The Battle of Tensho (天正の陣)

The Battle of Tensho (Tensho no Jin) was one in which the army led by Takakage KOBAYAKAWA, of the Mori clan in the Chugoku region, landed at Nii County, Iyo Province (the present-day Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture) in Shikoku in 1585, doing so at the orders of Hideyoshi HASHIBA (Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI), who was attempting to integrate the entire nation, and defeated the local troops led by the lord of Kaneko-jo Castle, Motoie KANEKO, of the Kaneko clan, with overwhelming force. It is one of the battles in the initiative called the Shikoku Conquest, which was implemented by Hideyoshi.

In July 1585, Terumoto MORI sent Takakage KOBAYAKAWA and others of his family to participate in the conquest. Huge numbers of troops totaling more than 30,000, crossed the Seto Inland Sea and landed from two directions, at Miyoshima and Sawatsu in Nii County (both of them are situated in what is now Niihama City), and, after destroying the castles there, the troops proceeded to Kaneko-jo Castle, which was dominated by Motoie KANEKO, the commander general in Nii County.

At Kaneko-jo Castle, the busho (Japanese military commanders) were gathered from their castles along with their retainers; however, the total number of soldiers was only 2,000, and the difficult war situation of the Kaneko side was visible to all. There were also some busho who had surrendered to the enemy. The Kaneko clan seems to have been working to develop friendly ties with the Mori clan through the intermediary of the Kono clan, whose members held the position of the provincial constable of Iyo Province. Moreover, the Kaneko clan could have chosen to surrender to Motoie's army and eventually to the Mori clan, but instead the decision was made to mount a do-or-die resistance out of a sense of obligation to the clan's feudal lord, Motochika CHOSOKABE, in Tosa Province. The busho under the Kaneko clan also followed this decision, and the morale of the people at Kaneko-jo Castle was heightened as a result. Motoie, having left the castle to the care of his brother, Motoharu KANEKO, entered Takatoki-jo Castle of Shugodai (the acting military governor) of the Ishikawa clan to command all the troops, and thus concentrated the soldiers at Takao-jo Castle in Himi (the present-day Saijo City) in order to consolidate the forces.

At Kaneko-jo Castle, the troops of the Mori clan besieged Kaneko-jo Castle and began a merciless, full-scale attack. The soldiers of the Kaneko clan, despite being prepared to die, fought back fiercely. It seems that the village people in the territory, who adored their lord, even engaged in guerrilla warfare against the troops of the Mori clan. The principal shrines and temples were burned down, and the area was transformed into a horrific battlefield. However, the Kaneko side was outnumbered by the enemy, and the soldiers, despite their strength, couldn't outlast the adversary.

After destroying Kaneko-jo Castle, the troops of the Mori clan proceeded toward Takao-jo Castle without rest. On July 12, the troops of the Mori clan, which had taken their stand at a strategically critical point, started the attack, and the soldiers in the castle resisted with great bravery. The battle was ferocious, and both sides lost many lives. On July 17, Motoie KANEKO, who was prepared for his death, set fire to his castle and set out toward Nonoichihara for his counter-attack. Both sides fought the final battle in disarray, in which Motoie KANEKO and all military commanders (busho) of the Kaneko side, who had struggled in vain, were killed, and the Mori side emerged victorious.

Takakage KOBAYAKAWA honored the military commanders (busho), who had fought so bravely and died on the battlefield, showing the spirit of samurai, and gave them a cordial burial by constructing a memorial mound for 1,000 commanders (senninzuka) at Nonoichihara. It is said that he also made efforts to reconstruct the burnt shrines and temples.

The Chosokabe clan, which lost its most important base in Iyo Province as a result of the battle, continued to suffer defeats in various places, and finally surrendered to the Mori army.