Azai Nagamasa

Azai Nagamasa
Azai Nagamasa

Azai Nagamasa (浅井 長政?, 1545 – August 28, 1573) was a Daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japan. His clan, the Azai, were located in northern Ōmi Province, east of Lake Biwa. He was both the brother-in-law of Oda Nobunaga, starting in 1564, and one of Nobunaga's enemies from 1570-1573. Nagamasa and his clan were utterly destroyed by Oda Nobunaga in August of 1573. Major battles of Azai Nagamasa include the battle of Anegawa in 1570 and the many sieges of Odani castle between 1570 and 1573.

Azai Nagamasa was the son of Azai Hisamasa, from whom he inherited clan leadership in 1560. Hisamasa had been compelled to step down by many of his retainers in favor of his son, Nagamasa. Hisamasa retired, and would later commit suicide along with his son in August of 1573. Nagamasa successfully battled both Rokkaku Yoshitaka and Saitō Tatsuoki between 1560 and 1564. He is remembered as being a capable commander of troops on the battlefield.

He married Oda Nobunaga's sister Oichi in 1564. Nobunaga desired peaceful relations with the Azai clan because of their strategic position in between Oda clan land's and the capitol, Kyoto.

In 1570, Oda Nobunaga declared war on the Asakura family of Echizen. The Asakura and Azai had been allies since the time of Nagamasa's grandfather. This sudden war between two Azai clan allies is reported to have divided the clan. Many retainers wished to honor the alliance with the Asakura, while Nagamasa himself is reported to have favored staying neutral, essentially siding with Nobunaga. In the end, the Azai clan chose to honor the generations-old alliance with the Asakura and came to their aid. Initially, this decision caused Nobunaga's army, which was marching upon the Asakura's lands to retreat back to Kyoto. However, within a few months the forces of Nobunaga were again on the march, but this time they marched on Azai lands.

In the summer of 1570, Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu brought an army estimated between 20-30,000 men into Northern Omi. The Azai called upon their allies, the Asakura, for assistance. The Asakura responded by sending troops. In either June or July, the two sides met at the battle of Anegawa. The combined Azai and Asakura force numbered between 15-20,000 men. The outcome is recorded elsewhere, but briefly: The battle was strongly contested by both sides. Nobunaga is recorded as having decided that his force should directly confront the numerically inferior Azai clan force, while Ieyasu would engage the Asakura. While the Oda were being held at bay, and perhaps even slowly losing ground to the Azai - who had fought against numerically superior forces in the past - Ieyasu's force was apparently quickly gaining the advantage against the Asakura. Ieyasu, or perhaps one of his battle commanders, decided to send part of the Tokugawa force into the Azai flank, forcing the Azai to retreat, and guaranteeing victory. However, the battle was strategically indecisive because the Oda shortly withdrew.

Over the course of the next two years, with the exception of occasional interventions by the Shogun, Azai Nagamasa was under constant threat of Nobunaga aggression into Omi. Often these threats manifested into sieges of the Azai Capitol, Odani. During this period the Azai are seen as being loosely aligned with numerous anti-Oda forces, including the Asakura, the Miyoshi, the Rokkaku, and several religious complexes.

In 1573, Oda laid siege to Odani. Although the Asakura sent a relief force, Nobunaga defeated this force and chased the Asakura into their lands. Shortly thereafter, the Asakura were destroyed. Nobunaga then returned south to prosecute the siege of Odani. Nagamasa had no hope of winning, and chose to commit seppuku. Before dying, he and his wife Oichi sent out their two sons to be hidden in far off place that only they knew of, while he sent out his three daughters and his wife, Nobunaga's sister, to live with Nobunaga. They were allowed to live. Later on, Oda convinced Oichi to tell him where she had sent her infant son Manpukaru saying that he wanted the boy to live with and raise him. Nagamasa's male heir, Manpukumaru, was put to the sword on Oda Nobunaga's orders by his general Hideyoshi and the head be put on a stake for all to see. Oda made sure no one told his sister, Oichi of this but soon after, since she hadn't heard word of her son yet, came to that suspicion. There are reports that Nobunaga bore a strong grudge against Nagamasa for his perceived betrayal of their alliance even though it was he who broke the agreement first. It has also been reported that Nobunaga had the skulls of Nagamasa, Hisamasa, and the Asakura leader lacquered so that they could be used as cups. Whether this report is historically accurate, or merely made up to inflate the reputation of Nobunaga is debatable at this time.

Three of Nagamasa's daughters are famous for marrying famous men. They were

Modern References

Azai Nagamasa as he appears in Koei's Samurai Warriors 2.
  • Nagamasa makes appearances as a general in the Main Campaign and in various Historical Battles and Historical Campaigns in the PC game Shogun Total War. Additionally, Nagamasa returns as an Heir to the Azai Clan in the fan created Samurai Warlords Mod (aka the Shogun Mod) for the PC game Medieval Total War.
  • Nagamasa is a featured playable character within the video game series Samurai Warriors, in which he is depicted as an extremely honorable man who will stop at nothing to ensure that his notions of justice are enforced. As like in history, Nagamasa decides to collaborate with his erstwhile allies, the Asakura, and fight against Nobunaga at Anegawa; he also expresses a more dramatized showing of love towards his respective wife, Oichi, and cares deeply for her welfare. In appearance, Nagamasa is depicted with his traditional kabuto helmet and carries a lance as his weapon of choosing. This version of the character also appears in the spin-off series Warriors Orochi as an unlockable character for the Cao Wei storyline. Cao Pi and Mitsunari Ishida attack Nagamasa's forces, including his wife Oichi and Gan Ning of Wu. Instead of death, as they wanted, Cao Pi enlists the three of them into his army against Orochi.
  • Nagamasa is an NPC in Sengoku Basara 2, along with Oichi, but becomes playable in the expansion Sengoku Basara 2: Heroes. He wields a long sword and carries a shield with him and is portrayed as a justice loving man.

References



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