THE ODA ARMY & NAVY PART I

PART II   PART III   PART IV   PART V   PART VI

 

A K E C H I
MITSUHIDE

(1526-1582)


Picture of Akechi clan crest


Picture of Akechi Mitsuhide

His first name means 'the bright sun'. Psychotically vindictive, socially gangling, possessing a total lack of emotional intelligence, and yet mythologically enveloped by the impenetrable aura of hazy intellectualism and unverifiable 'poetic' ability, Akechi rose from Nobody into a Lord in virtually a blink of anyone's eye after Oda Nobunaga took him in out of nothing in 1567.

His CV after that included a geographic survey of Central Japan in 1575, a medieval 'intellectual' job that would be perfected by Toyotomi Hideyoshi after 1582.

In 1580, when getting mad at Sakuma Nobumori, Oda Nobunaga wrote that Akechi Mitsuhide should be Sakuma's paragon of virtue -- "Mitsuhide is such a great commander," Oda carelessly flung the snub at poor Sakuma.

In 1582, Akechi led his entire clan to kill Oda Nobunaga and his heir Oda Nobutada in Kyoto. Akechi's greatness in commanding armies was proven by being able to defeat Oda Nobunaga's 10 or 20 people with several thousands of soldiers that he got. And as evidence of his greatness in statesmanship, which is an intellectual job, he 'ruled' (disturbed) 'Japan' (Kyoto) for 13 days.

It was the real great commander, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who gave Akechi the prosaic lesson of warfare that he would never have learnt from anyway.

But Toyotomi didn't kill him.

Akechi's death was so un-poetic that no one in his times had ever predicted it. Click here.

PICTURES & STORY OF AKECHI MITSUHIDE,
HIS CLAN, HIS DAUGHTER, HIS CRIME
Click Here

A R A K I
MURASHIGE
(1530-1579)


Picture of Araki clan crest


Picture of Araki Murashige

A Catholic warlord, a so-called 'enigmatic' person, which in Araki's case means that people couldn't make sense of his thoughts and actions even in his times.

A warrior without any pretension of intellectualism, Araki got tired of fighting incessantly against the fellow-Catholic Wada clan (someone named Wada is somewhere in this section, too), and declared his clan as Oda Nobunaga's vassals in early 1570's. He already had a chunk of land and an army then. So, when for reasons nobody knew (no one knows now, either) he decided to cry war against Oda Nobunaga, he could just do that instantly before any sense was put into him by anybody.

Araki called the fellow-Catholic warlord Takayama Ukon his 'bestest buddy', so he took Ukon's kids as hostages to blackmail their dad to join him in the rebellion.

He also kicked his fellow-Catholic colleague Kuroda Kanbei into the dungeon when the latter tried to persuade him to call off arms.

These manifestations of Araki Murashige's transliteration of the Christian Golden Rule caused an anecdotal tragedy involving the Portuguese and such (click here).

Among the Generals sent to quench Araki's rebellion, there was Akechi Mitsuhide, who apparently didn't even think this episode worth studying of.

PICTURES & STORY OF ARAKI MURASHIGE'S REBELLION Click Here
PICTURES & STORY OF CHRISTIAN SAMURAI, WARLORDS & REBELS OF JAPAN Click Here

A S A N O
NAGAMASA

(1546-1610)


Picture of Asano clan crest


Picture of Asano Nagamasa

'Nagamasa' means 'the lasting truth'. In the usual intricate family ties of 16th century Japan, Asano was somehow related to Toyotomi Hideyoshi through a labyrinthine backdoor led to Toyotomi's sister's husband's uncle's foster son (see?).

He was interested in the usual things such as tea ceremony and so on, but of course as a Captain under Toyotomi's command his chief occupation was in battlefields.

