The Final Stages of Japanese Unification

Hatano's Meeting with Nobunaga

Hideharu reached Azuchi castle soon after having surrendered to Mitsuhide under the promise of full pardon. Nobunaga upset by this promise had planned to execute Hideharu at once however heeding the advice of his family and close advisors Nobunaga received Hideharu.

Appearing before the great general, Hideharu bowed low and begged for forgiveness. To ensure that the Hatano clan would no longer pose any opposition to him, Nobunaga made Hideharu one of his retainers keeping him in Azuchi as a hostage. The Hatano domains were placed under the custody of Nobunaga's son Oda Nobutada, securing the path to Kyoto. As a reward for his services Mitsuhide's own domains were expanded. 

The Submission of Mori and the Shikoku Campaign

In 1582 Nobunaga began moving to complete the unification of Japan. Hashiba Hideyoshi invaded Bitchu the centre of power of the Mori. though initially successful Hideyoshi encountered fierce resistance from the Mori at Takamatsu Castle. In an attempt to curry favor with Nobunaga's other retainers who were growing increasingly jealous of his success, requested re-inforcements. Nobunaga agreed and sent Mitsuhide to aid his comrade.

Believing that this was his chance to become the first amongst peers within Nobunaga's circles Mitsuhide agreed and arrived to aid Hideyoshi. The re-inforcements helped bring about a decisive but bloody end the siege with the Mori surrendering. In exchange for continued rule over their lands the Mori. Daimyo Mori Terumoto pledged allegiance to the Oda Clan. To the outrage of Mitsuhide, Hideyoshi was giving full credit for the submission of the Mori. This would prove one of the major reasons for his later revolt. 

As Hideyoshi and Mitsuhide fought to subjugate the Mori, Niwa Nagahide one of the Oda's most loyal retainers undertook the invasion of Shikoku. The troops disembarked in Tokushima and prepared to march on the Chosokabe lands as quickly as possible in an effort to break the main opponent to their master. Niwa was able to break through Chosokabe defence in early 1583 at the siege of Kochi. Soon after the city of Matsuyama was torched with most of its civilians being slaughtered by Oda forces. The savage attacks brought about a swift end to what little resistance Motochika could have provided. In the final peace settlement only Tosu remained under Chosokabe rule while the rest of the Shikoku feel to Oda's rule.

With most of Honshu and all of Shikoku largely under his control Nobunaga looked forward to taking the rest of Japan. With Shikoku and the Mori lands under his control Kyushu was ready for the taking. To the North the Late Hojo Clan looked in horror as the Oda clan secured their power over Southern Japan and slowly turned their head north and East. With Victory nearly at hand Nobunaga began preparing to fulfill his long life ambition, to unite Japan and conquer the Asian Mainland.

The Akechi incident, Hojo's last Stand, and the Unification of Nippon under the Oda Mon

By 1585 most of Japan had fallen to Nobunaga. Only Hojo, Shimazu, and the divided Northern Daimyos remained independent. However discontent was growing within the ranks of Nobunaga's retainers. Akechi Mitsuhide was at odds with his long time master and dreamed of becoming Shogun. The Mori campaign  proved the final straw. Mitsuhide displeased by many of Nobunaga's decisions began plotting the demise of the Fool of Owari, with other Daimyos who wished to be free of Oda domination. 

In September 1585 Nobunaga decided it was time to subdue the remaining Daimyos. Under his orders troops under the command of Hideyoshi prepared to invade Southern Kyushu while Nobunaga organized a force of 80,000 troops to march on Hojo and northern Honshu. Realizing that it was now or never Mitsuhide attempting to take out the great general while he was on one of his visits to Kyoto. Amassing a sizable force Mitsuhide marched on Kyoto under the pretenses of restoring the banished Shogun (Yoshiaki Ashikaga). He would not make it to Kyoto, however as Oda Nobunaga had been alerted of the plans previously by a scared Hideharu. Nobutada set up an ambush a little to the north of Kyoto taking the Akechi forces by surprise, breaking his flank and causing most of his forces to disperse before any real fighting began.

With his forces shattered, Mitsuhide surrendered to Nobutada who brought him before his father who was in Kyoto awaiting the traitor. In Kyoto Mitsuhide was forced to commit Sepukku to keep his honor intact and to keep Nobunaga from exacting revenge on his family. The incident ended all dissent against Nobunaga. However, Nobunaga was also deeply disturbed by the event being betrayed by one of his closest advisors. The events only strengthened Nobunaga's determination to end all resistance to his rule and quickly organized his forces to march on the Late Hojo. Oda forces invaded Hojo in early March 1586. The overwhelming power of Nobunaga's forces broke through Hojo defences and despite his best efforts Hojo Ujimasa was unable to hold onto Odawara (his base of power). In one of the bloodiest events of the Azuchi period Nobunaga pillaged and burned Odawara to the ground, wiping out the Hojo clan in the process as many as 10,000 people were slaughtered in the violence. The destruction of Hojo shocked all of Japan as Nobunaga's brutality showed the rest of the Daimyos that further resistance would lead to more acts of retribution.

The Shimazu were the first to surrender having resisted Oda for the better part of  decade. Daimyo Shimazu Yoshihiro swore his loyalty to the Oda before he could suffer the same fate. The Shimazu armies were considered a great asset to Oda as they were renowned warriors and had a fierce loyalty to those they served under. He was followed by the rest of the Kyushu Daimyos. Nobunaga granted Shimazu Yoshihiro control of most of the the Nanban (Southern Barbarians or Portuguese) trade without interference from the central government. The Northern Daimyos would soon follow.

