Oda Nobunaga

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Oda Nobunaga
Portrait of Oda Nobunaga in colour on paper, by Kanō Motohide (1583, in Chōkō-ji, Important Cultural Property)
Chancellor of the Realm
In office
MonarchEmperor Ōgimachi
Preceded byNijō Haruyoshi
Succeeded byKonoe Sakihisa
Head of Oda clan
In office
Preceded byOda Nobuhide
Succeeded byOda Hidenobu
Personal details

23 June 1534
Nagoya, Owari, Japan
Died21 June 1582(1582-06-21) (aged 48)
Honnō-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Domestic partnerKitsuno (concubine)
RelativesLady Otsuya (aunt)
Saitō Dōsan (father-in-law)
Oichi (sister)
Azai Nagamasa (brother-in-law)
Shibata Katsuie (brother-in-law)
Oda Nobuhiro (brother)
Oda Nobuyuki (brother)
Oda Nobukane (brother)
Oda Nagamasu (brother)
Oda Nobuharu (brother)
Oda Nobutoki (brother)
Oda Hidetaka (brother)
Chacha (niece)
Ohatsu (niece)
Oeyo (niece)
Ashikaga Yoshiaki (adopted son)
Nickname(s)"Fool of Owari"
"Demon King"
Military service
AllegianceOda clan
Imperial Court
RankDaimyō, Dainagon, Udaijin, Daijō-daijin
UnitOda clan
CommandsAzuchi Castle
Battles/warsBattle of Akatsuka
Battle of Muraki
Battle of Kiyosu
Battle of Inō
Battle of Ukino
Battle of Okehazama
Mino Campaign
Ise Campaign
Omi Campaign
Siege of Kanegasaki
Battle of Anegawa
Ishiyama Hongan-ji War
Siege of Nagashima
Siege of Mount Hiei
Siege of Ichijodani
Siege of Odani
Battle of Nagashino
Battle of Tedorigawa
Tenshō Iga War
Honnō-ji Incident
see below
Oda Clan Mon (emblem)

Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長, [oda nobɯ(ꜜ)naɡa] ; 23 June 1534 – 21 June 1582) was a Japanese daimyō and one of the leading figures of the Sengoku period. He was the Tenka-bito (天下人, lit.'Tianxia person')[a] and regarded as the first "Great Unifier" of Japan.

Nobunaga was an influential figure in Japanese history and is regarded as one of the three great unifiers of Japan, along with his retainers Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hideyoshi later united Japan in 1591 and invaded Korea a year later. However, he died in 1598, and Ieyasu took power after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, becoming shogun in 1603, and ending the Sengoku period.

Nobunaga was head of the very powerful Oda clan and launched a war against other daimyō to unify Japan in the 1560s. Nobunaga emerged as the most powerful daimyō, overthrowing the nominally ruling shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki and dissolving the Ashikaga Shogunate in 1573. He conquered most of Honshu island by 1580, and defeated the Ikkō-ikki rebels in the 1580s. Nobunaga's rule was noted for innovative military tactics, fostering of free trade, reforms of Japan's civil government, and the start of the Momoyama historical art period, but also for the brutal suppression of those who refused to cooperate or yield to his demands. Nobunaga was killed in the Honnō-ji Incident in 1582, when his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide ambushed him in Kyoto and forced him to commit seppuku. Nobunaga was succeeded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who along with Tokugawa Ieyasu completed his war of unification shortly afterward.

Early life (1534–1551)[edit]

Portrait of Oda Nobunaga in colour on silk (1583, in Kobe City Museum, Important Cultural Property)

Oda Nobunaga was born on 23 June 1534 in Nagoya, Owari Province, and was the heir of Oda Nobuhide, the head of the powerful Oda clan and a deputy shugo (military governor), and his lawful wife Dota Gozen.[2] Nobunaga was previously considered to have been born in Nagoya Castle, but in recent years the theory that he was born in Shobata Castle has become more promising. Nobunaga was given the childhood name of Kippōshi (吉法師), and through his childhood and early teenage years became well known for his bizarre behavior, receiving the name of Owari no Ōutsuke (尾張の大うつけ, The Fool of Owari).[2]

Site of Nagoya Castle (那古野城跡).

Nobunaga was given Nagoya Castle by his father Nobuhide at the age of 8, and lived there for 13 years until he took Kiyosu Castle at the age of 21. He had one or two older brothers, but he or they were illegitimate sons. Therefore, it seems that Nobunaga, he is the second or third son but the legitimate son, was to succeed to the Oda clan and that he was separated from his mother and given special education. Four karō (chief retainers), Hayashi Hidesada, Hirate Masahide, Aoyama Nobumasa, and Naitō Shōsuke (or Katsusuke), were assigned as tutors.[3]

Nobunaga came to manhood and took the name Oda Saburo Nobunaga in 1546. He then attacked Kira and Ohama in Mikawa for his first campaign in 1547.

In 1548 or 1549, Nobuhide made peace with Saitō Dōsan, lord of Mino Province, which had been hostile to Owari through a political marriage between his son Nobunaga and Dōsan's daughter, Nōhime. Nobunaga took Nōhime as his lawful wife, and Dōsan became Nobunaga's father-in-law.[4] Nobunaga also became involved in government affairs at this time.

Unification of Owari (1551–1560)[edit]

Kiyosu Castle (清州城)

Succession crisis[edit]

In 1551, Oda Nobuhide died unexpectedly. It has been said that Nobunaga acted outrageously during his funeral, throwing ceremonial incense at the altar.[5] Although Nobunaga was Nobuhide's legitimate heir, a succession crisis occurred when some of the Oda clan opposed him. Nobunaga, collecting about 1,000 men, suppressed the hostile members of his family and their allies. However, Imagawa Yoshimoto sent an army under the command of Imagawa Sessai. The army laid siege to Anjō castle, where Oda Nobuhiro, the illegitimate son of Nobuhide and eldest brother of Nobunaga, was living. Nobuhiro was trapped but was saved when Nobunaga handed over one of his hostages at Honshōji temple, nine-year-old Matsudaira Takechiyo – later known as Tokugawa Ieyasu – to make up for not lifting the siege of Anjō. Later on, Nobuhiro plotted against Nobunaga with the assistance of Saitō Yoshitatsu, but Nobunaga forgave Nobuhiro after the plot failed.

In early 1552, barely several months after his father's death, one of Oda's senior retainers, Yamaguchi Noritsugu and his son Yamaguchi Noriyoshi defected to the Imagawa clan. In response, Nobunaga attacked Noritsugu, but was repelled by Noriyoshi at Battle of Akatsuka; he retreated and left contested lands in eastern Owari under Imagawa control.[6][7]

Consolidation of clan leadership[edit]

In spring 1552, Nobuhide's younger brother, Oda Nobutomo, attacked Nobunaga domain with the support of Shiba Yoshimune, the official governor of Owari province. Nobunaga repelled it and burned the outskirts of Kiyosu castle.

In 1553, Hirate Masahide, Nobunaga's tutor, committed suicide. It is generally believed that he did so to admonish Nobunaga, but the actual motive is unclear.[b][8]: 68  In the meantime, Shiba Yoshimune informed Nobunaga of a plot of Nobutomo to assassinate him, and later, Oda Nobutomo had Yoshimune put to death. Nobunaga mobilized his forces to blockade Kiyosu castle and waited for the opportunity to attack.

In 1554 Nobunaga defeated the powerful Imagawa clan, whose army had invaded eastern Owari Province, at the Battle of Muraki Castle.[6][7] After recapturing eastern Owari, Nobunaga then turned his attention back to attacking Kiyosu castle,[9]: 276  where he defeated and captured his uncle, Oda Nobutomo, and forced him to commit suicide.

In 1556, Saitō Yoshitatsu raised an army against his father, Saitō Dōsan, and Dōsan was defeated and killed in the Battle of Nagara-gawa. Nobunaga set out to Oura in Mino to rescue his father-in-law, but immediately withdrew upon hearing of Dōsan's death while struggling against the Yoshitatsu's forces. Thereafter, Yoshitatsu became the new lord of Mino.[8]

Nobunaga lost the backing of the Saitō, while Hayashi Hidesada, Hayashi Michitomo, Shibata Katsuie, and others believed that Nobunaga could not unite the Oda clan. They then raised an army to back up his younger brother Nobuyuki (Nobukatsu), who was highly regarded within the Oda clan. Nobunaga won the Battle of Ino and surrounded the besieged Nobuyuki and his men, but at the plea of his birth mother, Dota Gozen, he pardoned his younger brother Nobuyuki and others. Hayashi Hidesada, although his younger brother Michitomo was killed in battle, made a comeback to Nobunaga's first chief retainer, and Shibata Katsuie continued to serve Nobuyuki, but apologized to Nobunaga and pledged his loyalty to him.

In 1557, however, Nobuyuki conspired with Oda Nobuyasu, lord of Iwakura Castle, to plot another rebellion. However, Katsuie Shibata took Nobunaga's side this time and tipped him off. Nobunaga falsely claimed to have fallen ill and had his men kill Nobuyuki, who had come to visit him with their mother, Dota Gozen. It is said that Kawajiri Hidetaka or Ikeda Tsuneoki carried out the murder.[8]: 69 

In 1558, Nobunaga sent an army to protect Suzuki Shigeteru, lord of Terabe Castle, during the Siege of Terabe. Shigeteru had defected to Nobunaga's side from Imagawa Yoshimoto, a daimyō from Suruga Province, one of the most powerful men in the Tōkaidō region.

By 1559, Nobunaga had captured and destroyed Iwakura Castle, eliminated all opposition within the Oda clan, and established his uncontested rule in Owari Province.[9]: 276 

Rise to power (1560–1568)[edit]

Statue of Oda Nobunaga at Kiyosu Castle.

Conflict with Imagawa[edit]

Imagawa Yoshimoto was a long-time opponent of Nobunaga's father, and had sought to expand his domain into Oda territory in Owari. In 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto gathered an army of 25,000 men,[10] and marched toward the capital city of Kyoto, with the pretext of aiding the frail Ashikaga Shogunate. The Matsudaira clan also joined Yoshimoto's forces. The Imagawa forces quickly overran the border fortresses of Washizu, and Matsudaira forces led by Matsudaira Motoyasu took Marune Fortress. Against this, the Oda clan could rally an army of only 2,000 to 3,000 men.[4][11] Some of his advisors suggested that he take refuge at Kiyosu Castle and wait out a siege by the Imagawa, but Nobunaga refused, stating that "only a strong offensive policy could make up for the superior numbers of the enemy", and calmly ordered a counterattack against Yoshimoto.[9]

Battle of Okehazama[edit]

In June 1560, Nobunaga's scouts reported that Yoshimoto was resting at the narrow gorge of Dengaku-Kazama, ideal for a surprise attack and that the Imagawa army was celebrating their victories over the Washizu and Marune fortresses. While Yoshimoto viewed victory ahead, Nobunaga's forces marched to the Atsuta Shrine, a fortified temple overlooking the Imagawa camp. Later, Nobunaga moved to Zensho-ji fort, set up a decoy army there, marched rapidly behind Yoshimoto's camp, and attacked after a terrific thunderstorm. Yoshimoto was killed by two Oda samurai.[12][13] With his victory in this battle, Oda Nobunaga gained greatly in prestige, and many samurai and warlords pledged fealty to him.

