The Battle of Anegawa (姉川の戦い)

The Battle of Anegawa refers to the battle which took place in the region around Anegawa kawara, Azai-gun, Omi Province (the present Nomura-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture (around former Nomura, Azai-machi, Higashiasai-gun)) on August 9, 1570 during the Warring States Period.

Both Oda and Azai sides called this battle 'Nomura battle' while Asakura side called it 'Mitamura battle.'
The name 'the Battle of Anegawa' was exclusively used by the Tokugawa family. The descriptions of the battle can be found in the book "Nobunaga's biography", but many of them have only brief materials and have a lot of unclear details on the battle.

How the battle started

Nobunaga ODA, a feudal lord from Owari Province (the western part of Aichi Prefecture), fought off the Imagawa clan of Suruga Province and seized Mino Province from the Saito clan, then they invaded Omi in order to go to the capital. Prior to the invasion, he had his sister Lady Oichi marry to Nagamasa AZAI, who governed Kitaomi, to establish a relationship between the Azai and the Oda clan. Gaining reinforcements from the Azai clan, Nobunaga defeated Yoshikata ROKKAKU parent and child, who were powerful feudal lords of Minami Omi and also a common enemy of Nobunaga and the Azai clan (the Battle of Kannonji Castle), and accomplished to go to the capital under Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA.

Later, because, in June 1570, Nobunaga started invading Echizen Province against the Azai clan of the province, who refused his demands such as gathering for going to the capital and came to have a conflict with him, Nagamasa, who had also close relationship (alliance and lord-vassal relationship) with Asakura, seceded from Nobunaga and attacked Oda troops from behind.

The dominant situation completely changed and Nobunaga plunged into crisis after being pincer-attacked suddenly; however, he was barely saved by so-called 'Battle of Kanagasaki' which was a desperate retreat battle of his vassals.

Outbreak of war

Nobunaga armed for this retaliation battle and moved up to Kitaomi. Warriors such as Hidemura HORI of Sakata-gun who were afraid of his military power sold out to Nobunaga. Yoshikage ASAKURA dispatched troops led by one of his clans Kagetake ASAKURA as supreme commander to Oda troops that were coming up to Odani-jo Castle which was the base of the Azai clan. On the other hand, the troops of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA arrived at Nobunaga's on August 8. The next day 9th, allied forces of 28,000 (a theory says they were 27,000 or 30,000) of Nobunaga ODA and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA fought with those of 18,000 (a theory says they were 17,000) of Azai and Asakura across Anegawa River emptying into Lake Biwa.

The battle took place in level ground where Tokugawa troops faced Asakura while Oda faced Azai. First, the troops of Tadatsugu SAKAI and Nobuoki OGASAWARA from Tokugawa side attacked Asakura troops, then the battle broke out. Although Asakura and Azai troops were understrength, Azai's elite troops led by its top Kazumasa ISONO broke through those of Oda's top Masahisa SAKAI, Tsuneoki IKEDA, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and Katsuie SHIBATA one after another, and in fact, they launched fierce attacks to knock down eleven out of thirteen layers of military reserves.
Those attacks were fierce enough to be described as follows: 'In fierce attacks, friend or foe, Ise divers dive into the sea, gives me a feeling, breathing in their own way.'
However, Yoshimichi INABA, who surrounded Yokoyama-jo Castle as a Oda's rear guard, and other warriors rushed to help save them from the crisis.

On the other hand, Asakura troops, which were fighting with Tokugawa, outnumbered the Tokugawa troop. However, Yoshikage ASAKURA did not move into the front due to unexplained reason, which wore down the morale. Tokugawa's hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu) elite troops led by two leaders, Tadakatsu HONDA, who burst through head-on forcibly while having a tough time, and Yasumasa SAKAKIBARA, who went the way around to attack Asakura forces from the side, joined Tokugawa troops, and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's main force followed them, which caused Asakura forces to lose out at last.

Ittetsu INABA, who had belonged to Tokugawa side, and others such as Bokuzen UJIIE and Morinari ANDO, who had been attacking Yokoyama-jo Castle, rushed over there to reinforce Oda troops and attacked Azai's vulnerable side, which eventually made Azai troops start collapsing from its right side. Both Azai and Asakura troops were forced to flee to the Hokkoku Okan Highway.

