Nobunaga Oda
Nobunaga Oda
Personal Information
Born: June 23, 1534
Place of Birth: Owari province
Died: June 21, 1582
Cause of Death: Seppuku
Place of Death: Battle of Honnoji
Style name: 織田 信長
Served: Oda
Participation(s): Battle of Okehazama
Siege of Inabayama Castle
Battle of Anegawa
Battle of Nagashino
Sieges of Nagashima
Battle of Honnoji

Nobunaga Oda (織田 信長) was one of the three unifiers of the Sengoku Period. Nobunaga lived a life of continuous military conquest, eventually conquering a third of Japanese daimyo before his death in 1582. Nobunaga was betrayed by one of his retainers Mitsuhide Akechi and was killed by him at Honnoji Temple in June 1582. f



Nobunaga was born on June 23, 1534 and was given the childhood name of Kipposhi. He was the second son of Nobuhide Oda. Through his childhood and early teenage years, he was well known for his bizarre behaviour and received the name of The Fool of Owari.[1] By 1558, Nobunaga had largely managed to unify his family, although he suffered the rebellion of two brothers in so doing. In 1556, Nobuhiro, his elder brother, had plotted with the new lord of Mino, Yoshitatsu Saito, an act Nobunaga pardoned him for. The following year, his younger brother Nobuyuki Oda conspired with Katsuie Shibata and Michikatsu Hayashi and, if the legend is true, Nobunaga's own mother. Nobunaga learned of the treason and had Nobuyuki killed. Shibata and Hayashi, on the other hand, were spared - perhaps sending a powerful message to any other members of the Oda family who were thinking treacherous thoughts. [2]


In June 1560, Yoshimoto Imagawa assembled an army of possibly 25,000 men for an advance on Kyoto. Nobunaga Oda, whose territory he was first to invade, sent scouts to get an up to date picture of the situation. They reported that his border fortresses of Washizu and Marune were destroyed and that the vast bulk of the Imagawa army, including the commender-in-chief himself, had chosen to rest at a place called Dengaku - hazama, a wooden gorge where they were celebrating their victories in some style.[3]

Nobunaga Oda took up position at Zenshoji, quite near the Imagawa's fort of Narumi, and directly in line with Dengaku - hazama. Here Nobunaga rigged up a dummy army dummy army and led 3,000 men on a circular route through the wooded hills to drop down beside Dengaku - hazama from the north. It was a stifling hot day and Yoshimoto's sentries were not alert. As Nobunaga's men drew silently near, a terrific thunderstorm began which cloaked Nobunaga's final movements as the Imagawa troops huddled under trees from the torrential rain. As the clouds blew away, the Oda troops poured into the gorge of Dengaku - hazama. The Imagawa troops were so unprepared for an attack that they fled in all directions leaving Yoshimoto's curtained field headquarters quite unprotected. Yoshimoto Imagawa had so little knowledge of what was going on that he drew the conclusion that a drunken fight had broken out among the men, and seeing an angry looking samurai running towards him, barked out an order for the man to return to his post. He realised that it was one of Nounaga's men when the samurai aimed a spear - thrust at him but by then it was too late. Yoshimoto himslef drew a sword and cut through the shaft of the spear, but before he could do any more a second samurai grabbed him and lopped off his head.[4]

The greatest threat of the survival of the Oda domain had been posed by Yoshimoto Imagawa, so the battle of Okehazama was significant for the Oda family on a personal scale as it was for Japan as a whole.[5] When Yoshitatsu Saito died of illness in June 1561, Nobunaga Oda took advantage of the situation by leading an army from Owari into the Saito domain.[6] At the battle of Moribe, in Mino, Nobunaga Oda decisively defeated an army of the Saito clan, killing many prominent generals. [7]Nobunaga's army, which went on to take possession of Sunomata itself. Oda and Saito forces clashed again a week later in an action known as the Battle of Jushijo which began with an ambush of an Oda contingent. Nobunaga hastily led a force out of Sunomata and defeated the Saito in a sharp night action, in the process costing the latter their general Mataemon Inaba. After fighting a few more skirmishes and taking a further two Saito forts, Nobunaga returned to Owari.[8]

Rise to PowerEdit

Some time after the battle of Okehazama the Saito clan's daimyo Yoshitatsu Saito had died and his son Tatsuoki Saito became the new daimyo. The Saito clan's retainers weren't pleased with Tatsuoki and Nobunaga saw this as an aportunaty to attack Mino. As Inabayama castle was built on top of a mountain two attacks were launched. One involved climbing, the other across the river. Yoshiharu Horio distinguished himself by opening the water gate to his attacking comrades. In 1565 Nobunaga made Inabayama his headquarters and renamed it to Gifu. [9] During Nobunaga Oda's advance into Echizen against the Asakura clan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi captured the fortress of Kanagasaki. Nobunaga's army then fought a celebrated fighting retreat from Echizen. [10]

