Akazonae (red arms) (赤備え)

Akazonae (red arms) is a kind of military organization in the Sengoku period (Japan), which is a troop formation of which all arms including armor and flag were colored red. In the Sengoku period, there were other Irozonae (colored arms) which were formed in a single color such as black or yellow other than red, but the red of the times came from cinnabar which was a high-quality product, and it also highly stood out in the battlefield, therefore, Akazonae were mostly elite troops led by a busho with outstanding bravery, and were passed down as a symbol of honor of bravery from generation to generation. The first busho who led Akazonae is considered Toramasa OBU who served Takeda clan, afterward, Akazonae is mostly regarded as an alternative word which means Takeda army in Kai Province.

Takeda's Akazonae

The person who first led Akazonae in the Takeda army was Toramasa OBU who was also called "Kozan no Moko (brave tiger in Mt.Kozan) in later generations. It is told that after Toramasa commit suicide by disembowelment (Seppuku) being implicated in the Yoshinobu Incident in 1565, Toramasa's troop was taken over by Masakage YAMAGATA who is considered his own younger brother (or nephew according to another resource), and so was his Akazonea at the same time. It is written in "Koyo Gunkan" (record of the military exploits of the Takeda family, compiled by one of the Takeda vassals, and completed in 1616 by Kagenori OBATA) that both Toramasa OBU and Masakage YAMAGATA were busho who had an outstanding bravery and showed a great performance as a leader of the Takeda Family and the Takeda Army, so it can be said that their achievements raised the value of Akazonae. Also, according to "Koyo Gunkan," two others such as Nobusada OBATA and Nobutane ASARI other than the two busho formed Akazonae for their own troops.

Among the issued documents, there are some documents such as Shuinjo (a vermillion seal letter) of the Takeda Family addressed to Nobutoyo TAKEDA in 1572 and 1574, which show the fact that regulations stipulating the equipment and outfit existed in the military system of Takeda clan. In the document in 1572, Shingen confirmed that Nobutoyo would exclusively use Shu-iro (Empire red) for his troop's all equipment, and in the document in 1574, Katsuyori TAKEDA permitted that Nobutoyo's Hitoteshu (a troop consisted of high ranking warriors) would wear a black outfit (this matches with the description on the Battle of Nagashino in "Gunkan" and "Shinchoko-ki (Biography of Nobunaga ODA)"), therefore, it is considered that Takeda Army gave a standard of military outfit including color to each Hitoteshu.

Ii's Akazonae

After Takeda clan ruined, Kai Province was conquered by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA by way of the disorder of Honnoji Incident, at the time, the old retainers of the Takeda Family were alloted to Naomasa II, counted one of the Tokugawa-shitenno (four generals serving Tokugawa Ieyasu). The old retainers of Sankentai (the troop of Sanken) which had supported Takeda's Akazonae were also allotted to Naomasa, so he organized his own troop as Akazonae taking advantage of the benefit. Ii's Akazonae played a role of spearhead and showed a great performance in the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute, and was feared, which were called Red ogre of Ii. From that time to the end of Bakufu, the military dress of the Ii Family was basically Akazonae.

At the time of Osaka no Eki (The Siege of Osaka), Ieyasu saw Naotaka's gaudy troop and deplored the Akazonae which had fallen to the ground in the peaceful age. Ieyasu is said to have told, discovering some warriors in worn-out armor among them, like "Those warriors should be the vassals from Koshu.", and after the confirmation, "That is a real Akazonae."

In the Choshu Conquest in 1866, the Hikone Domain led by Naonori II played a role of spearhead for Geishu-guchi. Although Hikone Domain coped in Akazonae and with matchlock gun which came down from the ancient period with Choshu Domain equipped with Minié rifle, they received the tactic of outranging by the commando unit led by Kogoro ISHIKAWA of Choshu Army when they were about to cross the Oze-gawa River, which led to their self-defeat. At this time, their being Akazoe worked for the enemy to find out the target more easily against their will, which facilitated Choshu Domain's sniping despite in the night time. Because of this, the warriors of Hikone Domain took off their historic armor and ran away.

Sanada's Akazonae

It was formed by Nobushige SANADA (Yukimura) in the Osaka Natsu no Jin (Summer Siege of Osaka) of Osaka no Eki (The Siege of Osaka) in 1615. It is said that the real intention of Nobushige who entered Osaka Castle tempted by Toyotomi Clan whose defeat was almost obvious was to show the military renown of Sanada to the world by frustrating Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, not in order to gain Onsho (reward grants) or recover his family name. Nobushige SANADA's troop formed in the Takeda Family's traditional Akazonae attacked the headquarters of Ieyasu in the battle of Tenno-ji and the battle of Tenno-ji-guchi, in which they achieved the breaking of headquarters which was said to be for the first time since the Battle of Mikatagahara, and showed the performance as praised in the Satsuma Nikki (Journal of Satsuma Domain) (Shimazu Family) which tells, "Sanada is the best troop in Japan. Even an old story has never told such a strong troop."

[Original Japanese]