Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan (2021) s01e01 Episode Script

The Rise of Nobunaga

1 [warriors clamoring.]
[screams in agony.]
[screams in agony.]
[opening theme plays.]
Japan is in chaos.
After centuries of rule, the central government has lost control and the nation has been plunged into a brutal civil war.
Anarchy reigns as heavily armed warlords called daimyo fight for power and territory.
In the small province of Owari, in an unremarkable clan known as the Oda, one unlikely samurai is about to launch a blood-soaked campaign that will put thousands to the sword and set the course of Japanese history for the next 300 years.
[monk chanting.]
The big event in 1551 for the Oda family was the death of the great Oda Nobuhide.
[monk continues chanting.]
[in Japanese.]
When Nobuhide passed away, the Oda family came apart at once.
You will never lead this clan! [in English.]
Death, a lord's passing, was the ultimate moment of crisis in any domain, in any clan.
[monk continues chanting.]
We tend to think of a clan as a family, but it's not a family the way we understand it.
It has a central core of kin, brothers who may all be vying for a position, but also, it has the housemen, the retainers, the in-laws.
And so, you have factions.
And it's the moment in which the factions test their force.
Another problem for the Oda clan is they were relatively small, and they were surrounded by much larger clans.
So they had to be much more strategically oriented and think much more carefully about how they would survive if they were small fish positioned between whales.
Because the Oda family was in a very dangerous situation, Oda Nobuhide surprised a lot of his family by choosing as his heir his eldest son, Oda Nobunaga who, for various reasons, was not very popular.
There was grave dissension among the brothers and cousins of Nobunaga, and there were rather a lot of them.
They all thought that they would do a better job than young Nobunaga.
[in English.]
 Nobunaga's behavior at his father's funeral added to the contempt that many of his relatives already had for him, because instead of adopting a suitably mournful attitude, he took a handful of incense and threw it onto the altar.
[bowl clatters.]
[in Japanese.]
You fool! - [grunts.]
- [Nobunaga growls.]
Nobunaga was known for his ability to fly into a temper.
He was a very badly behaved, delinquent sort of guy.
And so a lot of people, both within the Oda clan and in those daimyo families that are allied with the Oda clan, they see him as a fool.
Brother, please! [yells out.]
[in English.]
In Japan, ceremony is the most important thing.
And these clan members, they love doing things the old way.
He completely discards tradition.
Nobunaga's behavior caused so much concern to those that he was now destined to lead, that one of them took the most dramatic action possible.
His name was Hirate Masahide, and he was destined to be the new heir's chief councilor.
He was so appalled by Nobunaga's behavior and so shamed by the behavior, that in protest, he committed seppuku.
In other words, he slit his belly open.
It's a form of ritual disembowelment.
There were some cases in which people were said to rip their belly open and pull their guts out.
It was one way of retaining control over one's death.
But it could also be, in some cases, a way to stage a protest.
It could be a way to shock a peer into doing something.
Masahide might have been signaling to other people in the Oda clan, "Look, if you think that Nobunaga is such a fool and uncouth, and you respect me, my suicide should be a sign that perhaps Nobunaga really wasn't the guy that you wanted to support.
" [Darren Ashmore.]
From day one, Nobunaga's life was in jeopardy.
He recognized that he was a man alone in dangerous territory.
Familial territory, at that.
In the Sengoku period, murder in the family was extremely common.
Fathers killed their sons.
Sons killed their fathers.
Brothers killed each other.
And this is all to seize power.
There were suspicions that his wife, Nōhime, was plotting against him because she was the daughter of his deadly enemy, Saitō Dōsan, who was The Viper of Mino.
She was The Viper's Daughter.
They were married as a way of making peace between the two clans, so there were suspicions that she might have been put in place in order to spy on him in order, perhaps, to even kill him if it were necessary.
And this was one of the great dangers of this kind of marriage alliance, that you have in your very bed, the daughter of your worst enemy.
She could have maybe killed him by poison.
[man speaks Japanese.]
