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Our troops are
worn out and the hour is unpropitious. Therefore, I make peace for
the moment and bide my time. Do you repair to Echizen and use your
best endeavours to promote the cause of the restoration. Lest you be
called a rebel after my return to Kyoto, I order the Crown Prince to
accompany you."

Thus Go-Daigo, truly faithful neither to the one side nor to the
other, set out for the capital. That night, Yoshisada prayed at the
shrine of Hiyoshi: "Look down on my loyalty and help me to perform my
journey safely so that I may raise an army to destroy the insurgents.
If that is not to be, let one of my descendants achieve my aim." Two
hundred and six years later, there was born in Mikawa of the stock of
Yoshisada one of the greatest generals and altogether the greatest
ruler that Japan has ever produced, Minamoto Ieyasu. Heaven answered
Yoshisada's prayer tardily but signally.

TAKAUJI'S FAITH

Not one of Takauji's promises did he respect. He imprisoned Go-Daigo;
he stripped all the courtiers of their ranks and titles; he placed in
confinement all the generals and officers of the Imperial forces, and
he ordered the transfer of the insignia to the sovereign of his own
nomination, Komyo. Tradition has it that Go-Daigo, victim of so many
treacheries, practised one successful deception himself: he reserved
the original of the sacred sword and seal and handed counterfeits to
Komyo. This took place on November 12, 1336. Some two months later,
January 23, 1337, Go-Daigo, disguised as a woman for the second time
in his career, fled from his place of detention through a broken
fence, and reached Yoshino in Yamato, where he was received by
Masatsura, son of Kusunoki Masashige, and by Kitabatake Chikafusa.

Yoshino now became the rendez-vous of Imperialists from the home
provinces, and Go-Daigo sent a rescript to Yoshisada in Echizen,
authorizing him to work for the restoration.

Thus commenced the War of the Dynasties, known in history as the
Conflict of the Northern and Southern Courts, terms borrowed from the
fact that Yoshino, where Go-Daigo had his headquarters, lay to the
south of Kyoto. Hereafter, then, the junior branch of the Imperial
Family will be designated the Southern Court and the senior branch
will be spoken of as the Northern Court.

The struggle lasted from 1337 to 1392, a period of fifty-five years.
Much has been written and said about the relative legitimacy of the
two Courts. It does not appear that there is any substantial material
for doubt. Go-Daigo never abdicated voluntarily, or ever surrendered
the regalia. Before his time many occupants of the throne had stepped
down at the suggestion of a Fujiwara or a Hojo. But always the
semblance of free-will had been preserved. Moreover, the transfer of
the true regalia constituted the very essence of legitimate
succession. But these remained always in Go-Daigo's possession.
Therefore, although in the matter of lineage no distinction could be
justly set up between the Northern and the Southern Courts, the
collaterals of legitimacy were all with the latter.

Of course each complied with all the forms of Imperialism. Thus,
whereas the Southern Court used the year-name Engen for 1336-1339,
the North kept the year-name Kemmu for two years, and as there were
different nengo names for half a century, a new element of confusion
was added to the already perplexing chronology of Japan. In
administrative methods there was a difference. The Northern Court
adhered to the camera system: that is to say, the actual occupant of
the throne was a mere figurehead, the practical functions of
Government being discharged by the cloistered sovereign. In the
Southern Court the Emperor himself, nominally at all events, directed
the business of administration. Further, the office of shogun in the
Southern Court was held generally by an Imperial Prince, whereas in
the Northern Court its holder was an Ashikaga. In brief, the
supporters of the Northern Court followed the military polity of the
Bakufu while the Southern adopted Imperialism.

NATURE OF THE WAR

As the question at issue lay solely between two claimants to the
succession, readers of history naturally expect to find the war
resolve itself into a campaign, or a succession of campaigns, between
two armies. Such was by no means the case. Virtually the whole empire
was drawn into the turmoil, and independent fighting went on at
several places simultaneously. The two Courts perpetually made Kyoto
their objective. Regardless of its strategical disadvantages, they
deemed its possession cardinal. Takauji had been more highly lauded
and more generously rewarded than Yoshisada, because the former had
recovered Kyoto whereas the latter had only destroyed Kamakura. Thus,
while Go-Daigo constantly struggled to capture Kyoto, Komyo's
absorbing aim was to retain it. This obsession in favour of the
Imperial metropolis left its mark upon many campaigns; as when, in
the spring operations of 1336, Yoshisada, instead of being allowed to
pursue and annihilate Takauji, was recalled to guard Kyoto, and when,
in July of the same year, Kusunoki Masashige was sent to his death
rather than temporarily vacate the capital. It must have been fully
apparent to the great captains of the fourteenth century that Kyoto
was easy to take and hard to hold. Lake Biwa and the river Yodo are
natural bulwarks of Yamato, not of Yamashiro. Hiei-zan looks down on
the lake, and Kyoto lies on the great plain at the foot of the hill.
If, during thirteen generations, the Ashikaga family struggled for
Kyoto, they maintained, the while, their ultimate base and
rallying-place at Kamakura, and thus, even when shattered in the
west, they could recuperate in the east. The Southern Court had no
such depot and recruiting-ground. They had, indeed, a tolerable place
of arms in the province of Kawachi, but in the end they succumbed to
topographical disadvantages.

