Mori Clan AAR: Summer 1550 – Summer 1552
Although Motonari did not want to sully his own honour by embarking upon a war against a clan with whom he had long enjoyed a positive trading relationship, he was nevertheless hopeful that he might be able to acquire the two provinces currently controlled by the Ouchi. To this end, he took the bulk of his army out of Hamada castle in Iwami, and had them hide in forests near the road. He hoped that the traders would inform the Ouchi of the minimal defences in Hamada castle, and that the Ouchi would seize the opportunity to attack.
Signs that conflict in central Honshu were leading to the consolidation of power by certain, unknown Daimyo were further heightened by news that the Hojo clan had been destroyed.
The Mori invested further funds to ensure that all farmland in their domain was as productive as possible by utilising the latest terraced farming techniques, while also expanding their military power with the acquisition of their first units of katana cavalry and samurai infantry.
In the Autumn of 1550, contact was made with the Oda clan for the first time, and upon learning that they controlled fewer territories than the Mori, it became clear that it was not the Oda who had been so energetically extinguishing great dynasties in central Japan. The construction of a medium bune was the first stage of Motonari’s preparation for his second choice of war – an attack on Shikoku. The steadfast refusal of the Ouchi to attack made this option increasingly likely.
The steady to and fro of trade ships gave the Mori clan good intelligence on events in Kyushu, where the Shimazu clan had been making war on the Shoni for some years. The war appeared to have swung decisively in the Shimazu’s favour, with the Shoni being reduced to a couple of provinces in northern Kyushu.
In winter, more units of katana cavalry and samurai were recruited and a large army under Takamoto was sent to board a ships bound for Shikoku, as preparations for an invasion continued.
The economy in Iwami, now the richest province in the Mori demesne was further bolstered by the construction of a rice exchange, and, in the spring a Namban trade port. Anticipating the influx of Christian missionaries that this would bring, Motonari had also expanded the castle to allow for the building of a monastery, to remind the population of the loyalty they owed to the religion of their ancestors.
The coming of the spring 1551 also saw Motonari giving up on his hope that the Ouchi could be tricked into attacking him. Takamoto’s army boarded the waiting ships, while Motonari abandoned the camp from which he had anticipated ambushing the treacherous Ouchi and ostentatiously reinforced the garrison in Hamada. Now that the bulk of the Mori army were being sent across the sea, he had no desire for a conflict with his neighbours.
Takamoto’s men landed in Iyo in late spring, and immediately marched on the castle, sending a messenger ahead to advise the Kono that the Mori clan now considered itself at war with them.
The Kono were already at war with the Chosokabe, who had evidently already broken one army against the walls of the Kono’s well-defended keep. This army made one last futile attempt to storm the castle as the Mori approached, and were soundly defeated. Takamoto’s men reached the castle in summer, and constructed siege works. The defending army was too formidable to risk storming the walls. Its provisions would also see the siege last into the winter thereby causing starvation among Takamoto’s men, unless the Kono did the honourable thing and marched out to fight the Mori in the field.
Unfortunately, as well as having a large, well-led army defending their castle, the Kono also had a moderately powerful fleet patrolling their coast. This attacked the Mori’s medium bune, which, despite a valiant fight, was unable to win out against superior numbers.
Realising that eventually his income would face a serious threat from raiders, Motonari knew that his navy must live up to the Mori clan’s reputation. As such, he ordered the construction of a military port in Aki, which would allow the construction of larger vessels, and allow multiple vessels to be constructed simultaneously.
Some preliminary negotiations with the Chosokabe regarding the possibility of a future trading agreement, led to the discovery that the daimyo was blessed with a marriageable daughter, and he readily agreed to wed her to Motonari’s second son.
As autumn turned to winter, the Kono were still resolutely defending their castle walls. Although concerned at the consequences for his men should they be stuck outside castle walls at the height of winter, Takamoto suspected that they would fare worse attempting to scale those same walls.
He was fortunate, however, that before the winter could do its worst, the Kono marched out from the castle to meet him in the field.
Takamoto took what high ground he could and waited.
His defence was solid, and his men were brave, but the Kono general was revered almost as a god by his men, who stood their ground against fearsome punishment.Eventually, however, the Mori forces broke the left flank of the Kono, and slowly but surely were able to work down their line. Victory did not come easily, but in the end, it was complete. No Kono were left to defend their stronghold, and Takamoto’s men found shelter for the winter.
In the spring, the Takamoto set to work rebuilding damaged structures, although he decided to tear down the stables and instead build a market. Troops from Aki were more reliable, and one could never have too much money. As the men recuperated, a worrying intelligence report was received to the effect that the Chosokabe intended to attack.
This was viewed with scepticism, but additional troops were sent from Aki on newly-constructed warships. Just in case.
In summer, doubts regarding the veracity of the report were put to rest when the Chosokabe declared war. Takamoto led the bulk of his army into a forest near the only road between the two provinces, intending to ambush any invading army.
If none had arrived by the following spring, Takamoto would settle the dispute himself.