Oda Nobunaga

Eyridiki Sellou | Nov 30, 2022

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Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長, Oda Nobunaga? June 23, 1534 - 1582) heard (?-i) was a prominent daimyō (feudal lord) from the Sengoku period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period of Japanese history. The son of a minor daimyō of Owari Province, he fought against other members of his family for control of the clan upon the death of his father, killing one of his brothers in the process. In 1560 he faced a large army (estimated at 40,000 samurai soldiers), commanded by Imagawa Yoshimoto, with only 3,000 soldiers during the Battle of Okehazama. Thanks to a surprise attack he was victorious, which put Nobunaga at the top of the country's military power.

In 1568 he helped Ashikaga Yoshiaki to be appointed shōgun by the emperor, entering the capital, Kyoto, with his army and taking control of the city. Yoshiaki wanted to appoint him kanrei but he refused and instead issued a series of regulations, which limited the shōgun's activity practically to ceremonial matters. Yoshiaki then contacted several daimyōs and warrior monks to form a coalition against Nobunaga, who confronted them between 1570 and 1573, the year in which the rivalry between the shōgun and Nobunaga became public and open. Nobunaga confronted Yoshiaki and easily defeated him, bringing the Ashikaga shogunate to an end.

In 1575 he faced the Takeda clan during the famous battle of Nagashino, where his arquebusiers defeated the clan's legendary cavalry by firing in rotation rather than simultaneously as had been done until then.

Between 1573 and 1578 he remained close to the imperial court and received various titles, eventually being appointed Udaijin, Minister of the Right, the third highest position in the government hierarchy. During these years Nobunaga was the central figure in the government, although in 1578 he relinquished all his titles citing military duties.

By 1582 Nobunaga dominated the entire central part of Japan as well as its two main roads: the Tōkaidō and the Nakasendō, so he wanted to extend his rule to the west. While his generals were sent to different regions to pursue military conquests, Nobunaga went to rest at the Honnō temple. Akechi Mitsuhide, one of his top generals, decided to betray him, turned back on his route and laid siege to the temple, in what is known as the "Honnō-ji Incident". Nobunaga died on the spot while committing seppuku, although his remains could not be found because the temple burned to the ground.

Nobunaga's military conquests initiated a process of unification of the country, which had been plunged in continuous struggles for land and power among the different local landowners. The process of pacification of the country was continued by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, another of his main generals, who took over Nobunaga's authority after his death thanks to the fact that it was he who avenged his death by defeating Mitsuhide. Finally, the unification of the country ended when Tokugawa Ieyasu, Nobunaga's ally, established the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603. Nobunaga is thus considered the first of the "three great unifiers of Japan".

In addition, some events in his life were decisive in the history of Japan: his entry into Kyoto in 1568 marks the end of the Sengoku period and thus the beginning of the Azuchi-Momoyama period, which takes its name partly from the castle he had built, Azuchi Castle. The expulsion of the last Ashikaga shōgun marked the end of the second shogunate in Japanese history, the Ashikaga shogunate, and also marked the beginning of the Japanese "Tenshō" era.


Nobunaga was born in the year 1534, the second son of Oda Nobuhide, a minor daimyō of Owari province.The location of the province was strategic: it was a short distance from the capital, Kyoto, but far enough away to avoid the continuous fighting in the central provinces of the country.The yōmei, or infant name, he received was Kippōshi (吉法師, Kippōshi?).

His father Nobuhide was daimyō of the Oda clan, although he belonged to one of the minor branches. Thanks to his military and diplomatic skills he made the clan almost as powerful as the main family. In 1541 and 1544 he donated a certain amount in copper coins to the imperial court, money that was used to repair the Ise Shrine and the walls of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. Since such attentions rarely came from men of war, Emperor Go-Nara sent a personal letter thanking him for the gesture, for showing "respect to the emperor" and "loyalty to the throne".

Nobuhide fought against the daimyos of Mikawa and Mino provinces. In 1542 Imagawa Yoshimoto, daimyō of Suruga, entered Owari and clashed with Nobuhide's troops at the Battle of Azukizaka. The Oda clan was victorious and Nobuhide decided to continue the fight, so a few months later he attacked Imagawa's fortress at Ueno, although he was unable to take it.

In 1547 and 1548 he attacked Saitō Dōsan, daimyō of Mino, although they later reached a peace agreement that included Nobunaga's marriage to Dōsan's daughter, Nōhime.

Years later Nobuhide attacked Okazaki Castle, guarded by Tokugawa Hirotada, father of Tokugawa Ieyasu and ally of Yoshimoto. Hirotada requested the help of his ally, who agreed to help him on the condition that Hirotada send his son to Sunpu as a hostage. Hirotada agreed, but his son was kidnapped by the Oda clansmen. Consequently Hirotada hesitated to continue attacking the clan, although Yoshimoto continued the fight and in 1549 inflicted severe damage on Nobuhide's troops, who died shortly thereafter in 1551.


Nobunaga had his genpuku - or coming of age ceremony - in 1546 at Furuwatari Castle, where he changed his name to Saburo Nobunaga. He had teachers who instructed him in classical Chinese writings as well as war tactics, although he exasperated them with his arrogance and irreverence. One of his main hobbies was falconry, in addition to frequent practice with bow, spear, sword and firearms.

Because of his manners and behavior, people called him "baka dono" ("foolish Don") or thought he was crazy, although writer Mark Weston believes this may have been a strategy to avoid being seen as a rival for power. It is also said that when his father died, Nobunaga showed up dressed casually and instead of carrying out the ritual as is customary, of putting pinches of incense on the one burning in the brazier, he took the brazier and threw it against the altar, towards the tablet that had the name of the deceased written on it, which shocked those present.