Kinoshita Tōkichirō, who would eventually become Toyotomi Hideyoshi, probably participated in the battle, but nothing is recorded from that time. His exploits were first recorded in the Mino Campaign.

Alliance with Matsudaira (later Tokugawa) and Takeda[edit]

Rapidly weakening in the wake of this battle, the Imagawa clan no longer exerted control over the Matsudaira clan. In 1561, an alliance was forged between Oda Nobunaga and Matsudaira Motoyasu (who would become Tokugawa Ieyasu), despite the decades-old hostility between the two clans. Nobunaga also formed an alliance with Takeda Shingen through the marriage of his daughter to Shingen's son.[9]: 277–78 [14]

Mino campaign[edit]

Nobunaga's Tenka Fubu seal

In 1561, Saitō Yoshitatsu, Nobunaga's brother-in-law, died suddenly of illness and was succeeded by his son, Nobunaga's nephew, Saitō Tatsuoki. Yoshitatsu murdered his father and brothers to become daimyo, and Nobunaga had attempted to avenge the murder of his father-in-law numerous times. Nobunaga's nephew Tatsuoki was young and much less effective as a ruler and military strategist than his father and grandfather.[4]: 57  Taking advantage of this situation, Nobunaga moved his base to Komaki Castle and started his campaign in Mino Province, defeating Tatsuoki in both the Battle of Moribe[8]: 216 and the Battle of Jushijo in June that same year.

By convincing Saitō retainers to abandon their incompetent and foolish master, Nobunaga significantly weakened the Saitō clan. In 1564, Oda Nobunaga dispatched his retainer, Kinoshita Tōkichirō, to bribe many of the warlords in the Mino area to support the Oda clan. In 1566, Nobunaga charged Kinoshita with building Sunomata Castle on the bank of the Sai River opposite Saitō territory, to serve as a staging point for the Oda forces, and to intimidate, surprise, and demoralize the enemy.

In 1567, the Mino Triumvirate (西美濃三人衆, Nishi-Mino Sanninshū) was commanded by three samurai generals serving the Saitō clan: Inaba Ittetsu, Andō Michitari, and Ujiie Bokuzen. The triumvirate agreed to change sides and join the forces of Oda Nobunaga. Their combined forces mounted a victorious final attack at the Siege of Inabayama Castle.[9]: 278  After taking possession of the castle, Nobunaga changed the name of both Inabayama Castle and the surrounding town to Gifu. Nobunaga derived the term Gifu from the legendary Mount Qi (岐山 Qi in Standard Chinese) in China, on which the Zhou dynasty is fabled to have started. Nobunaga revealed his ambition to conquer the whole of Japan, and also started using a new personal seal that read Tenka Fubu (天下布武),[9]: 278 [15] literally "All under heaven, spreading military force", or more idiomatically, "All the world by force of arms". Remains of Nobunaga's residence in Gifu can be found today in Gifu Park.[16]

Ise campaign, Omi campaign, and march to Kyoto[edit]

Following Nobunaga's conquest of Mino Province in 1567, Nobunaga sent Takigawa Kazumasu on a campaign comprising two invasions of Ise Province in 1567 and 1568 that defeated numerous families of Ise (Ise was ruled nominally by the Kitabatake clan). Later in 1569, head of Kitabatake clan, Kitabatake Tomonori, adopted Nobunaga’s second son Oda Nobukatsu.

Nobunaga also in an effort to cement an alliance between Nobunaga and rival warlord Azai Nagamasa from Omi Province, Nobunaga arranged for Oichi, his sister, to marry Nagamasa. Nobunaga desired peaceful relations with the Azai clan because of their strategic position between the Oda clan's land and the capital, Kyoto.

In 1568, Ashikaga Yoshiaki and Akechi Mitsuhide, as Yoshiaki's bodyguard, went to Gifu to ask Nobunaga to start a campaign toward Kyoto. Yoshiaki was the brother of the murdered 13th shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate, Yoshiteru, who had been killed by the Miyoshi tannins (three chiefs of the Miyoshi clan, Miyoshi Nagayuki, Miyoshi Masayasu and Iwanari Tomomichi). Yoshiaki wanted revenge against the killers who had already set up a puppet shogun, Ashikaga Yoshihide. Nobunaga agreed to install Yoshiaki as the new shogun, and grasping the opportunity to enter Kyoto, started his campaign. An obstacle in southern Ōmi Province was the Rokkaku clan, led by Rokkaku Yoshikata, who refused to recognize Yoshiaki as shogun and was ready to go to war to defend Yoshihide. In response, Nobunaga launched a rapid attack on Chōkō-ji Castle, driving the Rokkaku clan out of their castles.[9]: 278–79  Other forces led by Niwa Nagahide defeated the Rokkaku on the battlefield and entered Kannonji Castle, before resuming Nobunaga's march to Kyoto. Later in 1570, the Rokkaku tried to retake the castle, but they were driven back by Oda forces led by Shibata Katsuie. The approaching Oda army influenced the Matsunaga clan to submit to the future shogun. The daimyō Matsunaga Hisahide kept his title by making this decision to ally his clan with the shogun.

On November 9, 1568, Nobunaga entered Kyoto, drove out the Miyoshi clan, who had supported the 14th shogun and who fled to Settsu, and installed Yoshiaki as the 15th shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate. However, Nobunaga refused the title of shogun's deputy (Kanrei), or any appointment from Yoshiaki, even though Nobunaga had great respect for the Emperor Ōgimachi.[9]: 279–81 [17]

Unification of Japan (1568–1582)[edit]

Ukiyo-e of Oda Nobunaga by Kuniyoshi Utagawa.

Conflict with Asakura, Ashikaga and Azai[edit]

After installing Yoshiaki as shogun, Nobunaga had evidently pressed Yoshiaki to request all the local daimyō to come to Kyoto and attend a certain banquet. Asakura Yoshikage, head of the Asakura clan and regent of Ashikaga Yoshiaki, refused, an act Nobunaga declared disloyal to both the shogun and the emperor. With this pretext well in hand, Nobunaga raised an army and marched on Echizen.[9]: 281  In early 1570, Nobunaga launched a campaign into the Asakura clan's domain and besieged Kanagasaki Castle. This action made a conflict between Nobunaga and shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki, as their relationship grew difficult, Yoshiaki secretly started an "anti-Nobunaga alliance", conspiring with other daimyō to get rid of Nobunaga. Azai Nagamasa, to whom Nobunaga's sister Oichi was married, broke the alliance with the Oda clan to honor the Azai-Asakura alliance, which had lasted for generations. With the help of the Rokkaku clan, Miyoshi clan, and the Ikkō-ikki, the anti-Nobunaga alliance sprang into full force, taking a heavy toll on the Oda clan. After Nobunaga found himself facing both the Asakura and Azai forces and when defeat looked certain, Nobunaga decided to retreat from Kanagasaki, which he did successfully.

Battle of Anegawa[edit]

In July 1570, the Oda-Tokugawa allies laid siege to Yokoyama Castle and Odani Castle. later, the combined Azai-Asakura force marched out to confront Nobunaga. Nobunaga advanced to the southern bank of the Anegawa River. The following morning, on 30 July 1570, the battle between the Oda and the Azai-Asakura forces began. Tokugawa Ieyasu joined his forces with Nobunaga, with the Oda and Azai clashing on the right while Tokugawa and Asakura grappled on the left. The battle turned into a melee fought in the middle of the shallow Anegawa River. For a time, Nobunaga's forces fought the Azai upstream, while the Tokugawa warriors fought the Asakura downstream. After the Tokugawa forces finished off the Asakura, they turned and hit the Azai's right flank. The troops of the Mino Triumvirate, who had been held in reserve, then came forward and hit the Azai left flank. Soon both the Oda and Tokugawa forces defeated the combined forces of the Asakura and Azai clans.[9]: 282 

In 1573, Nobunaga marched leading 30,000 troops which mainly consisted of the troops of Owari, Mino, and Ise Provinces. He launched the Siege of Ichijōdani Castle and Siege of Odani Castle. Nobunaga successfully destroyed the Azai and Asakura clans by driving them both to the point that the clan leaders committed suicide.[9]: 281, 285–86 [14]: 156 

Ikkō-ikki Campaigns[edit]

Nobunaga faced a significant threat from the Ikkō-ikki, a resistance movement centered around the Jōdo Shinshū sect of Buddhism. The Ikkō-ikki began as a cult association for self-defense, but popular antipathy against the samurai from the constant violence of the Sengoku period caused their numbers to swell. By the time of Nobunaga's rise to power, the Ikkō-ikki was a major organized armed force opposed to samurai rule in Japan. In August 1570, Nobunaga launched the Ishiyama Hongan-ji War against the Ikkō-ikki, while simultaneously fighting against his samurai rivals. In May 1571, Nobunaga besieged Nagashima, a series of Ikkō-ikki fortifications in Owari Province, beginning the Sieges of Nagashima. However, Nobunaga's first siege of Nagashima ended in failure, as his trusted general Shibata Katsuie was severely wounded and many of his samurai were lost before retreating. Despite this defeat, Nobunaga was inspired to launch another siege, the Siege of Mount Hiei.

Siege of Mount Hiei[edit]

The Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei was an issue for Nobunaga. The monastery's sōhei (warrior monks) of the Tendai school were aiding his opponents in the Azai-Asakura alliance and the temple was close to his base of power. In September 1571, Nobunaga preemptively attacked the Enryaku-ji temple, then besieged Mount Hiei and razed it. In the process of making their way to the Enryaku-ji temple, Nobunaga's forces destroyed and burnt all buildings, killing monks, laymen, women, and children and eliminating anyone who had previously escaped their attack. It is said that "The whole mountainside was a great slaughterhouse and the sight was one of unbearable horror."[9]: 284 

Oda Nobunaga's armour.

Siege of Nagashima[edit]

After the success of the Siege of Mount Hiei. In July 1573, Nobunaga besieged Nagashima for a second time, personally leading a sizable force with many arquebusiers. However, a rainstorm rendered his arquebuses inoperable while the Ikkō-ikki's own arquebusiers could fire from covered positions. Nobunaga himself was almost killed and forced to retreat, with the second siege being considered his greatest defeat.

