最上義光歴史館/<Part1-11> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -

最上義光歴史館
<Part1-11> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -
The Downfall of the Ignoble Lord

  Following Lord Yoshiaki’s return from the battle of Kaneyama, he summoned Kusakari Bizen no Kami to his sleeping quarters one evening and remained in counsel with him throughout the night.
  The following spring, Bizen no Kami went forth to a mountain where the slaying of birds or animals was strictly prohibited, and he commenced to hunt deer and birds and commit other lawless acts. Lord Yoshiaki was greatly incensed when news of this reached his ears. “Only a scoundrel of the lowest order would dare to perpetrate such atrocities on this mountain, upon which lies the grave of Lord Yoshimori, and where the taking of any life is expressly forbidden. However, in consideration of his sacrifice of his son Takeda Hyōgo, who fell last year in battle at Kaneyama, I shall spare him the punishment of death.”
  And so it was that Bizen no Kami was banished from the Mogami domain. Left with no other recourse, he made his way to Shōnai, where he placed himself at the mercy of the Ignoble Lord and was allowed to take up residence.
  Upon hearing the details of Bizen no Kami’s crime, Mitsuyasu deemed him a man who would never be allowed to return to Yamagata and immediately made him a member of his personal retinue. Being a man of considerable acumen, Bizen no Kami was soon in Mitsuyasu’s good graces, and within the space of three months he found himself the recipient of a most generous fiefdom and a trusted retainer of his new master. Now, amongst the long-serving vassals of the Ignoble Lord there was a man by the name of Nakatsukasa, who was some sixty years of age. Nakatsukasa had a twelve-year-old son who had for some time served at Lord Mitsuyasu’s side, but when the boy one day committed some trifling offense, his unforgiving master pulled him close and slew him with his own sword. The grief of the elderly Nakatsukasa was quite beyond the capacity of words to convey, and in his keen anguish, he began to harbor a deep grudge against Mitsuyasu. “Although he may have been guilty of some small infraction,” Nakatsukasa grieved, “my son was but a lad of twelve, a boy who could still not tell his left from his right. I myself have fought honorably for my lord in many battles, and now that I have reached my sixtieth year, why do I deserve to be treated so heartlessly? How can my lord be so cruel?”
  Pleading illness, Nakatsukasa retreated to his fiefdom of Takasaka, where he mourned his lost child day and night. The other retainers looked upon him with sympathy. “The bitterness Nakatsukasa feels against our lord is no more than just,” they said. “If even a man such as he, who is conspicuous in his faithful and meritorious service, can be subjected to such cruelty, there is no telling what fate may befall the rest of us.” It was in the midst of this muttering that one of them made the following observation:
  “Lord Yoshiaki of Yamagata is known to say that a commanding general and his soldiers are like a folding fan. The general is the pivot, the captains the ribs, and the body of soldiers the paper covering, and each of these elements is indispensable to victory in battle. Moreover, Lord Yoshiaki has been heard to say that he feels towards his soldiers as he does towards his own children.”
  “He speaks truly,” said those who were listening, “and no soldier would begrudge his life to serve a general who feels such as this. In the case of the Ignoble Lord, who loves war and acts without mercy, fear of his lordship’s wrath may bring outward obedience, but there are none who truly feel loyal to him.”
  Though one and all were in agreement on this, they feared that Lord Mitsuyasu would hear of any visits they paid to Nakatsukasa, and none dared make the attempt.
  Bizen no Kami, however, had a secret agenda, and in the dead of night, when all were asleep, he would slip out to visit the elderly retainer. He would recount tales that would soothe the other man’s heart, or join him in mourning his son, and it was at these times that Nakatsukasa would unburden himself to his guest. “Not even the colleagues with whom I have shared long friendships will come to see me, for they all fear his lordship, while you – who have but recently joined us here – uncomplainingly make the long nightly journey to visit me and comfort me in my sorrow, and for this I am most deeply grateful.”
  On one of these nights, with the rain falling outside and a mournful feel in the air, Bizen no Kami arrived with a servant laden with a small cask of sake and other supplies. Nakatsukasa welcomed him warmly, saying, “I had been feeling particularly lonely on this rainy evening – it is good of you to have come,” and the two men spent the night talking of the daimyo and lords of the various provinces.
  “I know not whether to believe,” said Nakatsukasa, “the reports that Lord Yoshiaki of Yamagata is a man of great compassion who is merciful to all his people. Is this indeed true?”
