O D A-----N O B U N A G A ' S-----W A R S-----B E T W E E N-----1 5 6 0-----A N D-----1 5 8 2-----I N-----C E N T R A L-----&-----W E S T E R N-----J A P A N


1573 : THE SOBERING WINTER OF MIKATA

 

Kai map

Monuments of the Mikata plains battle of 1573 (Oda vs Takeda)

Click here for a detailed and complete map.

 

This wasn't Oda Nobunaga's quarrel. He and the Takeda clan were in-laws, and Takeda Shingen's favorite grandson Nobukatsu was Oda Nobunaga's grandson, too. But Tokugawa Ieyasu was caught within a series of battles against the much stronger (though not better) army of the Kai province under the legendary General, and he asked for Oda's help.

Oda didn't come there by himself. He was busy elsewhere, plus he was also a bit pissed. Tokugawa, who usually was careful and scrupulous, for unfathomable reasons acted rashly this time. Not only he openly challenged Takeda Shingen by moving to Hamamatsu, a small and shabby but strategic castle too near to Kai's borderline, but he also didn't listen to Oda Nobunaga before, when Oda wrote a memo to him that said "Don't make unnecessary provocation, get back to Okazaki, stay away from direct combat against that long-legged monkey of Kai, and wait until I'm finished with the warrior-monks. Then we can face him together."

When the Oda messengers got back to Gifu, they reported that there was no reply to that message. "Fine," Oda Nobunaga said. "There is nothing I can do if Ieyasu wants to die so much."

 

How Tokugawa lost

 

Takeda General Yamagata Masakage (left) and Tokugawa General Honda Heihachi (right) at Mikata battle

 

It was, btw, the only time that Tokugawa Ieyasu stubbornly didn't listen to Oda Nobunaga. When reminded by Takigawa Kazumasu of Oda's message, he, according to Takigawa, smiled and said "He'll understand when I have defeated Takeda later."

Takeda Shingen brought 28,000 soldiers to 'punish' Tokugawa Ieyasu's 11,000. The Tokugawas were cursing Oda Nobunaga for sending no more than two Captains (which meant around 3,000 soldiers), but to Ieyasu himself this was the time to test whether he was worth his own esteem or not. He brushed aside Oda Nobunaga's second advice delivered by Captain Sakuma Nobumori and Takigawa Kazumasu ("This is my last attempt to make you see how foolish this war of yours is. Like I said before, it will be better if you retreat now to your own territory before too late, stay within walls, and wait another day. PLEASE."), and decided, not only against the two Oda Captains but also against his own clansmen's objections, to meet Takeda Shingen face to face in battlefield.

 

Takeda Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu

Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu of Mikawa (1543-1616), Lord Takeda Shingen of Kai (1521-1573),
and picture of Tokugawa Ieyasu standing helplessly by the gory scene of Mikata plains.
The wordy banners and the stylish ones were Ieyasu's and Shingen's personal markers in battles.
The crests of their clans are those above the banners.

 

Tokugawa's decision was to cost the two Oda Captains nearly all their men. Takigawa Kazumasu and his soldiers were the best sharpshooters in the Oda army, yet here their famous skill got curiously bent down against the old-fashioned Takedas. Because their homeland Kai perched so high on mountainous slopes, and the entire province of Kai itself was so deep inland, the Takeda clan's artillery and infantry were 'primitive' compared to Oda's and Tokugawa's which always got continually-updated props and gadgets. You might not believe this, but it is historically-correct that, when the campaign to get overlordship of Japan started, Takeda Shingen didn't even have a gun.

Anyway, the Takedas were unstoppable at Mikata plains. They killed everyone. Tokugawa Ieyasu himself was almost unable to get back alive; not only they were outnumbered but also unusually dampened in strategies, as if they had never met the Takedas before, while it was all the same old foes -- Takeda Katsuyori, Baba Nobuharu, Naito Kiyonaga, Oyamada, Yamagata Masakage.

 

Battle array at Mikata plains

The battle array at Mikata plains. The two Oda Captains are at the right side of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

 

While being glad that Tokugawa Ieyasu was still alive after this close shave, Oda Nobunaga couldn't help delivering the headaching line "I told you so!"

The only use of this battle at Mikata plains was that the Oda and Tokugawa Captains really learned about the Takeda army's manoevers. Based on their reports, Oda Nobunaga planned a strategy that would work a miracle. The Oda clan overcame the same Takeda army two years later in Nagashino (click here).

 

Tokugawa troop

Tokugawa Ieyasu's Army
Generals & Captains
1560 - 1616

 

But, even so, the near future wasn't good for the two Oda Captains (click here for their profiles and pictures).

Oda Nobunaga considered their performance shameful, and, for the rest of their lives, Captain Sakuma and Takigawa had to defend themselves against A.W.O.L allegations.

It's not entirely clear today, whether the two Captains actually ran away at the first instance they could do so, or whether they did after total defeat was certain. Oda thought the first was the case. "You," he wrote one of the nastiest memos he ever sent, this time addressed to Captain Sakuma Nobumori, "are a disgrace to the entire army!"

However, Sakuma and Takigawa had protested against Tokugawa Ieyasu's decision to stage a frontal battle at the strategic meeting before they went to the Mikata Plains, and they were backed up by Tokugawa's own Generals, but as we all have seen nothing changed Tokugawa's 'intention' to suffer a great blow.

Oda Nobunaga himself gave them a message to be delivered to Tokugawa, which content was approximately the same as their own exhortation, so Sakuma and Takigawa insisted that they had done their duties as best as they could. If there was anybody to blame for the huge loss of Oda army's soldiers and weapons ammo, it was Tokugawa Ieyasu. They took the allegations as Oda Nobunaga's way to save Tokugawa Ieyasu's face after making such a black hole of blunders.

In time, when the 'versus Takeda' biz was over, Oda sacked both of the Captains nearly without explanation at all. Historians guess it was an internal manoever to overhaul the clan management, and this battle at Mikata plains played a part in shaping Oda Nobunaga's list of who was to get an early retirement.

 

STORY & PICTURES OF THE TAKEDA CLAN OF KAI CLICK HERE

STORY & PICTURES OF HOW THE ALLIANCE BETWEEN ODA & TOKUGAWA
WORKED VERY WELL SINCE 1561 UNTIL ODA'S LAST DAY ON EARTH
CLICK HERE

 

NEXT : THE BATTLE OF HIEI MOUNTAINS 1571 VERSUS WARRIOR-MONKS NEXT

 

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