最上義光歴史館/<Part1-10> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -

<Part1-10> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -
The Fall of Kaneyama Castle

  With Lord Yoshiaki growing more powerful by the day, there was scarce a lord in the domain who did not submit to his rule. However, in the Sakenobe region, which lay on the outskirts of the domain, there was a lord by the name of Sasaki Tenzen who occupied Kaneyama Castle and showed no inclination to yield to Lord Yoshiaki’s command. When a messenger was dispatched to Tenzen, instructing him to present himself in Yamagata without delay, Tenzen was greatly incensed.
  “From the days of old, no member of the Sasaki family has ever submitted to the Mogami family in Yamagata – why should we do so now? Lord Yoshiaki may have grown mighty in power, but it is unthinkable that I should disgrace the honorable family name by surrendering to him.”
  “Tenzen is but a youth in his sixteenth year, and it should be an easy enough matter to overcome him,” said Lord Yoshiaki upon hearing of Tenzen’s intransigence, and, leading a large force, he set off for Kaneyama Castle. When he and his men had neared their destination, they set fire to the surrounding lands and then retreated quickly, setting up camp outdoors that night. They pressed forward the next day before daybreak, and Lord Yoshiaki mounted a tall mountain in the vicinity so he could observe the situation of the castle for himself.
  Rugged cliffs rose on three sides of the castle, making an approach from those directions unfeasible, while the broad Sakegawa River bordered the castle on the remaining side. These geographical advantages made the castle quite secure and unassailable, and it was concluded that it would be impossible to bring this castle down by force. A starvation tactic was adopted instead, and the Mogami force proceeded to impose a tight siege on the castle. Intentionally leaving only the Sakegawa River side open, siege castles were constructed on the other three sides, and the Mogami soldiers dug ditches and built palisades around the mountain base. The Mogami force then settled down to wait for the food supplies within the castle to run out, and Lord Yoshiaki would himself visit the siege castles and reassure the Sakenobe inhabitants that all would be well, taking time out for falconry or other sport on days when the weather was fine.
  While Kaneyama Castle had its own water well, this single well was not enough to supply the water needs of the men within, and secret nightly expeditions were made to gather water from the mountain streams. Catching wind of this, the Mogami soldiers commenced to lay an ambush of men from the early evening each night, and while the water gatherers would emerge as usual, none would return alive. Tenzen realized that he could not allow this to go on, and one night he dispatched a group of water gatherers with a unit of over a hundred stalwart soldiers following stealthily behind. Quite unaware of this, the Mogami ambush surrounded what they assumed was the usual group of water gatherers. They were preparing to move in for the kill when they suddenly found some hundred enemy soldiers, divided into two parties, descending upon them with swords extended, and the startled Mogami soldiers were easily routed, scrambling over each other in their haste to flee. A Mogami warrior by the name of Takeda Hyōgo happened to be positioned nearby, and when he saw what was happening, he immediately leapt upon his horse and rode out to meet the enemy single-handedly. He cut two or three enemy soldiers down from their horses, sending sparks flying in the fury of his attack, but none of his retainers arrived to fight alongside him, and the large enemy force soon had him surrounded on all sides. He suffered three deep gashes, and when he finally fell, the enemy soldiers cut off his head and impaled it on the end of a sword, raising a cry of victory as they retreated back into the castle.
  By this point the Mogami side had at last become aware of the commotion, and reinforcements rode out to offer support, but when they arrived to find the enemy already safely ensconced within their castle, they were forced to return, deflated, to their original positions.
  Lord Yoshiaki was quite enraged to hear what had happened. “This is a castle that cannot possibly hold out against us for more than a month or two,” he said, “but by putting ourselves at risk for a matter of little consequence, we have allowed the enemy to achieve a victory over us. From this point on, I forbid any of the men to venture beyond our defenses.”
  As expected, the food supplies in the castle gradually began to dwindle, and cows and horses were being slaughtered for food when the castle garrison grew restless. “Rather than allowing ourselves to simply starve to death,” they said, “it is not better that we fight and die honorably while we still have the strength left to do so?” They opened the main castle gate and sallied forth in a body, but in line with Lord Yoshiaki’s orders, not a single one of the Mogami soldiers ventured beyond the palisades, instead remaining back with bowmen and arquebusiers, several ranks deep, at the ready. Realizing that any attempt to breach the Mogami defenses and tear down the palisades would simply make them easy targets to be picked off one by one, the enemy soldiers returned to the castle in defeat. There were diverging opinions as to what should be done next, but then a vassal by the name of Zushonosuke stepped forward to speak. “Though we may continue to entrench ourselves within this castle, there is no hope of victory for us here. Lord Tenzen, however, is still young, and there is much for your lordship to accomplish in the future. I have observed that Lord Yoshiaki has left the Sakegawa River border of our castle undefended, and I propose that we use this route to retreat to Shōnai for the time being.”
  His proposal was accepted, and that evening the entire enemy force piled into boats to escape into the domain of the Ignoble Lord, as he was so known, of Shōnai. When the Mogami night sentries observed what was happening, they hurried to report the news to the head encampment.
  “The soldiers of the castle garrison are making their escape tonight. Voices can be heard on the Sakegawa River, and the light of many torches may be seen.” Upon hearing the report of the sentries, Lord Yoshiaki showed little surprise. “I had expected this,” he said, “but I have an idea in mind, so if they wish to escape, allow them to do so.”
  The night passed, silent and still, and when the Mogami force advanced on the castle the next morning before daybreak, they found it devoid of any human presence, with only four or five gaunt horses left behind. Realizing what had taken place, the Mogami soldiers rued the opportunity that had been missed. “With no food supplies remaining,” they said, “the enemy would not have had the strength to put up a resistance, and it would have been easy enough to take the castle. It is indeed deplorable that we failed to finish them off when we had the chance.”
  “I myself was well aware of the situation,” said Lord Yoshiaki, addressing his men, “but Tenzen is a skilled warrior in his own right, in addition to being a member of the noble Sasaki family. I have spared his life and allowed him to make his escape in the hopes that we may in time be able to turn him to our side. I presume that he has fled to the protection of Mutō Mitsuyasu of Shōnai, he who they call the Ignoble Lord.” His lordship was quite correct, for after the Ignoble Lord met his downfall, Tenzen surrendered himself to Ujiie Owari no Kami and went forth to Yamagata to enter the service of Lord Yoshiaki. Proving himself to be a man of sharp wits in addition to valor, the domain of Sakenobe was eventually returned to him, and he was given the title Sakenobe Echizen no Kami and later appointed a regent of the Mogami clan.


2012/12/23 16:44 (C) 最上義光歴史館