In 1574, Nobunaga launched a third siege of Nagashima as his general Kuki Yoshitaka began a naval blockade and bombardment of Nagashima, allowing him to capture the outer forts of Nakae and Yanagashima as well as part of the Nagashima complex. The sieges of Nagashima finally ended when Nobunaga's men completely surrounded the complex and set fire to it, killing the remaining tens of thousands of defenders and inflicting tremendous losses to the Ikkō-ikki.[8]: 221–25 

Conflict with Mori[edit]

One member of the anti-Nobunaga alliance was the Mōri clan. Before his death, Mōri clan leader Mōri Motonari had declared himself no friend to Nobunaga, and his successor the young Terumoto openly challenged Nobunaga. It happened that the Môri were to be drawn into the Ishiyama Hongan-ji War, Nobunaga's siege of a religious stronghold in Settsu, which he had begun in 1570.

Siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji[edit]

Simultaneously, Nobunaga had been besieging the Ikkō-ikki's main stronghold at Ishiyama Hongan-ji in present-day Osaka. Nobunaga's Siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji began to slowly make some progress, but the Mōri clan of the Chūgoku region broke his naval blockade and started sending supplies into the strongly fortified complex by sea. As a result, in 1577, Nobunaga ordered Takigawa Kazumasu to suppress Ikko-ikki at Kii Province, Hashiba Hideyoshi to conquer the Chūgoku region from the Mori clan, before advancing upon the Mori clan in Nagato Province,[9]: 287, 306  Akechi Mitsuhide to pacify Tanba Province, Kuki Yoshitaka to support attack from the sea, and Nobunaga eventually blocked the Mōri's supply lines.[8]: 228 [9]: 288–89 

In 1580, ten years after the siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji began, the son of Chief Abbot Kōsa surrendered the fortress to Nobunaga after their supplies were exhausted, and they received an official request from the Emperor to do so.[18] Nobunaga spared the lives of Ishiyama Hongan-ji's defenders but expelled them from Osaka and burnt the fortress to the ground. Although the Ikkō-ikki continued to make a last stand in Kaga Province, Nobunaga's capture of Ishiyama Hongan-ji crippled them as a major military force.

Conflict with Takeda[edit]

One of the strongest rulers in the anti-Nobunaga alliance was Takeda Shingen, who used to be an ally of the Oda clan. At the apex of the anti-Nobunaga coalition, in 1572, Takeda Shingen ordered Akiyama Nobutomo, one of the "Twenty-Four Generals" of Shingen, to attack Iwamura castle. Nobunaga's aunt, Lady Otsuya, conspired against the Oda clan, surrendered the castle to the Takeda, and married Nobutomo. From there, the Takeda-Oda relationship declined and Nobunaga started a war against the Takeda clan.

In the same year, Shingen decided to make a drive for Kyoto at the urgings of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki, starting with invading Tokugawa territory. Nobunaga, tied down on the western front, sent lackluster aid to Tokugawa Ieyasu who suffered defeat at the Battle of Mikatagahara in early 1573. However, after the battle, Tokugawa's forces launched night raids and convinced Takeda of an imminent counter-attack, thus saving the vulnerable Tokugawa with the bluff. This would play a pivotal role in Tokugawa's philosophy of strategic patience in his campaigns with Nobunaga. Shortly thereafter, the Takeda forces were neutralized after Shingen died in April 1573.[14]: 153–56 

Battle of Nagashino[edit]

Battle of Nagashino in 1575

In 1575, Takeda Katsuyori, son of Takeda Shingen, moved to Tokugawa territory, attacked Yoshida castle and later besieged Nagashino Castle. Katsuyori, angered when Okudaira Sadamasa rejoined the Tokugawa, had originally conspired with Oga Yashiro to take the Tokugawa-controlled Okazaki Castle, the capital of Mikawa Province. This plot failed.[19]: 80–82  Tokugawa Ieyasu appealed to Nobunaga for help and Nobunaga personally led an army of about 30,000 men to the relief of Nagashino Castle. The combined force of 38,000 men under Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated and devastated the Takeda clan at the Battle of Nagashino. This battle was the greatest defeat of the Takeda clan.

Conventionally, the "Battle of Nagashino" was regarded as a historic defeat in which Katsuyori Takeda ordered his cavalry to charge recklessly into a horse guard fence where harquebusiers were waiting for them, losing many Takeda officers and soldiers. Moreover, it has been said that Nobunaga developed a new battle strategy called "three-stage shooting", in which he changed the shooter one after another to compensate for the weakness of firearms, which take time before the next shot is fired.[20] However, this was a theory developed by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff based on Oze Hoan's Shinchō Ki and Tōyama Nobuharu's Sōken Ki, which are war chronicles. Later, as research based on documents, letters, and Ota Gyūichi's Shinchō Kōki progressed, many errors were pointed out. It is now believed that it was mainly the logistics in Nobunaga's hands that determined the winner.[c][21][22]

The end of the Takeda clan came in 1582 when Oda Nobutada and Tokugawa Ieyasu forces conquered Shinano and Kai Province. Takeda Katsuyori was defeated at the Battle of Tenmokuzan and then committed suicide.

End of the Ashikaga Shogunate[edit]

After the death of Takeda Shingen in May 1573, Nobunaga's entry into Kyoto presented him with a situation very different from that from which he had come. He focused on Ashikaga Yoshiaki, who had openly declared hostility more than once, despite the Imperial Court's intervention. Nobunaga was able to defeat Yoshiaki's forces, and the power of the Ashikaga was effectively destroyed on 27 August 1573, when Nobunaga drove Yoshiaki out of Kyoto and sent him into exile. Yoshiaki became a Buddhist monk, shaving his head and taking the name Sho-san, which he later changed to Rei-o In, bringing the Ashikaga Shogunate to an end.

Imperial Court appointments[edit]

After the Ashikaga Shogunate came to end, the authority of the Imperial Court of Emperor Ōgimachi also began to fall. This trend reversed after Oda Nobunaga entered Kyoto in a show of allegiance that indicated that the Emperor had the Oda clan's support.

In early 1574, Nobunaga was promoted to the Lower Third Rank (Ju Sanmi) of the Imperial Court and made a Court Advisor (Sangi). Court appointments would continue to be lavished on a nearly annual basis, possibly in hope of placating him. Nobunaga acquired many official titles, including Major Counselor (Gondainagon), General of the Right of the Imperial Army (Ukon'etaishō), and Minister of the Right (Udaijin) in 1576.[23] In February 1578 the court made him Grand Minister of State (Daijo daijin), the highest post that could be given.

Construction of Azuchi Castle[edit]

Azuchi-jō-zu, a drawing of the Azuchi castle

Azuchi Castle was built from 1576 to 1579 on Mount Azuchi on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa in Ōmi Province.[24] Nobunaga intentionally built Azuchi Castle close enough to Kyoto that he could watch over and guard the approaches to the capital. Azuchi Castle's location was also strategically advantageous in managing the communications and transportation routes between Nobunaga's greatest foes - Uesugi to the north, the Takeda in the east, and the Mōri to the west.[25] The castle and its nearby town were depicted on the so-called Azuchi Screens, which Oda Nobunaga gifted to Pope Gregory XIII, who displayed them in the Vatican collections.[26]

Conflict with Uesugi[edit]

The conflict between Oda and Uesugi precipitated by Uesugi intervention in the domain of the Hatakeyama clan in Noto Province, an Oda client state. This event provoked the Uesugi incursion, a coup d'état led by the pro-Oda general Chō Shigetsura, who killed Hatakeyama Yoshinori, the lord of Noto and replaced him with Hatakeyama Yoshitaka as a puppet ruler. As a result, Uesugi Kenshin, the head of the Uesugi clan, mobilized an army and led it into Noto against Shigetsura. Consequently, Nobunaga sent an army led by Shibata Katsuie and some of his most experienced generals to attack Kenshin. They clashed at the Battle of Tedorigawa in Kaga Province in 1577.

Battle of Tedorigawa[edit]

In November 1577, The Battle of Tedorigawa took place near the Tedori River in Kaga Province. Kenshin tricked Nobunaga's forces into launching a frontal attack across the Tedorigawa and defeated him. Having suffered the loss of 1,000 men, the Oda withdrew south. The result was a decisive Uesugi victory, and Nobunaga considered ceding the northern provinces to Kenshin, but Kenshin's sudden death in early 1578 caused a succession crisis that ended the Uesugi's movement to the south.[8]: 12–13, 228, 230 [9]: 288 

By 1580, Nobunaga was the most powerful lord in Japan, controlling 20 provinces in central Japan: Owari, Mino, Omi, Iga, Ise, Yamato, Yamashiro, Kawachi, Izumi, Settsu, Echizen, Hida, Kaga, Shinano, Kai, Tango, Harima, Inaba, Tanba and Bizen.[9]: 309–10 

Tenshō Iga War[edit]

Map of locations

The Tenshō Iga War (天正伊賀の乱, Tenshō Iga no Ran) was two invasions of Iga province by the Oda clan during the Sengoku period. The province was conquered by Oda Nobunaga in 1581 after an unsuccessful attempt in 1579 by his son Oda Nobukatsu. The name of the war is derived from the Tenshō era name (1573–92) in which it occurred. Other names for the campaign include "The Attack on Iga" (伊賀攻め, Iga-zeme) or "Pacification of Iga" (伊賀平定, Iga Heitei). Oda Nobunaga himself toured the conquered province in early November 1581, and then withdrew his troops, placing control in Nobukatsu's hands.


An ukiyo-e by Yoshitoshi depicting Nobunaga fighting in the Honnō-ji Incident

By 1582, Nobunaga was at the height of his power and, as the most powerful warlord, the de facto leader of Japan. Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu finally defeated the Takeda at the Battle of Tenmokuzan, destroying the clan and resulting in Takeda Katsuyori fleeing from the battle before committing suicide with his wife while being pursued by Oda forces.[8] By this point, Nobunaga was preparing to launch invasions into Echigo Province and Shikoku.[citation needed] Nobunaga's former sandal-bearer, Hashiba Hideyoshi, invaded Bitchū Province and laid siege to Takamatsu Castle. The castle was vital to the Mori clan, and losing it would have left Mori's home domain vulnerable. More reinforcements led by Mōri Terumoto arrived to relieve the siege, prompting Hideyoshi to ask in turn for reinforcements from Nobunaga. Nobunaga immediately ordered his leading generals and also Akechi Mitsuhide to prepare their armies, with the overall expedition to be led by Nobunaga.[13]: 241 [9]: 307a  Nobunaga left Azuchi Castle for Honnō-ji, a temple in Kyoto he frequented when visiting the city, where he was to hold a tea ceremony. Hence, Nobunaga only had 30 pages with him, while his son Oda Nobutada had brought 2,000 of his cavalrymen.[13]: 243 

Honnō-ji incident[edit]

Honnō-ji temple main hall

Akechi Mitsuhide, stationed in the Tanba province, led his army toward Kyoto under the pretense of following the order of Nobunaga, but as they were crossing Katsura River, he decided to assassinate Nobunaga for unknown reasons, and the cause of his betrayal is controversial.