After the death of his father, Nobunaga showed little interest in taking control of the clan and administering his domain, so one of his vassals, Hirate Kiyohide, committed seppuku in 1553 as a protest to make him think about his actions. Apparently the sacrifice of his vassal had the desired effect (he even later built a temple in his honor, the Seishū-ji) and Nobunaga began to fight against his relatives who wanted to take control of the clan, even killing a younger brother. In 1556 his older brother Nobuhiro allied with the new lord of Mino, Saitō Yoshitatsu, with the intention of pushing Nobunaga aside, and although Nobunaga learned of the plot against him, he decided to spare his brother. The following year his younger brother Nobuyuki, aided by Shibata Katsuie and Hayashi Michikatsu, plotted to assassinate him as well. This time, when Nobunaga learned of the plan, he had him killed, although the vassals' lives were spared.

It was not until 1560 that he definitively established himself in the power of the entire clan.

In 1556 Saitō Yoshitatsu faced his adoptive father, Saitō Dōsan, at the Battle of Nagaragawa. Nobunaga was unable to help his father-in-law, who was killed in the battle. The relationship with the province of Mino was severed, as Dōsan's son disowned the alliance.

The Matsudaira clan began to attack the castles of the Oda clan in Mikawa province in 1558.

Imagawa Yoshimoto advanced westward through a series of alliances by arranged marriages with two other clans with whom they had been in conflict: Imagawa Yoshimoto's daughter married the son of Takeda Shingen of the Takeda clan, and Shingen's daughter married the son of Hōjō Ujiyasu. Ujiyasu's daughter married Yoshimoto's son. Having established these alliances, the Hōjō expanded into Kantō, the Takeda clan moved to entrench Shinano, and the Imagawa moved to attack the Oda in Owari.

Twice, in 1554 and 1558, Nobunaga faced smaller-scale attacks on Owari by Yoshimoto. Subsequently the Imagawa clan gathered numerous armies between Suruga, Tōtōmi and Mikawa provinces to carry out a much larger attack. According to contemporary accounts, the army numbered 40,000 soldiers.

Imagawa launched a first attack against one of the border fortresses, at Washizu and Marune. Nobunaga's scouts notified him that the castle had been completely destroyed and that the enemy army, including its commander, was resting at a place known as Dengakuhazama. While the enemy celebrated the results they had achieved so far, Nobunaga prepared his army, estimated at just over 3000 soldiers, for a surprise attack. The sentries of Yoshimoto's army were not alert and a heavy storm fell as Nobunaga's army approached. When the clouds dissipated, Nobunaga and his men attacked the enemies, and because the enemies were unprepared, they began to flee in all directions. Yoshimoto's tent was left unprotected and hearing the commotion outside he thought his men, already drunk, were fighting each other. When Yoshimoto came out of his tent a samurai, a vassal of the Oda clan, thrust a spear into his belly. Yoshimoto drew his sword and broke the spear, but just then a second samurai appeared and cut off his head.

Thanks to his victory at Okehazama, Nobunaga rose to the pinnacle of military power in the country. In addition, he formalized his alliance in 1562 with Matsudaira Motoyasu (better known as Tokugawa Ieyasu), who was able to establish Mikawa as an independent province, In addition to the above alliances, Nobunaga found some reassurance towards the capital area through an alliance with Azai Nagamasa, from the province of Ōmi, in 1564. To close such alliances Nobunaga gave one of his daughters to Ieyasu's eldest son, a sister to Azai Nagamasa and an adopted daughter to Takeda Shingen's son.

After Saitō Yoshisatsu broke off relations with the Oda clan, Nobunaga began a series of attacks against Mino province, which lasted from 1559 to 1567, when Inabayama Castle finally fell, largely thanks to the actions of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Tenka fubu

Nobunaga relocated his headquarters from Kiyosu to Inabayama after taking the city (which sat on the Nakasendō) in allusion to the place where the Chinese general Wu Wang, founder of the Zhou Dynasty, had begun the unification of the country in the 12th century. began to use on his seal the slogan Tenka fubu (天下布武, 'Tenka fubu'?), which can be translated as "the kingdom From 1570 onwards his missives would alternate between his signature Tenka no tame (for the sake of the kingdom) and Nobunaga no tame (for the sake of Nobunaga).

That same year of 1567 the emperor sent him a special embassy expressing his appreciation for his late father's loyalty and sincerity, recommending him to follow in his footsteps. He asked him to restore the imperial order, and even expressed his wish that Nobunaga would go to Kyoto to restore order.

Ashikaga Yoshihide was appointed shōgun in 1568, supported by those who had assassinated his predecessor, Yoshiteru, years earlier. Another possible candidate for the government was Ashikaga Yoshiaki, who was then a Buddhist monk who managed to escape in order to find someone to support him in his cause. Around the same time that Nobunaga defeated the Saitō, Yoshiaki contacted him, asking for his help to be appointed shōgun after having petitioned the daimyos of Ōmi, Kōzuke, Noto and Echizen. Oda Nobunaga decided to support him and took control of Kyoto to guarantee "the Emperor's interests". Yoshihide and the army of Matsunaga Hisahide - who had supported Yoshihide - fled in the presence of Nobunaga's army. Once Nobunaga had the situation under control in the capital, Emperor Ōgimachi appointed Yoshiaki shōgun. The emperor furthermore ordered them to help him recover the properties that had belonged to the imperial family. Yoshiaki also wanted to appoint Nobunaga as kanrei, but the latter refused to subordinate himself to the shogunate and tried to dominate the shōgun.

