Requiem of Blood
The need for the Oda troops' immediate withdrawal had been the reason behind the peace treaty, and Hideyoshi's allies, the Ukita, began to retreat that very night. Not one soldier, however, was withdrawn from Hideyoshi's main camp. On the morning of the fifth, Hideyoshi had still not made a move. Although his mind was racing toward the capital, he gave no indication that he was planning to break camp.
"Hikoemon, how much has the water level gone down?"
"About three feet."
"Don't let it fall too quickly."
Hideyoshi went out into the temple garden. Although the dike had been cut and the water was beginning to go down little by little, Takamatsu Castle was still stranded in the middle of the water. One of Hideyoshi's retainers had already gone to the castle the night before to accept its capitulation. And now the defenders were being ferried out.
When evening came, Hideyoshi sent a man to spy on the Mori. He then consulted with Kanbei and his other generals and quickly made preparations to strike camp. "Have them breach the dike right away," he ordered Kanbei.
The dike was now breached in ten places. Almost at once, the water began to stir. Innumerable whirlpools appeared as the waters rushed through the openings with a roar that sounded like a tidal wave.
Which would be faster, the water or Hideyoshi, who now whipped his horse toward the east? The high ground surrounding the castle had been transformed almost instantly into a dry plain, while the lowlands were marshes crisscrossed with rivers; so even if the Mori had considered giving chase, they would not have been able to cross over for another two or three days.
On the seventh, Hideyoshi arrived at the Fukuoka River crossing and found the river
in flood. The soldiers made protective padding for the horses by lashing their packs together and then crossed over, forming a human chain by either linking hands or grasping the shaft of the spear carried by the man in front.
Hideyoshi had crossed first, and sat on his camp stool on the bank. "Don't panic! Take your time!" he shouted. He appeared to be completely untroubled by the wind and the rain. "If one man drowns, the enemy will say we lost five hundred; if you lose one piece of baggage, they'll say it was a hundred. Don't lose your life or your weapons here in vain."
The rear guard now caught up with the main army, and with the units trailing in one after another, both banks of the river were filled with soldiers. The commander of the rear guard came before Hideyoshi to report on the situation at Takamatsu. The retreat had been completed, and there was still no sign of the Mori. A look of relief spread over Hideyoshi's face. He looked as though he finally felt safe; now he could channel all his strength in one direction.
The army returned to Himeji on the morning of the eighth. Covered in mud, then drenched by the storm, the soldiers had covered twenty leagues in one day.
"The first thing I want to do," Hideyoshi said to his attendants, "is take a bath."
The governor of the castle prostrated himself before Hideyoshi. After congratulating him on his return, he informed him that two messengers had arrived, one from Nagahama with urgent news.
"I'll take care of it after having a bath. I'd like plenty of hot water. The rain soaked right through my armor and all the way to my underwear."
Hideyoshi sank into the hot water up to his shoulders. The morning sun was framed by the bathroom window; it poured down through the high latticework onto his face, suspended in the steam. As he sat there, the skin on his face seemed to boil to a darkish red, while large drops of sweat beaded on his forehead. Hundreds of tiny rainbows appeared in the steam.
Hideyoshi jumped out of the tub, making a noise like a waterfall. "Hey! Somebody come wash my back!" he called.
The two pages who were waiting outside ran in. Putting all of their strength into the task, they scrubbed him down from the back of his neck to his fingertips.
Hideyoshi suddenly laughed and said, "It comes off in a strange way!" Looking down around his feet, he saw that the dirt the pages had scraped off his body resembled bird droppings.
How could this man be possessed of such a dignified appearance on the battlefield? His naked body seemed a truly poor and meager thing. It was true that he had overworked himself during the five years of the western campaign, but there was altogether too little fat on his forty-six-year-old frame. Even now, traces of the poor, skinny farmboy from Nakamura lingered on. His body seemed like a withered pine growing out of the rock, or a dwarfed plum tree worn out by the wind and snow—strong, but showing signs of age.
It was not appropriate, however, to compare his age and physique with those of anordinary man. Both his skin and his frame were filled with vitality. When he was happy or angry, there were even times when he looked like a young man.
As Hideyoshi relaxed after his bath, wiping himself dry, he called a page and said, “This is to be posted immediately: At the first call of the conch, the entire army is to eat its rations; at the second, the supply corps is to start out; at the third, the whole army is to assemble in front of the castle."
Hideyoshi then summoned Hikoemon and the officials in charge of the treasury and the granary.
"How much do we have in the treasury?" Hideyoshi asked.
"About seven hundred fifty weights of silver, and more than eight hundred pieces of gold," an official replied.
Hideyoshi turned to Hikoemon and ordered, "Take it and distribute it to the men, each according to his pay." He then asked how much rice was left in the storehouses, observing, "We won't be besieged here, so we don't need to keep any rice. Pay the retainers five times their rice stipend."
He left the bathroom and went directly to where the messenger from Nagahama was waiting. He had left his mother and his wife at Nagahama, and he had been constantly anxious about them.
As soon as Hideyoshi saw the messenger kneeling before him, he asked, "Are they all right? Has something happened?"
"Both your honored mother and wife are quite well."
"Really? Well then, is the castle at Nagahama under attack?"
"I was dispatched from Nagahama on the morning of the fourth, when a small enemy force had started to attack."
"No, they were Asai ronin allied to the Akechi. But according to a rumor I heard on the road, a large Akechi force is now heading for Nagahama."
"What were the men at Nagahama going to do?"
"There are not enough men to withstand a siege, so in case of an emergency, they plan to move your family to a hiding place in the mountains."
The messenger placed a letter in front of Hideyoshi. It was from Nene. As the lord's wife, it was her duty to take care of everything while her husband was away. Although she must have written the letter in the midst of a storm of confusion and doubt, her handwriting was composed. The contents, however, clearly indicated that this letter might be her very last:
If worst comes to worst, I assure you, my lord, that your wife will do nothing to disgrace your name. Your mother's and my only concern is that you overcome your own difficulties in these important times.
The first call of the conch shell echoed through the castle and the town.
Hideyoshi gave his final instructions to his retainers in Himeji Castle: "Victory and defeat are in the hands of fate, but if I should be struck down by Mitsuhide, set fire to the castle and make sure nothing remains. We have to act bravely, following the example of the man who died at the Honno Temple."