In his CV there was the long and tiring and boring war against the 'Western Mori' clan of 1577-1582, then against the so-called 'Later Hojo' clan of Odawara (1590), and, when Toyotomi became Lord Chancellor of the Empire, Asano was sent to assist the best of Toyotomi's Generals of the time, Kato Kiyomasa, to the adventurous gamble of colonizing Korea between 1597 and 1598.

He was also considered, at least by his boss, as being capable of diplomacy; so he was the one who negotiated with Tokugawa Ieyasu after the latter came to blow against Toyotomi over who's gonna be Oda Nobunaga's successor (the useless war of Komaki, 1584).

In 1598, Toyotomi appointed Asano as one of the 'protectors' of his clan -- which consisted of only himself and his much-doubted-if-that's-true son Toyotomi Hideyori. Asano swore he would guard Toyotomi's interests as best as he could.

In 1600, when nearly the entire bulk of Toyotomi Generals went to war against the Tokugawa clan in the bloody Seki plains of 1600, Asano and his clan fought for their enemies.

MOVIE ABOUT A DAZZLINGLY BEAUTIFUL NINJA GIRL
WHO KILLS ASANO NAGAMASA
Click Here

G A M O
UJISATO
(1557-1596)


Picture of Gamo clan crest


Picture of Gamo Ujisato

This Christian Captain was Oda Nobunaga's son in-law, ladies and gentlemen, although so very few remember the fact -- even when he was still around.

According to tradition, Gamo cut somebody's head for the first time at the age of 13. His chief mastery was in guns and lances, and he was a good cavalryman. What he left to the world today is the fine castle of Wakamatsu -- he designed it himself, or so people said.

His clan wasn't really huge in anything, but after Oda let him to marry his daughter Oda Fumeko, Gamo was given a typical wedding gift for warlords of 16th century Japan to give, more precisely a typically Oda Nobunagaistic present: a slice of a province, in this case the hard-to-manage and impossible-to-govern Ise -- whose inhabitants included a great number of warrior-monks who renewed their vow everyday to kill Oda Nobunaga and all his family and all his vassals.

Gamo survived, nonetheless. And he was still loyal to daddy in-law. The second he heard of Oda Nobunaga's death on June 21, 1582, far away in Kyoto, he took the official Lady Oda (nee Lady Saito Nou) to sanctuary. After that, he was among the first to respond to Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invitation to avenge Oda's death on Akechi Mitsuhide.

In 1584, because of hanging out so often with Lord Takayama Ukon (see next page), Gamo got converted into Roman Catholicism.

He kept on going to war for Toyotomi until his sudden death at 39.

Rumors said Toyotomi thought he had had enough of Oda Nobunaga's living relix and ordered some ninjas to whisk Gamo off into heaven.

PICTURES & STORY OF GAMO UJISATO'S LOYALTY TO LADY ODA Click Here

H O R I
KYUTARO

(1553-1590)


Picture of Hori clan crest


Picture of Hori Kyutaro

Hori Kyutaro, a.k.a Hori Hidemasa, was one of the true-blue Oda Nobunagaists around. He already became a well-known Oda Nobunaga's Captain in his teenage years, after several years of service as ordinary infantryman. Hori was kind of well-versed when it came to artillery, so that's where Oda put him into.

Some people condemned Hori to eternal fire because he, on his own initiative, destroyed a warrior-monks' lair -- this one was of a temple named Makino in Izumi area. But that wasn't Hori's fault. He was conducting a kind of peaceful geographic survey at the time (1581), when out of the blue his few men were surrounded by warrior-monks and there was no other way than to fight them back, and it was natural that he, when the monks were beaten and running away, pursued them right into their compound.

In the battle to avenge Oda Nobunaga's death, Hori led his own men (the famous Hori Corps consisted of around 3,000 soldiers) apart from Toyotomi Hideyoshi's main force (though still under Toyotomi's coordination), and he didn't get to see Akechi Mitsuhide as he wished to. His opponent was the army of Mitsuhide's good-natured cousin, Akechi Mitsuharu, who only backed Mitsuhide up for DNA-related reasons (he tried to prevent the rebellion before). After defeating this army, Hori snatched Mitsuharu's castle Sakamoto.

