The Realm of the Mountain
OBLIGATORY ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUE: Go here to see the original version of the TL and discuss it; all comments must go there.
The Realm of the Mountain
Swift as the Wind, Silent as a Forest, Fierce as Fire and Immovable as a Mountain
The Tiger of Kai
The end of the Ashikaga order, the extinction of stability and peace, the rise and fall of the daimyos, the social and national war and the rise of the great generals of lowly origins were amongst the marks of the Sengoku Period in Japan, also known as the Warring States Period: one-hundred and twenty years in which the empire of Japan has suffered from generations of war as the shoguns lost their grip over the nation and let the country disintegrate and divide under the influence and power of the most powerful daimyo clans. 
One of these clans was the Takeda of Kai Province, in western Japan, a powerful and influential family descended from the noble Minamoto Clan, under the leadership of the talented and resourceful Takeda Shingen, son of Takeda Nobutara.
Shingen, a man of great intelligence and skill, was able to take the domain he inherited at the age of 21 and turn it into a force to be reckoned with in the west of Japan, beginning a series of campaigns against his neighboring clans, succeeding in the conquest of the provinces of Shinano and Sugura, as well as several other territories around his own domain, including several castles from the warlord that would become his chief rival over the years, Uesugi Kenshin.
Kenshin and Shingen would come to fight each other for several years, the rivalry between the two gaining fame thanks to the series of engagements fought at Kawanakajima in the decade of the 1550s and early 1560s, the Takeda facing the Uesugi five times in a war that nearly bled the two clans white. 
By the year of 1572, Takeda Shingen had made himself one of the most powerful daimyos in Japan, having expanded his domains greatly at the expense of his neighbors and achieving an uneasy yet effective peace with his neighbors thanks to the truce made with Hojo Ujimasa and the exhaustion that resulted from his wars with Uesugi Kenshin, who would remain a threat to Shingen's northern border for years nonetheless.
It was the great fame and power that Shingen had obtained in his years as head of the Takeda clan that made him the most suitable candidate for shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki, who had been conspiring against his patron, the great daimyo Oda Nobunaga.
Nobunaga, who had risen from relative obscurity in the Owari province, had not only conquered the imperial capital of Kyoto along with most of central Japan, but had also been able to install a puppet Shogun in the capital, and despite Yoshinaki's role as de jure ruler of the country, it was Nobunaga the one who controlled the government, much to the frustration of the Shogun. 
Of the great four daimyos that quarreled for power outside of the Oda sphere of influence; Mori Motonari, Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen and Hojo Ujiyasu, Shingen was the only one with the power and in the position to halt Nobunaga's momentum and prevent him from gaining national hegemony.
Shingen's campaign began in earnest in 1572, when he launched an invasion of the domains of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Nobunaga's staunch allies and Shingen's rivals, with whom he had disputed the division of the Imagawa domain recently. The invasion of Totomi and the capture of the imposing fortress of Iwamura marked the beginning of the campaign against Ieyasu in the winter of 1572, in an offensive made possible by the strategic genius of the Takeda generals and Shingen himself, while the Tokugawa suffered from poorer leadership and only enjoyed little support from Nobunaga, who was at the time engaged in a series of campaigns at Nagashima.
Meanwhile, the war between Ieyasu and Shingen would continue, eventually leading to the decisive battle of Mikatagahara, on January 6th of 1573.
Shingen had brought forward an army of 30,000 men to engage the Tokugawa north of Ieyasu’s stronghold of Hamamatsu, his best generals, Yamagata Masakage and Baba Nobufusa standing beside him along with his son and heir, Takeda Katsuyori.
To oppose him, Ieyasu only counted with nearly 8,000 men reinforced with 3,000 troops that Oda Nobunaga had reluctantly sent as a sign of support, although it would also prove to be a sign of Nobunaga’s distrust of Ieyasu, especially in the dire situation in which the lord of Totomi was at the moment. The two armies met at the high plain of Mikata, north of Hamamatsu, as Ieyasu tried to halt Shingen’s attack before the fortress was directly compromised.
According to the historical records, Shingen organized his men in gyôrin (fish-scale) formation, enticing his opponent to attack, while Ieyasu’s forces formed a line, with the hope of being able to take advantage of the harquebusiers, even though the use of firearms in Japan was still quite new and the techniques not quite perfected. The battle was nevertheless begun when Shingen ordered his famous cavalry to begin a charge, devastating the center of the Tokugawa line and overrunning the frightened and inexperienced ashigaru, while leaving only a few still standing by the end of the charge. The battle then continued with the withdrawal of the first cavalry units, allowing them to rest, and their replacement with fresh troops that proceeded to attack the Tokugawa line once more, this time under the command of Takeda Katsuyori and Obata Masamori, inflicting further damage to the Tokugawa line before being joined by the main Takeda force, which quickly routed the enemy forces. The full retreat of the Tokugawa army began shortly after the second breaking of the main line. The routing, as the early stages of the battle, had proven to be particularly bloody and costly, especially for the Tokugawa, given the terrible psychological effect of facing the great Takeda Shingen and his famed cavalry.
Seeing his army in retreat and his main generals trapped, Ieyasu ordered to have his standard raised at where the high plains began to drop off. The daimyo’s intentions being to lead a new surprise attack against the Takeda and free his men, despite the attempts by his remaining officers to have him retreat to safety.
Ieyasu was only able to muster a force of 4,000 men to lead his attack, but he was hoping that the surprise factor would enable him to drive the tired and overconfident Takeda forces as they were scattered around the battlefield pursuing his army.
The attempted counterattack would nevertheless be entirely futile. The battle was lost and the army was in retreat, and Ieyasu’s charge, although successful in pushing the Takeda flank at the early stages of the attack, was eventually driven back as Yamagata Masakage himself regrouped his men from the center and the flank to halt the Tokugawa counterattack and route the enemy forces, killing Ieyasu and most of his remaining troops in the process.
The rest of the army retreated in all directions, the main force effectively losing all coherence and disintegrating through the battle site. The field was Shingen’s.
The battle, despite several disputes over the historical records, officially ended when the vanguard of the Takeda force entered the abandoned fortress of Hamamatsu the following morning. 
1. The Sengoku Period is largely agreed to have started in 1467 as a result of the Onin War, a conflict between two rivaling Clans (The Yamana and the Hosokawa) which escalated into a full scale national civil war and dissolution;
2. The famous Five battles of Kanawakajima took place in 1553, 1555, 1557, 1561 and 1564, but the fourth battle is the most famous, both for its massive casualties and its scope;
3. Oda Nobunaga was only a petty warlord in Owari Province until the great daimyo Immagawa Yoshimoto decided to march on Kyoto and take over Japan in 1560, being defeated by Oda’s smaller army at the battle of Okehazama; From then on, Nobunaga began a campaign that resulted in the unification of Central Japan under the Oda;
4. The Ashikaga Shogun was in touch with all the major Daimyo, but Shingen was the one closer geographically and perhaps the only willing to respond;
5. The battle of Mikatagahara is the POD: IOTL the Takeda armies did not enter Hamamatsu Castle because they feared a trap and Shingen died shortly afterwards, either from an old war wound, a sniper shot or pneumonia; ITTL, they take the castle and Shingen is inside, which I think is enough to prevent sniper shootings and pneumonia;
The Oda-Takeda war
The season that followed the downfall of the Tokugawa domain and the Takeda conquest of Hamamatsu was one of great shock and incertitude for the daimyos east and west of Kyoto and this was most true for no other than Oda Nobunaga. While the three other most powerful clans in Japan, the Hojo, the Uesugi and the Mori, were contempt sitting back and evaluating the situation, Nobunaga had lost an important ally, one that protected the routes to the Owari and Mino provinces, where Nobunaga’s most vital and at the time most vulnerable strongholds were located.
What made matters worse for Nobunaga was not only that he would have to face one of the most powerful daimyos and ablest military commanders in the Empire, but the fact that at the time the resources of the Oda domain were occupied in a lengthy campaign against the Azai and Asakura clans, allied to the Ikko-Ikki rebels in the north, east and west of the Oda territory. 
In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Hamamatsu, the Shingen camp was divided, with some of his veteran generals suggesting a more conservative approach that could allow the armies to rest and the situation to be studied more carefully, while a more aggressive faction led by Shingen’s son Katsuyori wanted the Takeda forces regrouped as soon as possible to strike the Oda while they were weak and off guard, striking directly against Nagoya and Gifu, through the “Soft underbelly.” The short-lived divide was ended when Shingen decided to take advantage of the dispersion of the Oda forces, otherwise occupied engaging the Ikko-Ikki and the Asakura, and launch a swift invasion of the Owari and Mino provinces.
The campaign begun in early 1573 found only little resistance at Owari, where the Oda forces had been trying to besiege the Ikko-Ikki fortress of Nagashima since 1571, only to be defeated by the fanatical defenders. 
The Ikko-Ikki (the Single-minded leagues), mobs of peasant farmers, samurai, ronin, monks, local nobles and Shinto priests adherent to the Jodo Shinshu (“True Pure land”) sect of Buddhism, had risen against Samurai rule and were now opposed to Oda Nobunaga and allied to the Oda enemies of the Asai and Asakura clans.
Shingen’s arrival in the late winter of 1573 provided a morale boost for the defenders of Nagashima, finding a suitable ally in the head of the Takeda clan. Nagashima’s 20,000 troops would at the same time provide a great reinforcement to the Takeda army, despite the objection of many of the Takeda generals and the distrust of the Ikko-Ikki. These would nonetheless prove quite useful in the subsequent engagements in central Japan. Of the entire force based at Nagashima, only 8,000 would join the Takeda force at the beginning, not doing much to dispel the mutual distrust. 
Further north, Oda Nobunaga and his generals, which included the famed Toyotomi Hashiba and Sakuma Nobumori , who had been in charge of regrouping the Oda forces for a second attempt at taking Nagashima, had massed an army of 20,000 men to engage the invading Takeda, the first major engagement taking place at Kiyosu, south of Gifu.
