Mori Clan AAR: Summer 1555 – Summer 1558
With Shikoku pacified, Motonari turned his attention to fulfilling the Shogun’s wishes and weakening the Takeda. Takamoto reamined in Awa only long enough to repair battle-damage to the castle and recruit a small garrison to remind the population of their duty to the Daimyo.
As soon as he was ready, Takamoto’s army boarded ships and sailed east.
As he had advanced in years, Motonari had evidently discovered that his wife had also advanced in years, for his womanising ways had now reached the point that his frequent distractions now slowed his army on the march.
Motonari suspected that, following the fall of the Shoni, the Shimazu would soon cross into Honshu and destroy the Ouchi. He would have preferred to declare war in order to use his navy to block their crossing into Honshu, but he knew that the Shimazu navy was second only to his own and had no wish to see his trade disrupted.
By the winter of 1555, Motonari’s prediction was realised as a Shimazu army crossed into Honshu and, in spring, captured Suo. The Ouchi could offer no defence, having spent their men assisting in the defence of Shoni lands.
It was also in the spring of 1556 that Takamoto landed his army in Izu, declaring war on the Takeda. The Takeda’s ally, the Uesugi clan. advised that they intended to come to their ally’s aid. The were not particularly enthusiastic combatants, however, and agreed to settle the matter in exchange for the paltry sum of 2000 koku and one of Motonari’s grandsons as a hostage.
The Takeda were evidently appalled by Uesugi’s fickleness, and the alliance broke down very swiftly.
Arriving at the castle in summer, Takamoto was able to quickly subdue the province, significantly enhancing the Mori clan’s tax base.
Having no interest in further expansion in central Honshu, Motonari instructed his son to seek peace with the Takeda. Their pride having been sorely bruised by an unprovoked attack, they took some convincing, but they had other battles to fight, and so in exchange for a hefty payment of 6000 koku and holding another of Motonari’s grandsons hostage, they agreed to accept the loss of Izu and focus on their other foes.
This was fortunate, for it was at this time that the Shimazu, having destoyed the Ouchi, turned their attention on the Mori. The first conflict of the war was small naval battle initiated by the Mori, who sought to eliminate the threat to their trading network as swiftly as possible.
The Mori had both numbers and skill on their side, and several Shimazu vessels were captured. Maintaining the initiative, Motonari gathered a force and marched into Nagato. The castle was lightly defended, but a more substantial force was stationed only a few miles from the walls. Motonari skill at organising his forces by night allowed him to storm the castle and prevent its reinforcement. Concerned that the Shimazu forces left outside the castle, might march on Iwami, now the wealthiest province in Japan, Motonari ordered in troops from Aki. Nothing of the sort was on the minds of the Shimazu, however, who, with a relatively small force, attempted to take back the castle at their first opportunity.
Motonari had not yet had time to repair the castle gates, which simplified the attackers’ task, and the Shimazu brought with them much stronger melee troops, and the daimyo, Shimazu Takahisa, was a soldier of some considerable genius.
Nevertheless, the castle’s defences were formidable, and the Shimazu men wasted their lives trying to break them. It was here that Takahisa fought his final battle, trapped inside the walls and surrounded by his enemy.
Motonari directed his largest fleet to block crossings between Honshu and Kyushu, and proceeded to capture Suo.
By winter1557, Motonari was in a position to destroy the last of the Shimazu armies in Honshu, while his fleets continued to pressure the Shimazu navy in an attempt to prevent them from leaving port and threatening Mori trade.
While he rebuilt his forces and awaited reinforcements, Motonari had his ninja attempt to assassinate the Shimazu generals waiting on the other side of the straights. While successful only once, this still had the effect of demoralising the foe and removing a powerful unit of bodyguard cavalry from the coming battle.