Oda Nobunaga's territory

Oda Nobunaga's territory in 1570's (the oranged areas) started from two Owarian districts (the red spot on this map). Black dots are locations of Oda Nobunaga's wars. The ochre spaces are not just independent warlords or vassals and allies of Oda's enemies', but also smaller-scaled warlords under Oda Nobunaga's overlordism, such as the Date clan -- so a sizeable part of it can also be said as Oda Nobunaga's roaming ground. Click the picture for the detailed map of Oda Nobunaga's Japan by the time of his death in 1582, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi's addendum to the map until 1598.

Maps of Oda Nobunaga's territory between 1534 and 1582


Click here for the way of the Japanese warriors, a.k.a 'bushido'


Toyotomi Hideyoshi's troop


Tokugawa troop

Left: Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Army within the Oda overlordship 1570 - 1582
Right: Tokugawa Ieyasu's Army Generals & Captains 1560 - 1616

What would you need to be a Japanese warlord?
How to do war in Feudal Japan? Click here.


Oda Nobunaga didn't always win his wars. Nobody could get a clean sheet in a world where warfare was as regular as breakfast. But he did win most of the battles, including those that he didn't start; such as the rebellion of Araki Murashige of Itami in 1568, and the betrayal of Asai Nagamasa of Odani in 1570.

When it comes to Oda Nobunaga's wars, there are truths that you better know beforehand:


1. Oda Nobunaga's Army was not good.
2. Oda Nobunaga's armed forces also comprised of the Oda Navy. It performed more reliably better than his famous Army. And Oda Nobunaga's Navy is the foundation of today's Japanese Imperial Navy.
3. Oda Nobunaga owned his own firearm factory, so he didn't have to buy guns, and he could equip his Army with as many guns as he wanted them to get burdened by when marching to wars.
4. Oda Nobunaga's oh-so-famous Japanese armor ('yoroi', whose copies and miniatures have been sold everywhere around the globe) was very seldom, if ever, worn in any of his battles. In real-life wars, usually Oda wore a European armor. So did Tokugawa Ieyasu.
5. Though the army he got wasn't good, you should know now that Oda Nobunaga was the first warlord who made his Army from real soldiers and stopped conscription of part-timers, masterless samurai and farmers. It was Tokugawa Ieyasu who really perfected this professionalism of the army, but, heck, Oda Nobunaga started it.


The winnings amassed by the clan were due to Oda Nobunaga's personal qualities more than anything else, characteristic to this era of personalities. His determination drove the joint army through hell and high water, and his managerial style kept the multitude of different people from falling apart -- Oda's army, contrary to what most people today imagine, was not a good one.


Tokugawa Ieyasu's army was; even as early as 1565 it was recognizably like the Japanese Armed Forces of the World War II. While Oda's joint army was a lot more anciently-shaped; it was a patchwork of all sorts of qualities with different levels of discipline.

After 1570, Oda Nobunaga relied more on winning battles by outnumbering the enemies, while Tokugawa Ieyasu kept on relying on individual soldiers' skills.

But Oda Nobunaga's greatness as a General was gained precisely because his Army was not so good.


Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu at war together

Oda Nobunaga (left) and Tokugawa Ieyasu went to war together since 1561 until Oda's death in 1582. Here they are represented by actor Ryu Daisuke (Oda) and Yui Masayuki (Tokugawa) in Kurosawa Akira's movie The Shadow Warrior, in which the portrayal of Oda Nobunaga is the best among hordes of silverscreen Odas, down to physical details of the characters.

At the background are Oda Nobunaga's clan banner (the red one), his own personal battle-banner (coins on white), Tokugawa Ieyasu's clan banner, Ieyasu's personal battle-banner (the wordy one at center), and his standard (the yellow fan, right).

Ryu Daisuke is wearing a copy of Oda Nobunaga's real armor that he used to don in battles. Tokugawa Ieyasu, too, used to wear European armor. Toyotomi Hideyoshi didn't, but some of his famous Generals did, like Kato Kiyomasa and Konishi Yukinaga.

The independent Christian warlords of Kyushu also got the same preference.

Oda Nobunaga's 21st century portraits that always involve a red cape are sort of historically-correct in that one thing. Oda personally loved wearing capes, but he wasn't the only or the first who did so in battles.

A cape used to be worn by Japanese samurai since 749 until 1300's, as a protective garment against stray arrows (see ancient pix of the Minamoto versus Taira wars to check this; for just an example, click here). It was called 'horo'. The cloth puffed like a balloon when the rider galloped with the wind.

