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Honno-ji Incident

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  • Date: 1582/6/2
  • Japanese: 本能寺の変 (honnou ji no hen)

The Honnôji Incident was an attack upon the Kyoto temple Honnô-ji by Akechi Mitsuhide on 1582/6/2, which ended in the death of Oda Nobunaga and marked the beginning of the end of Oda clan power.

Oda Nobunaga was residing at the temple at the time, and Akechi Mitsuhide was meant to be leading a force south, to fight on Nobunaga's behalf. He led this force of supposedly as many as 13,000 men into the city, however, and surrounded the temple before having his men burst in, firing guns and setting the temple ablaze. Many residents of Kyoto fled into the grounds of the Imperial Palace, seeking sanctuary from the violence.

Nobunaga was wounded by the assailants, and ultimately is said to have committed suicide rather than be killed or captured. Rumors abound as to what happened to his body, or his head, and his final burial site remains unknown, though a memorial service was held shortly afterward at Ôbai-in, a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji.[1]

Aftermath

Mitsuhide's men also tracked down and attacked Nobunaga's heir, Oda Nobutada, who similarly killed himself. Mitsuhide also attacked Nobunaga's Azuchi castle, and sent a messenger to the Môri clan seeking a truce and alliance against Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi intercepted this messenger, however, and made his own truce with the Môri, freeing him to then rush back to the capital area, where he, Niwa Nagahide, and Oda Nobukatsu defeated Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki; Mitsuhide was killed, according to some accounts by a mob of villagers, as he fled from the battle.

Meanwhile, Tokugawa Ieyasu rushed home to Okazaki from Sakai, arriving there on 6/4. He mustered a force to send out against Mitsuhide, departing from Okazaki on 6/11, but quickly learned of Mitsuhide's defeat and death, and so turned back and returned to Hamamatsu castle. We do not know what Ieyasu thought of Nobunaga's death - what personal diaries survive do not discuss this - but it did create a power vacuum, which presented both a danger and an opportunity to Ieyasu. Beginning in 1582/7, Ieyasu devoted much of the next year, and into 1584, to solidifying his control over former Takeda clan lands, and to avoiding war with the Hôjô clan.

References

  • Morgan Pitelka, Spectacular Accumulation, University of Hawaii Press (2016), 51-53.


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