“In recent years,” replied Bizen no Kami, “Lord Yoshiaki has conquered much of the region with his sword, making some in the neighboring provinces view him as a fierce god of sorts, but at heart he is a man of great mercy. He looks upon all his subjects as his children, and his care even extends to the old and infirm, who are granted stipends and looked after well.”
  Upon hearing Bizen no Kami’s response, Nakatsukasa moved to his side and spoke in an undertone. “Although it shames me to say so, I find myself unable to forgive my lord for his recent treatment of me. In truth, when the Ignoble Lord was but a boy of twelve, it was I who orchestrated an unprecedented coup in the Murakami domain of Echigo province, along with a series of subsequent military victories, which enabled him to become ruler of Shōnai. Are these not verily the acts of a faithful servant? However, the resentment I feel towards him is not mine alone, for as you yourself have seen and heard, his lordship is mighty only in battle, and has not the slightest whit of compassion for others. Those who are willing to listen to reason and strive for the good of the land find themselves stripped of their positions, while only flatterers and sycophants rise in the ranks, insolent in their snug proximity to his lordship. With these men increasingly given to evil ways, there are none in the land who can breathe easily, and it is for the sake of these people that I have resolved to offer my allegiance to Lord Yoshiaki. I will help to lead the conquest of the Shōnai domain, and if I join the Mogami side, I believe that most of Lord Mitsuyasu’s other retainers will follow me. Your presence here at this particular time is most fortuitous – take yourself quickly to Yamagata and inform Lord Yoshiaki of my proposal, and if he agrees, I will flee to Yamagata without delay. If his lordship is appraised of the situation, he will surely pardon you for any past misdeeds.” It was in this way that Nakatsukasa made his intentions quite clear to his guest.
  In truth, Bizen no Kami had come forth to Shōnai and spent several years dwelling in the region precisely in order to bring about the downfall of the Ignoble Lord. He had attempted to gauge the interest of a variety of persons, but with so much at stake he was sorely troubled as to his best course of action, which made Nakatsukasa’s proposal a most felicitous turn of events.
  “What you suggest is entirely justified,” Bizen no Kami told Nakatsukasa, “for what other choice do you have? The gods themselves could hardly fail to recognize the justice of your desire to overthrow a wicked lord and relieve the distress of the multitudes. However, fleeing to the distant region of Yamagata will not be enough to bring you success in this scheme. You should remain here and secretly hold counsel with those who will stand by your side, and if you then make your intentions known to Lord Yoshiaki, he will no doubt advance on Shōnai with his army at the earliest opportunity. Lord Mitsuyasu will likely go with his troops to the Shōnai-Mogami border to meet the enemy army, and if you take that opportunity to set fire to his castle and attack him from behind, Mitsuyasu will find himself set upon from both sides and – fierce general that he may be – will no doubt be overcome quickly.” Bizen no Kami clearly outlined the steps of his strategy, and Nakatsukasa listened attentively.
  “You speak most wisely,” he said. “I will seek out those who will ally themselves with me.” From that time on, Nakatsukasa organized clandestine meetings with his colleagues, informing them of what he had resolved to do for the sake of the people and encouraging them to join him. Without exception, all those he approached had grown so disgusted with their master that they welcomed his proposal wholeheartedly, enthusiastically falling in with his plans. It was decided that they would draw up a written pledge, and late one night, when all were asleep, they assembled at Nakatsukasa’s residence. Bizen no Kami had prepared the document containing their oath, and to this they affixed their seals. The pledge was entrusted to Bizen no Kami, and a war council was held to seal their compact.
  When Bizen no Kami sent word of these developments to Yamagata, Lord Yoshiaki was exceedingly pleased. “The problem of the Ignoble Lord is one that has long weighed on my mind, but this success in turning his entire body of retainers to our side is no small testament to the fidelity of Bizen no Kami.” Without delay, Lord Yoshiaki departed Yamagata at the head of his army, and the vanguard had soon passed the high peaks of Mount Gassan, advancing as far as the Kurokawa-Matsune region.
  News of these movements reached the ears of the Ignoble Lord. “Lord Yoshiaki’s reputation in recent years has him as a fierce god of sorts, which will make him a worthy adversary for one such as myself. Let us take to the field and give him a real fight.” With this, Lord Mitsuyasu set forth from his castle with his army.
