Monday, January 24, 2011

A Translation from the Shinchokoki - The Battle of San no Yama-Akatsuka

Here is my translation of the battle of San no Yama-Akatsuka, as related in the Shinchokoki, a record of the Oda clan from 1544 to the death of Oda Nobunaga. It was written by Ôta Gyûichi, a vassal of Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The Shinchôkôki is considered a reliable historical account of the events described, and has yet to be translated into English, although excerpts appear in various scholarly works.

The Battle of San no Yama-Akatsuka

Oda Nobunaga
In the fourth month, 17th day of 1552, Oda Kazusa no suke Nobunaga was 19 years old (by contemporary Japanese reckoning). The lord of Narumi castle was Yamaguchi Samanosuke Noritsugu, and his son was Kurôjirô (Noriyoshi), who was 20 years old.

They were both watched carefully by lord Oda Bingo no kami Nobuhide, and after his death, they immediately attempted a rebellion, invading Owari with Suruga forces. It was an unpardonable act. Yamaguchi Kurôjirô was left guarding Narumi castle. Yamaguchi Samanosuke had a strategic fortress built at Kasadera, and deployed Kazurayama Nagayoshi, Okabe Gorbei Motonobu, Miura Samanosuke Yoshinari, Iinô Buzen no kami, and Asai Koshirô. Yamaguchi Samanosuke went to Nakamura, building a fortress in preparation for a seige.

Lord Oda Kozuke no suke Nobunaga was nineteen years old, with an army of 800. He passed through the village of Nakane on the way to Konarumi, and placed his troops on San no Yama. The 20 year old Yamaguchi Kurôjirô was approximately 15 Chô (1.6 Kilometers) to the East of San no Yama. He departed for Akatsuka, which was approximately 15 or 16 Chô (1.6 to 1.7 Kilometers) to the North of Narumi castle, with 1,500 troops. The vanguard was made up mainly of Ashigaru, led by Shimizu Matajûrô, Tsuge Sôjûrô, Nakamura Yohachirô, Ogiwara Sukejûrô, Narita Yoroku, Narita Sukeshirô, Shibayama Jintarô, Nakajima Matajirô, Sobue Kyûsuke, Yokoe Magohachi, and Arakawa Matazô, and closed in on Akatsuka.
Seeing the situation from San no Yama, Kozuke no suke Nobunaga immediately dispatched troops to Akatsuka. The ashigaru vanguard included Arakawa Yojûrô, Arakawa Wakiemon, Hachiya Hannya no suke, Hasegawa Aisuke, Naitô Shôsuke, Aoyama Tôroku, Toda Sôjirô, and Katô Sukenojô.

When the armies were approximately five or six ken (9-11 meters) apart, the powerful archers on both sides fired arrows. Arakawa Yojûrô was struck deep beneath the visor of his helmet and fell from his horse, dying instantly.  Enemy soldiers immediately grabbed his legs, others grabbed his scabbard, and began to drag him. Yojûrô’s allies grabbed his head and upper body to keep the enemy from taking his body. Yojûrô’s ornamented daito was approximately 1.8 meters long, and the scabbard width measured about 15-18 centimeters. The enemy pulled on the ornamented scabbard, while Yojûrô’s allies pulled the sword, his head and upper body, and pulled his body free of the enemy.

The melee lasted from approximately 10am to noon, with neither side able to get the upper hand. Yamaguchi forces killed that day included Ogiwara Sukejûrô, Nakajima Matajirô, Sobue Kyûsuke, Yokoe Magohachi, and Mizukoshi Sukejûrô.

Because the armies were so close together, no one was able to take the heads of the people they had killed.

Kozuke no suke Nobunaga lost thirty cavalry.

Arakawa Matazô was captured alive by the Oda forces.
Akagawa Heishichi of the Oda forces was captured by the enemy.


  1. Good stuff.

    Are you reading a translation of the Shinchôkôki into modern Japanese, or are you translating directly from the classical? just out of curiosity.

  2. Great stuff. Yours is a lot cleaner than my translation. I love it. Again, awesome!

  3. Basically I was translating the original text, but referring to the modern Japanese translation constantly for reference.

  4. I own three different modern copies. Sakakiyama Jun, Kuwada Tadachika, and Nakagawa Taiko modern translation. My opinion, Sakakiyama Jun's is the easiest to understand.