Into a far corner of his huge throne room, covered with tatami (rough-woven brown mats made from rice straw), Oda Nobunaga tossed a single peach pit. He then called in a cleaning girl.
When she was finished, Nobunaga asked her if she had done a good job. She said yes. Nobunaga went to the corner of the room. There was the peach pit. Nobunaga beheaded the girl on the spot. True or not, the story spread fear throughout the kingdom. The message? Don’t mess with Nobunaga.
Even though Oda Nobunaga was born into a very minor military family in Japan, he was arrogant and unpredictable. He changed the way war was fought, using lockstep foot-soldiers instead of mounted troops. Employing his immense tactical skills, he rose to power during one of the most turbulent times in Japan, becoming the first man to unify the country.
Now, Nobunaga’s challenge was to hold onto power. In feudal Japan, this was best done by fear, but Nobunaga went too far. He sent his most faithful friend, Gen. Mitsuhide, to conquer the Hatano clan. The general captured them in a bloodless battle by promising them amnesty, and presented Lord Hatano to Nobunaga. In a shocking breach of samurai protocol, Nobunaga beheaded Lord Hatano. Lord Hatano’s family blamed Gen. Mitsuhide. In retaliation for Lord Hatano’s death, they kidnapped Gen. Mitsuhide’s mother and tortured her to death.
Gen. Mitsuhide did nothing about his mother’s horrific death. Three years passed. Nobunaga and Mitsuhide were leading their men into battle. On his way to the front, Nobunaga stopped for the night of June 21, 1582 at one of his temples in Kyoto. In the darkness, Gen. Mitsuhide had the temple silently surrounded, and then set on fire.
When Nobunaga discovered the treachery, he knew he could not escape alive. He also knew why his friend had turned against him. Two days before his 48th birthday, Nobunaga killed himself as the flames of the burning temple raged around him. Eleven days later, in the battle Nobunaga had been going to fight, Gen. Mitsuhide was killed. It was the kind of battle Nobunaga would have won.