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It was then for the
first time that Mori and his generals learned of the death of
Nobunaga. Immediately there was an outcry in favour of disregarding
the compact and falling upon the enemy in his retreat; but Kikkawa
and Kohayakawa stubbornly opposed anything of the kind. They declared
that such a course would disgrace the house of Mori, whereas, by
keeping faith, the friendship of Hideyoshi and his fellow barons
would be secured. Accordingly the withdrawal was allowed to take
place unmolested.

IEYASU

The life of the Tokugawa chieftain was placed in great jeopardy by
the Mitsuhide incident. After being brilliantly received by Nobunaga
at Azuchi, Ieyasu, at his host's suggestion, had made a sightseeing
excursion to Kyoto, whence he prolonged his journey to Osaka and
finally to Sakai. The news of the catastrophe reached him at the
last-named place, and his immediate impulse was to be avenged upon
the assassin. But it was pointed out to him that his following was
much too small for such an enterprise, and he therefore decided to
set out for the east immediately. Mitsuhide, well aware of the
Tokugawa baron's unfriendliness, made strenuous efforts to waylay
Ieyasu on the way, and with great difficulty the journey eastward was
accomplished by avoiding all the highroads.

NOBUNAGA

Nobunaga perished at the age of forty-nine. The great faults of his
character seem to have been want of discrimination in the treatment
of his allies and his retainers, and want of patience in the conduct
of affairs. In his eyes, a baron of high rank deserved no more
consideration than a humble retainer, and he often gave offence which
disturbed the achievement of his plans. As for his impetuousness, his
character has been well depicted side by side with that of Hideyoshi
and Ieyasu in three couplets familiar to all Japanese. These couplets
represent Nobunaga as saying:

Nakaneba korosu
Hototogisu.
(I'll kill the cuckoo
If if it won't sing)

By Hideyoshi the same idea is conveyed thus:--

Nakashite miyo
Hototogisu.
(I'll try to make the cuckoo sing.)

Whereas, Ieyasu puts the matter thus:--

Nakumade mato
Hototogisu.
(I'll wait till the cuckoo does sing.)

Nevertheless, whatever Nobunaga may have lost by these defects, the
fact remains that in the three decades of his military career he
brought under his sway thirty-three provinces, or one-half of the
whole country, and at the time of his death he contemplated the
further conquest of Shikoku, Chugoku, and Kyushu. To that end he had
appointed Hideyoshi to be Chikuzen no Kami; Kawajiri Shigeyoshi to be
Hizen no Kami, while his own son, Nobutaka, with Niwa Nagahide for
chief of staff, had been sent to subdue Shikoku. Even admitting that
his ambition was self-aggrandizement in the first place, it is
undeniable that he made the peace of the realm, the welfare of the
people, and the stability of the throne his second purposes, and that
he pursued them with ardour. Thus, one of his earliest acts when he
obtained the control in Kyoto was to appoint officials for
impartially administering justice, to reduce the citizens' taxes; to
succour widows and orphans, and to extend to all the blessings of
security and tranquillity. In 1572, we find him sending messengers to
the provinces with instructions to put in hand the making of roads
having a width of from twenty-one to twelve feet; to set up
milestones and plant trees along these roads; to build bridges; to
remove barriers, and generally to facilitate communications.

Towards the Throne he adopted a demeanour emphatically loyal. In this
respect, he followed the example of his father, Nobuhide, and
departed radically from that of his predecessors, whether Fujiwara,
Taira, or Ashikaga. As concrete examples may be cited the facts that
he restored the shrines of Ise, and reinstituted the custom of
renovating them every twenty years; that, in the year following his
entry into the capital, he undertook extensive repairs of the palace;
that he granted considerable estates for the support of the Imperial
household, and that he organized a commission to repurchase all the
properties which had been alienated from the Court. Finally, it is on
record that when, in recognition of all this, the sovereign proposed
to confer on him the rank of minister of the Left, he declined the
honour, and suggested that titles of lower grade should be given to
those of his subordinates who had shown conspicuous merit.

DEATH OF MITSUHIDE

It was plainly in Hideyoshi's interests that he should figure
publicly as the avenger of Nobunaga's murder, and to this end his
speedy arrival in Kyoto was essential. He therefore set out at once,
after the fall of Takamatsu, with only a small number of immediate
followers. Mitsuhide attempted to destroy him on the way, and the
details of this attempt have been magnified by tradition to
incredible dimensions. All that can be said with certainty is that
Hideyoshi was, for a moment, in extreme danger but that he escaped
scathless. Immediately on arriving in Kyoto, he issued an appeal to
all Nobunaga's vassal-barons, inviting them to join in exterminating
Mitsuhide, whose heinous crime "provoked both heaven and earth."

