The Asahina Battle Chronicle of early Sixteenth Century Japan

The Journal of Socho (Socho shuki) was compiled from 1522 to 1527 by Saiokuken Socho (1448-1532), one of Japan’s preeminent poets of that period.  He served as poet laureate of the Imagawa daimyo house in his later years, and this account is at times a travel diary, a historical chronicle, and a collection of letters and poems.  In one section of this journal, Socho devotes some writing to what he calls the Asahina Battle Chronicle.  This is an account of provincial warfare that took place in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.  Socho is heavily biased in favor of his patrons, the Imagawa and Asahina, and he overemphasizes the role of the Okochi so as to emphasize the victories over them by the Asahina.  For more information, please consult: The Journal of Socho, translated by H. Mack Horton, and Song in an Age of Discord: The Journal of Socho and Poetic Life in Late Medieval Japan, by H. Mack Horton, both published by Stamford University Press.

Chapter 1

The following is a chronicle of Asahina Bitcchunokami Yasuhiro’s loyal service in battle in this province.  Lord Saemonnosuke had been headquartered in a castle on Yashiroyama mountain.  When he was exiled, he withdrew to Futamata Castle, where freebooters from this province and Owari flew to his cause, bringing the uprising into the open.  All the lands to the borders of Shinano and Mikawa fell to him, including the castle held for years by Horie Shimotsukenokami west of Tenryugawa river at Murkaushi.  Called Kuroyama, it has a main fortress and an outer fortress and is bounded by Lake Hamana to the north and south.  Soun and Yasuhiro laid their plans then assaulted it with forces raised in this province .  In two or three days the castle fell.1

Then Okochi Bitchunokami, commissioner of Hamamatsu Estate (fief of Lord Kira), joined with Horie Shimotsukenokami and absconded.  Iio Zenshiro Katatsura was accordingly ordered down from Kira to serve as temporary commissioner in Okochi’s stead.  The appointment was in recognition of the extraordinary military service of his father Zenxaemonnojo Nagatsura, who had been commissioner of that estate when Yoshitada entered the province years earlier.  When Yoshitada met with calamity while returning to his home province, Nagatsura too was struck down and killed, after loosing all his arrows at the enemy in glorious defense of his lord.2  His son Zenzaemon Katatsura, Katatsura’s son Zenshiro Noritsura, and Noritsura’s uncle Zenrokuro Tamekiyo ever honor his exploits.

Chapter 2

At the beginning of the ninth month of the first year of Eisho [1504], war broke out between the Yamanouchi and the Ogigayatsu houses (known together as the “Two Uesugi”, teh Yamanouchi being the deputies in Kamakura).3  The Ogigayatsu were allied with Suon and held Kawagoe and Edo.  The Yamanouchi held Uwado and Hachigata.  The conflict became general and overran the borders of Musashi plain.  For three Kanto leagues the foe would not fall back, nor could our allies advance.  When the deadlock had continued more than ten days, the Ogigayatsu requested support from Imagawa Ujichika, who immediately set out at the head of his army.  On the thirteenth, Asahina Yasuhiro and Fukushima Saemonnojo followed with their forces from Totomi and Suruga.  On the twentieth, twenty-first, and twenty-second of the same month, Soun made camp at Masukata.  The enemy appeared to have pulled back.  Our allies pursued them, making camp one night in the open.  The next day, at about nine o’clock in the morning, our allies and the foe caught sight of one another through the mist of Musashi Plain, both armies thick as a mountain forest.  They met with a clash like thunder.  At about noon the cavalry charged and the battle raged for several hours thereafter.  The foe was defeated and their main force retreated to their stronghold at Tachikawa.  Contact was lost with them in the night.  Two thousand and more were missing, killed, cut down, and left for dead, or made prisoner, and horses and armor were taken in abundance.

After a day and a night, Imagawa Ujichika withdrew, making camp in Kamakura on the fourth of the tenth month.  He stayed two days, then took the waters in Atami for seven.  He then rested from the rigors of battle for two or three days at Nirayama, after which he returned to Suruga.  It was at that time that he petitioned the god of Mishima Shrine.  I thereupon spent three days composing a thousand-verse sequence at that shrine, beginning on the tenth.  The ten hokku followed the order of the four seasons.  The first and second were as follows:

It trails afar–
over a thousand leagues,
this springtime haze.

The light green willows —
a divine addition
to Mishima’s garlands.

Chapter 3

Eight or nine more years passed, and Okochi Bitchunokami staged another audacious uprising.  He invaded the Hamamatsu Estate and secured himself in Hikuma Castle with freebooters and farmers of the province.  Thereupon Yasuhiro set out and burned every temple and house.  Okochi was about to be killed but Lord Kira pleaded on his behalf, and he was pardoned.  All returned to their camps.

