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  • A samurai army marches through the hills of the  Iga province of Japan. The landscape is covered  

  • in dense trees and sheer rock faces, making it  a perfect spot for an ambush by stealth ninjas.  

  • From the trees, the Iga warriors watch as the  invading force approaches the kill zone. They  

  • are camouflaged to blend in with the forest. The  invading samurai led by Nobukatsu of the Oda clan  

  • march towards their demise. There is movement  in the trees and rocks surrounding the valley.  

  • Then without warning, ninja warriors seem to  appear out of thin air. They use guerilla hit and  

  • run tactics, slashing the invading samurai with  their swords as they glide across the forest path,  

  • only to disappear back into the  trees. The invading Oda samurai  

  • are forced to retreat to the safety  of their home province to regroup.

  • The Tenshō Iga War is the name given to two  invasions on the province of Iga in 1579  

  • and 1581 by the Oda clan. At the time, Japan  was divided into many different territories  

  • controlled by Shogun. The Shogun used their  militaries to keep command of their land  

  • and invade other territories to gain power and  resources. Japan as a whole had an emperor who  

  • all Shogun were supposed to report tobut really the emperor had very little  

  • power. He was just a figurehead, the  Shogun were really the ones in charge.

  • During this time we can think of the  ruling elites of Japan, or Shogunate,  

  • as similar to the kings of Medieval Europe. In  fact, the enetire Shogunate system was akin to  

  • the feudal system of Europe. The Shogun were  like kings, their samurai were knights, and the  

  • peasants were still peasants. Shogun expanded or  gained new territory using their samurai armies.

  • For a long period of time the Oda clan had  their sights set on invading Iga province.  

  • Unfortunately for Oda Nobunaga, the ruler  of the Oda clan, Iga was a natural fortress.  

  • The province was surrounded by mountains on  all sides and could only be entered through  

  • narrow valleys. These valleys were prime spots  for ambushes by the Iga samurai and ninjas.

  • Oda Nobunaga had secured almost all land  surrounding Iga province. But the land was still  

  • too protected by its natural topography and highly  trained warriors for Nobunaga to conquer. So, Oda  

  • Nobunaga set his sights on a different provinceIn 1567 he began his invasion of Ise province  

  • just to the east of Iga province. The Oda clan  was victorious, and as part of the peace agreement  

  • the leader of the Kitabatake clan of Ise adopted  Nobunaga's son Nobukatsu as his heir. This meant  

  • that although the Oda clan did not officially  rule Ise, they were in control of the territory.

  • To make the authority of the Oda clan  in the region even more prominent,  

  • they began to assassinate the remaining  members of the Kitabatake clan.  

  • With each death the Oda clan became more  powerful in the region. The assassinations  

  • continued until the Oda clan controlled  the entire Ise region, even though the  

  • peace agreement had said the Kitabatake clan  could remain in power. Now the Oda clan had  

  • the samurai numbers and resources to finally  take Iga province, but it would not be easy.

  • The young Nobukatsu, son to the Oda clan leader  Oda Nobunaga, was ambitious and wanted to prove  

  • to his father he would be a great ShogunHe decided to expand the domain of Ise by  

  • invading Iga province. In 1578 Nobukatsu  started preparations for his invasion.  

  • He sent samurai and builders into the  outskirts of the Iga province. There he  

  • had secretly planned to construct a castle that  would serve as a staging ground for his campaign.  

  • Unfortunately for the men that Nobukatsu sent  into Iga province, the leaders were alerted  

  • by Iga ninjas of the castle being builtTheir response, unrelenting ninja warfare.

  • The samurai and ninjas of Iga decided to attack  the castle before it could be constructed. On  

  • November 24, 1578 they attacked in broad daylightThe Iga warriors used stealth tactics to surround  

  • the workers. They caught the builders and Oda  samurai off guard. From out of the forest ran  

  • hundreds of Iga warriors. Their swords tore  through the meager defenses of the secret castle.  

  • The Oda clan and builders had to go into a full  retreat, or be slaughtered by the Iga attackers.  

  • They left everything behind and made their  way back to Ise province as fast as possible.

  • After the Iga forces had dealt with the Oda  builders and samurai they brought torches  

  • to the half built castle. To make sure the  structure couldn't be completed they burned  

  • it to the ground, sending a clear message  that the Oda clan would have to do much  

  • better if they ever stood a chance  of taking over the Iga province.

  • Nobukatsu was surprised and embarrassed  to hear of the total loss of his castle  

  • and insolence of the Iga warriors. He sent  samurai back into Iga province to make them pay.  

  • But the Iga warriors met them in one of the  valleys of the region. Using the landscape  

  • to their advantage they quickly defeated  the Oda clan for the second time. This only  

  • infuriated Nobukatsu even more. He tried to amass  a larger army to march into Iga for a third time,  

  • but his advisors persuaded him to wait. Unable  to quench his thirst for revenge Nobukatsu  

  • devised a three-pronged invasion to defeat  the Iga warriors and claim their territory.  

  • The attack began on October 6, 1579. It would  not end well for Nobukatsu and the Oda clan.

  • The Iga leaders, through their network  of spies, found out about Nobukatsu's  

  • plan to invade and made preparations. The Iga  warriors set up ambushes along the paths that  

  • the Oda forces would have to take to enter Iga  province. They knew just where to lie in wait.