With the remaining Daimyos falling in line, Oda Nobunaga had completed his long life ambition. His influence extending over the entire Archipelago. The Oda clan had reunited Japan after over a century of division. The war however had left deep scars throughout the Japan, with many holding grudges against the Oda for their ruthless and often brutal campaigns. Others disliked Nobunaga's merit based system and felt that he was tearing down the foundations of Japanese society. 

Japan Under Oda Nobunaga

Since 1568 Oda Nobunaga's dreams to unite Japan were well under way. By 1586 He had united the Daimyos into a military confederation through bribery, ruthless slaughter and military innovation. Under this temporary mold Japanese society was exposed to a series of reforms and ideas. 

Ever since his youth Oda Nobunaga had been interested in new ideas. He was innovative, calculating and quick on his toes. Thanks to these attributes he was able to secure his succession as head of the Oda clan when his brother attempted to seize power. He also managed to defeat the Imagawa numbering some 25,000 at the Battle of Okehazama with only 3000 troops. These early feats were deemed the start of his long and brilliant road to power.

With the introduction of modern firearms to Japan by the Portuguese in 1543 the Japanese were quick to adopt the so called Tanegashima guns (matchlocks) in an effort to gain a decisive advantage over their rivals during the Sengoku period. Oda Nobunaga would take these new weapons a step further greatly expanding their production in Sakai and Omi. By the end of his reign in 1604 Japan was the largest producer of firearms in the world. 

He also developed a strong military by greatly expanding the ashigaru (foot soldiers or peasant troops). He armed his forces with muskets,and pikes, developed elaborate castle fortifications and introduced mass musket formations for volley fire which devastated his enemies and helped transform warfare in Japan and eventually in East Asia forever. His men men were promoted based on merit and not on birth which helped him create an efficient and reliable military structure which was vastly superior to that of his rivals and which would have profound effects later on. 

However he was not only a military genius. Nobunaga is also remembered for his economic and social reforms which would bring about an end to the old feudal society that had existed since the Kamakura shogunate. He was also fascinated by all things western.

Oda Nobunaga implemented large scale economic reforms. He instituted the rakuichi rakuza (楽市楽座) policies which stimulated business and the overall economy through the use of free markets. These reforms broke down the monopolies previously held by an elite few. Under his rule large scale road projects were developed, castle towns became centres of commerce and production. These policies provided a major boost and stabilization to the economy. He also made great efforts to facilitate the payment and hand out of loans, this would prove crucial in the coming years as the merchant class grew in power.

Trade increased greatly due to his efforts to trade beyond China,and Korea, the Europeans to the south and Indochina would eventually be added to Japan's regular trade routes. In an effort to protect this growing trade network Nobunaga would begin expanding the Japanese navy following the submission of Kyushu. Greatly interested in the weapons of the westerners, he began developing ships with Portuguese and western components though retaining Japanese esthetics. He hired several Portuguese to hep build a few carracks and galleons (the Tokugawa actually did this prior to the start of their isolation). The main reason for this was Oda's observations in the inferior designs of the Japanese Atakebune, and his wish to outfit his ships with larger amounts of cannons.

Nobunaga was also a great patron of the arts. Having amassed a massive wealth through his conquests. Sponsoring several artists and cultural activities such as the tea ceremonies under tea master Sen no Rikyu. He commissioned immense gardens and palaces as well to show off the beauty of Japan and to promote his own image. Under his rule the Japanese arts and literature began to blossom as peace was slowly being restored to the country. 

He greatly admired western art and philosophy, which was still very new to Japan. Oda Nobunaga collected a large number of western paintings, as well as weapons and armour for his private collection. He was the first documented Japanese to dress in European attire. Nobunaga become a patron of the Jesuits in an effort to diminish the strength of the Buddhists that had resisted his rise to power. In the final years of his reign, however the relationship between him and the Christians would cool as Oda complained over the slave trade that was growing amongst Christians in Southern Japan and over the growth of Christian influences. Throughout his life the missionaries had tried and failed to convert him to Catholicism which deeply upset them as they realized that Nobunaga only used them as a tool to further his unification of Japan.

Japan was starting to enjoying economic and cultural development not seen in years. It was ruled under a military confederation held together by Nobunaga's strong will, military might, and ruthless reputation. Oda Nobunaga refused to adopt any formal titles as he disliked the old system greatly. Oda control over Japan would however eventually be legitimized under Nobunaga's son, Nobutada. Large scale administrative reforms were also implemented redistributing the lands based on rice output instead of the size of the land. This mixed with the destruction of trade barriers within Japan would eventually lead to a massive increase in food production and economic efficiency.To ensure that no peasant revolts broke out, a sword hunt was carried out on Oda Nobunaga's orders in 1588. 

Japan would start to undergo profound social changes during this time. The differences between the Samurai and the Ashigaru who served under them were no longer so visible. Nobunaga's merit system also helped promote great administrative effectiveness and social advancement. Despite the weakening of social stratification many of the samurai looked upon the advancement of individuals like Hideyoshi, and they actively resisted many of Nobunaga's reforms within their territory. The restlessness amongst the Japanese rank and file was noticed by Nobunaga, this would lead him to reveal to his closest advisors his great ambition in March 1590, the conquest of the continent. Most of his inner circle thought he was joking however starting in late 1590, Nobunaga commissioned the construction of Nagoya Castle to act as a mobolization point, along with adding the finishing touches to his new navy which included 15 Japanese galleons. 

The Imjin War: Japan takes the East by Storm

Preperation and The Letter to Joseon

Oda Nobunaga had been amassing a large number of ships since as early as 1586 when he had completed the subjegation of the remaining daimyos. In order to keep his newly united empire intact Nobunaga had carefully began developing plans to use his massive professional force to expand Japan's sphere of influence and wealth.