That winter Yasuhiro unexpectedly died of illness.  As his son Yasuyoshi was not yet old enough to rule, Yasuyoshi’s uncle Yasumochi was made temporary regent.4

Chapter 4

Then Okochi Bitchunokami raised troops in Shinano, Mikawa, and Owari and formented a great uprising.5  Ujichika now set out in person to quell it.  he drew up his horse at Ryogonji temple in the Kasai Estate, and his forces made camp at Daibosatsu Mountain across Tenryugawa river.  At Mitake Mountain to the north, Ii Jiro staunchly served the Martial Defender and also gathered freebooters and others to lower station.6  Their watchfires at night were as many as the stars in the sky before dawn.  Yasumochi easily defeated them, and the Marial Defender flew to Okunoyama and thence to Owari.  This was the castle that several thousand troops under Kai Minonokami had earlier assailed for three years without success.  Because of Yasumochi’s military prowess, the province remained secure.

Chapter 5

Thereafter Ujichika dispatched troops in support of a campaign launched by Takeda Jiro in Kai. Seeing their opportunity, Okochi and freebooters in this province of Totomi summoned local warriors from Shinano and requested aid from the Martial Defender.  They then began seizing lands here and there on both sides of Tenryugawa river.  That winter, the Asahina built the Hachiman Shrine at Kakagawa Castle.  My celebratory hokku:

It flows in all seasons
without freezing,
this rock-pent spring.

Yasuyoshi’s uncle Tokishige steadfastly defended Hachiman Shrine and both Totomi and Suruga in Ujichika’s absence.

The next summer, in the latter part of the fifth month, Ujichika set out for that castle.  There was a flood at that time and Tenryugawa river was like a great sea.  Ujichika built a pontoon bridge with three hundred or more boats lashed together with ten or twenty huge bamboo ropes.  It was solid as the ground itself.  I made a thousand verses in prayer for a safe crossing.  The hokku:

The Waterless Month —
no victor who does not cross on foot,
as there are no waves.

It now occurs to me I ought to have said, “a crossing made by victors, / all of them on foot.”

The enemy came out on the far side of the river, and their arrows fell like rain.  Tens of thousands of Imagawa troops crossed easily, and the foe pulled back..  Ujichika encircled their castle six or seven fold, covering an area about fifty cho around.  There, from the sixth through the eighth month, he harassed them.  The soldiers inside the stronghold resisted for several days, then capitulated on the nineteenth of the eight month.  Ujichika used men from the Abeyama gold mines to undermine the well in the castle, and there was not a drop of water to be had inside.  The Okochi – brothers, fathers, and sons – the Omi, the Takahashi, and the others in the castle with them, were either killed, cut down and left for dead, or taken prisoner.  The fleeing men and women were a pitiful sight.  Because of certain circumstances the Martial Defender was allowed to leave the castle, and he took holy orders at a nearby Zen temple called Fusaiji.  All those in his service took orders as well and were sent to Owari.  The castles at Yashiroyama, Futamata, and Okunoyama of the Ii house rose in this manner three or four times.  How is one to account for it?  Okochi Bitchunokami fought the Imagawa in Totomi three of four times as well.

Chapter 6

This province of Totomi and half of Owari are Imagawa lands.  Some time ago they were made the domain of the Martial Defender for a time (the reason for that decision is unknown).7  Norikuni (Lord Jokoji) was born in the fifth year of Einin (Hinoto tori) [1297], Noriuji was born in the fifth year of Showa (Hinoe tatsu) [1316], Yasunori was born in the first year of Kenmu (Kinoe inu) [1334], Norimasa was born in the third year of Joji (Kinoe tatsu) [1364], Noritada was born in the fifteenth year of Oei (Tsuchinoe ne) [1408], Yoshitada was born in the eighth year of Eikyo (Hinoe tatsu) [1436].  Was it in the time of Yasunori that the Imagawa house lost its rights to this province?  The facts of the matter are unclear.  Eighty-five years later, Yoshitada entered Totomi and occupied the Fukoin estates of Kawawa and Kakegawa.  The estates had been transferred to him, and he possessed documents for both in proof.

At that time, Omi Shinzaemonnojo, a vassal of Lord Kira, administered those estates and was residing on them.  He built a strong castle and together with Kano Kunainosho, then vice constable of Totomi, he opposed Imagawa entry.  Thereupon Yoshitada set out in person to deal with them.  From the eighth through the eleventh month he kept the Kano castle in Totomi provincial capital under attack, and on the twenthieth of the eleventh month Kano took his own life.

This Kunainosho was of the same family as Kano Suke of Izu.  He lent support to Kano Kagnokami, a district constable in Totomi Province and a subordinate of the Martial Defender, as they bore the same name.  But Kunainosho later caused Kaganokami’s son Jiro to be killed, took over the succession, and ran the province according to his whim.  His defeat was brought about by the Asahina

Then Kano Suke of Abe rose in rebellion against the Imagawa.  The mountains in that region run into Kai province, and it was difficult to attack him.  Three years passed.  Kuninosho led several thousand Totomi troops into those mountains to aid Kano Suke.  The Asahina, using guides, went in and destroyed all of them.  Peace was immediately restored.  This was an act of uncommon merit on the part of the Asahina.

