Some of you may be familiar with the latest KOEI-Tecmo game to come out with a beta demo…Nioh. Now, Nioh has been in development hell for literally a decade, so I’m excited to see how it turns out once it gets a full release. It was originally supposed to be based on an unfinished script by Kurosawa Akira, and finished by his son Hisao – being made as a tie-in to a movie version that Hisao was going to direct.
Things have changed a bit since then, judging from what I saw in the demo, now you will play as William Adams. Adams is the guy that the main character in James Clavell’s novel, Shogun – John Blackthorne – is based off of.
Now an acquaintance online had put up a blog post remarking on how difficult of a fight the final boss in the demo was. And the boss in question was named Tachibana Muneshige; a lightning elemental boss. So I figured we could talk about the man behind the name from Nioh…Tachibana Muneshige.
Tachibana Muneshige (1567-1642)
Muneshige was actually born a son of Takahashi Shoun, also known as Takahashi Shigetane. Shoun was one of the chief retainers of the Otomo clan and ruled Iwaya castle. In the 1570s there was a period of serious warfare between the Otomo and the other clans of Kyushu: Shimazu, Akizuki, and the Ryuzoji…whom we’ve spoken of before.
This guy, remember?
Shoun was known for his usage of guerrilla tactics to beat enemies when the odds were stacked against him. One of his favorite tactics was to engage an opponent who was more numerous, then feign retreat and withdraw to a position to set up an ambush. When the ‘victorious’ enemy would come into range in pursuit formation – that is to say lacking a disciplined formation – Shoun would launch a surprise attack and ambush them.
The Takahashi and Tachibana clans worked in unison to protect Chikuzen province from a three-sided invasion. The lords of both clans were known for their resolve, bravery, and tactical genius and were able to hold off all three invading clans throughout the years.
Now here’s an interesting story about Muneshige, getting back on topic. I don’t know how true it is and to be honest, it probably isn’t; but it’s a funny story nonetheless.
Apparently when Muneshige was a child, supposedly around 1575, Shoun and the Tachibana lord, Dosetsu, were watching some sort of show. I’m not real sure what kind of show he was at, but it turned into a brawl apparently and one of the performers was killed in the fight. The story goes that the audience panicked and made a break for the exits, but Muneshige calmly stood there and watched the brawl go on. It wasn’t until he was physically dragged away from the debacle did he leave – and even then he is said to have teased the others for panicking.
Muneshige was known to be smart and brave, a good warrior and leader, and also a very well-educated mane: Skilled in art, poetry, and the tea ceremony. Because of this, Dosetsu is said to have asked to adopt Muneshige as a son since he had none of his own. At least none that survived.
Now Dosetsu’s daughter, Ginchiyo, was a bit of a tomboy and is said to have been a skilled warrior in her own right. Doetsu was never one to shy away from pushing boundaries, so he declared his daughter to be his heir. Many of the Tachibana higher retainers didn’t like the idea of a woman running the show, though; but for the short-game Dosetsu’s daughter was his heir.
Let us know in the comments if you’d like a video dedicated to Ginchiyo in the future.
Finally a deal a was struck: Muneshige would marry Dosetsu’s daughter, be adopted into the Tachibana clan, and he and Ginchiyo would rule the clan together. Shoun is said to have refused the deal for many years, since Muneshige was his eldest son and was actually slated to be his own heir. Some sources even suggest that the long friendship between Dosetsu and Shoun was even strained by Dosetsu’s insistence on adopting the boy; at this point still called Takahashi Munetora.
Muneshige was finally adopted into Dosetsu’s family as Dosetsu’s son and became known as Tachibana Muneshige. Although things didn’t go quite as planned as the marriage between Muneshige and Ginchiyo didn’t occur as early as anticipated…and I’ll get back to that later. Muneshige is said to have participated in his first battle under Dosetsu’s command in 1581 at Honami against the Akizuki clan.
Muneshige is said to have fired an arrow, striking the Akizuki samurai Horie Bizen in the arm. As one might expect, Horie wasn’t really amused by this. He plucked the arrow from his arm and charged at Muneshige – who was only fourteen years old, mind you – and intended to engage the young man in close combat.
For those who have played Nioh, I’ll bet you’d agree with Horie.
Horie attacked the youth and was greatly surprised when Muneshige overpowered him at first. They grappled for a short time before a fellow Otomo samurai gave aid to Muneshige, breaking the stalemate, and killed Horie.
His next major campaign occurred when the Tachibana and Takahashi clans were tasked by Otomo Sorin with recapturing land in Chikugo province that had been lost to the Akizuki. Muneshige was fighting under the Tachibana banner, but fighting alongside his biological father’s army as well.