The second call sounded, and the supply train started off. As the sun began to set in the west, Hideyoshi had his camp stool moved outside the castle and had the third conch shell call blown. Night had fallen on the wide fields and on the pine trees lining the coastal road. From evening until well past midnight, the ground shook as ten thousand men formed into their divisions outside Himeji Castle.
Dawn broke and, one by one, the silhouettes of the pines along the road became visible. In the east, a perfectly red morning sun rose over the horizon of the Harima Sea between the clouds of dawn, as though urging the men forward.
"Look!" Hideyoshi called out. "We have a fair wind. Our banners and pennants are blowing east. I know that a man's fate is uncertain. We do not know whether we will live to see tomorrow's dawn, but heaven shows us the way forward. Let us raise a mighty w cry and inform heaven of our departure."
* * *
In the ten days since the death of Nobunaga, the national situation had changed dramatically. In Kyoto, the people had been uneasy since the Honno Temple incident. Nobunaga's two senior generals, Shibata Katsuie and Takigawa Kazumasu, were far away; Tokugawa Ieyasu had withdrawn to his own home province; Hosokawa Fujitaka's and Tsutsui Junkei's commitments were unclear; and Niwa Nagahide was in Osaka.
The rumor that Hideyoshi's army had arrived in Amagasaki, near Kyoto, spread like the wind on the morning of the eleventh. Many could not believe it. There were other rumors—that Lord Ieyasu was moving westward; that Nobunaga's eldest surviving son, Nobuo, was mounting a counterattack; that the Akechi were fighting here or there. The most believable rumor was that Hideyoshi's army was pinned down by the Mori at Takamatsu. Only those who knew Hideyoshi well did not fall into that error.
The skills Hideyoshi had shown in the invasion of the western provinces over the last five years had taught many of Nobunaga's other generals his true value. Among those men were Niwa Nagahide, Nakagawa Sebei, Takayama Ukon, and Ikeda Shonyu. They perceived Hideyoshi's loyalty under such long adversity as unswerving devotion to their former lord. When they heard that Hideyoshi had made peace with the Mori and was marching at full speed toward the capital, they were pleased that their expectations had not been disappointed. As Hideyoshi made his way eastward, they sent him urgent messages, pressing him to hurry and informing him of the latest movements of the Akechi troops.
When Hideyoshi arrived at Amagasaki, Nakagawa Sebei and Takayama Ukon each took part of their forces and visited Hideyoshi's camp.
When the two generals arrived, the samurai on guard duty at the gate did not seem overjoyed at their presence, nor did he hurry to announce their arrival. "His Lordship is resting just now," he informed them.
The two men were taken aback. Sebei and Ukon knew well their own value as allies. The military strength of the man they sided with would be doubled. In addition, the nearby castles controlled the entrance to Kyoto. Certainly, securing those two key castles, which were almost in the middle of enemy territory, would give Hideyoshi tremendous strategic and logistic advantages.
Thus, when they came to Hideyoshi's camp, they took it for granted that Hideyoshi himself would come out to welcome them. All that the two generals could do was wait. During that time, they watched the arrival of stragglers. All the while, messengers were coming and going in all directions. Among them was a samurai whom Nakagawa Sebei recognized.
"Isn't that a Hosokawa samurai?" he muttered.
It was well known that the relationship between Mitsuhide and Hosokawa Fujitaka was very close. The two men had been close friends for many years, and their families were linked by marriage.
What is a messenger from the Hosokawa doing here? Sebei asked himself. This was a matter that concerned not only the two generals waiting to see Hideyoshi but the entire nation.
"He said Lord Hideyoshi was sleeping, but I think he's wide awake. He's being rather rude, no matter what he's doing," Ukon complained.
They were about to leave when one of Hideyoshi's pages ran up to them and invited them into the temple that served as Hideyoshi's headquarters. Hideyoshi was not in the room they were led into, but it was certain that he had been awake for some time. Loud laughter was coming from the abbot's quarters. This was not the kind of reception the two generals had anticipated. They had hurried here to ally themselves with Hideyoshi and strike at Mitsuhide. Ukon seemed vexed, a vaguely bitter look on his face; Sebei's expression was sullen.
The oppressive summer heat aggravated their dissatisfaction. The rainy season should have begun to clear by then, but the air refused to dry. In the sky, the clouds moved back and forth in an unsettled way, as if reflecting the state of the nation. From time to time the sun shone through the clouds with an intense brilliance that was enough to make a man feverish.
"It's hot, Sebei," Ukon commented.
"Yes, and there's no wind at all."
Naturally, the two men wore full armor. Even though modern armor had become lighter and more flexible, there was no doubt that beneath the leather breastplates, their sweat ran in rivulets.
Sebei opened his fan and cooled himself. Then, to show that they did not rank lower than Hideyoshi, Sebei and Ukon made a point of moving to the seats reserved for men of the highest rank.
Just then, a shout of greeting came in with the breeze. It was Hideyoshi, and as soon he sat down in front of the men, he apologized profusely. "I'm really sorry to have been so rude. When I got up, I went over to the main temple; and while I was having my head shaved," he said, patting his bald head, "a messenger from Hosokawa Fujitaka arrived with an urgent dispatch. So I had to talk with him first and make you wait."
He sat in his usual way, oblivious to distinctions of rank. The two men forgot their formal greetings and simply stared at Hideyoshi's freshly shaved head, which reflected the green of the trees of the neighboring garden.
"At least my head is cool in this heat," Hideyoshi added with a grin. "Taking the tonsure is very refreshing."
Looking a little self-conscious, Hideyoshi vigorously rubbed his scalp. When Sebei and Ukon saw that Hideyoshi had gone so far as to shave his head for the sake of their former lord they forgot their earlier displeasure and instead felt ashamed of their own pettiness.
The only trouble was that each time they looked at Hideyoshi they wanted to laugh. Although no one called him Monkey to his face anymore, his former nickname and his present appearance provoked a certain feeling of amusement.
"Your speed surprised us," Sebei started. "You must not have slept at all between here and Takamatsu. We're relieved to see that you're in good health," he went on, fighting to stifle his laughter.
"You know," Hideyoshi said ingratiatingly, "I very much appreciated the reports you sent me. Because of them I was able to know the movements of the Akechi, and, more important, that the two of you were my allies."
Neither Sebei nor Ukon was so soft-headed that flattery could take him in. Almost ignoring Hideyoshi's last remark, they quickly began to give him advice.
