It is early morning on June 21, 1582. The air is warm and slightly humid from the rains. The sun has not yet risen and under the cover of darkness an army surrounds Honno-ji, a small temple in central Kyoto. Inside sleeps Oda Nobunaga, warlord at the height of his power. With only three weakened enemy clans left to defeat before his goal of consolidated power is complete, Nobunaga rests easy. Unbeknownst to him, his enemy comes not from the Mori, Hojo, or Uesugi clans, but from his own army. Akechi Mitsuhide, one of Nobunaga’s generals, has chosen this night to betray his master. Caught off guard with only a small retainer and the bulk of his army suppressing rebellion elsewhere, Nobunaga’s fate is sealed. To avoid the dishonor and humiliation of having his head captured by a mutineer, Nobunaga orders his loyal servant Mori Ranmaru to burn the temple to the ground before committing suicide. The reasons for Mitsuhide’s betrayal are not altogether clear, but most historians agree that he harbored a grudge against Nobunaga for a combination of factors ranging from public humiliation to fears of exile. Mitsuhide did not profit off of his betrayal for long. He was defeated by Hashiba Hideyoshi at the battle of Yamazaki, and while fleeing was killed by bandits.
Today, Honno-ji sits near Kyoto Shinkyasho-mae Station, having been rebuilt several times following devastating fires. Its location in downtown Kyoto makes it an easy stopover for shoppers perusing Teramachi, or the Shijo shopping district. The small grounds are the site of several memorials, including one for Oda Nobunaga. For a small fee of 500 yen, guests can view items associated with the warlord, and pay their respects to a great figure in Japanese history themselves.
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