Battle of Minatogawa

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The Battle of Minatogawa was a significant battle in the conflict which ended the Kemmu Restoration and brought about the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate.

Following his retreat to Kyushu in March 1336, Ashikaga Takauji gathered enough support in the western provinces to launch a return to Kyoto in June. Nitta Yoshisada favored opposing him en route, a strategy opposed by Kusunoki Masashige. Emperor Go-Daigo gave his approval to Nitta's "defense on offense" approach, and Masashige reluctantly accompanied him to Harima province. The Imperial army arrayed itself to the west of the mouth of the Minato River (Minatogawa), with its main contingents under the command of Yoshisada and Nitta Yoshisuke, while Kusunoki commanded some 700 men just east of the Minato. Takauji, whether by chance or design, engineered what turned out to be an almost textbook attack. When the fighting started, Shôni Yorihisa attacked Yoshisada's front while Hosokawa Jozen sailed up and began landing to his rear. Nitta panicked and pulled back, leaving Kusunoki's 700 men to face the full brunt of Ashikaga Tadayoshi's army. Kusunoki and his men fought bravely but in the end were overwhelmed. After almost six hours of fighting Masashige and his brother Kusunoki Masasue committed suicide, joined by those Kusunoki retainers who had not already been killed. The loyalist cause was doomed, and Nitta Yoshisada, who escaped Minatogawa, was later killed.

In 1872, Minatogawa Shrine was established by the Meiji government on the site of the battle, to honor and celebrate those who died defending the Imperial institution; the shrine enshrines the spirit of Kusunoki Masashige in particular.[1]


  1. Takashi Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy, University of California Press (1996), 89.