  • 8,000 of Nobukatsu's men entered  Iga province through Nagano Pass.  

  • The Iga warriors used guerilla tactics to throw  the invading army off guard. They confused the  

  • Oda samurai by attacking from different areas  at different times. It was impossible for the  

  • invading force to know where the next attack would  come from. The Oda samurai began to take heavy  

  • losses. Nobukatsu was forced to retreat, leaving  countless soldiers behind to their slaughter.

  • The two other forces that Nobukatsu dispatched at  the same time were much smaller, only consisting  

  • of around 1,500 men each. They met a similar  fate to the main army. The Iga warriors used  

  • surprise attacks to sow chaos within their  ranks. Then they slowly picked apart the  

  • confused and separated sections of the army. One  of Nobukatsu's head generals lost his life trying  

  • to escape the warriors of Iga province. Thousands  of Oda samurai were lost in only a few days.

  • These massive defeats marked the end of  Nobukatsu's campaign into Iga province.  

  • But that wasn't the worst news for NobukatsuHe had carried out this campaign without  

  • consulting with his father Nobunaga, who  was still head Shogun of the Oda clan.  

  • Nobunaga was furious. Nobukatsu had wanted to  prove to his father he could be a strong leader,  

  • but failed in that mission and brought shame upon  himself. Nobunaga threatened to disavow his son,  

  • but ended up forgiving him. Although, he  did take away much of his son's power.

  • Nobunaga could not let Iga  province grow any stronger.  

  • He had to show that the Oda clan was the  mightiest force in the region. Nobunaga  

  • met with advisors and war generals. He worked  through the difficulties of taking Iga province  

  • and what was needed to do it successfullyTwo years after his son's failed invasion,  

  • Nobunaga would launch his own. It would  become known as the Second Tenshō Iga War.

  • On September 30, 1581 the invasion began. It  was on a much larger scale than the previous  

  • attempts by his son. In fact, it made the  earlier invasions look like child's play.  

  • At this point in time Oda Nobunaga was one of  the most powerful Shoguns in all of Japan. He  

  • controlled most of the central area of the  country. The most frustrating thing about  

  • Iga province to Nobunaga was that it was right  in the middle of his territory. He controlled  

  • the land surrounding Iga province, but had not  yet been able to conquer Iga province itself.  

  • He needed to control this land in order to  unify the entire region under his control.

  • Oda Nobunaga assembled a huge army to defeat Iga  province. An army so large that they would be able  

  • to force their way past any ambushes or traps  the Iga warriors might lay for them. He decided  

  • to attack Iga province from all directionscausing the Iga army to split their troops,  

  • thus minimizing the effectiveness of their  military. Oda Nobunaga sent 12,000 samurai  

  • in from the northeast, 10,000 samurai in from  the southeast, 7,000 samurai from the north,  

  • another 7,000 from the southwest with a second  force of 3,700 samurai entering right behind them,  

  • and 2,300 samurai from the northwestThe total force of Nobunaga's massive  

  • army was around 42,000 men. The Iga  province army totalled around 10,000  

  • and was spread throughout the  region. They didn't stand a chance.

  • But the Iga province warriors fought bravely. They  continued to employ guerilla and stealth tactics.  

  • They made small dents in the invading forces, but  there were just too many Oda clan samurai. The  

  • Iga province warriors were forced to retreat to  Hijiyama Castle in the north and Kashiwara Castle  

  • in the south, where they were besieged by the Oda  forces. Nobunaga sent wave after wave of samurai  

  • to attack the castles. He kept any supplies  from getting to the Iga warriors, eventually  

  • causing them to surrender. The final forces  at Kashiwara Castle surrendered on October 8,  

  • 1581, thus ending any further resistance to Oda  Nobunaga and his clan. Iga province had fallen.

  • In November, Nobunaga surveyed all of the land  of Iga province. Satisfied by the gains he and  

  • his army had made, he withdrew his troops and  put his son Nobukatsu in control of the area.  

  • Even though his son had disgraced him, he  forgave Nobukatsu and allowed him to rule the  

  • new Oda province that had once given the clan  so much trouble. But how were the warriors of  

  • Iga province able to fight off so many invading  samurai? How did they defeat much larger forces  

  • in the first Tenshō Iga War? Part of  it had to do with their knowledge of  

  • the land, but there was something else at  play. Something that is pretty shocking.

  • It is believed by many scholars that  the ninja order started in Iga province.  

  • These elite fighters trained in espionage  and guerilla tactics would have made the  

  • warriors of Iga province especially  deadly. This may have been why they  

  • were able to fight off the Oda clan for  so long. After the war came to the end,  

  • Iga warriors were hired as auxiliary troops  for other military forces. Their skills and  

  • abilities to infiltrate and secure secrets  from enemies were legendary across Japan.  

  • Now check out our video on The Japanese  Yakuza - Most Dangerous & Powerful Gangs  

  • In The World. Or watch China vs JapanWho Would Win - Army / Military Comparison.

A samurai army marches through the hills of the  Iga province of Japan. The landscape is covered  

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Most Insane Ninja Battle In History

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/29
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