THE LADY OICHI IMBROGLIO
Now we're getting at one of the most ridiculous historical items in Japanese history: Oda Nobunaga's elusive younger sister, Lady Oichi.
In 1564, Oda Nobunaga gave his sister to Lord Asai Nagamasa of Omi. Despite the fact that it was a politically-motivated nuptial (the Asai clan coveted the province of Mino, and Oda wanted to shoo them off), the Asai couple lived happily in a foursome situation -- year after year Oichi kept getting pregnant and by the time she reached late twenties there were already four kids, all female. Nagamasa's father, though, was still unhappy about what he called a shotgun marriage of his son to Oda's sister. The Asai clan kept alert around Oichi as long as she lived in Odani, their castle; lest she got into some espionage (which was actually rampant that way everywhere at the time). Asai Nagamasa was a good shooter and swordsman, and he did well in leading the clan after his daddy abdicated. Oda Nobunaga, who seemed to like no one at all except his General Toyotomi and his valet Mori Ranmaru (click here for pictures) -- oh, and his horses (click here for pictures) -- genuinely liked Asai. This made the subsequent tragedy even more crushing.
By the way, Asai wasn't handsome like Oda; all descriptions and paintings from 16th century gave us a portrait of a rather stout and substantial man whose expression in general conveyed nothing at all. Oichi, on the other hand, was said to be extremely beautiful, fitting into all the requirements of 1600's Japanese belles -- what everybody said about her was sort of like what I say about Ito Hideaki today (click here if you really have so much time to waste).
In 1573, when Oda Nobunaga went to war together with Tokugawa Ieyasu against the Takeda clan's ally the Asakura, all of a sudden he was attacked from the rear by none other than Asai Nagamasa. Tradition said that Nagamasa did it only because his dad and advisors wanted him to, out of respect for the Asakura clan that was their previous ally before Nagamasa joined Oda. Asai took it as a duty to defend the Asakura, an old-time chum, against the new one, Oda. Personally Nagamasa got pissed off because Oda didn't even leak his plan to him. Oda had his own reason: he clammed up about the plan to cut Takeda's backup precisely because of Asai's previous commitment with the Asakura. He thought that if Asai really knew nothing about it, then the clan could just refrain from any involvement without being disloyal to the Asakura. He didn't ask Asai to help him, either, for that same reason. He only expected Asai to keep neutral about the war. But it didn't work that way, and so the Asai and Oda clans were now at war.
Naturally Lady Oichi was supposed to get all heartbroken about it. But she didn't want to get back to her brother, although Asai, when it was certain (actually it was always certain from the onset!) that his clan would lose, repeatedly asked her to cross over to the Oda camp. Oichi wouldn't go even for the sake of her four daughters. Oda kept fidgeting about how to save his sister and nieces, so -- contrary to Oda's policy that says 'No Siege, No Hostage', he told his Generals to surround Odani without moving a single inch toward attacking it. Toyotomi Hideyoshi took this matter to his hands, since his men, too, were starting to get unsure about what to do. He went alone to the castle and personally asked Asai Nagamasa to return Oichi and the kids to the Odas. Asai said yes. Then the clan went to dust. And Lady Oichi started to hate her brother for the demise of her husband's clan, and didn't take the rescue as anything good.
Because Oichi even refused to talk with him, Oda Nobunaga's impatience with the world got to its blasting point. "Allright," he said, "Then go to some place where you'll never see me again!" -- Lady Oichi did go to such a place -- the snow-covered mountains of Echizen, Lord Shibata Katsuie's domain. She married him. The four daughters of Asai Nagamasa's went to live there, too.
Oichi never saw Oda Nobunaga again, for real. After Oda's death in 1582, Shibata was at war against Oda's successor Toyotomi. He lost. Once more Lady Oichi found herself and her kids in a besieged castle, with no way out. All was a deja vu: Shibata, too, asked her to leave. But now she really refused to. She committed suicide with him, as the castle went in flames.
Her daughters, though, survived. Toyotomi Hideyoshi wanted to save Oichi and them once again for the sake of his memory of Oda, but he was too late; only the kids were smuggled out by his ninjas. And the next bizarre event took place years after: Toyotomi married the most beautiful daughter of Lady Oichi's, who was said to be looking like her mom, a girl who would be remembered for her own stuff, Lady Yodo (or Yodogimi). This niece of Oda Nobunaga's was the mother of Toyotomi's heir, Hideyori, who was, then, Oda's grandson.
In 1815, Tokugawa Hidetada, the second Shogun, and his dad Ieyasu, crushed Toyotomi Hideyori and Lady Yodo's army at Osaka castle. That way Japan was on their hands. This still happened even though Tokugawa Hidetada had married one of Lady Yodo's sisters. Their son was Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Shogun. History really freaks one out, doesn't it? (Click here for pictures and stuff of Tokugawa Iemitsu).
Roll on to next page for even more bizarre events in Oda Nobunaga's family, including that of Toyotomi's and Tokugawa's, because in this sphere, too, their bios are inseparable.
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