Battle of Minatogawa (湊川の戦い)

The Battle of Minatogawa was fought on July 12, 1336 during the period of Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) in Minatogawa, Settsu Province (modern day Chuo Ward/Hyogo Ward, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture) between the forces of the brothers Takauji and Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA who had traveled east from Kyushu and Yoshisada NITTA and Masashige KUSUNOKI who were loyal to Emperor Godaigo.


At the beginning of 1336, Takauji ASHIKAGA was defeated by Yoshisada NITTA, Masashige KUSUNOKI and Akiie KITABATAKE before being driven back to Kyoto and fleeing to Kyushu. During this time, Masashige advised Emperor Godaigo that peace be made with the Ashikaga faction now that circumstances were beneficial for the imperial faction but the emperor rejected this and dispatched a force with Yoshisada as supreme commander westward to kill Takauji. Masashige earned the distrust of the Imperial Court as a result of his advice to make peace and was removed from the force and placed under house arrest in his hometown.

Yoshisada wasted time during his assault on Norimura AKAMATSU (Enshin) of the Ashikaga faction who was held up within Shirahata-jo Castle of Harima Province, and during this time Takauji conquered Kyushu in the Battle of Tatarahama and regrouped before heading east with the aim of recapturing Kyoto. Takauji departed Hakata with KO no Moronao, passed through Tomonoura of Bingo Province, joined forces with fleets commanded by the Hosokawa clan, Toki clan and Kono clan, and proceeded east by sea.

Nitta's army which was met by Takauji's army on the return eastward began a retreat but Akamatsu's forces commenced pursuit and Nitta's army fled among mass betrayal and surrender to the Ashikaga army. Yoshisada, whose forces had dwindled rapidly, pulled his troops back to Hyogo and attempted to regroup.

Sequence of events

Emperor Godaigo ordered Masashige to fight the Ashikaga army in Hyogo and sent reinforcements. Nitta's army was unable to raise a navy, so established its headquarters in Nihonmatsu (between Wadamisaki and Egenoyama) and also deployed the forces of Yoshisuke WAKIYA and Ujiaki ODACHI in Wadamisaki in preparation for the naval landing. The Kusunoki army was deployed in Egenoyama, which was on the west side of Minatogawa and to the northwest of the headquarters.

During the battle, the main line of the land army commanded by Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA proceeded along the Saigoku-kaido Road, and Yorihisa SHONI mounted an attack on the flanks of the Nitta forces in Wadamisaki. The army of Takatsune SHIBA circled round from Yamanote to the rear of Masashige KUSUNOKI who had stationed his forces in Egenoyama. Jozen HOSOKAWA proceeded east by sea and landed at the forest of Ikuta-jinja Shrine (Sannomiya and Mikage areas of Kobe City), causing Yoshisada to fear that his path of retreat may be cut off and flee eastward, leaving the Kusunoki army isolated.

The main body of Takauji's forces landed unchallenged at Wadamisaki which had been abandoned by all opposition. Masashige KUSUNOKI was tightly encircled and, despite fighting fiercely, his forces were too heavily outnumbered and were destroyed. Masashige committed suicide with his younger brother Masasue KUSUNOKI and Yoshisada withdrew to the capital.

The sea level in the vicinity of Kobe City was higher at the time than it is now, and the sea reached further up the Mt. Rokko area than it does today, meaning that level ground was narrow and not suitable for the movement of large armies. It is due to this that the imperial faction's complete lack of navy was the decisive reason for its defeat.

Subsequent effects

The Battle of Minatogawa and the 'Sakurai no wakare' (separation in Sakurai) in which Masashige sent his son and heir Masatsura KUSUNOKI back to his headquarters in Kawachi Province were dramatized in pre-war Emperor-centered nationalistic views and songs depicting Masashige fighting loyally for the emperor despite the fact that he knew the battle could not be won.

In modern day Chuo Ward, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, Minatogawa-jinja Shrine enshrining Masashige and the KUSUNOKI family stands on the place in which the brothers Masashige and Masasue KUSUNOKI died, and there are stone monuments such as 'A Shushin Nanshi no Haka' (the grave of loyal subject Nanshi) written by Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA himself.

During the air battle off Kyushu of March 21, 1945 in the closing days of the Pacific War, the 'First Jinrai Oka Kogekitai and First Jinrai Kogekitai' (attack units comprised of rocket powered 'Oka' (aircraft) and their carrier aircraft, the Type 1 Attack bomber) launched attacks on the US Navy high-speed aircraft carrier task force which was closing in on the southern offshore, but were intercepted and destroyed by enemy carrier-based fighter units.

During an attack on the Kanoya Base, it is said that the unit's commander, Lieutenant Commander Goro NONAKA, muttered the words 'This is Minatogawa' (meaning that the situation resembled the Battle of Minatogawa).

[Original Japanese]