath, Mitsuhide had changed both in appearance and in the tone of his voice. His mind had become completely refreshed, and Toshimitsu felt the same way.

"It was good to take a bath, just as you said. I guess it was fatigue as well as the sake"

"Do you feel better?"

"I'm all right now, Toshimitsu. Don't worry."

"I was worried because of the extraordinary unease on your face. That was the worst of all. Well, let me tell you that while you were gone we had a guest, and he's been waiting for your return."

"A guest? At these battlefield quarters?"

"Yusho was just traveling through Kai, and he said that before going elsewhere he wanted to stop and see you, and ask how you are."

"Where is he?"

"I had him stay in my room."

"Really? Well, let's go over there."

"He'll probably feel shamed if the lord actually walks over to see the guest. I'll bring him to you in a little while."

"No, no. Our guest is a man of taste. It won't be necessary to be overly formal."

An elegant dinner had been prepared for Mitsuhide in the hall of the main house, but he sat in Toshimitsu's room and ate a simple meal with his guest.

His face became even brighter after talking with Yusho for a while. He asked about the painting styles of the Southern and Northern Sung dynasties in China, discussed the artistic tastes of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa and the merits of the Tosa school of painting, and talked about everything from the Kano style to the influence of Dutch painting. Throughout the conversation, it was clear that Mitsuhide's education had not been shallow.

"I've thought that when I grow old, I might return to more tranquil pursuits and my youthful studies, and even try to paint. Perhaps, before then, you could draw me an illustrated copybook."

"Of course, my lord."

Yusho had emulated the style of the ancient Chinese artist, Liang K'ai. He had recently developed his own school independent of the Kano or Tosa traditions and finally had become established in the art world. When Nobunaga had asked him to illustrate the sliding partitions at Azuchi, he had pretended to be sick and had refused. He had, after all, been a retainer of the Saito clan, which had been destroyed by Nobunaga. One could understand how Yusho might have felt too proud to decorate Nobunaga's living quarters with his own brush.

The phrase "soft on the outside, strong on the inside" might very well have applied to Yusho's character. Yusho was unable to trust the logic that Mitsuhide lived by. If Mitsuhide were to slip, even once, he would burst the dam holding his emotions in check and slide toward a fatal course.

Mitsuhide slept happily that night. Perhaps it was due to the bath. Or to the unexpected and pleasing guest.

The soldiers had gotten up before the sun, fed the horses, put on their armor, prepared their provisions, and were now waiting for their lord's appearance. That morning theyey were to assemble at the Hoyo Temple, depart from Suwa, and head out for Kofu. They would then pass down the coast road and make a triumphal return to Azuchi.

"You should prepare yourself quickly, my lord," Toshimitsu said to Mitsuhide.

"Toshimitsu, I slept well last night!"

"I'm glad to hear that."

"When Yusho leaves, you should give him my very best wishes and some money for the road."

"But you know, when I got up this morning and looked in on him, I discovered he had already gone. He got up and went out with the soldiers before the sun came up."

His is an enviable life, Mitsuhide said to himself as he looked at the morning sky.

Saito Toshimitsu unfolded a scroll. "He left this behind. I thought it might be something he had forgotten, but when I looked at it closely, I saw that the ink hadn't yet dried, and then I remembered that you had requested him to make an illustrated copybook. I link he stayed up until dawn working on it."

"What? He didn't sleep?"

Mitsuhide cast his eye over the scroll. The paper was all the more white in the morning sun, and on it a single branch of tree peonies had been freshly painted. An inscription in a corner of the painting read: Tranquillity, this is nobility.

Tranquillity, this is nobility, Mitsuhide recited silently as he rolled out the scroll, now coming upon the illustration of a large turnip. Next to the turnip was written, Having a visitor is a taste.

The turnip had been drawn in India ink without even a trace of effort; and if you looked at it closely, you could smell the fragrance of the earth. This turnip served as the root for a single leaf, and it seemed to be bursting with life. Its wild nature appeared to be laughing at Mitsuhide's rationalism with a marvelous artlessness and lack of concern.

He continued unfolding the scroll, but there was nothing else. The greater part of it was nothing but blank paper.

"It looks like it took him all night to do these two illustrations."

Toshimitsu was also impressed by the scroll, and bent over it in appreciation with Mitsuhide.

Mitsuhide was hesitant to look at it any longer, and asked Toshimitsu to roll it up.

At that point, the sound of the conch shell was heard in the distant sky. It was a call from the headquarters at the Hoyo Temple, signaling the troops throughout the town to get ready. Heard in the arena of the bloody war, the conch shell was a thing of indescribable dread, booming out sorrowful reverberations. But heard on a morning like this its sound was mild and almost quietly comforting.

Mitsuhide was soon on horseback himself. His brow this morning, much like the mountains of Kai, was completely unclouded and without even a hint of shade.

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