The battle itself is said to have taken place in the early spring of 1573, although it is mostly agreed that it was actually in early March of that year, the Takeda forces numbering nearly 30,000 and the Oda about 20,000. Tactically, the engagement was complicated for both sides. The Takeda army had showed up at the battlefield as the Oda army was taking positions, being thus taking by surprise when Yamagata Masakage led the first cavalry charge against the unprepared Oda lines, routing the center and forcing the main army to regroup nearly a mile north of the field. Unfortunately for the Takeda, however, Toyotomi Hashiba was able to regroup his forces north of the town and prevent Yamagata and Takeda from outflanking his force, while his harquebusiers kept the enemy cavalry at bay. A second Takeda attack, this time pressing the flanks, would nonetheless suffice to push the Oda forces north, towards the river, thanks to a diversionary attack on Hashiba’s right flank which depleted the arquebusier’s line and weapons. A third attack would finally force Toyotomi to cross the river and retreat back to Gifu, where the main Oda force under Nobunaga himself waited patiently for Shingen and his armies.
The fortress of Gifu had been built by Oda Nobunaga himself after his conquest of the region, not only to serve as a fortification with military purposes, but also as a symbol of his power, erected with the purpose of causing awe and fear in the hearts of his enemies and to serve as a sign of Nobunaga’s power and ambition, the name Gifu having been chosen as it had been the name of the castle from which Wu Wang of the Chou began his campaigns to unify China.
Laying in the center of his domains, Nobunaga had probably never expected to one day be forced to fall back on his castle and defend it from an invading army, but Takeda Shingen’s force numbered well over 30,000 when he ended the siege of Nagashima and took over the home of the Oda clan, the Owari province. Nobunaga responded by mobilizing his own forces and recalling his ablest commanders, the most powerful of which was Hashiba Hideyoshi, despite his early defeat at Kiyosu, and by the time Shingen approached the impregnable fortress of Gifu, the Oda force exceeded the 30,000 men just as the Takeda army.
The engagement between the two forces began in late march of 1573, the Takeda army approaching from the south towards the entrenched and patient Oda troops, which had the imposing fortress of Gifu to provide not only shelter but also a great psychological advantage, in spite of the previous Takeda triumphs over Iwamura and Hamamatsu.
The first cavalry charge under Yamagata was initially successful thanks to the element of surprise and the ferocity of the attack, and the Oda line was pushed several hundreds of meters northwardly before Nobunaga and Hideyoshi themselves appeared with 3,000 reinforcements and regrouped the dispersed troops about 500 meters north of the original line and forced the Takeda advance to stop, to then push them back with great casualties for the first group. This first exchange resulted in the death of Oda retainer Akechi Mitsuhide and Takeda general Oyamada Nobushige, who had been one of the famed “24 Generals” 
The second phase began when Hashiba Hideyoshi led an attack against the Takeda lines just as they prepared to launch a second assault. The result was an hour of brutal fighting in which the Oda troops, exhausted from pursuing the retreating troops under Yamagata, were met by fresh and experienced soldiers under Takeda Katsuyori and Sanada Nobutsuna, who led the final cavalry charge that drove Hideyoshi and his men back. Unfortunately, as the enemy forces retreated, Katsuyori’s aggressiveness and Nobutsuna’s inability to stop him led to a renewed attack on the retreating Oda troops, and with only 2,000 men, Shingen’s son attacked Hashiba Hideyoshi’s men directly south of Gifu.
The result was a continued carnage. Sanada Nobutsuna was killed as he charged at the Oda Arquebusiers, which had created a new line with trenches and palisades just north of where they had previously stand, taking the Takeda forces by surprise and halting their advance once more. The battle nonetheless ensued for another three hours in which the Oda and Takeda reserves were called to bring about an end to the battle, only adding blood to the massacre that was the battle of Gifu.
As dusk neared, the Takeda left the battlefield leaving nearly 8,000 men behind, including famed and feared generals such as Oyamada Nobushige, Sanada Nobutsuna and Hara Masatane, while the Oda suffered casualties nearing the 7,500, having lost men such as Akechi Mitsuhide and Yamouchi Kazutoyo. The main Takeda force took positions south of the Kiso River, Shingen and his generals making preparations for what promised to be a long and bloody siege. The long and costly process of reducing Gifu had left a toll of nearly 10,000 men for Shingen by the third month of the siege, while Nobunaga had lost approximately the same amount of soldiers, most during the attempts to break the siege or push back the Takeda lines.
The last attempt to turn the tide of the battle, in which Hashiba Hideyoshi led 10,000 men against the center of the Takeda line under Baba Nobufusa, entrenched along the Kiso river as well as the rest of the Takeda army, resulted in the loss of 3,000 soldiers, including infantrymen and harquebusiers, and 350 arquebuses, while strategically it allowed the Takeda general to leave his position along the river to pursue Hideyoshi’s men and thus break through the external line of defenses of the Oda fortress.
This was by far the worst disaster yet for the defenders: in the aftermath of the failed attack the outer defensive perimeter had been breached and Shingen was in a position to threaten Gifu castle itself. To make matters worse for Nobunaga, while he and his men tried to outlast Shingen’s invasion, outside his fortress the domain and power he had amassed at the expense of blood and sacrifice began to crumble with the rallying of his enemies against him.
At Kyoto, taking advantage of Oda Nobunaga’s absence and perhaps imminent defeat, the puppet shogun Ashikaga Yoshinaki, whom the daimyo of Owari had put in power personally, broke his relations with his former champion and began to fortify Nijo castle while creating a new alliance with the Azai and Asakura clans to ally against the Oda once more, although they had been left on a terribly weak state after their war against Nobunaga in 1570 and would not be able to interfere at this stage of the conflict.
But further south, at the cathedral fortress of Ishiyama Hongan-Ji, where the Ikko-Ikki had their central base and most powerful stronghold, the news of the desperate Oda plight to defend his domains against Shingen, the letters received from the Shogun encouraging the Ikko-Ikki to continue to fight against Nogunaga and the arrival of reinforcements from their allies of the Mori clan in the form of 3,000 soldiers and a large amount of supplies made the force at Ishiyama strong enough to take on the Oda soldiers that had been tasked with monitoring the situation at the long siege. 
By the time the Ikko-Ikki launched their general counterattack with the help of the Mori fleet, the Oda forces surrounding the fortress had been greatly reduced by the need to engage the Takeda at Gifu and reinforce the Oda positions at Kyoto and the border with the Asakura, and thus the siege ended with a victory for the Ikko-Ikki, while the Abbot Kosa began to make preparations to link up with the remaining members of the anti-Oda coalition further north.
The fall of the House of Oda
The coming of the autumn marked the sixth month of the siege against the complex fortification that was Gifu. For 25 weeks the Takeda had tried to reduce the fortress through every imaginable mean, both by conventional and unconventional means, but at the end being forced to engage the Oda in a conventional siege, destroying the enemy resistance by outlasting his forces and starving the defenders.
The arrival of reinforcements from the Ikko-Ikki and the Takeda domain in the late summer gave renewed hope to the Takeda generals and retainers, and convinced some that a new offensive was necessary if Gifu was to fall before the arrival of the winter and more importantly, before geopolitical complications came into play. Shingen had abandoned his domains nearly a year ago and his enemies were not to be trusted if the master was away for too long. A siege could convince a daimyo’s enemy that it was the moment to attack, and this could prove to be true not only for Nobunaga, but also for Shingen.
But although neither Uesugi Kenshin nor Hojo Ujimasa made any aggressive move against the Kai or Shinano provinces, the enemies of the Oda had rallied before the figures of the Ashikaga shogun and the Takeda daimyo: the Asakura and the Azai coming to the calling of Yoshiaki and Shingen in the late summer of 1573 along with the Ikko-Ikki and some troops sent by the Mori clan of Chugoku, all of which proved of great utility for the war effort against the Oda, both at Gifu and elsewhere.
And while the Azai and Asakura attacked the northern border of the Oda domain while assisting Shingen in the siege with reinforcements, the situation for Nobunaga and his generals grew more and more desperate as things progressed. All attempts made by the Takeda to cut the castle’s water supply had failed, as had all the initiatives aimed at assaulting the fortress directly, but for the men inside Gifu time was running out and the situation continued to deteriorate.
When the month of September ended, the Oda force had been reduced to just 18,000 men, while the Takeda army had increased its own numbers to 30,000 once more thanks to the continued reinforcements from the Anti-Oda coalition. Nobunaga could not pretend to be able to hold the enemy for much longer and Shingen could not maintain the siege forever: someone had to make a move.
The time to end the campaign came, according to western sources, on October 18th of 1573, when the Takeda and Oda forces met on the open field and engaged in the last battle of the Gifu operation. Oda Nobunaga had witnessed how his defensive lines collapsed and fell to the Takeda forces through a period of six months, losing nearly 12,000 men in the process while the survivors grew more desperate and demoralized as the prospect of defeat lurked as a shadow in the castle, behind every door, behind every soldier.
Nobunaga put his hope on his harquebusiers, of which he could still yield an impressive amount of 2,000 on the battlefield, as opposed to Shingen’s own 900, of which half were Ikko-Ikki. The Oda daimyo positioned his men along a large irregular line, taking advantage of the terrain to stop the dreaded and feared Takeda cavalry, while the Arquebusiers used a line of trenches and palisades to hold their line and slow down any possible cavalry charge.
The Takeda force was on the other hand divided into three main corps under Shingen’s trusted generals. Each division, with around 7,000 men deployed, comprised the bulk of the Takeda army, while the rest served as a reserve force. The famed Takeda cavalry was put aside due to the difficulties presented by the terrain and the positioning of the Oda force, and thus relegated to serve as skirmishers and for a possible routing of the Oda troops, therefore leaving much of the battle in the hands of the Ashigaru infantry and the Arquebusiers and archers.
Shingen began the attack with a small cavalry attack aimed at the flanks, with the purpose of testing the strength of the Oda line, and then following with the Ashigaru infantry in a three-pronged attack in which Yamagata’s “Fire division” attacked the center and engaged the harquebusiers on the center-right, nearly driving the Oda troops back only to be pushed by the arrival of Nobunaga’s infantry reserves from the left flank.
The arrival of the reserves convinced Shingen to deploy his second division in a diversionary attack against the depleted left flank of the Oda force, while taking his own third division under his personal command, as well as that of Baba Nobufusa’s, to attack the center of the Oda army.
The attack on the left flank, which forced Nobunaga to focus his attention on Takeda Katsuyori’s cavalry, managed to enrage the commander of the Oda Army of the Left, Hashiba Hideyoshi, enough for him to lead an attack to pursue the Takeda with his own troops and reserves…what followed was the end of the battle, with the left flank inexistent, Shingen took his men and attacked the center-right, that is the harquebusiers from two different directions while his own harquebusiers kept them preoccupied shooting at the south-east while the Takeda infantry came from the south and the south-west.