"When will you be setting out for Osaka? Lord Nobutaka is there with Lord Niwa.”
"I haven't got time to go to Osaka now; that's not where the enemy is. I sent a messenger to Osaka this morning."
"Lord Nobutaka is the third son of Lord Nobunaga. Shouldn't you meet him first?”
"I'm not asking him to come here. I have asked him to take part in the forthcoming battle, which will be the memorial service for Lord Nobunaga. He is with Niwa, sco I thought it wouldn't be necessary to stick to formalities. He'll be joining our camp tomorrow for sure."
"What about Ikeda Shonyu?"
"We'll be meeting him as well. I haven't seen him yet, but he sent a messenger with a pledge of his support."
Hideyoshi was confident about his allies. Even Hosokawa Fujitaka had refused Mitsuhide's invitation. Instead, he had just sent a retainer to Hideyoshi telling him that he would not join forces with a rebel. Hideyoshi triumphantly stressed to the two generals that this loyalty was not only the natural trend of the world but also a great moral principle of the warrior class.
Finally, after talking over various subjects, both Sebei and Ukon formally delivered to Hideyoshi the hostages they had brought along with them as pledges of their good faith.
Hideyoshi declined with a laugh.
"That won't be necessary. I know you both so well. Send these children back to your castles right away."
That very day Ikeda Shonyu, who had known Hideyoshi since their early days together in Kiyosu Castle, joined Hideyoshi's army. Just before setting out that morning Shonyu had also taken the tonsure.
"What! You had your head shaved too?" Hideyoshi said when he saw his friend.
"We did the same thing by chance."
"We think the same way."
Neither Hideyoshi nor Shonyu needed to say anything more. Shonyu now added his four thousand men to Hideyoshi's army. Hideyoshi had started with an army of about ten thousand men, but with the addition of Ukon's two thousand men., Sebei's two thousand five hundred men, Hachiya's one thousand, and the Ikeda corps of four thousand, the army now numbered more than twenty thousand troops.
At the first war conference, Sebei and Ukon unexpectedly began to argue with each other, neither man giving any ground.
"It has been a matter of samurai etiquette since ancient times that the lord of the castle closest to the enemy leads the vanguard," Ukon said. "So there is no reason at all why my troops should follow Sebei's."
Sebei refused to give in. "The division between rear and vanguard should have nothing to do with how close to or how far away from the battlefield a man's castle is. The caliber of the troops and the commander are what matter."
"Well then, are you saying that I am unworthy of leading the vanguard against the enemy?
"I don't know about you. I am certain in my belief, however, that I am not going to yield to anyone. And I'm not going to hesitate in front of anyone in my desire to lead the vanguard in this battle. The order should be given to me, Nakagawa Sebei."
Sebei pressed Hideyoshi for the honor, but Ukon also bowed and looked up to him the expectation of receiving the command. Hideyoshi, seated on his camp stool, made his decision with the demeanor of a commander-in-chief.
"Both of you have spoken well, so it stands to reason that Sebei should take up one line of the first battle formation and Ukon should take up the other. I expect you both to accomplish deeds worthy of your words."
Throughout the council, scouts came in to make their reports.
"Lord Mitsuhide has withdrawn from Horagamine and has concentrated his strength in the area around Yamazaki and Enmyoji. He also seemed to be falling back toward Sakamoto Castle, but suddenly this morning he began to demonstrate a clearly offensive disposition, and a division of his army is marching toward Shoryuji Castle."
With the receipt of this report, a strained expression abruptly appeared on the faces of the generals. The distance between their camp at Amagasaki and Yamazaki was less than a lightning strike away. They could already sense the enemy in that area.
Sebei and Ukon had been given the responsibility for leading the vanguard, and they stood up and asked, "Shouldn't we advance on Yamazaki at once?"
Hideyoshi, unmoved by the men's agitation and the pressure of the moment, answered with extreme deliberation.
"I think we should wait here one more day for Lord Nobutaka's arrival. It's obvious that during the one night and half a day that we wait, this great opportunity will slip away moment by moment, but I would like one of our late lord's sons to participate in the battle. I don't want to put Lord Nobutaka in a situation that he would regret for the rest of his life, one which would make him unable to face the world."
"But what if the enemy is able to take advantageous ground in the meantime?"
"Well, there are naturally limits even to waiting for Lord Nobutaka. We'll have to start out for Yamazaki by tomorrow, no matter what happens. Once the entire army has gathered at Yamazaki, we'll be in contact again, so both of you should go ahead and advance imediately."
Sebei and Ukon made their way out. The order of the vanguard's departure was to be as follows: first, the Takayama corps; second, the Nakagawa corps; and third, the Ikeda corps.
As soon as they left Tonda, the two-thousand-man Takayama corps dashed out as though they had already seen the enemy army. Watching the dust from their horses, Sebei and everyone in the second corps wondered if the Akechi forces hadn't already got to Yamazaki.
"They're going too fast even for that," some thought suspiciously.
Immediately after entering the village of Yamazaki, Ukon's men closed off all the gates on the roads that led to the town and even intercepted travelers on the backroads in the area.
The Nakagawa corps that came up later naturally encountered these roadblocks and suddenly understood the reason for Ukon's hurry: he could not bear to be in the second attacking line. Sebei abandoned this strategic position and immediately started off for a hill called Tennozan.
In the end Hideyoshi quartered his troops at Tonda that night, but the next day he finally received the report that Nobutaka and Niwa had reached the Yodo River.
As soon as he heard the news, Hideyoshi nearly knocked over his camp stool as he jumped up for joy. "A horse! Bring me a horse!" he ordered.
As he mounted, he turned to the men at the gate and yelled, "I'm going off to greet Lord Nobutaka!" and whipped his horse toward the Yodo River.
The wide river was almost overflowing. On the bank, Nobutaka's forces were divided into two corps of four and three thousand men respectively.
"Where is Lord Nobutaka?" Hideyoshi yelled as he dismounted among the sweaty soldiers who watched him go by. Nobody realized that it was Hideyoshi.
"It's me, Hideyoshi," he announced.
The soldiers gaped in surprise.
Hideyoshi did not wait for a formal welcome. Pushing his way through the throng of men, he headed for the tree beneath which Nobutaka had set up his standard.
