(1301-1338) was the head of the Nitta
in the early fourteenth century, and supported the
Southern Court of Emperor Go-Daigo
in the Nanboku-cho
from the Hōjō clan
Long an enemy of Ashikaga Takauji
Nitta Yoshisada is often blamed for the split between the Northern and Southern Courts
, as he fought
against the Ashikaga
and for the Emperor Go-Daigo
. This rivalry came largely
from the fact that the Ashikaga were ranked above the Nitta,
despite their being descended from a younger ancestor; since the
ancestors of the Nitta did not fight alongside their Minamoto
cousins in the Genpei War
, they were never accorded power or
prestige at Kamakura.
In 1331, after being ordered by the bakufu
(shogunate) to join an army
at the Chihaya fortress, Nitta received summonses from Prince Morinaga
and Emperor Go-Daigo
to strike at the Hōjō, so
he left his post. Returning to his home province of Kozuke, Nitta
rallied the aid of other descendants & vassals including his
brother Nitta Yoshisuke
Minamoto clan, and began to march towards Kamakura through
. On the approaches to the city, Nitta enjoyed some
early victories, routing the Hōjō defenders and pursuing them
towards the city.
The fall of Kamakura in 1333
Kamakura on land is completely surrounded by steep hills, making an
army attack very difficult. Nitta first tried to enter through the
Gokurakuji Pass and the
, but concentrated Hōjō forces stopped him.
impossible to enter by land, Nitta decided to try by sea bypassing
the Inamuragasaki Cape on Sagami Bay, west of Kamakura.
Once there, Nitta took
advantage of a low tide and moved his men in through the beaches to
the south but, according to the Taiheiki
, he threw his sword into the surf and
prayed to Ryūjin
In describing this
event, Japanese sources say Nitta Yoshisada prayed to a sea-god or
, English sources almost always
refer to Sun Goddess Amaterasu. The Taiheiki itself ( 稲村崎成干潟事
Dismounting from his horse, Yoshisada removed his helmet and
prostrating himself across the distant seas prayed to Ryūjin. "It is said that the lord of Japan from the
beginning, Amaterasu Ōmikami, enshrined at
Jingū, hid herself within a Vairocana and appeared as Ryūjin of the vast blue
seas. My lord (Emperor
Go-Daigo) is her descendant, and drifts upon waves of the
western sea due to rebels. I Yoshisada, in an attempt to serve as a
worthy subject, will pick up my axes and face the enemy line. That
desire is to aid the nation and bring welfare to the masses. Ryūjin
of the Eight Protectorate Gods of the (seven) Inner Seas and the
Outer Sea, witness this subject’s loyalty and withdraw the waters
afar, open a path to the lines of the three armies.
He therefore speaks to Ryūjin who, he has heard, is manifestation
of Amaterasu., who parted the waters for him.
The stele at , the tiny bay west of Inamuragaki, says:
666 years ago on May 21, 1333 Nitta Yoshisada, judging
an invasion on land to be difficult, decided to try to bypass this
cape. This is the place where, according to tradition, he threw his
golden sword into the waves, praying the sea-god to withdraw them
and let him pass.(Erected in 1917)
The city was taken, and the Hōjō clan's influence destroyed.
Following the fall of Kamakura (and of the Hōjō regency), Nitta was
appointed Governor of Echigo
Vice-Governor of Harima
Provinces, as Emperor Go-Daigo
redistributed the Hōjō
lands. Moreover, he courted Emperor Go-Daigo's secretary
Kōtō-Naishi (匂当内侍), and married through the Emperor's
Death of Nitta Yoshisada
During the following few years, Nitta's rivalry with Ashikaga Takauji
(and his brother Ashikaga Tadayoshi
) came to a head, with
the two planning rebellion, and issuing a call that "Nitta
Yoshisada must be destroyed." They fought a number of battles, many
of them in and around Kyoto, in the same locations as famous
battles of the Genpei War
; in the end,
Nitta was defeated, but continued to be a thorn in Takauji's side
until his death on July 2, 1338.
Nitta's death was as remarkable as his life. Turnbull (2003) writes
that Nitta was fighting in the Siege
, an ally of Takauji, when his horse was felled by arrow
fire. Nitta, pinned under the dead horse and unable to move was an
easy target for archers. As a final act, Nitta drew his short sword
and cut off his own head. Record has it that a number of his fellow
samurai committed junshi seppuku
nearby, in a show of allegiance.
- Sansom, George (1958). 'A History of Japan to 1334'. Stanford,
California: Stanford University Press.
- Turnbull, Stephen
(1998). 'The Samurai Sourcebook'. London: Cassell & Co.
- Turnbull, Stephen (2003). 'Samurai: The World of the Warrior'.