The engagement, which lasted for over six hours, left the Oda armies completely vanquished, with over 9,000 laying on the fields and other 2,000 having retreated, while the Takeda casualties only amounted to 1,800. The camel’s back was broken, and so was the will of Oda Nobunaga and his generals. Hashiba Hideyoshi had been killed as his troops were surrounded on two directions, by Katsuyori’s cavalry and by Baba Nobufusa’s reserves, which had turned to the south-west after routing the center of the Oda army.
Oda Nobunaga, the man that had defeated the Imagawa, conquered Kyoto and nearly unified central Japan, committed Seppuku two days after the battle, merely hours before Shingen ordered the final assault on Gifu castle.
The near disintegration of the Oda domain that followed the fall of Gifu and the death of Nobunaga was followed by a rush by Shingen to march on the Imperial capital and restore order to the situation of Central Japan. While the Takeda besieged Gifu castle, a combined force of Ikko-Ikki, Azai and Asakura troops, as well as those loyal to the Shogun threatened Kyoto before entering the city and coming to the aid of Shingen at the battle with Nobunaga.
Shingen wasted little time after the Gifu campaign and marched on Kyoto almost immediately, leaving most of his army at the battlefield or sending them back to Kofu, thus only taking some 10,000 men with him in hic march to Kyoto. Having spared the lives of most of the old Oda clan, excepting for many of his sons and brothers, who could have become a menace with time, as well as some prominent generals and retainers, the Oda domain was greatly reduced by the new advances of the old enemies, something Shingen would have to remedy if he was to take over the Oda territories as he had with the Tokugawa domain.
10,000 men entered Kyoto on November 3rd of 1573, with Takeda Shingen, his generals and his son Katsuyori at the head of the conquering army. The flags and banners of the Takeda clan soon filled the city, its streets and its main buildings as the army marched through the city. Shingen himself was reportedly ecstatic as he saw the capital, visiting several Buddhist temples and shrines on his way to meet the Emperor and the Shogun, who had waited for him ever since hearing the news on the conquest of Gifu.
The Tiger of Kai was received by the Shogun and the Emperor with great cordiality and greeted by the notables of the city and the anti-Oda alliance with an expected surprise and enthusiasm. Shingen had not only defeated the Oda and their allies, but had within the batting of a butterfly’s wing become the most powerful daimyo of the Empire, both in terms of power and territory, and now he stood in the Imperial Capital with a conquering army.
1. Oda Nobunaga was indeed in the midst of subduing the Ikko-Ikki, the Azai and the Azakura at this time, which is one of the reasons why he was only able to send so few reinforcements to Tokugawa Ieyasu; distrust and lack of fondness for Ieyasu might have also been a part of it;
2. The first siege of Nagashima was an Ikko-Ikki Victory in 1571; the second siege does not happen ITTL due to the Takeda invasion in early 1573;
3. Takeda Shingen himself, a strict Zen Buddhist, was not too fond of the Ikko-Ikki either and even ordered them expelled from his domain, but this is war and manpower is manpower;
4. Hashiba was Toyotomi’s name before he took his most famous one: Hidetoyi; Sakuma was a loyal Oda retainer entrusted with Nobunaga’s care when the daimyo was a child;
5. Just one of the famous groupings of commanders of the Sengoku Period, this one being particularly famous for their service under Takeda Shingen between the 1540s and 1570s; IOTL, most of them died between the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima and the Battle of Nagashino.
6. Ishiyama Hongan-Ji was besieged between 1570 and 1580 IOTL, and not even the help from the Mori could prevent the fall of the fortress; Yet after only 3 years, the Cathedral-Castle of the Ikko-Ikki still stands tall and strong;
The Kofu-Fukuchiyama Period
The period that followed the Takeda conquest of the lands of the Oda clan and their allies is considered by most historians and experts a continuation of the Sengoku Period, agreeing that the true beginning of the Kofu-Fukuchiyama Period took place thanks to the events that developed a decade earlier, but many others claim that it was the entrance of Takeda Shingen at Kyoto the birth of the new historical period.
At the age of 53, Shingen stood amongst the daimyo of Japan as the most powerful warlord and the most successful of the conquering warriors of the period, having outdone great daimyo such as Imagawa Yoshimoto, Oda Nobunaga and his great rival, Uesugi Kenshin.
Not only did Shingen ruled over the most vast of the domains in Japan, directly or by proxy, but he also controlled the center of the empire, the “soft underbelly”, and the Imperial capital of Kyoto, residence of the Emperor and the Shogun, both of which now courted Shingen as an ally and liberator.
Yet the appearances masked a hidden truth: that the Ashikaga Shogun distrusted Shingen and that he was beginning to fear his influence as he had with Oda Nobunaga and that because of that, he had begun to conspire against his new lord as he had with the last.
The Takeda Clan descended from no other than the Minamoto Clan, the one that had produced the great figure of Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Empire, and therefore Shingen had the historical and familiar right to claim the shogunate to himself and his Clan, something that was well within his possibilities, given not only the grandiosity of his domains or his military powers, but also by the greatness of his name and his person. 
It was an understanding this situation that Ashikaga Yoshiaki continued to sit alongside Shingen while writing to men like Uesugi Kenshin and Hojo Ujimasa to warn them and encourage them to fight against Shingen. Japan was too much of a treasure for a single man to rule it and enjoy the spoils, and the many enemies of the Takeda clan knew this as did the Shogun.
In the meantime, Shingen consolidated his domains, extending over his neighboring daimyos, particularly the Azai and the Asakura, his protection, incorporating the various domains as protectorates of his own already vast territory, while at the same time moving his borders at the expense of his more reluctant neighbors, such as the Anegakoji and the Hatano. Others, such as the Ikko-Ikki, saw their rights, power and territory expanded under the mantle of the Takeda, although this came at the price of an illusory independence and the submission of their will to that of Shingen, as de Jure allies of the Takeda Clan. 
Of course, the powerful rivals that had opposed Takeda Shingen over the years were not about to sit and see how the Takeda unified the country and conquered their domains without saying a word. The main opposition to Shingen’s new authority came from the east, where his old enemy, Uesugi Kenshin, the Dragon of Echigo, formed an alliance with Hojo Ujimasa and several other weaker eastern daimyo.
The Anti-Takeda alliance, formed primarily by the Uesugi and the Hojo, was formed almost immediately after Shingen raised his flags and standards in Kyoto, and it was having anticipated that the Tiger of Kai would not be satisfied simply with the Lion’s share of the country that Kenshin unleashed the power of the Anti-Takeda coalition during the winter of 1575.
1. Descendants of the Minamoto Clan do indeed have a claim to the Shogunate, not to mention that in Ashikaga Yoshiaki’s eyes he has just replaced one strongman master for another;
2. Once again, the Takeda do not particularly like the Ikko-Ikki, but they have bigger fish to fry and do not think that the Ikko-Ikki deserve their full attention so early on; not to mention that for the moment they are nominally allies;
The Dragon of Echigo
In the year of 1575, east of the provinces of Kai and Shinano in the Takeda Domain there laid the lands of the Uesugi clan, where the fiercest and oldest enemy of Takeda Shingen, the formidable Uesugi Kenshin reigned. 
Just like Shingen had, Kenshin rose to the leadership of his clan through political intrigue and family schemes, to then become one of the most renowned and successful warlords of his time, leading the successful conquest and unification of the province of Echigo, to then begin the great and famed struggle with Shingen over Shinano Provinces, solved in the series of battles fought at Kawanakajima in the 1560s. Ever since, Uesugi Kenshin had limited his military campaigns to raids and attacks with limited objectives against the Hojo in the Kanto and against the Takeda at Shinano, in a series of attempts to restore the Kanto to the Uesugi clan while keeping the Takeda occupied, not wanting them to be overconfident.
The status quo that followed the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima was nonetheless shattered by the Takeda conquest of central Japan through Shingen’s war upon the Tokugawa and the Oda, and now that the Lord of Kai had become the most powerful daimyo of Japan, none doubted that his long term ambition was the elimination of his remaining rivals and the unification of Japan under the banners of the Takeda Clan. To prevent such a development and protect their own interests, the remaining great daimyo Clans began to plot with the Ashikaga shogun, Yoshiaki, against the Takeda, forming the first Anti-Takeda coalition in 1575, led by Uesugi Kenshin and Hojo Ujimasa, who had become a de facto Uesugi puppet following the fall of Kyoto.
Kenshin and Ujimasa were joined by several less powerful daimyos of eastern Japan, most of which in fact joined out of fear of the Uesugi rather than fear of the Takeda. In any case, Shingen was now surrounded by enemies, with a powerful coalition threatening the eastern borders of his domains and the ambitious and opportunistic Mori Clan in the west, having achieved a truce with the Otomo clan of Kyushu probably just to have a free hand to interfere in the affairs of central Japan.
Whether Shingen had ever contemplated the possibility of overthrowing Ashikaga Yoshiaki and taking the title of Shogun for himself, a right that he certainly had as descendant of the Minamoto clan, would never be known but forever suspected and suggested as one of the reasons why Yoshiaki and several others conspired against him, forcing him to leave Kyoto just after he left, having enjoyed just a couple of years of peace as de facto ruler of Japan before having to deal with his great rival, Uesugi Kenshin.
The Tiger and the Dragon: the Uesugi-Takeda war
Having anticipated that Shingen would try to recover his momentum and continue with the rush to conquer and unify Japan as Oda Nobunaga had tried before him, Uesugi Kenshin and his allies decided to make his move just as the Takeda prepared for a possible war against the Mori in the west, thus deciding to threaten the Eastern border of the Takeda domain with a massive attack along the frontier.
Kenshin had spent the years following the Takeda conquest of Kyoto subjugating the Jimbo clan of Etchu province, finally succeeding in 1574 as Shingen continued his role as de facto Shogun, promulgating laws and reforms from the Imperial Capital. 
In the meantime, Kenshin’s allies were gathering a large force to match Shingen’s own armies, the most powerful of Japan at the time, and placing troops throughout the Uesugi and Hojo domain, trying to prevent Shingen from anticipating their moves and making a preemptive attack. The preparations worked, and by the autumn of 1575, the joint armies of the Uesugi and the Hojo numbered some 55,000 men, with a large reserve being prepared at the Kanto to hold back any possible Takeda counterattack when it came.
