最上義光歴史館/<Part1-3> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -

最上義光歴史館
<Part1-3> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -
The Slaying of Shirotori Juro

  In those days, in the Yachi region of Dewa province, there was a daimyo by the name of Shirotori Jūrō. Jūrō had it in his mind to subjugate Lord Yoshiaki and himself become the ruler of Dewa, and he initially sought to avail himself of the power of the central authority. He sent Lord Nobunaga the gifts of a great hawk and a horse from his own stable, falsely representing himself as “the Lord of Mogami in the Dewa province”. Being quite unacquainted with the affairs of this region so far from the capital, it was said that Lord Nobunaga took Jūrō at his word and sent him a courteous letter of reply.
  News of this incident reached the ears of Lord Yoshiaki, who sent Shimura Kurobei, later to become Shimura Izu no Kami, to Lord Nobunaga with the official lineage chart of the Mogami family, along with the gifts of a great white hawk, one of his lordship’s own horses, and ten long spears forged by the master swordsmith Gassan. As this was a time of great unrest within the country, Kurobei found himself unable to proceed by the route originally planned, and approached the capital by way of the Echigo province. Lodging at the residence of Yamamoto Hikosaburō, he waited until Lord Nobunaga was ready to see him.
  Announced as “an emissary from a distant region”, Shimura Kurobei was summoned to the palace courtyard with his entire accompanying retinue, down to the humblest attendants. After Lord Nobunaga had presented his guest with ceremonial gifts, he personally questioned Kurobei with regards to the circumstances giving rise to his visit.
  Upon hearing the explanation offered by Kurobei and examining the chart tracing the lineage of the Mogami family, Lord Nobunaga immediately drafted a letter recognizing “Mogami Dewa no Kami”, or “Lord Mogami of Dewa”.
  Lord Yoshiaki remained nonetheless determined to put an end to Shirotori Jūrō, who had attempted to usurp the position of the Mogami clan. He consulted with his vassal Ujiie Owari no Kami, who subsequently dispatched a messenger to Jūrō with the following proposal: “This disharmony between neighboring lords is an impediment to passage between our lands, which is a burden upon the people, and my master Lord Yoshiaki wishes to reconcile with your lordship. With your approval, we propose a marriage between your daughter and his lordship’s eldest son Shuri no Daibu Yoshiyasu to ensure good relations between the two families.”
  Jūrō considered this proposal carefully, and through his mind ran the following thoughts: “Yoshiaki’s reputation for valor in recent years is great, and contending with him over the long term may be difficult. It might be to my advantage to use this intermediation of Ujiie Owari no Kami to make peace with Lord Yoshiaki. Allied together, we will expand our dominion over the neighboring lands, and when my own power has grown mighty, I will assuredly find some means of subduing him.”
  Having thus settled the matter in his mind, he spoke. “It is agreed. Let there be peace between Lord Yoshiaki and myself.”
  Following this, there was some coming and going of messengers from both sides, but, ever cautious, Jūrō had yet to present himself at Yamagata Castle in person.
  After another consultation with Owari no Kami, an envoy was sent to Jūrō with the following message from Lord Yoshiaki:
  “Of late, I find myself much impaired in health. I desire to see Lord Jūrō, and to place the ruling of this domain in his hands. And until my son and successor Shuri no Daibu achieves maturity, I wish to entrust to Lord Jūrō’s care the lineage chart of the Mogami family.”
  Thus commanded, it seemed to Jūrō as if his very prayers had been answered, and he sent a reply saying that he would “present himself a few days hence”. In the intervening time, the Mogami side devised their schemes and bided their time.
  When Jūrō arrived in Yamagata on the appointed day, what sight did meet his eyes but that of several generations of Mogami retainers, not a single man missing, lined up in defense outside the castle, a seeming indication of the seriousness of their master’s condition. In a writing room of the castle, a high priest of the Jōjuin Temple had set out a sacred altar over which he was offering prayers, and many Mogami family members were in attendance in the room adjacent to the chamber where Lord Yoshiaki lay on his sickbed. There was also much coming and going of physicians and diviners, and the condition of his lordship appeared to be grave indeed.
  Although habitually a man of caution, Jūrō appeared moved by Lord Yoshiaki’s plight, and tears came to his eyes. Urged to “make haste to his lordship’s bedchamber”, he ventured to the bedside of Lord Yoshiaki and spoke to him respectfully. “Knowing not the full gravity of your lordship’s illness, I have been slow in coming to your side, and I offer my humble apologies. May it now please your lordship to command me as you will.”
  At this, Lord Yoshiaki pulled himself into a sitting position and spoke. “It is with great joy that I greet this, our final meeting. If this is indeed the end for me, the daimyo of the other domains will no doubt seek to intrude themselves upon our affairs after I am gone, and I look to you to attend to this eventuality. And until my son and successor Shuri no Daibu comes of age, I place the lineage chart of the Mogami family in your keeping.”
  So saying, he produced a single scroll, which Jūrō accepted. Thrice he raised it reverently to his head, and while the words, “With this, I become lord of Dewa,” did not actually pass Jūrō’s lips, his face plainly betrayed the thought. It was then that Lord Yoshiaki pretended to shift, pulling from under his bed a sword that had earlier been placed there, and in a single movement he slashed at his enemy. The suddenness of this attack took even the valiant Jūrō unawares, and, mortally wounded, he collapsed to the ground.
  The attendants of Lord Jūrō had been placed in a large hall under the pretext that they were to be given a meal, but upon the signal of a drum beat which sounded in the interior of the castle, a contingent of young samurai who had been lying in wait emerged to surround Lord Jūrō’s men on three sides, cutting them down until none were left alive. Immediately thereupon, the blowing of a conch shell trumpet sounded the call to battle.
  Kumazawa Chikaranosuke took to the field with a force of fifty ashigaru(1) foot soldiers, and as Takahashi Kazue, Shimura Tōemon, and the other Mogami generals followed with their men, Lord Yoshiaki pulled his horse near and mounted it gracefully. Selected from the 300-strong unit of spearmen and armed with long spears forged by Gassan himself, the “Chosen Thirty”, a group of men so powerful they were designated with the names of fierce beasts, surrounded his lordship, who was accompanied by a mounted bodyguard made up of such valiant warriors as Takahashi Sezaemon, Ōnuma Hachibei, Hosoya Takuminosuke, and Hosoya Gon’emon. With the lust for battle coursing through their veins, the Mogami force launched its assault on the Yachi domain.


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(1)Common foot soldiers

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2012/12/08 10:06 (C) 最上義光歴史館