Anti - Nobunaga CoalitionEdit

Earlier that same year, Nobunaga, the master of Kyoto since 1568, had felt compelled to march against Yoshikage Asakura of Echizen province. The Azai, long-time allies of the Asakura, broke their alliance with the Oda and threatened the Oda army from the rear. A skillful retreat minimized the immediate danger brought about by this surprise development and soon Nobunaga was ready to punish Nagamasa Azai for his treachery.[11] Nobunaga Oda's troops had advanced against the Azai's Odani castle and faced the allied forces across Anegawa, while some troops laid siege to Yokoyama castle. The battle was effectively a huge hand to hand melee in the middle of the shallow river, fought in blazing son.[12]

At first it was almost as thought there were two seperate battle being fought: the Tokugawa army against the Asakura army and the Oda army gainst the Azai army. The Tokugawa made better progress, but a samurai of the Azai, Kizaemon Endo had resolved to take Nobunaga's head, and was cut down by a samurai of the Oda, Kyusaku Takenaka, when he was very close to his target. Seeing the Oda's army in dire straits, the Tokugawa army, who were now relieved of the presure from the Asakura, attacked the Azai's right flank. Ittetsu Inaba, who up until then had held in reserve, fell on to there left. Even the besiegers of Yokoyama castle left their lines to join in. The result was a victory to the Oda - Tokugawa forces.[13] Ishiyama Honganji was the fortified cathedral of the Ikkō-ikki, established on the site of Osaka. Nobunaga Oda's first move against the Ishiyama Honganji was lunched in August 1570. He left Gifu castle at the head of 30,000 troops and ordered the building of series of forts around the perimeter. The Ikkō-ikki made the first move and on 12 September two of Nobunaga's fortresses at Kawaguchi and Takadono, were attacked. The Oda army were stunned both by ferocity of the surprise attack and also by the novel use of controlled volley firing from 3,000 matchlock men. [14] Nobunaga took particular care to destroy the Hiyoshi shrine of the kami Sanno, the mountain king, and then his 30,000 men were deployed on a vast ring around the mountian and began to move steadily upwards, burning and shooting all that stood in their way men, women and children. By nightfall the main temple of Enryakuji had gone up in flames and many monks unable to resist had leapt into the fire. Next day Nobunaga sent his gunners to hunt for any who survived. The final casualty list probably topped 20,00 bringing an end to the warrior monks.[15]

Nobunaga's army made camp on 16 May 1571 at Tsushima, to the north - east of Nagashima which was divided from the complex by a particularly shallow, yet broad river. An attack was planned on the area immediately to the west of Tsuhima against the series of waju, from where an attack could be launched on the fortified Ganshoji monastery.

Nobunaga's mounted samurai began to ford towards the first waju, only to find that the river bottom was deep sea of mud. The horse's legs quickly mired and as the horses struggled many threw off their heavy armoured riders, who were met by a hail of arrows and bullets, causing severe casualties. As the survivors dragged themselves to the nearest dry land, they encountered ropes stretched between stakes, which further hindered their progress towards safety. As night fell, the dike was cut rapidly flooding the low lying land, catching the remaining samurai in inrush of muddy water, and ending Nobunaga's first attack on Nagashima as a disaster. The general Katsuie Shibata was severely wounded and no impression was made on the defences. As the Oda army withdrew, they burned several villages on the outskirts. [16]