Mitsuhide, aware that Nobunaga was nearby and unprotected for his tea ceremony, saw an opportunity to act. At that time, Mitsuhide is said to have announced to his troops that "The enemy awaits at Honnō-ji!" (敵は本能寺にあり, Teki wa Honnō-ji ni ari). But this is a later creation. In reality, Mitsuhide kept the target of the attack secret from his troops so that information would not leak out.[27]

On 21 June 1582, before dawn, the Akechi army surrounded the Honnō-ji temple with Nobunaga present, while another unit of Akechi troops was sent to Myōkaku-ji in a coup. Although Nobunaga and his servants resisted the unexpected intrusion, they were soon overwhelmed. Nobunaga also fought back for a while before retreating, and after letting the court ladies escape, he committed seppuku in one of the inner rooms.[28]

After capturing Honnō-ji, Mitsuhide attacked Nobutada, the eldest son and heir of Nobunaga, who also died by suicide.[9]: 307–8 

Mitsuhide searched for Nobunaga's body but could not find it. As a result, he was unable to prove Nobunaga's death, thus neither providing justification for his rebellion nor gaining support from those who doubted Nobunaga's survival.[29]

Grave of Oda Nobunaga at Mount Kōya, Wakayama Prefecture.

Later, when Nobunaga's retainer Toyotomi Hideyoshi learnt of his lord's death, he intercepted Mitsuhide's messenger trying to deliver a letter to the Mōri clan, informing them of Nobunaga's death and requesting an alliance, and withheld information. Hideyoshi managed to pacify the Mōri by demanding the suicide of Shimizu Muneharu in exchange for ending his siege of Takamatsu Castle, which the Mōri accepted. He then turned back to Kyoto with his forces in a super-fast march known as Chūgoku Ōgaeshi.

Mitsuhide failed to establish his position after Nobunaga's death, and Oda forces under Hideyoshi defeated his army at the Battle of Yamazaki in July 1582. Mitsuhide was killed as a victim of Ochimusha-gari[d] during a losing battle.

Hideyoshi continued and completed Nobunaga's conquest of Japan within the following decade.

Post-death events[edit]

Death and succession[edit]

Political situation in Japan circa 1582. The purple area was territory controlled by the Oda in 1560, grey area was the territory Nobunaga controlled at the time of his death in 1582.

The goal of national unification and a return to the comparative political stability of the earlier Muromachi period was widely shared by the multitude of autonomous daimyō during the Sengoku period. Oda Nobunaga was the first for whom this goal seemed attainable. He controlled most of Honshu shortly before his death in the Honnō-ji Incident of 1582.

The motive for the rebellion of Akechi Mitsuhide, the vassal who betrayed Nobunaga, remains unclear, partly because Mitsuhide himself did not say anything, and various theories are still being discussed.[30] After the incident, Mitsuhide declared to the world that he would rule over Nobunaga's territory, but was soon defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The loss of his position and power so quickly gave rise to the idiom Mikka Tenka (三日天下, lit.'a short-lived reign').

Later, Hideyoshi succeeded in regaining Oda's territory and wrested control of it from the Oda clan, further expanding his dominion greatly. And when he was appointed to the highest rank of kuge, Kanpaku, despite being a samurai, and in 1590, eight years after the incident, he achieved the unification of Japan.[31]

After the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu toward the goal of national unification by subjugating local daimyō under a hereditary shogunate, which was ultimately accomplished in 1603 when Ieyasu was granted the title of Shogun by Emperor Go-Yōzei following the successful Sekigahara Campaign of 1600.

The nature of the succession of power through the three daimyō is reflected in a well-known Japanese idiom:

Nobunaga pounds the national rice cake, Hideyoshi kneads it, and in the end, Ieyasu sits down and eats it.[32]

The changing character of power through Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu is reflected in another well-known idiom:[e][34]

Nobunaga said: "Little bird, sing. If you don't sing, I will kill you".
Hideyoshi said: "Little bird, sing. If you don't sing, I will make you sing".
Ieyasu said: "Little bird, sing. If you don't sing, I will wait for you to sing".

All three were born within eight years of each other (1534 to 1542), started their careers as samurai, and finished them as statesmen. Nobunaga inherited his father's domain at the age of 17, and quickly gained control of Owari Province through gekokujo. Hideyoshi started his career in Nobunaga's army as an ashigaru but quickly rose up through the ranks as a samurai. Ieyasu initially fought against Nobunaga as the heir of a rival daimyō, but later expanded his own inheritance through a profitable alliance with Nobunaga.[14]: 142 

Later plans[edit]

In 1579, Nobunaga's resignation from his posts as Udaijin (Minister of the Right) and Ukonoe no daisho (Right general of the Imperial Guard) baffled the Imperial Court. This was because the fact that Nobunaga, who was on the verge of unifying the country, did not hold an official position could shake the authority of the Imperial Court.[31] Therefore, in May 1582, the Imperial Court sent a message to Nobunaga, offering him a government position of his choice among Sei-i Taishōgun, Kanpaku and Dajō-daijin. However, Nobunaga did not give a clear reply and the 'Honnoji Incident' took place, so it remains unclear what kind of government scheme Nobunaga had in mind.[35][36]

In the addendum to Luís Fróis's 1582 Annals of Japan (on Nobunaga's death), it is stated that Nobunaga intended to conquer China. According to Fróis, Nobunaga intended to organise a large fleet to conquer China after the unification of Japan and to have his sons divide and rule the territory. However, there is no such statement in Japanese sources, and many researchers doubt its authenticity.[37]

According to Luís Fróis's History of Japan, Nobunaga attempted to deify himself in his later years by building Sōken-ji in part of Azuchi Castle and installing a stone called Bonsan as a deity to replace him. Frois, a Christian, attributes this to Nobunaga's arrogance and arrogance, which drove him to the madness of wanting to be worshipped on earth, and the Honnō-ji Incident was his punishment. Many researchers doubt the authenticity of Frois's description, as there is no mention of this in the Japanese sources. However, the existence of Bonsan itself is mentioned in Shinchō Kōki. As for the reason for his self-deification, it is thought that it was to give legitimacy to those with Oda family blood to rule the country, with a view to after the unification of the country. Later, after their deaths, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu willed themselves to be worshipped as deities, with Hideyoshi being deified as Toyokuni Daimyojin and Ieyasu as Tōshō Daigongen. In Japan, there have been no small number of persons who have become gods since ancient times. However, they were deified by others after they died as human beings, whereas these three are very unique in that they willingly tried to become gods before they died.[37][38][39]

The Imperial Court and the Ashikaga Shogunate[edit]

Nobunaga led a large army to Kyoto in honour of Ashikaga Shogun Yoshiaki and re-established the Muromachi Shogunate, under which he extended his power into the Kinai region. The conventional theory is that Nobunaga aimed from the outset to overthrow the Muromachi shogunate and clan system and, with Yoshiaki at the top, to seize real power himself, i.e. to establish a puppet government. In recent years, however, a theory has emerged that Nobunaga and Yoshiaki were good partners and that the final breakdown was due to Yoshiaki's betrayal of Nobunaga, and that Nobunaga did not originally intend to overthrow the Muromachi shogunate.[40][41]

As for the Imperial Court, it was conventionally believed that Nobunaga tried to put pressure on the Imperial Court and destroy the existing order. In recent years, however, it has begun to be thought that Nobunaga may have consistently valued the Emperor and the Imperial Court. For the emperors and court nobles, who had lost their territories to the samurais and were forced to live in poverty without access to financial resources, Nobunaga was a reliable Daimyo who made huge donations, and for Nobunaga, his links with the imperial court helped to improve the Oda clan's brand image.[35][40]


Oda Nobunaga's breech-loading swivel gun, 16th century. This gun is thought to have been cast in Portuguese Goa, India. Caliber: 95 mm, length: 2880 mm.

Militarily, Nobunaga changed the way war was fought in Japan.

Nobunaga was the first of the other sengoku daimyo to own and utilise a large number of firearms from an early date.[42] He changed the perception that matchlock gun, commonly known as tanegashima, was not suitable for actual combat due to their short range and inability to fire continuously, to the perception that they were invincible weapons by using them in large numbers and firing them all at once.[41] Local historiography Kunitomo Teppoki states that Nobunaga had already recognised the potential of guns in 1549, six years after they were introduced to Japan, and put Hashimoto Ippa in charge of gun production, and that 500 guns were completed in 1550. Shinchō Kōki also mentions that he learnt marksmanship from Hashimoto Ippa around 1550.[43][44] Four years later, in 1554, he fielded guns for the first time at the Battle of Muraki Castle, where Nobunaga replaced his guns one after the other and fired them himself, taking the fort in a single day. The Battle of Nagashino in 1575 is famous for the continuous firing of guns, but Nobunaga had already carried it out 21 years earlier.[44][45] An unprecedented military revolution was taking place in Japan at the time. Documents left behind in Sakai, which was under the direct control of Nobunaga, revealed that Japan had already become the world's leading gun power, with mass production based on a division of labour for each part. Radiological analysis also revealed that Japanese-made guns using the Japanese sword forging technique were more stable in strength and more powerful because they contained fewer impurities.[46] Later, during the Tokugawa period, Japan exported large quantities of no longer needed firearms to the Netherlands, along with swords and other weapons.[47]

Nobunaga had the previously disparate spear lengths aligned to 3 ken (about 5.5 m) or 3 and a half ken (about 6.4 m). The spear lengths used in the Sengoku period were generally 2 ken (3.6 m). However, when Nobunaga was a teenager, he saw his comrades beating each other with spears in a mock battle and had his army replace their own spears with longer ones, as short spears were useless.[42][48] The way spears were used in those days was for miscellaneous soldiers under Ashigaru with long spears to form a line and advance, swinging their spears down from above as if they were striking rather than stabbing. This alone was powerful enough, and if the long spearmen formed a Yaribusuma (槍衾, lit.'line of spears') with their spearheads facing forward, they could sufficiently counter cavalry units, so the effect was enormous.[49]