DEATHS OF YOSHISADA AND AKIIYE

In the fact that he possessed a number of sons, Go-Daigo had an
advantage over his fourteen-year-old rival, Komyo, for these Imperial
princes were sent out to various districts to stimulate the loyal
efforts of local bushi. With Yoshisada to Echizen went the Crown
Prince and his brother Takanaga. They entrenched themselves at
Kana-ga-saki, on the seacoast, whence Yoshisada's eldest son,
Yoshiaki, was despatched to Echigo to collect troops, and a younger
brother, Yoshisuke, to Soma-yama on a similar errand. Almost
immediately, Ashikaga Takatsune with an army of twenty thousand men
laid siege to Kanaga-saki. But Yoshiaki and Yoshisuke turned in their
tracks and delivered a rear attack which scattered the besiegers.
This success, however, proved only temporary. The Ashikaga leader's
deep resentment against Yoshisada inspired a supreme effort to crush
him, and the Kana-ga-saki fortress was soon invested by an
overwhelming force on sea and on shore. Famine necessitated
surrender. Yoshiaki and Prince Takanaga committed suicide, the latter
following the former's example and using his blood-stained sword. The
Crown Prince was made prisoner and subsequently poisoned by Takauji's
orders. Yoshisada and his brother Yoshisuke escaped to Soma-yama and
rallied their partisans to the number of three thousand.

The fall of Kana-ga-saki occurred in April, 1338, and, two months
later, Go-Daigo took the very exceptional course of sending an
autograph letter to Yoshisada. The events which prompted his Majesty
were of prime moment to the cause of the Southern Court. Kitabatake
Akiiye, the youthful governor of Mutsu and son of the celebrated
Chikafusa, marched southward at the close of 1337, his daring project
being the capture, first, of Kamakura, and next, of Kyoto The nature
of this gallant enterprise may be appreciated by observing that Mutsu
lies at the extreme north of the main island, is distant some five
hundred miles from Kyoto, and is separated from the latter by several
regions hostile to the cause which Akiiye represented. Nevertheless,
the brilliant captain, then in his twenty-first year, seized Kamakura
in January, 1338, and marched thence in February for Yoshino. He
gained three victories on the way, and had nearly reached his
objective when, at Ishizu, he encountered a great army of Ashikaga
troops under an able leader, Ko no Moronao, and after a fierce
engagement the Southern forces were shattered, Akiiye himself falling
in the fight. This disaster occurred on June 11, 1338. A brave rally
was made by Akiiye's younger brother, Akinobu. He gathered the
remnants of the Mutsu army and occupied Otokoyama, which commands
Kyoto.

It was at this stage of the campaign that Go-Daigo resorted to the
exceptional measure of sending an autograph letter to Yoshisada, then
entrenched at Somayama, in Echizen. His Majesty conjured the Nitta
leader to march to the assistance of Akinobu at Otoko-yama. Yoshisada
responded at once. He despatched his brother, Yoshisuke, with twenty
thousand men, remaining himself to cover the rear of the expedition.
But Otoko-yama surrendered before this succour reached it, and the
Nitta brothers then combined their forces to operate against the
Ashikaga. Nothing decisive resulted, and in September, 1338,
Yoshisada fell in an insignificant combat near the fortress of
Fujishima in Echizen. He caused a comrade to behead him and carry off
the head, but the enemy identified him by means of the Imperial
letter found on his person.

Yoshisada was only thirty-eight at the time of his death (September,
1338). Rai Sanyo (1780-1832), the great Japanese historian, says: "I
saw a letter written by Yoshisada with his own hand for the purpose
of admonishing the members of his family. In it he wrote: 'An officer
in command of an army should respect the sovereign; treat his
subordinates with clemency but decision; leave his fate in heaven's
hands, and not blame others.' Yoshisada is open to criticism for not
pursuing the Ashikaga when they fled westward from Kyoto; yet it must
be remembered that he had no firm base, being hurried from one
quarter to another. The strategy he used was not his own free choice
nor were the battles he fought contrived by himself.



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