Battle of Tsukushi, 7 July 1333

The battle of Tsukushi (7 July 1333) was the final event in a complex plot against Hojo Hidetoki, the military governor of Kyushu, and saw him defeated by two of the three original plotters against him.

Early in 1333 three representatives of important Kyushu families, Shoni Myoe, Otomo Gukan and Kikuchi Jakua decided to rise in support of the Emperor Go-Daigo and overthrown the Bakufu's governor of Kyushu, Hojo Hidetoki (Genko War). They received a mandate from Go-Daigo and prepared for their uprising. Hidetoki became suspicious and summoned Kikuchi to his headquarters at Hakata in Tsukushi Province.

Kikuchi suspected that the plot had been uncovered, and decided to launch an immediate attack on the governor. He sent messages to Shoni and Otomo, but by now they were having second thoughts. In the spring of 1333 a series of Imperial attacks on Kyoto had failed, and Go-Daigo's cause looked to be in trouble. Otomo decided not to answer the message, but Shoni went much further. He executed Kikuchi's messenger and sent his head to Hidetoki.

Kikuchi decided to launch an attack on Hidetoki without his allies. On the 13th day of the 3rd month of 1333 (27 April 1333) he led a small force of one hundred and fifty men towards the governor's house. Hidetoki sent his own men out to deal with this small force, but the defenders were pushed back. Kikuchi was on the verge of success when his former allies arrived at the head of 6,000 men and attacked Kikuchi from the rear. Kikuchi realised that he was doomed. He ordered his son Takeshige to return to their home and try to raise another army, and then continued to fight until he was overwhelmed.

Shoni and Otomo soon changed their minds when news reached them of the fall of the Rokuhara in June 1333 and the collapse of the power of the Shogunate around Kyoto. Shoni realised that his only hope of surviving the upcoming change of power was to launch his own attack on Hidetoki. He tried to recruit Kikuchi Takeshige, but unsurprisingly these efforts failed. Otomo was more enthusiastic, and the two men prepared to attack the governor.

Once again news of their plots reached Hidetoki. He sent one of his supports to Shoni to try and found out if the news was true. Shoni claimed to be ill and so the messenger went to visit one of Shoni's sons. On his way he spotted military preparations and a banner Go-Daigo had sent to the plotters. He attempted to kill Shoni's son, but was foiled by his retainers.

Shoni and Otomo realised that their plot had been uncovered, and so on the 25th day of the 5th month (7 July 1333) they led a force of 7,000 men against Hidetoki. The governor's army was overwhelmed, and at the end of a day long battle he and 340 of his kinsmen and retainers committed suicide.

The two plotters immediately sent messengers to Kyoto with the news of their success, presumably hoping that they would be forgiven for their earlier behaviour. This news arrived at Kyoto on the 7th day of the 6th month (19 July 1333), the day after Go-Daigo's formal entry into 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 (3 December 2012), Battle of Tsukushi, 7 July 1333 ,

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