Nobunaga’s problems with armies of warrior Buddhist monks did not end at Enryakuji. The next three years would require as many sieges, to subdue the Ikkō-ikki’s fortresses and fortifications at Nagashima. The first siege, in mid-May of 1571, began as an attack across a shallow but broad river, from small wajū island communities protected from flooding by a complex series of dikes. The horses became stuck in the soft mud of the river bottom, and the samurai under fire that managed to drag themselves to shore on were further slowed by ropes stretched across stakes, which further tripped them up. Many samurai were drowned when the defenders opened a dike and flooded the area. His men set a few villages aflame as they withdrew but this first attempt was a definite failure for Nobunaga, a complete and costly fiasco.
It was about this time that he met a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, named Luís Fróis, who described him.
‘He would be about thirty-seven years old, a tall man, lean, scantly
bearded, with a clear voice, greatly addicted to military exercises,
hardy, disposed to temper justice with mercy, proud, a stickler for
honor, very secretive in his plans, most expert in the wiles of warfare,
little or nothing disposed to accept reproof or advice from his
subordinates, but greatly feared and respected by everyone... He is of
good understanding and clear judgment, despising both Shinto and
Buddhist deities and all other forms of idolatry and superstition. He is
a nominal adherent of the Hokke Lotus sect but he openly proclaims
that there are no such things as a Creator of the Universe nor
immortality of the soul, nor any life after death. Extremely refined and
clean in his dress and in the nobility of his actions.’