By this point in history, Nobunaga dominated the provinces of Owari, Mino, parts of Ise and Iga, as well as the southern part of Ōmi, which he had taken during his journey to Kyoto.

Beginning in 1570 the shōgun began to rebel against Nobunaga's impositions and sought support from various clans. In response, Nobunaga did not attack the shōgun directly, but the daimyos who opposed him or sought to support the shōgun, beginning with Asakura Yoshikage of Echizen.

Earlier in the year Nobunaga attacked the Asakura clan stronghold at Echizen, but had to retreat because the Azai clan and the Rokkaku clan declared their allegiance to the Asakura. The entry of the Azai clan into the conflict ended the peace treaty Nobunaga and Nagamasa had made years earlier. Now, with two battle fronts, Nobunaga responded by attacking Odani Castle in the provincial capital of Ōmi.

Nobunaga confronted the Azai and Asakura along with his ally Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Anegawa River that same year, so the battle takes its name from the place where the confrontation took place.

Nobunaga's troops advanced against the Azai castle, Odani Castle, and across the river clashed with the clan's troops, while a small portion went to besiege Yokohama Castle. Meanwhile, the Tokugawa clan troops clashed with the Azai clan troops, winning easily. Because Nobunaga was having trouble in his confrontation, Tokugawa attacked on the right flank, while Inaba Ittetsu, a vassal of the Oda clan who had not participated in the battle until then, as he served as a reserve, attacked on the left. Nobunaga emerged victorious from the battle, which was practically fought hand to hand.

Although troops of the Oda clan seized small castles within the province, the combined troops of the Azai and Asakura clan managed to repel the assaults until 1571.

In the late 1570s Nobunaga clashed against the Miyoshi clan and their allies the Ikkō-Ikki, warrior monks who were members of the Buddhist sect of the Jōdo Shinshū of Hongan-ji, so his troops were weakened by so many open fronts. Through the intercession of the throne, Nobunaga achieved a peace agreement with the Azai clan, which was broken by Azai Nagamasa in 1571 when he joined the Ikkō-Ikki in battle. Before returning to Ōmi, Nobunaga had two major clashes: one at Mount Hiei and another in the province of Tōtōmi.

Nobunaga's other enemy faction was the warrior monks of Mount Hiei, who had attacked Kyoto on several previous occasions and had allied themselves with the Ikkō-Ikki, the Azai and the Asakura. As Nobunaga marched toward Echizen province, he passed near Hiei and realized that the monks there threatened his lines of communication to the nation's capital, so a year later the mountain was surrounded by a large army, estimated at 30,000 soldiers. Nobunaga's army advanced, killing everything in its path as a warning to all armies, religious or otherwise, that opposed him. The next day, Enryaku-ji, a Buddhist religious complex, was in flames and thousands of its inhabitants lay dead.

Louis Frois, a Jesuit missionary who arrived in Japan in 1563, described the attack as follows:

Knowing that he had them all on top of the mountain, Nobunaga immediately gave instructions to set fire to Sakamoto and put to the sword all those found in the village. This was on September 29 of this year, 1571 And to show the bonzes who were on the mountain how little respect he had for the chimeras and for the punishments of Sannō, the second thing he did was to burn all the temples of this idol that were down at the foot of the mountain: he also destroyed seven universities of which nothing remained. Then deploying his army of 30,000 men in the form of a ring around the mountain, he gave the order to advance to the top. The bonzes began to resist with their weapons and wounded about 150 soldiers. But they were unable to cope with such a fierce assault and were all put to the sword, along with their Sakamoto men, women and children.

Nobunaga planned to attack the Azai clan again in 1572 but Takeda Shingen would not allow it. Joining Ashikaga Yoshiaki's cause, Shingen broke the alliance with Nobunaga in 1565 and attacked his eastern flank. In late 1572 the Takeda clan's army defeated Nobunaga at the Battle of Mikatagahara in Tōtōmi. Fortunately for Nobunaga, Shingen died the following year, causing the shōgun's situation to be heavily resented.

On his return to Kyoto in 1573 after being in Tōtōmi, Nobunaga confronted not only the shōgun but also the inhabitants of the capital, from whom he demanded payment of a large military tribute as a symbol of obedience. When the inhabitants refused he set fire to parts of the city. Yoshiaki called on nearby daimyos and religious authorities to take up arms against Nobunaga, while he fortified himself south of Kyoto awaiting reinforcements. Nobunaga easily defeated Yoshiaki and spared his life, condemning him to exile. Only a week after succeeding in the removal of the shōgun Yoshiaki, Oda Nobunaga managed to convince the emperor to change the name of the era to "Tenshō", as a symbol of the establishment of a new political system.

The month after he deposed Ashikaga Yoshiaki, Nobunaga headed back to Ōmi for the last time.

Any trace of these clans disappeared when Nobunaga besieged the Odani and Ichijō no tani castles.

As Nobunaga's soldiers approached Odani Castle, Azai Nagamasa requested reinforcements from Asakura Yoshikage. As the Asakura clan soldiers set out southward, Nobunaga intercepted them and easily defeated them at their Echizen headquarters, Ichijō no tani, whereupon Yoshikage committed seppuku. After his victory he headed to Tōtōmi, where he also easily defeated the Azai clan. There, both Nagamasa and his father committed seppuku, Nagamasa's mother was killed after her fingers were removed and her son was also executed. Nagamasa's wife (Nobunaga's sister) and his three daughters were taken to Owari. Several days later, the heads of Azai Nagamasa and Asakura Yoshikage were exposed in Kyoto.

