TAIHEIKI 太平記

The following selection illustrates Kusunoki Masashige's innovative mind and unusual tactics when at odds with the attacking enemy. Masashige had to defend Chihaya fort with only a few hundred men, while the attacking forces amounted to tens of thousands. Masashige first ordered to store large quantity of water and food, and a variety of supplies to be used when under a siege. He then sent a force of three hundred skilled warriors to ambush the approaching forces. However, the warriors were not to attack the approaching forces, instead, they stole some of their banners and returned to Chihaya fort. At the fort they hanged the enemy banners on the fort's doors and called for the enemy soldiers to come get the banners...if they could. Thus, Kusunoki was able to shame and irritate the generals of the attack force even before the battle had begun. But that, of course, was not enough to gain victory. After the attacking forces surrounded the Chihaya fort, Kusunoki had to demonstrate more than just irritating methods.

(translation follows)

The Battle of Chihaya Castle

..Soon Masashige said, "If it be thus, we shall practice a deceit upon the attackers to open their eyes."

With rubbish he made twenty or thirty figures of a man's stature, clad them in helmets and armor, armed them with weapons, and set them up behind folding shields at the foot of the castle in the night. In the rear he stationed five hundred mighty men of valor, to raise a great battle shout when the dawn mists began to brighten.

"Aha! They have come out of the castle," said the besiegers, at the sound of the shouting. "Assuredly has fortune deserted them, that in desperation they emerge in this way!"

So they spoke, each striving to be the first to attack.

When the warriors from the castle had shot a few arrows, all went up to the castle before the great host approached, but the false men remained in the shelter of the trees. And the attackers gathered together to smite the false men, thinking that they were warriors.

After the enemy had been drawn close according to his plans, Masashige let fall forty or fifty mighty boulders all at once, killing more than three hundred of the men assembled in one place, and sorely wounding more than five hundred. And the fighting being ended, the attackers saw that the warriors of iron facing them were not men, but only straw figures. There was no glory for those who had been killed by the enemy's rocks and arrows while attacking these! And how cowardly were those who had trembled before such figures, not daring to advance! No man failed to mock at them, both at those that had died and at those that had held back.

Thereafter the besiegers left off fighting utterly, nor did the hosts of the provinces do any deeds of merit, but only looked up at the castle vainly. An unknown person posted a parody of an ancient verse in front of a grand marshal's camp, saying, "Must one merely gaze at it from afar-the kusunoki tree on Kazuragi's Takama Peak?"


Then to their camps the grand marshals summoned women of pleasure from Eguchi and Kanzaki to amuse them in divers manners, for they wearied of watching the castle without fighting. It happened that two grand marshals of the Nagoya family were encamped together hard by the attack point, the lay monk of Totomi and his nephew Hyogo-no suke. On a certain day each of these killed the other with his sword, where they played at backgammon in front of some courtesans (for perhaps they fell into a trifling dispute over the spots on the dice). Whereupon without cause their retainers began to stab one another, until quickly more than two hundred men were struck down.

Beholding these things from inside the castle, the defenders mocked at the attackers, saying, "See how these destroy themselves, punished by heaven for setting their faces against the master of the ten good acts!" Truly this was no ordinary occurrence, but a strange and curious thing, such as might have been the work of evil spirits.

On the fourth day of the third month there came a messenger bearing orders from the Kanto, saying, "You must not pass the days vainly without fighting." And thereupon the greatest of the grand marshals consulted together and made a plan, saying "Let us lay down a bridge over the deep chasm between our camp and the enemy's castle, that we may enter the castle." They summoned five hundred carpenters from the capital; gathered together timbers six, seven, ten, and eleven inches thick; and made a bridge five yards wide and more than sixty five yards long. When the bridge was made, they tied on two or three thousand great ropes and wound them up with a pulley, so that the bridge fell on top of the castle's cliff. How skillfully it was done! Even such must have been the cloud-ladder of Lu Pan!

Now five or six thousand warriors went out onto the bridge to advance against the castle, men of bold and hasty heart, each striving to be first. Truly it seemed that the castle must be brought down! But Kusunoki's men threw lighted torches onto the bridge, piling them up like stacks of firewood (for doubtless they had made them ready beforehand), and with a pump pumped out oil like a flowing waterfall, As the beams of the bridge took fire, the canyon wind fanned and spread the flames. The rash warriors who had thought to cross the bridge were scorched by the great flames when they advanced, yet behind them pressed the mighty host, heedless of trouble ahead. Nor might they leap away toward the sides, for their hearts were affrighted by the deep chasm and towering cliffs. They clamored and jostled, not knowing what to do, until the beams burned through and the bridge fell down abruptly to the bottom of the chasm. And then all

together these thousands of warriors fell down in a heap into the fierce fire, where every man of them burned to death. Even so must be the torment of sinners in the eight great Buddhist hells, transfixed on sword trees and sword mountains, or burned by fierce fires and molten iron baths!

There were more than seven thousand outlaws hidden in mountains and valleys: men of Yoshino, Totsugawa, Uda, and Uchi-no kori, assembled together by command of the Prince of the Great Pagoda. When these had blocked off the roads traversed by the besiegers of Chihaya, the stores of the warriors of the provinces were used up quickly, and men and horses grew weak from hunger. Wherefore, suffering sorely, the attackers turned back toward their homes in groups of one or two hundred riders.

The outlaws waited to kill them in many advantageous places, being well acquainted with the land, so that no man can say how many of them perished during every day and night. If one chanced to escape alive, he lost his horse, his armor, and all his garments. Daily in every direction men fled hiding their nakedness with tattered straw coats, or revealing their shame with plant leaves wound around their loins. Never was there such a disgraceful thing! Truly in this generation were lost all the precious heirlooms of the warriors of the land of Japan, the armor and swords and daggers.

Now in a vain dispute two men of the Nagoya had perished, the lay monk of Totomi and Hyogo-no-suke. Likewise was it so of the other armies. that when a father was killed, the son cut off his hair to become a monk, disappearing from the camp; and when a lord was wounded, his vassals ministered to hem and took him away home. Though it was said that there were eight hundred thousand horsemen in the beginning, those who remained were but a hundred thousand.