Battle of Minatogawa
|Battle of Minatogawa|
|Part of the Nanboku-chō Wars|
Troops disposition at Minatogawa
|Ashikaga rebels||Japanese imperial forces|
|Commanders and leaders|
Kō no Moroyasu
|Casualties and losses|
|?||Kusunoki force decimated|
The Battle of Minatogawa(湊川の戦い) also known as the Battle of Minato River was fought in July 4, 1336 between Japanese forces loyal to Emperor Go-Daigo and the Ashikaga clan. The battle took place near the Minato River of Settsu Province (present day, Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture). The Imperial force led by Kusunoki Masashige and Nitta Yoshisada attempted to intercept the Ashikaga force led by Ashikaga Takauji which had rebuilt its force by dominating forces of Kyushu through the victory at the Battle of Tatarahama.
Though a defeat for the Loyalists, the battle "is famous for the loyalty displayed by Kusunoki Masashige."
In Feb. 1336, the defeat of the Ashikaga clan forced Ashikaga Takauji to flee Kyoto for Kyushu. With this position of strength, Kusunoki Masashige attempted to persuade Emperor Go-Daigo to seek peace. Daigo refused, as he believed that the threat of the Ashikaga clan could be eliminated. Nitta Yoshisada was ordered to assemble the force to defeat the Ashikaga armies.
Yoshisada launched his campaign but Akamatsu Norimura who sided with Ashikaga clan forced the Imperial force into a protracted siege by defending Shirohata Castle in Harima Province, which gave Ashikaga clan time to regroup and consolidate Kyushu forces by winning the Battle of Tatarahama. Immediately, Takauji launched the counter-invasion, advancing by land and sea. Informed of Takauji's advance, Yoshisada ended the siege and attempted to find a better defensive position by retreating to Hyogo.
Emperor Go-Daigo ordered Masashige to gather his force and reinforce Yoshisada. After failing to argue for the strategy of letting Ashikaga clan into Kyoto and forcing them to defend it while harassing its supply route, Masashige ordered Kusunoki Masatsura, his eldest son to back to his domain to continue the war and advanced to successfully join Yoshisada. The Imperial force had no naval force to prevent itself from being surrounded but choose a defendable position near Minato River and extending its troop east to attempt to prevent a landing from sea to south.
The Ashikaga force chose to encircle and destroy the Imperial force. The main land force led by Tadayoshi attacked the Imperial from west to tie down Masashige with Shoni Yorihisa launching a side attack from south and Shiba Takatsune circling from north to attack from behind. The landing of Hosokawa Jozen further to east forced Yoshisada to avoid an encirclement by pulling back and Masashige was quickly surrounded with the Takauji landing his naval force between two Imperial forces without any interference. Abandoned by the main Imperial force, the force under Kusunoki clan was quickly overwhelmed and Kusunoki Masashige, his brother Masasue, and all his clansmen died.:133
This and series of battles are recorded with drama and exaggeration of accounts in Taiheiki, a historical epic which provides the wealth of information known to this period. During the Edo period, Masashige, despite only commanding a fraction of the Imperial force, became a figure of loyalty for choosing to sacrifice himself for the Imperial family against the impossible odds with Tokugawa Mitsukuni writing the epitaph and Minatogawa Shrine consecrated in May 24, 1872 to cement his fame. The battle was commonly taught as a morality tale until the end of World War II and Captain Goro Nonaka criticized the use of Ohka by 721st Naval Air Group comparing it to this battle as a sign of futility.
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