If he dies, it is good for us.
He is selfish.
He thinks only of himself.
There were suspicions she was conspiring with his younger brother, Nobuyuki.
Nobuyuki was quite admired in the family, being of a sober disposition in great contrast to Nobunaga.
He was the good son, if you will.
The one who had maintained dignity throughout his father's life.
Fortunately for Nobunaga, one of his most loyal retainers tipped him off that Nobuyuki was planning a coup.
[in Japanese.]
Please forgive me! Older brother You are no brother of mine.
[Ashmore speaking English.]
This displays an aspect of his character which is profoundly brutal.
Rooted in a desire to survive, rooted in a desire to succeed, this was Nobunaga's way of announcing that he would take all or die in the process.
The defeat of this individual marked Nobunaga as a force to be reckoned with.
With the elimination of the threats in his immediate family, Nobunaga turns his attention to the last and largest remaining threat, uh, for his control over Owari Province who is his cousin Nobukata.
[men marching.]
Nobukata controls Northern Owari.
[warriors clamoring.]
He's got 3,000 men at his command.
[screams in pain.]
Nobukata is a fierce opponent.
So, at this point we've got two up-and-coming warriors.
Competition between them was essentially inevitable, as each owned approximately half of Owari Province at this time and wanted to expand.
They were not only competing over the land and the territory, but competing over who was the head of the Oda household.
And to this end, I think Nobunaga was looking for one decisive battle that would either make him or break him.
In order for Oda Nobunaga to fight a war, he needed an army filled with samurai.
Eight hundred years before Nobunaga was active, no one wanted to be called a samurai because it meant "a servant.
" [screams in pain.]
But gradually it acquired the meaning that we now understand of the man who was equivalent to the mounted knights of old Japan.
[in Japanese.]
Eventually "samurai" took on the meaning of "bushi," warrior class.
[blade slices.]
[in English.]
Of course, the samurai's most iconic weapon was the katana, the Japanese sword.
Widely regarded as probably the finest sword ever made in world history, it had a very sharp, resilient blade, which was curved.
It enabled a samurai to deliver a devastating stroke from the scabbard.
And also gave a mounted samurai a huge advantage, because any stroke aimed downwards at an attacking foot soldier would slice into him with all the momentum of the horse going forward.
These are amazing athletic warriors.
They have known nothing but battle for a century.
They are born into it.
These are probably the greatest warriors history has ever known.
[groans in pain.]
Nobunaga still held to ancient traditions of the samurai.
But he realized that warfare in Japan was moving away from the old style.
Instead, warfare was becoming industrial.
You needed a large army.
You can think of Oda Nobunaga as the Alexander the Great of Japan.
He's probably the most innovative military leader of the time because he was incredibly open to all sorts of new ideas.
Until the time of Nobunaga, armies and battles had been fairly small affairs.
As the armies grow larger under the pressure of surviving against your rivals, Nobunaga started trying to recruit more and more commoners.
They were known as ashigaru.
Those were peasants conscripted to fight.
They were foot soldiers.
These are people who have lived under the heel of the samurai for the better part of 400 years.
They were the chattel, they were the slaves of great lords, who spent them as people might spend pocket change.
But there is a very great difference between Nobunaga's ashigaru, compared to the traditional ashigaru, who's little more than a peasant with a stick.
Nobunaga would equip them properly and train them.
He recognized that with a little loyalty, they become so effective and so dangerous.
These troops were worth more than any number of samurai.
They go from a rabble to an army.
[grunts, yells.]
1558, a year after killing his brother, and joined by his new army of roughly 3,000 mostly peasant soldiers, Nobunaga leaves his stronghold in Southern Owari and marches north to engage his rival, Nobukata.
In response, Nobukata calls on his own force of 3,000 battle-hardened samurai to intercept and destroy the invaders.
Nobunaga has little experience with battlefield command and he faces overwhelming odds, but he has one advantage, a gift from the outside world that will forever change the face of Japanese warfare.
