Akechi Mitsuhide

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Akechi Mitsuhide
明智 光秀
Edo period painting of Akechi Mitsuhide.
Lord of Kameyama Castle
In office
Succeeded byToyotomi Hidekatsu
Lord of Sakamoto Castle
In office
Succeeded byNiwa Nagahide
Personal details
Born10 March 1528
Tara Castle, Mino Province, Japan
DiedJuly 2, 1582(1582-07-02) (aged 54)
Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan
SpouseTsumaki Hiroko
ChildrenAkechi Mitsuyoshi
Akechi Tama
at least one other daughter
RelativesAkechi Hidemitsu (son-in-law)
Akechi Mitsutada (cousin)
Nickname"Jūbei" (十兵衛)
Military service
Allegiance Toki clan
Saitō clan
Ashikaga shogunate
Oda clan
Unit Akechi clan
Battles/warsBattle of Nagaragawa
Battle of Honkoku-ji
Siege of Kanegasaki
Siege of Mount Hiei
Kawachi Campaign
Battle of Nagashino
Tanba Campaign
Ishiyama Hongan-ji War
Battle of Tedorigawa
Siege of Shigisan
Siege of Yakami Castle
Siege of Kuroi Castle
Honnō-ji Incident
Battle of Yamazaki
Japanese name
Kanji明智 光秀
Hiraganaあけち みつひで

Akechi Mitsuhide (明智 光秀, March 10, 1528 – July 2, 1582),[1] first called Jūbei from his clan and later Koretō Hyūga no Kami (惟任日向守) from his title, was a Japanese samurai general of the Sengoku period. He is best known as the assassin of Oda Nobunaga. For this notorious murder, he was somewhat disparagingly known as the "Nine Day Shogun". Mitsuhide was originally a bodyguard of Ashikaga Yoshiaki and later, one of the trusted generals under daimyō Oda Nobunaga during his war of political unification in Japan.

The Akechi clan crest (Mon (emblem))

Mitsuhide rebelled against Nobunaga for unknown reasons in the Honnō-ji Incident in 1582, forcing the unprotected Nobunaga to commit seppuku in Kyoto.

Mitsuhide attempted to establish himself as shōgun, but was pursued by Nobunaga's successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi and defeated at the Battle of Yamazaki. The 13-days short reign of Mitsuhide is listed as the inspiration for the yojijukugo set phrase mikkatenka (三日天下, short-lived[2] reign).[3][4]

He is still popular in present culture. A ceremonial activity was held on April 15, 2018, in Kyoto.[5]

Early life[edit]

Bronze statue of Akechi Mitsuhide

Akechi Mitsuhide was believed to be born on 10 March 1528 in Tara Castle, Mino Province (present-day Kani, Gifu Prefecture).[6] Mitsuhide was a descendant of the Toki-Akechi family of the shugo Toki clan. Mitsuhide is rumored to be a childhood friend or cousin of Nōhime. It is believed that he was raised to be a general among 10,000 by Saitō Dōsan and the Toki clan during their governorship of the Mino Province. When Dōsan's son, Saitō Yoshitatsu, rebelled against his father in 1556, Mitsuhide sided with Dōsan.

Service under Ashikaga Shogunate and Oda Nobunaga[edit]

Mitsuhide began serving the "wandering shōgun" Ashikaga Yoshiaki as one of his guardians under Hosokawa Fujitaka. Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiaki asked Asakura Yoshikage to be his official protector, an offer which Yoshikage declined. Later, Yoshiaki appealed to Mitsuhide, who suggested Oda Nobunaga instead.[7]

In 1567, Nobunaga conquered Mino province, and marched through Omi province to Kyoto. In November 1568, Nobunaga, Yoshiaki, and Mitsuhide arrived in Kyoto, the capital of Japan. Nobunaga made Yoshiaki the next shogun and turned Honkoku-ji Temple into a temporary Shogun palace.

In 1569, after Nobunaga and his followers returned from Kyoto on January 4, the Miyoshi clan (Miyoshi Saninshu) attacked Ashikaga Yoshiaki at Honkoku-ji on January 31. In this battle, Mitsuhide defended the shōgun and repulsed the Miyoshi clan. Then Nobunaga asked Mitsuhide to join his army. Mitsuhide decided to serve under the Shōgun and also join Nobunaga.

At the Siege of Kanegasaki (1570) in Echizen Province. Mitsuhide joined Hideyoshi to serve as the rear-guard for the departing Oda forces.