The war began with a move made by the Hojo, Ujimasa leading an army of 20,000 men against Ejiri castle, the stronghold of Yamagata Masakage, one of the famed 24 generals, in the early autumn of 1575. The attack was swift and decisive, the Hojo army outnumbering the small Takeda garrison two to one. This victory was followed by an attack made by Uesugi himself, and with the morale of the anti-Takeda alliance having been bolstered by this victory, Kenshin attacked Kaizu castle in northern Shinano while the allied forces prepared for an attack against Minowa castle in Kozuke.
Between the time news about the fall of Ejiri reached Kyoto and the time in which Kenshin and the bulk of his armies stationed in central Japan left the capital, Kaizu castle had surrendered and an army of 34,000 men was gathering to attack Kofu castle itself, at the de jure capital of the Kai province and the Takeda domain. Takeda Kenshin left Kyoto on October of 1575, seeing the Imperial Capital for the last time from his horse, contemplating his banners and standards over the city’s castles, streets and walls, unknowingly to him, for the last time.
The army Uesugi Kenshin commanded at Kofu castle, Shingen’s main stronghold and capital, numbered about 35,000 men in the winter of 1575, when the main actions of the Kofu campaign took place. At the time, Shingen was reorganizing and gathering an army to meet with the invading enemy hordes, but could only muster a force of 12,000, having marched from Kyoto with 10,000 and only receiving some reinforcements from his regional allies as the bulk of the Takeda army was being formed at the Kai and Shinano provinces.
It took Shingen and his generals some weeks to reach Kofu, and fortunately for the Takeda, the Uesugi had not been able to subdue the fortress.
Kenshin had hoped for a short and victorious campaign against the eastern holdings of the Takeda to draw them to his own territory and force them into one large decisive battle, like the one that he had lost at the fourth engagement between the two at Kawanakajima, but he had not counted with the fierce resistance Kofu castle presented to him nor the velocity with which Shingen launched his counterattack.
The first phase of the campaign, the one against the castle itself, presented all kind of difficulties for Kenshin, from small logistical problems that mobilizing a large army always presented to the terrible weather conditions the winter brought, to the well-organized resistance organized by the Takeda defenders, led by Shingen’s son, Takeda Katsuyori. Early attempts to directly assault the castle by force or to cut its water supply failed through the first weeks of the winter of 1575, and well into 1576 the castle stood as impregnable as before, its 14,500 defenders refusing to surrender. At the same time, bands of peasants organized into militias disrupted the Uesugi communications and supply lines for several weeks, before the Uesugi began employing several brutal tactics to keep the civilian population controlled.
Naturally, the failures of the first phase were nothing compared to the events that unfolded in the month of January of 1576, when Takeda Shingen himself arrived in front of an army of 12,000 men, both Ashigaru and cavalry, carrying the standards of the Takeda clan and ready to confront the Uesugi invaders.
The actual battle between Shingen and Kenshin, the first in over a decade, would nonetheless not take place until about two days after the arrival of the Takeda force, Shingen’s men needing to rest and regroup, as well as the troops under Kenshin, preoccupied with besieging Kofu castle.
The arrival of the Takeda army forced Kenshin to disengage a large part of the forces besieging Kofu to deal with the secondary force, but as a result of this sudden and rapid movement, the force that left the siege to fight Shingen himself was not as organized or rested, and were forced to march several miles to meet the Takeda in their camp.
To lead the attack against Shingen there was Kenshin himself, joined by his generals, although he had no desire to leave the important decisions to his subordinates. With about 15,000 men, approximately half of his army, Uesugi Kenshin stood to the east of the Takeda camp, which had dug trenches and prepared palisades to serve as protection to their harquebusiers. In terms of firepower Shingen had an advantage, having nearly thrice the harquebusiers and cannons, but both forces had a roughly equal number in terms of cavalry and Infantry.
Confident in the strength of his army and in the conditions of the battlefield, Kenshin decided to split his force, sending some 6,000 men northwards to attack the Takeda camp from the north-east in a diversionary attack, while the bulk of his army attacked from the east and the south-east, but the Takeda force led by Baba Nobufusa repelled the feint without persecuting the Uesugi force, something that Kenshin had not foreseen.
On the center, Kenshin’s generals launched a cavalry attack against the palisades, behind which a reserve force of ashigaru and harquebusiers stood, but the Uesugi cavalry was met by the superior firepower of the Takeda, the harquebusiers having been positioned in three lines that could open fire constantly, spreading chaos through the Uesugi line.
Following the failure of the first charge, the Uesugi force under Honjo Shinenaga and Uesugi Kagenobu regrouped and prepared for a continued attack, taking advantage of the weakened state of the Takeda line, and thus a general attack was launched with 8,000 men against the main line of the Takeda army. The renewed attack was much tougher for the Takeda to contain, as Kenshin himself led the attack along the line, forcing the Takeda to reinforce the entire front with their reserves. It was at this point that Kenshin learnt that Takeda general Baba Nobufusa was wounded, therefore convincing him to attack the concentrate on the center-left, where a majority of the Takeda generals were grouped, including Shingen himself.
Carrying the Uesugi banners to the center of the battlefield, Kenshin’s cavalry outmaneuvered their enemy counterparts to pierce a hole through the line, nearly reaching the position in which Shingen and his generals were had there not been for the reserve Arquebusiers and ashigaru redeployed to stop them. Following this failure, the battle degenerated into a long and bloody struggle for domination over the battlefield, something Uesugi Kenshin had been determined to allow due to his previous experiences against Shingen at Kawanakajima.
Rather than to sustain further casualties in a prolonged attrition conflict, the lord of Echigo decided to withdraw from the battlefield and abandon his position at Kofu castle.
Following the Takeda victory at Kofu, which had cost Shingen some 3,000 men and Kenshin some 4,000, the Anti-Takeda force would retreat back to the strongholds they had already taken and to their own castles, while the Takeda would spend the better part of the winter and the spring assembling their forces from the vast domains of the Takeda clan.
The war in the East
The season after the campaigning at Kofu was mostly used by the commanders of the opposing armies to regroup their forces and rally badly needed reinforcements, as well as making preparations for the continuation of the war in the upcoming spring.
For Shingen and his armies, two months were needed to gather the necessary forces to engage the Hojo and the Uesugi on the field once more, with troops being called from the vast Takeda domains, cavalry and infantry soldiers being joined by mercenary ronin and Ikko-Ikki troops from throughout central Japan. By late March of 1576, Shingen had amassed a force of 38,000 men at Kofu and the Shinano province, in order to attack the Hojo to the East and the Uesugi to the North.
Kenshin, on the other hand, spent the winter of 1576 strengthening his position in Northern Japan, abandoning the siege of Fukashi castle and instead reinforcing his positions at the castles of Ueda, Kaizu and Minowa, which had been taken from the Takeda domain early in the war. But most importantly was the preparations at Echigo province and the reinforcement of Uesugi Kenshin’s stronghold, Kasugayama castle, one of the most important and powerful fortresses in the Empire of Japan.
Hoping to use the barrier of fortifications between Kasugayama and Kofu to stall Shingen’s forces and gain enough time to regroup properly and prepare a better strategy, Kenshin sought to avoid any direct confrontation with Shingen’s main army for the entire spring of 1576, a time with the Takeda forces used attacking the Hojo clan at the Kanto province, while only launching limited campaigns against the Uesugi in the North. Hojo Ujimasa’s forces had, after Kofu, retreated back to the occupied castle of Ejiri and the Hojo capital of Odawara, where the bulk of the daimyo’s army had rallied after the defeats suffered at the hands of the Takeda. Only 20,000 troops were available to defend the Sagami province and the Kanto, being distributed at Ejiri and Odawara.
Shingen was, in the early spring of 1576, forced to fight a two front war against the Hojo in the East and the Uesugi to the north, but realizing the strength of Kenshin’s forces and the opportunity that was the destruction of the Hojo in their hour of weakness, Generals Baba Nobufusa and Yamagata Masakage, the greatest of the 24, launched an invasion of the Hojo domain at the head of an army of 25,000 men, striking directly against Odawara while a diversionary force surrounded Ejiri.
The Takeda offensive against the main Hojo stronghold at Odawara was a risky strategy at best, Shingen having previously tried to besiege the fortress in an earlier war with the Hojo clan in 1569, only to fail after three days attacking the castle. On this occasion the stakes were much higher, as Shingen was forced to fight a war against both the Hojo and the Uesugi, both powerful and ancient daimyo clans by themselves.
The campaign against Odawara began in the spring of 1576, when Shingen’s main force arrived at the castle as the defenders were preparing their fortifications. At the time of the arrival of the Takeda army, a force of 8,000 troops of the Hojo clan were camped to the west of the fortress, where the first troops of the Takeda army encountered and engaged them on April of 1576.
The Takeda force, divided in three smaller groups (7,500 under Yamagata against Ejiri, 15,000 under Takeda Katsuyori and Baba Nobufusa and 3,000 reservists) entered the Hojo lands attacking through several fronts, with Yamagata’s force launching a swift offensive against Ejiri castle to the south of Kofu province, in a diversionary effort to keep as many Hojo soldiers tied down to the west as possible, while the main army stroke against Odawara itself.
The vanguard of 15,000 men under Katsuyori was the first to arrive at the site, where the 8,000 troops of the Hojo clan had set a first line of defense as the bulk of the army prepared the castle itself. Realizing the numerical superiority to be to his favor, Katsurori decided to seize the opportunity to drive them from the field and destroy the force in detail, and thus a sudden attack was launched the day following their first encounter with the enemy army.
Despite some warnings from some older and more experienced retainers, the attack was launched with Katsuyori himself leading the cavalry attack against the armies of Hojo Ujimasa and his brother, Hojo Ujiteru.
As one could expect from such a hasty and unprepared offensive, the Takeda lines charged against the Hojo only to crash against a well prepared and extremely tough wall, and after the first hour, the Takeda retreated with moderated casualties while the smaller Hojo force did the same, moving their camp closer to the castle of Odawara. The second round began an hour after the initial attack, when the Takeda army of 14,000 began a three pronged assault on the Hojo line, overwhelming the defenders and preventing them from retreating further east. Once the day reached noon, the Hojo had lost 1,500 while the Takeda had suffered nearly 2,000 casualties, and by this point both sides were too tired to continue the battle. Only the arrival of the 3,000 reservists of the Takeda army was capable of forcing the Hojo to retreat to the south as the Takeda generals had wanted, thus isolating the main group of the Hojo army from the secondary force that Katsuyori had first attacked.
