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Akechi Mitsuhide

1526 - 1582



Akechi Hyûga no kami Mitsuhide
Oda retainer and destroyer of Oda Nobunaga; Hyuga no Kami; also known as Koreta Mitsuhide. The son of Akechi Mitsukuni (who had held Akechi Castle in E. Mino Province), Mitsuhide first served the Saitô of Mino and later a certain Asakura Ujikage of Echizen. In 1566 Mitsuhide is supposed to have acted as a messenger for the 'wandering shôgun' Yoshiaki, and thereafter served Nobunaga. Mitsuhide proved himself a capable general and in 1571 was awarded Sakamoto-jo and two districts in Ômi province. When Nobunaga went to war with the Môri clan, Mitsuhide was assigned to lead the Oda contingent that would be marching along the northern coast of the Chugoku arm. He invaded Tamba, where he subdued the Hatano, and Tango, where he clashed with the Isshiki family.

In 1578 an unfortunate incident is said to have occurred involving the Hatano clan of Tamba. Eager to bring them over without further delay, Mitsuhide managed to convince Hatano Hideharu to submit. Unfortunately, Nobunaga later overturned Mitsuhide's promise of safe treatment and had Hideharu executed in 1579. The Hatano responded, as one might expect, by accusing Mitsuhide of treachery, and, the story goes, somehow got ahold of his mother in Ô,mi and executed her in dreadful manner. Mitsuhide, needless to say, bore Nobunaga some ill will. This was enflamed by a series of public insults Nobunaga directed at Mitsuhide that drew even the attention of Western observers. Nonetheless, Mitsuhide was generally well regarded for his talents both on the battlefield and as an administrator.

In 1582, Nobunaga ordered Mitsuhide to assemble his troops and march to the west, where Hashiba (Toyotomi Hideyoshi) was embroiled in a struggle with the Môri. Instead, Mitsuhide marched on Oda, who was occupying the Honno temple at the time. Nobunaga and his heir Nobutada were killed, and Mitsuhide declared himself the new shogun, however improbably. Mistuhuide may have intimated his intentions just days before when he composed a poem for the renga masters Jôha and Shoshitsu that, while ostensibly written to bring good luck to Hideyoshi's seige of Takamatsu, contained a provactive line that could be interpreted to mean that the Toki (whose name he used from time to time) would rule Japan. At any rate, the sudden defection stunned the Capital region. Akechi worked as quickly as he could, and looted Azuchi Castle so as to reward his men and made friendly gestures towards a bewildered Imperial Court. The Akechi could claim descent from the Toki, and in turn the Minamoto, but, unsurprisingly, this would bear little fruit. Mitsuhide had counted on the support of Hosokawa Fujitaka, with whom he was related to through marriage. This alliance did not pan out as Fujitaka wisely cut his ties with the usurper. It is possible that Mitsuhide also hoped for the support of the Tsutsui, whose relation with Nobunaga had been none too good. Tsutsui Junkei, however, wavered, and in the end joined Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Another grave setback came within days. Mitsuhide had counted on Hideyoshi being tied up with the Môri and thus being unable to promptly respond to Nobunaga's death. Unfortunately, Hideyoshi learned of the assassination before the Môri, and signed a peace treaty with that clan. This allowed him to force-march back east at a rapid pace, catching Mitsuhide off guard. Mitsuhide and Hideyoshi clashed at Yamazaki, (See TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI for a more detailed description of Yamazaki) and though the former fought bravely, his troops were defeated. Mitsuhide himself was killed while attempting to make his way to Sakamoto, which was held by his brother, Hidemitsu (1560-1582). Soon afterwards, Sakamoto was reduced by Hori Hidemasa (1553-1590).

While Akechi would become one of the most famous men in Japanese history, if only for his treachery, the exact causes for his dramatic attack on Nobunaga, and what he hoped to accomplish once this was done, will most likely remain a mystery.

By FwSeal