Hori kept on being a trusted Captain of Toyotomi's after the latter scooped up all political power in Japan. He took part in every battle of Toyotomi's, and even died right in the middle of such a battle, at Odawara.

HACHISUKA
HIKOEMON

(1526-1586)


Picture of Hachisuka crest


Picture of Hachisuka Hikoemon

Hachisuka was a clan of warriors with nondescript pedigree. They started from being a locally-feared rural sword-toting bunch who belonged to an agrarian manor (a 'yashiki', in Japanese). Such persons normally didn't care about the world at large and didn't get involved in territorial wars, unless individual members of the clan went there as freelance soldiers-of-fortune.

Well, the Hachisukas didn't, actually. But once upon a time Hachisuka Hikoemon's daddy was a buddy of the warlord of Mino, Saito Dosan (Oda Nobunaga's father in-law). So when Saito waged war against....his son, Saito Yoshitatsu, the Hachisukas reluctantly lent a hand because they were asked to. At this point of time the chief of the clan was known as Hachisuka Koroku. And in this dirty game Hachisuka sent a socially loud but physically invisible boy of 16 to join the band of the clan's soldiers: his servant Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

A few years later, in 1566, Hachisuka became Toyotomi Hideyoshi's vassal. He got renamed as 'Hikoemon', that means 'guardian of the light' (this light must have had a name, too, and I suspect the name was 'toyotomi').

By extension, Oda Nobunaga got all the clan's resources -- though absolutely unintellectual and couldn't even write their own names, the war-freelancers of the Hachisuka clan were unbeatable; they endured a good many tons of physical hardships more than ordinary samurai.

According to tradition, Oda Nobunaga couldn't have won the province of Mino that easily without the Hachisukas -- they alone, without any help from outsiders, built the famous Toyotomi castle of Sunomata in less than 3 months (this included cutting up trees, hauling stones, etcetera). That's the base from where the 'Let's Get Gifu' campaign was to get launched.

In official legends (Toyotomi's taste tended to sway to the extravagant, so was his way around history!), it was said that Toyotomi and Hachisuka built Sunomata in one single night. This legend was corrected in 2004 by a local finding of a diary, so now the official length of time in legendary calendars is 3 days.

It's a fine castle, Sunomata; 3 months seems miraculous enough to yield something so aesthetic and militarily sound at once.

PICTURES OF SUNOMATA CASTLE &
TOYOTOMI & HACHISUKA'S ARTEFACTS STORED THERE
Click Here

I K E D A
SHONYU

(1536-1584)


Picture of Ikeda clan crest


Picture of Ikeda Shonyu

He's a lucky man, Ikeda Shonyu (a.k.a Ikeda Nobuteru). He shared his mother with Oda Nobunaga when both were infants -- the senior Lady Ikeda was Oda Nobunaga's babysitter and wet-nurse. When growing up, Oda became the head of the clan, while Ikeda became an infantryman under Oda's command. But they shared another woman this time -- Ikeda's sister was taken as Oda Nobunaga's concubine (click here for story and pictures), and this sister delivered Nobunaga's second son, Oda Nobuo.

So Ikeda's star rose up. In 1577 he was promoted into the rank of Captain out of the blue, although this was characteristically a Nobunagaist grant -- at once Ikeda got to march to the scary battle of Okehazama, in which the Oda clan got 2,000 or 3,000 men against the Imagawa soldiers of 25,000 (click here for story and pictures).

But Oda won this war against the medieval Japanese Goliath. So Ikeda was made a General. And all these times he had been one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's buddies, too, though nobody could tell whether Ikeda had seen what would become after Oda's gone.

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi picked up the reign, Ikeda served him, without any relegation of rank. He fought for Toyotomi against Tokugawa Ieyasu and died in a part of the useless series of battle, the one at Nagakute.