Muneshige was left behind to defend Tachibana castle while Dosetsu and Shoun pursued the Akizuki. During this time Akizuki Tanezane prepared to besiege Muneshige’s castle sitting high atop Mt. Tachibana. Muneshige sallied forth from the castle in the night and set the Akizuki army on fire, raiding their camp in the night. Tanezane was forced to withdraw and give up on his siege.
When the combined Tachibana-Takahashi army returned a banquet was held to honor Muneshige’s accomplishments. It is said that during this banquet Muneshige committed a political gaffe by referring to Shoun as his father – which was technically true, since Shoun was his biological father.
Shoun, ever the party-pooper, openly rebuked his biological son and totally disowned him, stating that Muneshige was and always has been a Tachibana. One theory is that Shoun was still sore about losing his highly talented eldest son, and heir, to Dosetsu and was now seeing just how much he had lost. In his rage he berated his son in front of everyone else at the party. You know, the party being held in Muneshige’s honor?
Now we get to the year 1585, about a year after Shoun put the smack-down on his no-longer-son, and Muneshige’s adopted father dies of illness while on campaign. Now Ginchiyo was official leader of the Tachibana clan. Some records suggest that Ginchiyo and Muneshige were married as soon as Muneshige was adopted into the Tachibana; others, however, suggest that it was after Dosetsu’s death that the marriage was to occur.
Popular legends suggest that Ginchiyo refused to marry Muneshige for various reasons. My favorite, unlikely as it is to be true, is that Ginchiyo challenged Muneshige to a duel – if he won she would marry him. They met in the courtyard of the clan’s capital, Yanagawa castle, and they fought each other with Ginchiyo winning the duel, so she banished Muneshige to their other castle at Tachibanayama. It’s a wonderful story and would make a great scene in a movie…but highly unlikely to be even remotely true.
Some other stories are that Ginchiyo didn’t trust Muneshige’s loyalty to the Tachibana – having been a Takahashi, that she didn’t respect his merits or abilities, or that she just simply didn’t like him.
Either way they eventually were married, although there seems to be no good will between the two of them.
Perhaps their marriage was not quite as romantic as modern media makes it appear?
Some stories suggest that very shortly after their marriage, Muneshige usurped Ginchiyo’s authority and divorced her…stealing control of the Tachibana clan and exiling her to a convent south of Yanagawa castle. Another suggests that Muneshige and Ginchiyo couldn’t stand to be in the same room so they lived in different castles during their time as husband and wife.
These could be true, or it could simply be an anachronistic explanation for why Ginchiyo never bore the couple any children. Some sources suggest that Muneshige may also have been infertile or just unlucky; claiming that after divorcing Ginchiyo and stealing rulership of the clan – he remarried and still didn’t get any kids out of the deal.
Either way, by 1586 the Otomo clan was weakened by the deaths of several prominent generals…not the least of which included Tachibana Dosetsu. The Ryuzoji had been defeated and the two major factions of the island of Kyushu were the Shimazu and the Otomo…the former of which were gaining strength quickly. The Shimazu invaded the Otomo lands and quickly besieged Iwaya castle.
Iwaya castle? That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Hmm…oh right, that’s Takahashi Shoun’s castle. The Shimazu army number between twenty and fifty thousand men…Shoun has an equally sizable force of…well okay he’s only got about 700 troops to his name right now.
Shoun decides to barricade his castle and try to hold out against the Shimazu forces. And surprisingly enough…this works. For about three weeks Shoun holds off the Shimazu forces. Part of this was said to be caused by the Shimazu’s respect for Shoun’s loyalty and reputation. But by after a week or so of continually pushing Shoun to either surrender or abandon the castle, the Shimazu had begun trying to capture the fortification by force.
Shoun was no pushover and some accounts state that the moat of the castle ran red with Shimazu blood by the third week and that the courtyard was so blood-covered that it couldn’t dry or soak into the soil before the next wave of fighting would occur.
Needless to say, the whole thing was basically just a waiting game. It seems apparent that Shoun knew no reinforcements were coming and it is likely that he was acting as interference while his lord went to Osaka and begged for Toyotomi Hideyoshi to come rescue the Otomo.
Hideyoshi did just that, by sending a messenger to broker peace. The Shimazu refused. And after roughly twenty-seven days of besieging Iwaya castle the Shimazu commanders, Shimazu Tadanaga and Ijuin Tadamune decided to put the full brunt of their overwhelming army against the castle.
The records state the army numbered fifty thousand and that Ijuin led twenty-thousand into the castle to kill whatever still remained of Shoun’s seven-hundred some-odd men. And they did just that.
Now both of Muneshige’s fathers are dead, but there’s an even bigger issue: Tachibana castle, his home, is the next castle in the Shimazu path. Shoun bought the Otomo time…but not enough for Toyotomi to get his army all the way to Kyushu to aid his new allies – the Otomo.
