Welcome back to the Sengoku Jidai Last time we left off with Oda Nobunaga ascendant after his surprising victory over the Imagawa. And the young Tokugawa Ieyasu aligning himself and his clan with the victorious Oda. Now we enter a period of consolidation. As Nobunaga tries to strengthen his holdings, and plans for his own march on Kyoto. And this is where the alliance with Tokugawa becomes so important. You see, to the east of Owari, the home province of the Oda, were three great clans: the Hōjō, the Takeda, and the Uesugi. All the whom were arguably more powerful than the Oda. So why didn’t one of these clans march west and steamroll everything in between them and Kyoto? Well, because every time one of them would start to, one of the others would invade their territory. But, now that Oda Nobunaga had the Tokugawa as allies, his eastern flank was secure. He could look west with impunity Or, at least, with a pretty big buffer between him and anyone who wanted to stop him. So this just leaves two clans to the west between Oda and Kyoto. These were the Azai, and the Saitō But remember, right now, Oda Nobunaga isn’t grasping for the prize of Kyoto. He’s trying to consolidate the gains he just made. So, he marries off his sister to the lord of the Azai, bringing them into the family. and hopefully, ensuring their friendship. At the same time, he opens overtures with his father-in-law, the old daimyo of the Saitō: Saitō Dōsan A crafty ex-merchant, whom managed to raise himself up to ruling a whole province. Saitō Dōsan is on the verge of making a deal with the Oda when he’s trapped and killed by his own son: Saitō Yoshitatsu. Who then rejects Oda Nobunaga’s overtures of peace. Looks like it’s back to war then. And now, it’s time to bring in our third major actor: Toyotomi Hideyoshi Actually, wait, no… Before we go on, we got to talk about names. Because you see, at this point, Toyotomi Hideyoshi isn’t actually being called Toyotomi Hideyoshi yet, and Tokugawa Ieyasu isn’t called Tokugawa Ieyasu yet either. And basically everybody in this story changes their name like, 13 times. Because it seems to be a thing at the time to demand that everybody call you by increasing cooler names the stronger you got. Which…yea it’s kinda awesome, but it also gets extremely confusing. So we’re basically just going to ignore it, and just call everybody by the names history remembers them as. The only really important one to remember is that Tokugawa Ieyasu was called Matsudaira Motoyasu and, like, six other things before that… before he became Tokugawa Ieyasu. And that he was the leader of the Matsudaira clan from the last episode, which by the end of this episode, he will rename to the Tokuga… …you see why I’m not bothering with all these name changes? Anyway, back to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Here is a guy who really embodies the changing fortunes of the age. He began life as a peasant. When he was born, he wasn’t even cool enough to get two names. But then, he joined the Oda forces and became a sandal-bearer. I kid you not, he was the guy who’s job it was to carry Oda Nobunaga’s shoes around. But apparently, he was really good at it. So good, that he got promoted to being one of the guys who oversaw repairing castles. And from there, it was off to the races. In 1561, Oda Nobunaga invades the Saitō lands. For three years he’s rebuffed, never quite able to take the mountain castle of Inabayama that the Saitō use as their headquarters. But then, Oda brings in Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Toyotomi’s specialty was administration and diplomacy. He was a decent enough warrior, I guess But that’s not what Oda needed right now. If all it was going to take to beat the Saitō was a good general and some courage, Oda Nobunaga would have gotten the job done himself already. So, instead of attacking the Saitō head on again, Toyotomi applies his special brand of skills. One by one, through bribes, appeals, and threats, Toyotomi turns almost all of Saitō’s retainers against them. With nearly all of their forces defecting, the Oda conquest of the Saitō is a near certainty. But there’s still the impregnatable fortress of Inabayama to deal with. So long as it stands, the Oda will never safely hold the land. They need a jumping-off point. A place to gather their troops, and stores their supplies. A place to safely maintain the siege from, and a place to retreat to if things go poorly. Their last several incursions fell apart because they lack such a place. So Oda Nobunaga orders Toyotomi Hideyoshi to build one right at the foot of Inabayama. Now, you would think that right under the arrows of the enemy, it would be impossible to build such a fortification. But not for Toyotomi Hideyoshi. According to legend, he built the place overnight. Now, we can be pretty sure that he didn’t actually built that place overnight. But getting himself a legend like that probably means he built it pretty darn fast. He certainly did it fast enough that he got it built before the Saitō could really muster an effective attack against it. As our story rolls forward, I think it’s worth pondering why these three men, with their particular talents, were able to unify Japan when for a hundred years all who came before them had failed. And the conquest of the Saitō gives us some good hints, I think. But, back to Inabayama. Once Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s fortress is in place, Oda Nobunaga brings his forces up to put the Saitō’s castle under siege. But Hideyoshi’s not done. He has one more trick up his sleeve. He’s been talking to the local villagers and he knows of a path up the back of the mountain. A path that would let him and a small handful of men slip into the castle undetected. He tells Nobunaga of his plan, and they agree. He is to pick his men and head out. In the dead of night, they scaled the side of the mountain. And just before dawn, leaped over its walls. They quickly rush to set fire to the storehouses and the powder magazine. The magazine explodes in this great gout of flame. The defenders inside are totally disoriented. Outside the walls, they see thousands of men advancing on them. They see the treacherous banners of those they thought to be their allies slowly creeping up the hill, and then, BANG! the castle erupts. Some men throw down their weapons right on the spot, others leaves the castle walls and race to the courtyard thinking a full-scale attack is going on. In the midst of this confusion, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his small band of men seize the gate, and throw open the doors. It’s not long before the castle has fallen. This is the end of the Saitō. When the campaign is done, Nobunaga makes Toyotomi a lord for his services, and appoints him to rule over three prefectures of the former Saitō’s land. With the Saitō out of the way, Oda Nobunaga plans, at last, to march to Kyoto. But how could he justify it? What legal reason did he have? If he simply marched in as a conqueror, it might unify other clans against him. It might even weaken the support of some of his retainers. But then, in 1568, a 31-year-old man turned up on his doorstep, claiming to be Ashikaga Yoshiaki. Displaced from Kyoto when his brother – the Shogun was murdered. This man asks Nobunaga to cast out the pretenders to the Shogunate, and reinstate him as the true and rightful Shogun of Japan. What an opportunity! Nobunaga, with all the reverence and humility due to his stations, says that of course he’ll help! He wants nothing more than justice for Yoshiaki, and to see the Ashikaga Shogunate restored. Of course he’ll help him retake Kyoto (fingers crossed). Then Nobunaga makes it known far and wide. He’s marching to Kyoto to restore the Shogun! And anybody who tries to stop him is acting against the rightful will of the Shogun and will be destroyed. Not much you can say against that. And so, with the somewhat naive heir to the Shogunate in tow, Oda’s forces sweep west. Smashing the few clans that stand in their way, and by the year’s end, they’re in Kyoto. And there, we will leave our story for today. Everything’s great, Oda has Kyoto. The “Rightful Shogun” has been restored. Hideyoshi is managing the Saitō lands, and Ieyasu is holding down the fort in the east. What could possibly go wrong? Tune in in a couple weeks to see what goes wrong I don’t want to spoil it, but… (Whispers) Warrior Monks.