Oda Nobutada (織田信忠)

Nobutada ODA was a busho (Japanese military commander) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. He was a legitimate son and heir of Nobunaga ODA.

Although it is said that his first son was Nobumasa ODA, Nobutada ODA was his legitimate son.

There is a theory that his birth mother was a member of the Ikoma clan, but another theory also exists (described later). If his birth mother really was of the Ikoma clan, then his maternal younger brother would have been Nobukatsu ODA, while Nobutaka ODA and Hidekatsu HASHIBA would have been paternal younger half-brothers.

He was set to marry Princess Matsu (Niitachi goryonin, Shinshoni), the daughter of Shingen TAKEDA, but the engagement was broken off once his father went to war with Shingen. According to legend, the grave of the 'daughter of Nobunaga ODA,' known as the Princess of ODA and fiancé to Ujinao HOJO, is located at Korin-ji Temple in Odawara. Legend has it that the fiancée of Ujinao went to Odawara along with Kuranojo TAGA (多賀内蔵丞), a vassal of Nobutada, during the Honnoji Incident. If that is true, then Nobutada may have married a princess related to the Hojo clan as that grave is said to be that of the wife of Nobutada.

Originally named Kimyo-maru at birth, his name was changed to Kankuro Nobushige at his coming of age, and later changed to Nobutada. His common name was Sanmi no chujo (Middle Captain, Junior Third Rank) or Gifu Chujo (Middle Captain).

His son, Hidenobu ODA (Sanboshi), was born to either of his two concubines (it is not known which one); the daughter of Nagamitsu SHIOKAWA or the daughter of Yoshinari MORI. Another of his sons, Hidenori ODA, was also born to a concubine. Since he had remained unmarried, he did not have an heir he recognized at the time of his death.

The successor to Nobunaga

He was born the first son of Nobunaga (the second, if Nobumasa, in fact, existed) in Owari Province in 1557.

After his coming of age in 1572 and fighting his first battle in Kohoku, he engaged in consecutive battles in various places alongside his father Nobunaga in the Ishiyama War, the attack of Nagashima in Ise Province and the Battle of Nagashino.

In 1575, as supreme commander, he led the battle to capture Iwamura-jo Castle, which had been taken by Nobutomo AKIYAMA, a busho (commanding officer) of the Takeda family, and gained military renown in successive conquests against the Takeda family.

In 1576, he became lord of Gifu-jo Castle, was given the family estate of the ODA clan and put in charge of Mino and Owari Provinces by Nobunaga. That same year, he was promoted to Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), and Akitajo no suke (provincial governor of Akita-jo castle in Dewa Province) after having served as Dewa no suke (assistant governor of Dewa Province).

In February 1577, he brought down Nakano-jo Castle in the Battle of Saika, defeating Shigehide SUZUKI (Magoichi SAIKA) in March. That September, as supreme commander he led warlords (including Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and Mitsuhide AKECHI, whose forces formed the vanguard) in the Battle of Shigisan-jo Castle in Yamato Province, defeating their enemies, Hisahide MATSUNAGA and Hisamichi MATSUNAGA, father and son. He was promoted to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) Sakone gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) for such an achievement.

In 1578, Terumoto MORI, a sosui (commander-in-chief) of the Mori family, mobilized a large force of more than hundred thousand soldiers to regain control of Kozuki-jo Castle in Harima Province, basing the headquarters of his army in Bichu at Takamatsu-jo Castle, where he deployed Motoharu KIKKAWA, Takakage KOBAYAKAWA, Tadaie UKITA and 61,000 sailors from the Murakami navy in Harima in the Siege of Kozuki-jo Castle. Nobunaga sent warlords such as Mitsuhide AKECHI, Nagahide NIWA, Kazumasu TAKIGAWA led by Nobutada as a supreme commander, to support Kozuki-jo Castle and Hideyoshi HASHIBA, who had been besieging Miki-jo Castle, also came under the command of Nobutada, deploying a total of 72 thousand of Oda army in Harima as a result. However, Nobunaga ordered a strategic retreat from Kozuki-jo Castle, in order to concentrate his forces on the siege of Miki-jo Castle, as the battle there had reached a deadlock. Eventually Katsuhisa AMAGO surrendered and the castle was destroyed (the Battle of Kozuki-jo Castle).

By 1580, his area under control expanded to Miwa and Owari Provinces since Nobumori SAKUMA who had controlled the southern territory of Owari Province was sent into exile.