In 1543, a Portuguese ship coming from Macau was blown off course in a storm and shipwrecked on the little island of Tanegashima, off the southern coast of Japan.
Presumably, it was trying to reach, uh, the Chinese mainland.
And, as is often the case in Japanese history, something happened by mistake.
Somebody who didn't mean to come to Japan ended up in Japan.
And they have this weapon, the arquebus.
For many daimyo, adopting firearms did not seem to necessarily bring immediate benefits.
They were quite slow to load, they were noisy, they were smelly, and if it rained, then they might not function.
So, there was a lot of hesitation on the part of daimyo to fully adopt the arquebus but Oda Nobunaga is less concerned.
He's from a smaller domain, so he knew that he had to take any advantage he could in order to defeat larger enemies.
So, he was much more willing to introduce the arquebus early on.
He's one of the first to recognize their military potential, and he was able to finance the purchase of large numbers of guns, which is what transformed them from being a part of battlefields to the dominating force.
As Nobukata and Nobunaga moved towards conflict, Nobunaga decided to take the offensive.
He left Kiyosu Castle, and moved his forces towards Iwakura, where Nobukata's forces were.
Nobunaga had approximately 3,000 troops at this time.
And he might have had somewhere around 400 or 500 guns.
Facing him, Nobukata also had approximately 3,000 troops.
They were probably a little bit better equipped.
[in Japanese.]
You must be ready to die.
Go! [in English.]
For both Nobukata and Nobunaga, individually, this is life or death.
While they may not wipe out the other's forces completely, chances are, whoever loses, the subordinates would go to the other side and the loser would be eliminated.
[in Japanese.]
[in English.]
Nobunaga had to fool his enemy into advancing into the killing zone at about 100 meters.
[Nobunaga speaking Japanese.]
Fire! [warriors clamoring.]
[in English.]
Volley fire from rank after rank of musketeers would have withered even the greatest of opponents, armored or not.
But musket reloading times are very long.
And so, the battle did eventually wear down to a melee.
In this battle, you are dealing with a largely peasant force against a largely elite force that looks down upon these people.
Once these tired samurai get into range, they are fighting against men who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Melee combat is more brutal than anyone can imagine.
You're close enough to smell what your opponent had to eat.
- [grunts.]
- [groans.]
You are close enough to see the death light in their eyes as you ram a sword through their guts.
Meanwhile, you have projectiles flying through the air.
[screams in agony.]
There would be the sounds of people screaming, both battle cries and also from being wounded.
[men screaming, groaning.]
It must have been like fighting in hell.
After three hours Nobunaga's men get the upper hand.
They break through Nobukata's forces and rout them.
[men screaming in agony.]
By the end of the battle, the butcher's bill is said to have exceeded 1,200 heads.
This is an incredible casualty rate for such a small battle.
The Iwakura forces under Nobukata retreat back to Iwakura Castle which holds out against a siege for three months, but eventually falls.
Nobukata is killed and Nobunaga is left as the lone standing lord of the Owari Province.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Ukino, Nobunaga had finally put the capstone on his control of Owari.
He was the Lord of the Oda.
Nobunaga, for all his youth, is developing into a very capable tactical commander.
He was no longer "the fool of Owari.
" He had recognized, within his own armies, the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional samurai [grunts.]
the benefits of a peasant soldiery, and the importance of technology.
This was, I think, the turning point in his ambition.
Nobunaga's military might that he had shown in his own conquest of Owari was now going to be unleashed elsewhere.
Nine bloody years after the death of his father, Nobunaga is now the undisputed leader of Owari Province.
But his reign has scarcely begun when a new threat rises from the east.
Imagawa Yoshimoto, one of Japan's most feared daimyo, or warlords, is on the move with a massive army behind him.
His target is Kyoto, the nation's capital and traditional center of military power.
And to get there, he will march straight through Owari.
If he succeeds, Nobunaga's own growing ambitions will be dealt a devastating blow.
There were probably half a dozen, maybe eight, uh, really powerful daimyo who could have made a push for what we consider national unification.