In 1571, after the successful attack at the Ikkō-ikki Enryaku-ji temple, Mitsuhide received the area of Sakamoto area and built Sakamoto Castle.[8] Although Nobunaga rarely put too much trust in his retainers, he particularly trusted Shibata Katsuie, Hashiba Hideyoshi, and Akechi Mitsuhide, who was the first subordinate to receive a castle from Nobunaga.

In 1572, Mitsuhide continued serving Shogun Yoshiaki by contributing to the campaign in Kawachi Province.

In 1573, after Ashikaga Yoshiaki raised arms against Nobunaga, Mitsuhide broke with Yoshiaki and served as a senior retainer of Nobunaga in battles at Ishiyama Castle and Imakatata Castle.

In 1574, after the Ashikaga Shogunate ended, Mitsuhide served as a dual magistrate, assessing taxes on temple holdings in Kyōto and its environs.

In 1575, after the Battle of Nagashino, Nobunaga sent Akechi Mitsuhide to take control of Tanba Province. Mitsuhide attempted diplomacy and won over a number of the smaller local lords to his side. However, the Akai clan were adamant in their opposition, and Mitsuhide was forced to lay siege to Kuroi Castle for two months in the winter of 1575. Later, he was awarded the Court titles of "Junior Fifth Rank (Lower)" and "Governor of Hyūga", and the honorary title of "Koretō Hyūga-no-kami".

In April 1576, during the Ishiyama Hongan-ji War, Mitsuhide, Hosokawa Fujitaka, Harada Naomasa, and Araki Murashige led the Oda forces against the Ikkō-ikki in the battle of Tenno-ji.[9] In the meantime, in Tanba Province, the Hatano clan under Hatano Hideharu declared independence and turned against Nobunaga.

In 1577, Mitsuhide, along with Hosokawa Fujitaka and Tsutsui Junkei, fought under Oda Nobutada in the Siege of Shigisan against Matsunaga Hisahide, who had rebelled against Nobunaga. Later, Mitsuhide took part in the Battle of Tedorigawa against Uesugi Kenshin.[1]: 27, 228 

In 1578, two years after the Hatano clan rebelled, Nobunaga ordered Mitsuhide to return to Tanba Province and subdue them. Mitsuhide defeated several rebel clans allied to the Hatano. He defeated the Akai clan, led by Akai Naomasa (the "Red Demon of Tanba"), at the second siege of Kuroi castle. For this successful campaign, Nobunaga awarded Mitsuhide Kameyama Castle, and Tanba Province as a fief with revenue of 550,000 koku.

In 1579, Mitsuhide induced Hatano Hideharu to surrender Yakami Castle by promising Hideharu safety. However, Nobunaga broke the agreement and executed Hideharu. This reputedly displeased the Hatano family. As a result, several of Hideharu's retainers murdered Akechi Mitsuhide's mother (or aunt).[1]: 230  The failing relationship between Nobunaga and Mitsuhide was further damaged by several public insults which Nobunaga directed at Mitsuhide.

In 1580, Nobunaga dismissed his most important commander, Sakuma Nobumori. Mitsuhide replaced Nobumori in command and came to lead the largest force in the Kinki area (Kansai). This move was often said to be linked to the Honnō-ji Incident.

In 1581, Nobunaga assigned Mitsuhide to manage the Kyōto ouma-zoroi ("Kyōto Mounted Horse Parade"), a large-scale military parade held to the east of the Imperial Palace in Kyōto.

Honnō-ji Incident[edit]

In 1582, Mitsuhide was ordered by Nobunaga to march west to assist Hashiba Hideyoshi who was at that time fighting the Mōri clan. Ignoring his orders, Mitsuhide assembled an army of 13,000 soldiers and moved against Nobunaga's position at Honnō-ji. On June 21, Mitsuhide was quoted as saying, "The enemy is at Honnō-ji!" His army surrounded the temple and eventually set it on fire. Oda Nobunaga was killed either during the fighting, or by his own hand. Nobunaga's son, Oda Nobutada, fled the scene, but was surrounded at Nijō Castle and killed.[10] Despite not killing Nobunaga personally, Mitsuhide claimed responsibility for his death.

Mitsuhide's betrayal of the Oda shocked the capital, and he was forced to move quickly to secure his position. Mitsuhide looted Azuchi castle to reward his men and maintain their loyalty.

Mitsuhide attempted to make gestures of friendship to a panicked Imperial Court; he also made many attempts to win over the other clans, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, Hosokawa Fujitaka, to whom he was related through marriage, quickly cut ties with him, as well as Tsutsui Junkei, who refused to take Akechi's side, and half-heartedly supported Hideyoshi.[1]: 278 


Akechi Mitsuhide grave information plaque at Umemiyacho, Kyoto.

