Sawayama Castle, one of the castles belonging to the Azai, had an extremely important location in the Omi province. When speaking of historical facts, after Kazumasa Isono surrendered himself to the Oda Clan’s forces, the well known military commander and great vassal of the Oda family Nagahide Niwa became lord of the castle. After that, a wealthy vassal and political administrator Mitsunari Ishida reigned over the castle as a representative of the five commissioners. It was a castle that was regarded that highly of during the Sengoku Era and many ages later after it.
By the way, originally Sawayama Castle belonged to the Rokkaku Clan of Omi, if one were to look into that history, you would find out that it was something that the ancestors of the Rokkaku Clan build1 and something the head of the Rokkaku Clan was unusually concerned about to recapture.
From the beginning, the Rokkaku Clan was historically in a superior position over the Azai Clan. Even the great hero that was Nagamasa’s grandfather, Sukemasa, was frequently defeated in their many encounters with the Rokkaku family and he had to leave the Odani Castle and escape to the province of Mino. And it goes without saying that the father of Nagamasa, Hisamasa, was made to accept the military power of the Rokkaku Clan. The Azai was inferior to the Rokkaku Clan, that viewpoint is commonly known.
The moment when that futile situation began changing, was with the entrance of Nagamasa. Yoshikata Rokkaku made his vassal Sadatake Hirai give his daughter to Nagamasa and handed them the 「賢政」(Katamasa) name. The well known Yoshimoto Imagawa did the same thing to the person later known as Ieyasu Tokugawa, giving him the name 「元康」(Motoyasu).
In Japan, a name was proof of belonging to something. That is why the Azai’s Clan heads Hisamasa, and Nagamasa himself used the “Masa” kanji in their names.
Yoshikata by placing 「賢」 in his own name, did not only proclaim to the country of Omi, but to all the Daimyo’s of Japan that “This one is mine.”2 And then Nagamasa unable to endure his father’s weak attitude, made his father retire and contended against the Rokkaku Clan for a war of independence.
However, Nagamasa’s situation concerning this war against the Rokkaku Clan was hopeless. There was quite a gap in the mobilization of military power between the Azai and the Rokkaku clans, leaving Nagamasa Azai to be able to move less than half the numbers the Rokkaku Clan was able to. On a certain day of August in 1560 at the rice fields of Omi, the two armies collided. Compared to the Azai forces that had around ten thousand men, the forces of the Rokkaku Clan was close to twenty-five thousand, which was an overwhelming disadvantage for the Azai Clan.
However, Nagamasa taking the lead took decisive actions against the assault of the Rokkaku forces. Nagamasa who at first was an overwhelming disadvantage, was able to overcome it by rebuilding the morale and battle array of the Azai forces and thus he was able to overturn the rumors of the neighboring countries that said: “The Azai Clan will perish after this…” and he managed to force the Rokkaku forces into elimination.
The influences of this battle famously named “Battle of Norada” were tremendous. It was not only that Nagamasa was able to grasp his subordinates trust, but he also caused the dignity of the Rokkaku Clan to sink causing inside strife and resulted in the heads of the family to being exiled by their vassals.
After that victory, the name of “Nagamasa” became well known but strangely enough two months before the “Battle of Norada,” his future brother-in-law Nobunaga Oda was able to pull off the “most notable miracle” in Japanese history by defeating Yoshimoto Imagawa. In short, the year 1560 should be a commemorative year where both brothers in law destroyed their most formidable enemy.
However, the Rokkaku Clan desiring to govern Omi as their protectors were currently thinking ‘We should destroy the Azai Clan now, before they grow even larger. It is now or never.’
The year 1567, January 18th early in the morning. Yoshikata Rokkaku and his eldest son Yoshiharu were leading a thirty-two thousand grand army, commencing an advance on Sawayama Castle that was protected by Kazumasa Isono. The soldiers guarding Sawayama totaled to around twelve hundred.
“This time for sure, the Azai will cease to exist…”
Burning up with that determination a fast horse came flying into Odani Castle to report the raid of the Rokkaku father and son duo, meanwhile, Nagamasa slipped out of Oichi’s room and as usual started baking some crepes in the kitchen.
- The actual building was done by the Sasaki Clan, which later split into the Kyogoku Clan and the Rokkaku Clan.
- He basically declared with his name that all of Omi is his.