Akechi Mitsuhide

gigatos | February 19, 2022


Akechi Mitsuhide († July 2, 1582 Ogoruse) lived during the Sengoku period (1467-1568) and served as a general under the Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga.

Youth and wartime

Akechi was born as the son of the lord of Akechi Castle in 1528. The family served the Daimyō Saito Dosan. When the latter was at odds with his son Yoshitatsu, the Akechi castle was attacked and burned down by Yoshitatsu in 1556. Many family members of the Akechi clan fell victim to this raid.

In search of a new master, Akechi stood out for his talent in shooting. At that time, the first guns appeared in Japan, brought to the country by the Portuguese. This brought him to the attention of Prince Asakura Yoshikage, who made Akechi his subject.

When the 13th Shōgun of the Ashikaga shogunate, Ashikaga Yoshiteru, died in 1565 and his younger brother Ashikaga Yoshiaki was expelled from Kyōto, Akechi joined him and gained his trust. Ashikaga Yoshiaki leaned on the young warlord Oda Nobunaga to gain the Shōgunate through his military strength, which he succeeded in doing in 1568. Akechi became a subject of Oda through this connection. Because of his position with both princes, he subsequently became a mediator between the two. In 1571 he received permission from Oda to build his own castle at Lake Shiga. In the same year, Oda destroyed the Enryakuji monastery. Oda”s brutality towards his opponents led to the first confrontation with Akechi.

The Shōgun was no longer willing to tolerate Oda”s interventions and openly opposed him. Akechi, as a general, knew that the Shōgun”s troops had little chance of victory against Oda”s forces, so he resignedly transferred to Oda”s camp. In 1573, Oda defeated the Shōgun and drove him out of Kyōto, ending the Ashikaga shogunate after 237 years.

The distance between Oda and Akechi continued to grow due to Oda”s brutality. In the battle against the Ikkō sect (better known today as Jōdo-Shinshū), Nagashima Castle was completely burned down and over 20,000 casualties were suffered on the side of the Ikkō sect. It is said that 3,000 rifles were used in the Battle of Nagashino; these were decisive in the battle and can be traced back to Akechi”s plan. In return, he received the land of Tanba west of Kyōto and immediately conquered it.


There is said to have been vituperation and disparaging behavior toward Akechi by Oda. The following stories have been passed down:

Assassination of Oda, Domination and Death

Akechi revolted against Oda on June 21, 1582. It can be assumed that he was either supported, certainly encouraged, by the Tenno, the former Shōgun, and other princes. After the successful revolt, he forced Oda to commit a ceremonial, ritual suicide (seppuku) at the Honnōji Incident and assassinated Oda”s son and heir, Oda Nobutada.

In the following days, Akechi tried to rally the Daimyō to his cause. He did not succeed in this endeavor, as the mass of the lords sided with his opponents.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi then immediately made a truce with the Mōri and came to avenge his master”s death. Toyotomi had mustered 40,000 men against Akechi, but Akechi could only muster 16,000 men with the remaining auxiliary troops and his own force. Faced with a hopeless situation, Akechi decided to launch a frontal attack at the Battle of Yamazaki near Uchidehama. After three hours of battle, his bled-out army was surrounded and defeated on three sides.

On his escape, Akechi was killed in the next village by rebellious peasants or bandits. Akechi Mitsuhide”s reign was 13 days.

Living on as a monk

According to one theory, Akechi did not die, but lived on as the monk Tenkai (1536?-1643). There is some evidence to support this theory, as the monk did not appear until after Akechi”s official demise. Tenkai was closely associated with the later Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Furthermore, there is evidence that the monk accompanied Tokugawa Ieyasu as an advisor during the siege of Ōsaka, which was rather unusual for a spiritual monk.


Akechi Mitsuhide was proficient in the Chadō, the Japanese tea ceremony, and was very avid in the rengakai, the Japanese art of poetry. These qualities were rare in generals during the Civil War period.



  1. Akechi Mitsuhide
  2. Akechi Mitsuhide
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