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.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chosokabe Motochika: The Little Princess's first battle - A Translation

Here is a quick and easy translation of the events surrounding the first battle of the Sengoku Daimyo Chosokabe Motochika, from Jinbutsu Tanbou - Nihon no Rekishi #5 Sengoku no Busho, Tokyo, Japan, 1982, for your enjoyment:

Chosokabe Motochika
Chosokabe Motochika was born in Tenbun 7 (1538), in the middle of the Sengoku period. At this time in his home province of Tosa, there were many small clans defending their territories, and there were continual battles. Motochika’s father Kunichika was based in Okô castle, and was part of one of these "small clans", however he was an exceptional strategist, and during Motochika’s childhood, Kunichika defeated neighboring small clans one after the other.

He gradually expanded his holdings in the center of Tosa province. In Eiroku 3 (1560) Kunichika made a surprise attack on Nagahama castle held by a rival clan, the Motoyama. When word reached Motoyama Shigetoki, he was greatly angered and gathered 2,500 troops from Asakura castle in order to take Nagahama back. Kunichika left Okô castle to intercept Shigetoki’s army with 1,000 men. This was Motochika’s first battle. He was 23 years old. This was a very late first battle for a son of a Sengoku warrior, however there was a reason for this.

Motochika was born with a pale complexion and a meek face, and had a quiet, reserved demeanor. Because of this, his father’s rough warrior vassals referred derisively to him as "the little princess". Kunichika also felt that Motochika was an effeminate child, and so waited to bring him to the battlefield. When Motochika left Okô castle on the way to the battle, he asked his vassal Jinzenji Bungo for tips on how to use a spear and how to lead an army. Motochika joined Kunichika’s army with 20 mounted men.

At Nagahama, both armies collided. A long and bloody battle ensued. Finally, both armies pulled back momentarily to regroup. At this time Kunichika remembered his son’s participation, asking about his location on the battlefield, but was unable to find him until a vassal pointed him out in the forest shade about 200 meters from the left wing of the army formation. Motochika was gathered there with his 20 horsemen. It appeared that they had not even fought yet. Kunichika was recorded as referring to them as "lazy fools".

At this time, Motochika’s isolated group was noticed by a force of 100 mounted Motoyama warriors. With a battle cry, the 100 Motoyama warriors charged. It did not appear that Motochika’s small force would stand a chance against them. However, Motochika’s battle cry was heard across the battlefield, "Attack! Attack!" Motochika spurred his horse, charging out ahead of the rest of his small force into the oncoming rush of horsemen, wielding his spear with great skill and speed, fighting with the ferocity of a wild lion. The 20 men with him were encouraged, and fought a hard and bloody battle. Kunichika stood in his stirrups, yelling for attack. The Chosokabe army responded by surging forward. The Chosokabe army, strengthened by the surprising effort in battle of the "little princess", was unstoppable. The Motoyama troops were completely crushed, fleeing back as far as the main encampment.  The pursuers swept away everything in their path, easily crushing the headquarters. Motoyama Shigetoki fled to Urado castle, barely escaping with his life, and presumably Chosokabe Motochika was never called a "little princess" again.