Battle of the Twelfth Day of the Third Month, 26 April 1333

The battle of the Twelfth Day of the Third Month (26 April 1333) was an unsuccessful attempt by the pro-Imperial commander Akamatsu Norimura to try and defeat the Shogunate's garrison in Kyoto.

In the spring of 1333 Akamatsu Norimura decided to try and threaten Kyoto. He advanced to Maya (west of modern Osaka) where he built a castle. The Rokuhara (the Shogunate's headquarters in Kyoto) sent an army to attack him, but this army was defeated (battle of Maya, 27 March 1333). A second army was dispatched, and nearly caught Akamatsu Norimura at Sakabe (24 April 1333), but was then defeated at Segawa (25 April 1333) and retreated back towards the city. Akamatsu was ready to pull back to Maya and rest, but his son convinced him to launch an attack on Kyoto before the Rokuhara could recover from the defeat.

No firm news of these defeats reached Kyoto, although rumours of a setback began to spread. The first sign of the approach of a hostile army was a series of fires that were seen from the city at the hour of the monkey on the 12th day of the 3rd month (the two hour period before sunset on 26 April 1333). At first the Rokuhara leaders struggled to find any troops, but eventually they found 20,000 men (according to the Taiheiki). The Rokuhara army advanced out of the city to the Katsura River, which marked the western boundary of Kyoto, and was running high with melt waters from the winter snows.

Akamatsu Norimura split his 3,000 men into two divisions and sent them along different roads towards Kyoto. When they reached the Katsura River they found the Rokuhara army. Neither side was willing to cross the river - the defenders because they had been ordered to guard the river and the attackers because they were outnumbered. An archery duel began, before the deadlock was broken by Akamatsu's son, who led the first few attackers across the river. The rest of the army followed, and the demoralised defenders of Kyoto scattered and fled.

This allowed Akamatsu's men to break into the western part of Kyoto. By now night had fallen, and the situation was chaotic. The Shogunate's Emperor sought refuge in the Rokuhara, but the attacker's luck finally ran out. The Rokuhara leaders managed to find some troops willing to fight and the outnumbered attackers were finally forced to retreat. There was no pursuit, and so Akamatsu was able to regroup and begin a blockade of the city. A Rokuhara force was sent to try and clear them away, but suffered another defeat at the battle of Yamazaki (29 April 1333).

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 (6 November 2012), Battle of the Twelfth Day of the Third Month, 26 April 1333 ,

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