The Imperial Conquest
The Chihaya is one of the battles during the Genko War. This occurred in the year 1333, which is the final year of the Kamakura period. This is the time when the Hojo clan Shogunate reigns. They are sent into exile by Emperor Go-Daigo after learning his plans. The Emperor’s scheme is to overthrow them and restore the Imperial rule.
Chihaya was a fortress of the emperor’s supporters led by Kusunoki Masashige. Located on top of the Mt. Kongō, in the province of Kawachi, this is seven hundred feet high terrain with less than 1,000 guards. They were attacked here but Masashige was able to defend it.
The Kamakura Period
This started when Minamoto Yoritomo established a new government called Bakufu which is the first Shogunate of the Kamakura period. He made himself the Shogun who is a feudal administrator or equivalent to the highest general rank in an army.
It just became complicated when Yoritomo died in 1199 and the Hojo clan took over. Just a quick back story, Hōjō Tokimasa helped Yoritomo defeat the ruling Taira clan specifically in the Dan-no-Ura battle. He let his daughter, Hōjō Masako marry Yoritomo. So when Yoritomo died, Tokimasa becomes the Shikken (regent) to Yoritomo’s son who was a young Shogun then.
However, he is soon assassinated. This resulted in transferring Shogunate control to his clan for good. The Minamoto including the Imperial emperors became puppets of the Hōjō clan and they don’t hold any administrative power.
The Brewing Siege
In 1318, Emperor Go-Daigo sat on the throne. But by the year 1331, he revolted against the Hojo shogunate. His reliable adviser namely Fujiwara Sadafusa betrayed him. He flees to Kyoto and settles in a monastery overlooking the Kizu River, namely Kasagi. Unfortunately, the Hojo troops attacked which are accounted for in the Siege of Kasagi. Resulting for Emperor Go-Daigo’s exile to Oki islands.
Emperor Go-Daigo’s son Prince Morinaga continued his father’s revolt and led the siege uprising alongside Kusunoki Masashige.
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The Long Siege and Never-Ending Tricks
Hojo Shogunate defeats the two revolutionaries namely Akasaka and Yoshino on March 1333. The only last siege alive then is in Chihaya.
The Hojo tries to cut off Chihaya castle’s water supply. But little did they know that inside it contains an appropriate amount of water, as mountain spring surrounds the castle. Kusunoki Masashige made sure of the abundant water supply within the castle.
The next day five thousand Hojo troops tried to attack the castle, but the rebels rolled ten tree trunks down the slope killing 400-500 of their opponents.
The third tactic the Hojo troops did was to make Kusunoki Masashige and his men starve. The Hojo troops grew weary. Their group brought in teachers of poetry and started to work on a poem with 10,000 stanzas.
Tricks Resulted in Victory
Boredom strikes the castle defenders, so Kusunoki Masashige decides to provide some entertainment by tricking the Hojo troops, building twenty to thirty dummies clad in armor placing it outside the castle, wherein the trees cover it partially.
The attackers saw the dummies and assume their opponents are ready to come out and start the battle. But just as the attackers were about to reach the dummies, Kusunoki Masashige drops fifty boulders from the castle, killing a total of 300 people and injuring a total of 500 people. It was only then that the Hojo troops realize they fell into their enemies’ tricks.
Another tactic was building a bridge which is five yards wide and more than sixty-five yards long towards the ravines that protect the castle. A group of Hojo troops crosses this bridge and while they are crossing, the defenders threw gas on it setting it ablaze. In an instant, the Hojo troops were incapable of escaping. Killing many when the bridge broke straight into the ravine.
Tricks to Make Enemies Surrender
Prince Morinaga had another tactic to make the Hojo troops surrender. He made his troops cut the routes they are using to transport their supplies. Because of this, supplies ran out for the Hojo troops. Some got lost while others came back home safely. Prince Morinaga’s army attacks the remaining Hojo troops while attempting to escape.
The Hojo made another attempt to seize Chihaya. A commander named, Utsunomiya was sent with new warriors and launched attacks in over a week. They were a bit successful in their attempt to weaken the castle when they were able to break one tower but the Chihaya’s terrain was too difficult for their excavation plans to go any further.
The Change of Heart
The siege dragged on for too long as the Hojo troops just wouldn’t quit. But another plot twist happened. The Bakufu general Ashikaga Takauji changed sides, marched on Kyoto, and by the 20th of June, he gained control over the city.
The surviving Rokuhara Tandai (chiefs of the Kamakura shogunate in Kyoto) attempts to escape east with their own candidate for emperor but end up getting caught. During this time, messengers must send news to Chihaya about Kyoto befalling in the hands of Ashikaga Takauji. The remaining Hojo troop leaders then realized that their position is no longer existing. Hence, they decided to retreat to the mountains of Nara in the east.
Many of the Hojo troop leaders reaching Nara safely dies due to the Imperial supporters while attempting to cross the mountains. Most of the surviving leaders undergone execution; others simply switched their allegiance. The extended siege of Chihaya had been a major drain on the power of the Hojo shogunate resulting to their eventual downfall.
Prince Morinaga, the son of Emperor Go-Daigo who is the proponent of the siege, together with help of the great warrior Kusunoki Masashige has successfully defended Chihaya leading to the eventual fall of the tyrant Hojo Shogunate. Kusunoki’s success here rebuilt his reputation after his loss two years prior at the siege of Akasaka. This was one of the classic sieges that are truly one for the books and is a rich part of the Japanese battle histories.
This battle eventually pushed start the new era of the Ashikaga Shogunate, also known as Muromachi Shogunate in 1390 after the fall of the Hojo Shogunate.