Kurosawa Akira's Oda -Tokugawa -Takeda Movie
| Konishi Yukinaga | Kato Kiyomasa | Christian warlords of Kyushu | How Come Oda -Tokugawa Alliance Worked So Well

Oda Nobunaga's War Slogans:
"One Realm Under One Sword" ("Tenka fubu", his public slogan) | "Only I know that I'm okay with what I got" ("Ware tada shiru taru", his personal motto)


Having such a 'patchwork' Army meant the General had to keep his eye open all the time, since the inventory had to get as a-matter-of-fact-ly as possible or else he would lose big time. It was Oda's job to know exactly what his men were like (in skills, i.e. who can do what and how good), and to mix the right ingredients of every detachment in every battle so that the elements could work as one, and because he did this job marvelously he became what he was, i.e. the victor of nearly every round.

Oda's problem was manpower at first. He started going to war at the age of 7 as an ordinary soldier, and at 15 he already led his own army. The little Oda of 1551 was a cavalier, using swords and arrows (the latter would be his favorite weapon all his life), and he noticed that his dad's soldiers were, individually and as an army alike, beneath standard. Then he noticed the props. These were obsolete already to him in 1549. His province Owari was too poor to afford gunpowder, and too far from the sources of such a luxury, and too politically inconsequential that traders of armaments passed it by without bothering to catch a glance. Nobunaga's dad, Oda Nobuhide, relied on slapdash conscription and nondescript masterless samurai that would fight for several days with minimum pay and meager portions of food, besides his own little band of followers. They used the same sorts of weapons that the Odas' ancestors, the Taira clan, had used before the year 1000.

Oda Nobuhide, Nobunaga's dad


Oda Navy Oda Navy

The Oda Navy under Admiral Kuki Yoshitaka's command in 1880.
Admiral Kuki is today hailed as the founding father of the Japanese Imperial Navy.

Profile of Admiral Kuki Yoshitaka


Oda Nobunaga's first job at 15 years old was to fix this seemingly untrainable army. Guns had been used in Japan since 1550's; but most of Owarinese in Oda Nobuhide's days had never even seen one. Those days, the clans that already had platoons of gunners were Saito of Mino, 'Western Mori', and Asakura of Echizen, besides the Kyushu warlords.


Oda's gunsOda Nobunaga at Mt. Hiei
Oda Nobunaga's guns (serpentine, snappin', and matchlock arquebuses), an Oda gunner, and Oda Nobunaga himself
according to a comic book -- with sword in the right hand and gun in the left, at the battle of Mt. Hiei in 1571.

Oda Nobunaga's battle of Hiei mountains (1571)


Oda Nobunaga knew this was the weapon of the future. After his 1560 breakthru' at Okehazama (click here for details and pictures), the fact that his troops were 'gunners at random' kept gnawing at him. At the historic battle that launched him onto the nationwide forays, the Oda clan's army didn't have anybody specializing in this kind of weapon yet.

Oda Nobunaga had to go a long way to secure a dozen of guns, then another dozen, then another, and many more when he started to get Portuguese and Italian Catholic priests among his guests -- these supposedly unworldly public-relation officers of God were double-jobbing as merchants, and whatever they were selling and buying, weapons were within their reach.

That's one of the reasons why Oda Nobunaga gave a job to the aimlessly-wandering Akechi Mitsuhide in 1566 (click here for story and pictures): although specializing on spears and was never a big-time shooter, Akechi knew all about guns and cannons. He could even make one.


Oda's cannons
Oda Nobunaga's cannons by 1580's, probably crucial to the winnings around Western Japan.

The first use of this kind of cannons by the Oda Army and Navy against Mori Terumoto's vassals


In 1574, Oda Nobunaga didn't have to buy guns anymore, only ammo and cannons. He had already produced his own guns -- at the famous Kunimoto Firearm Factory, in Omi.

No wonder that Oda Nobunaga could equip tens of thousands of soldiers under his command with guns when hillbilly warlords around him were still unable to figure out how to load the thing without blasting their own noses off. You might not believe this, but it is a historically-correct fact that, when the campaign to master Japan started, Takeda Shingen didn't even have a gun.


Oda's sniper

Oda Nobunaga's arquebusiers according to a 17th century sketch (left), and a realist portrait of one (not left).

Most of the soldiers in Oda's and Tokugawa's armies copied their lords' style in dressing-up for battles. They simplified their armors and got rid of impractical ornaments and such.