The campaign against the Ikkō-ikki of Nagashima reopened in July 1573, and this time Nobunaga Oda took personal charge of the operations. The number of Nobunaga's troops are not recorded, but Nobunaga is said that he recruited heavily from Ise province. Covered by an advance from the west under Nobumori Sakuma and Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Nobunaga sent his gunners on ahead olong the main roads into Nagashima, hoping that the volley of fire would blast a way for him. Unfortunatly for the Oda, as soon as his men were ready to fire, a fierce downpour occurred, and the rain soaked the matches and pans rendering nine out of every ten arquebuses temporarily disabled. The Ikkō-ikki launched an immediate counter-attack for which the forward matchlock-men were ill prepared. They began to fall back taking the Ise troops with them, and as the Ikkō-ikki pressed forward the rain stopped, enabling them to employ their own matchlocks. The defenders advanced perilously close to Nobunaga himself, who was in the thick of the fighting astride the horse. One bullet narrowly missed his ear, and another felled one of his retainers through the armpit. For the second time in two years, the Oda army withdrew. The western force had been more successful, with Kazumasu Takigawa taking Yata castle which was the most southerly point of Nagashima complex, but he too, was forced to withdraw by a counter-attack. [17] While going to the relief of Nagamasa Azai in Odani castle, Yoshikage Asakura was attacked by Nobunaga Oda, so entered Hikida castle. On 10 Augist the castle fell and he retreated to Echizen province. [18] With the succesfull siege of Odani castle in 1573, Nobunaga Oda completed his triumph over the Azai clan. Seeing all is lost Nagamasa Azai entrusted his family to Nobunaga and commited suicide. [19] In Settsu province in 1574, Nobunaga Oda captured Itami castle from the daimyo of the same name by digging a long tunnel from outside the walls to a spot near the castle's keep. Nobunaga attacked Nagashima for the third time in 1574, but this time he had naval suport from Yoshitaka Kuki, who took the fight by ship close to the Ikkō-ikki fortifications in a way that never proved possible before. Yoshitaka's fleet kept up a rolling bombardment of the Nagashima defenses from close on shore, concentrating on the wooden watchtowers with cannon ball and fire arrows. The presence of the ships also served to cut off the garrison from supplies and from any possible attempt of relief. Most importantly it allowed Nobunaga's land based troops to exploit the outlying forts of Ikkō-ikki. Two in particular, Nakae and Yanagashima, enabled Nobunaga to control access from the western, Ise side, for the first time.

Supported by Yoshitaka land based army caried out a three - pronged attack from the north. Gradually the defenders were forced back, though with enormous resistance and were squeezed down into the small area of the island on which stood the fortified Ganshoji and Nagashima castles with almost no hope of relief. By the end of August 1574 they were slowly starving to death. Instead of accepting surrender, Nobunaga commenced the erection of a very tall wooden palisade which was anchored on the forts of Nakae and Yanagashima, and which physically isolated the Ikkō-ikki from the gaze of the outside world. Approximately 20,000 people were crammed into the inner outposts. Unseen by them, Nobunaga began to pile a mountain of dry brushwood against the palisade and set fire to the massive pyre. Burning brands jumped the small gaps of water and soon the whole Nagashima complex was ablaze. All 20,000 inhabitants of the Ikkō-ikki fortress were burned to death before any could escape to be cut down.[20]


In 1574 Katsuyori Takeda, Shingen's heir, pulled off a strategic coup with the capture of Takatenjin castle in Totomi. Ieyasu Tokugawa, whose efforts to relieve Taketenjin failed, had his hands full with Katsuyori; while not the ruler his father had been, Katsuyori was brave and was not lacking in aggression. Combined with the skilled Takeda army and the late Shingen's experienced cadre of captains, Katsuyori's indomitable spirit made him a formidable foe. Katsuyori turned his attentions to Nagashino castle, a fort held by Sadamasa Okudaira.[21] Nagashino was a castle in Mikawa province on a well-defended bluff at the confluence of the Takigawa and Onogawa rivers. The besiegers tried attacks by river through mining, and with fierce hand-to-hand assaults. Eventually Suemon Toriie brought word to Ieyasu Tokugawa that relief was needed and an army moved to his assistance.[22]


Nobunaga was killed or forced to commit suicide on June 21, 1582, in what came to be known as the Incident at Honno-ji. There in a temple Kyoto, Nobunaga and his retainers were slain by the forces of Mitsuhide Akechi.



Little Skylark: It is said that of the many horses given him, Little Skylark was his favorite.[23]






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  1. Samurai Archives. Nobunaga Oda, The Oda of Owari.
  2. Samurai Archives. Nobunaga Oda, The Oda of Owari.
  3. Samurai Source book, Stephen Turnbull pg 215
  4. Samurai Source book, Stephen Turnbull pg. 215,216
  5. Samurai Commanders (2) 1577-1638
  6. Samurai Archives, the battle of Mribe
  7. Samurai Source book, Stephen Turnbull pg. 216
  8. Samurai Archives, the battle of Mribe
  9. Samurai Source Book, Stephen Turnbull pg 217
  10. Samurai Source book, Stephen Turnbull, pg. 220
  11. Samurai Archives, Battle of Anegawa
  12. Samurai Source book, Stephen Turnbull pg. 220
  13. Samurai Source book, Stephen Turnbull pg. 220
  14. Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pg. 220
  15. Samurai Source book pg. 221
  16. Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 221
  17. Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 223
  18. Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 224
  19. Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 224
  20. The Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 224
  21. Samurai Archives Oda Nobunaga, Nagashino,1575
  22. Samurai Sourcebook, Stephen Turnbull pg.226
  23. NA Iron Triangle by Koei; Item Encyclopedia.