Akechi Mitsuhide

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Akechi Mitsuhide
Akechi Mituhide.jpg
An Edo period painting of Akechi Mitsuhide.
Native name明智 光秀
Nickname(s)Jūbei (十兵衛)
Koretō Hyūga no Kami (惟任日向守)
BornMarch 10, 1528
DiedJuly 2, 1582(1582-07-02) (aged 54)
Allegiance家徽.jpg Saitō clan
Ashikaga mon.svg Ashikaga shogunate
Mon-Oda.png Oda clan
Tokikikyo.svg Akechi clan
UnitTokikikyo.svg Akechi clan
Battles/warsIshiyama Hongan-ji War
Honnō-ji Incident
Battle of Yamazaki
Spouse(s)Tsumaki Hiroko
ChildrenAkechi Mitsuyoshi
Akechi Tama
at least one other daughter
RelationsAkechi Hidemitsu (son-in-law)
Akechi Mitsuharu (cousin)

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 samurai and general who lived during the Sengoku period of Feudal Japan. His full name was thus Akechi Jūbei Minamoto-no-Mitsuhide (明智 十兵衛 源の光秀).

Mitsuhide was a general under daimyō Oda Nobunaga, who then became famous for his rebellion against Nobunaga in 1582, which led to Nobunaga's death at Honnō-ji.

Early life and rise[edit]

Mitsuhide was born in Tara castle, Mino Province-now Gifu Prefecture[2] Mitsuhide is 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.

Mitsuhide began serving the "wandering shōgun" Ashikaga Yoshiaki as one of his guardians under Hosokawa Yusai. Shōgun Ashikaga ordered Asakura Yoshikage to be his official protector, an offer which Yoshikage declined. Yoshiaki appealed to Mitsuhide, who suggested Oda Nobunaga instead.[3]

In 1564, Nobunaga sent his sister Oichi to be the bride of Azai Nagamasa. This aided him in his 1566 conquest for Mino province, and opened the path to Kyoto. The shōgun Yoshiaki and Mitsuhide arrived at Kyoto, the capital of Japan, converting Hongoku-ji temple to a temporary palace in November 1568. Nobunaga returned from Kyoto on January 4, 1569. The Miyoshi clan and Saito Tatsuoki defeated the daimyo of Mino, and attacked Ashikaga Yoshiaki at Hongoku-ji, where Mitsuhide successfully defended the shōgun. Nobunaga asked Mitsuhide to join his troops and Mitsuhide decided to serve both the shōgun and Nobunaga.

Mitsuhide received Sakamoto (in Ōmi, 100,000 koku) in 1571 after the successful attack at the Enryaku-ji temple. 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. After Mitsuhide received Sakamoto, he moved to pacify the Tanba region by defeating several clans such as the Hatano and the Isshiki of Tango. Mitsuhide also received Kameyama castle and Tanba Province (550,000 koku).

He participated in the Battle of Tedorigawa in 1577.[1]:27,228

Incident at Honnō-ji[edit]

In 1579, Nobunaga captured Yakami Castle from Hatano Hideharu by promising Hideharu peace terms; however, Nobunaga betrayed the peace agreement and had Hideharu executed. This reputedly displeased the Hatano family, and a short while later several of Hideharu's retainers murdered Akechi Mitsuhide's mother (or aunt).[1]:230 The failing relationship between Nobunaga and Mitsuhide was further fueled through several public insults which Nobunaga directed at Mitsuhide.

In 1582, Mitsuhide was ordered to march west and assist Hashiba Hideyoshi who was currently 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 and killed.[4] Despite not killing Nobunaga personally, Mitsuhide claimed responsibility for his death.

The Battle of Yamazaki[edit]

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. Hosokawa Fujitaka, to whom he was related through marriage, quickly cut ties with him.

Tsutsui Junkei half-heartedly supported Hideyoshi.[1]:278

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 and take his place.

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 Takayama Ukon, and had a strength of 20,000 men. The two forces met at the Battle of Yamazaki.

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. Hideyoshi's general, Ikeda Nobuteru 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.[5]


Mitsuhide's reign as shōgun lasted only 13 days, hence the reference "thirteen-day shogun", as he was killed fleeing the battle of Yamazaki by the bandit leader Nakamura Chōbei.[1]:277–278

The short reign of Mitsuhide is listed as the inspiration for the yojijukugo set phrase mikkatenka (三日天下, short-lived[6] reign).[7][8]

Reasons for betrayal[edit]

No one knows the specific reason that Mitsuhide betrayed Nobunaga, though there are several theories:

