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Shibata Katsuie

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Kanji: 柴田 勝家

Date(s): 1522-June 14, 1583

Other Known Names: “Oni Shibata” (The Devil Shibata)

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Shibata clan mon

Shibata Katsuie was a general who served under Oda Nobunaga and was the second husband to Nobunaga’s sister, Oichi*. Known as the “Devil Shibata” for his actions at the Siege at Chokō-ji Castle, Katsuie loyally served Nobunaga until his lord’s death and stood steadfast against Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s takeover of the Oda clan after the Battle of Yamazaki, but this decision ultimately led to his death.

He was born in Owari Province into the Owari branch of the Shibata clan, who were descendants of Minamoto Yoritomo’s retainers. They served the Oda clan, but problems began to arise after the death of Oda Nobuhide. During the succession disputes that followed after Nobuhide’s death, Katsuie sided with Nobunaga’s younger brother, Oda Nobuyuki. He went as far to lead a coup d’état against Nobunaga in 1556. He ended up defeated at the Battle of Ino. Nobunaga spared his life, but only because Katsuie accepted that Nobunaga was the ruler of the Oda and of Owari.

Katsuie fought alongside Nobunaga at some of his early major battles, such as Okehazama in 1560, and the campaign against the Saitō clan of Mino. In 1567, he was part of the invasion of Settsu Province and defeated the Miyoshi/Matsunaga army, the battle which brought Matsunaga Hisahide into the Oda ranks.

In 1570, the most famous battle of Shibata Katsuie’s career took place. The Siege at Chokō-ji Castle was part of the campaign against the Azai/Asakura alliance that had formed. Katsuie had 400 troops at the castle, which was a strategically important stronghold in this campaign. He was besieged by a large army that was led by Rokkaku Yoshitaka. His army held steadfast for a while, but Katsuie made a daring move to turn the tide of the battle. He smashed the water storage vessels and led a charge headlong into the Rokkaku army. The battle ended in victory for Katsuie and he earned the nickname “the Devil Shibata”.

In 1573, Katsuie was given control of Echizen in 1573 and he lived at Kitanoshō Castle. Afterward, he began a conquest of the Hokurika region. He pushed further into Kaga, fighting the Ikko-Ikki. He was assisted by Maeda Toshiie and Sassa Narimasa. It was a difficult campaign, but eventually they conquered the provinces of Kaga and Noto. He fought in the Battle of Tedorigawa in 1577 and pushed into Etchū Province after the death of Uesugi Kenshin. He was fighting the Uesugi at the siege of Matsukura at the time of Nobunaga’s death in 1582. This siege prevented him from killing Akechi Mitsuhide at Yamazaki.

Succession disputes rose up yet again, and Katsuie sided with the true Oda successor, Nobunaga’s son, Oda Nobutaka. This stood against Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which came to a standoff at Shizugatake in May 1583. After the Battle of Shizugatake, which was led by Sakuma Morimasa, ended in defeat, Katsuie returned to Kitansoshō Castle, set it on fire and committed seppuku, after killing his wife, Oichi, and other members of the household. Oichi’s daughters escaped the castle, but she decided to end her life. Shibata Katsuie’s death poem does exist and it is as follows:

夏の夜の 夢路儚き 後の名を 雲井にあげよ 山不如

Natsu no yo no

yumeji hakanaki

ato no na o

kumoi ni ageyo

yamahototogisu

“Fleeting dream paths, in the summer night! O bird of the mountain, carry my name beyond the clouds.”

 

*While researching Shibata Katsuie with the sources available to me, I could not find information regarding to a statement made in Oichi’s article about her being the wife of Shibata Katsuie first before having to divorce him for her marriage to Azai Nagamasa. I will continue to look for information that supports that theory, but for now, the information will remain in Oichi’s article.