Battle of the Third Day of the Fourth Month (17 May 1333)

The battle of the Third Day of the Fourth Month (17 May 1333) was a second failed attempt to take Kyoto made by the pro-Imperial leader Akamatsu Norimura. He had been campaigning in the vicinity of the Imperial capital since the spring of 1333. Since then the Shogunate had made three attempts to defeat him, each of which had ended in failure (battle of Maya, 27 March 1333, battle of Segawa, 25 April 1333, battle of Yamazaki, 29 April 1333), while Akamatsu had made one attempt to capture Kyoto (battle of the Twelfth Day of the Third Month, 26 April 1333), but this too had ended in failure. 

Akamatsu decided to make another attempt to capture the city. His army had been reduced by half in the fighting around the city, and according to the Taiheiki he now had 7,000 cavalry and perhaps 3,000 foot archers (compared to 30,000 for the defenders). He split his force into two and advanced towards Kyoto soon after dawn on the third day of the fourth month (17 May 1333).

The Rokuhara commanders split their army into several parts. One part was sent north to protect the city against any further attacks by the monks of Mount Hiei. Another part was left at Rokuhara to act as a reserve. The main force was split into three groups and placed at the main approaches to the city where attacks might be expected.

The battle began during the Hour of the Serpent (roughly 10am-12 noon). Akamatsu's foot archers blocked a number of the streets, but were unable to make any progress into the city, while the Rokuhara's cavalry was able to prevent the archers from advancing, but couldn't push them back. The deadlock was broken towards sunset when two of the best of the Rokuhara commanders, Kono and Suyama, finally managed to break the resistance of their direct opponents. They then rode around the outside of the city and attacked a second attacking column, forced that one to retreat.

This left Akamatsu's own column, 3,000 strong. This force had held its own all day, but it was now attacked from three sides, broken up and forced to retreat in three fragments. Akamatsu lost around 800 of his best men in this fighting. The remains of his army pulled back to their base at Yahata and Yamazaki, south-west of Kyoto.

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 (8 November 2012), Battle of the Third Day of the Fourth Month (17 May 1333),

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