Mitsuhide had counted on Toyotomi Hideyoshi being occupied fighting with the Mori, and unable to respond to Mitsuhide's coup d'état. However, having learned of the assassination of his lord, Hideyoshi quickly signed a peace treaty with the Mori, and alongside Tokugawa Ieyasu rushed to be the first to avenge Nobunaga. Hideyoshi force marched his army to Settsu in four days, and caught Mitsuhide off guard.

Mitsuhide had been unable to garner support for his cause, and his army had dwindled down to 10,000 men. Hideyoshi, however, had won over former Oda retainers, including Niwa Nagahide and Ikeda Tsuneoki, and had a strength of 20,000 men. In July 2, 1582, the two forces met at the Battle of Yamazaki.

Battle of Yamazaki[edit]

Mitsuhide took up a position south of Shōryūji Castle, securing his right flank by the Yodo river, and his left at the foot of the 270-metre Tennozan. Hideyoshi immediately seized the advantage by securing the heights of Tennōzan; his vanguard then maneuvered to face the Akechi forces along the Enmyōji river.

Mitsuhide's forces made a failed attempt to force Hideyoshi from Tennōzan. Ikeda Tsuneoki moved to reinforce Hideyoshi's right flank, which soon crossed Enmyōji-gawa and turned the Akechi flank. Simultaneously, Hideyoshi's forces marched against the Akechi front; this started a rout, only two hours after the battle had begun.[11]

Mitsuhide's men fled, with the exception of the 200 men under Mimaki Kaneaki (御牧 兼顕), who charged and were destroyed by Hideyoshi's larger force. Soon, panic set in among the Akechi army, and Hideyoshi's army chased them back to Shōryūji, where the garrison collapsed. The bandit leader Nakamura Chōbei later killed Mitsuhide as Mitsuhide fled the battle.[1]: 277–278 

Shrine to Akechi Mitsuhide, Kyoto



Tensho Koshirae sword[edit]

The Tensho Koshirae was first forged during the Azuchi-Momoyama Era and was meant to be a replica of Akechi Mitsuhide's sword. These katanas were made for practical use and thus had a simplistic design philosophy and the metal tempered to be strong and durable. [12] The Akechi family was able to trace their heritage to the Toki clan and from there to the Minamoto clan.

Castles built or reconstructed by Mitsuhide[edit]

Mitsuhide was well known as a master of castle construction, and was engaged in the construction of many castles.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. Cassell & Co. p. 212. ISBN 1854095234.
  2. ^ According to the Sanseido reference, 三日 should be understood not literally as three days, but as "ごく短い期間", e.g. an exceptionally short period of time
  3. ^ "三日天下" [Mikkatenka]. 広辞苑第六版 (Koujien, 6th edition) (in Japanese). 株式会社岩波書店 (Iwanami Shoten, Inc.). 2008.
  4. ^ 三日天下 [Mikkatenka]. 新明解四字熟語時点 (Shinmeika Yojijukugo Jiten) (in Japanese). 三省堂(Sanseidō). Retrieved 5 Sep 2013.
  5. ^ "「逆臣」光秀の善政たどる 京都・福知山で15日催し : 京都新聞". Archived from the original on 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  6. ^ Miyagi keizu and Kitamra kaden
  7. ^ "Akechi Mitsuhide". www.samurai-archives.com. Archived from the original on 2010-10-24. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  8. ^ "坂本城" (in Japanese). 滋賀県観光情報. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  9. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (2000). The Samurai Sourcebook. London: Cassell & Co. pp. 27, 228. ISBN 1854095234.
  10. ^ "Oda Nobunaga". www.samurai-archives.com. Archived from the original on 2017-06-06. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  11. ^ "Toyotomi Hideyoshi". www.samurai-archives.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-24. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  12. ^ "Tensho Koshirae".
  13. ^ "【明智光秀の城】坂本城と亀山城の歴史を紐解く!" (in Japanese). 歴史マガジン. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  14. ^ "明智光秀とは?" (in Japanese). 岐阜県大河ドラマ「麒麟がくる」推進協議会. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  15. ^ "明智光秀の功績しのび、銅像の除幕式 京都・亀岡でまつり" (in Japanese). 京都新聞. Archived from the original on 27 September 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Takayanagi, Mitsutoshi (1966), Akechi Mitsuhide (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, OCLC 42626467