最上義光歴史館/<Part1-6> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -

<Part1-6> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -
The Fall of Tendo Castle

  The capture of Yatsunuma Castle increased Lord Yoshiaki’s might considerably, and he now controlled most of the land to the west of the Mogami River.
  He continued, however, to encounter resistance from the leader of the Tendō clan. “For long years,” the Tendō lord declared, “the eight castles of the Shimosuji region have been allied under the leadership of the Tendō clan – why should we be obliged to bow down to Yoshiaki now?” He then proceeded to fortify his castle and entrench himself within, so that even when Lord Yoshiaki led his great army in an assault on Tendō Castle, he found the castle defended by many accomplished warriors and was prevented from taking it easily. Lord Yoshiaki had his troops retreat a short ways to build a siege castle, and it was there that they spent some days.
  Now, commanding the Tendō force was a man by the name of Nobesawa Noto no Kami who was, it goes without saying, a constitutionally vigorous and powerful warrior who stood head and shoulders above the rest.
  There is a story told about Noto no Kami when he was a youth of seventeen or eighteen. A group of warriors, young and old, were gathered together and talking of matters related to the art of battle when a young soldier who was responsible for the ringing of signal bells stepped forward to speak.
  “As all of you know,” he said, “the gold merchant Kichiji Nobutaka built a shrine in these parts that is called the Ryōsho Gongen Shrine, and contained within this shrine is a large bell that requires the strength of some five or six men to move. Not long ago, there was a group of brawny men who thought to demonstrate their superior muscular prowess by lifting the bell in groups of two or three, but they ultimately failed in the challenge they had set themselves. What think you of this, Lord Noto no Kami? You are reputed to possess great strength, but would you be equal to the task of lifting the bell that I speak of unaided?”
  Noto no Kami smiled. “If I am indeed able to lift this bell alone, will it be mine to do with as I will?
  “By all means – feel free to take it for yourself. If you succeed in doing so, we will provide the shrine with another bell,” came the bold response from the group.
  “In that case, if you would be so kind as to bear witness,” said  Noto no Kami, and, accompanied by all those present, he made his way to the aforementioned shrine where he grasped the bell and raised it effortlessly, placing it over his head. “It is with many thanks that I accept the gift of this bell,” he said, and it is told that he then took the bell to a place within his domain called Tsuruko, hanging it at an old temple there.
  Noto no Kami also features in the tale of a certain battle.
  On this occasion, a great wave of soldiers had poured forth from Tendō Castle, advancing as far as the Senjudō border to do battle, but then quickly turning back. “Make sure that none of the enemy escapes alive,” ordered Lord Yoshiaki when he observed their actions, and his brave young soldiers responded with alacrity. “We will dispatch them with pleasure, your lordship,” they cried as they set upon the enemy at full speed, and the Tendō force turned back in their tracks to face them. Clouds of dust filled the air as the fighting raged for about an hour, but neither side succeeded in gaining the upper hand. It was then that the Mogami troops under the command of Shimura Kurobei and Yagashiwa Sagami no Kami burst forth from the paths between the rice fields to attack the enemy from both flanks. Finding themselves set upon and cut down from all sides, the beleaguered Tendō soldiers broke into a precipitous retreat, but they were pursued by the Mogami army to the castle perimeter, where many of them were slain.
  When Nobesawa Noto no Kami saw what was happening to his men, he threw open the front gate of the castle and rode out to meet the enemy in single combat.
  On this day, Noto no Kami was attired in a black-threaded suit of armor worn over chain mail, and he wore an eight-sided hood on his head. He cut a dashing figure astride his palomino steed, wielding the iron baton, a full meter and a half in length, that he always kept upon his person as if it were of no weight at all. Plowing through the ranks of fleeing Mogami soldiers, he plunged unrestrainedly into the midst of the enemy army, swinging his baton left and right and felling all who stood in his path until there were none left willing to confront him head on.
  Observing this scene was a man by the name of Yasuma who had lived and trained for many years on Mount Haguro, earning a reputation as a powerful warrior. “Those men are taking quite a beating,” he said, “but Noto no Kami is no invincible god. Let me have a try at him, and we’ll see who proves to be the stronger.” With this, he galloped straight out towards his adversary, while Noto no Kami cast a sharp look at the advancing figure. “It appears I have a sole challenger among the many here – does he hasten to me to be struck down by this baton of mine? Very well, let me give him a taste of it.” Closing in on his would-be opponent from the left, Noto no Kami lifted his iron baton straight up in the air and brought it squarely down upon the other man, crushing his head down into his torso and causing his horse to collapse under him. Appalled by the ferocity of this attack, the Mogami troops fled desperately away from Noto no Kami, who now stood, dignified and erect, adjusting the belt of his armor. It was from this retreating mass of Mogami soldiers that a single youth of sixteen or seventeen galloped out to single-handedly challenge Noto no Kami, thrusting his sword threateningly towards the powerful warrior’s hands. Displaying not the slightest bit of emotion, Noto no Kami calmly finished tying his belt and reseated himself upon his horse. It was then that he spoke.
  “Who are you, and what is your name?”
  “I am Honma Shichirō, eldest son of Honma Samanosuke, and I am seventeen years of age.”
  A smile came to Noto no Kami’s lips. “You are a brave young man,” he said. “It would be easy enough to strike you down here and now, but I admire your spirit and will let you live.” With these words, he returned to the castle from whence he had come.
  Having thus escaped the jaws of certain death, Shichirō made his way back to the Mogami encampment, where he was greeted with the derision of his fellow soldiers. “How could an unseasoned soldier such as yourself ever hope to challenge the likes of Noto no Kami?” they laughed.
  “Noto no Kami is without doubt an extraordinary warrior,” Shichirō replied, “and I know that my meager abilities could never be a match for his. However, even the strongest man would lose his ability to fight were he to have his arms cut off, and it is thus that I had intended to disable, and then dispatch, my enemy. I was thwarted when he kept his arms close to his body to tie his belt, and I am greatly vexed that my plan came to naught.”
  “It is said that genius shows itself even from childhood,” said his impressed listeners, “and your noble effort shows this indeed to be so.”
  It was around the same time that a jesting poem was placed by its anonymous author at a shrine by the wayside.

