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At another, Kusunoki Masashige spreads a rumour of
Yoshisada's death in battle, and having thus induced Takauji to
detach large forces in pursuit of the deceased's troops, falls on
him, and drives him to Hyogo, where, after a heavy defeat, he has to
flee to Bingo. Now, for a second time, the Ashikaga cause seemed
hopeless when Akamatsu Norimura again played a most important role.
He provided an asylum for Takauji and Tadayoshi; counselled them to
go to the west for the purpose of mustering and equipping their
numerous partisans; advised them to obtain secretly a mandate from
the senior branch of the Imperial family so that they too, as well as
their opponents, might be entitled to fly the brocade banner, and
having furnished them with means to effect their escape, returned to
Harima and occupied the fortress of Shirahata with the object of
checking pursuit. At this point there is a break in the unrelenting
continuity of the operations. It should obviously have been the aim
of the Imperialists to strike a conclusive blow before the Ashikaga
leaders had time to assemble and organize their multitudinous
supporters in Shikoku, Kyushu, and the provinces on the north of the
Inland Sea. This must have been fully apparent to Kusunoki Masashige,
an able strategist. Yet a delay of some weeks occurred.

A quasi-historical record, the Taiheiki, ascribes this to Yoshinaga's
infatuated reluctance to quit the company of a Court beauty whom the
Emperor had bestowed on him. Probably the truth is that the
Imperialists were seriously in want of rest and that Yoshisada fell
ill with fever. Something must also be attributed to a clever ruse on
the part of Akamatsu Norimura. He sent to Yoshisada's headquarters a
message promising to give his support to the Imperialists if he was
appointed high constable of Harima. Ten days were needed to obtain
the commission from Kyoto, and Norimura utilized the interval to
place the defenses of Shirahata fortress in a thoroughly secure
condition. Thus, when his patent of high constable arrived, he
rejected it with disdain, saying that he had already received a
patent from the shogun, Takauji, and was in no need of an Imperial
grant which "could be altered as easily as turning one's hand."

Yoshisada, enraged at having been duped, laid siege to Shirahata but
found it almost invulnerable. It was on March 11, 1336, that Takauji
went westward from Bingo; it was on the 2nd of April that Yoshisada
invested Shirahata, and it was on the 3rd of July that the siege was
raised. The Ashikaga brothers had enjoyed a respite of more than
three months, and had utilized it vigorously. They were at the
Dazai-fu in Chikuzen in June when a message reached them that
Shirahata could not hold out much longer. Immediately they set their
forces in motion, advancing by land and water with an army said to
have numbered twenty thousand and a fleet of transports and war-junks
totalling seven thousand. At the island, Itsukushima, they were met
by a Buddhist priest, Kenshun, bearer of a mandate signed by the
ex-Emperor Kogon of the senior branch, and thus, in his final
advance, the Ashikaga chief was able to fly the brocade banner. In
the face of this formidable force the Imperialists fell back to
Hyogo--the present Kobe--and it became necessary to determine a line
of strategy.

DEATH OF MASASHIGE

Go-Daigo, in Kyoto, summoned Kusunoki Masashige to a conference. That
able general spoke in definite tones. He declared it hopeless for the
Imperialists with their comparatively petty force of worn-out
warriors to make head against the great Ashikuga host of fresh
fighters. The only wise course was to suffer the enemy to enter
Kyoto, and then, while the sovereign took refuge at Hiei-zan, to
muster his Majesty's partisans in the home provinces for an unceasing
war upon the Ashikaga's long line of communications--a war
culminating in an attack from the front and the rear simultaneously.
Thus, out of temporary defeat, final victory would be wrested.

All present at the conference, with one exception, endorsed
Masashige's view as that of a proved strategist. The exception was a
councillor, Fujiwara Kiyotada. He showed himself a veritable example
of "those whom the gods wish to destroy." Declaring that all previous
successes had been achieved by divine aid, which took no count of
numerical disparity, he urged that if the sovereign quitted the
capital before his troops had struck a blow, officers and men alike
would be disheartened; and if refuge was again taken at Hiei-zan, the
Imperial prestige would suffer. To these light words the Emperor
hearkened. Masashige uttered no remonstrance. The time for
controversy had passed. He hastened to the camp and bid farewell to
his son, Masatsura: "I do not think that I shall see you again in
life. If I fall to-day, the country will pass under the sway of the
Ashikaga. It will be for you to judge in which direction your real
welfare lies. Do not sully your father's loyalty by forgetting the
right and remembering only the expedient. So long as a single member
of our family remains alive, or so much as one of our retainers, you
will defend the old castle of Kongo-zan and give your life for your
native land."