Consequently, chase attacks caused a number of casualties. It is said that the battle started at five in the morning and lasted until two in the afternoon, and the estimated death toll was 1,800 on Azai and Asakura sides and 800 on Oda and Tokugawa sides, and the wounded was three times as much on each side. The names of places 'chibara' and 'chigawa,' which were located near the battle field, suggest fierce battle in old times.

Various theories on Kazumasa ISONO's performance
There are various theories about his eleven-layer break.

Negative theory on his achievement
A theory suggests that because Nagamasa's daughter (Sugenin) had married to one in the Tokugawa clan, later the performance of Azai side was exaggerated deliberately by the Tokugawa clan and, in reality, Oda side overwhelmed Azai from the beginning.

A theory suggests that there was a description that Oda troops were losing ground in order to indicate that they won the battle because of the performance of Tokugawa's.

Similar to the above, a theory suggests that, for the Tokugawa clan, which took over the authority of the Oda clan, it was necessary to trumpet Nobunaga as not a top grade samurai, and in the light of the circumstances, they had to emphasize Oda troops was on the backfoot.

A theory suggests that, as above stated, if the war death was 800 on Oda and Tokugawa sides and the wounded three times as much as the former, the war wounded of Oda's was too low for their successful attacks on eleven-layer reserves.

Affirmative theory on his achievement
A theory suggests that it was no wonder that Oda troops fought an uphill battle against Azai troops because they fought the same against the Saito clan of Mino, and Hongan-ji Temple,

A theory suggests that Asai and Asakura troops, which were outnumbered by Oda's, provoked a night attack against Oda troops and were backing away from them, but they made the enemy retreat with the back-up troops from Tokugawa and Yokoyama-jo Castle.

A theory suggests that because there was the fact that Nobunaga devoted himself to estrange Kazumasa after the Battle of Anegawa, he had trouble with Kazumasa.

Because historical materials on the situation of the battle that the Oda clan has had provide only brief descriptions, the truth is unknown.

Influence of the battle

The damage caused by the battle was so devastating that a number of samurais who played the central role in the Azai clan such as a senior vassal Naotsune ENDO, whom, they say, Nagamasa had trusted the most, Nagamasa's own younger brother Masayuki AZAI, Iezumi YUGE and the Imamura clan were killed.

Later, the allied forces of Azai and Asakura partnered with warrior monks of Enryaku-ji Temple and uprisings of Ikko sect followers and repeated fierce battles in the region such as Shiga-gun, Kosai. In these battles, the damage at Oda side was not minor one, and senior warlords including Nobunaga's younger brother Nobuharu ODA, Yoshinari MORI and Masanao SAKAI were killed.

Nobunaga, who was exasperated at such losses at the battle, decided to wipe out enemy powers nearby by carrying out the fire attack (in 1571) against Mt. Hiei which supported Azai and Asakura. Nobunaga, who decided that it would be hard to capture the enemies only with forces, framed a conspiracy to cause internal divisions in the Azai clan.

A typical example was the estrangement of Kazumasa ISONO, who made the greatest military contributions in the Battle of Anegawa. Because the feudal lords' territories had been divided from north to south due to the battle, warriors including Kazumasa ISONO, who guarded Sawayama-jo Castle in Inukami-gun, became isolated and had a hard time even receiving goods. Hideyoshi, who had an eye on that situation, spread a rumor to the members of the Azai clan that Kazumasa was a betrayer, and succeeded in making Nagamasa and others having suspicion against Kazumasa. Because Nagamasa rejected all of the repeated requests for supplies of goods from Kazumasa, Kazumasa's military provisions ran low and finally surrendered to Oda side, which determined the course of the collapse of the Azai clan.


The mound which seems to belong to the Azai clan has remained in Nomura-cho region.

Hideyoshi gave the family name Ooka to a landlord family living near Odani-jo Castle who sheltered Oichi and other three girls upon their rescue.

[Original Japanese]