This, the only actual engagement between troops in the prolonged siege of Odawara, was followed by two months of relative stability along the front, as the Takeda had a numerical superiority over the Hojo that only grew as time progressed, and with the roads and the seas blockaded, the castle’s strength began to diminish as the supplies of food and water began to become scarce.
Following the swift fall of Ejiri castle on April of 1576 and the short and inconclusive campaigns against the Uesugi at the Ueda and Minowa castles, Odawara was where the full attention of Takeda Shingen and his generals was focused, as the presence of nearly 30,000 troops by the late spring showed.
The battle was lost and this was clear to everyone in Japan, especially to Hojo Ujimasa and Uesugi Kenshin. And while Kenshin tried to bring his troops for a diversionary action in the northern Takeda domains at the Shinano province, all actions against Shingen at the Odawara campaign would prove futile, and by the end of the third month, Shingen’s gamble against Odawara had proven to be an ultimate success, as the fortress and its 12,000 defenders surrendered on July 18th of 1576, the surrender being followed by the ritual suicide of Hojo Ujimasa and his most loyal retainers. 
This was the end of the Hojo clan, descendants of the Minamoto, and Takeda Shingen’s long feud with Hojo Ujiyasu and his son Ujiyasu. Now only Uesugi Kenshin remained in Shingen’s path to the complete domination of Japan.
The war in the North: Kenshin vs. Shingen
Shinano province had been the battlefield in which the Takeda and the Uesugi fought for supremacy over northern Japan for nearly a decade before Shingen turned his attention to the west and Kenshin began his campaigns against the Hojo. But in late 1576, following the fall of Odawara castle and the downfall of the Hojo clan, the two rivaling daimyo returned to the old field to fight their last war against each other.
Since his retreat from Kofu castle, Kenshin and his generals had retreated northwards and began to strengthen their position in the region while preparing for an upcoming Takeda invasion of their domain. Withdrawing from the Takeda domains and leaving the conquered castles of Ueda and Minowa, the Uesugi armies left for Echigo while the Uesugi lord mobilized his domains and his men in earnest. The awaited Takeda attack would nonetheless not come until November of 1576, when the forward units of the Takeda army entered Minowa and Ueda castles, finding them empty according to legend, although other sources would later claim that there were minor skirmishes before the retaking of the two northern fortresses.
In December, Shingen himself invaded the province of Echigo with an army of 40,000 men, to which Kenshin could only oppose a force of 30,000.
The campaign of the winter of 1576 and the spring of 1577 was nevertheless not as easy as one might have expected from the sheer numerical and psychological advantage the Takeda enjoyed. After an entire generation of war, Uesugi Kenshin had become a master of strategy and had, in 16th century Japan, understood and developed the principles of what would later be known as “Mobile warfare.” While the Takeda army marched upon the Uesugi positions, Kenshin continuously withdrew in order to wear down his opponents while seeking for a more suitable terrain for his own forces. The first real engagement of this campaign would not take place until January of 1577, when the Takeda army caught up with the Uesugi at the Chikuma River, Kenshin having camped north of the stream.
Aware of his numerical disadvantage, Kenshin sent a small group down the river, faking an attack on the right flank of the Takeda camp and tricking the enemy commanders into thinking that he was dividing his own forces. Once the Takeda attempted to cross the river to attack the main Uesugi force, Kenshin’s forces absorbed the attack while two separate corps was able to force their way through the flanks of the enemy army and strike directly against the mobile headquarters of the Takeda, behind the battlefield. This move forced the end of the battle and allowed the Uesugi to retreat westwards, back to the main Uesugi fortress of Kasugayama.
The campaign was however continued by two more battles, one a minor skirmish along the Chikuma river once more, and the other a major battle near the town of Ojiya, where 15,000 troops from the Takeda army encountered 8,000 of the Uesugi force. Once again, Uesugi Kenshin made a good use of his knowledge of the terrain, speed and the element of surprise to catch the Takeda off guard, striking directly to their commanders at the back of the field, bypassing the left flank of the enemy army, as Katsuyori and Sanada attacked the main Uesugi force at the town. The battle cost the Takeda some 3,000 soldiers whereas the Uesugi only lost around 800.
The summer of 1577, Uesugi Kenshin once again returned to his fortress-capital, the first time in his life he would be forced to defend it against an invading army. After an entire life of battling through central and eastern Japan, not once had the great fortress of Kasugayama been threatened by an enemy army, but not even the historical change of circumstances could make the fortress any weaker.
Kasugayama, ever since it was built by Kenshin, had stood as an impregnable and imposing fortress for over two decades when Takeda Shingen arrived at the head of an army 25,000 men strong on June of 1577, just a few weeks before the end of the spring, and by itself the stronghold was a formidable force to be fought, standing like a mountain and presenting a more impressive target than Kofu and Odawara. The campaign against the castle was nonetheless started not as a siege, but instead with an open battle between the enemy forces south of the mountain castle, as Uesugi Kenshin once again attempted to break the Takeda army and force them to retreat to their own domains. The battle of Kasugayama, which took place on June of 1577, was at the same time the last real battle of the war and the last either Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin would fight.
Moving his forces in the middle of the night as quietly as humanly possible, Kenshin was able to take his adversary by surprise positioning his men west of the Sekigawa River and north of the Takeda camp, in a dangerous move that divided his own army. The attack that began the next morning was incredibly bloody, as the forward units of the Uesugi army advanced to the very center of the enemy camp completely crushing any resistance encountered in the early hours of the morning. The attack that was forced from the river was however stopped by Baba Nobufusa’s forces, and despite the inability of the Takeda army to display their superior cavalry, the foot soldiers and the samurai were enough to hold down the attacks from the western and northern flanks.
But what truly decided the outcome of the battle was the appearance of Takeda Shingen himself on the battlefield, although others claim that it was in fact a double, or ‘Kagemusha’ the one to ride to the middle of the field with the Takeda generals, leading the charge against the center of the enemy army . The rapid mobilization of the Ashigaru harquebusiers was an important factor however, having being able to stop the attack coming from the right flank with enough velocity to allow the bulk of the reserves to be moved to fight at the northern flank.
Thus the last desperate attempt by Kenshin to avoid a battle at his own capital failed, at the cost of several of his trusted generals and nearly 4,000 of his best men, including General Shibata Shigeie. The destruction and the havoc created at the Takeda camp were insufficient to prevent the invading army from starting the siege against Kasugayama castle merely a week after the bloody and rather inconclusive battle.
Kasugayama castle had withstood for over six months as the besieging forces of Takeda Shingen waited tirelessly. Inside the fortified walls of the castle there were Uesugi Kenshin, his retainers, his family and the most loyal of his followers. Outside there was the most powerful man in Japan, whose domains spread from Ishiyama Hongan-Ji to Edo and Odawara and who had in his lifetime conquered half of the Empire of the Sun.
Come December of 1577, the war between the Uesugi and the Takeda, the last in a series of engagements between the two rivaling clans that had lasted for a generation had cost thousands upon thousands of lives, counting those lost from the beginning of the feud to the end of the siege of Kasugayama castle. By January of 1578, the will to continue fighting was the only thing that forced the two exhausted and beaten armies to carry on. The snow continued to fall and the cold was taking its toll upon both armies, as the roads covered with ice and snow made it increasingly difficult for the two forces to receive the badly needed surprise.
But finally, as the month of January closed to its end, it would be fate the one to end the stalemate and not military ability or numbers. The merciless weather and the horrid conditions of the siege and the battlefield had left both armies near the breaking point, but its effects on the two great lords of Kai and Echigo had left an incalculable toll as well. It was Uesugi Kenshin the one to reach the limit first, his health having deteriorated ever since the start of the war against the Takeda, and by the end of the siege, his body could not resist as much as his spirit could. According to many sources, the Dragon of Echigo was found dead at his chambers near the end of the month of January of 1578, most likely due to pulmonary complications resulting from his poor health and the conditions of the terrible winter of 1578.
Having died childless, Kenshin was succeeded by his adopted son, Uesugi Kagetora, who would perform all of the duties Kenshin had as Daimyo of Echigo and lord of the Uesugi clan and household. Nonetheless, Kagetora was practical enough to realize that he was not Kenshin and that while Kasugayama stood as imposing and impregnable as before, he did not possess the ability his predecessor had and that the circumstances required. Thus a peace settlement with Takeda Shingen was necessary for the survival of the Uesugi clan.
In early February of 1578, as the funeral processions for the deceased Lord of Echigo were undertaken, accompanied by the ceremonial suicide of several of his closest retainers, Uesugi Kagetora in his role as daimyo of Echigo arranged for a peace treaty to be signed with the most powerful remaining daimyo of Japan, Takeda Shingen.
The end of the First anti-Takeda coalition, also known as the final Uesugi-Takeda war, brought about many important changes in the internal politics and the balance of power within the Empire of Japan. For once, the Hojo clan had been virtually destroyed while the only man capable of standing against the Takeda, Uesugi Kenshin, was dead, his role now taken by the less able and less threatening Uesugi Kagetora. Finally, the Takeda domain now spread from central Japan to the eastern provinces, as far as Edo and Kasugayama, the Kanto and Echigo, while areas such as Dewa and Mutsu were now under the sphere of influence of the Takeda clan.
The peace celebrated between the Uesugi and the Takeda had dramatic effects in the internal configuration of Japan. The Hojo were effectively destroyed, their armies dissolved and their lands taken away. With their lords dead and the family gone, only the retainers that hadn’t already committed suicide were left to complain. The rich province of Echigo, which had been unified by Kenshin during his lifetime as his main achievement, was taken by the Takeda as part of their domain. The lands of the province were split between several of the retainers and allies of the Takeda, including the Baba, the Yamagata and several others of the famed 24 generals, at least those who had survived this far.
Naturally, this left the issue of the Uesugi clan. They could not share the same fate as the Hojo; they had not been brought to the tables in the same way the other enemies of the Takeda had but they couldn’t be spared from defeat either. Kenshin had been an honorable adversary and enemy in times of peace and war. There was also the matter of controlling so much land either directly or indirectly. At the end, the Uesugi clan was to be expelled from Echigo, and returned to the Kanto. 
