Akechi Mitsuhide


Kanji: 明智光秀
Dates: March 10, 1528-July 2, 1582
Other Known Names: “Thirteen Day Shōgun”


Akechi clan mon

Akechi Mitsuhide was one of Oda Nobunaga’s closest retainers, along with Shibata Katsuiie and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He is well-known for his betrayal of the Oda clan at the Honnō-ji Temple in Kyōto on June 21, 1582.
Born in Mino Province in 1528, his clan originally served the Saitō clan, and were also relatives to the Saitō. The Akechi clan could trace their ancestry to the Toki clan, and from there, could trace it to the famous Minamoto clan. Mitsuhide entered Nobunaga’s service during his campaign of Mino Province in 1566. In 1571, Mitsuhide was awarded the Sakamoto domain.
Akechi Mitsuhide’s loyalty to Oda Nobunaga began to wavier after capture of Yakami Castle in 1579. Mitsuhide took Hatano Hideharu’s mother hostage in exchange for the castle, ending the fighting on peaceful terms. Nobunaga terminated this treaty, and had Hatano Hideharu’s mother crucified, and executed Hideharu. The surviving retainers of Hideharu turned on Mitsuhide and killed his mother. The death of his mother made him hungry for revenge.
There is also another incident that added insult to injury. One day while at Nobunaga’s Castle (most likely Azuchi, although the source does not specify), Nobunaga put Mitsuhide’s head under his arm, saying that he would make a drum out of his head, and then proceeded to hit his head with a fan, playing a tune. Mitsuhide was an extremely prideful man, and he found Nobunaga’s actions to be insulting. It is unclear when this incident occurred, but this probably pushed Mitsuhide closer to rebellion along with the death of his mother.
Mitsuhide would finally get his revenge on June 21, 1582. He was ordered to head to the region of Chūgoku to help Toyotomi Hideyoshi who called for reinforcements. Mitsuhide made it look like he was moving his army towards Hideyoshi’s position, but instead, moved his army to surround the temple of Honnō-ji. He had made his intentions of rebellion known to his men, promising riches for those who helped. Before he attacked, Mitsuhide said; “The enemy is at Honnō-ji!”. The events from that night tend to be surrounded by mystery, but by the end of the night, Nobunaga was dead, and Honnō-ji was up in flames.
Surprisingly, this was an extremely unpopular move on Mitsuhide’s part. Many of his allies turned on him after the Honnō-ji Incident. He managed to become the shōgun, but this only lasted for thirteen days. Toyotomi Hideyoshi tied up lose ends in Chūgoku and rushed to confront him at Yamazaki. Mitsuhide lost at the Battle of Yamazaki, and tried to escape, but was killed. Legend has it that he was killed by a peasant with a bamboo spear. There is also another legend that states that he managed to escape the battle and spent the rest of his days as a monk named Tenkai.