1582 was a year in which the rule of Japan would change hands between three different warlords in quick succession, Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Oda Nobunaga, to many a tyrant, to others the great unifier of Japan, and the de facto Shogun since 1573 died at the hands of Akechi Mitsuhide in Kyoto on June 21st, 1582 by modern day calendars (though there are thoughts that Akechi Mitsuhide was not present at the attack but just ordered it). Akechi had been an ally of Oda Nobunaga, but after Oda had gone back on a treaty made with an enemy, the ramifications of which included the inadvertent death of Akechi’s mother, he sought revenge. Oda ordered him to take his troops to Takamatsu Castle in today’s Okayama prefecture to aid Toyotomi Hideyoshi in a siege. But instead, seeking to avenge the death of his mother and other grievances, Akechi told his forces “Teki wa Honno-ji ni ari” (“The enemy waits at Honno-ji”). He was said to have led them to Honno-ji Temple located at Aburanokoji Street in Kyoto where Oda Nobunaga was staying.
Not expecting to be attacked, Oda was only accompanied at Honno-ji by servants. The temple was surrounded and set it ablaze, seeing no escape Oda Nobunaga committed suicide. His son escaped the attack and blazing temple but didn’t get far before being caught by Akechi’s soldiers and he too was killed. Akechi Mitsuhide now declared himself as the Shogun.
At the time of the attack Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who’s liege lord was Oda Nobunaga, was involved, as mentioned, in the siege of Takamatsu Castle with the Mori clan. Mitsuhide sent correspondence to the Mori clan in an attempt to join forces but this was intercepted by Toyotomi. Realizing the need to act quickly, Toyotomi brokered a treaty with the Mori, and then took his army to face Akechi Mitsuhide. The battle that followed took place in the town of Yamazaki thirteen days after the death of Oda Nobunaga. Toyotomi was victorious, and while in flight, the defeated Mitsuhide died at Ogurisu in the Fushimi area of Kyoto.
Pictured below, looking towards Yamazaki where Akechi was defeated by Toyotomi in 1582 thirteen days after declaring himself Shogun.
The generally accepted story is that he was killed by a group of bandits led by the bandit leader Nakamura Chobei who, it is claimed, impaled Akechi on a bamboo spear. During this period, it was common for a defeated samurai to have his head removed, in some cases twisted off, and taken as a trophy. Akechi Mitsuhide’s followers didn’t want that to happen to their defeated leader. So, they took the head themselves, and escaped to another part of Kyoto to bury it.
Pictured above is the location where Akechi Mitsuhide was killed by disembowellment and decapitated. There are reports that if you visit this location on a stormy night, intertwined with the sounds of the falling rain and blowing winds you will hear the sound of terrifying screams. The last and desperate cries from the ghosts of Akechi Mistuhide and his followers replaying the scene as they are attacked on that fateful night in 1582 by Nakamura Chobei and his bandit gang. It may well be an event which took place nearly 450 years ago, but the ‘Screaming Samurai Ghosts’ still haunt the place of their final battle.
Read about where the head and body of Mitsuhide were buried in further blog posts.