  While he and his men took up their position on the other side of the river that separated them from the Mogami vanguard, Nakatsukasa proceeded to carry out the prearranged plan of entering Lord Mitsuyasu’s castle and setting fire to the main bailey. “What is the meaning of this?” demanded Mitsuyasu and his attendants when they saw the black smoke drifting up to the heavens, and they were plunged into immediate confusion.
  Lord Mitsuyasu and his hatamoto guard struggled to regroup, but in the next moment they found themselves under attack by the very retainers who had until then formed a defensive barrier around them, but who now rained arrows and musket balls in their direction.
  Witnessing this scene from their position across the river, the soldiers of the Mogami vanguard, led by Honjō Buzen no Kami, took no heed of the deep river waters as they charged across and set upon the enemy with their swords. The hatamoto guard crumbled under this fierce onslaught, fleeing without a single glance behind, but the Mogami force pursued and slew the fleeing soldiers one by one.
  Lord Mitsuyasu and his personal guard of twenty-four or five warriors managed to flee a distance of some six hundred meters or so, but Mitsuyasu’s hereditary vassals had without exception turned on their master, and they used their knowledge of the lay of the land to cut off all avenues of escape. Faced with an enemy at every corner, Lord Mitsuyasu abandoned all hope of escape and turned his horse around once more.
  “This is a bitter end indeed,” he rued. “Lord Yoshiaki’s recent wrath towards Kusakari Bizen, leading to his supposed flight to Shōnai, was but a ruse to achieve this intended outcome. And I allowed myself to be taken in so easily – even placing this deceiver in my own service. All that is left for me to do now is to launch myself with all speed upon Yoshiaki’s hatamoto guard and die honorably in battle.” He made as if to gallop off immediately, but his attendants restrained him.
  “The position of Yoshiaki’s hatamoto guard is some four kilometers distant,” they said, “and it is doubtful whether you will reach your destination. Rather than allowing yourself to meet your death at the hands of some common soldier along the way, would it not be better to take your own life here and now? We will defend you with our arrows and keep the enemy away.” Barely had they finished speaking, however, when a stray arrow struck Mitsuyasu, plunging deeply into his left side. Realizing that all was lost, Lord Mitsuyasu called out to his men. “Do not let them find me after I am dead!” he said, and, pulling off his armor from his position astride his horse, he slashed open his own belly and fell dead.
  It cannot be denied that Mitsuyasu had been a powerful leader, but with his propensity for cruelty that had turned even his long-serving retainers against him, he had brought himself to a quick, and miserable, end.
  Bizen no Kami presently came forth, bearing the head of Lord Mitsuyasu, to the head encampment where Lord Yoshiaki was waiting, and he detailed the outcome of the battle. Lord Yoshiaki was highly pleased, telling Bizen no Kami, “It is thanks to your staunch devotion that we have succeeded in overthrowing Mitsuyasu so quickly,” and later bestowing upon him a generous fiefdom in addition to a formal letter of commendation. Led by Bizen no Kami, Lord Yoshiaki thereupon made his victorious entry into Shōnai. Nakatsukasa and the others who had allied themselves with the Mogami side presented themselves before his lordship to proffer their gratitude, and one and all were given his lordship’s assurance that they would be allowed to retain their fiefs. In addition to his own fiefdom, Nakatsukasa was also granted all the property and possessions that had belonged to the Ignoble Lord, and Lord Yoshiaki told him, “I now consider you one of my own hereditary retainers.”
  However, Nakatsukasa declined this offer. “I could not be more grateful,” he told Lord Yoshiaki, “but I am past my sixtieth year, with no child to carry on my name, and I have no interest in pursuing prosperity for myself. I joined your lordship’s side in order to ease the suffering of the many, and all I ask in return is that you kindly allow me to take my leave.” With this earnest entreaty, Nakatsukasa left the Shōnai domain forthwith, retiring to the Kinbusen area of Yamato province where he became a Buddhist monk, and subsequently passing away at the age of eighty.
  Some time afterwards, Lord Yoshiaki issued the following command: “Mitsuyasu was a ruler of note in these lands, and a temple should be constructed for the repose of his soul.” Erected near the port of Kamo, this sanctuary was given the name “Kōan-ji(16) Temple” and endowed with a generous tract of land.


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(16)Kōan is an alternative reading of the characters that comprise the name ‘Mitsuyasu’

>>CONTENTS

2013/02/25 11:43 (C) 最上義光歴史館
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