Nobunaga tried to create a standing army by implementing the separation of soldiers and farmers. Samurais at that time were half-farmers and half-soldiers who spent most of their time as farmers, and only fought at the behest of their lords, who were also the owners of the farmland, in times of war. Therefore, they could not fight much during the busy farming season from summer to autumn.[50] Nobunaga, on the other hand, attempted to separate soldiers from farmers, although not as thoroughly as Toyotomi Hideyoshi later did. Each time Nobunaga moved his base of operations, he promoted the concentration of his vassals under his castles. As a result, the separation of troops and agriculture was promoted, allowing for planned group training and the formation of army units of different types Sonae (, lit.'preparation'), such as firearms units and cavalry units.[49][51][52]

Daimyo's bodyguards and messengers were called Umamawari-shū (馬廻衆, lit.'horse related group'), and Nobunaga divided them into two groups. One group had a red Horo (cloak) on their backs, so they were called Akahoro-shū (赤母衣衆, lit.'Red Mantle group'), and the other had a black Horo (cloak) on their backs, so they were called Kurohoro-shū (黒母衣衆, lit.'Black Mantle group'). The leader of Akahoro-shū was Maeda Toshiie and the leader of Kurohoro-shū was Sassa Narimasa.[53][54]

Nobunaga placed great importance on intelligence warfare. After the Battle of Okehazama, he most highly valued Yanada Masatsuna, who reported every movement of the Imagawa forces that day, rather than the samurais who actually defeated Yoshimoto.[55]

Nobunaga adopted a system of area armies, which enabled him to react in multiple regions simultaneously, and operated it in a large scale.[49]

  • Oda Nobunaga's sphere of influence and the departments of each area armies.
    • Chugoku Front: Hashiba Hideyoshi
    • Kinai Front: Akechi Mitsuhide
    • Shikoku Front: Niwa Nagahide
    • Hokuriku Front: Shibata Katsuie
    • Kanto Front: Takigawa Kazumasu

Nobunaga's army had an unthinkable military rule, known as the Issen-giri (一銭斬り, lit.'Cutting people for a penny'), whereby all vassals, including ashigaru and lower-ranking ones, were to be put to death if they stole even a single penny. In those days, it was common practice for sengoku daimyo such as Takeda and Uesugi to allow their vassals to raid nearby villages, pillage and assault them if they won a battle. They rather entered the war for the profits to be gained from the looting. After the battle was over, it was also common for traffickers to set up markets to sell the captured people. However, Nobunaga denied this and forbade the soldiers under his command from looting and violence against the people. On the contrary, food and other supplies were bought for a price. Furthermore, he took a tough attitude towards roadside bandits who stood in the way of trade. As a result, after Nobunaga united Owari, security improved to the extent that merchants could take naps on the roadside. These actions enabled Nobunaga to gain the support of the people and move towards unifying the country. Strict military discipline was inherited by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who recognized it as an important factor in gaining public support.[56]

Nobunaga is said to have used six armored ships in the Second Battle of Kizugawaguchi in 1578.[57] Nobunaga, who suffered a heavy blow at the First Battle of the Kizugawaguchi from hōraku-hiya[f] of the Murakami Suigun, the core of the Mori Suigun, ordered Kuki Yoshitaka to build iron-armoured ships to repel the Mori Suigun attempting to bring provisions and other supplies to the Osaka Hongan-ji.[59][60]

They are thought to have been large wooden ships, Atakebune, covered with iron plates, with cannons on the front and arrows and guns on the sides, with two or three tiers of turrets on the upper deck. However, as no actual ships have survived and historical documents are inadequately described, there are many theories about the appearance and structure of iron-armoured ships. Some believe that they were not actually iron-armoured ships, but simply European-style black ships, or that they may not have been completely covered with iron plates, but only important parts were covered with iron. It is also said that iron-armoured ships were intended to intimidate rather than attack, and could not move much themselves, and were more like fortress-like ships floating on the sea.[57][59]

In Tamon'in Eishun's Tamon'in Diary, there are passages which state that the ship was "a ship of iron" and "prepared to prevent guns (bullets) from going through", and this is the only historical document that provides evidence that the ship was armoured with iron plates. Some argue that since Tamon'in Diary is a primary historical source, its account should be trusted, but it is only hearsay and was not witnessed by Eishun himself. On the other hand, the Jesuit missionary Organtino, who actually observed the ships, wrote in his report that it resembled a Portuguese ship and was surprised that such a ship had been built in Japan. If they were similar to the Portuguese ships of the time (galleons), it is assumed that they would have been very different from Atakebune, a keelless riverboat. The ships were also said to be equipped with three cannons and numerous elaborate and large long guns. Shinchō Kōki (manuscript) mentions that "big guns" were powerful in naval battles, but does not say whether they were actually iron-armoured.[57][59]


After conquering Owari and Mino, Nobunaga used the seal of Tenka Fubu (天下布武) to promote his vision with a view to unifying the country. "Tenkafubu" means "spreading military power throughout the world", and it is the idea of ruling the country peacefully, in other words, ending the Warring States period and restoring peace and order.[36][61][62] He then put into action a plan for the economic development of the areas he controlled.

Oda Nobunaga is known for his implementation of a series of innovative policies, such as the Rakuichi Rakuza and the abolition of the barrier system.[63] Nobunaga knew that his grandfather and father had gained wealth from the water transportation of Ise Bay by taking control of Tsushima and Atsuta ports. He himself also promoted the commercialization of his territory by increasing the circulation of goods and money through the above policies.[35][64] The funds to procure and operate the soldiers, guns, and other weapons that supported the unification of the country were also obtained through this.[49][55]

Rakuichi Rakuza is an economic policy that aims to revitalize commerce by making it possible for anyone to do business anywhere.[16][65] Rakuichi was to allow people to do business anywhere in the castle town, whereas previously they could only do business in designated areas. Rakuza does not recognize the privileges of a monopoly trade association called Za, and guarantees free business.[41][63] At that time, samurai families controlled the farmlands and farmers, while temples, shrines, and court nobles controlled the commerce and distribution industry by controlling the Ichi (market) and Za (union). Nobunaga's promotion of raku-ichi raku-za was intended to deprive temples, shrines and court nobles of their privileges and allow the warrior class to dominate the territory in all areas.[64]

Nobunaga also abolished the barrier posts within his domain, allowing free passage of goods. Nobunaga also ordered the construction of roads along with the abolition of barrier posts. He made steep roads more gradual, built bridges over inlets and rivers, carved out rocks to make the roads wider, and planted pine trees and willow trees along both sides of the road, which was three and a half meters wide. These allowed not only the free passage of people, but also the free transportation of goods, thus encouraging distribution.[41][63][66] This was to ease the transport of soldiers and war materials in addition to commerce. In general, Nobunaga thought in terms of "unifying factors", in the words of George Sansom.[9]: 300–2 

Nobunaga implemented financial reforms that introduced a new monetary system. In 1569, the "Oda Nobunaga Eiroku 12 Law" was enacted, which is regarded by some as the beginning of early modern monetary policy in Japan. It was an epoch-making attempt to "increase the volume of money in circulation" and "prevent the inflow of bad money" at the same time. A fixed exchange rate system was introduced, and coins, which had been mixed in disorderly fashion, were clearly defined as standard coins and deteriorated coins. The Oda Clan's guarantee has given value to coins that were considered degraded coins in other regions, revived many coins that had been excluded from trade, and stabilised commercial transactions. At the same time, by differentiating the value of coins according to their exchange rate, the government prevented an excessive influx of deteriorated coins. Nobunaga also used gold and silver as currency to trade in high-value commodities. Nobunaga himself played a role in expanding the circulation of gold and silver by using gold and silver for purchases in Meibutsu-gari (名物狩り, lit.'specialty hunting').[67]

When asked by the Emperor and the Muromachi Shogun to assume the post of Vice Shogun, and offered the post of kanrei, which was effectively the highest rank in samurai society, Nobunaga declined and instead requested permission to rule directly over three of Japan's largest distribution centres, Sakai (Izumi province), Kusatsu and Ōtsu (Ōmi Province).[35] Sakai, an autonomous city, was enjoying its golden days as an international trading port, overflowing with goods, the latest science and technology, and information from East Asia and the West, despite the territorial expansion wars of the Sengoku Daimyos. What Nobunaga sought from the merchants of Sakai was their enormous wealth, as well as their expertise in the Nanban trade and their own trade routes to obtain raw materials for guns and gunpowder. Nobunaga took Imai Sōkyū, an upstart merchant from Sakai, under his control. Imai established Japan's first comprehensive military industry and supported Nobunaga's unification of Japan by mass-producing guns and securing an exclusive trading route for the import of potassium nitrate, a raw material for gunpowder that was not produced in Japan. Tsuda Sōgyū, a key figure in Sakai's self-governing organization, also severed ties with Hongan-ji and submitted to Nobunaga. Nobunaga demanded a large amount of war funds from Sakai. Sakai merchants initially refused, but were persuaded by Sōkyū and Sōgyū to accept it. Thus, Nobunaga obtained Sakai without fighting. Imai Sōkyū, Tsuda Sōgyū, and Sen Sōeki (later Sen no Rikyu) were appointed as Nobunaga's tea masters and secured their positions as political merchants.[68][69]

Nobunaga made personnel decisions based on ability and results, not titles. Until then, the family culture of warlords had been one of respecting family lineage and passing down positions from generation to generation, but Nobunaga made a major shift to a personnel system based on merit. It is known that Hashiba Hideyoshi came from a poor peasant background in Owari, while Akechi Mitsuhide came from a samurai background in Mino, but had spent a long time as a poor ronin. These two men caught up with and eventually overtook Nobunaga's old vassals, including Shibata Katsuie, Niwa Nagahide, Sakuma Nobumori, and others. Among the Oda vassals, Mitsuhide was the first to become the lord of one province and one castle, and the second was Hideyoshi. This was unthinkable for other Sengoku Daimyo.[49][55]

The Sengoku Daimyo of the time did not change their strongholds, and had to return to their home after each battle, making it difficult for the Takeda, Uesugi, and other clans far from Kyoto to go to Kyoto. However, Nobunaga continued to move his stronghold to the west as his territory expanded in order to control Kyoto, which was essential for unifying the country.[49]


Nobunaga initiated a period in Japanese art history known as Fushimi, or the Azuchi-Momoyama period, in reference to the area south of Kyoto. He built extensive gardens and castles which were themselves great works of art. Azuchi Castle included a seven-story Tenshukaku, which included a treasury filled with gold and precious objects. Works of art included paintings on movable screens (byōbu), sliding doors (fusuma), and walls by Kanō Eitoku.[9]: 380–82 

Nobunaga promoted the tea ceremony. Not only that, he is said to have built trust with his subordinates by successfully utilizing the system for political use of the tea ceremony, which Toyotomi Hideyoshi later named Onchanoyu Goseido (御茶湯御政道, lit.'Tea Ceremony Politics').[67][70] He actively promoted the value of the tea ceremony in samurai society, giving it a value equal to the fiefdom and rank he received from his lord. He transformed the values of the samurai through the following three actions.