The Shimazu army still numbered in the tens of thousands, and now led by the indomitable Shimazu Yoshihisa, himself surrounded Tachibanayama. In a situation like this his two fathers, Tachibana Dosetsu and Takahashi Shoun, would have engaged in a vicious campaign of guerrilla warfare. And Muneshige was a good student. Muneshige gave the Shimazu no rest and constantly engaged in raiding them, night attacks, surprise attacks…all types of desperate defensive strategies.
One report claims that Muneshige personally led a night raid into the Shimazu camp and took several dozen heads before fleeing back into the night and, ultimately, back into Tachibana castle. I imagine those heads were probably either flung over the walls back at their owners’ comrades or hung from the walls.
And then it happened…news reached Kyushu that Toyotomi’s armies were soon to arrive. The Shimazu were bloodied and fatigued, they only had two options: Withdraw from Tachibanayama and reassemble themselves, or push forward and take the castle at all costs.
My understanding from the difference of tone in the various accounts suggests that…the Shimazu adopted the first strategy and Muneshige may have thought they were going to adopt the second. Because the Shimazu broke camp and withdrew from the siege…but about the same time Muneshige declared the fort a lost cause and sallied forth in a desperate attempt to engage the Shimazu.
What he found was…a large Shimazu army that wasn’t expecting a counterattack of that magnitude. Muneshige actually won the battle, chasing the Shimazu from his home.
No good pictures for the battle, so here’s a random re-enactor in Muneshige’s armor.
I mean…it was a moot point, some of the records suggest that Muneshige barreled his way through and retook Iwaya and other lost territory. More believable accounts suggest that after bloodying the Shimazu, Muneshige withdrew to his other castle at Yanagawa and the Shimazu managed to take Tachibanayama.
Either way, that’s also a moot point, because Muneshige joined Toyotomi’s vassals and allies in the battles against the Shimazu that ultimately resulted in the Shimazu’s defeat and surrender in the year 1587.
For his efforts Muneshige was officially awarded the territory around Yanagawa castle with an income well over 100,000 koku, some records call it 120 thousand, others 130 thousand…either way he had a pretty sizable bit of territory for himself. Of course, Tachibanayama was awarded to the Kobayakawa family after the campaign, but it doesn’t appear to have caused any ill will between the two families. Something about getting a raise of probably a hundred times your current income tends to make you forget little things the house you were named after was given someone else.
Here’s a bit of humor for you: Otomo Sorin, ostensibly Muneshige’s liege lord, praised Muneshige as a peerless warrior when speaking to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Muneshige, not one to shy away from ambition, was made an independent daimyo outside of the Otomo’s own 370 thousand koku authority in Bungo and Buzen.
Muneshige’s next operation was in aiding the lord of nearby Higo, Sassa Narimasa, in putting down a rebellion. Narimasa, many argue, had been set up for failure by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to give the latter an excuse to disinherit and execute him. In the end it worked, Narimasa committed suicide as did his sons once the rebellion was put down.
Muneshige is said to have become friends with Kobayakawa Hidekane during this time and Muneshige would go on to serve under Hidekane’s adoptive father, Kobayakawa Takakage during his time in the First Korean Invasion.
Aaah, look…he’s all grown up now!
During said invasion Muneshige was leading somewhat of a rearguard operation against the Chinese army by trying to barricade the roads in Muju county while Takakage repositioned his troops in Hanseong. Muneshige’s own troops were also on the move and unprepared for the sudden arrival of the Chinese army and he was forced to withdraw from his waylaying operations.
Later in the war Muneshige’s unit was acting in conjunction with Konishi Yukinaga’s forces after the capture of Pyongyang and Muneshige acted in the Japanese vanguard during the battle of Byeokje. Muneshige, along with his younger brother who had taken over as head of the Takahashi clan after Shoun’s death, led a valiant surprise attack against the Chinese army, pushing it back. Kobayakawa Takakage came to assist them and they dealt a defeat to the powerful Chinese army.
Of course, we know that in the end the Chinese and Korean armies were victorious…mostly thanks to the Korean navy’s withering operations. When the Japanese returned to Korea a few years later Muneshgie operated in mainly a defensive capability – guarding various Korean castles and fortifications after they had been captured. Muneshige’s only real major engagement was in the end of the war when he acted alongside the Shimazu, his old enemies, to help the forces of Konishi Yukinaga to escape the pursuing Chinese-Korean allied army.
Now we get to the real fun part of Muneshige’s life: The Sekigahara campaign. Muneshige disliked Ishida Mitsunari, the de facto leader of the Western Army, i.e. the Toyotomi loyalist forces. Tokugawa Ieyasu is said to have offered Muneshige large amounts of rewards upon Tokugawa’s victory. Muneshige flatly refused the rewards and joined the Western Army. He took a force of a few thousand men to participate in the siege of Otsu castle. He utilized a gunnery formation that was devised by Tachibana Dosetsu against the forces of Kyogoku Takatsugu and ultimately Otsu fell to the western army.