Even before that, actually Owari, Oda Nobunaga's homebase, was the place where people already wore some simpler armors to war since 1560's compared with other provinces' soldiers. It was here that the Japanese cuirass-like leather armor ('domaru') was invented, like the one on the Oda gunner above.

Click here for historically-correct samurai armors & authentic armors of famous samurai.


At first, Oda Nobunaga used some sort of artillery equipments that were imported from China. At the end of 1570's, he switched to Spanish cannons and such, because the long and boring campaign against the Mori clan was a fine series of shows of the drawbacks in using Chinese props. The first Oda man who bought European cannons was Kuroda Kanbei, although the credit usually goes to his boss Toyotomi Hideyoshi. They were both busy with the siege upon the inner defense line of the Moris' domain -- in which the new artillery was very useful.

Click here for Toyotomi's and Kuroda's hardest, longest, scariest battle.


Oda gunners at NagashinoOda gunners at NagashinoOda gunners at Nagashino

Six versions of visualization of Oda Nobunaga's gunners in action at Nagashino battle, 1575. This has been the most famous of all Oda's battles. The left pic is a classic depiction by an 18th century artist, the center is from a military history book in 2000, and the right is Kurosawa Akira's celluloid version in his movie Kagemusha.


This tactic worked because it was applied piecemealy, not all at once like Kurosawa depicted it in the movie.

At the far left is picture of the most famous Oda spearman: Maeda Toshiie at the start of his career.

Oda Nobunaga invented the cyclical firing that brought him victory here -- it wasn't yet applied in Europe until three decades after Oda did this in Nagashino.

There were 10,000 gunners among his 30,000 soldiers in this battle. Oda's Captains Okubo Tadayo and Sakuma Nobumori exactly applied Oda Nobunaga's idea to split the ten thousand into several layers of shooters, who were to fire in nearly no interval at all between one session and the next. The inevitable gap of a few secs between these were filled up by the Oda lancers.

That way, a non-stop volley was maintained, and the casualties included all of the Takeda legendary Generals. Oda specifically told his gunners to aim at the Takeda horses first -- cavalry was the Takeda clan's best, and eliminating this part of the Takeda army Oda gained much easier way to attack the rest.

The fourth picture at the left is the same scene according to the official guidebook of Gifu museum. Below this line is another picture of Oda's cyclical firing squad and lancers as imagined by a videogame, and a different classic painting of still the same scene, by an 19th century artist.

Oda spearman Oda clan at Nagashino Oda clan at Nagashino

Movie scenes of Nagashino battle of 1575 The real Nagashino battle


All through the 'Warring States Period', it looked like only the independent Christian warlords of the Kyushu isles (click here for story, profiles and pictures), the 'Western Mori' clan, the Odas, and the Tokugawas that kept on updating their army-related props and gadgets according to the latest development in European armaments.

In Oda Nobunaga's case, this extended to unintentional fashion statements. Although the most-famous and worldwidely-circulated images have always been of Oda Nobunaga's traditional Japanese armor ('yoroi' in Japanese), he and Tokugawa Ieyasu actually opted for the more practical, much simpler, and a lot safer European-style armor in real wars (the so-called 'nanban-do' in Japanese, whose literal translation would be 'barbarian cuirass').


Oda Nobunaga's armors
Oda Nobunaga's inherited ancient traditional armor circa 1549 (left),
the world-famous copy of his own traditional armor circa 1570 sold everywhere since 1999 (center),
and Oda's real European-style armor circa 1570 (right).

How Oda Nobunaga dealt with Christians & Europeans



Oda Nobunaga's map of Japan Oda Nobunaga's map of Japan

Left picture: Oda Nobunaga's territory when he just started the Japanwide campaign in 1560.
Right picture: Oda Nobunaga's territory by the time of his death in 1582.


So, here are the stories and pictures of highlighted Oda Nobunaga's wars
(geographically, in chronological order):


versus Imagawa Yoshimoto



versus Asai Nagamasa



versus warrior-monks



versus Takeda Shingen



versus Takeda Katsuyori



versus Uesugi Kenshin



Samurai Weapons

Authentic Samurai Swords

Authentic Samurai Armors


versus Iga ninja



versus Mori Terumoto, etc.

Other wars


Click here for big photographs of the actual location of Oda Nobunaga's wars & big pictures of his enemies



Oda Nobunaga's Maps of Japan, 1534 - 1582

Oda Nobunaga's Position in the Japanese Political Structure

Oda Nobunaga's Status in the Japanese Society




Takeda Shingen   Uesugi Kenshin   Asai Nagamasa   Imagawa Yoshimoto   Warrior-Monks


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