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By Rider, 11 March 2007; Revised
Category: Japan: Kamakura Era
The year was 1213 in the Japanese Shogunate of Kamakura and near the city of Kamakura an uprising was brewing. The weather resembled the moods, a cloudy day... Things had gone cloudy already days, weeks and months earlier. After the death of Minamoto Yoritomo, his Head of the Board of Retainers, Wada Yoshimori, had gradually gathered wealth and power. The shogunal presence in Kamakura, Hojo Yoshitoki, saw this as a threat to himself however and searched for ways to deal with Yoshimori. He found one in the spring of that year (1213) when he arrested sons of Yoshimori and his nephew for treason. Although the sons were released, the nephew wasn’t. The nephew was humiliated in public. The month after, Yoshitoki seized the house lands of Wada. The next month Wada Yoshimori spent gathering his vassals and allies. For days people had gathered to Yoshimori’s residence in Kamakura and that was known to many. On the beginning of the second day of the month, the men charged in hopes of surprise against Hoja Yoshitoki. Already when they were planning the charge, Yoshitoki knew of his enemies’ plans by means of espionage. Yet he wisely slipped out of his house for he knew the attackers would certainly search there. Yoshimori split his forces into three groups: one had to go to the house of Yoshitoki, the second to the shogun’s home and the third to assault a confederate of Yoshitoki. The third was led personally by Yoshimori.
The homes of the confederate, Hiromoto, and Yoshitoki were both quickly cleansed of shogunal forces although the attackers took some casualties too. Yoshimori then moved quickly on towards the shogunal residence but they encountered a shogunal contingency of troops led by Hidano Tadatsuna and Miura Yoshimura. Yoshimura had been a part of Yoshimori’s forces but had defected. Yoshimori learned of this only now. They fought through many streets without a clear advantage to neither side. Some two hours after the beginning of the melee, Asaina Yoshihide broke through the gate of the shogunal residence and stormed the building. However, Yoshitoki and Hirmoto continued to fight on. Asaina Yoshihide was a great warrior and during that battle on the streets of Kamakura, he performed many great feats worthy of many other men. He first managed to kill the nephew that had sided with their enemies, Takai Shigemochi. He managed to do so, but only after they had both emptied their quivers and attacked each other with daggers. He also killed a waarior that came to the help of the nephew. He then retreated back through the gate and spotted Ashikaga Yoshiuji beside a bridge that crossed the ditch. Yoshiuji began to flee on sight of Yoshihide but Yoshihide grasped his chest armour and as Yoshuji had performed a major leap with his horse over the ditch the same instant had to let go. He tried to cross the bridge but another warrior came to distrupt him and Yoshiuji managed to escape.
Darkness was rising as the day had passed in fighting, the Wada men were beginning to tire and the most of them had run out of arrows. Yoshimori ordered a withdrawal southwards towards the beach. The men of Yoshitoki followed with some going to guard important state buildings in the city.
As Yoshimori was making, what it seemed to be, his last orders, he found that Yokoyama Tokikane was coming with a few thousand troops to his aid as they had planned. When Tokikane reached the beach, he was surprised of the fighting taking place. Yoshimori could have used the current element of surprise but he failed to do so and he ordered a break for his men to rest from more than a day of intense fighting in terrible conditions of weather (more than half the time it had poured down rain). Yoshitoki quickly had barricades and defenses erected on streets and the beach so that the possible offensive taken by Yoshimori could be as of little effect as possible. Hirmoto and Yoshitoki had planned a new thing and that turned the entire combat upside down. They appeared to the beach with an instruction and declared Tokikane and Yoshimori enemies of the Shogunate and rebels. They themselves became the government army by this instruction. The men defected in massive numbers on hearing this.
Yoshimori led his few remaining forces in a desperate offensive against the enemy lines and they managed to cut their way back up to the shogunal residence. They were highly outnumbered but they yet managed to kill their enemies in numbers and Yoshitoki could give no better orders to his governmental army, than to stay at their places.
The men of Wada Yoshimori were now rapidly gaining advantage when one of Yoshimori’s key allies, Tsuchiya Yoshikiyo, was struck down by an arrow. The arrows had come from the north and the sun shone from that direction at that time, men yelled that as there was the shrine, the arrow came from the gods and that it had been a divine one (kami kabura). On these news, the whole of Yoshimori’s army came into rout. Orderly in the beginning, desperate in the end, the men of Yoshimori ran to the forests and plains. Yoshimori and his sons had already fallen by this time and most of their troops too. Yoshitoki didn’t let them flee but tried to kill them to the last man. Asaina Yoshihide gathered as many as he could along with his own 500 horsemen and retreated by sea towards Awa.