But the Ikeda clan kept on getting lucrative biz as warlords; Ikeda Shonyu's kids were among the richest of the Tokugawa shogunate's vassals from 1603 until 1868.

PICTURES & STORY OF IKEDA SHONYU'S PART
IN THE FEUD AMONG ODA NOBUNAGA'S SONS
Click Here

PICTURES OF PLACES WHERE IKEDA SHONYU USED TO HANG OUT
TOGETHER WITH MAEDA TOSHIIE & TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI
Click Here

I S H I D A
MITSUNARI
(1560-1600)


Picture of Ishida clan crest


Picture of Ishida Mitsunari

Now this is the world-famous loser of the entire 'Warring States Period' of Japanese history. His clan's name means 'rock field'. His first name means 'bright vocation'. Both turned out to be fitting like custom-tailored gloves.

The Catholic Ishida Mitsunari was one heck of a pain in the neck, and somehow this also made a reason for his utter downfall at the goriest battle of Sekigahara (1600, click here for story and pictures) -- in which he was the General of the joint pro-Toyotomi forces; the Chief of Staff of the army, and so on, while he was, for gods' sake, a bureaucrat through and through.

Oda Nobunaga was served by Ishida by extension, because he was recruited by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1578 as an administrative officer of his camps -- writing letters, sending messengers, and so forth, were in his job description. And Toyotomi always wrote a lot of letters, especially during wars, when he missed everybody at home and even missed Oda Nobunaga (who got mad receiving long letters everyday).

Ishida also took care of the hidden stuff of Toyotomi's life (I said 'hidden', but not that it was a secret or anything) -- such as the biz around Takenaka Hanbei's sister, Takenaka Oyu (click here for story and pictures). So he found Ishida very useful.

So useful in fact, that, although Ishida had managed to catch himself some piece of land, Toyotomi gave him more; he was awarded the Sawayama castle (in Omi province) and made a Lord there, 'for distinguished service'.

Even long before that, Ishida had already been universally shunned by the samurai clans all around Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi -- this man couldn't even load a gun, and couldn't unsheath a sword the right way. And he talked too much, too often, and too carelessly. But he was rich (Toyotomi made him to be). And he was so close to Toyotomi, or so they thought. Thus the tension kept on being a tension without blasting into open hostility. But in 1580's virtually everybody wanted to slash Ishida to shreds if it wouldn't endanger their own little lives.

His position, then, was equal to the Chinese Imperial Major-Domo of any dynasty. Only a Japanese Lord Chancellor wasn't surrounded by civilians. So Ishida still shone, because he knew the decidedly civilian intriques and the poor brawlish warriors never would. All of Toyotomi's Generals got decrees and orders that were signed by Toyotomi but written by Ishida -- that made him be above the rest, and got him the best vocation of all within the Toyotomi regime.

Ishida always made long 'for your eyes only' reports to Toyotomi, stating which General and which Captain it is at the time who didn't do his job well. Self-appointingly reviewing war-outcomes, Ishida got an overdose of self-delusion that he can direct a battle and tell Generals what to do.

Toyotomi, who had never been healthy to begin with, started to fall apart physically when his dream of conquering Korea was on the way to materialize in late 1590's. Now he relied even more to Ishida, and officially named him as the 'Inspector' of his Generals in the mission. Characteristically he gave them all bad grades -- he even told Toyotomi that his best Generals, Kato Kiyomasa and Kuroda Kanbei, botched their jobs.

In 1598, when Toyotomi was nearing death, Ishida was appointed as one of the 'commisioners' whose job was to maintain civil service after Toyotomi's gone, and to take care that his son Toyotomi Hideyori would reign. Among the Regents that Toyotomi named, there was the future ruler, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had waited long enough for his turn -- after giving way to Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Ishida was the first to nail Tokugawa as 'dangerous', and attempted to assassinate him -- though this clumsy deed (Ishida did it himself, for Christ's sake!) failed. According to tradition, Tokugawa could have killed Ishida right there and then, but he somehow let the man go thinking that Tokugawa didn't find out about his attempt. Tokugawa wanted to test the weather; he let Ishida write tons of letters soliciting military cooperation from Toyotomi Generals. That way Tokugawa knew foes from friends.

