Battle of Segawa, 25 April 1333

The battle of Segawa (25 April 1333) was the last real success during the Imperial loyalist Akamatsu Norimura's attempt to capture Kyoto. Akamatsu had risen in revolt in support of the Emperor Go-Daigo in the summer of 1332, and occupied his home province of Harima (Genko War). Early in 1333 Akamatsu decided to advance towards Kyoto. The main Bakufu army was engaged in a long and unsuccessful siege of Chihaya, around fifty miles to the south of Kyoto and the Imperial capital was thus potentially vulnerable to attack.

Akamatsu advanced east with around 3,000 men and stopped at Maya, about 40 miles west of Kyoto, where he built a castle. The Bakufu sent a force to attack him, but Akamatsu defeated this force (Battle of Maya, 27 March 1333). After this success he paused at Maya.

The Bakufu responded by forming a second army, reported as being 10,000 strong in the Taiheiki. Part of this force advanced west towards Maya, reaching Sakabe by 24 April, while 3,000 men moved by sea to Amagasaki, south of Akamatsu's position. Akamatsu decided to advance towards this new army, and by 24 April had reached Sakabe, where he was very nearly captured when he and his escort of 53 men were surprised by the force coming from Amagasaki (battle of Sakabe, 24 April 1333).

After this first clash the two sides remained in their positions, with the Bakufu forces at Segawa (north of modern Osaka), and Akamatsu a little further to the west.

On the eleventh day of the third month of 1333 (25 April 1333) Akamatsu led his 3,000 men towards the much larger Bakufu force. The Bakufu army contained an unusually large number of small contingents. As they advanced Akamatsu's men saw enough banners to suggest that the Bakufu had 20-30,000 men. According to the Taiheiki seven of his men decided that they were doomed, and should thus seek death in battle in advance of the main army. They advanced ahead of the main army, and took shelter in a clump of bamboo on the southern flank of the Bakufu arm, which was arrayed to the north and south of the Segawa post station.

From their position of cover this small force of seven began to shoot, and killed twenty five of Bakufu men. This caused some disruption in the Bakufu lines, and also encouraged 700 of Akamatsu's supporters to launch their own attack. The morale of the Bakufu force must have been dreadful, for at this point they began to retreat. Their leaders attempted to impose some sort of order but without success. According to the Taiheiki more than half of their army was killed. This includes 300 prisoners and wounded who were beheaded by Akamatsu after the battle.

After this second success in two days Akamatsu prepared to return to Maya, but his son convinced him to launch an immediate attack on Kyoto. The resulting Battle of the Twelfth day of the Third Month saw Akamatsu come close to success, before being repelled from 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 (29 October 2012), Battle of Segawa, 25 April 1333 ,

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