The recent Imagawa entry into Totomi began when Shogyun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent an order by Isenokami during the Onin era instructing Yoshitada to reinforce allied troops, including those of Hosokawa Sanukinokami, who was then at war with with Tojo Ominokami Kuniuji, vice constable of Mikawa.8  In return for that meritorious service, Yoshitada was to be granted rights to the province.  That was the reason for the eradication of Kunainosho and the Omi.  Then he sent two forces, about one hundred thousand troops, to Hikuma Castle near the border of Mikawa, and returned to his home province in the twelfth month.  The next year freebooters rose up, and Horikoshi Mutsunokami was unexpectedly struck down along with some of his men at Sayo no nakayamaguchi.  Our allies nevertheless met with good fortune in various other battles.  But the remainder of the defeated forces would not desist, and Yoshitada was again forced to mobilize.  His generals were not in accord, however, and they rejoiced when an ally met misfortune.  In the end they fell to killing one another.  And in three years Yabe Saemonnojo, Higonokami Yasumori, and Okabe Saemonnojo all died of illness.  There was something unnatural at work.  After meeting with setbacks on several battles, Yoshitada returned home.9

Chapter 7

It was over twenty years after Yoshitada’s untimely death that Ujichika entered Totomi Province.  Though it was peaceful there, insurgents in surrounding provinces rose continually.  Tahara Danjonochu and Suwa Shinanonokami incited mercenary bands and captured a castle belonging to forces allied with the Imagawa on Funakata Mountain at the border of Mikawa.  The lord of the castle, Tame Matazaburo, was killed, and the enemy took residence.  Asahina Yasumochi wasted no time in crossing Lake Hamana.10  He recovered the castle, killing or capturing many, the dispatched over half of his forces to the interior and returned to his castle at Kakegawa.  Yasumochi served for ten years as advisor to Yasuyoshi then relinquished his position and asked leave to go down to Suruga, where he lives quietly near the provincial capital.  But even so, one hears he cannot avoid the call of duty.


1. These events occurred in 1501.

2. Yoshitada was killed in a skirmish in 1476 at Shiokaizaka.

3. In 1504 Ogigayatsu Uesugi Tomoyoshi (d.1518) was in conflict with Yamanouchi Uesugi Akisada (d.1510) and had gradually been pushed back to his castle at Kawagoe.  To save him, Ujichika and Hojo Soun mobilized.  Akisada learned of this and abandoned his attack on Kawagoe Castle to face them.  The battle Socho describes took place in the ninth month of 1504 at Tachikawa in Musashi Province, but it resulted in no clear victory.  Another source stated that 1,800 died in the conflict.

4. Asahina Sakoyonosuke Yasumochi was the younger brother of Yasuhiro, and he served as regent for his nephew Yasuyoshi for about a decade.

5. These events took place around 1511-2.

6. Ii Jiro was a local warrior from Totomi.  Mitake Mountain is in Miake, Inascho, Shizuoka Prefecture, northeast of Iinoya.  “Martial Defender” is the stylized name for the hereditary office of the Shiba constable, here Yoshitatsu.  Ujichika set out for Hamamatsu and made camp at Ryogonji in the Kasai Estate.  His forces met those of Shiba Yoshitatsu and Ii Jiro, based at Mitake Castle, and those of Okochi Bitchunokami Sadatsuna, based at Hikuma Castle, and drove them from the Hamamatsu area.  Asahina Yasumochi led the vanguard.  Other sources date the fall of Mitake Castle to 1513.

7.  The account goes back in time here to the beginning of the fifteenth century.  In 1400 Imagawa Yasunori was made constable of Totomi in addition to Suruga.  In 1405 the office of Totomi constable was transferred to Shiba Yoshinori, who held it until 1407.  Thereafter it may have been that Shiba Yoshinori and Imagawa Yasunori shared constabulary duties in Totomi until the death of the later in 1409, but the facts are unclear, as Socho suggests in the following sentence.  Shiba Yoshinori and his descendants held the office thereafter until 1508.  The Imagawa may, however, have retained jurisdiction over what is now the Kito District.

8. These events are dated to 1467-68.

9. Socho may be implying that a curse was at work.  Yoshitada defeated the Yokochi and Katsumata, but as pointed out earlier, he was killed in a skirmish with the surviving partisans around 1476.

10. Due to an earthquake in 1498, Lake Hamana, which had been landlocked, was opened to the ocean.

This text is from The Journal of Socho, translated by H. Mack Horton (Stamford University Press, 2002).  We thank Stamford University Press for their permission to republish this section.

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