最上義光歴史館/<Part1-12> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -

<Part1-12> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -
The Battle of Jugorigahara

  Upon gaining control of Shōnai, Lord Yoshiaki placed Tōzenji Umanokami in Oura Castle to serve as administrator of the district, and sent his close advisor Nakayama Genba to act as Umanokami’s deputy. These two men occupied the castle and ran the affairs of the district for a number of years, but they apparently engaged in a self-serving agenda that earned them the enmity of the lower-ranking officers and general people.
  “Lord Uesugi of the Echigo province would be far more compassionate than either of these two,” the people said, “and we should offer him our allegiance and ask that he send his troops here.” Talk did not quickly lead to action, however, and many fruitless days were spent doing nothing more than convening councils of one sort or another.
  “If we allow things to drag on like this,” they lamented, “news of our planning will reach the ears of those two in the castle, and we will feel their wrath. We must make our wishes known to Lord Uesugi at once.” They swore their fidelity in a written pledge which was delivered to Echigo, and Lord Uesugi received their request with great pleasure. He sent a force of several thousand mounted samurai, led by a stalwart general by the name of Honjō Shigenaga, to come to the aid of these men, and when these developments became known to Umanokami and Genba, they immediately dispatched a swift steed to convey the news to Lord Yoshiaki. In response, his lordship sent Kusaoka Toranosuke with reinforcements from Yamagata, and it was decided that Lord Yoshiaki would himself bring up the rear guard. Accompanied by only his personal attendants and mounted bodyguard, his lordship left Yamagata, letting it be known that the various Mogami detachments were to rendezvous at the Shōnai border.
  When Toranosuke arrived at Oura Castle, he met with Umanokami and Genba, and the three men convened a war council.
  “We are preparing to do battle with a large army,” said Umanokami, “and with all of the lower-ranking officers turned against us, many of the ordinary garrison soldiers will no doubt go over to the enemy’s side as well, which will make it impossible for us to hold the castle. Rather than allowing the castle to be taken easily, I would prefer that we charge forth when the enemy strikes, allowing us to die gloriously in battle and do honor to our names. However, we must not let the women and children within the castle be captured by the Echigo force, for this would allow the enemy to make a spectacle of the wives and mothers of our men. Genba, you must take these women and children and see them safely to the Mogami border. The inhabitants of the mountain hamlets along your way will undoubtedly attempt to rise up against you, so it is imperative that you leave at the soonest possible time.”
  However, Genba was fiercely resistant to this plan. “I myself have served in this castle for some years, and if I abandon the both of you during this time of trouble and leave the castle with our womenfolk and children, people will say that Genba was a coward who used woman and children as a pretext to make his own escape. I will become a laughingstock, and I could never bear the disgrace of this.”
  It was here that Toranosuke interceded. “Please collect yourself and listen closely to what I have to say,” he told Genba. “You are well aware that Umanokami is the commander of this castle, and that my men and I have been designated by Lord Yoshiaki to act as his reinforcements. You are Umanokami’s deputy, and your position is not the same as ours. Furthermore, many of the women and children in the castle come from illustrious families, and by keeping them from the hands of the enemy and seeing them safely to the Mogami domain, you will be doing Lord Yoshiaki a far greater service than merely allowing yourself to die in battle here. It would be unworthy of you to allow your fear of ridicule to take precedence over true fidelity to your master. Moreover, if the women and children remain at the castle, concern for them will distract us and prevent us from waging the battle that we wish to give. For your lord, for the good of the people, and for the sake of the two of us who remain here, concern yourself not with what the world may say of you, but quickly take these women and children to safety.”
  Genba could not deny the justice of this argument. “I will do as you bid me,” he said, accepting his commission.
It was thus that Genba departed the castle with the entire body of women and children, but he returned momentarily to speak once more with the two men remaining behind.
  “I beg of you to defend this castle with all your might,” he said, “and I pray that you will stand firm. Once I have seen those in my charge safely to Yamagata, I will accompany Lord Yoshiaki back here at once to fight by your side.”
  And so the group set forth, with the women and children in front and Genba and his men following protectively behind them. The party had scaled the heights of Mount Gassan and had just passed the peak of Mount Yudono when they were threatened by a great band of local dwellers, who swarmed up towards them from the valleys below with warlike cries of “Eiya, eiya!”
  Observing their approach, Genba turned to his men and spoke. “If we attempt to fight off an enemy that attacks us from all sides, our ranks may be penetrated by these assailants, and if any women or children are taken in the confusion, our names will be sullied for all eternity. Let us make haste to that mountain which lies yonder, for it has but a single branchless road. There the enemy will be unable to divide into parties to attack us, and will have no choice but to pursue us in a body. If we allow them to draw near, then suddenly turn back and launch a fierce counterassault upon them, they will be disinclined to trouble us any further.”
  After Genba’s orders were given, the group paid no heed to the assailing bands which attempted to close in on them from all directions, but instead quickened their pace to the next mountain. Once they had begun their ascent, the path narrowed to the single road they had been expecting, and their attackers were forced to follow them in a single line.
