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Twelve to one, The Battle of Okehazama.
On the outskirts of Nagoya City, 2,500 samurai trounced an army of 35,000 in what became
known as the Battle of Okehazama.It was one of Oda Nobunaga’s finest victories, trouncing
a fierce adversary at odds of twelve to one!
Imagawa Yoshimoto, (1519-1560) a powerful warlord,
based in what is now Shizuoka Prefecture, had become
powerful enough to make an attempt on the capital,
Kyoto. To do so required steamrolling
across the provinces, one of which was held by the
Oda clan under the rule of it’s violent and charismatic leader,
Oda Nobunaga. Imagawa took the vitally important
Tokaido main artery route, entering Nobunaga’s territory
early June 1560, with an army estimated to have been about
35,000 and camped just outside of modern day Nagoya in an
area known as Dengaku-hazama, near the village of Okehazama.
Nobunaga, on the other hand could only raise 2,500. He had left his castle at Kiyosu and traveled via
the Atsuta Shrine where he prayed for victory before arriving at the Zenshoji, a fortress like temple
overlooking the Imagawa forces camp site. Nobunaga ordered his men to set up war flags and
banners around the Zenshoji to make it look as though there was a much larger army in residence.
Undercover of some rainstorms he left the safety of the Zenshoji and made his way closer to the enemy.
（Grave of Imagawa Yoshimoto）
June 22 1560 was a steaming hot day, interspersed with showers and thunderstorms.
That’s when Nobunaga made his move. The Imagawa forces were celebrating their recent victories
over a number of smaller Oda held castles with sake and food. The smaller number of Oda troops,
familiar with their home territory turf, made their way down from the slopes and hills above
Dengaku-hazama, and using the thunderstorm to mask their movements, entered the small valley
and struck hard at the heart of theImagawa camp.
Imagawa Yoshimoto was in his tent like
war camp enclosure when he heard the
first of the fighting.Thinking it was a
drunken brawl amongst his closest men,
he left the camp to investigate, and was
surprised to see Oda troops bearing down
on him. Imagawa fought off one attack by
a spear wielding Oda samurai, cutting
through the spear thrust at him, and into
the man’s leg. He was then tackled by
a second Oda samurai, who promptly took
his head. Imagawa Yoshimoto was just
41 years old. The battle raged for a short
while afterwards, but with their leader
having been dispatched early, and all bar
two of the senior officers killed, the
remaining officers and men surrendered,
and joined the Oda faction. Nobunaga’s
2,500 troops had defeated an army of 35,000!
The battlefield is now a park, with a statue
of Oda Nobunaga and Imagawa Yoshimoto
near where Imagawa is believed to have
fallen. Much of the area has been overtaken
by housing and a local supermarket shopping
center. The Oda route is well signposted in
Japanese and English and can be easily followed providing a better understanding and appreciation of the battle. Other signposts also point out related historical spots to visit, including the head mound, where enemy heads were mass buried, the Chofukuji Temple, where many more heads were interred, and the area where the battle was launched and fought.
The battle signified the end of the Imagawa clan, while Nobunaga went on to rule the nation before being assassinated in 1582.
（Statue of Oda Nobunaga and Imagawa Yoshimoto）
Visiting the battle site is a great way to soak up Japanese history, particularly as this was one of the most important turning points in Japanese history. The site of the actual battle and the surrounding walking
route tracing the Oda soldiers’ approach to the battlefield is a little difficult to find, more so as the “official”
battle site and memorials are in the wrong place! Every June events are held in the otherwise quiet hamlet
of Okehazama to commemorate the battle fought between Oda Nobunaga and Imagawa Yoshimoto at
odds of twelve to one.
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