Surrounded by his field staff, Nobutaka was resting on his camp stool, shading his eyes from the glare of the water. Suddenly he turned and saw Hideyoshi running toward him, yelling as he came. As soon as he saw Hideyoshi, Nobutaka was overcome by a feeling of gratitude. Here was a retainer whom his father had trained for many years, and what he was doing now went far beyond the normal ties that bound a lord and retainer. His eyes shone with a light that showed he was feeling an emotion usually reserved for blood relations.
"Hideyoshi!" Nobutaka called out.
Without waiting for Nobutaka to extend his hand, Hideyoshi suddenly walked up to him and grasped it firmly.
"Lord Nobutaka!" was all Hideyoshi said. Neither man said anything further, but their eyes spoke at length. Tears flowed down their cheeks. Through those tears Nobutaka was able to express all his feelings for his dead father to a retainer of his clan. And Hideyoshi understood what was in the young man's heart. He finally released the hand he had held so tightly and at the same time knelt to the ground.
"It's so good that you have come. There is no time to say anything more, and there's really nothing else in my heart. I'm just grateful to be with you now, and firmly believe that in heaven your father's soul will be pleased by this action. I feel as though I've finally been able to pay my respects to you here and have fulfilled my duty as a retainer. I'm happy for the first time since Takamatsu Castle."
Later that day Hideyoshi invited Nobutaka to accompany him back to his camp in Tonda, and together they turned toward Yamazaki.
They arrived at Yamazaki at the Hour of the Monkey, the ten thousand men of their reserve army adding to the eight thousand five hundred men of the three vanguard corps. Now there was no place in the mountains or village where horses and soldiers could not be seen.
"We've just received a report that an Akechi army has attacked the Nakagawa corps in the foothills east of Tennozan."
Now was the time to strike. Hideyoshi gave the command for the entire army to attack.
On the morning of the ninth, when Hideyoshi was leaving Himeji, Mitsuhide returned to Kyoto. Less than a week had gone by since Nobunaga's murder.
On the second, at the Hour of the Ram, while the ruins of the Honno Temple were still smoldering, Mitsuhide had left Kyoto to attack Azuchi. But on his very first step outside the capital, Mitsuhide ran into an obstacle at the river crossing at Seta. That morning he had sent a letter demanding the surrender of Seta Castle, but its governor had killed the messenger and set fire to the castle and the Seta Bridge.
Thus the Akechi troops were unable to cross the river. Mitsuhide's eyes burned with indignation. The fire-gutted bridge seemed almost to be mocking him. The world does not see you as you see the world.
Forced to return to Sakamoto Castle, Mitsuhide spent two or three fruitless days waiting until the bridge was repaired. By the time he rode into Azuchi, however, the town was deserted, and its huge castle housed neither master nor men. In the town, there were no goods or even a shop sign left to be seen. Nobunaga's family had fled, but in their haste they had been forced to leave behind Nobunaga's hoard of gold and silver, and his collection of works of art.
Mitsuhide was shown these things after his troops secured the castle, but he did not feel wealthier for it. Somehow he felt beggared.
This is not what I was looking for, he thought, and it's mortifying if people think it was.
He had all the gold and silver in the treasury distributed as rewards to his men. Common soldiers received several hundred gold pieces, while the highest-ranking generals recieved three to five thousand gold pieces.
What do I want? Mitsuhide asked himself time and again. To rule the nation! came the answer, but it had a hollow ring to it. He had to admit to himself that he had never embraced such lofty hopes, having neither the ambition nor the ability. All along, he had had only one motive: to kill Nobunaga. Mitsuhide's desires had been sated by the fires of the Honno Temple, and now all that was left was a passion so devoid of conviction that it seemed nothing more than frenzy.
According to a story circulating at the time, Mitsuhide had tried to kill himself soon as he heard that Nobunaga was dead. His retainers had forcibly stopped him. In instant that Nobunaga had been turned to ashes, the hatred that had frozen Mitsuhide’s heart had dissolved like melting snow. The ten thousand soldiers who served him, however, did not share his attitude. On the contrary, they hoped that their real reward was to come.
"From this day on, Lord Mitsuhide is the ruler of the country," the Akechi generals announced with a conviction Mitsuhide lacked. .
But the lord they looked up to was no more than a hollow simulacrum of his former self. He differed in appearance and disposition—even in intellect.
Mitsuhide remained in Azuchi from the fifth until the morning of the eighth, and during that time he took Hideyoshi's castle at Nagahama as well as Niwa Nagahide's at Sawayama. Once he had completely occupied the province of Omi, Mitsuhide re-outfitted his army and once again set off for the capital.
It was then that Mitsuhide received the news that the Hosokawa clan had refused join him. He had been convinced that Hosokawa Tadaoki, his son-in-law, would be quick to follow him once Nobunaga had been overthrown. But the response carried back from the Hosokawa clan had been an angry refusal. So far Mitsuhide had been absorbed by question of who would be his allies; he had given little thought to who would be his strongest enemy.
It was only then that Hideyoshi's existence struck Mitsuhide like a blow to the chest. He had not overlooked Hideyoshi's abilities and his military strength in the west. On contrary, he knew that Hideyoshi was an immense threat. What gave Mitsuhide a little peace of mind was his belief that Hideyoshi was pinned down by the Mori and would be unable to return quickly. He thought that at least one of the two messengers he had sent to the Mori had accomplished his mission. And, no doubt, the Mori's response would arrive soon, informing him that they had attacked Hideyoshi and destroyed him. But nothing was heard from the Mori, nor was there any response from Nakagawa Sebei, Ikeda Shonyu, and Takayama Ukon. The news that reached Mitsuhide instead each morning sounded like a judgment from heaven.
For Mitsuhide, Sakamoto Castle held vivid memories of recent events: his humiliation by Nobunaga; his departure from Azuchi in a rage; his stay at Sakamoto where had stood at the crossroads of doubt. Now there was no more doubt, no more resentment. And at the same time, he had lost all of his powers of self-examination. He had exchanged his true intelligence for the empty title of ruler of the nation.
On the night of the ninth, Mitsuhide still had no idea where Hideyoshi was, but the attitudes of the local lords made him feel uneasy. On the following morning he left his camp at Shimo Toba and climbed up to Horagamine Pass in Yamashiro, at which place he had arranged to join with Tsutsui Junkei's army.
