Since finishing the first draft of my first novel, I’ve been able to dive back into research while I step away from the manuscript for a few weeks. I have lots of projects started for upcoming articles, but while researching for those, I found some interesting facts that would be fun to mention. So, here are the top five most interesting facts I learned from my research in April 2023.
1. There’s some dark symbolism in Sengoku BASARA Season 2
I should have caught this the first time around, but you live and learn. I started revisiting Ashikaga Yoshiteru as of late and I found something finally explained a scene in the second season of Sengoku BASARA. In the eleventh episode, Fūma Kotarō is sent to Ōsaka Castle to find a sword that was in Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s possession and bring it to Matsunaga Hisahide. When Kotarō returns, it’s discovered that the sword is Mikazuki Munechika. The name is mentioned, and for most of us (like me) that are still struggling to learn the famous sword of the era, it would not have meant anything upon first viewing. It’s taken me way too long to realize what this sword was and the symbolism at this point in the episode.
Mikazuki Munechika is no ordinary sword. In fact, it’s one of the Tenka-Goken, translated as the “Five Swords under Heaven”. These swords are national treasures of Japan, and Mikazuki Munechika is considered to be the most beautiful of the five. Created by Sanjō Munechika, this blade was named for its crescent moon shape, hence the name: Mikazuki. So, how does this sword tie into Ashikaga Yoshiteru and Matsunaga Hisahide?
While Mikazuki Munechika was owned by various important families, it ended up in the hands of the Ashikaga family in the 16th century. It became the very sword Yoshiteru would use in his fight to the death in June 1565 when the Miyoshi/Matsunaga alliance stormed his residence to assassinate him. It was taken, along with other precious items, by Miyoshi Masayasu, then passed down some more until the Tokugawa clan came to possess it. The sword still exists today and can be viewed at the Tokyo National Museum.
Going back to the episode, having Matsunaga Hisahide reference this sword and come into possession of it is a nod to his involvement of taking down the shōgun. Not only that, but he comments that he would gaze upon its beauty while drinking out of the skull of Oda Nobunaga, which he took with him several episodes prior. It’s Matsunaga’s way of getting one last dig at both men, for at least in the anime, he managed to outlive them both.
2. The ‘Villain of the Warring States’ could have been afraid of ghosts
Writing (and researching for that matter) can be stressful, and so I usually turn to video games to relax. Samurai Warriors 4 is still a good one for me, despite being almost ten years old. While playing through it again for the first time in years, I found myself laughing at an interaction that takes place when you meet up with Matsunaga Hisahide for a third time.
For those that don’t know, Samurai Warriors 4 has something called “Chronicle Mode”. You create your own character and fight your way across Japan while making “friends” along the way. Yet, you have to meet with them four times, each building upon your last interaction with them. In the third meeting with Matsunaga Hisahide, he manages to scare Tokugawa Ieyasu, who apparently has a fear of spiders. Matsunaga brags that there’s nothing in this world that he’s afraid of, for villains aren’t afraid of anything. After some prying from your character, you learn that he’s actually terrified of the ghost of his dead wife. Now, this can be easily written off, but I later learned that there might be some truth to this.
Legend states that Matsunaga Hisahide was only ever frightened once in his life. While at his castle of Tamon in Nara, he invited Kashin Koji, a famous hermit and magician, to come and try to frighten him. Koji made everyone leave the room except for Hisahide, and after putting out the lights, transformed into a woman and approached him. After a thunderstorm broke out, he screamed for Koji to stop, and the woman disappeared. According to the legend, the woman was Hisahide’s deceased wife and after he the encounter, he could not stop shaking.
3. By all technicalities, Miyoshi Nagayoshi was the first to take Kyōto
When it comes to the Sengoku Jidai, the focus tends to be on the Three Unifiers, especially Oda Nobunaga, as he’s considered to be the one who manages to take the capital and start the country on the path to reunification. However, someone else had already taken the capital before him, and it’s not talked about as much. The first person to lay siege to the capital during the Sengoku Jidai was Miyoshi Nagayoshi. This came about after he began going after those who were responsible for his father’s death, and that meant going after the Ashikaga Shogunate. Interestingly, Nagayoshi did not kill Yoshiteru nor even try to take the title of shōgun for himself. Instead, he made peace with the Ashikaga, allowing for Yoshiteru to return to Kyōto, only to become a rubber stamp with the Miyoshi being in total control.
4. The Ashikaga had a destructive tactic regarding their castles
While looking into castles surrounding Kyōto, I came across something rather interesting. As stated before, the Ashikaga clan were driven out of the capital by Miyoshi Nagayoshi, meaning that they had to take up residence elsewhere. The first became Shogunyama Castle, which was taken over by his father, Ashikaga Yoshiharu, in 1546. Extensive renovations had been done to the place according to records, and unfortunately, all that hard work would go up in flames the following year. In 1547, Miyoshi Nagayoshi attacked the castle and in response, the Ashikaga set fire to Shogunyama and fled to Sakamoto on the other side of Mount Hiei. Yet, this isn’t the only castle to be put to the torch by the Ashikaga. Another castle was founded by Yoshiharu in 1549, which became Nakao Castle. Yoshiteru and his vassal, Hosokawa Harumoto, took it over but in 1550, Miyoshi Nagayoshi came to besiege Nakao Castle and once again, Yoshiteru set fire to the castle and ran for Sakamoto. Once would have been fine, but twice…very strange.
5. The assassination of Ashikaga Yoshiteru was not much of a surprise
When it comes to assassinations, most people believe that it’s something that’s planned out quite carefully and in secret. After all, you don’t want your target to be prepared, right? Well, it turns out that Ashikaga Yoshiteru had been expecting his for many years. Once Yoshiteru was allowed to come back to the capital, he began refortifying the area that would later become Nijō Castle. It’s possible that he suspected a rebellion from the Miyoshi and Matsunaga clans due to being driven out of the capital once before, believing that it was only a matter of time before they would try again. According to Luís Fróis, Yoshiteru even left the capital the day before the assassination but came back after his subordinates showed a willingness to face their enemy. Unfortunately, returning to Kyōto sealed his fate.