As history says, a clan's demise was arrived at via mysterious ways. All the famous warrior clans -- 'Western Mori', Uesugi, Ukita -- responded to the call to arms trumpeted by this sedentary clerk Ishida. They even let him appoint himself as Chief of Staff.

And this Chief of Staff ordered the first attack to be directed towards wives of every Tokugawa clansman, also wives whose husbands bore the name of Matsudaira, Honda, Sakai, and so on, who happened to be in Osaka, the Toyotomis' territory. These 'enemy wives' were arrested and jailed.

The rest of the battle that ensured Tokugawa Ieyasu's supremacy has been so often told. You know he entirely crushed Ishida's joint forces. And a large part of why that happened, while in numbers of soldiers, sophistication of arsenal, and so forth, the two sides were more or less equal, was that the joint forces were shallow enough to let Ishida be their General.

All the powerful warlords in that joint army seemed to let it happen just because they hated Ishida. Those who defected to Tokugawa's side were the Ishida-haters, who once before got insulted or humiliated or cheated by the man when Toyotomi Hideyoshi was still around.

PICTURES & STORY OF ISHIDA MITSUNARI'S LAST BATTLE & HOW HE DIED Click Here
PICTURES & STORY OF CHRISTIAN SAMURAI, WARLORDS & REBELS OF JAPAN Click Here

M A E D A
G E N I

(1539-1602)


Picture of Maeda crest


Picture of Maeda Geni

So says who Oda Nobunaga killed every Buddhist monk in Japan. Maeda Geni (not related at all to Maeda Toshiie) was a Buddhist monk, and more than that a Buddhist monk that belonged to Oda Nobunaga's 1571 scene of overall butchery, Mt. Hiei (click here for story and pictures).

Maeda joined the Oda clan before the Mt. Hiei thing happened. He was, like every warrior-monk, doing well with weapons of all sorts, so he also fought in battles.

In 1582, he had just gotten an official assignment to be Oda Nobunaga's supervisor for Kyoto (whose Governor was Murai Nagato), when Oda died in Akechi's attack. Maeda himself got to fight his way out of the city alone. He was the only one of Oda's men who survived the Akechi ambush.

"Geni isn't happy at all that he could escape Akechi's killing," Toyotomi Hideyoshi wrote to his wife, after their meeting in the official discussion of succession at Kiyosu castle; "he seems ashamed of being the only one alive."

Maeda joined Toyotomi Hideyoshi afterwards, and stayed with him until Toyotomi died.

PICTURES & STORY OF WHAT MAEDA GENI HAD SURVIVED FROM Click Here

M A E D A
TOSHIIE

(1539-1599)


Picture of Maeda clan crest


Picture of Maeda Toshiie

Oda Nobunaga called him 'Inu' -- that means, exactly, 'Dog'. But the nickname was given without any malicious intent, and Maeda Toshiie, Lord of Noto, didn't mind that. He knew Oda all his life and was used to the boss' ways; he had served Oda Nobunaga since childhood, starting from being a valet like Mori Ranmaru.

People around Kiyosu and Gifu referred to him as 'Maeda Inuchiyo' because of the nickname. They also called him 'Mataza' -- this was an exact opposite of a derogatory or jesting alias; it was a tribute to Maeda's excellence with spears.

And they also called him 'The Handsome One'. This had something to do with Maeda's close friendship with Toyotomi Hideyoshi -- who was called by everybody 'Monkey' due to distinctively simian physical characteristics. While Maeda himself was, according to records, the best-looking man around after Oda Nobunaga himself. And he looked even better because he wasn't made of the stuff that inspired fear.

