Battle of Koganawate, 10 June 1333

The battle of Koganawate (10 June 1333) was notable for the death of Nagoya Takaie, one leader of a Shogunate army that had been sent to Kyoto to secure control of the area around the Imperial capital and attack the Emperor Go-Daigo's new court at Funanoe. Nagoya's death left Ashikaga Takauji in command of the Shogunate's army, and he had already decided to change sides and support Go-Daigo.

In the spring of 1333 the war in the west had clearly turned against the Shogunate. Go-Daigo had returned from exile and created a new court in the north-west. Some of his supporters were pinning down a large Shogunate army at Chihaya, while others were directly threatening Kyoto and the Rohuhara, the Shogunate's headquarters in the Imperial capital. The leaders of the Shogunate in Kamakura decided to send another large army west. Half of the army would stay in Kyoto and the other half would continue west to attack Go-Daigo at Funanoe. Command of this army was split between Nagoya Takaie and Ashikaga Takauji. Nagoya was governor of Owari Province, a member of the Hojo family and a loyal supporter of the Shogunate. Ashikaga was not so trustworthy. He was angry that he had been called away from his estates soon after the death of his father, and while he was ill, and also believed this his family should outrank the Hojo. Ashikaga decided that he would change sides once his army reached Kyoto and offer his services to Go-Daigo.

Ashikaga Takauji left Kamakura on the 27th day of the 3rd month (1 May 1333). He arrived at Kyoto on the 16th day of the 4th month (30 May) and on the following day sent a message to Go-Daigo at Funanoe announcing his change of allegiance. An Imperial mandate arrived almost immediately, suggesting either that Ashikaga had been in touch with the Imperial side well before leaving the east, or that his request was dealt with by the Imperial forces around Kyoto. Nagoya arrived three days after Ashikaga, on the 19th day of the 4th month (2 June 1333). The two commanders spent a week in Kyoto, before deciding to attack the Imperial camps at Yahata and Yamazaki, south-west of the city, on the 27th Day of the 4th Month (10 June 1333).

For once the Taiheiki gives realistic looking figures for the size of this army. Nagoya was give command of 7,600 men and was to attack from the front. Ashikaga was given 5,000 men and was to circle around the Imperial army and attack from the rear. This gave the Bakufu a total of 12,600 men.

The Imperial force was split into four. Tadaaki, a general sent by Go-Daigo, was given 5,000 horsemen. Yuki Chikamitsu, a former Bakufu commander who had recently changed sides was given 300 men. Akamatsu Norimura, a long standing supporter of the Emperor, was given 3,000 men. Finally 500-600 former outlaws were given to a Lesser Marshal Tadamasa. This makes the Imperial 8,800 strong.

Ashikaga left Osaka before dawn on 10 June 1333. Nagoya was alarmed that his colleague had left before him, probably because he didn't want his rival to gain the credit for a victory. Nagoya left the city at the head of his troops and advanced along the Koganawate Road, heading towards Akamatsu Norimura 's troops. He had some success, but this ended dramatically when he was killed by an arrow to the head. The successful archer, Sayo Norii, was one of Akamatsu's relatives.

The death of their leader discouraged his men and encouraged the Imperial troops, who attacked from three sides. Nagoya's men were now outnumbered, and without their leader they overwhelmed. Some stood and fought, others fled into the nearby paddy fields and committed suicide and some escaped back to Kyoto.

When this news reached Ashikaga Takauji he ordered his army to move west towards Shinomura on the Tamba road, with the aim of crossing Oe Mountain (there is a Mount Oe thirty four miles to the north-west of Kyoto, well to the north of Tamba, but on a possible route towards Go-Daigo's court in exile. Two of his men realised that this meant their commander had changed side, and managed to return to Kyoto with the news. The garrison of the Rokuhara prepared to fight one last battle for control of Kyoto, although with little hope of success.

Taiheiki: A Chronicle of Medieval Japan, trans. Helen Craig McCullough. A modern English translation of the first twelve chapters of the Taiheiki, covering the period of the Genko War, a civil war that saw the Emperor Go-Daigo briefly overthrow the Shogunate and restore direct Imperial rule.
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A History of Japan, 1334-1615, Sir George Sansom. A classic history of Japan, covering the period from the fall of the Kamakura Shogunate in the 1330s to the battle of Sekigahara of 1615. A little dated now, but it still provides an excellent narrative history of this period, with more detail on the military events than in most more modern works.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 November 2012), Battle of Koganawate, 10 June 1333 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_koganawate.html

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