In 1582, with Kazumasu TAKIGAWA as vice-shogun, he assumed supreme command of a force of 50,000 from Mino and Owari Provinces in an attempt to subdue the Takeda forces. Nobutada marched from Ina-gun, bringing down Iida-jo Castle and Takato-jo Castle in the south of Shinano Province which had been the footholds of their Takeda counterparts, and then invaded Kai Province. He achieved great success, forcing Katsuyori TAKEDA and Nobutaka TAKEDA, father and son, to commit suicide at the Battle of Tenmokuzan before the arrival of the main force of the Nobunaga army. On April 28, Nobunaga entered the Kofu-jo Castle and awarded Nobutada with the sword of Nashijimaki for his distinguished war service, as much as saying, 'I intend to pass my power on to you'. As the grant of honors, Hidetaka KAWAJIRI, busho (commanding officer) of the yoriki (lower-ranked samurai), was given command of Kai Province (with the exception of the territory controlled by Nobukimi ANAYAMA) and Suwa-gun in Shinano Province; Nagayoshi MORI was given command of Takai, Minochi, Sarashina, and Hanishina-gun of Shinano Province; Hideyori MORI was given command of Ina-gun of Shinano Province --this allowed them to greatly influence Mino, Owari, Kai and Shinano Provinces.

An Imperial envoy came to see Nobunaga, who had returned in triumph to Azuchi upon vanquishing the Takeda clan, bearing an offer from Imperial Court to assume a title of either Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor), Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) or Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") (the question of the three alternative positions), but Nobunaga avoided a clear answer, instead requesting that Nobutada, his legitimate son and heir, be appointed as Seii taishogun.

His later years

In Honnoji Incident of July 1, 1582, Nobutada was staying at Myokaku-ji Temple in Kyoto (Kyoto City) (where Nobunaga also frequently stayed) on his way to support Hideyoshi HASHIBA, who was besieging Bichu Takamatsu-jo Castle, along with Nobunaga. Upon knowing that Hidemitsu AKECHI attacked Honno-ji Temple, where Nobunaga was staying, he headed to Honno-ji Temple to save his father. However, after being informed of Nobunaga's suicide, Nobutada travelled to the Nijo New Imperial Palace (the former Nijo-jo Castle), where the Crown Prince resided along with his paternal younger half-brother Katsunaga ODA (Genzaburo Nobufusa ODA), Kyoto shoshidai (the Kyoto deputy) Sadakatsu MURAI, and others, to counter Mitsuhide.

Nobutada fought well with his few remaining soldiers, making sure that the Imperial Prince Sanehito, who was a crown prince and lord of the Nijo New Imperial Palace, was able to escape. Nobutada, however, committed suicide as he was outnumbered as Sadaoki ISE, an elite of the Akechi army, advanced with his force. Shinsuke KAMATA served as Kaishaku (to assist someone in committing hara-kiri by beheading him). He died at the age of 26. Neither his nor his father's heads were recovered by the Akechi army.

According to the Koreto Muhonki (a commentary on the Honnoji Incident) and the Renjoin Kiroku (journal written by priests of Kofuku-ji Temple Renjo-in), he wielded a sword himself to cut down enemy soldiers (this is rumored to be a myth, like that of Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, yet it is open to debate as he was familiar with the art of swordsmanship as it was an essential discipline of that time).

Personal profile

The opinion that he was a foolish and mediocre commander was widely accepted at one time, however, the prevailing opinion at this time is that he was a qualified busho, perhaps as much so as Nobunaga, and a worthy successor. The reason Nobutada was thought to be foolish was due to an account of the incident of Nobuyasu MATSUDAIRA's seppuku (suicide by disembowelment) related in the "Seishi Tanko" which was written by Mitsutoshi TAKAYANAGI. According to this account, Nobunaga excluded Nobuyasu, a legitimate child of Ieyasu, as he was concerned that Nobuyasu might outshine his son Nobutada. Mitsutoshi TAKAYANAGI had authority in academic society at that time, which made the foolish image he had established of Nobutada prevail for a long time. However, the theory did not adequately compare the achievements of both, focusing inordinately on Nobuyasu's seppuku and indicating only one of the possibilities of the motive. A more recent analysis indicates that he was fairly competent in his military and governmental capacities even when factoring in Nobunaga's influence as his guardian. Therefore, the currently prevailing opinion is that there is little evidence that Nobutada was as foolish as he was formerly presented. In any event, we still have a long way to go to establish a clear assessment of his personality.

In the Honnoji Incident, Nobutada had a chance to escape from Kyoto, although Nobunaga didn't (the escape of Nagamasu ODA and Geni MAEDA tells us that Mitsuhide hadn't completely sealed off Kyoto). It is said that he followed the same fate as his father dying despite the fact that he was the second generation to push the limits. On the other hand, some praise Nobutada for dying fighting as a busho rather than escaping, saying it was not clear whether he could escape at the moment he was in the battle and that he might have thought a busho of Mitsuhide AKECHI's calibre couldn't have overseen the escape.

At a great military parade held in Kyoto in 1581, he held the greatest rank of any member of the Oda family. If one looks to the fact he was in control of the Oda family estate while Nobunaga was still alive, even if it was a mere formality, as well as put in charge of domains in Owari and Mino Provinces, one can see that he was trusted by Nobunaga.

