Oda Nobunaga (June 23, 1534 – June 21, 1582) was a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. He was the second son of Oda Nobuhide, a deputy shugog (military governor) with land holdings in Owari province. Nobunaga lived a life of continuous military conquest, eventually conquering a third of Japanese daimyo before his death in 1582. His successor,Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a loyal Oda supporter, would eventually become the first man to conquer all of Japan.
Oda Nobunaga was born on June 23, 1534 and was given the childhood name of Kippōshi He was the second son of Oda Nobuhide. Through his childhood and early teenage years, he was well known for his bizarre behavior and received the name of Owari no Ōutsuke ( The Fool of Owari). With the introduction of firearms into Japan, though, he became known for his fondness of Tanegashima firearms. He was also known to run around with other youths from the area, without any regard to his own rank in society.
In 1551, Oda Nobuhide died unexpectedly and, during his funeral, Nobunaga was said to have acted outrageously, throwing the ceremonial incense at the altar. This act alienated many Oda retainers, convincing them of Nobunaga's mediocrity and lack of discipline and they began to side with his more soft-spoken and well-mannered brother,Nobuyuki.Hirate Masahide, who was a valuable mentor and retainer to Nobunaga, was ashamed by Nobunaga's behavior and performed seppuku. This had a huge effect on Nobunaga, who later built a temple to honor Masahide.
Though Nobunaga was Nobuhide's legitimate successor, the Oda clan was divided into many factions. Furthermore, the entire clan was technically under the control of Owari's shugo,Shiba Yoshimune. Thus,Oda Nobutomo, as the brother to the deceased Nobuhide and deputy of Owari Province's shugo, used the powerless Yoshimune as his puppet and challenged Nobunaga's place as Owari Provinces's new ruler. Nobutomo murdered Yoshimune when it was discovered that he supported and attempted to aid Nobunaga.
To increase his power, Nobunaga persuaded Oda Nobumitsu, a younger brother of Nobuhide, to join his side and, with Nobumitsu's help, slew Nobutomo in Kiyosu Castle, which later became Nobunaga's place of residence for over ten years. Taking advantage of the position of Shiba Yoshikane, Yoshimune's son, as the rightful shugo, Nobunaga forged an alliance with the Imagawa clan of Suruga Province and the Kira clan of Mikawa Province, as both clans had the same shugo and would have no excuse to decline. Additionally, this also ensured that the Imagawa clan would have to stop attacking Owari's borders.
Even though Nobuyuki and his supporters were still at large, Nobunaga decided to bring an army to Mino Province to aid Saito Dosan after Dōsan's son, Saitō Yoshitatsu, turned against him. The campaign failed, however, as Dōsan was killed and Yoshitatsu became the new master of Mino in 1556.
A few months later, Nobuyuki, with the support of Shibata Katsuie and Hayasi Hidesada, rebelled against Nobunaga. The three conspirators were defeated at the battle of Ino, but they were pardoned after the intervention of Tsuchida Gozen, the birth mother of both Nobunaga and Nobuyuki. The next year, however, Nobuyuki again planned to rebel. When Nobunaga was informed of this by Shibata Katsuie, he faked illness to get close to Nobuyuki and assassinated him in Kiyosu Castle.
By 1559, Nobunaga had eliminated all opposition within the clan and throughout Owari Province. He continued to use Shiba Yoshikane as an excuse to make peace with other daimyo, although it was later discovered that Yoshikane had secretly corresponded with the Kira and Imagawa clans, trying to oust Nobunaga and restore the Shiba clan's place. Nobunaga eventually cast him out, making alliances created in the Shiba clan's name void.
In 1560,Imagawa Yoshimoto gathered an army of 25,000 men and started his march toward kyoto, with the excuse of aiding the frail Ashikaga shogunate. The Matsudaira clan of Mikawa Province was also to join Yoshimoto's forces. In comparison, the Oda clan could rally an army of only 1,800, and the forces would also have to be split up to defend various forts at the border. Under such dire circumstances, Nobunaga was said to have performed his favorite Atsumori dance, before riding off with only a few attendants to pray in a shrine.
The Oda clan's generals did not believe that they would survive the attack from Imagawa Yoshimoto's army. Only the night before, Shibata Katsuie had tried in vain to change Oda Nobunaga's mind about a frontal attack; he kept reminding Nobunaga of the joint army's complete lack of manpower compared to the Imagawa soldiers, who, according to rumors, numbered 40,000 men.Hayashi Sado no Kami Hidesada, the remaining advisor from Nobuhide's days, even argued for surrender without fighting, using the same reasoning as Katsuie.
Nobunaga's scouts reported that Yoshimoto was resting his troops at a place called Dengaku-hazama, near a small village called Okehazama. Nobunaga knew the countryside well. Dengaku-hazama was a narrow gorge, an ideal place for a surprise attack if the conditions were right. The scouts added that the Imagawa army were celebrating their victories with food and drink while Yoshimoto viewed the heads. Nobunaga moved up towards Imagawa's camp, and set up a position some distance away.An array of flags and dummy troops made of straw and spare helmets gave the impression of a large host, while the real Oda army hurried round in a rapid march to get behind Yoshimoto's camp. Fortune and weather favored Nobunaga, for about mid-day the stifling heat gave way to a terrific thunderstorm. As the Imagawa samurai sheltered from the rain Nobunaga deployed his troops, and when the storm ceased they charged down upon the enemy in the gorge. So sudden was the attack that Yoshimoto thought a brawl had broken out among his men. He realized it was an attack when two samurai (Mōri Shinsuke and Hattori Koheita) charged up. One aimed a spear at him, which Yoshimoto deflected with his sword, but the second swung his blade and cut off Imagawa's head.
Rapidly weakening, the Imagawa clan no longer exerted control over the Matsudaira clan. In 1561, an alliance was forged between Oda Nobunaga and Matsudaira Motoyasu (later Tokugawa Ieyasu), despite the decades-old hostility between the two clans. Tradition dates this battle as the time that Nobunaga first noticed the talents of the sandal bearer who would eventually become Toyotomei Hideyoshi.