But it was no part of Hideyoshi's policy to await the arrival of
these barons. He had already at his command an army of some thirty
thousand men, and with this he moved out, challenging Mitsuhide to
fight on the plains of Yamazaki. Mitsuhide did not hesitate to put
his fortunes to the supreme test. He accepted Hideyoshi's challenge,
and, on the 12th of June, a great battle was fought, the issue of
which was decided by two things; first, the defection of Tsutsui
Junkei, who refrained from striking until the superior strength of
Hideyoshi had been manifested, and secondly, the able strategy of
Hideyoshi, who anticipated Mitsuhide's attempt to occupy the position
of Tenno-zan, which commanded the field. From the carnage that ensued
Mitsuhide himself escaped, but while passing through a wood he
received from a bamboo spear in the hands of a peasant a thrust which
disabled him, and he presently committed suicide. Thus, on the
thirteenth day after Nobunaga's death, the head of his assassin was
exposed in Kyoto in front of the temple of Honno-ji where the murder
had taken place, and Mitsuhide's name went down in history as the
"Three days' shogun" (Mikkakubo).

CONFERENCE AT KIYOSU

By this time the principal of Nobunaga's vassal-barons were on their
way at the head of contingents to attack Mitsuhide. On learning of
the assassin's death, these barons all directed their march to
Kiyosu, and in the castle from which Nobunaga had moved to his early
conquests thirty years previously, a momentous council was held for
the purpose of determining his successor. The choice would have
fallen naturally on Samboshi, eldest son of Nobunaga's first-born,
Nobutada, who, as already described, met his death in the Mitsuhide
affair. But Hideyoshi was well understood to favour Samboshi's
succession, and this sufficed to array in opposition several of the
barons habitually hostile to Hideyoshi. Thus, in spite of the fact
that both were illegitimate and had already been adopted into other
families, Nobunaga's two sons, Nobukatsu and Nobutaka, were put
forward as proper candidates, the former supported by Ikeda Nobuteru
and Gamo Katahide; the latter, by Shibata Katsuiye and Takigawa
Kazumasu.

At one moment it seemed as though this question would be solved by an
appeal to violence, but ultimately, at the suggestion of Tsutsui
Junkei, it was agreed that Samboshi should be nominated Nobunaga's
successor; that Nobukatsu and Nobutaka should be appointed his
guardians, and that the administrative duties should be entrusted to
a council consisting of Shibata Katsuiye, Niwa Nagahide, Ikeda
Nobuteru, and Hideyoshi, each taking it in turn to discharge these
functions and each residing for that purpose in Kyoto three months
during the year. An income of one hundred thousand koku in the
province of Omi was assigned to Samboshi pending the attainment of
his majority, when he should be placed in possession of much larger
estates, which were to be entrusted in the meanwhile to the keeping
of one of the four barons mentioned above. Nobukatsu received the
province of Owari, and Nobutaka that of Mino, the remainder of
Nobunaga's dominions being apportioned to his generals, with the
exception of Hideyoshi, to whom were assigned the provinces recently
overrun by him in the midlands--Tajima, Harima, Inaba, and Tamba.

Such an arrangement had no elements of stability. The four
councillors could not possibly be expected to work in harmony, and it
was certain that Katsuiye, Sakuma Morimasa, and Takigawa Kazumasu
would lose no opportunity of quarrelling with Hideyoshi. Indeed, that
result was averted solely by Hideyoshi's tact and long suffering, for
when, a few days later, the barons again met at Kiyosu for the
purpose of discussing territorial questions, every possible effort
was made to find a pretext for killing him. But Hideyoshi's
astuteness and patience led him successfully through this maze of
intrigues and complications. He even went so far as to hand over his
castle of Nagahama to Katsuiye, and to endure insults which in
ordinary circumstances must have been resented with the sword.
Tradition describes a grand memorial ceremony organized in Kyoto by
Hideyoshi in honour of Nobunaga, and, on that occasion, incidents are
said to have occurred which bear the impress of romance. It is, at
all events, certain that the immediate issue of this dangerous time
was a large increase of Hideyoshi's authority, and his nomination by
the Court to the second grade of the fourth rank as well as to the
position of major-general. Moreover, the three barons who had been
appointed with Hideyoshi to administer affairs in Kyoto in turn, saw
that Hideyoshi's power was too great to permit the peaceful working
of such a programme. They therefore abandoned their functions, and
Hideyoshi remained in sole charge of the Imperial Court and of the
administration in the capital.

DEATH OF SHIBATA KATSUIYE

It has been already stated that Nobunaga's sons, Nobutaka and
Nobukatsu, were bitter enemies and that Nobutaka had the support of
Takigawa Kazumasu as well as of Shibata Katsuiye.



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