"Has Tsutsui Junkei been sighted yet?" Mitsuhide asked his lookouts at regular intervals during the day.
Because Mitsuhide had been in collusion with Tsutsui Junkei before the attack on the
Honno Temple, he had never had cause to doubt his ally's loyalty—until now. At nightfall there was still no sign of the Tsutsui forces. Not only that, but the three Oda retainers he had hoped to win over to his side—Nakagawa Sebei, Takayama Ukon, and Ikeda Shonyu—had not responded to his urgent summonses, even though they were nominally under his command.
Mitsuhide's uneasiness was not unjustified. He consulted with Saito Toshimitsu. "Do you think something's wrong, Toshimitsu?"
Mitsuhide wanted to believe that something had happened to the messengers he had sent, or that Junkei and the others were merely delayed, but Saito Toshimitsu had already faced up to the truth.
"No, my lord," the old man replied. "I suspect Lord Tsutsui has no intention of coming. There's no reason for him to be so late traveling the level roads from Koriyama."
"No, there must be some reason," Mitsuhide insisted. He summoned Fujita Dengo, quickly wrote up a letter, and sent him to Koriyama. "Take the best horses. If you ride at top speed, you should be able to come back by morning."
"If Lord Tsutsui will talk with me, I'll be back at dawn," Dengo said.
"There's no reason why he shouldn't talk with you. Get an answer from him even if it’s late at night."
"Yes, my lord."
Dengo immediately set off for Koriyama. Before he was able to return, however, scouts arrived with reports that Hideyoshi's forces were moving eastward and that the vanguard had already come as far as the neighboring province of Hyogo.
"Impossible! It must be a mistake!" Mitsuhide burst out when he heard the news. He could not believe that Hideyoshi had been able to make peace with the Mori, and, even if he had, that he could have moved his large army so quickly.
"I don't think this is a false report, my lord," Toshimitsu said, once again intuiting the truth. "In any event, I think we should determine a counterstrategy at once."
Perceiving that Mitsuhide was wavering, Toshimitsu rejoined with a concrete proposal. "If I were to wait for Lord Tsutsui here, you, my lord, could hasten to stop Hideyoshi from entering the capital."
"There isn't much hope that Tsutsui will come, is there?" Mitsuhide finally admitted.
"I think there are only one or two chances in ten of his joining your side, my lord."
"What strategy do you suggest for stopping Hideyoshi?"
"The only view we can take is that Ukon, Sebei, and Shonyu are already in league with Hideyoshi. If Tsutsui Junkei has joined him as well, our military strength will be insufficient to take the initiative and attack him. In my estimation, however, it will take Hideyoshi another five or six days to get his whole army here. During that time, if we reinforced the two castles at Yodo and Shoryuji, built forts along the north-south road to Kyoto, and mustered all the forces in Omi and the other areas, we might be able to hold him off temporarily."
"What? All of that would only stop him temporarily?"
"After that, we'll need a far grander strategy—going far beyond small local battles. But right now we're in a critical situation. You should leave immediately."
Toshimitsu waited for Fujita Dengo to return from his mission in Koriyama.
He arrived with anger stamped all over his brow. "It's no good," he said to Toshimitsu. "That bastard Junkei has also betrayed us. He made up some excuse for not coming here, but on the way back I discovered that he's been in contact with Hideyoshi. To think that a man who was so close to the Akechi clan would be capable of this!"
Dengo's abuse was unending, but Toshimitsu's lined face showed no emotion at all.
Mitsuhide left at about noon, having accomplished nothing. He arrived back at Shimo Toba about the same time that Hideyoshi was enjoying a short nap in Amagasaki. The heat on this day was the same at both the Zen temple in Amagasaki and the camp at Shimo Toba. As soon as Mitsuhide arrived back in camp, he met with his generals at headquarters and discussed battle strategy. He still did not realize that Hideyoshi was already within shouting distance at Amagasaki. Although Hideyoshi's vanguard was already moving into position, Mitsuhide judged that it would take several more days Hideyoshi himself to arrive. It would not be right to attribute this mistake to his intellect. He had simply made a judgment based on common sense, using his own uncommon intelligence. Moreover, this particular judgment was in harmony with what everyoneelse deemed logical as well.
The conference had been completed without any waste of time, and Akechi Shigetomo was the first to leave. He immediately rode to Yodo to begin emergency construction work to strengthen the castle. The narrow mountain road to the capital would surely be a focus for the enemy assault. Yodo Castle was on its right, Shoryuji Castle on its left.
Mitsuhide issued an order to the divisions that had been deployed along the banks of the Yodo River: "Pull back to Shoryuji and take up defensive positions. Prepare for an enemy attack."
Mitsuhide made his preparations, but when he calculated the size of the enemy army, he could not completely relinquish his perception of his own weakness. A considerable number of soldiers had been gathering here from the capital and the surrounding area, putting themselves under his command throughout the day. But they were all low-ranking samurai or ronin —little better than mercenaries looking for a quick way to rise in the world. Not one of them had any military ability or the resources to lead.
"How many men have we got in all?" Mitsuhide asked his generals.
Counting the troops at Azuchi, Sakamoto, Shoryuji, Horagamine, and Yodo, Mitsuhide’s forces numbered about sixteen thousand men.
"If only Hosokawa and Tsutsui would join me," Mitsuhide mumbled, "no one could dislodge me from the capital." Even after he had decided his strategy, he was troubled by the sizeable difference in the numbers of troops. Mitsuhide's brain worked in terms of calculations, and now there was not even a flicker of hope that he would have the advantage. Moreover, somewhere a tiny wisp of fear was finding its way into his consciousness. That in itself could make the difference between victory and defeat. He was beginning to sink beneath the waves that he himself had created.
Mitsuhide stood on the hill outside of camp, staring up at the clouds.
"Looks like rain," he muttered this into a wind that showed little sign of rain at all. It was essential for a general who was soon to engage in a battle to be aware of the weather. Mitsuhide stood and worried about the movement of the clouds and the direction of the wind for a long while.
Finally he looked down at the Yodo River. The small lights that swayed in the wind must have been those of his own patrol boats. The undulating line of the large river appeared to be white, while the mountains beyond were pitch black.
The broad sky stretched over the river, and to the faraway estuary of the sea at Amagasaki. As Mitsuhide's eyes stared in that direction, almost as though they were sending out shafts of light, he asked himself, What is Hideyoshi capable of? Then he called out in a harsh tone that he rarely employed, "Sakuza! Sakuza! Where is Sakuzaemon?"
