What was the Battle of Okehazama?

About the Battle of Okehazama

Imagawa Yoshimoto, who was based in Suruga (present-day Shizuoka Prefecture) and was expanding his domain westward, took personal command of an enormous army - 20,000 soldiers according to some, 45,000 according to others - and advanced westward in order to take control of Owari (present-day Aichi Prefecture) in June, 1560.

The forces of Owari which opposed him, on the other hand, numbered only 3,000 soldiers in total. Their general was Oda Nobunaga, a young man regarded as a dunce. Though the Oda army was at an absolute disadvantage in military strength, they won a brilliant victory in a fierce battle against the Imagawa army at Okehazama.

The outcome was a stunning upset, giving the "Battle of Okehazama" a permanent place in history, and writer Izawa Motohiko called it "the most miraculous come-from-behind drama in world history". However, many mysteries about this battle remain, such as how Oda's army was able to overcome such an overwhelming difference in military strength.

Oda Nobunaga

Photo: Statue of Oda Nobunaga

1534 - 1582

Born the heir of Oda Nobuhide, the Warring States daimyo of Owari, Nobunaga became the lord of the original Nagoya Castle, and chief retainer Hirate Masahide served as his tutor.

After Nobuhide died, Nobunaga inherited his estate at the young age of 19. He kept the Saito clan of Mino and the Matsudaira clan of Mikawa in check, ended the conflict with the governor and deputy governor of Owari, and suppressed the strife within the Oda family. By 1559, one year prior to the Battle of Okehazama, he had succeeded in uniting nearly all of Owari.

Because Nobunaga's appearance and behavior up to adolescence had been eccentric, he was known as the "great dunce of Owari", but some believe this was a ruse intended to deceive his enemies both within and beyond his domain.

Imagawa Yoshimoto

Photo: Statue of Imagawa Yoshimoto

1519 - 1560

Yoshimoto was the 11th lord of the Imagawa clan, a Warring States daimyo who controlled Suruga and Totomi. He pushed for military reforms that included adoption of the Yorioya-Yoriko system of dependent relationships between retainers, and he fought against Nobuhide, the father of Oda Nobunaga, as he extended his influence into Mikawa.

In addition to his military and diplomatic success in forging a tripartite alliance called Ko So Sun with Takeda Shingen and Hojo Ujiyasu, he showed a remarkable aptitude for domestic affairs through such acts as the addition of 21 articles to the Imagawa Kana Mokuroku (the legal code of the Imagawa clan). He was known as "the greatest bowman of the Kaido region".


Was it a flanking maneuver or a frontal assault?

The manner in which the Oda army attacked the Imagawa army's camp during the Battle of Okehazama has long been explained via the "flank maneuver theory".

In other words, Nobunaga, knowing that Yoshimoto's main forces resting near Okehazama, secretly led his army through the mountains, circling behind the camp and attacking it down the mountain, overpowering the army of Imagawa amidst the confusion and killing Yoshimoto.

However, this account assumes carelessness on the part of the Imagawa army, and Yoshimoto was a Warring States general known as "the greatest bowman of the Kaido region", so it is difficult to think he would have been so fatally careless on the battlefield.

Furthermore, making a flanking maneuver through the mountains would have taken time and risked losing the initiative, so many people have taken a negative view of this explanation in recent years, and the "frontal assault theory" has been gaining ground.

Was it a fortuitous victory or a tactical victory?

Photo: The Battle of Okehazama (Yosai Nobukazu)
The Battle of Okehazama (Yosai Nobukazu)

The "frontal assault theory" proposes that Nobunaga, having entered Fort Nagajima, one of the Oda army's frontline bases, attacked the resting army of Yoshimoto near Okehazama, just three kilometers away in a straight line, in what would have been a frontal assault claiming victory over a short distance. Broadly speaking, however, there are two explanations as to how the Oda army, overwhelmingly inferior in force of arms, could have attacked and defeated the Imagawa army head-on.

According to one explanation, known as the fortuity theory, is that Nobunaga encountered the Imagawa army's vanguard troops rather than its main army at Okehazama and was defeated in the initial skirmish. Then, when Nobunaga struck again in an attempt to even the score, he accidentally assaulted the Imagawa army head-on. Furthermore, because torrential rain coincidentally happened to fall prior to battle and the terrain was marked by depressions and hills, the Imagawa army was thrown into confusion and went out of control - factors that resulted in its defeat. This theory attributes the Oda army's victory to a combination of "good luck" and "coincidence".