As a conclusion to those four years of fighting, no other daimyō of the Sengoku period faced so many challenges and such disparate opponents in such a short period of time. Nobunaga's troops had to face two clans that had severed relations with them-the Azai and Takeda-as well as other clans and religious groups that confronted them in the triangle between Echizen, Settsu and Tōtōmi.

De facto government

Yoshiaki's exile left Nobunaga as the central figure in the government of Japan. During the years following 1573 Nobunaga approached the throne and was promoted as Sangi, Gondainagon, Ukon'e no Daishō, Naidaijin and became Udaijin in 1577. Also from 1573 he took charge of the capital, where he appointed his own deputy, Murai Sadahiko, as magistrate.

In 1578 he renounced all titles conferred and requested that they be transferred to his son.

In late 1575 Nobunaga delegated control of the clan to his son Nobutada and appointed him daimyō of Mino and Owari provinces, whereupon he occupied Gifu Castle. In 1576 he ordered the construction of a new fortress for his own use at Azuchi in Ōmi Province. Azuchi's location, between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, had the advantage of easy access to the Inland Sea as well as to the eastern part of Japan, while being at an optimal distance from the country's capital: it was close enough to respond quickly to any armed uprising but far enough away to avoid the constant conflicts that plagued Kyoto.

Nobunaga ordered the construction of his new castle on top of a mountain called Azuchiyama, which was right on the shores of Lake Biwa. The keep or tenshu was completed in 1579, when it became his official residence, although work continued on the complex until the day of his death.

The castle, finely decorated and with majestic gardens, had a special hall whose purpose was to receive imperial visits. The tenshu, six stories high, was covered with tatamis, the pillars had a lacquer finish or were covered with gold leaf, and the walls, painted by Kanō Eiruko, had motifs of Chinese emperors, disciples of Shakyamuni, falcons, dragons, plums and tigers.

The castle definitely revolutionized the way Japanese fortifications were built at the time, being the first hirayamahiro, or castle built on a plain on top of a mountain.

After his Ōmi campaign, Nobunaga continued to consolidate his power in the region, so he sent Shibata Katsuie to the Hokuriku region, Tokugawa Ieyasu continued the fight against the Takeda clan to the east, Akechi Mitsuhide moved to the San'in provinces to the west, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi began marching through the San'yōdō to the southwest.

Nobunaga finally conquered Settsu, the last of Japan's ancient provinces, while Katsuie took Wakasa, Noto, Kaga and part of Etchū. Mitsuhide and his men entered Tanba, Tango, Tajima, Inaba, and a portion of Hōki. Hideyoshi advanced from Harima toward Bizen, Mimasaka, and Bitchū. For his part, leyasu annexed the former Takeda clan domains of Kai, Suruga, Shinano and part of Kōzuke. In total, Nobunaga controlled 31 of Japan's 66 provinces.

Fighting against the Takeda clan had stopped in 1573 with the death of Takeda Shingen, but a year later the clan's heir, Takeda Katsuyori, attacked both Tokugawa's Mikawa domain and Nobunaga's Mino, who was forced to send some generals from other fronts to defend his province.

In 1575 forces of the Takeda clan, commanded by Takeda Katsuyori besieged Nagashino Castle, which was guarded by Torii Sune'emon. Sune'emon requested the help of Ieyasu and Nobunaga, who sent troops to his aid.

Of the 15,000 soldiers who had participated in the siege of the castle, 12,000 took part in the ensuing battle, while Nobunaga-Ieyasu's army numbered 38,000 men. Nobunaga had 3000 arquebusiers at his disposal, so he decided to position himself about 100 meters away from a small river called Rengogawa, and built a palisade about 2100 meters long, made of loose picket fences with some gaps from which to counterattack.

The Takeda clan cavalry decided to go to meet Nobunaga's troops, which they sighted at a distance of 200 meters. Katsuyori, despite having seen that the enemy had a large number of firearms, decided to attack confident that it had rained a day earlier, so he thought that most of them would be useless, plus he was confident in the speed of his cavalry charge. At 6 a.m. on June 28, 1575 Katsuyori gave the order to move forward, slowly crossing the river. When they reached the other bank they quickly increased speed, but when they reached approximately 50 meters from the fence, the Oda clan arquebusiers began firing in rounds, causing a large number of casualties instantly. The Takeda clan samurai who were not hit by the bullets then faced ashigaru soldiers armed with 5.6-meter-long spears, as well as other samurai with shorter spears.

The battle continued until the afternoon, when Katsuyori ordered a retreat and his remaining troops were pursued. In all, about 10,000 Takeda clan soldiers, 54 of the 97 leaders, as well as eight veteran generals, part of the "Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen", were killed during the engagement.

After the victory at Nagashino it still took seven years for the troops of the Oda clan and the Tokugawa clan to regain the lost territories, enter the Takeda domain and force the surrender of Katsuyori, who committed suicide in 1582. When they finally defeated the Takeda clan, which was able to resist the attacks for so long mainly because they had allied with the Uesugi clan in an anti-Oda coalition, Ieyasu absorbed the domains that had belonged to them.

Other of his main enemies were the Ikkō-Ikki warrior monks, members of the Buddhist sect of the Jōdo Shinshū. With the Ikkō-Ikki Nobunaga maintained a twelve-year rivalry. Since the Sengoku period this group had become the third political force in the country, and had even expelled the ruling daimyō and formed a government in the territory composed of an alliance of commoners and farmers who shared the same religious ideas.

Nobunaga and his vassals took some of their fortresses: in 1574 that of Ise, in 1575 those of Echizen and Owari, and that of Kii in 1577. The Ikkō-Ikki of Osaka proved a difficult opponent to defeat, and Nobunaga devoted ten years to the longest siege in the history of Japan: the siege of the fortress Ishiyama Hongan-ji.