'Maeda' means 'the front field'. 'Toshiie' means 'house of genius'. No kidding.

All those alone are enough to get a mental portrait of Maeda Toshiie; a sort of an ideal man in any era and any land.

Because of his personality and because of his martial art mastery (Maeda was always the Oda Army's spearhead, literally), he never had any personal enemy all his life. But as long as it was something related to what he took as his duty, it's a different matter.

There was an incident with the Yamabuchis -- the clan used to serve Oda Nobunaga, but later they planned assassination, and Maeda found it out too early for their safety; Yamabuchi's heir was wounded by Maeda's sword.

Oda Nobunaga didn't have any choice but to punish Maeda for a while, because the assassination plan that Maeda found out couldn't be proven yet. Although actually Oda believed in the tip, he got to apply the rule of the clan that forbade a vassal from physically harming his colleague.

So, for two years Maeda became a masterless samurai ('ronin' in Japanese).

In the meantime, the Yamabuchis raised a war flag against the Odas at last, and Oda Nobunaga, while crushing them, couldn't have but thought of Maeda's early warning.

But they got reunited in the battle of Okehazama (1560; click here), Oda Nobunaga's life-or-death war against the Imagawa clan of Suruga. Maeda saw that Oda's soldiers were only 3,000 men while the Imagawas were more than 25,000. So it was plainly an uneven battle, and precisely because of that he decided to join in.

Oda won this pivotal battle, and Maeda got his Captainship in the Oda army back, from which he climbed steadily up to the rank of General.

In the end of 1570's Oda Nobunaga gave him the territories of Noto and Kaga, which his clan ruled since, until the Meiji government abolished the feudal system entirely in 1890's.

Famous and revered for his wise decisions in super-difficult situations, Maeda has also been remembered for his true friendship (it was mutual) with Toyotomi, since both of them were teenagers until Toyotomi's death.

Even when they sided with different parties sometimes, like during the ugly battles for the vacant seat of head of the Oda clan (click here for story and pictures), the friendship stayed intact.

In 1587, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi followed his Christian Expulsion Edict up, a number of his own vassals were dragged down to oblivion. One of these was the famous Christian warlord Takayama Ukon. Toyotomi made Takayama a landless and army-less warlord; he could have lost everything right there and then if Maeda Toshiie didn't take him in.

Maeda didn't criticize his buddy about the Edict openly -- he only showed what he thought of the matter. So Toyotomi couldn't do anything about it. The Maeda territory was, for the sake of friendship as well as military matters, untouchable to him.

Maeda Toshiie was the only Toyotomi Hideyori's real protector after his dad passed away. Unfortunately Maeda didn't stay around for long; a year after Toyotomi died, he, too, left the warring world.

PICTURES & STORY OF MAEDA TOSHIIE'S
TRUE FRIENDSHIP WITH TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI
Click Here

PICTURES OF PLACES WHERE MAEDA TOSHIIE USED TO HANG OUT
TOGETHER WITH TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI & IKEDA SHONYU
Click Here

M O R I
YOSHINARI

(1523-1570)


Picture of Mori clan crest


Picture of Mori Yoshinari

The fabulous Mori boys of Owari would have never been without this man; Mori Yoshinari, Judge of Gifu, an Oda Captain, was the father of Mori Ranmaru and all his brothers. He was also the superior of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's father in-law, Asano Mataemon, who was an archer under his command.

Mori (this means 'forest', while 'yoshinari' means 'good vocation') took his family to Oda Nobunaga's vicinity when he left the warlord of Mino, the Saito clan, in 1555.

Mori was among the most loyal vassals who marched with Oda Nobunaga to his 'gambling session' against the overwhelming number of Imagawa clan's soldiers at Okehazama in 1560. Despite the impossibility of Oda to win this battle (3,000 men against 25,000), Mori didn't raise objection and was ready to die when leaving home. But Oda won it.

