Sieges of Nagashima

Battle Information
Date 1571 - 1574
Location Nagashima fortress
Result First Siege: Ikkō-ikki victory
Second Siege: Ikkō-ikki victory
Third Siege: Oda victory
Ikkō-ikki rebels Oda clan
Various Nobunaga Oda
Notable Officers
Shokei Ganshoji
Tomosada Hattori
Katsuie Shibata
Nobumori Sakuma
Yoshitaka Kuki
Hideyoshi Hashiba
Kazumasu Takigawa
Toshiie Maeda
The Sieges of Nagashima were a series of battles which became Japan's longest siege, in which Nobunaga Oda was forced to spend ten years reducing the formidable fortress-cathedral of the the Ishiyama-Honganji.[1]

Before the SiegesEdit

Nagashima Castle was built in 1555 by Shigeharu Ito, but was soon captured by the Ikkō-ikki. Nobunaga's brother, Nobuoki, and other members of the Oda clan first engaged the Ikkō-ikki in November of 1569 at Ogie Castle, on the northern edge of the Nagashima delta. The Oda forces were defeated and Nobuoki was killed.[2]

The First Siege of Nagashima (1571)Edit

Nobunaga appointed Nobumori Sakuma and Katsuie Shibata as commanders of the Nagashima force. Nobunaga's army made camp on 16 May 1571 at Tsushima, to the northeast of Nagashima, which was divided from the complex by a particularly shallow, yet broad river. An attack was planned on the area immediately to the west of Tsushima against the series of waju, from where an attack could be launched on the fortified Ganshoji monastery.

Nobunaga's mounted samurai began to ford towards the first waju, only to find that the river bottom was deep sea of mud. The horse's legs quickly mired and as the horses struggled many threw off their heavy armored riders, who were met by a hail of arrows and bullets, causing severe casualties. As the survivors dragged themselves to the nearest dry land, they encountered ropes stretched between stakes, which further hindered their progress towards safety. As night fell, the dike was cut rapidly flooding the low lying land, catching the remaining samurai in inrush of muddy water, and ending Nobunaga's first attack on Nagashima as a disaster. The general Katsuie Shibata was severely wounded and no impression was made on the defenses. As the Oda army withdrew, they burned several villages on the outskirts.[3]

The Second siege of Nagashima (1573)Edit

The campaign against the Ikkō-ikki of Nagashima reopened in July 1573, and this time Nobunaga Oda took personal charge of the operations. The number of Nobunaga's troops are not recorded, but Nobunaga is said that he recruited heavily from Ise province. Covered by an advance from the west under Nobumori Sakuma and Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Nobunaga sent his gunners on ahead along the main roads into Nagashima, hoping that the volley of fire would blast a way for him. Unfortunatly for the Oda, as soon as his men were ready to fire, a fierce downpour occurred, and the rain soaked the matches and pans rendering nine out of every ten arquebuses temporarily disabled. The Ikkō-ikki launched an immediate counter-attack for which the forward matchlock-men were ill prepared. They began to fall back taking the Ise troops with them, and as the Ikkō-ikki pressed forward the rain stopped, enabling them to employ their own matchlocks. The defenders advanced perilously close to Nobunaga himself, who was in the thick of the fighting astride the horse. One bullet narrowly missed his ear, and another felled one of his retainers through the armpit. For the second time in two years, the Oda army withdrew. The western force had been more successful, with Kazumasu Takigawa taking Yata castle which was the most southerly point of Nagashima complex, but he too, was forced to withdraw by a counter-attack.[4]

The Third siege of Nagashima (1574) Edit

Nobunaga attacked Nagashima for the third time in 1574, but this time he had naval suport from Yoshitaka Kuki, who took the fight by ship close to the Ikkō-ikki fortifications in a way that never proved possible before. Yoshitaka's fleet kept up a rolling bombardment of the Nagashima defenses from close on shore, concentrating on the wooden watchtowers with cannon ball and fire arrows. The presence of the ships also served to cut off the garrison from supplies and from any possible relieving force and more crucially, allowed Nobunaga's land based troops to take most of the Ikkō-ikki outlying forts. Two in particular Nakae and Yanagashima, enabled to Nobunaga to control access from the western, Ise side, for the first time.

Supported by Yoshitaka, land based army caried out a three - pronged attack from the north. Gradually the defenders were forced back, though with enormous resistance and were squeezed down into the small area of the island on which stood the fortified Ganshoji and Nagashima castles with almost no hope of relief. By the end of August 1574 they were slowly starving to death. Instead of accepting surrender, Nobunaga commenced the erection of a very tall wooden palisade which was anchored on the forts of Nakae and Yanagashima, and which physically isolated the Ikkō-ikki from the gaze of the outside world. Approximately 20,000 people were crammed into the inner outposts. Unseen by them, Nobunaga began to pile a mountain of dry brushwood against the palisade and set fire to the massive pyre. Burning brands jumped the small gaps of water and soon the whole Nagashima complex was ablaze. All 20,000 inhabitants of the Ikkō-ikki fortress were burned to death before any could escape to be cut down.[5]


Even after the continues sieges on Nagashima, Nobunaga Oda took him up till 1580 to silence the rebels after he took control of the cathedral of Ishiyama Honganji. From there Nobunaga begun to extend his influence westwards for the first time.[6]


  1. Samurai Commanders (2) 1577-1638
  2. Japanese Warrior Monks A.D. 949-1603 by Stephen Turnbull. pg 21
  3. The Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 221
  4. The Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 223
  5. The Samurai Source book by Stephen Turnbull. pgs 224
  6. War in Japan by Stephen Turnbull. pg.52