Battle of Yamazaki, 29 April 1333

The battle of Yamazaki (29 April 1333) saw a force from the Rokuhara garrison of Kyoto fail to drive away a pro-Imperial army under Akamatsu Norimura that was threatening to cut off supplies to the city. Akamatsu first threatened Kyoto in the spring of 1333 when he advanced to Maya and built a castle. The Rokuhara sent out a force to push him away, but this was defeated (battle of Maya, 27 March 1333). A second army was sent out and nearly captured Akamatsu (battle of Sakabe, 24 April 1333), but was defeated on the following day (battle of Segawa, 25 April 1333). Akamatsu then launched an attack on Kyoto, but after some initial successes this attack failed (battle of the Twelfth Day of the Third Month, 26 April 1333).

After the failure of his attack on the city Akamatsu Norimura pulled back south-west to Yamazaki (close to the modern Kyoto-Osaka railway) and more importantly at the time to the Yodo River linking Kyoto to the sea. He also had a camp at Yahate (probably Yawata, on the opposite side of the river). From these camps he blocked the river and the road to the western province, and began to stop supplies from reaching Kyoto.

The Rokuhara leaders in Kyoto decided to send an army to attack Akamatsu's camp at Yamazaki. They gathered 5,000 men and left Kyoto soon after dawn on the 15th day of the 3rd month (29 April 1333). At first they moved in two groups, but the narrow riverside path soon forced theim into a single block.

Akamatsu responded by splitting his 3,000 men into three groups. His foot archers were posted on a hill. One force of cavalry was left at the Kitsune River and a second was hidden in woods near a shrine on the road.

The Rokuhara force advanced as far as the shrine. Akamatsu's archers then opened fire from the protection of a steep hill. The Rokuhara's cavalry heavy force was unable to get close to them, and after a short time they decided to continue on towards Yamazaki. At this point fifty of the hidden horsemen attacked the centre of the Rokuhara force. The Rokuhara men attempted to destroy this small force, leaving them vulnerable when the rest of the hidden horsemen attacked. Finally half of the force left on the Kitsune River moved across country in an attempt to cut the Rohuhara army's line of retreat. This was too much for the Rokuhara men and they abandoned the fight and retreated at high speed back to Kyoto.

Neither side suffered particularly heavy losses during this battle, mainly because it hadn't lasted for very long, but it did encourage Akamatsu's men after their failure at Kyoto, and lowered the morale of the Rokuhara garrison. Akamatsu made another attempt to attack Kyoto on the Third Day of the Fourth month, and although this also ended in failure he remained in his base at Yamazaki.

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 Yamazaki, 29 April 1333 ,

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