His birth mother

It is said that Nobutada's birth mother was a member of the Ikoma clan, yet there are many opinions as to whether or not this is true. No reference was made regarding the mother of Nobutada ODA in contemporary literature. It wasn't until the family line of Nobukatsu ODA, who was related to the Ikoma clan, became the mainstream in literature that this theory of Nobutada ODA's mother being from the Ikoma clan began appearing. There are several literary references to his adoption by Nobunaga's wife, Nohime. In the literature, the accounts written by those unrelated to Nobukatsu ODA made no reference at all to his actual mother, while the accounts written by those closely related to Nobukatsu ODA carried references indicating that Nobutada ODA's mother came from the Ikoma clan. Therefore, it appears that the identity of his birth mother was not widely known, and that it may have been a fabrication that she came from the Ikoma clan as it would have brought Nobukatsu ODA's branch of the family closer to the center of the family. It is difficult at the present time to show a direct link between Nobutada ODA and the Ikoma clan as the host of the funeral of the Ikoma clan, who is said to be his birth mother, was Chasen-maru (Nobukatsu ODA) based on historical evidence of the time when Nobutada ODA was alive. Members of the Ikoma famly acted as close advisors to Nobukatsu ODA while members of the Saito family and Mino-shu (hatamoto [direct retainers of the Shogun] who resided in Mino Province) acted as close advisors to Nobutada ODA, which makes it difficult to discuss from that perspective. According to popular belief, it was not until October of 1556 that the Ikoma clan began providing concubines to the Oda family, which causes questions to arise as to the mother of Nobutada if one takes into consideration the normal duration of pregnancy and the birth of Nobukatsu ODA who was born in late March, 1558.

Historical evidence to indicate that Nobutada's mother was not from the Ikoma clan includes the signature exempting Sofuku-ji Temple in Gifu (Gifu City) of all miscellaneous taxes which was issued by Nobutada under the name of Kimyo-maru (his name previous to his coming of age) on July 13, 1571 and the one issued in June 1577.. It is likely that the tax exemption was favorable treatment for doing Buddhist memorial service of the seventh anniversary of Keiju KYUAN's death in Sofuku-ji Temple as it was written in the autographic signature of 1577, that Sofuku-ji Temple was the ihaijo (site of a Buddhist mortuary tablet) of Keiju KYUAN; being after six years from the autographic signature of 1571 issued in the time of Kimyo, it was the seventh anniversary of her death. Nobukatsu is said to have hosted the funeral of a member of the Ikoma clan under the name of Chasen-maru, his name before genpuku (the celebration of one's coming of age), which would normally be not appropriate, where Nobutada also issued his signature under his pre-genpuku name, Kimyo-maru, from which it can be surmised that Kimyo-maru hosted the funeral of Keiju KYUAN in June of 1571 as she was the real mother of Nobutada. It is not clear where Keiju KYUAN came from, but it is possible that Nobutada's real mother came from among the family of his close advisers considering the fact that families of birth mothers served as close advisors to busho such as the Ikoma family serving Nobukatsu and the Saka family and the Okamoto family serving Nobutaka. All of the close advisers of Nobutada were Mino-shu, which was not only due to their relationship with his adopted mother Nohime, but also because Keiju KYUAN was the daughter of someone who was Mino-shu. However, even if she was the daughter of someone who was Mino-shu, it is unlikely it was an important person, as Mino was in conflict with Nobunaga when Nobutada was born, they could have offered a lady-in-waiting or relative of Nohime as a concubine.


It is said he was given the childhood name of Kimyo-maru by Nobunaga because of his strange expression (kimyo) at his time of birth.

His father Nobunaga was offered the reign over the family of the Shiba, who acted as guards of Owari, by Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, and it is said, however, that he declined and made his son Nobutada successor to the Shiba family.

Despite his image as an obedient son, he disagreed with his father Nobunaga (who had come to observe the battle) on strategy when they attacked Miki-jo Castle in Harima. Nobunaga liked Kowaka-mai (story-telling accompanied by a simple dance) such as "Atsumori" which in known for the line 'life lasts only 50 years,' while Nobutada had an obsession for Kyogen (farce played during a Noh cycle). Also, he obtained the literary work of Zeami, which was very scarce at the time, through Ieyasu TOKUGAWA. It is said he clashed with Nobunaga, who confiscated his works of Noh.

According to the "Mikawa Monogatari" (Tales from Mikawa), Nobunaga's first word when he realized something happened at Honno-ji Temple was 'Did jo no suke betray me? (Did Nobutada rebel?)'
Even setting aside the credibility of the Mikawa Monogatari, when one considers that description, the current estimation of Nobutada's loyalty to Nobunaga remains in dispute.

Record of offices and ranks held

*refers to dates written in the old lunar calendar

In April 1574, he was given joi (investiture of a Court rank) of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).

On February 23, 1575, he was appointed Dewa no suke. On June 1, he was promoted to Shogoinoge while retaining his position as Dewa no suke. On November 7, he was promoted to Akitajo no suke.

On January 5, 1576, he was promoted to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), while retaining Akitajo no suke. On August 4, he was promoted to Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) while retaining Akitajo no suke. On December 17, he was transferred to the position of Sakone no shosho (Minor Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

On January 5, 1577, he was promoted to Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), while retaining Sakone no shosho. On October 5, he was promoted to Jusanmi and transferred to the position of Sakone no chujo (Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

[Original Japanese]