The Battle of Hakone and Takenoshita (箱根・竹ノ下の戦い)

The Battle of Hakone and Takenoshita was a battle between the Takauji ASHIKAGA forces and Yoshisada NITTA forces that broke out on February 1, 1336 during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). The Emperor Godaigo dispatched Yoshisada NITTA to defeat Takauji ASHIKAGA who rebelled against the Kenmu government, but it failed and the Kenmu government collapsed. The battle was held around present Takenoshita, Oyama-cho, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The Kenmu government was established after toppling the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) in 1333, but samurai aggravated a grievance against many of its unrealistic policies. The plot contrived by Kinmune SAIONJI and Yasuie HOJO was found out in 1335 and ended in failure, but it triggered a string of uprisings of the remnants of the Hojo clan in the Hojo clan's former territories. In particular, Tokiyuki HOJO who rose in revolt with the support of the Suwa clan in Shinano Province in July gathered the anti-Kenmu government forces around the country and got enough momentum to remove Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA and occupy Kamakura.
(Nakasendai War)

In response, Takauji ASHIKAGA repeatedly asked the Emperor Godaigo to dispatch him to defeat Tokiyuki, but the Emperor Godaigo feared that Takauji would strike out and didn't allow him to do so.

However, Takauji sent troops to the Kanto region without permission. The Emperor Godaigo echoed Takauji and appointed him as seito shogun (great general who subdues the eastern barbarians).

Takauji's army removed Tokiyuki's army from Kamakura, then Tokiyuki disappeared and his revolt was quashed.

After the battle, Takauji showed his will of independence by confiscating the territory of Yoshisada NITTA who was against him without permission and distributing it as onsho (reward grants) which was granted by Onshokata (office to do desk works of Onsho award) in the Kenmu government. Although the Emperor Godaigo repeatedly ordered Takauji to return to Kyoto, Takauji ignored it and just sent a document criticizing Yoshisada back to him. Yoshisada submitted a counter document and his claim was accepted as a result of the deliberation, then the Emperor Godaigo decided to defeat Takauji and proclaimed an imperial decree to Yoshisada.

In December, Yoshisada served Imperial Prince Takayoshi and went down Tokai-do Road with his army. Many court nobles also joined the army to search and kill Takauji. Since Takauji entered into priesthood because he was ashamed of becoming the Emperor's enemy, the morale of the Ashikaga side was low, thus, Tadayoshi led Takauji's army and performed a mission. Yoshisada defeated Tadayoshi's army which was ambushed in the Yahagi-gawa River, Mikawa Province, Sagisaka, Totomi Province and Tegoshigawara, Suruga Province, then occupied the kokufu (provincial office) of Izu (Mishima) and steadily moved his army forward to Kamakura. When Takauji who was temporarily a priest received the report that Yoshisada was approaching Hakone, he agreed to get back to the battle line by Tadayoshi's persuasion. Yoshisada gathered his army in Mishima and split them into two directions, then he led the rear force and headed for Hakone-toge Pass, meanwhile, his younger brother, Yoshisuke WAKIYA led the front force and headed for Ashigara-toge Pass. Regarding Takauji's army, Tadayoshi's army took up their position in Hakone and Takauji took up his position at Ashigara-toge Pass in front of Takenoshita.

Both armies collided with each other on February 1, 1336. In the Hakone area, Tadayoshi's army was losing ground to Yoshisada's army. The major battlefield for Takauji and Yoshisuke was Takenoshita just west of Ashigara-toge Pass. Takauji's army whose morale was boosted by Takauji's participation in the war took the lead and on the following day, Sadatoshi (Sadanori) OTOMO and Takasada ENYA sold out to Takauji's army, thus Yoshisuke's army suffered a debacle and took flight. When Yoshisada received the report, he got his troops out because his retreat could be cut off. Then, Doyo SASAKI sold out to Takauji's army and Yoshisada's army also suffered a debacle. On February 3, 1336, Takauji's army recaptured the kokufu of Izu Province and Yoshisada's army took flight along Tokai-do Road. "Baishoron" (Historical tale compiled in 1349) says that Yoshisada saved a floating bridge over Tenryu-gawa River for his allies to come later, but "Taiheiki" (The Record of the Great Peace) says the opposite, describing that he knocked out the bridge and retreated.

Takauji's army pursued Yoshisada's army and collided with each other on Setanokara-hashi Bridge in Omi Province on February 23, 1336. Takauji's army won in Uji City located at the rear and the court's side withdrew, then it plunged into the battle over Kyoto.

Takauji raising an army worked and it led to the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). The Kenmu government collapsed and came down to the Southern Court (Japan), then it entered into the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). The cause of defeat of the court's side was the selling out of dominant samurai who were disappointed by misgovernment of Emperor Godaigo to Takauji's side rather than Yoshisada's poor leadership. The Kenmu government which was established by controlling dominant samurai in the rank of former Shugo (provincial constable) came to be defeated by Takauji ASHIKAGA who was backed up by them.

Kikuchi senbonyari (A thousand spears of the Kikuchi clan)

There is a tradition called Kikuchi senbonyari which tells about the Battle of Hakone and Takenoshita. When the Kikuchi clan joined the Nitta forces, they cut bamboos from the bamboo grove there and tied them to knives to make spears. It is said that this idea was generated by Takeshige KIKUCHI of the Kikuchi family who gained fame in the battles of the Mongol invasion attempts against Japan, although struggled with the enemy's weapons. It is said that they defeated 3000 enemies by using 1000 spears.

[Original Japanese]