明智光秀 AKECHI Mitsuhide

1528? – 1583?

Name List of Akechi Mitsuhide

(Japanese historical figures change their names frequently.)

Hikotaro (彦太郎) → Mitsuhide (光秀)

The Fallen Rebel

Akechi Mitsuhide, who is famous for being the leader at the ‘Honnouji Rebellion’ has been told that he was born near Mino (Gifu prefecture) in 1528 (there are possibilities that he was born in 1516 or 1540).  When Mitsuhide got encountered by Hosokawa Yusai at the Echizen area, he was brought attention to for the first time.

Under Ashikaga Yoshiaki

When Mitsuhide met Hosokawa, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, who later became the final leader of the Muromachi shogunate was on the edge.  In 1565, Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the 13th leader was killed by Matsunaga Hisahide.  Then, Yoshiaki, his younger brother got away to Takeda Yoshizumi in the Wakasa area.  He didn’t want to give up the capital at all, so he started promoting himself to samurais in each area to become the leader.  Hosokawa Fujitaka became a messenger of Oda Nobunaga, then he accepted Yoshiaki’s request.  However, an accident happened.  In 1566, he made a peaceful promise between the Oda family and the Saito family, but Nobunaga broke it within 6 months, then deployed to Mino.  He kicked Saito Tatsuoki out from the Inabayama Castle (Gifu Castle) and moved the capital there in August 1567.  The following year, Yoshiaki politics were officially invited to Mino from Nobunaga.  Fujitaka was in charge of this negotiation between Nobunaga and Yoshiaki, and Mitsuhide was in between Nobunaga and Fujitaka.

Ashikaga Yoshiaki v.s. Oda Nobunaga

Mitsuhide was ordered to serve for both Ashikaga shogunate and the Oda family, which meant that he was brilliant at serving for them.  In 1568, Yoshiaki finally became the 15th leader of shogunate, but at the same time, he believed that something was wrong.  As the fact, he had been used by Nobunaga’s ambition.  This delegation affected Mitsuhide’s life.  In 1570, Nobunaga ordered Yoshiaki to limit his power as the 15th leader, but he ignored it, which caused a fight between them in Echizen.  In this fight, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyoshi joined, so everyone thought Nobunaga would win.  However, Asai Nagamasa, his brother in law betrayed him, so he had to run away to Kyoto.  Mitsuhide protected Nobunaga, then he won the liability and trust from the Oda family.  It meant that Mitsuhide also betrayed Ashikaga shogunate including Yoshiaki, and instead chose Nobunaga for his ambition.

As a Solid Servant for Nobunaga

In 1570, Mitsuhide assisted ‘Hieizan Yakiuchi’ as a solid servant for Nobunaga.  His awesome work rewarded him in owning Oumi area (Shiga prefecture), and he started building the Sakamoto Castle.  This area is located between Kyoto and Mino, this route became very important later on during Mitsuhide’s betrayal to Nobunaga.  On the other hand, Yoshiaki set a fight again to Nobunaga in February 1573.  This time, the Oda family and Mitsuhide cruelly defeated them including Nagamasa who betrayed Nobunaga last time and succeeded to make Yoshiaki surrender, it was the end of the Muromachi shogunate era.

Way toHonnouji Rebellion’

When Nobunaga started remarkably getting more powerful, Mitsuhide got part of his power at the same time.  In 1575, Mitsuhide was given the surname of ‘Koretou’ by Nobunaga and was given the high position in charge of managing the Kyushu area.  Now Mitsuhide had all the trust from Nobunaga, his No.1 servant, and he couldn’t imagine his political life without this excellent person who had strong loyalty for him.  Therefore, nobody in the Oda family could imagine Mitsuhide was planning the rebellion at that time.  On the other hand, there are the Uesugi family and the Takeda family, who are the strongest at the East side of Japan.  Nobunaga turned his eyes on to the Westside, before fighting them.  Surrounding the Sakamoto Castle in the Shiga area was a huge lake called Lake Biwa, which disturbed Nobunaga to fight the rest of the West.  Mitsuhide got sick very badly in the middle of the fight, and his wife passed away.  After a few years, they got over the sad times together, succeeded to take over the Tanba area.  Their bond between Nobunaga and Mitsuhide seemed like forever.

June 2nd, 1582

The day has come.  Mitsuhide called out all of his fellow servants, and said ‘The enemy is in Honnouji’.  This incident still has been called ‘The biggest mystery in the Sengoku era’.  Why did he know that both Nobunaga and his son were in Honnouji and Nijogosho at that time?  Why did he betray his boss who took really good care of him?  Why did he call Nobunaga an enemy?  Why did his fellow servants obey his order without doubting?  Many major scholars have their opinions about this rebellion, but so far none of them have reached the fact from remained references.  Mitsuhide and his companions surrounded Honnouji, Nobunaga and his son killed themselves instead of surrender, while the temple was burning down.  This is the end of the Nobunaga era and his political power.

Miserably died at Yamazaki War

History was so ironic, Mitsuhide’s era lasted only 11 days.  He wasn’t planning after the rebellion at all, and never predicted that Toyotomi Hideyoshi was coming to take over his power.  This fight is called the ‘Yamazaki War’.  Hideyoshi was well prepared with 40,000 armies, on the other hand, Mitsuhide just had 13,000 including his peers.  In the early time, Mitsuhide was ready to give up and surrender, but on his way back to his place, he was killed by a specific samurai called, ‘Ochimusha’ who kills losers.  Mitsuhide, who’d been the No.1 servant for a long time, who has extreme patience couldn’t hold the top of the era. What an ironic consequence.