Numerous believers throughout the country, some daimyos such as Mōri Terumoto, and even the deposed shōgun Yoshiaki helped defend the fortress, but Nobunaga managed to overcome the defenses by blockading Osaka Bay after several naval battles against the fleet of the Mōri clan. In 1580 the abbot offered his surrender, which was negotiated, and is virtually the only such surrender in Nobunaga's wars. When Ishiyama surrendered, Nobunaga sent the abbot through a member of the court, Konoe Sakihisa, an extraordinary oath:

The most respected and famous ninja were those of Iga and Ueno, who were hired by different daimyos between 1485 and 1581, until in that year Nobunaga undertook a campaign to attack their lands. The attack was so swift that about 4,000 of them were killed and the survivors had to flee to other provinces. Some were lucky enough to reach the province of Mikawa, where Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered that they be treated with total respect, so they became vassals of the Tokugawa clan, ending their days as mercenaries.

Honnō-ji incident

By 1582 Nobunaga dominated almost the entire central part of Japan as well as its two main roads: the Tōkaidō and the Nakasendō, so he decided to extend his rule westward. This task was entrusted to two of his main generals: Toyotomi Hideyoshi would pacify the southern part of the west coast of the Seto Inland Sea, in Honshū, while Mitsuhide Akechi, another of his trusted generals, would go along the northern coast of the Sea of Japan. During the summer of the same year, Hideyoshi was held up in the siege of Takamatsu Castle, which was controlled by the Mōri clan.

Hideyoshi requested reinforcements from Nobunaga, who ordered Mitsuhide to go ahead and then join them. Mitsuhide, halfway there, decided to turn back to Kyoto, where Nobunaga had decided to stay at Honnōji Temple with only his personal guard. Mitsuhide Akechi, who accused Nobunaga of causing his mother's death, attacked the temple and set it on fire in what became known as the "Honnōji Incident," where Nobunaga died committing seppuku. His faithful attendant Mōri Ranmaru died defending his lord, along with others loyal to Nobunaga.

One of the accounts of the event again comes from Luis Frois, who was near the scene:

During the "Honnō-ji Incident," Hideyoshi was besieging Takamatsu Castle and quickly received the news of his lord's death, so he immediately made a truce with the Mōri clan and returned to Kyoto in a hurry. The armies of the newly self-appointed shōgun Akechi Mitsuhide and Hideyoshi's army met on the banks of the Yodo River, very close to a small village called Yamazaki, after which the clash is named. Hideyoshi was victorious and Mitsuhide was forced to escape. During his escape a group of peasants killed him, thus ending his rule of only 13 days.

Avenging the death of his former lord gave Hideyoshi the long-awaited opportunity to become the highest military authority in the land, and for the next two years he fought and defeated the rivals who opposed him. In 1585, having secured control of the center of the country, he began to advance westward, beyond the limits that Nobunaga had managed to reach. In 1591 Hideyoshi had succeeded in unifying the country, so he decided to conquer China.

Nobunaga is one of the most important and controversial figures in the history of Japan, considered one of the greatest samurai commanders. Even today there are debates among scholars and those interested in the history of the Sengoku period about his figure. It is common to find adjectives referring to him as "authoritarian leader", "cunning" and "ruthless", due to actions such as the one that took place on Mount Hiei, or because during his conquests he used to exterminate the defeated, massacring his victims by the thousands.

For their part, the Portuguese Jesuits with whom he had contact, such as Luis Frois, assured that he believed himself to be a deity, describing him as a rational and fearless person, who was vividly curious about their customs.

His entry into the city of Kyoto marked the end of the Ashikaga shogunate and the Sengoku period, and consequently the beginning of the Azuchi-Momoyama period, which takes its name from Nobunaga's Azuchi Castle and Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Fushimi-Momoyama Castle.

Three great unifiers of Japan

After the chaotic Sengoku period, a process of unification of the country began, ending the frequent wars between the different daimyos. Oda Nobunaga is cited as the first to undertake the tasks of unification, followed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who continued the war of pacification to the west, and ending with Tokugawa Ieyasu, who established the Tokugawa shogunate, during which there was almost absolute peace in the country, known as Pax Tokugawa.

About their roles in that task, there is a Japanese saying: "Nobunaga mixed the ingredients, Hideyoshi baked the cake and Ieyasu ate it".

In relation to his personality there is a famous haiku, where the three supposedly meet to discuss what to do if a cuckoo in a cage does not want to sing. According to the fable, Nobunaga says "If the cuckoo does not sing, I will kill it"; Hideyoshi "If the cuckoo does not want to sing, I will make it sing"; Ieyasu "If the cuckoo does not sing, then I will wait".


Nobunaga abolished border tolls and developed roads, which helped both the merchant and military classes. Merchants in particular were allowed free transit in the provinces he controlled without any interference. The Nobunagakō ki records this measure:

He also abolished the special privileges of some markets and guilds, allowing the free market. He also freed the markets from numerous taxes that had previously been imposed on them by nobles and members of the court, although he concentrated their activity in the castle-cities that he developed.

In another of his attempts to concentrate commercial activity in Azuchi, he ordered the Nakasendō to be re-drawn so that this road ran through the city.

The economic and urban development bases created by Nobunaga were later used by Hideyoshi.

Culture and arts

Nobunaga was a patron of the arts. He greatly supported the development of the tea ceremony. In 1568 he launched the meibutsu gari or "hunt for famous tea items," for which he paid (or confiscated) and then flaunted them at banquets or special gatherings. Sen no Rikyū, a master of the tea ceremony in Sakai, was hired by Nobunaga.