Amongst his many titles, Uesugi Kenshin had been Kanto Kanrei, as the clan had originated at the Kanto Province and had ruled that area for generations before being driven out by the Hojo. The return of the Uesugi to the Kanto took place in the summer of 1578, as the lands of the Hojo were reduced, Odawara now being part of the Takeda domain for once, while the followers of the Takeda took over Echigo and some bordering parts of the Kanto. Edo would become the new capital of the restored Uesugi domain, and Kanto their new home, not too powerful and not far enough so as to be outside of the control of the Takeda.
Once the Spring of 1578 had arrived, Takeda Shingen found himself unchallenged and as the most powerful man in Japan once more. His oldest and most powerful rival had died and his domains were now the biggest and richest any daimyo had ever had in the history of the Empire. Yet, as he was on his peak, fate intervened once more.
He was on his way to Kyoto when his body began to succumb to the effects of a lifetime warring and a prolonged winter campaign in the north. He and his escort reached Kofu on April of 1578, but it was too late. His health had suffered greatly and his was terribly ill by the time they arrived at the palace that had been his home for most of his life. His generals, his closest retainers and family members were next to him during his last few months, all of which he spent at Kofu castle.
Lying in his bed, he could barely stand or talk by the end of the spring, and once summertime had reached, there was little it could be done for the man that had in the span of 60 years unified a great part of a country turn asunder by war. His closest heir, that is his grandchild Takeda Nobukatsu, was far from having the age to take over the obligations of a normal daimyo, much less the ones of a lord in charge of over half of the country.
Shingen’s son, Katsuyori, whom Shingen had not chosen to be his immediate successor, was thus able to take the reins of power as regent for his son once Shingen had died in July of 1578.
1. Shingen was indeed known as the Tiger of Kai while Kenshin was known as the Dragon of Echigo, nicknames that played with the known Eastern theme of the Tiger and the Dragon; The rivalry between Shingen and Kenshin would become just as legendary in Japan;
2. Kenshin subdued the Jinbo Clan IOTL as well after having mediated some conflicts between them and the Shiina Clan, which Kenshin took over some years later;
3. Ashigaru is the name given to the typical Japanese infantry of the Sengoku Period: conscripted peasants and common men, often armed with Naginatas, pikes and spears and light armor;
4. Odawara had been first besieged by Uesugi Kenshin in 1561, and then by Takeda Shingen in 1569, both operations ending as failures and Odawara not falling until Toyotomi Hideyoshi broke the fortress in 1590;
5. Ujimasa kills himself as OTL, only that nearly 13 years earlier;
6. The use of doubles or Kagemushas (Shadow Warrior) was common in the Sengoku Period, and Takeda Shingen had several of these, of which the most famous and common one was his brother;
7. It was one of Kenshin’s dreams to return to the Kanto and reclaim his title as Kanto Kanrei, although he was unable IOTL; He probably wouldn’t like the way in which his family reclaimed the ancestral lands ITTL either;
The Son Also Rises
The First years
Over two year that passed between Shingen’s death and Katsuyori’s departure from Kofu Castle in the summer of 1580, spent in what could be considered a rest in the expansionist momentum built by the Takeda in the past five years. Takeda Katsuyori was not the great state builder and administrator Shingen was, and he was surely not expected to adequately succeed in the enterprise that was to succeed the great Shingen, but the regent was nonetheless able to surprise his detractors and rise to the challenge of managing the large domains of the Takeda.
The economic and administrative system built by Shingen between the 1540s and 1578 was largely kept and even expanded, as the growth of the domains and the redistribution of the conquered lands between the Takeda loyalists and retainers, especially the division of the large and rich province of Echigo, forced the system to be reorganized and the Takeda Domain to be administrated in a different manner. The core of more loyal retainers, that is the 24 generals, were the most benefited, especially Yamagata Masakage, Baba Nobufusa and Obata Masamori, who gained the largest extensions in the northern province of Echigo.
The new government saw a rapid decentralization between 1579 and 1585, a tendency that would be reverted in the 1580s but that in the early years of Katsuyori’s government allowed the daimyo to concentrate on important issues other than the administration of his vast realm.
The Takeda lands prospered economically and politically, as the most powerful domain in the Empire of Japan grew in power and influence. This growth was accompanied by a growth in the power of the lords under the Takeda, not only the Generals such as the Yamagata, the Obata and the Sanada, but also some of the sakikata-shu (the group of vanquished enemies), such as the Christian Daimyo of Yamato, Takayama Ukon, and the vassal daimyos such as the Asai and the Asakura.
Religious freedom in the Takeda domain continued to be restricted as the Ikko-Ikki presence in the Takeda lands remained limited, a policy that Shingen himself had started and that he continued even after his alliance with the Ikko-Ikki against Oda Nobunaga.
The rise of Christianity in the western provinces, the maintenance of the Buddhist sects in the east and the growth of the Jodo Shinshu faith, the sect of the Ikko-Ikki, showed that the religious structure within the Takeda Domain had vastly changed from the old mono-religious nature of Shingen’s Buddhist fanaticism.
In 1573, the Empire of Japan was dominated by dozens of small daimyos with small to medium domains while the largest domains within the nation were under the greatest clans of the Empire: the Hojo of Kanto, the Takeda of Kai, the Otomo of Bungo, the Uesugi of Echigo, the Tokugawa of Totomi, the Mori of Bunzen and the rising Oda Nobunaga of Owari. Seven years later, Nobunaga, Ieyasu, Kenshin, Ujiyasu and Shingen were dead and only 3 of the seven great clans and three great lords were still standing strong: Otomo Sorin in Bungo, Mori Terumoto in Bunzen and Takeda Katsuyori, who’s domain extended from Kyoto to Kofu.
And apart from the three great surviving Daimyo clans (five if the relocated Uesugi of the Kanto and the then rising Shimazu of Satsuma were to be counted), another regional power was rising in the form of the Ikko-Ikki, the fanatical followers of the teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Prior to 1573 and the Oda-Takeda war, they had come to dominated vast territories, including the rich province of Kaga, and were involved in a bloody war with the Oda of Owari as the rising daimyo besieged the fortresses of Nagashima and Hongan-Ji. 
Following the war, not only did their power and influence grow as their cities were saved and their ranks swelled by thousands of new followers joining, but their geographical base was also augmented. The death of the Hakateyama lord of Noto province, Hakateyama Yoshinori, in 1577, in the midst of the Uesugi-Takeda war, ignited a civil war in the province between the successors and retainers of the deceased daimyo, thus giving the Ikko-Ikki the perfect opportunity to invade and overrun the province. 
The retainer that had killed Yoshinori, Cho Shigetsura, was amongst the killed at the siege of Anamizu Castle in late 1577. By the spring of 1578 the Ikko-Ikki had completed their conquest of the province and their purging of the old feudal system in the region had begun in earnest, as well as the spreading of the teachings of Jodo Shinshu.
The reorganization of the lands, the administration of the conquered territories in the east and the overseeing of infrastructure projects, as well as the relocation of the Uesugi from Echigo to the Kanto and the destruction of much of the old Hojo political apparatus in their former domains; all of these tasks took much of the time of Katsuyori between 1578 and 1580, proving that the son had inherited the father’s administrative skills, as well as many of his old military abilities.
But it would be the year of 1580 the one to definitely cement Katsuyori’s place and position as the heir of Takeda Shingen, when he finally assembled a force to return to Kyoto and depose the last of the Ashikaga Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the man that had plotted to kill his father and destroy the Takeda clan by rallying the Uesugi and the Hojo against them.
On March of 1580, Takeda Katsuyori was joined by 10 of the original 24 generals of Takeda Shingen as well as a force of 30,000 men, and began his march from the eastern capital of Kofu to the Imperial capital of Kyoto.
The balance of power in 1580 had changed greatly since Takeda Shingen decided to wage war upon the Oda and the Tokugawa on the behalf of the Ashigaka Shogun. The march that the army of 30,000 men undertook from Kofu in Kai to the Imperial Capital of Kyoto in the spring and summer of 1580 was, unlike the original entry of the Takeda armies into the great capital, not as much a triumphal march but a quest for vengeance and settlement.
The Ashikaga shogun had instigated the war between the Uesugi and the Takeda just as he had done with the Oda five years earlier. Yet this is only one reason why the Takeda armies took their banners once more and embarked on the quest of subduing Kyoto and overthrowing the last Shogun.
Ashikaga Yoshiaki was the last of the Ashikaga clan, an eastern daimyo clan that had taken power as Shoguns in the aftermath of the downfall of the Kamakura Shogunate in the 14th century, only to lose their hold over the Empire at the dawn of the Sengoku period in the 15th century. As the 15th shogun of the Ashikaga bakufu, Yoshiaki had seen his power diminished and his position dependent upon daimyo such as Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen, and by 1580 his power base was limited to a reduced group of loyalists at the capital and some rather weak neighboring daimyo.
The engagement at Kyoto was not particularly uneventful, as the last Shogun was able to mount a surprising defense of the city for about three weeks before his contingent of 10,000 men was legendarily betrayed by a group of ronin bought off by the Takeda, thus showing them the vulnerable flanks of the city and opening the strategic gates to them. Several legends and tales like these circulated in the aftermath of the fall of Kyoto, especially about the burning of temples, the execution of Ashikaga loyalists and the massive suicides of the Shogun’s generals, culminating in the ominous and hasty ceremony of seppuku of Yoshiaki himself at Shoryuji castle, as the Takeda forces approached his last stronghold.
Thus was ended the Ashikaga Shogunate and a new stage of the Sengoku period inaugurated: the end of the Warring states period was approaching faster than anybody could have expected after over a century of civil war.
Kyoto fell in the summer of 1580 according to most sources, 8 years after Takeda Shingen declared open war upon the Tokugawa and the Oda, and 10 years before the end of the Sengoku period. The definitive end of the Shogunate meant the ascension of Takeda Katsuyori to a position of near absolute power, as he became the de facto ruler of most of Nippon and the possessor of the vastest domains in the island of Honshu. Yet the Empire of the Sun was far from complete political unification, as powerful daimyo still remained with the capabilities to challenge the central authority of the Takeda.
At the time, these daimyo existed in the west of the nation, in the domains of Bungo, Tosa, Satsuma and Bunzen. The Takeda had previously countered the power of the Mori and the Shimazu by forming a loose alliance with the Christian daimyo of Bungo, Otomo Sorin, but following the Kyoto campaign of 1580 the western daimyo could no longer ignore what was happening to their left and thus in the winter of 1580, the Shimazu of Satsuma, the Chosokabe of Tosa and the Mori of Bunzen forged an alliance against the Takeda and the Otomo, what would later be called the second anti-Takeda coalition.