And that means, um, claiming the capital, Kyoto.
The Imagawa were one.
Imagawa Yoshimoto's intentions were to take Kyoto.
To do this, he had to march on the capital.
And to march on the capital, he had to first cross Owari Province.
But Nobunaga wasn't going to allow Imagawa through.
Nobunaga determined to resist Imagawa's advance at his own border.
[in Japanese.]
As a result, they had no other choice but settling it by fighting.
[in English.]
 In a conflict with the Oda, Imagawa Yoshimoto held all the advantages.
Imagawa Yoshimoto was the master of a very large, very wealthy, very powerful domain.
His army is listed in some chronicles as being as large as 45,000 troops.
A more reasonable estimate is 25,000.
But still, vastly superior to what Nobunaga was able to field.
He outnumbered Nobunaga's army by 12 to one.
So, with Imagawa's vastly superior force, he anticipated that he would just be able to move in, eliminate Nobunaga, and continue on his way to Kyoto.
So, he began by attacking a number of Nobunaga's border fortresses and capturing them quite easily.
The samurai he sends to lead this mission is named Tokugawa Ieyasu.
[thrusts blade.]
Ieyasu's young, but he's a brilliant tactician.
He serves Yoshimoto.
He's also extremely ambitious and sees that the future could be much larger for him.
[blade slices.]
Nobunaga's generals understand well that the odds are against them and that the numbers are against them, so they urge him to do what is conventional, which is to hole up in a siege in the best defended position they can and try to ride it out, and maybe luck will turn their way.
Nobunaga has a very different view of this.
He's going to try to pull out something unexpected, unusual, something that'll catch the enemy unprepared and hope that that gamble is enough to change the situation in a way that is favorable to him.
One of Nobunaga's greatest abilities is indeed his organizational capacity.
He was outnumbered, but he has better intelligence.
And this is another wonderful example of Nobunaga's brilliance.
He has scouts all over the province giving him information on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
Enemy movement, their strength, where they're encamped, what they're doing.
He knows it all.
[in Japanese.]
Nobunaga's scout found Yoshimoto's camp on top of a mountain called Mount Okehazama.
[in English.]
 Imagawa Yoshimoto is encamped at Okehazama with 5,000 men.
That means that the rest of his army is elsewhere.
So, all in all, the picture is developing that, yes, Imagawa Yoshimoto has this large force, but it's very fractured.
It's very divided.
And so, Nobunaga deduced that if he can kill the leader of the enemy army, the army should collapse.
Nothing else is keeping it together.
So, he doesn't have to beat them.
All he has to do is kill Imagawa Yoshimoto.
He decides he's going to launch a surprise attack.
In this period of the civil wars, most of the battles are fought conventionally.
They're fought in open spaces.
They'll invest in sieges.
No one's ever tried to pull off a surprise attack like this.
But Nobunaga was willing to attack with small numbers against much larger armies, against great odds, to take the advantage when he saw it.
To attack at night or attack through surprise.
It's a really early sign of just how clever, inventive, willing to think outside the box, Nobunaga is.
By this point, Nobunaga and his army had taken position around Yoshimoto's camp.
Imagawa Yoshimoto was conducting a head inspection ceremony.
And this was an event in which a warlord, a commander, would be presented with the heads of defeated enemies.
They would be groomed, they would be washed, makeup would be applied.
In a strange way, the ceremony is both a gruesome act of vengeance and humiliation over the opponent, whose head is being paraded as just an object, but also, there is a sort of respect inherent in it.
That these heads must be viewed, in a way, with due honor accorded to their former owners.
Imagawa Yoshimoto is in what we would call a noncombat posture.
They are eating, drinking, celebrating the fact that things have gone so well so far.
This is the moment Nobunaga has been waiting for.
But it's risky.
It's a do-or-die moment for Nobunaga.
But he has no options.
He has to kill Yoshimoto.
He has to cut off the head of the serpent.
[warriors clamoring.]
His forces rush forward and just start killing every Imagawa soldier that they can get their hands on.