Azuchi was the birthplace of Momoyama Art. Interestingly, the destruction of the great monasteries led to the development of a new tradition in painting away from the standards of religion. The main representative of this new movement was the Kanō school of Kanō Eitoku, who was in charge of decorating the interior of the rooms of the tenshu of Azuchi Castle, as well as his adopted son Sanraku.

Nobunaga also made important contributions to the Nō (能, 'Nō'?), to which he frequently resorted.

Relationship with the emperor

Shortly after his victory over Saitō Yoshitatsu, Nobunaga met with an ambassador from Emperor Ōgimachi with the intention of discussing the state of imperial properties in the provinces of Mino and Owari, as well as the possibility of funding the cost of repairing the imperial palace and the expenses of the crown prince's coming of age ceremony. Four days later the emperor replied:

After 1573 Nobunaga remained close to the imperial throne (which he dominated through financial aid, in an act of both condescension and homage), receiving various titles from the court, which granted them in an attempt to fill the power vacuum caused by the deposition of the last shōgun Ashikaga.

In 1568 and 1569 he financed the expenses of Prince Takakura's coming-of-age ceremony and began the reconstruction of the palace complex. In 1575 he allocated land to the imperial family of eleven districts in Yamashiro, whose annual income allowed the financial solvency of the throne to begin to be restored. Nobunaga restored the finances of the emperor and the court, who had lost their income and their privileged position in the old Kyoto-based hierarchy.

He did not want to be bound by the restrictions of the hierarchical court system but sought more freedom of action, so in 1578 he renounced the titles he had received on the grounds that he would resume his service to the throne when "everything within the four seas was pacified."

While building Azuchi Castle, he built a residence in Kyoto (Nijō gosho), which served as a meeting place with the court, but in 1579 he gave it to the crown prince.

In 1581 he received a message from the court requesting him to accept the post of minister of the left (sadaijin). Nobunaga replied that he would like the emperor to abdicate and that he would provide the resources for the ascension ceremony of Imperial Prince Kotohito, only then would he accept the position.

Shortly before the Honnō-ji incident, court ambassadors offered him the title of Daijō Daijin, kanpaku or even shōgun. Nobunaga declined and a month later died without giving his reasons.

After 1573 Nobunaga was promoted several times, first receiving the title of Sangi (参議, 'Sangi'? Alderman), later Gondainagon (権大納言, 'Gondainagon'? Alderman to Chief of Right State), Ukon'e no daishō (右近衛大将, 'Ukon'e no daishō'? General of the Imperial Guard of the Right), Naidaijin (内大臣, 'Naidaijin'? Minister of the Interior), Udaijin (右大臣, 'Udaijin'? Minister of the Right) in 1577, and shortly thereafter was promoted to Shōnii (正二位, 'Shōnii'? Second rank, first class).

Posthumously he was honored with the titles of Juichii (従一位, 'Juichii'? First rank, second class), Daijō Daijin (太政大臣, 'Daijō Daijin'? Grand Minister of State) and Shōichii (正一位, 'Shōichii'?), the highest rank given to a courtier.

Relationship with the shogunate

The Ashikaga shogunate had been dominated for several generations, first by the Hosokawa clan and then by the Miyoshi clan, who had had the 13th shōgun, Yoshiteru, killed and imposed Yoshihide as his successor. Another possible candidate for the government was Ashikaga Yoshiaki, who was then a Buddhist monk who managed to escape in order to find someone to support him in his cause. After seeking out the daimyos of Ōmi, Kōzuke, Noto and Echizen, he sought out Nobunaga, who agreed to support him and took control of Kyoto to secure "the emperor's interests." Once Nobunaga had the situation under control in the capital, Emperor Ōgimachi appointed Yoshiaki shōgun.

Yoshiaki immediately wanted to appoint Nobunaga kanrei or vice-shōgun but the latter did not agree to subordinate himself to the shōgun and in 1569 issued a series of regulations for all those in the service of the shogunate, as well as a series of judicial procedures, which were to be conducted from the residence Nobunaga built for Yoshiaki.

In 1570 the shōgun signed a series of articles drafted by Nobunaga, by which he accepted his guardianship, so that the shōgun's role was practically limited to ceremonial matters:

Yoshiaki then began to plot against him and contacted some daimyos with the intention of forming an anti-Nobunaga front. Takeda Shingen of Kai, Asakura Yoshikage of Echizen, Azai Nagamasa of Ōmi and the Ikki of Hongan-ji responded to the call, and Nobunaga confronted them between 1570 and 1573.

In early November 1572 Nobunaga made public a letter with 17 complaints against the shōgun because he suspected that the shōgun was raising funds to carry out military action against him, emphasizing his "improper" and "scandalous" behavior.

2. You have sent letters with your signature to several provinces, requesting horses and so on. You should have foreseen to consider how such behavior would be thought of. In cases where you were required to issue orders, however, I had indicated to you beforehand that you had to inform Nobunaga and that I would add my consent. You agreed, but do not act accordingly I find this incorrect.

In 1573 Nobunaga finally confronted the shōgun. On April 4 the two came to an apparent reconciliation after Nobunaga ordered the destruction of a castle that Yoshiaki had secretly ordered built in Ishiyama. Yoshiaki continued the plot, so Nobunaga arrived outside Kyoto in early July, camped at Myokoku-ji, arrested the court members for conspiracy, and had Yoshiaki arrested at Wakae Castle after easily defeating him. Nobunaga spared his life and sentenced him to exile.

Officially, Yoshiaki's rule ended in 1588 when he resigned from office, although most historians claim that the shogunate ended in the same year, as it did de facto.