The alliance, motivated by a desire to defend themselves against the perceived threat of national unification and conquest under the Takeda was led by no other than Mori Terumoto, lord of Bunzen and ruler of most of western Honshu, grandson of the Great Moro Motonari. And alongside him were his uncle’s Kikkawa Motoharu and Kobayakawa Takakage, his greatest advisors and generals, and avid enemies of the Takeda order that had been imposed in central Nippon at the time. Far from being unmoved by the threat of a new enemy alliance, Takeda Katsuyori saw the formation of a league between the remaining daimyo as well as the resurgent expansionism of the Mori, the Shimazu and the Chosokabe to be a direct menace to his own national project, and the animosities between the Takeda and the Second Anti-Takeda Coalition grew as the decade progressed.
1. The Ikko-Ikki took over Kaga a few decades before, while establishing fortresses outside of Osaka at Ishiyama Hongan-Ji, at Nagashima, not to mention temples in Ise, Mikawa and Owari as well;
2. IOTL this event led to a war between Uesugi Kenshin and Oda Nobunaga and Kenshin’s victory over the later at the Battle of Tedorigawa in 1577; shortly afterwards Kenshin died IOTL; without Kenshin or Oda and with Shingen preoccupied, the Ikko-Ikki have free reign to interfere as they see fit;
Unlike the state of generalized war that had characterized the better part of the Sengoku period from the late 1400s to the mid-1500s, by 1582 the situation in Japan had led to a polarization of the Empire’s daimyos into two separate bands, with a third category of neutrals that exercised little influence in the general outcome of the period.
In the east there was the Takeda domain, under which there were dozens of vassal daimyos and retainers that swelled the ranks of Takeda Katsuyori’s armies; while in the west the triple alliance of Mori Terumoto with the Chosokabe and the Shimazu provided some balance in the internal situation of the empire. Until war was finally unleashed in 1582 that is, and the balance was lost. The war between the Takeda and the second anti-Takeda coalition officially started on the spring of 1582, by a small border skirmish between the Mori domain and the small realm of the Ukita clan, an ally that the Takeda had made in their effort to form a platform from which to invade the Mori provinces in the west.
The conflict between the Ukita and the Mori escalated into a general war within weeks, as the Takeda were preparing themselves for a final war of national unification ever since Katsuyori’s return to Kyoto and the overthrowing of the Ashikaga.
The Mori invasion of the Ukita domain was followed by the outbreak of war in Kyushu, where the Shimazu led their allies, the Sagara, the Ryuzoki and the Ito into an invasion of the Otomo domains in the northern half of the island. What followed was the gathering of the main Takeda armies at Kyoto and of the Mori forces at Hiroshima castle, while the mighty Mori fleet prepared for a surprise attack against the inferior naval forces of the Takeda, mostly composed of allied pirates that had served Shingen in his quests against his old enemies.
Osaka bay was the first scenery of the war, as the Mori fleet obliterated the few ships the Takeda had at their disposal and put Osaka under occupation, with the help of the Ikko-Ikki of Ishiyama Hongan-Ji, old allies of the Mori during the times of Oda Nobunaga.
The swift action was followed by the arrival of the Takeda army under Kosaka Masanobu and Hara Matasane at the outskirts of Osaka on June of 1582. 20,000 men spearheaded the Takeda offensive, while other 15,000 troops under Baba Nobufusa were marching from Kyoto towards the lands of the Mori, in order to gather the combined forces on the eastern borders of the Mori domain and launch an attack against Hiroshima itself.
This could be called the first act of the wars of unification, taking place from June of 1582 to February of 1583. The campaign against Osaka was short-lived, as the Ikko-Ikki broke their league with the Mori, as Takeda Katsusori himself demanded that they honored the alliance established by his father. With only 5,000 men at his disposal, Kuki Yoshitaka, the Mori admiral in charge of the defense of Osaka, retreated and left the city after a few skirmishes, returning to his ships with the decision of continuing the war from the sea. 
The successive campaigns against the Mori would nevertheless be far from being as easy as Osaka was.
The march on Hiroshima began on August of 1582, when 40,000 men, including the Ashigaru infantry of 20,000, Samurai troops numbering the 5,000 and the force of Arquebusiers and recruited ronin composing the rest of the grand army, met at the lands of the Ukita, where they were greeted by the Ukita lord and his loyal forces.
The Mori had in the meantime been less than prepared to face the imminent invasion. Forces were gathering in the western provinces of the domain, leaving only 10,000 available for the defense of Hiroshima castle. Reinforcements could not be expected from the west for about another month; the Mori allies in Kyushu were in the meantime preoccupied with their war against Otomo Sorin. Thus, the Siege of Hiroshima began on September of 1583, when 30,000 Takeda soldiers surrounded the city and the castle, only defended by 10,000 men under the able and beloved Kikkawa Motoharu.
As many sieges of the Sengoku period, the operations against Hiroshima during the fall and winter of 1583 were undertaken with extreme care and determination, and like in many cases, such as the ones of Odawara and Nagashima, both the defenders and the attackers proved to be especially determined to emerge victorious. The numerical advantage yielded by the Takeda was to a degree mitigated by the complete naval superiority of the Mori, which assured that the fortress would be well supplied and impossible to attack from the sea. Furthermore, the march from Kyoto had left the Takeda forces exhausted and in need to make preparations for a winter camp around Hiroshima.
Of the 30,000 troops stationed around the main Mori stronghold, only 12,000 of them under Obata Masamori and Tsuchiya Masatugu undertook offensive actions against the fortress, trying to cut the city’s water supply in October of 1583 and to break the city’s weaker defenses later that month, as the rest of the army simply limited itself to wait until the main Mori army under Terumoto and Kobayakawa Takakage arrived. 
The arrival did not take place until late October of 1583, shortly after the failed attacks against the castle. Terumoto and Takakage had spent great part of the time that had passed gathering forces from the domains of the Mori, recruiting peasants, Samurai and Ronin into a force of 25,000 men that arrived to the west of the Takeda camp at Hiroshima on October of 1583.
The result was the only important battle of the Hiroshima campaign, which is the battle of Hiroshima that took place on November 2nd of 1582, according to most sources.
1. This is a matter of survival for the Ikko-Ikki, of course, so switching sides is not beneath them;
2. While Mori Terumoto is nominally the Daimyo, his uncles Kikkawa Motoharu and Kobayakawa Takakage are in charge of the wars and yield a great deal of influence, being the sons of the great Mori Motonari;
The battle of Hiroshima, as it was later known, was in reality a series of engagements and skirmishes that took place between November 2nd of 1582 and January 3rd of 1583, in the proximities of the port of Hiroshima and the Mori stronghold at Hiroshima castle.
As many sieges of the Sengoku period, a relief force had arrived in rescue of the defenders and thus the fate of the castle would have to be decided on the open battlefield rather than by a bloody assault against the walls of the fortress or by an inner treachery on the behalf of the defendants, as it also usually happened in cases like this.
The first series of skirmishes between Obata Masamori’s right flank and Kobayakawa Takakage’s Samurai relief force took place as an attempt by the Mori army to break the siege evolved into a chain of light attacks and counterattacks. A battle of positioning and maneuver; little casualties and considerable time were wasted, and by the end of the month both sides had achieved very little.
What followed was the arrival of the winter and the entrenchment of the defendants, as Takeda Katsuyori was advised to leave the siege and return once the conditions were more favorable. Feeling the weight of his father’s legacy on his shoulders, Katsuyori, backed by his younger and most reckless generals, refused to leave the Mori domain without a single victory, without a castle taken. With time running out and the winter becoming harsher and colder, Katsuyori pressed for an attack and thus on December of 1582 the bulk of his army center attacked the Mori camps west of the Otagawa river, defended only by 10,000 men of the Mori right wing.
The battle nonetheless turned into a bloodbath as the Takeda ashigaru infantry was unable to break the Mori lines of defenses. Mori Terumoto’s next move was to force a war of attrition upon the Takeda by sending heavy ashigaru reinforcements to the center of his line, adding more cannon to the bloody massacre.
Three days later the Takeda retreated from the Otagawa River with 8,000 dead, including his general Hara Matasane. Momentum was now on the Mori side and Terumoto was very able when the advantage was on his side. Having depleted the left flank of the Takeda army at the Otagawa River, he rallied 14,000 men between Samurai warriors and ashigaru infantry and pressed upon the retreating Takeda forces on their left flank, while the Kobayakawa force provided a distraction by attacking the center of the Takeda line for a third time in less than two weeks.
The result of the fourth battle was the near annihilation of the Takeda left flank and the near end of the siege operations right there and then on December of 1582, but the Takeda forces were able to resist the offensive long enough to organize an effective retreat and consolidate the center of the army into a cohesive force once more.
By mid-December the Takeda were ready to strike at the Mori army once more when disturbing news arrived from the east: a rebellion had begun at the Kanto province and the allied Uesugi Kagetora had been deposed by his half-brother.
After an entire season of battling, the Takeda forces were exhausted and depleted, yet Katsuyori saw victory as imminent, even upon losing over 10,000 men. Practical matters were nevertheless not on Katsuyori’s favor. His armies needed more time to complete the war against the Mori and Hiroshima castle was not about to fall that winter. Besides, the necessity to eliminate any threat to the Takeda hegemony in the west came first.
Thus, in late January of 1583 the Takeda army began to leave, not without having to suffer further attacks by the Mori army as they left the enemy province, but nonetheless reaching the safety of Osaka in February and beginning the march towards the Uesugi domain once the army was rested and reorganized at Kyoto.
Otate no Ran
Such was the name given to the civil war that took place at the Uesugi domain of Kanto between December of 1582 and October of 1583.
Uesugi Kagekatsu, second son of Nagao Masakage, Echizen no Kami and husband of Uesugi Kenshin's elder sister Ayahime, was an adopted son of Kenshin along Uesugi Kagetora, who had been Hojo Ujijasu’s seventh son. 
While following the Takeda-Uesugi war in the 1570s the Uesugi clan had been left under Kagetora’s guidance in the quality of a virtual Takeda vassal, a strong faction within the clan and the Kanto domain aligned itself with the alternate heir, Kagekatsu for a variety of reasons, from the greed of power to the desire for a return of the past glories of the great house of Uesugi.