  “The time is right,” said Genba upon observing this. “Let us turn back and finish them off.” Brandishing a large pole sword, he charged straight at the enemy, while his men, not to be outdone, slashed their way mercilessly through the thronging assailants. Finding themselves attacked from all sides, the enemy was easily forced off the road, and they fell down to the bottom of the ravines, fleeing helter-skelter in all directions. The heads of these lowly attackers were hardly worth taking as trophies, so Genba’s men overtook and slew them, leaving them where they fell, until the scene was littered with corpses too many to count. Flushed with victory, the soldiers were preparing to continue their pursuit when Genba restrained them.
  “The mountain paths here are precarious,” he said, “and we do not want to embark on a long chase.” With that, he collected his group together, and the party halted for a time to await any further developments. Fortunately, no bands of assailants dared approach them again, so they heaved a deep sigh of relief, allowing themselves some rest, and went on to safely deliver the group of women and children to Yamagata with no further mishap.
  Meanwhile, back in Shōnai, Honjō Shigenaga of Echigo was advancing on Oura Castle with several thousand mounted soldiers.
  Inside the fortification, castle commander Tōzenji Umanokami turned to Kusaoka Toranosuke and spoke. “As we discussed earlier, there will be no glory for us if we remain within this castle. I would prefer that we leave the castle forthwith and challenge our enemy on the field, where we may fight and die with honor. I hope that you will follow me.”
  “It will be my pleasure to do so,” responded Toranosuke.
  With that, the two men advanced to the battlefield of Jūgorigahara, where they first thought to meet the enemy as two parties. However, back at the castle a traitor within had set fire to the main bailey, and, seeing that there was no longer anything to be gained by dividing their force, the men had no choice but to take on the enemy together. They routed the vanguard of Honjō Shigenaga’s army and were preparing to charge the second company when Toranosuke’s horse was struck by a bullet and reared up uncontrollably. Finding himself forced to do battle on foot, Toranosuke faced the enemy squarely, fighting tenaciously until he had sustained grave wounds over his entire body. Realizing that he would soon be overcome, Toranosuke made his decision. “I have done all I can – I will wait for you to follow me, Lord Umanokami,” he cried, and with that, he cut open his belly as he stood there straight and tall. Planting his sword in the ground, he then fixed a fierce eye on the enemy and died in his upright position. A burial mound was later erected on this site where Toranosuke perished. Given the name the ‘Grassy Mound’, it is said to exist to this day.
  Now we return to Umanokami, who had slipped in among the enemy soldiers and, with the head of one of his own men in his left hand and his bloodstained sword across his shoulder, forded the Chiyasu River on his horse. Dismounting, he proceeded to Shigenaga’s main encampment on foot and addressed those assembled in a loud voice. “I fought in today’s battle,” he proclaimed, “as a member of the advance guard. I slew castle commander Umanokami in battle by the river, and have come hither with all speed to present his head for your inspection.” All those present praised this meritorious feat, opening up a path for him to pass through. Shigenaga had already seated himself upon his camp stool, and Umanokami advanced forward until he was but a distance of four or five meters from the other man. Then, suddenly flinging the head in his hand at the seated general, he sprung forward and struck Shigenaga in the center of his helmet with his drawn sword. Though Shigenaga was wearing a solid, bullet-tested helmet, Umanokami’s stroke succeeded in shaving off four of the helmet ribs, narrowly missing his left ear. The general’s startled bodyguards quickly surrounded Umanokami and slashed at him with their swords, and with that, his body rent with many wounds, the valiant Umanokami perished.
  Shigenaga subsequently brought forth the heads of the two enemy generals, along with Umanokami’s sword, to present to Lord Uesugi Kagekatsu at the formal viewing ceremony, and Lord Kagekatsu could not have been more pleased. It was some time later that Lord Kagekatsu had occasion to make a gift of this sword to Lord Ieyasu. The sword was shortened from its original length of 82 cm to approximately 76 cm, and, given the name “Umanokami”, was kept as a prized possession. It is said that it was later given to the keeping of the Kishū Tokugawa clan.
  Meanwhile, Lord Yoshiaki had advanced as far as the Shōnai border when he received word that Oura Castle had fallen, and that Umanokami and Toranosuke had perished with all of their men, which caused him to become quite frantic with rage.
  “I could not have imagined a more grievous outcome. We must meet the enemy quickly, and avenge these fallen men in battle,” he said, but Ujiie Owari no Kami and his other retainers restrained him. “We had but little time to prepare for this battle,” they said, “and our contingents from the distant parts of our domain have yet to reach us. We have a smaller army than usual, and from what we have heard, not only is our enemy a large one, but the lower-ranking Shōnai officers have all rallied to their side as well. It would be perilous to embark on a battle that would take us through dangerous terrain, and we urge your lordship to withdraw for now, and to return with a large army at some later date.” Faced with the earnest entreaty of his senior councilors, Lord Yoshiaki heeded their counsel and proceeded to turn back.
  In the time that followed, the land was unified and became peaceful, and private wars between daimyo were forbidden. For that reason, the region remained in the hands of the Uesugi clan for some time, to Lord Yoshiaki’s great vexation, but when the area again fell into turbulence with the Battle of Sekigahara, Lord Yoshiaki finally succeeded in taking back the three districts of Shōnai and giving vent to the resentment that had troubled him for so long.


2013/02/25 12:22 (C) 最上義光歴史館