In 1582 the then most powerful daimyo and de facto Shogun of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, died at Honno-ji in Kyoto at the hands of Akechi Mitsuhide (to read more on this and the ghost of Akechi Mitsuhide see the following blog post https://www.hiddenpathskyoto.com/post/samurai-screams-in-the-woods-of-ogurisu ). Nobunaga's eldest son and heir, Oda Nobutada, was killed as he attempted to escape the unexpected attack by one of their once loyal generals. Akechi Mitsuhide’s uprising was quelled by Toyotomi Hideyoshi soon after at the Battle of Yamazaki. It was not though a simple case of the next in line. Either a high ranking general of Oda’s army or the next eldest son of the Oda clan, would be expected to step into Nobunaga’s role. But instead, the removal of Oda Nobunaga left a power vacuum which would lead to the Battle of Shizugatake, in what was then Omi Province, now part of Shiga and close to Nagahama by Lake Yogo.
The battle was fought in the spring of 1583 between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie. After the Battle of Yamazaki (the location (Kyoto) of the Battle of Yamazaki pictured below as it is today), Oda Nobunaga’s second and third eldest sons, Nobukatsu and Nobutaka, disagreed over who should succeed their father. Toyotomi Hideyoshi called a council meeting to decide who should take the vacant role left by Nobunaga. This only served to make matters worse as the council declared that Oda Nobutada’s 3-year-old son, Hidenobu, should be given the title of heir to Nobunaga. Toyotomi decided that his position as a close general to Oda Nobunaga made him a perfect choice to rule Japan, but Shibata, who had supported Hidenobu, changed his allegiance from standing with the child to supporting Nobutaka the third son of Oda Nobunaga.
Shibata attacked three strongholds that were held by generals of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the Shizugatake area, and Toyotomi retaliated. Vastly outnumbering Shibata, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was victorious and consolidated his influence over the Oda clan. Oda Nobutaka committed seppuku in the aftermath of the battle, and what is interesting is that in his death poem he implicated Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the death of his father, Oda Nobunaga. This allegation raises many questions about the death of Oda Nobunaga. Had Akechi Mitsuhide’s attack been part of Toyotomi’s plans to take power? Did he have an allegiance with Akechi that he then went back on? There is no evidence to prove these ideas, and it will remain a mystery. Pic below right, the location in Higashiyama, Kyoto where it is said that the head of Akechi Mitsuhide was buried.
If you visit the battlesite in Shizugatake today, all is calm, and the scenery is beautiful. But there have been reports of headless apparitions of samurai warriors roaming the old battlefield. People report hearing the marching of armour clad warriors. There have also been a number of suicides around the area that have been attributed to the ‘Curse of Shibata Katsuie’.
Though maybe not connected in any way to the Battle of Shizugatake, the spirit of a woman was reported by a driver passing through the old Shizugatake road tunnel not far from the battle site.
Pictured above, Mount Shizu, looking out over Lake Yogo.
Katsuie's nephew Sakuma Morimasa, who was leading some of the forces on Katsuie's side attempted to flee (after the fighting had continued further east into Echizen (Fukui)) but was captured,decapitated and his head left exposed to the elements at an execution site along the Kamo River, Kyoto.