After that, he fought for Oda Nobunaga in all great and small battles, and shared the series of victories, but died in the war against the Asakura clan in 1570.

Oda Nobunaga took care of all the Mori kids -- they all became his valets, since Mori Myoko, their mom, entered a Buddhist nunnery after the husband's death. The mother preferred to stay as a nun, though Oda granted some land and a castle to Mori Ranmaru.

Ranmaru didn't have the chance to exercise lordship, though. Neither did his younger brothers. These boys died with Oda Nobunaga at Akechi's attack of Honno temple in Kyoto on June 21, 1582.

PICTURES & STORY OF MORI RANMARU Click Here

M U R A I
NAGATO

(1547-1611)

Murai Nagato, a.k.a Murai Sadakatsu, started his career in the Oda martial household very early in 1560. He was a servant once, then a caretaker of supplies, and the supervisor of firewood and charcoal warehouse -- he botched this one, and Oda Nobunaga sacked him, then replaced him with Toyotomi Hideyoshi -- who did a spectacular overhaul and saved much of the clan's money -- as usual.

Murai was sort of a civil-serviceman for the Oda clan. He's good at administrative jobs, but not so good, unfortunately Toyotomi's future lied in the military biz. Oda Nobunaga kept him as the clan's clerk and in 1573 made him the civil Governor of Kyoto, a job that would be his last.

N I W A
NAGAHIDE

(1535-1585)


Picture of Niwa clan crest


Picture of Niwa Nagahide

Niwa Nagahide, a.k.a Goroza, whose first name means exactly 'everlasting sun', was the peacemaker of the Oda army. He was that sort of person. He didn't fear Oda Nobunaga's short temper, and Oda didn't direct his wrath at Niwa either any time -- he never had any reason to, even if he wanted to.

Niwa was good in battlefields. Equally good in diplomacy. He was even good in construction projects (Oda Nobunaga entrusted the building of his pet-castle Azuchi into Niwa's hands -- click here for pictures). And he married one of Oda's nieces.

Niwa was always present as General in every battle Oda Nobunaga went to; he also administered Kyoto, the capital city, providing the military assurance to the inhabitants officially governed by the civilian Murai Nagato. He did a habitually good job there, too; he kept law and order as he was supposed to, and gave Oda Nobunaga all the credits.

In mid-1570's people in Gifu referred to Niwa as one of 'The Four Princes of Oda' (more precisely 'the Fantastic Four'), i.e. the Generals that Oda Nobunaga couldn't do without. The other three were Shibata Katsuie, Maeda Toshiie, and of course Toyotomi Hideyoshi. As long as the four were around Oda Nobunaga, the people of Gifu thought all was well with the world.

Maeda's loyalty made the backbone of the clan, Shibata's battle-prowess ensured safety, Toyotomi's wit warranted the best outcome of everything, and Niwa's bedrock calmness kept the harmony. There could have been no better accolade for the four Oda Generals than this folk song 16th century working-class men danced to.

But Niwa wasn't in the city of Kyoto when the Akechi attack suddenly happened. Some historians speculated that today we can only see Azuchi as a vast stone walkway because Niwa burned the great castle himself after Oda Nobunaga died, in order to prevent seizure by Akechi Mitsuhide. Some others guessed that Oda Nobunaga's lamentable son, Oda Nobuo, who did it, out of sheer panic. But there was no evidence to sustain both suspicions.

Niwa was among those who joined Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the avenging battle in 1582. And he continued to support Toyotomi, including in the battle against his own best friend, Lord Shibata Katsuie of Echizen.

Niwa died at home less than 2 years after this.

Long before that, people already said Niwa had never been the same after Oda Nobunaga was gone. Though never been as close to Oda as Toyotomi was, Niwa said he couldn't imagine having any other overlord, and he wished he wouldn't have to. Destiny made this wish come true.

