Monday, 20 July 2015

Narrow Road To The Deep North 10

Nobuhide died in 1556, spawning two events that would change the course of Japanese history. Nobunaga was a brash and rude young man, bizarre and disgracefully behaved, and known as Owari no Ōutsuke, ‘The Fool of Owari.’ During his father’s funeral Nobunaga acted outrageously, throwing ceremonial incense at the altar. This alienated many of Nobuhide's retainers to the point where they began to side with his more soft-spoken and well-mannered brother, Nobuyuki. One old samurai, Hirate Kiyohide, was so distraught, he wrote up a letter urging Nobunaga to mend his ways, and then slit his belly. His death had such a dramatic impact that Nobunaga completely changed his behaviour and, in time, built the Seisyu Temple to honor his loyalty. The second event was the loss of the young Ieyasu back to the Imagawa, in exchange for his brother, Nobuhiro, who had been taken hostage in the siege of Anjo Castle.
Later the same year, Nobunaga’s brother Nobuyuki betrayed him, but was pardoned after the intervention of their mother. When Nobuyuki’s plans for another rebellion in 1557 were uncovered, Nobunaga faked an illness in order to get close enough to assassinate him in Kiyosu Castle. By 1559, the 25 year-old samurai had eliminated all opposition within his clan and throughout Owari Province. Nobunaga had schooled himself in self-reliance, alertness, and adaptability, and he looked for these qualities in his men, prizing those who could act without orders and granting them the utmost freedom of action. The first reward for his doctrine was imminent.
In 1560, Yoshimoto Imagawa gathered an army of 25,000 men and, using the excuse of aiding the frail Ashikaga Shogunate, set out along the Tokaido coast to take the capital of Kyoto. All that stood in his path was Owari province, and the small time daimyô who ruled it. His army outnumbered Nobunaga’s forces eight to one, further disadvantaged by their divisive distribution, defending various forts at the border. Yoshimoto dispatched some of his allied samurai to reduce the fortress of Marume, and others to assail Washizu Castle. The besieged commanders managed to send off letters of warning to Nobunaga in Kiyosu, and his advisors were divided on what course of action to take. Given the obvious disparity in numbers, it seemed logical to adopt a defensive posture, or even to capitulate without fighting. Nobunaga was for a direct frontal attack. With all the brash and unpredictable élan he was to show throughout his career, he ordered a conch shell blown and the garrison made ready for battle.
Before riding off with only a few attendants to pray, Nobunaga performed his favorite spiritual ritual warrior hymn and masculine dance at Kiyosu Castle, using a fan, and accompanied only by a single small drum. Recited by Nobunaga before this Battle of Okehazuma, and on every subsequent auspicious occasion, Atsumori embodied the very essence of the Buddhism and Shinto, and the Way of the Samurai.

                            ‘Man's life is fifty years.
                             In the universe what is it but dream or illusion?
                             Is there any who is born and does not die?’
                                                                          Song of Atsumori

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