Battle of Maya, 27 March 1333

The battle of Maya (27 March 1333) was the first of a series of victories won by Akamatsu Norimura, a supporter of the Emperor Go-Daigo, during an unsuccessful attempt to capture Kyoto.

Akamatsu Norimura had joined the Imperial cause in the summer of 1332, and secured control of his home province of Harima, west of Osaka. Early in 1333 he was encouraged by the failure of the Shogunate's forces at Chihaya Castle, and advanced east towards Kyoto. He stopped at Maya (close to modern Kobe), where he built a castle, intending to use it as a base if anything went wrong.

Akamatsu arrived at Maya at a bad time for the Shogunate. New reached them of an uprising on Shikoku (south of the Inland Sea) and the defeat of an army sent to crush it at Hoshigaoka (28 January 1333). The Emperor Go-Daigo had escaped from exile and was creating a new court, and most of their army was tied down at Chihaya. The Bakufu leaders at Kyoto decided that their first task was to defeat Akamatsu, removing the most immediate threat to their position.

The Bakufu was able to scrape together a force of 5,000 men, which departed from Kyoto on the 5th day of the intercalary second month (21 March 1333). It took less than a week for them to reach Maya, and at dawn on the 11th day of the month (27 March 1333) they were ready to advance from the foot of the mountain.

Akamatsu decided to draw the attackers into an ambush at a difficult point on the steep path up to the castle. He sent 100-200 archers towards the base of the mountain. They fired a few shots at the attackers, and then withdrew. The Bakufu forces followed up the mountain path and fell into Akamatsu's trap. They slowed down at a difficult part of the path, called the Seven Bends. Akamatsu's men shot at them from above, and then when the advancing attackers came to a halt Akamatsu ordered 500 infantry to attack. The Bakufu troops were forced into a chaotic retreat along a narrow path between brambles and rice paddies.

The Taiheiki's lack of reliability when numbers are concerned is well illustrated by its casualty figures. The attacking army expanded from 5,000 to 7,000 strong in only a few lines, of whom only 1,000 are said to have remained with the army. The Bakufu managed to find another 10,000 men and sent this second army towards Maya on the 28th day of the month (13 April 1333). Akamatsu decided to advance towards them, and a second battle was fought at Sakabe (25 April 1333). The advance towards Kyoto continued, but Akamatsu was eventually turned back at the outskirts of the city.

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 1600 and the end of the civil wars in 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 (22 October 2012), Battle of Maya, 27 March 1333 ,

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