One of the most debated and history changing events in the Sengoku Period was Mitsuhide Akechi’s betrayal of his lord, Nobunaga Oda. Although the motivations of Mitsuhide remain a mystery, there were many incidents between he and Nobunaga that likely led to the betrayal. Nobunaga was abusive towards his retainers, both verbally and, at times, physically. More often than not, Nobunaga would single out Mitsuhide and he would take the brunt of Nobunaga’s frustrations, being called names and kicked while kneeling. Such abuse would no doubt take its toll on an individual.
What is thought to have been the main motivation for his betrayal was the death of Mitsuhide’s mother. Nobunaga had captured a castle from Hideharu Hotano, whom Mitsuhide had promised peaceful terms for surrender. However, Nobunaga overturned those terms and had Hideharu executed. The Hotano retainers blamed Mitsuhide and executed his mother in retaliation. This no doubt drove a wedge between Nobunaga and Mitsuhide, as the incident was said to have been made worse by public insults Nobunaga hurled towards Mitsuhide, something that even drew the attention of foreigners.
Though many would feel that these incidents justified Mitsuhide’s betrayal, his role as samurai and retainer to the Oda demanded loyalty above all else. As Daimyo, Nobunaga had the right to be as abusive towards his retainers as he wanted. He could even have them all executed on a whim and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. Even so, mistreating ones retainers can only invite disaster, as Nobunaga no doubt learned on the day Honnoji burned down all around him. One could argue that if Nobunaga had treated Mitsuhide a little better, he may have never been betrayed, unified the land and become Shogun. Perhaps Nobunaga’s life, and the life of so many others, will serve as a reminder that just because one can, it does not mean one should.
- Martin AKA SorrowfulKain
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