The other explanation is that the Oda army's victory can be attributed to Nobunaga's outstanding tactics. According to this theory, Nobunaga utilized a tactic described in the Wuzi, a classical Chinese work on military strategy, and baited Yoshimoto into the Okehazama valley to prevent his army from spreading out. Additionally, while Yoshimoto's rear guard was still in Okehazama, his frontline troops set out to capture the fort, thus dividing the army in two, allowing Nobunaga to attack Yoshimoto's camp and seize victory.

Furthermore, Nobunaga, who surveyed his territory frequently for the ostensible purpose of falconry and had trained his army for fighting in hilly territory, used the terrain and climate of Okehazama to his advantage. Thus, Nobunaga considered the terrain and climate of Odaka-Okehazama, which was closer to the coast than it is today, and started the battle around noon when the wind from Ise Bay blows more strongly.

In this manner, Nobunaga was able to achieve a dramatic victory at Okehazama by implementing strategies from The Art of War, another classical Chinese book of military strategy, which taught that "If you know your enemy and your allies, choose the time of your attack well, and use the land to your advantage, victory will surely be yours".

Enjoy Nagoya

In the more than 450 years since the Battle of Okehazama, Owari (Nagoya) has been transformed into a city of tourism, dining, and entertainment.

While you tour modern-day Okehazama, which even Oda Nobunaga and Imagawa Yoshimoto could never have imagined, remember the valiant men who fought there! After touring the historical sites, enrich your experience of Nagoya further by enjoying some "Nagoya-meshi"!

What is Nagoya Meshi?

Nagoya Meshi is the cultural cuisine unique to Nagoya City and Aichi Prefecture, enjoyed by the locals at home and in eateries, and includes Miso-Katsu (deep fried pork cutlets covered in rich miso sauce), Tebasaki (spicy Nagoya fried chicken wings), Hitsumabushi (grilled eel served on a bed of rice and enjoyed in three different ways with different condiments) ando so much more.

The range is forever increasing as the culture spreads and new forms of Nagoya Meshi are created.


Slices of char-grilled eel covered in rich tamari sauce are served atop a steaming bed of rice in a wooden container.

Separate it into four serves, and scoop out the first portion and savior its natural taste. For the second portion, add the accompanying condiments and enjoy.
The third segment is enjoyed like Ochazuke, doused in green tea or broth, allowing you to enjoy three flavors in one. For the final serve, you choose your favorite wa to partake.

Photo: Hitsumabushi

When eel was ordered at restaurants, the portions were served on a bed of rice in a large wooden container.

It came to be served as the final dish at banquets, and condiments such as green tea were added to make it refreshing.


The many Nagoya City and Aichi Prefecture restaurants specializing in eel soon adopted this popular dish.

Other restaurants arranged their own variations using chicken, pork or beef served in a heated stone bowl.

Miso-Nikomi Udon Noodles

Unique thick Udon noodles served piping hot in a rich miso based soup, and eaten directly from an earthenware pot.

The noodles offer a firm texture, and the quality soybean miso also retains its full flavor despite being boiled.

Photo: Miso-Nikomi Udon Noodles

The kneaded flour dough is thrown into the pot and boiled, in the simple home cooking style of Edo period Japan.

The boiling of a single serving of thick firm noodles in an earthenware pot is said to have begun at "Yamamotoya" in Osu, Nagoya City, in the Taisho period.


A popular dish enjoyed almost anywhere in Aichi Prefecture. Udon packs for home use have over half a century's history. Popular as souvenirs and gifts too.


Miso-Katsu is a breaded fried pork cutlet covered in a miso based sauce. Kushi-Katsu, a skewered serve of breaded fried pork and vegetables, is also included in the Miso-Katsu lineup, and both are typical Nagoya-Meshi specialty dishes.

Local restaurants combine their own blends of seasonings and condiments in the quest for originality.

Photo: Miso-Katsu

Access routes to Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture

Map: The location of Nagoya
Figure: Standard access routes to Nagoya