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Oda Nobunaga - A Japanese Warlord

Oda Nobunaga - A Japanese Warlord

The Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga lived from June 23, 1534, to June 21, 1582. He was born in Nagoya Castle as the son of the warlord Oda Nobuhide during the Sengoku Jidai. Nobunaga received a militarily influenced education preparing him for his role as a castle lord. His younger brother grew up with their mother, also in the castle. As was customary in Japan at that time, Oda Nobunaga was elevated to adult status at the age of twelve and married at the age of 14. His wife was also the daughter of a warlord from a neighboring province.

In 1551, the father died, leading to a bitter struggle within the Oda clan for his succession. Both the brother and an uncle sought to seize power. The uncle occupied the castle Kiyosu in the Owari province, rightfully belonging to Nobunaga. He was defeated in 1555 and had to commit seppuku, a ritual of male suicide. Nobunaga often stood out due to his unconventional manners and clothing styles in Japan. A classic Japanese Samurai Armor with a sword or katana is elaborate and expensive. Oda Nobunaga preferred an individual and practical clothing style that did not conform to the luxurious demands of the Daimyo but aligned with his own ideas.

For example, he appeared inappropriately dressed and behaved contemptuously towards ceremonies at his father's funeral. This might have been an expression of his profound grief or demonstrated his unwillingness to conform to the restrictive norms of the time. His preference for Western firearms was also disapproved by Japanese feudal nobles. However, it would later be evident that every country pays a high price for backwardness.

First of the three wealthier

Oda Nobunaga forged an alliance with Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Daimyo of the Mikawa province, which helped him expand his power in Japan. In 1560, his enemy Yoshiomoto assembled a 25,000-strong Japanese army and launched an attack. With only 3,000 men at his disposal, Oda Nobunaga employed a stratagem. He had numerous figures made, resembling the armor and appearance of his own army. Placing these figures among the ranks of real samurai, he deceived the opponent and won the battle. By 1567, Nobunaga had conquered the entire Mino province. In the same year, his sister Ichi married the Daimyo Azai Nagamasa. Further marriages within the Oda clan and conquests enlarged Oda Nobunaga's sphere of influence to include the Kyoto province and other provinces in the Kinki region. The conquest of Kyoto was in response to a request from the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the last Shōgun of the Ashikaga family line.

Oda Nobunaga understood early on that the economy played a crucial role in the unity and success of the empire. He therefore fought against monopolies and abolished privileged guilds in his domain. As the Buddhists of Japan opposed him, he consciously supported the development of Christianity in Japan. Oda Nobunaga invited missionaries to learn more about Western culture and its technologies. The monastery on Mount Hiei near Kyoto became increasingly dangerous for Nobunaga. In 1571, Oda Nobunaga besieged the monastery and set the surrounding forests on fire. It is said that a total of 3,000 people lost their lives in this action. Despite these efforts, Christianity could not establish itself in Japan. Towards the end of the 16th century, all foreigners were expelled from the country, and Japan completely isolated itself from external influences in 1639.

In a description of Japanese history, it is noted that firearms first reached Japan in 1543. Oda Nobunaga was fascinated by their technology and was the first warlord to extensively use them to his advantage. He also changed numerous traditions in the organization of his troops. Previously, only members of certain castes could rise to high ranks, but Nobunaga rewarded outstanding performances and talents without considering the origin of his soldiers. For example, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Akechi Mitsuhide rose to prominent figures in his troops. Nobunaga also began hiring professional soldiers. Previously, farmers were obligated to military service to fill the ranks of foot soldiers. They were exempted during times of cultivation and harvest, making major battles impossible in these periods. Nobunaga's professional soldiers, however, were ready for action throughout the year. This advantage brought him numerous victories and a strategic superiority over his Japanese opponents.

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Decline and death of Oda Nobunaga

Among the most important military leaders of Oda Nobunaga were Akechi Mitsuhide and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Both came from poor families and had distinguished themselves through exceptional performance and loyalty. Nobunaga had the habit of often humiliating and insulting people around him without reason. He did not spare even his closest confidants and military leaders. Akechi could not forget one of these humiliations. Seizing a favorable opportunity in 1582, he attacked the despot and forced him to commit seppuku.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi returned to Kyoto and attacked Akechi Mitsuhide, who was killed. Hideyoshi successfully continued the unification of Japan, but no longer relying solely on brute force, instead employing diplomacy and cunning.

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