He turned quickly and walked back to camp with long strides. A dark and violent wind was shaking the barracks like a huge wave.
"Yes, my lord! Yojiro is here!" an attendant answered, running out to meet him.
"Yojiro, the call to arms. We're marching out right away."
While the army was striking camp, Mitsuhide sent urgent dispatches to all his commanders, including his cousin Mitsuharu in Sakamoto Castle, informing them of his decision. He was not going to retreat and fight a defensive campaign. He had resolved to attack Hideyoshi with all his strength.
It was the second watch of the night. Not a single star was visible. A combat unit was the first to descend the hill; it was to stand guard at the upper and lower reaches of the Katsura River. The supply corps, the main units, and the rear guard came down behind them. A sudden shower began to fall. By the time the entire army was halfway across the river, pure white rain was beating down on it.
The wind came up as well—a cold wind from the northwest. The foot soldiers muttered to themselves as they stared at the dark surface of the river.
"Both the river and the wind are coming at us from the mountains of Tamba."
During the day, they might have been able to see. Oinosaka was not far away, and it was only ten days before that they had crossed Oinosaka and left the Akechi base at Kameyama Castle. To the men, however, it felt like something that had happened several years ago.
"Don't fall! Don't let your fuses get wet!" the officers yelled. The force of the current in the Katsura River was far more violent than usual, due probably to a heavy rainfall in the mountains.
The spear corps crossed, each man holding on to the spear of the man in front of him, followed by the gunners, who grasped each other's stocks and muzzles. The horsemen surrounding Mitsuhide galloped up the opposite bank, leaving a trail of froth and bubbles. From somewhere in front of them, the dull sound of sporadic gunfire could be heard, while in the distance sparks leaped into the sky, probably from burning farmhouses. As soon as the gunfire stopped, however, the fires also disappeared and everything returned to darkness.
A runner soon arrived with a report. "Our men have driven back an enemy reconnaissance party. They set several farmhouses alight as they retreated."
Taking no notice of this report, Mitsuhide advanced through Kuga Nawate, passed by Shoryuji Castle, which was held by his own men, and purposefully made his camp at Onbozuka, some five or six hundred yards farther to the southwest. The rain that had plagued them for the last two or three days now ceased, and stars began to glitter in a sky that had previously displayed nothing but different shades of ink.
The enemy is quiet too, Mitsuhide thought as he stood at Onbozuka, staring into the dark in the direction of Yamazaki. He felt deep emotion and tension at the thought that Hideyoshi's army was facing him from a distance of barely half a league. Making Onbozuka the focal point of his entire force, and using the Shoryuji Castle as his supply base, he deployed his troops in a line from the Yodo River in the southwest to the Enmyoji River, as though opening up a fan. By the time each corps of the advance guard had gotten into position, it was almost dawn and the outline of the long, flowing Yodo River was beginning to become visible.
Suddenly the echo of violent gunfire could be heard in the direction of Tennozan. The sun had not yet risen, and the clouds were dark with thick mist. It was the thirteenth day of the Sixth Month, and so early that not even the whinnying of a single horse could be heard on the road to Yamazaki.
Looking out from Mitsuhide's main camp at Onbozuka, the soldiers could see Tennozan about half a league to the southwest. Hugging its left side was the road to Yamazaki and a large river—the Yodo.
Tennozan was steep, about nine hundred feet at its highest point. On the day before, when Hideyoshi's main army had advanced as far as Tonda, his officers had all looked straight ahead and stared at the mountain. Several of them had questioned the local guide. "What mountain is that?"
"Is that Yamazaki in the eastern foothills?"
"The enemy is at Shoryuji. Where is that in relation to Tennozan?"
Every corps had to be accompanied by someone who was familiar with the lay of the land. Everyone who understood strategy knew that the side that controlled the high ground would win the day.
And every general was also aware that the first man who planted his banner onTennozan would win more glory than the one who took the first head on the plain. Each general had sworn that he would be that man. On the eve of the thirteenth, several of Hideyoshi's generals had asked him to adopt their plan of attack, and hoped they would be given the order to storm the mountain.
"Tomorrow will be the decisive battle," Hideyoshi said. "Yodo, Yamazaki, and Tennozan will be the main battlefields. Prove yourselves worthy of being called men. Don’t compete with one another, or think only of your own glory. Remember that Lord Nobunaga and the god of war will be looking down on you from heaven."
But as soon as they received Hideyoshi's permission, the gunners raced toward Tennozan in high spirits and in a disorganized melee in the dead of night. This strategic place that had attracted the eyes of all of Hideyoshi's generals had not been overlooked by Mitsuhide. He had decided to march at full speed, cross the Katsura River, and come out quickly at Onbozuka to take Tennozan.
Mitsuhide knew the topography of the area as well as did the generals of the enemy vanguard, Nakagawa Sebei and Takayama Ukon. And, although they were looking at the mountains and rivers of the same area, Mitsuhide's mind naturally went beyond the thoughts of the other men.
After Mitsuhide had crossed the Katsura River and marched through Kuga Nawate, he detached one division from his army and sent them on another route, saying, "Climb up the northern side of Tennozan and take the mountaintop. If the enemy attacks, make a stand and don't give up that strategic point."
It must be said that he was quick. Mitsuhide's commands and his actions were always timely; he never missed an opportunity to strike. Nevertheless, by this time Hideyoshi's forces, which had already reached Hirose on the southern slope, were also on the mountain.
It had been pitch black, however, and many of the soldiers were not at all familiar with the terrain.
"Here's a path going up."
"No, you can't go through that way."
"Yes, I think we can."
"This is the wrong way. There's a crag right above us."
Winding their way around the foot of the mountain, they all made haste to find a path to the top.
The path was steep, and it was still dark. Because they knew they were among allies, the men filed up without knowing whose unit or corps they were with. They simply hurried, huffing and puffing, to the summit. Then, just as they thought they were nearing the top, they were struck by a volley of gunfire.
The attack had come from the Akechi gunners under Matsuda Tarozaemon. It was clear afterward that the seven hundred men in the Matsuda corps had been divided into two units. The soldiers of Horio Mosuke, Nakagawa Sebei, Takayama Ukon, and Ikeda Shonyu had all scrambled to be first to climb up Tennozan, but it was only Hori Kyutaro who commanded his troops to take the crossroad up to the north side of the foothills. Quickly skirting the base of the mountain, they attempted a completely different action: to cut off the retreat of the enemy.