  • Personal ambition - Mitsuhide had grown tired of waiting for promotion under Nobunaga or had grown tired of being under another's authority.
  • A personal grudge:
    • During the battle at Yagami Castle, 1575, Mitsuhide's mother died for Nobunaga's cause.
    • Nobunaga accused Mitsuhide of superficially praising his allies after their victory over the Takeda and physically kicked him.
    • While staying at Azuchi Castle, Tokugawa Ieyasu complained about the food he was served. Nobunaga responded by throwing Mitsuhide's priceless dinnerware into the garden pond.
  • Nobunaga had asked him to – a legend states that Nobunaga asked Mitsuhide to strike him down if he were ever to become too ruthless, and the Incident at Honnō-ji is Mitsuhide fulfilling this promise.
  • Betrayal by Hosokawa Fujitaka – Fujitaka, father of Mitsuhide's son-in-law, was said to have promised aid to Mitsuhide but in actuality was reporting the plot to Hideyoshi.
  • He was asked to – one theory is that he was asked or influenced to betray Nobunaga by Mōri Terumoto, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, Nōhime, Esam Abunaga, the Shimazu clan or Emperor Ogimachi.
  • Protecting the Imperial Court. One theory supposed Nobunaga may have abolished the Imperial Court in Kyoto, when he no longer needed it. Akechi Mitsuhide, who was before his treason seen as an honorable samurai, and had been a retainer to both Nobunaga and the Ashikaga shogunate, asked his lord to guarantee the safety and honorific position of the Court, or at least for the Emperor. Nobunaga who was a fearless daredevil and had the habit of not expressing himself very clearly (because of spies and other traitors, he acted this way because his generals knew him the best and were thus able to understand his will) may have allowed uncertainty to persist regarding his plans for the Court. Then Mitsuhide doubted Nobunaga, and slew him to protect the Emperor and Japan's History.
  • Dairokuten Maō (Demon King of the Six Heavens, or Mara of the Sixth Heaven of the Desire Realm) was a title bestowed by the shocked people of Japan over Nobunaga's many abuses and tyrannical rule, and he himself used it to mock his opponents. In Buddhist interpretations of Shuten Dōji's tale, the Oni overlord Shuten Dōji was also regarded as the incarnation of Dairokuten Maō, while Emperor Ichijō was considered an avatar of Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya) and the demon slaying hero Minamoto no Yorimitsu as an avatar of Daiitoku Myōō (Yamantaka). In the fourth generation, a descendant of Raikō, Minamoto-no-Mitsunobu, came to the district of Mino where he took the name of Toki. The Toki clan was his descendant, and Mitsuhide through them, or so he may have believed himself. Thus, combined with various reasons (protecting the Imperial Court, protecting Buddhism, seeking glory and wealth, personal discontent...), Mitsuhide decided to slay the demon king Nobunaga. Coincidentally, Nobunaga burned Hiei-zan (the sacred mountain of Buddhism), which was previously the lair of Shuten Dōji, from whom he had fled for Ōe-yama, out of his hatred for Buddhism and the monk Saichō, who had recently built a temple at that location.
Shrine to Akechi Mitsuhide, Kyoto



The Akechi family was able to trace their heritage to the Toki clan and from there to the Minamoto clan. It is noted that Minamoto no Yoritomo brought the destruction of the Taira clan the same way Mitsuhide brought an end to Nobunaga, who traces his ancestry to the Taira clan. The sword of Mitsuhide is of the Tensho style; the Tensho Koshirae was first designed to be a replica of Akechi Mitsuhide's own sword.

In popular culture[edit]

See People of the Sengoku period in popular culture.

  • In Sengoku Basara games and anime, he is described as a psychotic sadist and bloodthirsty warrior armed with scythes. Later, he dons the name Tenkai, but retains his sadistic behavior under the benevolent disguise.
  • He appears in Samurai Warriors, a video game created by Koei's Omega Force team.
  • He appears in Kessen III, a video game created by Koei.
  • Mitsuhide appears as a character in Kouta Hirano's Drifters, siding with the Ends in the war against the Drifters in hopes of killing Nobunaga, who was spirited away to the unknown realm during the incident at Honnō-ji temple.
  • In Nioh, Akechi Mitsuhide is mentioned for doing his part in history. It is revealed that the Onmyo mage character Tenkai was actually Mitsuhide trying to atone for his sins by helping Tokugawa Ieyasu.
  • In "Nobunaga the Fool", an anime, he is shown as a faithful servant to Nobunaga until he realizes that Nobunaga is the cause of all the destruction surrounding them. He then kills him and finds out that he himself is the person meant to save the world.
  • In James Clavell's 1975 novel "Shōgun", the character Akechi Jinsai is based upon Akechi Mitsuhide, and is also known for a 13-day rebellion.
  • He is still popular in present culture. A ceremonial activity was held on April.15.2018 in Kyoto.[9]
  • In the anime Nobunaga Concerto and its live action series and movie, he is depicted as the real Nobunaga who allowed a 21st-century teenager to rise a proxy Nobunaga. He then became an ally of the proxy Nobunaga and declares himself his new name, Akechi. In the Live action series, he is portrayed by Shun Oguri.
  • In the Japanese light novel series and anime, The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, He is depicted as a female character.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku: Romances Across Time, Akechi Mitsuhide is a pursuer in the game. His route is not yet out in Japannesse or English.


  1. ^ a b c d e Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. Cassell & Co. p. 212. ISBN 1854095234.
  2. ^ Miyagi keizu and Kitamra kaden
  3. ^ http://www.samurai-archives.com/mitsuhide.html
  4. ^ http://www.samurai-archives.com/nobunaga.html
  5. ^ http://www.samurai-archives.com/hideyoshi.html
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ http://www.kyoto-np.co.jp/sightseeing/article/20180411000093

Further reading[edit]

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