   With no Ariji or Sasahara upon the battlefield
   Noto no Kami to Lord Yoshiaki surely would yield

  This poem made reference to Ariji Tajima and Sasahara Iwami, two senior retainers of Noto no Kami said to be no less valorous than their master.
  This now brings us back to Lord Yoshiaki’s current assault upon Tendō, where the standoff between the two sides continued, prompting the following discussion between Lord Yoshiaki and Ujiie Owari no Kami.
  “Nobesawa Noto no Kami is not only a warrior of courage and might,” his lordship said, “but also a skilled military strategist. It will be difficult for us to take Tendō Castle as long as he defends it, so we must convince him to come over to our side and become a general in our armies.”
  The next several days were spent in an attempt to determine what manner of approach would most appeal to Noto no Kami, and a letter was subsequently dispatched from Lord Yoshiaki.
  “Although your reputation as a great warrior precedes you,” the letter said, “your actions on the present field of battle have indeed been marvelous to see. Were you to transfer your loyalties to me and join my army, I would give to your son Matagorō one of my own daughters in marriage, and his position would be no less than that of my own heir Shuri no Daibu Yoshiyasu. I swear to honor that which I have promised, and may the gods strike me down if I speak falsely.”
  This letter, containing Yoshiaki’s personal oath and written in his own hand, was delivered to Noto no Kami, who underwent an immediate change of heart upon perusing its contents.
  “It is surely through the intervention of the divine god of war that this letter has come to me in his lordship’s own hand,” he reasoned, promptly sending his son Matagorō to Lord Yoshiaki as a hostage with the assurance that he himself would follow shortly afterwards. Lord Yoshiaki looked forward to his arrival with great pleasure, and Noto no Kami did not keep him waiting long. Upon arriving, he first met with Owari no Kami, and then, leaving his sword with his lordship’s bodyguard, he was granted an audience with Lord Yoshiaki himself.
  His lordship showered Noto no Kami with many warm words and bestowed upon him a sword crafted by one of the famed Ichimonji smiths. Noto no Kami accepted this gift reverently, clearly humbled by the honor that was shown to him. “Is it your wish that I should proceed with the attack today?” he inquired, but Lord Yoshiaki demurred. “Evening has already fallen, so the assault will begin at daybreak tomorrow,” he said, and this decision was conveyed to the whole of the Mogami army.
  Meanwhile, the Tendō side had become aware of Noto no Kami’s defection. There was evidently great apprehension as to whether the battle could be won without him, for, that very evening and in great haste, the Tendō force abandoned the castle, fleeing towards Sendai. Quite unaware of this, the assembled Mogami forces moved in on the castle the following morning at the hour of the rabbit(1), raising a fierce battle cry as they closed in on three sides, but the castle remained silent and still. The Mogami soldiers tore apart the outer fence and abatis, entering the castle only to discover that the entire garrison had fled during the night, with not a soul remaining behind.
  This was reported to Lord Yoshiaki, who summoned Noto no Kami. Telling him that, “It is your allegiance to our side that has enabled this swift conquest of Tendō,” his lordship awarded Noto no Kami twice the amount of territory that was customary as a reward, making him the provisional ruler of Tendō.

(1) Sunrise, approximately 6 a.m.

2012/12/20 16:38 (C) 最上義光歴史館