As expected, that lateral attack intercepted the Matsuda corps and placed its general, Matsuda Tarozaemon, right before their eyes. The collision was far more violent than the clash at the top of the mountain. Fighting was hand to hand amidst the pines and boulders strewn along the mountain slope. Firearms were too cumbersome, so the battle was fought mainly with spears, long swords, and halberds.
Some fell from the cliffs grappling with the enemy. Some who held down enemy soldiers were stabbed from behind. There were corps of archers as well and the singing of arrows and reports of the guns were incessant. But far louder were the war cries of the five or six hundred men. Those cries did not seem to be coming from the throats of individual men but from their entire beings, even from their hair and pores.
The men advanced and were pushed back, and at last the sun began to rise. A blue sky and white clouds were visible for the first time in a long while. With the rare sunshine, the cicadas seemed to have been struck dumb. In their place were the war cries of the soldiers shaking the mountain. Very quickly, bloodied corpses lay strewn over the slopes, piled atop one another. One body might be lying pathetically alone in one spot, while two or three might have fallen on top of each other in another place. The warriors were spurred by the sight of the corpses, and the soldiers who stepped over the dead
bodies of their comrades entered a space beyond life and death. This was true for the soldiers of the Hori corps as well as for the men of the Akechi.
The situation at the top of the mountain was unclear, but here too a victory might be followed quickly by a defeat. During the fighting, the cries that issued from the Matsuda corps suddenly changed and became like the sounds a crying child makes between sobs. Optimism had changed to despair.
"What's the matter?"
"Why are we falling back? Don't retreat!"
Questioning their comrades' confusion, some of the men of the Matsuda corps yelled out in anger. But those men, too, quickly ran toward the foot of the mountain as though carried by an avalanche. Their commanding general, Matsuda Tarozaemon, had been struck by a bullet and carried away on the shoulders of his attendants in full view of his troops.
"Attack! Cut them down!"
The greater part of the Hori corps had already started out in pursuit, but Kyuta yelled at the top of his voice, trying to stop his men.
"Don't pursue them!"
In the impetus of the moment, however, the command for restraint had little effect. As might have been expected, the vanguard of the Matsuda corps now came cascading down the mountain like a muddy stream. Reinforcements had not come, and their general had been shot. They had no choice but to flee.
The Hori corps had been no match for the Akechi in terms of numbers. Now, without a real battle and with nothing to check them, they were thrust down the mountain and crushed underfoot by a corps of the enemy that came running down the steep slope from above. The section of the Hori corps that had pursued the enemy down the mountain first was now caught in a pincer movement just as Kyutaro had feared, and an appalling battle ensued.
At that point, the combined forces of the Horio, Nakagawa, Takayama, and Ikeda corps reached the top of the mountain.
"Tennozan is ours!"
The battle's first victory cheer was raised. Hideyoshi had been waiting for Nobutaka’s arrival at the Yodo River, and so he had not yet arrived at the front line. It was late in the afternoon, about the Hour of the Ram, by the time he had added the forces of Nobutaka and Niwa Nagahide to his own army and advanced to the central camp. The morning rain had dried up under the hot sky, both men and horses were covered with sweat and dust, and the colorful armor and coats had all turned white. The only article that penetrated the hot day with any brilliance was Hideyoshi's standard of the golden gourds.
While there were still echoes of gunfire on Tennozan, every house in the village had seemed empty. When the Akechi forces retreated and the new tide of armor flooded the streets, however, pails of water, piles of melons, and kettles of barley tea suddenly appeared on every doorstep. As Hideyoshi's forces crowded through the streets, even women appeared among the crowd of villagers, wishing them well.
"Not a single enemy soldier's left over there?"
Hideyoshi did not dismount, but simply gazed steadily at the banners of his soldiers, now visible on the nearby mountain.
"Not one," Hikoemon replied. He had coordinated all the reports on battle conditions from the various corps, judged the general situation, and now reported to Hideyoshi. “The Matsuda corps lost its commander at the very outset of the attack. Some of his men fled toward the northern foothills, while the others joined their allies in the neighborhood of Tomooka."
"I wonder why someone like Mitsuhide would abandon this high ground so quickly."
"He probably didn't think we would arrive so soon. He was mistaken in his timing."
"What about his main force?"
"They seem to have camped in the area from the Yodo River to Shimoueno, with Shoryuji at their rear and the Enmyoji River in front of them."
At that moment war cries and gunfire could be heard in the direction of the Enmyoji River. It was the Hour of the Monkey.
The Enmyoji River, east of the village of Yamazaki, was a confluent of the Yodo River. The area where the two rivers met was a swamp covered with reeds and rushes, usually filled with the songs of bush warblers, but on this day no birdsong could be heard.
During the morning the enemy armies—the left wing of Mitsuhide's army and Hideyoshi's right wing—had lined the riverbanks on either side. From time to time the reeds would rustle in the wind. While the tips of the banner poles were visible, no men or horses could be seen on either bank. On the northern bank, however, the five thousand men under Saito Toshimitsu, Abe Sadaaki, and Akechi Shigetomo were ready to advance. On the southern bank, eight thousand five hundred men under Takayama Ukon, Nakagawa Sebei, and Ikeda Shonyu were arranged in one line after another. Steaming with sweat in that hot, damp place, they waited for the time to strike.
They were waiting for Hideyoshi to arrive and give his command.
"What is the main army doing?"
They cursed Hideyoshi's army for its late arrival, but they could only grit their teeth.
Akechi Mitsuhide, who was still at his main camp in Onbozuka, had heard early on about Matsuda Tarozaemon's death on Tennozan and the complete rout of his troops. He blamed himself for misjudging the timing of his own command. He knew quite well that, strategically, there was a great difference between fighting with Tennozan under the control of his own men and facing a decisive battle after having abandoned the high ground to the enemy.
Prior to advancing toward Tennozan, however, Mitsuhide had been distracted by three things: Tsutsui Junkei's betrayal; his order to strengthen Yodo Castle—misjudging the speed of Hideyoshi's attack; and a flaw in his character—he was indecisive. Should he take the offensive or the defensive? He had not decided which until his advance on Onbozuka.
