The Battles of Date Kagemune

Fourteenth century Japanese warriors recorded the time and place of their battles in petitions for reward (gunchūjō). They then submitted these documents to authorities to be compensated for their battle service. Documents 5 through 12 of the Suruga Collection and recount battles fought from 1350.12 through 1353.12.25. During the initial battles, lasting through 1351.12.27, the shogun Ashikaga Takauji fought against his brother and former ally Tadayoshi. Takauji decisively defeated Tadayoshi at the battle of Sakurano/Mt. Satta and then “peace was restored in the east” (document 12). During the eighth month of 1352, Kagemune fought against an army comprised of men supporting the Southern Court, who opposed the shogun Takauji and his Northern Court supporters. Kagemune first besieged their Ōtsu stronghold, and then tried to take a major castle of Tokuyama.

The actions from 1353.2.11 through 1353.2.25 reveal how a mountain castle could be taken in a period of fifteen days. Instead of attacking Tokuyama directly from the south or west, where it was most formidable, Kagemune and his men first advanced up a narrow river to the east. There they took supporting castles of Hagitawa (2.11) and the Go-ōdo stronghold (2.13) before arriving at Tokuyama. Forces remained stationed there and then Kagemune and/or others advanced through the northern reaches of Tokuyama, setting up a camp at Shitentawa (2.18) By 2.25 they were able to attack the castle, and block it from the east, north and west, forcing Tokuyama defenders to scatter southward. After their defeat, Kagemune traveled to Tarui, the provisional capital for the Northern Court. There Takauji and his son Yoshiakira joined forces and with a formidable army, they were able to dislodge Southern Court supporters from Kyoto, Japan’s largest city, thereby ending the campaigns of Kagemune.