Fierce Battle for Power in Sengoku Japan

Anastasia Safina/The Atlantic

Discussions over who will become Shogun have heated up significantly since the assassination of a member of the Sengoku war council, Oda Nobunaga. Recently, multiple battles have been fought in Kyoto, in which all participants had the goal to emerge as the victor, in order to heighten the chances of becoming Shogun. 

On Saturday morning, immediately following the news of their fellow member being killed, the other council members instantly sprang into action, disputing over how to act in accordance to this shocking event. They ultimately decided to have Takeda Shingen, “The Tiger of Kai” and a master of cavalry with an unparalleled army, become the de-facto Shogun, by unanimous vote. 

However, before the war council was able to discuss further, the Japanese Emperor invited all the members to a tea party, to “thank the men for the work that they have done.” The members of the council were considerably suspicious due to the timing of the invitation. All members were quite adamant of the presence of their taste testers. This suspicion even led Takeda Shingen to have a double attend the tea party. 

Suddenly, as if planned, several things happened at once. A messenger arrived, evidently exhausted, and informed the council that fellow member, Hojo Ujiyasu, “The Lion of Sagami”, had sent forth 11 000 footmen and 3000 cavalry to attack Echigo, the province of Uesugi Kenshin, “The Dragon of Echigo”. The army had been seen burning numerous villages, according to the messenger. 

Directly after the delivery of this news, an earthquake occurred. It’s been proven that it originated in the Northern Ise province, and so it was felt especially hard in Kyoto. Unfortunately, due to this earthquake, a dam that was constructed a few years ago had flooded, effectively causing the Kai and Suruga provinces to flood. The war council members, in considerable shock and disarray, began debating on what to do. 

“Takeda’s leadership has caused this problem and he should fix it.” Stated Oichi, “The Battle Flower”, and Ashikaga Yoshiyaki’s, the previous Shogun’s, wife. She said this because of Hojo’s failed attempt to attack Takeda, after his invasion of Uesugi’s province. As a repercussion, Takeda had locked Hojo in his dungeon, and stated that if Hojo’s son, Hojo Ujimasa, acted against Takeda, he would kill his father. 

Eventually, Hojo committed seppuku. To make things worse, the Emperor removed Takeda from the Shogun position, discovering that Takeda Shingen had brought in a body double to the tea party. He was “gravely offended,” according to an envoy of the Emperor. 

And thus, a bloody battle for the position of Shogun ensued. The 10 000 of Mori’s men that were stationed in Kyoto, and 5000 soldiers that were already there, as well as Otomo Sorin’s, or “Don Francisco’s”, 5000 troops began fighting each other. Then in a different location, Ashikaga Yoshiyaki attacked Hojo Ujimasa’s troops, who had wanted to assault Uesugi. This caused a huge devastation amongst Hojo’s men. If this was not enough, in Echigo province, Date Masamune, “The One-Eyed Dragon” attacked Uesugi with 5000 footmen and 1000 cavalry. 18000 of Uesugi’s men defended the Echigo province. 

The main contenders of the struggle for Shogun were Mori Motonari, “The Peerless Strategist”, a master of an “incomparable” navy, who has been known for his balance in diplomacy and conquest. Although known for this, many council members opposed the possibility of him becoming Shogun. Hojo Ujiyasu and Shimazu Yoshihiro were strong supporters of Mori coming into power. However, they both died. Shimazu was killed by his own people, due to his severe mistreatment of them, and as mentioned before, Hojo committed seppuku. 

Additionally, the Emperor publically denounced Mori Motonari. Because only the Emperor can recognize someone in order to become the Shogun, this leaves virtually no chance for Mori to be appointed to the Shogun position. However, he still believes that because he has never even seen the Emperor’s face, that the Emperor who denounced him was fake. At this statement, the other council members jumped up in outrage, accusing Mori numerous times of being a traitor to the country and to his people.

The other powerful contender was the previously mentioned Takeda Shingen. He has been known to have never lost a battle. He was closely supported by Tokugawa Ieyasu, “The Light of the East”, who was a trusted retainer of Oda Nobunaga, and an infamously cunning and patient man. These two men supported each other, and worked together in order to go against Mori. 

After these series of chaotic events took place, these three men were not hesitant to express their dislike for each other. When discussing who would be better suited for the role of power, Tokugawa stated “The Shogunate is a position full of honor, and so this position should be held by a person of honor.” This statement clearly showed that Tokugawa believed that Mori was not an honorable man. He additionally stated that Mori was not liked by anyone, not in the council, not in the country, and not even by God (referring to the Emperor). Mori, in response, boldly said “As Shogun, you don’t have to trust me, you just have to obey me.” His extremely direct and blunt statement shocked the rest of the council, causing many of them to shout out in anger and protest. 

Both sides ultimately came to the conclusion that a battle was the best course of action. They decided that whoever would win this battle, either Mori or Takeda, will then become Shogun, and hopefully then, all matters will be resolved.

Who will win?