PICTURES & STORY OF NIWA NAGAHIDE'S
POSITION WITHIN THE ODA CLAN
Click Here

S A S S A
NARIMASA

(1539-1588)


Picture of Sassa clan crest


Picture of Sassa Narimasa

His first name means 'the true calling', and he was the right man to be named that. Sassa Narimasa fought at Oda Nobunaga's side in every war since the latter (or actually since he, too) was still a blasting teenager. Sassa knew him very well that way, so although he wasn't a particularly great commander, Oda let him be a General. He had his own army anyway.

But after Oda Nobunaga's death, Sassa took the wrong side of the succession issue. He went to battle with Shibata Katsuie -- his reason was familial ties, since Shibata was Oda Nobunaga's cousin while Toyotomi Hideyoshi was just an 'outsider'.

However, Sassa changed his mind a few gunshots later. And then he became one of Toyotomi's Generals after the latter took up the reign.

S A K U M A
NOBUMORI

(1527-1582)


Picture of Sakuma clan crest


Picture of Sakuma Nobumori

About this Grand Forest (that's what 'nobumori means) of Sakuma, no one knew what Oda Nobunaga had in mind, let alone why. He pardoned Sakuma Nobumori after the man waged war against him in 1557, in which Shibata Katsuie also took a big part, in a conspiracy with Oda Nobunaga's own brother Oda Nobuyuki, and the Oda brothers' mother, Lady Oda Sr.

When thinking about the Oda 'Fantastic Four', people in 1570's added Sakuma to the list -- a folk-art way to question Oda Nobunaga for letting him sticking around.

As an Oda Captain at the boring long war against the Takeda clan between 1571 and 1575, Sakuma even made the Odas ashamed in front of the Tokugawa clan that they were supposed to help; he and Captain Takigawa Kazumasu performed very much beneath the Oda standard -- while Oda himself wasn't there.

But Oda Nobunaga finally reviewed the entire career of Sakuma's when he had the chance to exhale after crushing the warrior-monks of Mt. Ishi in 1580. And he came to the conclusion that the vendors of Gifu had been arriving at ten years before.

Only Oda's follow-up was unnecessarily harsh. He sacked Sakuma literally, stripping him off the army and civil ranks and tradition said Sakuma died starving somewhere near the Buddhist compound he had battled against.

TAKIGAWA
KAZUMASU

(1530-1586)


Picture of Takigawa crest


Picture of Takigawa Kazumasu

Since 1558, Captain Takigawa had been a quiet and useful vassal to Oda Nobunaga. He wasn't only competent in wars, but also in totally civilian matters such as diplomatic missions and the building of castles.

Perhaps because of Takigawa's firm but polite nature, Oda Nobunaga lent him to his unshining son Oda Nobuo (who never asked for advice by the way). But that's a part-time job for the sharp-shooter. Takigawa led the Oda forces in the battles against the Takeda clan -- which started as one between the Takedas and the Tokugawas, but because of the alliance between Oda and Tokugawa then the Odas got involved and even eclipsed the Tokugawas in number of soldiers, winnings and mutual hostility with the Takedas.

The rest of Takigawa's bio was a handful of unmatching jigsaw pieces.

Besides his poor performance in the Mikatagahara war, he helped Oda Nobuo in the stupid attempt to invade the ninja territory of the Iga clan in 1581 -- that was surprisingly airheaded for such an experienced and competent combatant as Takigawa was. Oda Nobuo didn't even consult his dad that time, too. Takigawa shared the wrath this careless and badly-planned war caused.

Then after Oda's death Takigawa chose to champion Nobuo again in the battle against Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which was an ever sorrier mistake than the Iga thing. He shifted to Toyotomi's camp only after the latter besieged his stronghold and offered leniency if he crossed over.

After that, he got enlisted in Toyotomi's battle against Tokugawa Ieyasu -- who helped the one and only Oda Nobuo this time, against the same Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It was a total waste of everything.

And after all those, Takigawa disappeared. No, he wasn't assassinated or anything; he put down his gun and lived obscurely as an ordinary civilian.

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