Relationship with Westerners

Unlike his distaste for esoteric Buddhism, Nobunaga was fascinated by Christianity, so he welcomed Jesuit missionaries, whom he allowed to preach in his domain, although he himself never converted. As a result, he was the first Japanese to appear in Western histories.

Nobunaga showed interest in foreign technology, especially the Portuguese arquebuses that had arrived in Japan years earlier. From 1549 he began to acquire these weapons, and in that year he bought 500, with which he equipped his troops. His soldiers quickly began to master the techniques necessary to use the weapons skillfully, such as firing in sequence instead of firing simultaneously. He also organized his army into troops and abandoned the old ritual of samurai warfare, where the highest-ranking warriors of both sides were introduced before the start of the encounter.

Finally, Nobunaga was the first in Japan to implement iron plating on his ships, which made them unbeatable.

The Portuguese missionary Luis Frois described Nobunaga in a letter sent to Rome in 1569 as follows.

Mitsuhide's betrayal

Akechi Mitsuhide's motives for betraying Nobunaga, who was one of his most trusted generals, are not known. One of the most widespread versions is that in 1579 Mitsuhide captured Yakami Castle, taking Hatano Hideharu's mother hostage. Nobunaga had her crucified anyway, so the surviving vassals killed Akechi's mother.

Other versions are that Mitsuhide was tired of the public humiliations Nobunaga subjected him to or that Mitsuhide simply wanted to rule Japan on his own.


According to some accounts, Nobunaga is said to have performed a portion of the play Nō Atsumori the morning before leaving Kiyosu Castle for the battle of Okehazama. As his wife Nōhime played a hand drum, he recited the following excerpt.

Eiraku Tsūhō

One of the nobori used by Nobunaga was the Eiraku Tsūhō (永楽通宝, 'Eiraku Tsūhō'?), which was in fact the name of a coin. It is said that the morning before leaving for the battle of Okehazama, Nobunaga set out with some of his closest vassals to the Atsuta temple, where they offered prayers to the gods. When the bells rang, Nobunaga assured them that the gods had heard their prayers, so he then asked the gods to send him a sign that they would be victorious. He then took a handful of coins and threw them, all of which landed on their faces. At such an event, all those present interpreted that they were leaving for battle with the backing of the gods. It was around this time that Nobunaga effectively began to use the Eiraku Tsūhō as a banner.

The death of Kenshin

For a long time, one of the most widespread myths had to do with the death of one of the most powerful daimyos: that of Uesugi Kenshin. Because his death occurred at an extremely critical moment in Japanese history and was also quite opportune for Nobunaga's political and military aspirations, the idea spread that it had been the work of a ninja sent by him.

It is said that while Kenshin was in the latrine, a ninja sent by Nobunaga was inside the pit waiting for the right moment to attack him. According to legend, just at the crucial moment, the ninja thrust a sword or spear into his anus. This myth comes from a compilation of the clan's history called Kenshin Gunki, which stated: "On the ninth day of the third month (Uesugi Kenshin) had a severe stomachache in the toilet. Unfortunately this persisted until the thirteenth day when he died." Beyond the myth, an entry in Kenshin's diary, written about a month before the incident, gives a clear clue as to what happened to him in reality. Kenshin made an entry in which he related that he was very thin and felt a pain in his chest like a "steel ball," so many historians have deduced that Kenshin actually died from stomach cancer, a very common ailment in Japan.

Legend of Ichi-Hime

Oda Nobunaga was a descendant of one of the branches of the Oda clan, which despite being family maintained a strong rivalry. The first records of documents written by Nobunaga date from 1549, when he was only 14 or 15 years old. One of them is signed by Fujiwara Nobunaga (藤原信長, Fujiwara Nobunaga?), so one of the theories about the origin of the clan is linked to the Fujiwara clan. On the other hand, as the years passed Nobunaga claimed to be a descendant of the Taira clan, a version that agrees with the official clan record (although the same was adjusted by Nobunaga).

Nobunaga claimed to be a descendant of "Oda" Chikazane, who was presumed to be the son of Taira Sukemori, second son of Taira Shigemori, who in turn was the son and heir of Taira Kiyomori.

After Nobunaga received the title of Udaijin from the emperor, he received no further appointments and was apparently not interested in them, including the title of shōgun, the highest military appointment of his time, which required to be a descendant of the Minamoto clan, a legendary rival of the Taira clan. During his time there was a concept known as Genpei Kōtai Shisō, according to which the two most powerful clans in history-Minamoto and Taira-were considered to gain influence and power alternately. It is likely that Nobunaga linked his background to the Taira precisely because the Ashikaga were descendants of the Minamoto, in a message to the society of the time that he would wrest power from them and take it from the ongoing shogunate.

Immediate family

Nobunaga had no offspring with Nōhime, daughter of Saitō Dōsan, although he did have several sons and daughters with his concubines, Kitsuno and Lady Saka.

Other family members

Oichi, Nobunaga's sister, had three daughters, all of whom married important figures of the time:


Nobunaga had a centralizing view of power, so he retained control of the largest portion of his conquests, using Azuchi Castle as a base in the province of Ōmi and part of Mino and Owari. The remaining lands he divided among his most trusted vassals, among whom were his sons and ten other vassals.

Nobunaga's high command also included Tokugawa Ieyasu, although he played the role of ally rather than vassal.

One of Hideyoshi's first actions in avenging Nobunaga's death was to rebuild the Honnō-ji in a different location, where a cenotaph to Nobunaga was erected. In Azuchi, on the site of the castle built by Nobunaga, there is also another funerary monument, which overlooks Lake Biwa.

Nobunaga was deified at Kenkun Shrine (建勲神社, Kenkun-jinja?), located north of Kyoto and where a festival is held in his honor every October 19.