  1. Collecting: He collected and monopolised famous tea utensils. In other words, Meibutsu-gari (名物狩り, lit.'specialty hunting').[g]
  2. Presentation: He presented his own specialty tea utensils that he had acquired at a tea ceremony.
  3. Bestowal: He gifted of specialty tea utensils were given to vassals who had made meritorious achievements.

Nobunaga held tea ceremonies with limited participants and showed his authority by displaying his tea utensils, making it known that the tea ceremony was a samurai ritual. He forbade his vassals to hold tea ceremonies, but allowed those who made special achievements to hold tea ceremonies by giving them tea utensils. The vassals then began to take pleasure in Nobunaga's bestowal of specialties and to feel great honor in being allowed to hold tea ceremonies. Thus, among the warriors, the specialty tea utensils and the holding of tea ceremonies became of special value, and they began to covet tea utensils more than the territory given to them by their lord.[71][72]

Nobunaga was famous for his great love of sumo, and frequently held sumo tournaments at Jōraku-ji in Azuchi between 1570 and 1581, the year before his death.[73][74] In the beginning, the tournament attracted braggarts from all over Ōmi Province, but gradually it began to draw from Kyoto and other regions. The largest tournament was held in 1578 at Mount Azuchi, with 1,500 participants.[74][75] The main reason for organising the tournament was, of course, that Nobunaga was a great lover of sumo. But there was also the practical advantage of selecting young men of good physique and martial prowess, and the aim was to demonstrate Nobunaga's authority by putting on a big show, while at the same time relieving popular discontent by making it fun for everyone.[74][75] Regarding the relationship between Nobunaga and sumo, there is a theory that the Yumitorishiki (bow-twirling ceremony) and the format in which sumo wrestlers are divided into East and West and judged by a gyōji (sumo referee) were born out of the sumo tournament organised by Nobunaga.[73][75] As for the theory that Nobunaga is the origin of the 'East-West' sumo ranking system, there are actually historical documents in Omi Hachiman City that support this relationship. In 1581, Nobunaga, who was enjoying a fire festival with his vassals dressed up in Nanban costumes, had them perform take-zumō (bamboo wrestling)[h] using bamboos of firecracker. He praised the two boasts of strength had fought to a draw, and as a reward, he gave the surnames Higashi (, lit.'East') to Denzo, who entered the ring from the east, and Nishi (西, lit.'West') to Umejiro, who entered the ring from the west.


Nobunaga did not actively believe in any particular god or Buddha himself, but he did not deny that he was a Hokke-shū, and it was common for him to pray for victory and to visit temples and shrines. He never denied or suppressed the beliefs of others for no reason, and was even willing to help and shelter them if they asked for help. Nobunaga rather respected them as long as they did not associate with the various daimyōs or meddle in politics like fixers, but rather devoted themselves to their main task as religious people. In fact, for temples and shrines that do not go beyond their main religious duties, he has made donations, paid for repairs to facilities and relieved them of their territories.[76][77]

It is sometimes said that Nobunaga hated Buddhism because of his wars with Hongan-ji, his suppression of Ikkō-ikki, his fire attack against Mt. Hiei and his attacks on Mt. Kōya, but this is a great misconception. It is true that he showed no mercy, even to monks, but this was not because he hated Buddhism. There is a saying that if you kill a monk, you will be cursed for seven generations, but unlike most daimyōs of the time, Nobunaga simply did not have such a taboo. Nobunaga only fought Buddhist forces as thoroughly as he had fought other Sengoku daimyos, and while it is true that he killed thousands of monks and tens of thousands of believers, he never forbade their faith itself. Nobunaga would forgive them if they complied with his advice to surrender, but if they did not, he would send a large army to massacre them and try to suppress them through fear.[76][78]

The Ikkō-shū (Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji Order) was very powerful at the time. The Osaka Hongan-ji (later Ishiyama Hongan-ji) was an armed group comparable to the Sengoku daimyo, controlling territory and employing as mercenaries the Saika-shū of Kii Province, who were skilled in the use of guns. The Ishiyama Hongan-ji War was a war that began when Nobunaga, who considered Osaka his future base, ordered the Osaka Honganji to withdraw from Osaka. Kennyo issued a proclamation to his followers to overthrow Nobunaga, and they rose up in anti-Nobunaga ranks. Hongwanji then laid siege to Nobunaga with Takeda, Asakura, Azai, Mōri and others. Ikkō-ikki were a nationwide trans-religious resistance movement against lords and rulers of the secular realm, organized by the Hongwan-ji Order. Nobunaga attempted to isolate the Osaka Hongan-ji by exterminating the Ikkō-ikki in various parts of the country. Nobunaga's massacre is generally criticized, but there is also the view that Nobunaga had no choice but to massacre them as a result of Hongan-ji Temple's request for thorough resistance from its followers. In the case of Mount Hiei and Mount Koya, they were attacked because they had joined the daimyōs who were hostile to Nobunaga or sheltered defeated soldiers.[77][78]

Nobunaga allowed the Jesuits to proselytise Christianity and sheltered their activities in Japan. This was because the use of matchlocks, which were absolutely necessary for warfare, was impossible without the Nanban trade, and because the Nanban trade required Jesuit mediation and diplomacy with Portugal. Although domestic production of guns themselves had already begun, nitre for the gunpowder and lead for the bullets were rarely produced in Japan at the time, so the only way to secure large quantities was to seize routes brought in from overseas by Portuguese merchant ships. The Jesuits also actively backed Nobunaga because they considered him to be the closest person to unifying the country. Above all, it was best to borrow Nobunaga's help to destroy the Buddhist power, which was their greatest enemy.[44][64][79] However, Portuguese colonial policy and Jesuit missionary work were integrated, and the missionaries were looking to colonise Japan through Christianisation. Nobunaga is believed to have dared to continue to join hands at this point in order to gain supplies, science and technology and the latest knowledge of the world, despite being aware of Portuguese and Jesuit plans to conquer Japan. Indeed, the Jesuit Roman archives in Vatican City contain an investigative report of a conversation between Hideyoshi, who reports the missionaries' plans to conquer Japan, and Nobunaga, who is aware of them but replies that he will continue to use them for the time being as it will still be some time before their wishes are fulfilled.[44][46][79]

However, the situation changed in 1580 when Spain annexed Portugal and even acquired colonies, becoming a powerful country known as the 'Empire on which the sun never sets'. King Felipe II of Spain issued an order to conquer Asia. His target was China (Ming dynasty), the richest country in the world.[46][79] Spain, seeking to establish new diplomatic relations with Nobunaga by replacing Portugal, repeatedly negotiated with him between February and July 1581. At that time, Nobunaga was asked for the following two points.

  1. To send an army from Japan to help Spain in its planned conquest of Ming dynasty.
  2. Not to trade with Protestant countries such as England and the Netherlands.

However, Nobunaga rejected Spain's demands and decided to cut ties with the Jesuits as well. Nobunaga staked his own fate on the decision to break relations with the Jesuits and Spain. However, he was killed by a betrayal of his vassals before the outcome of this decision could be reached.[46][79]

Personality and reputation[edit]


Luís Fróis described Nobunaga in his History of Japan as 'of medium height and lean build, with a thin moustache and a very clear voice'. Regarding his height, in Jesuit Japan Correspondence - Luís Fróis Letter of 1 June 1568, he also describes him as 'tall and lean, with a very high voice'.[80][81] His height is estimated to be 5 shaku 5 or 6 sun(166-169 cm)tall based on a life-size seated wooden statue of him left at Daitoku-ji and the armour he is said to have used.[82]

According to Fróis, he had great understanding and clear judgment, disdained gods, Buddha and other idols, and did not believe in any pagan divination. His sect was the Lotus sect, but he preached in high spirits that there is no creator of the universe, that the spirit is not immortal, and that nothing exists after death, and there are no awards or punishments in the afterlife.[80][81]

He was extremely fond of warfare, devoted to the practice of martial arts, and was coarse. He was arrogant and honourable, strict in righteousness and enjoyed the deeds of justice and mercy. When others insulted him, he did not hesitate to punish them, but in certain matters he showed amiability and mercy.[80][81]

He was also temperamental, though not greedy, and had temper tantrums, but this was not always the case. He was secretive in his decisions and extremely cunning in his strategies. He was magnanimous and patient, even when the fortunes of war seemed to be against him. He had a somewhat melancholy shadow, but when it came to difficult schemes he was fearless, and people followed his orders in everything.[80][81]

He was seldom disciplined, rarely swayed by the advice of his vassals, and was extremely feared and respected by all. He despised all the daimyōs of Japan and spoke to them condescendingly, as if they were his subordinate retainers, and the people obeyed him as if he were an absolute monarch. On the other hand, he also spoke friendly with a very lowly and despised servant.[80][81]

He did not drink, ate sparingly, did not sleep much and was an early riser. He liked his house to be clean and was meticulous in his instructions on various matters. When talking to people, he disliked long conversations and lengthy preliminaries. He particularly liked the famous vessels of the tea ceremony, good horses, swords and falconry. He also loved watching people play Sumo naked in front of him, regardless of status.[80]

Nobunaga's many great achievements were also thanks to the education of his father, Nobuhide. Originally Nobuhide was only one of the three magistrates of Kiyosu, rather than the whole of Owari, but he gained so much power that he overpowered the Shugodai who ruled Owari. Nobuhide was not only a brilliant military man, but was also a well-known cultural figure in Kyoto. However, he believed that doing the same thing as himself at the turn of the age would no longer work, did not give Nobunaga the same education as himself at all. Nobuhide let Nobunaga do only what he wanted to do and what he was good at. As a result, he had no complexes about anything or anyone.[83]

A letter left by Luis Frois states that in response to a letter from Takeda Shingen signed Tendai no Zasu Shamon Shingen (天台座主沙門信玄, lit.'The head priest of the Tendai sect Monk Shingen'), Nobunaga signed back Dairokuten no Maō Nobunaga (第六天魔王, lit.'Nobunaga the Demon King of the 6th Heaven'). Takeda Shingen cited Nobunaga's Fire Attack against Mount Hiei, the head temple of the Tendai sect, as the reason for his hostility to Nobunaga, and to emphasise this and gain support from Buddhist forces, he took the name of Tendai Zasu, indicating that he was the head of Enryaku-ji. In reality, however, Shingen was not a Tendai Zasu or even a believer in the Tendai sect, and it is said that Nobunaga may have referred to himself as the Demon King as an ironic reference to this.[81][65]