ENGRAVING: THE PARTING OF KUSONOKI MASASHIGE AND HIS SON MASATSURA

He then handed to his son a sword which he himself had received from
the Emperor. Passing thence to Hyogo, Masashige joined Nitta
Yoshisada, and the two leaders devoted the night to a farewell
banquet. The issue of the next day's combat was a foregone
conclusion. Masashige had but seven hundred men under his command. He
posted this little band at Minato-gawa, near the modern Kobe, and
with desperate courage attacked the van of the Ashikaga army.
Gradually he was enveloped, and being wounded in ten places he, with
his brother and sixty followers, entered the precincts of a temple
and died by their own hands.* Takauji and his captains, lamenting the
brave bushi's death, sent his head to his family; and history
recognizes that his example exercised an ennobling influence not only
on the men of his era but also on subsequent generations. After
Masashige's fall a similar fate must have overtaken Yoshisada, had
not one of those sacrifices familiar on a Japanese field of battle
been made for his sake. Oyamada Takaiye gave his horse to the Nitta
general and fell fighting in his stead, while Yoshisada rode away. At
first sight these sacrifices seem to debase the saved as much as they
exalt the saver. But, according to Japanese ethics, an institution
was always more precious than the person of its representative, and a
principle than the life of its exponent. Men sacrificed themselves in
battle not so much to save the life of a commanding officer, as to
avert the loss his cause would suffer by his death. Parity of
reasoning dictated acceptance of the sacrifice.

*Kusunoki Masashige is the Japanese type of a loyal and true soldier.
He was forty-three at the time of his death. Three hundred and
fifty-six years later (1692), Minamoto Mitsukuni, feudal chief of
Mito, caused a monument to be erected to his memory at the place of
his last fight. It bore the simple epitaph "The Tomb of Kusunoki, a
loyal subject."

ENGRAVING: OSONAE (New Year Offering to Family Tutelary Deity)

ENGRAVING: PALANQUINS (Used in Old Japan Only by the Nobility)



CHAPTER XXX

THE WAR OF THE DYNASTIES

OCCUPATION OF KYOTO BY ASHIKAGA

IN July, 1336, Takauji entered Kyoto and established his headquarters
at the temple Higashi-dera. Go-Daigo had previously taken refuge at
the Hiei-zan monastery, the ex-Emperors, Hanazono and Kogon,
remaining in the capital where they looked for the restoration of
their branch of the Imperial family. The Ashikaga leader lost no time
in despatching a force to attack Hiei-zan, but the Imperialists,
supported by the cenobites, resisted stoutly, and no impression was
made on the defences for a considerable time. In one of the
engagements, however, Nawa Nagatoshi, who had harboured Go-Daigo
after the flight from Oki, met his death, and the Imperialist forces
gradually dwindled. Towards the close of August, Takauji caused
Prince Yutahito (or Toyohito, according to gome authorities), younger
brother of Kogon, to be proclaimed Emperor, and he is known as Komyo.
Characteristic of the people's political ignorance at that time is
the fact that men spoke of the prince's good fortune since, without
any special merit of his own, he had been granted the rank of
sovereign by the shogun.

Meanwhile, the investment of the Hiei monastery made little progress,
and Takauji had recourse to treachery. At the close of October he
opened secret communications with Go-Daigo; assured him that the
Ashikaga did not entertain any disloyal purpose; declared that their
seemingly hostile attitude had been inspired by the enmity of the
Nitta brothers; begged Go-Daigo to return to Kyoto, and promised not
only that should all ideas of revenge be foregone, but also that the
administration should be handed over to the Court, and all their
ranks and estates restored to the Emperor's followers.

Go-Daigo ought surely to have distrusted these professions. He must
have learned from Takauji's original impeachment of Yoshisada how
unscrupulous the Ashikaga leader could be on occasion, and he should
have well understood the impossibility of peace between these two
men. Yet his Majesty relied on Takauji's assurances. It was in vain
that Horiguchi Sadamitsu recounted Yoshisada's services, detailed the
immense sacrifices he had made in the Imperial cause, and declared
that if the Emperor were determined to place himself in Takauji's
hands, he should prepare his departure from Hiei-zan by summoning to
his presence Yoshisada with the other Nitta leaders and sentencing
them to death. Go-Daigo was not to be moved from his purpose. He gave
Yoshisada fair words indeed: "I profoundly praise your loyal
services. My wish is to pacify the country by the assistance of your
family, but heaven has not yet vouchsafed its aid. Our troops are
worn out and the hour is unpropitious.



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