The battle began almost by accident. Both armies had spent the morning among the reeds and rushes, being eaten by gnats and mosquitoes. Throughout this time, they faced each other squarely and waited for their generals' commands. At one point, however, a beautifully saddled horse suddenly sprang from Hideyoshi's side toward the bank of the Enmyoji River, possibly to slake its thirst.
Four or five soldiers—probably retainers of the horse's owner—chased after it. Gunfire rang out abruptly from the opposite bank, followed by one volley after another.
In response, Hideyoshi's troops fired their own volley toward the northern bank order to help the soldiers, who had taken cover in the reeds. Now there was no time to wait for orders.
Hideyoshi's order for a general assault actually came after the exchange of gunfire. The Akechi troops naturally reacted to the movement of the enemy, and, they, too, waded into the river.
The place where the Enmyoji River met the Yodo River was fairly wide, but not far from the convergence the Enmyoji was little more than a stream.
The current, however, was strong after several days of rain. While the Akechi gunners’ corps appeared through the reeds on the northern bank and fired into the ranks of Hideyoshi's forces standing on the southern bank, corps of armored men—the soldiers of the spear corps, the picked troops of the Akechi—kicked up sprays of water as they pushed their way across to the other side.
"Send out the spear corps!" an officer of the Takayama corps yelled, jumping up on the bank.
Because the river was so narrow, the effectiveness of the gunners was limited. As the rear ranks moved up in order to let the front ranks reload, there was the possibility that the enemy would suddenly overrun the bank and leap into the midst of the gunners.
"Gunners, open up to the side! Don't obstruct the men in the front ranks!"
The Nakagawa corps had their spear points aligned and ready. Most of them now brandished those spears and struck downward from the bank and into the water.
They were, of course, aiming at the enemy, but rather than pulling back their spears and thrusting, it was speedier to simply hold them aloft and strike in an effort to prevent the enemy from even starting up the bank. The fierce clash occurred in the middle of the river, spear to spear, spear to long sword, and even spear to spear shaft. Men thrust into others and were stabbed in turn.
The soldiers yelled and grappled with each other, some falling dead into the water and raising a spray. The muddy current whirled around. Blood and gore floated to thesurface of the water and then was washed away.
By that time the first corps under Nakagawa Sebei had relinquished the fight downstream to the soldiers under Takayama Ukon's command. Like the lines of young men shouldering a sacred palanquin during a festival, yelling in unison, they forced their way into the front line of battle.
Quickly stepping over the reeds on the eastern bank of the river, they dashed furiously into the midst of the enemy. The sun began to set. Burnt red clouds showing the approach of evening reflected their colors on the black clumps of men yelling beneath the desolate sky.
The violent battle continued for yet another hour. The tenacity of the Saito corps was surprising. Just as it seemed they might crumble, they rallied once more. Making their stand in a swamp, they fought back attack after attack. And they were not the only ones—almost all of the Akechi forces fought with uncanny resignation, and the desperate voice of the defeated army resounded with a bitterness that each man could imagine in Mitsuhide's breast.
"Retreat before we're surrounded! Fall back! Fall back!"
That pathetic chorus was raised by troops in rapid succession, and the sad news spread like the wind to the other two Akechi corps.
At the heart of the central army, which acted as a reserve corps, were the five thousand men directly under Mitsuhide at Onbozuka. At their right were four thousand more men, including two thousand under Fujita Dengo.
Dengo sounded the large drum and the men fanned out into a line of battle. The men of the archers' corps in front released their ghastly rain of arrows in whining unison, and immediately the enemy returned the action with a hail of bullets.
As a command from Dengo cut through the air, the archers dispersed and the gunners took their place. Without waiting an instant for the shroud of gunpowder smoke to clear, armored warriors with iron spears appeared before the enemy and began to cut their way through. Dengo and his hand-picked troops routed the Hachiya corps.
Taking that corps' place, the soldiers under Nobutaka resumed the attack and struck against the Akechi forces. But Dengo defeated them as well, chasing them back. For the time being, Dengo's troops seemed to have no worthy opponent.
The drum of the Fujita corps boomed. It seemed to express the clan's pride in being without rival, and it menaced the mounted samurai who had crowded in a protective ring around Nobutaka, causing them to mill about in confusion.
Just then, a corps of five hundred soldiers attacked the Fujita corps' flank, yelling war cries as though they made up a large army.
The clouds were still vaguely red, but on the ground it was already dark. Dengo was reflecting that he had gone too far, and changed his instructions.
"Shift to the right!" he commanded. "Turn! Turn as far as you can toward the right!" His intention was to have the entire force make a circle to rejoin the central army and then fight on firmly.
Suddenly, however, a unit under the command of Hori Kyutaro attacked fiercely from the left. To Dengo, it was as though enemy soldiers had suddenly bubbled up from the earth.
There was no way to retreat, Dengo realized at once, but there was also no time to correct his formation. The Hori warriors cut off his men with the speed of the wind and began to encircle them.
Nobutaka's standard seemed to flutter closer and closer to Dengo.
Just at that point, a band of five hundred men, including Dengo's son and his younger brother, promptly rode out in a black cluster and galloped fearlessly into the enemy. The night had grown dark. The wind carried the cries of the life-and-death struggles and filled the sky with the smell of blood.
Nobutaka's corps was respected as being the strongest among the divisions of Hideyoshi's army, and now it was reinforced with the three thousand men under the command of Niwa Nagahide. Brave and spirited as Dengo and his men were, they could not break through the enemy line.
Dengo was wounded in six places. Finally, after fighting and whirling about on his horse for so long, he began to lose consciousness. Suddenly a voice came from the darkness behind him.
Thinking it to be the voice of his son, he raised his head from the horse's mane Just at that moment something struck him above the right eye. It felt like a star falling from heaven, hitting him on the forehead.
"Stay in the saddle! Hang on tight to the saddle! An arrow has glanced off you, and you have a light wound on your forehead." "Who is it? Who's holding me up?"
"It's me, Tozo."
"Ah, brother. What's happened to Ise Yosaburo?"
"He's already been cut down in battle."
"What about Suwa?"
"Suwa is dead too."
"He's still surrounded by the enemy. Now let me accompany you. Lie against the front ring of your saddle."
Without talking further about Denbei's being either dead or alive, Tozo took themuzzle of his brother's horse and fled at top speed through the chaos.