Reputation in youth[edit]

The young Nobunaga was famous for his bizarre outfit and eccentric behaviour, and people called him Ōutsuke (大うつけ, lit.'great fool'). At that time, he was dressed in his yukatabira[i] sleeves removed, half hakama with a flint pouch and others hanging from it, his hair tied into a chasen-mage[j] with crimson or light green threads, a sword in a vermilion sheath, and all his attendants carried vermilion arms. He also devoured fruits and mochi standing up without caring about the public gaze in the streets, or walked in a dishevelled manner, leaning on others or hanging on their shoulders.[3][48]

Nobunaga, on the other hand, also had a decent side. He had no particular pastimes, but practised horsemanship in the morning and evening, and from spring to summer he would go into the river to practice water drills. He also learnt archery from Ichikawa Daisuke, marksmanship from Hashimoto Ippa and military tactics from Hirata Sanmi. Also at that time, he watched a mock battle using bamboo spears and said that spears could not be used if they were too short, so he had all his spears replaced with longer ones of 3 ken (5.4 m) or 3 and a half ken (6.3 m).[3][48]

At the funeral of his father Nobuhide, his younger brother Nobuyuki (Nobukatsu) wore a formal kataginu and long hakama and burnt incense according to etiquette, while Nobunaga came without long hakama, with his hair tied in a chasen-mage,[j] a tachi sword and a wakizashi with a long handle wrapped in straw rope. He then grabbed some powdered incense, threw it at the tablets and walked away.[48]

At a meeting between Nobunaga and his father-in-law, Saito Dōsan, Dōsan sneaked a peek to determine what kind of man his son-in-law was before they actually met. Then Nobunaga appeared with his hair tied up in a chasen-mage[j] with a light green flat cord, wearing a yukatabira[i] with one sleeve off, a tachi sword and wakizashi with gold and silver flakes pasted on the sheath and the long handle wrapped in straw rope, a thick taro stem rope as an arm band, seven or eight flint pouches and gourds hanging around his waist like monkey trainers, and a half hakama made of four pieces of tiger and leopard leather. According to Rōjin Zatsuwa, a compilation of stories by local elders, he also had a large picture of a penis dyed on the back of his yukatabira.[i] On the other hand, he was accompanied by a large contingent of a peculiarly organized force of 500 long spearmen and 500 archers and matchlock troops. Dōsan went to the meeting place in his regular clothes, thinking that he would not need formal attire if he were to meet such a fool, but Nobunaga changed back into his haori and long hakama, and for the first time in his life, he appeared in formal attire with his hair neatly folded in futatsu-ori.[k] On the way home, Dōsan's retainers laughed at him, saying, "Nobunaga was a fool after all," but Dōsan replied, "That is why I am frustrated. My children will be under the command of that fool in the future," he said with a bitter look on his face.[84][85][42]

Changes in public opinion[edit]

Nowadays Oda Nobunaga is one of Japan's most popular historical figures. Despite his brutal image, Nobunaga is widely recognised for his appeal as an innovator who more than compensated for his shortcomings.[86][40] However, the image of Nobunaga has changed significantly during the Edo period, from the Meiji to the early Shōwa era, and since World War II.[87]

Oda Nobunaga's reputation in the Edo period was rather negative overall. He was particularly poorly regarded among Confucian scholars, as Confucianism was then shaping the new fundamental values of Japan. This was because the ideal politics in Confucianism was the royal way of subduing people through benevolence, and the hegemony, or politics of restraining people through force and trickery, like Nobunaga's, was considered undesirable. The biggest hero of the time was Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate, but he had a surprisingly low public profile, as he was deified and could not be easily treated in popular culture. The most popular figure among the common people was Hideyoshi, who rose from peasant to ruler of the country.[86][87]

In the late Edo period, he finally received high praise in Rai San'yō's Nihon Gaishi (1827). However, San'yō evaluated Nobunaga from the perspective of imperial ideology more than he evaluated his military strategies. San'yō interpreted Nobunaga's project to unify the whole country as being in the interests of the Emperor.[86]

In the Meiji era, Nobunaga was still not highly regarded. This changed in the Taishō era when the journalist Tokutomi Sohō took up Nobunaga's innovations and gave him high praise for his continuous firing of guns and the abolition of customs checkpoints. However, it was also Nobunaga as an imperialist who ended the shogunate government that had lasted from Kamakura to Muromachi and placed importance on the imperial court that attracted the most attention from Soho. With militarism on the rise, academism also encouraged the image of Nobunaga as an innovator and loyalist.[88]

However, as a result of the removal of the imperialist view of history after WWII, people began to consider how Nobunaga should be seen as a military commander or a statesman. This is because the research style had changed from one based on war chronicles, such as chronicles such as Hoan Shinchō Ki, to one based on ancient documents. Gradually, Nobunaga's progressive nature began to be discussed and his image as the 'favourite of the times' took root. As a result, the pre-war image of Nobunaga as an imperialist disappeared and a new image of Nobunaga as a revolutionary who destroyed the old order and challenged established authority emerged. However, the latest research, perhaps as a reaction to this, has shown a marked tendency to believe that Nobunaga did not uproot the existing system but came to terms with vested interests and promoted gradual reforms, and some assess that he was in fact only a conservative daimyo.[40][88][89]

In popular culture[edit]

In recent years, Nobunaga appears frequently in fiction and continues to be portrayed in many different anime, manga, video games, and cinematic films, very often wearing a Western-style mustache and a red European cape allegedly gifted to him.

However, it was after World War II that Oda Nobunaga became popular.[88][90] Nobunaga had previously appeared as Toyotomi Hideyoshi's lord in various Taikōki in which Hideyoshi played a leading role, such as Ehon Taikōki published in the Edo period and Yoshikawa Eiji's historical novel Shinsho Taikōki, written during World War II, but in short he was a supporting character.[86] Nobunaga was often portrayed as a tyrant in variations of the Taikōki, where his lack of virtue and narrow-mindedness were often emphasised, although his abilities were appreciated.[91] An exception is Eiji Yoshikawa's Taikōki, in which he was a firm but benevolent lord.

The post-War image of Nobunaga began with writer Sakaguchi Ango's Oda Nobunaga. He described Nobunaga as a rationalist to the bone.[88]

Nobunaga first gained popularity in Japan with the hit film Fū-unji: Oda Nobunaga (1959), an adaptation of the novel Oda Nobunaga (1955–60) by historical novelist Yamaoka Sōhachi.[92]

The popularity of Nobunaga was determined by the success of Shiba Ryōtarō's novel Kunitori Monogatari (1963-1966).[88] Shiba positioned Nobunaga as a revolutionary with a clear will, a rarity in Japanese history, and established an image of Nobunaga in which light and shadow coexisted, not only evaluating his innovativeness but also criticising his brutality.[88] However, he was not yet absolutely popular at the start of the serialisation and was a double starring with Akechi Mitsuhide.[92] On the contrary, the original protagonist was his father-in-law, Saito Dōsan, and Nobunaga was not planned to appear. However, due to its popularity, Shiba was not allowed to finish the series and had no choice but to bring out Nobunaga and make it a two-part series.[92] In 1973, Taiga drama based on this story was made.[92] After that, many Taiga dramas were made with him as the main character.

Tsuji Kunio's novel The Signore: Shogun of the Warring States (安土往還記, 1968), in the form of a letter by the crew of a ship carrying missionaries to Japan, won the Ministry of Education's Art Encouragement Prize for New Artists.

Nobunaga in Kurosawa Akira's film Kagemusha (1980) is not the protagonist, but he is the originator of the image of him in current fictional works, wearing a mustache, a cloak and western armour and drinking red wine.[93][94][l]

Mayumura Taku's SF novel Toki no Tabibito: Time Stranger (1977-1978) is the originator of the plot in which a modern man travels back in time to the Sengoku Period and meets Oda Nobunaga, and was made into an anime in 1986.[97]

The anime Yōtōden (1987-1988) was the forerunner of the type of work in which the 'Demon King' Nobunaga stands in the way of the protagonists.[98] From this anime onwards, more and more films portrayed him not just as a villain or a brutal figure, but literally as a demonic being. He is portrayed as evil or megalomaniacal in some anime and manga series including Samurai Deeper Kyo and Flame of Recca. Yamada Masaki's novel Ōka Ninpōchō: Basilisk Shinshō (2015) and its anime and manga Basilisk: Ōka Ninpōchō, based on Yamada Futaro's novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls and its anime and manga Basilisk, portray Nobunaga as a literal demon in addition to a power-mad warlord.

In video games, the branding of Nobunaga began in the 1980s with Koei's Nobunaga's Ambition series.[99] And it was not until the 21st century that Nobunaga played the role of the Demon King in the video game world, starting with Capcom's Onimusha (2001) and Sengoku Basara (2005) and Koei's Samurai Warriors (2004).[100][101][102]

While many works portray Nobunaga's character as a cruel monarch or demonic in nature, there are just as many works that portray him in a positive or neutral light. This is particularly true of Japanese live-action films and TV dramas.

Nobunaga has been portrayed numerous times in a more neutral or historical framework, particularly in the Taiga drama series produced and broadcast by NHK in Japan.

The film Goemon portrays him as a saintly mentor of Ishikawa Goemon.

Nobunaga is also portrayed in a heroic light in some video games such as Kessen III, Ninja Gaiden II, and the Warriors Orochi series,[citation needed] while in the anime series "Nobunaga no Shinobi" Nobunaga is portrayed as a kind person as well as having a major sweet tooth.

By contrast, in the novel The Samurai's Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard, he is portrayed as an antagonist "known for his merciless cruelty".[103]

Nobunaga is portrayed as evil, villainous, bloodthirsty, and/or demonic in many video games, such as the Onimusha series, Ninja Master's, Maplestory, Inindo: Way of the Ninja, Atlantica Online, the Samurai Warriors series, the Sengoku BASARA series (and its anime adaptation), and the Soulcalibur series.[citation needed]

Oda Nobunaga appears in the manga series Tail of the Moon, Kacchū no Senshi Gamu.