In Japan you can find some statues in places related to the life of this character. Some of them are:

Nobunaga continually appears in various media, usually treated as a villain or even a demonic character, although he is sometimes painted in a better light.

Film and television

Nobunaga frequently appears in NHK's Taiga dramas, annual television series about historical figures. Two of the specials in which he appears as the main character are Oda Nobunaga and Nobunaga King of Zipangu. In the 2002 series Toshiie to matsu: kaga hyakumangoku monogatari, actor Takashi Sorimachi brought the character to life.

In Akira Kurosawa's film Kagemusha, Nobunaga appears as one of Takeda Shingen's enemies, who fakes his death to discourage a possible attack on his clan.

In the 1908 film Honnoji gassen, Fukunasuke Nakamura played the role of Nobunaga, while in the 1989 film, Ken Watanabe played the same character.

Some other films in which he is portrayed are:

Nobunaga has also appeared in anime series such as Sengoku Collection, Nobunaga Sensei no Osanazuma, Sengoku Basara, Oda Nobuna no Yabou, Nobunagun, Nobunaga the Fool, Inazuma Eleven GO Chrono Stone, Nobunaga Concerto, Yasuke and Drifters. In the anime Sengoku Chōjū Giga, he is satirized with a zoomorphic appearance.

Video games

In the Onimusha video game series (saga that began with Onimusha: Warlords) Nobunaga is mortally wounded by an arrow after his victory at Okehazama, but makes a deal with the "Demon King" to return to earth in demon form to conquer Japan. Nobunaga appears again as a villain in Capcom's Sengoku Basara video game. In this video game as well as in the anime derived from it, Nobunaga appears with a spiked armor, sword and shotgun, in addition to lightning and thunder wherever he appears. In the Samurai Warriors series he appears as a character that can be used, where his brutal side is emphasized and he is called "Demon King".

In Kessen 3 Nobunaga appears as the protagonist in a much more idealized version of his persona, presenting Mitsuhide, his assassin, as the antagonist. Nobunaga appears briefly in one of the campaigns of the game Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, where he is killed. Subsequently, the player takes control of Hideyoshi's troops with the goal of destroying three castles to avenge his death.

In Civilization V he appears as the leader of the Japanese civilization.

In the video game Shogun 2 Total War the player can choose the Oda clan with Nobunaga at the head. It also highlights in this same game the option to participate in historical battles of this period, one of them is the famous battle of Okehazama in which Nobunaga heroically defeats with his meager army to the confident Imagawa Yoshimoto, lord of Suruga.

Some other video games are:

Comics and Books

In Drifters Manga, Nobunaga appears as one of the main characters of the story, being part of a large group of historical characters who have been taken to another world, which has been there for 6 months, while in his homeland, 18 years have passed since his disappearance.

In the book Taiko. The skillful monkey-face by Eiji Yoshikawa tells the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and, consequently, also the vicissitudes of his lord; such as the battle of Okehazama, the assault on Mount Hiei and the climb of both to power.

The anime Nobunaga the Fool (ノブナガ・ザ・ガ・フール, Nobunaga za Fūru?) is dedicated to this historical character.

In the anime Hunter x Hunter, one of the members of the Gen'ei Ryodan is named Nobunaga Hazama, who is a swordsman, a clear reference to the character.

In the books Werewolf: The Apocalypse the hakken, a branch of the shadow lords, who dance the black spiral serve Nobunaga's armies.

In the yonkoma manga Nobunaga no Shinobi, Nobunaga hires the services of a girl ninja, Chidori, whom he saved from drowning.

In the Manga kochouki:Wakaki Nobunaga Oda Nobunaga lives through the Sengoku period of civil war where no one knows what will happen tomorrow. Always by his side is his foster brother Ikeda Tsuneoki. They struggle to survive. This is a new story woven around Nobunaga and the characters that surrounded him that maintains the historical points but surpasses them.


In the city of Gifu, a festival in honor of Nobunaga is held on the first Saturday and Sunday of October. In this festival, Nobunaga is honored through a ceremony at the Sofuku temple, a procession where the inhabitants dress up as him or as Daitō Dōsan and a parade.

In Kyoto, the Amida-dera temple holds services in his honor every year. Although it is usually closed to the public, it opens its doors for the event. The Honnō-ji also holds a parade every June 2 where people dress up as Nobunaga or samurai of the time. Since 2005, tourists and the general public have been allowed to participate.


  1. Oda Nobunaga
  2. Oda Nobunaga
  3. Spackman, 2009, p. 369 da como cierta esta fecha, aunque la mayoría de las bibliografías omiten dar este dato, mostrando solamente el año.
  4. (Segundo día del sexto mes de Tenshu 10) Elison y Smith, 1987, p. xiii.
  5. ^ a b Jansen, Marius (2000). The Making of Modern Japan, p. 11.
  6. ^ a b c Turnbull, Stephen (1987). Battles of the Samurai. Arms and Armour Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-85368-826-6.
  7. a b Jansen, Marius. (2000). The Making of Modern Japan, p. 11.
  8. Takeucsi, Rizó. (1985). Nihonshi shōjiten, p. 233.
  9. a b c Gifu City turista térképe. Gifu Lively City Public Corporation, 2007.
  10. [1]. Samurai. Japan Reference. 2008.
  11. Самурайский полководец Ода Нобунага 1534—1582 гг. (неопр.). Дата обращения: 26 августа 2016. Архивировано из оригинала 14 сентября 2016 года.
  12. История стран зарубежной Азии в средние века, 1970, с. 199–201.
  13. 1 2 3 История стран зарубежной Азии в средние века, 1970, с. 173–174.

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