The Imagawa are confused, have no idea what's going on.
Imagawa Yoshimoto actually thinks that there's a brawl that has broken out because his soldiers had been drinking and gotten into a fight.
It takes them a while to figure out that they're under attack.
Meanwhile, the Oda forces are rushing forward.
Imagawa soldiers are panicking.
They're throwing down their weapons.
They're running for the hills as quickly as they can.
It's just mass chaos.
- [Ledbetter.]
And very quickly - [groans.]
Yoshimoto is left with about 300 troops.
So, now the tables have turned.
[men yelling, screaming.]
This is very desperate fighting.
And one of the Oda soldiers is able to attack Yoshimoto himself.
The enemy general is dead.
The remaining Imagawa forces break down and flee.
All the other Imagawa forces located elsewhere hear what happens and decide to retreat.
Nobunaga has completed an amazing victory.
The Battle of Okehazama effectively lasted for only 15 minutes, and yet it was one of the most decisive battles in Japanese history.
His successful surprise attack really shows that he is a strategic genius that is very rare in this age.
Most of the smaller clans never would have dared take on such a larger opponent.
Uh, but the very behavior that so worried some of Nobunaga's own retainers back at his father's funeral is asserting itself here.
It's showing that he is reckless, he is risky, but he has also very carefully thought out what are the best possibilities for him to survive and conquer.
Quite apart from destroying one of the major power blocks of Central Japan, it thrust Oda Nobunaga into the limelight.
And it also served as the springboard for him to begin what would be the reunification of Japan.
[man groans.]
The aftermath of Okehazama was to give Nobunaga two very important alliances that would sustain him for many years and help him in his future triumphs.
It was at Okehazama that Nobunaga first appreciated the talents of a young samurai in his army - who had joined as an ashigaru.
- [in Japanese.]
- [Turnbull.]
He was Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
- [Nobunaga chuckles.]
Hideyoshi began his career as a foot soldier in Nobunaga's army, but he really impressed Nobunaga by his fighting skills.
And these were not just confined to hand-to-hand combat.
He also seemed to have the ability to organize others.
In other words, he was showing leadership potential.
[blade slices.]
And as a result, Hideyoshi rose through the ranks to become one of his most devoted and loyal generals, and someone who would greatly influence the history of Japan.
There was also another important alliance forged in the aftermath of the battle.
And it was a very different one from the relationship between Nobunaga and Hideyoshi.
The man we are talking about is called Tokugawa Ieyasu.
As a young man, he'd been given as a hostage by his own father into the Imagawa family.
[thrusts blade.]
And young Ieyasu was brought up and expected to serve in the Imagawa army.
But the leader of the Imagawa family was now dead.
So, Ieyasu decided to throw in his lot with the man who had defeated his master, Oda Nobunaga.
[soldiers fighting.]
The fact that Ieyasu switched his allegiances so quickly showed that allegiances were really up for grabs in the Sengoku period.
There were no more rules.
This was all-out battle for control of Japan.
And so those who were willing to take risks were much more likely to attach themselves to those who seemed more powerful or who seemed on the rise.
The importance of the Battle of Okehazama is that, all of a sudden, you have the three men who will shape the destiny of Japan, coming together, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
With Ieyasu and Hideyoshi by his side, Nobunaga launches a series of bloody campaigns against his rivals.
More lands fall under his banner.
Then, he boldly marches on Kyoto, the nation's capital.
From here, Nobunaga now plans to launch his boldest move yet, the reunification of all Japan.
But he's not out of the woods.
There are other daimyo that still existed in the west and the north who threatened Nobunaga's power because they weren't willing to submit to him.
And those who would not admit subordination to him would taste his anger, would taste his sword, because he brooked no dissent of any kind.
It was only that kind of man who was going to start Japan on the process towards unification.
This scenario inevitably enraged Nobunaga's rivals.
They knew that Nobunaga wanted the power for himself.
So, the real battle for Japan was about to begin.
[warriors clamoring.]
[closing theme plays.]

Next Episode