Oda Nobutaka (15581583) was the third son of the great Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga and a concubine from a low-ranking family named Sakashi. When his father and older brother were assassinated by Akechi Mitsuhide at Honnōji temple in 1582, the 24-year-old Nobutaka was away leading an invasion of Shikoku and thus survived to become the de facto head of the Oda house.

Although Nobutaka raced back to Kyoto and fought alongside another of his father's generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, at the Battle of Yamazaki at which Mitsuhide was killed and Nobunaga avenged, it soon became clear that Hideyoshi was going to seize power for himself rather than yield it to Nobutaka. Accordingly, Nobutaka allied himself with the anti-Hideyoshi alliance led by Shibata Katsuie. Nobutaka presently found himself betrayed and besieged at his Gifu Castle headquarters by his mercurial brother Oda Nobukatsu. Nobutaka was initially determined to hold out as long as necessary, but when news reached him that Katsuie had been crushed by Hideyoshi at the Battle of Shizugatake, he realized that no relief would be forthcoming and surrendered to his brother.

Thereafter, Hideyoshi placed Nobutaka under house arrest in the Daimidoji temple at Noma in Owari province, the same general location where the warlord Minamoto Yoshitomo had been assassinated by some retainers at the end of the Heian period, at the behest of Yoshitomo's rival Taira Kiyomori. However years later Kiyomori received his comeuppance when Yoshitomo's sons grew up to destroy his entire house.

After it was made clear to Nobutaka that he would be executed if he didn't take matters into his own hands, he committed suicide in June of 1583, at the tender age of 25.

Since Hideyoshi had been a lifelong retainer of the Oda, of such low status that he began his career as Nobunaga's sandal bearer and only rose up through the ranks thanks to Nobunaga's patronage and support, Nobutaka was enraged at Hideyoshi's betrayal of the Oda clan, and left behind the following poem when he died:


mukashi yori
shū o utsu mi no
Noma nareba
mukui o mateya
Hashiba Chikuzen

If it must be Noma
where men killed their lord
in ancient days,
await your own comeuppance!
Toyotomi Hideyoshi

*Hashiba Chikuzen was another name for Hideyoshi.

Original translation by yours truly.

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