Historical representations in video games (mostly Western-made strategy or action titles) include Shogun: Total War, Total War: Shogun 2, Throne of Darkness, the eponymous Nobunaga's Ambition series, as well as Civilization V,[104] Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, Nioh, and Nioh 2. Kamenashi Kazuya of the Japanese pop group KAT-TUN wrote and performed a song titled "1582" which is written from the perspective of Mori Ranmaru during the coup at Honnō temple.[105]

Nobunaga has also been portrayed in fiction, such as when the figure of Nobunaga influences a story or inspires a characterization. In James Clavell's novel Shōgun, the character Goroda is a pastiche of Nobunaga. In the film Sengoku Jieitai 1549, Nobunaga is killed by time-travelers. Nobunaga also appears as a major character in the eroge Sengoku Rance and is a playable character in Pokémon Conquest, with his partner Pokémon being Hydreigon, Rayquaza and Zekrom.[106]

Portraits and statues[edit]

Oda Nobunaga by Kano Eitoku (Daitokuji)

The most famous portrait of Oda Nobunaga is Shihon-tyakusyoku Oda Nobunaga-zō (紙本著色織田信長像, lit.'Portrait of Oda Nobunaga in color on paper') (Kamishimo style) by Kanō Motohide, a National Important Cultural Property, owned by Chōkō-ji in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. Another important cultural property is Kenpon-tyakusyoku Oda Nobunaga-zō (絹本著色織田信長像, lit.'Portrait of Oda Nobunaga in color on silk') (Sokutai style) in the collection of the Kobe City Museum.[107]

There are also two other portraits, one in kamishimo and the other in sokutai, painted by Kanō Eitoku, one of the leading painters of the Azuchi–Momoyama period. A 2011 survey revealed that the kamishimo used for the memorial service had been redrawn from the original painting. The picture on the front is sober, but the first picture on the back remained in coloring is a gorgeous design with different colors on the left and right of the kosode, and an extra sword. Both ends of the mustache, which were sloppily lowered in the front painting, were raised on the reverse side, giving the face a dignified appearance. It is speculated that Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who came to power after Nobunaga's death, ordered the redrawing to make Nobunaga look weak.[108][109]

The wooden statue of Lord Oda Nobunaga, owned by Sōken-in of Daitoku-ji, is a seated statue of Nobunaga wearing ceremonial clothes and a sword, approximately 115 cm tall. It is said that this is one of the two wooden statues carved out of fragrant wood (agarwood) for the first anniversary of Nobunaga's death, and the other was placed in the coffin in place of Nobunaga's body, which could not be found. The ashes of the burned wooden statue were buried in place of Nobunaga's body in the Bodaiji built at Daitoku-ji.[110][111]


The Swallowtail butterfly mon of the Taira is called Ageha-chō (揚羽蝶) in Japanese.

Depending upon the source, Oda Nobunaga and the entire Oda clan are descendants of either the Fujiwara clan or the Taira clan (specifically, Taira no Shigemori's branch). His lineage can be directly traced to his great-great-grandfather, Oda Hisanaga, who was followed by Oda Toshisada, Oda Nobusada, Oda Nobuhide, and Nobunaga himself.[citation needed]

Immediate family[edit]

Nobunaga was the eldest legitimate son of Oda Nobuhide, a minor warlord from Owari Province, and Tsuchida Gozen, who was also the mother to three of his brothers (Nobuyuki, Nobukane, and Hidetaka) and two of his sisters (Oinu and Oichi).[citation needed]


Nobunaga married Nōhime, the daughter of Saitō Dōsan, in a political marriage, but records indicate that they had no children. It was his concubines, including Lady Ikoma (commonly known as Kitsuno), Lady Saka, Kyōun'in (Onabe no kata), Yōkan'in, Jitoku'in, Lady Hijikata, and Myōkō'in gave birth to his children. Kitsuno and Onabe's became Nobunaga's concubines after her husband was killed in battle, and Onabe had two sons with her former husband. Kitsuno bore Nobunaga's heir Nobutada and his second son Nobukatsu, and Saka bore his third son Nobutaka. After the death of Nobunaga and Nobutada, Nobukatsu and Nobutaka fought for Nobunaga's succession, and finally Nobutada's son Hidenobu (Sanpōshi) succeeded the head of the Oda clan.

  • Lawful Wife: Sagiyama-dono (also known as Nōhime or Kichō), daughter of Saitō Dōsan
  • Concubines:
    • Lady Ikoma (also known as Kitsuno), daughter of Ikoma Iemune, mother of Oda Nobutada, Nobukatsu and Toku-hime
    • Lady Saka, mother of Oda Nobutaka
    • Kyōun'in (Onabe no Kata), daughter of Takahata Genjūro, mother of Oda Nobuyoshi, Nobutaka and Ofuri, she acted practically as Nobunaga's lawful wife after he moved his base to Azuchi Castle.
    • Yokan'in, mother of Fuyu-hime, Hashiba Hidekatsu and Oda Nobuhide
    • Shunyomyōchō-daishi, mother of Ei-hime
    • Jitoku'in, relative of Takigawa Kazumasa, nanny of Oda Nobutada, birth mother of San-no-maru-dono
    • Lady Hijikata, daughter of Hijikata Katsuhisa, mother of Oda Nobusada
    • Akoko no kata, daughter of Sanjonishi Saneki
    • Myōkyō'in, sister of Ban Naomasa, mother of Nobumasa Oda
    • Otsumaki-dono, sister of Akechi Mitsuhide
  • Sons
    • Oda Nobutada (1557–1582) by Kitsuno
    • Oda Nobukatsu (1558–1630) by Kitsuno
    • Oda Nobutaka (1558–1583) by Lady Saka
    • Hashiba Hidekatsu (1567–1585)
    • Oda Katsunaga (died 1582)
    • Oda Nobuhide (1571–1597)
    • Oda Nobutaka by Kyōun'in, later Toyotomi Takajuro (1576–1602) adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
    • Oda Nobuyoshi by Kyōun'in, later Toyotomi Musashimori (1573–1615) adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
    • Oda Nobusada (1574–1624) by Lady Hijikata
    • Oda Nobuyoshi (died 1609) was adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
    • Oda Nagatsugu (died 1600)
    • Oda Nobumasa (1554–1647, illegitimate child) by Lady Harada, sister of Narada Naomasa
  • Daughters
  • Adopted children:
    • Toyama Fujin, married Takeda Katsuyori
    • Ashikaga Yoshiaki, he only wrote 'my father' in his letter to express his gratitude to Nobunaga and did not actually become his adopted son.

Other relatives[edit]

One of Nobunaga's younger sisters, Oichi, gave birth to three daughters. These three nieces of Nobunaga became involved with important historical figures. Chacha (also known as Lady Yodo), the eldest, became the mistress of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. O-Hatsu married Kyōgoku Takatsugu. The youngest, O-go, married the son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Tokugawa Hidetada (the second shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate). O-go's daughter Senhime married her cousin Toyotomi Hideyori, Lady Yodo's son.[citation needed]

Nobunaga's nephew was Tsuda Nobuzumi, the son of Nobuyuki. Nobuzumi married Akechi Mitsuhide's daughter and was killed after the Honnō-ji coup by Nobunaga's third son, Nobutaka, who suspected him of being involved in the plot.[citation needed]

Later descendants[edit]

Nobunaga's granddaughter Oyu no Kata, by his son Oda Nobuyoshi, married Tokugawa Tadanaga.[citation needed]

Nobunari Oda, a retired figure skater, claims to be a 17th-generation direct descendant of Nobunaga,[112][113] and the ex-monk celebrity Mudō Oda also claims descent from the Sengoku period warlord, but their claims have not been verified.[citation needed]



Chaki (Tea utensils)[edit]

  • Tsukumokami Nasu (九十九髪茄子)
  • Matsushima (松島)
  • Jō-ō Nasu (紹鴎茄子)
  • Hatsuhana Katatsuki (初花肩衝)
  • Fuji Nasu (富士茄子)
  • Kaburanashi (蕪無)
  • Komatsushima (小松島)
  • Kōjiguchi (柑子口)
  • Shirotenmoku (白天目)
  • Mikazuki (三日月)
  • Matsuhana (松花)
  • Honnō-ji Bunrin (本能寺文琳)


Heshikiri Hasebe
Famous sword by sword smith 'Kunishige'. A Japanese national treasure. 'Heshikiri' means press and cut and is said to derive from an anecdote about Nobunaga pressing and cutting a chabozu who had been rude to him, including the entire cupboard in which he hid.[114]
Yoshimoto Samonji
A trophy from the Battle of Okehazama, which belonged to Imagawa Yoshimoto when he was killed. This sword was owned by Nobunaga, then passed to Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, and was called 'the famous sword that ruled the whole country'.
Yagen Tōshirō
Matsunaga Hisahide donated it to Oda Nobunaga. It is said that it was burned down in the Honnō-ji Incident.
Dōjigiri Yasutsuna sword
Dōjigiri is one of the Five Swords under Heaven (天下五剣) made by Hōki Yasutsuna, this was the legendary sword with which Minamoto no Yorimitsu killed the boy-faced oni Shuten-dōji (酒呑童子) living near Mount Oe. It was presented to Oda Nobunaga by the Ashikaga family and was subsequently in the possession of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Kotegiri Masamune sword
Kotegiri means "kote cutter". In this case kote is a contraction of yugote (弓籠手), the arm guard used by a samurai archer. This name comes from an episode in which Asakura Ujikage cut an opposing samurai's yugote in the Battle of Toji in Kyoto. Oda Nobunaga gained possession of this sword and had it shortened to its present length.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In recent years, Miyoshi Nagayoshi, who conquered the Kinai region before Nobunaga, is often referred to as the first Tenka-bito (ruler).[1]
  2. ^ There is no doubt that Nobunaga was saddened by his death. He later built Seishū-ji (Masahide Temple) in Ogi Village, which was Masahide's territory, to mourn him.
  3. ^ Nobunaga brought Sakai and other areas under his control and obtained almost exclusive access to lead, the raw material for bullets, and nitre, the raw material for gunpowder, which were rarely produced domestically and could only be imported from overseas through the Nanban trade.
  4. ^ A medieval Japanese custom in which local samurai, farmers and bandits hunt fleeing samurai for bounty and the valuables they wear.
  5. ^ They don't necessarily reflect their actual personalities.[33]
  6. ^ hōraku-hiya is a hand grenade-like weapon made of pottery filled with gunpowder. It is thrown after igniting the fuse.[58]
  7. ^ Meibutsu-gari refers to the act by which Nobunaga, in the process of expanding his territory one after another, forced those whom he subjugated to offer tea utensils of high value as arts and crafts, or half-forcibly purchased them from them.
  8. ^ A contest of strength in which the two ends of a bamboo are held and twisted against each other in opposite directions.
  9. ^ a b c Prototype of yukata.
  10. ^ a b c A hairstyle in which the hair is bound into a stick shape and the tip looks like a brush tip.
  11. ^ A hairstyle in which the hair is bound at the back and folded upwards to form a double-folded mage.
  12. ^ Nobunaga owned a cloak, but there is no confirmed record of him drinking wine, and Western armour was not brought to Japan until 1588, after Nobunaga's death, according to official records.[94][95][96]


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