However before they could move on to participate in the rest of the war…Tokugawa beat their allies at Sekigahara. Muneshige and his cohorts immediately abandoned Otsu and started the desperate trek back to their home provinces. Muneshige moved to Osaka castle and declared his intention to help defend the mighty castle, however it is said that Mori Terumoto – the actual commander, in title, of the Western Army – convinced him that he’d be better off defending his own home, since Tokugawa was on his way and would most likely be attacking Osaka in force soon.
An interesting story I read, which may well be more folklore, is that on the docks at Osaka’s port Muneshige came upon Shimazu Yoshihiro, the man who commanded the overall operation that resulted in Takahashi Shoun’s death. Yoshihiro either offered to let Muneshige take his head or it was suggested that Muneshige could take Yoshihiro’s head by force. Muneshige, after all, had troops who were fresher and with higher morale than Yoshihiro’s. The story goes that either Yoshihiro or someone nearby stated told Muneshige, “This is the only chance you’ll get to avenge your real father.”
Muneshige is said to have not only refused to kill Yoshihiro, stating that killing a defeated warrior is not an honorable action.
Eh? Eh? Killing me wouldn’t be honorable, right?
In the end Muneshige and Yoshihiro actually worked together to flee Osaka and get back to their home territories in Kyushu. It wasn’t long, however, before an army of 40,000 men were knocking on Yanagawa castle’s doorstep. Muneshige was up against the likes of Kato Kiyomasa, Nabeshima Naoshige, and Kuroda Josui and to top things off, the highest numbers I’ve seen for Muneshige’s forces was 32,000; so he was outnumbered as well.
But this is the kind of thing Muneshige excelled at. He didn’t just hole up in his castle and await defeat like so many others. No! He sallied forth and engaged in his usual brand of guerrilla fighting and managed a pretty respectable defense of his lands.
Muneshige, however, was low on supplies and each engagement against the likes of Kato, Kuroda, and Nabeshima ended with him taking irreplaceable casualties. Muneshige had lost several prominent Tachibana commanders and high numbers of troops. After one final ambush he figured he had enough space between himself and the opposing forces to return to Yanagawa and try to hold out against a siege.
Unfortunately for Muneshige, the Tokugawa allies were hot on his trail. Until they came upon a Buddhist temple south of Yanagawa. They were surprised to find the nuns of the convent had apparently donned armor and marched out to act as Muneshige’s rear guard. Led by a young nun named Tachibana Ginchiyo.
Muneshige either thanks Ginchiyio for her help in guarding his retreat.
Muneshige had been wounded in the fighting and had to be carried to his horse. In the end cooler head prevailed, eventually, and Kuroda and Kato who had fought alongside Muneshige in the Korean invasions, convinced him to surrender.
Interestingly enough, apparently Shimazu Yoshihiro had sent troops to reinforce Muneshige, but they arrived three days after he surrendered and simply went back home.
Muneshige had been a thorn in Tokugawa’s side during Sekigahara and had openly refused to join Tokugawa’s side. He was labeled a rebel and stripped of his lands and titles. Now a powerless ronin he received offers of employment from the likes of Maeda Toshiie’s son, Toshinaga – you may remember he offered a similar deal to Takayama Ukon, and Kato Kiyomasa. It is said that Kato himself petitioned Tokugawa to reinstate Muneshige as a daimyo. Three years later Tokugawa finally relented and gave Muneshige a small fief in the far north – hard to find a place further away from his ancestral homelands.
Muneshige was eventually forced to take part in the Siege of Osaka on Tokugawa’s side, fighting against his old allies on the frontlines. He served in Tokugawa Hidetada’s division and fought against Mori Katsunaga.
For his efforts and loyalty to the Tokugawa cause, in the end, he was eventually restored to his family’s ancestral lands at Yanagawa, although the domain had been reduced from ~130 thousand koku to a mere 100 thousand koku.
Muneshige was one of the men charged with educating Tokugawa Hidetada’s son, Iemitsu. His last hoorah came in 1637 when he participated, as a Kyushu daimyo, in the pacification of the Shimabara rebellion.
Muneshige is important enough to get front cover treatment with the likes of Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura on this game.
His brother had abandoned the Takahashi name after being defeated during the Sekigahara campaign and had become a Tachibana as well. As I may have mentioned earlier Muneshige didn’t have any children of his own, so he adopted his younger brother’s son as his heir and retired after Shimabara. He died in 1643 at the age of 76 years old. He was a man adept at both war and art. He worked his way up from a minor retainer to one of the most powerful men in the country. A true example of what a samurai was supposed to be.