Kagekatsu’s rebellion overthrew Kagetora on late December of 1582, taking over Edo castle and several other important Uesugi strongholds and towns, forcing Kagetora to take refuge at Odawara under the protection of the Takeda retainer, Yamagata Masakage. While he only had barely 20,000 men under his service, including the ronin from neighboring provinces that had joined him but without mentioning the drafted Ashigaru infantry of peasants; the war would nonetheless drag for several months for a number of reasons.
Firstly it was the matter of distance, as the Takeda were forced to march from Kyoto to Edo in order to engage the rebel forces. Secondly, it was the war in the west, still raging, that forced the Takeda to leave considerable forces defending Kyoto, Osaka and other western strongholds. Finally, the Takeda that arrived were only 25,000 exhausted and overstretched soldiers that considered the rebellion to be a simple walk in the park, a show of strength.
The first reverse came when Kagekatsu launched a surprise night raid upon the Takeda camp near Odawara, which forced Katsuyori’s army to retreat to the castle and delay the invasion of the Kanto for three weeks as Kagekatsu returned to prepare his forces at Edo.
Ergo, once the invasion began on late July of 1583, the enemy forces left vast areas of territory undefended. The castles between Edo and Odawara were only defended by small garrisons, most of which surrendered by defecting to the Takeda side or after being cut off from supplies and water. Edo castle, the Uesugi capital, was another story whatsoever. While Kagekatsu was not the ablest of commanders, he was a brave and determined leader, and when the tired Takeda army arrived at the walls of Edo to meet the fresh and prepared Uesugi force, the massacre was inevitable.
The first defense saw the Uesugi easily push the Takeda force northwards before falling back to their defensive positions.
What ensued was a bloody onslaught that lasted for another month.
By mid-August, the Takeda force was fully rested and a new offensive began against Edo. This time fate was not on the Uesugi side, as the experienced and battle hardened Takeda commanders smashed at the center of the enemy line with overwhelming force in a swift maneuver. The Takeda superiority in the matter of fire weapons, with the possession of 1,280 Arquebusiers in comparison to Kagekatsu’s 230 was decisive in the outcome of the battle, although also it was the capabilities of the army commanders.
Following the second battle, Kagekatsu headed north with the remains of his army, some 5,000 men, while 8,000 remained defending the castle. The rest, some 7,000 men, had been either killed or had committed suicide in the face of defeat. This included most of Kagekatsu’s ablest and most loyal retainers. Edo would fall a week later, once the supplies had been denied to the castle and the option to either sustain a bloody assault or surrender the fortress was given to the defendants.
Uesugi Kagekatsu was subsequently caught near the northern borders of the Kanto, about to enter the northern provinces of Dewa and Woshu, where he had hoped to live in exile and prepare for further war with the help of the northern daimyo. The rebel daimyo’s end was nonetheless quite different. One final skirmish decimated his army, and as the mercenaries left him, he gathered with the loyal retainers he had left and committed suicide on September 14th of 1583.
Thus was the end of Uesugi Kagekatsu, heir to Uesugi Kenshin, Kanto Kanrei.
1. This is IOTL; Echizen no Kami is a title meaning Governor/Lord of Echizen; both adopted sons existed IOTL and so did the Succession struggle in 1579;
2. IOTL Kagekatsu won the succession struggle and Kagetora died; the situation is reversed ITTL due to the divergent circumstances;
The Takeda army that returned to Kyoto in late 1583, upon clearing the last remnants of Uesugi Kagekatsu’s loyalists at the Kanto, spent much of the winter of 1583 and 1584 reorganizing and expanding its base.
Of the original 24 generals that Takeda Shingen had at its service during his life, from his rise at Kofu to his death at Kasugayama, only 10 remained. And of them, only 6 would take part in the final invasion of the Mori holdings in the west, many having retired to their own domains in the east and replaced by younger and more impetuous successors, who shared Katsuyori’s ambitions and plans for Japan. The army that was built at Kyoto from the ashes of the old one reached an impressive number of 58,000 men by the time the invasion of the west was launched, counting Samurai warriors, Ronin mercenaries, Ashigaru conscripts, cavalry, infantry and Arquebusiers.
The Takeda Grand Army began its march westwards in the spring of 1584, just as the Mori continued their own preparations for the continuation of the war. Just like in the previous year’s campaign, the Takeda army began by launching a swift invasion of the eastern Mori holdings, taking over the smaller castles and annihilating the small forces under the Mori vassals in their eastern border. Thus the path towards Hiroshima Castle, the Mori capital, was cleared. It was in this early part of the campaign that the castles of Takamatsu and Gassan-Toda were taken in the eastern limits of the Mori domain.
Takamatsu was more of a challenge that Hiroshima was in the first campaign, lasting for about 60 days of a prolonged siege in which only a small relief force arrived to provide assistance for the castle. Terumoto had miscalculated the size and force of the new Takeda army and the relief force was crushed after two days, after which the castle was forced to surrender after the ploys employed by Katsuyori to force his victory, from the cutting of the supply lines to the flooding of the castle grounds to turn it into a moss, a tactic which he employed by diverting a nearby river.
What followed were the sieges of Tottori castle, in the northern provinces of the Mori Domain, and the siege of Miki Castle. While Miki’s small garrison proved to be an easy nut to crack, Tottori presented a more difficult target, resisting for 200 days the besieging forces of the Takeda thanks to the reinforcements of the Kikkawa and Kobayakawa clans, as well as the resourcefulness of Kobakayawa.
There were nonetheless two main problems the Mori were forced to face: the issue of the numerical superiority of the Grand Takeda army, which allowed them to overwhelm the fortress and cut its supply lines while a secondary force advanced on Hiroshima and threatened the fortress in a series of skirmishes. Secondly there was the inability to receive further reinforcements since the capital was directly menaced. Starvation was what brought Tottori castle down. With the defending forces decimated and demoralized and the commanders committing seppuku as the possibility of surrender became inevitable, the main Mori stronghold in the north surrendered after 200 days.
Believing in the use of overwhelming force to route the enemy and isolate the castle more than in the need to instantly obliterate the enemy army, Katsuyori’s attack upon the fortress-town of Hiroshima began with a division of his force and by a surrounding move around the Mori armies around the town, this time numbering about 35,000 men, against the nearly 60,000 of Takeda Katsuyori.
The lonesome death of Kobayakawa Takakage
Ever since the death of the great Mori Motonari, the reign of Daimyo Mori Terumoto depended upon the two great rivers, his uncles Kikkawa Motoharu and Kobayakawa Takakage, sons of Motonari who had been adopted into allied clans under their rule . The two rivers, both extremely intelligent and able commanders, had for the duration of the war led the Mori domain, but by 1585 the realm was exhausted, the nine provinces bled white and morale had vanished into thin air.
In charge of the defense of Hiroshima was Kobayakawa Takakage, the most intelligent of the two rivers and the most experienced. With the aim of holding the enemy at bay in the hope of receiving reinforcements and winning more time for the preparation of the defenses, the Mori army was prepared to face the Takeda on the open field in the bloody battles of the five villages.
The result was the routing of the enemy army after two days of bloody engagements around the town, after which they were forced to retreat to the west of the Otagawa and leave only 11,000 defenders behind the castle’s walls. The new camp was placed west of the river, leaving Takakage with a divided and beaten force. It took nearly six weeks for Hiroshima castle, the main and newest stronghold of the great Mori domain to surrender to the great national army that Takeda Katsuyori had assembled throughout his vast domains. The water supplies had been cut off and while the fleet could provide some relief, the commanders of the garrison were confronted with the choice of either surrender or sustain a prolonged siege and then a brutal assault.
Attempts to break the Takeda lines and lift the siege took place throughout the spring of 1585, each as fruitless as the one before, the most important one taking place in late May of that year, with 10,000 men of the Mori clan charging across the river and driving the Takeda several miles eastwards before being stopped by the Takeda line of Arquebusiers, over 2,000 at the point of the charge, and then repulsed by a counteroffensive led by Katsuyori and Nobufusa themselves. With over 3,000 left on the fields dead or wounded, the war was over.
Kobayakawa himself returned to the camp wounded and shocked, pale and with his spirit gone, according to the several accounts of the battle that survived the period. The night of the battle, back at the Mori camp, the Mori general took his sword and committed suicide in the presence of his most loyal retainers. Thus was the end of Kobayakawa Takakage, Great River of the Mori clan.
His brother Kikkawa Motoharu would die two days later on the field, during a Takeda attempt to take the Mori camp. 
The official surrender took place on June 20th of 1585 according to various sources, being followed by ceremonies of ritual suicide on the behalf of 15 Mori retainers in charge of the defense of the fortress, only three choosing to change sides and join the Takeda.
While Mori Terumoto found himself with a decimated domain on the losing end of a war with the Great Takeda army, the Mori would not be the last to suffer the strength of the National army, and even the Mori could find a chance to redeem themselves in the years that remained of the Sengoku period.
1. An usual practice in Medieval Japan, to adopt an allied Clan’s sons and to give one’s owns on adoption;
2. IOTL they lived enough to take part in the Invasion of Korea in 1592 under Toyotomi Hideyoshi;
The War in the West: Tosa, Bungo and Satsuma
Chosokabe Motochika had been the daimyo of Tosa for only a few years when the second anti-Takeda coalition was created and the last major war of the Sengoku period started. Having been born to the Chosokabe clan, vassals of the Ichijo clan of Tosa, he led the rebellion that ousted the last of the Ichijo and unified the province of Tosa from his base at the Koichi plain by 1574, and by 1582 he had unified the entire island of Shikoku. 
1582 was also the year in which the coalition of Buzen, Satsuma and Tosa under the Mori, the Shimazu and Chosokabe Motochika himself declared war upon the Takeda of Kai and their eastern allies. But while the war was quick to reach and fall upon the Mori as a rain of fire from above, resulting in the destruction of its armies, the invasion of its domains and the death of its most loyal and capable retainers, for Chosokabe Motochika the war had been simply limited to his small island of Shikoku, where he was able to quickly dispose of his enemies and unify the island in a series of undemanding campaigns against the forces of Kono Michinao of Iyo province, who later fled to a safe haven in Otomo Sorin’s domains.
The fall of the Mori in 1585 nevertheless meant an end to the second anti-Takeda coalition, as the most powerful partner in the alliance had been defeated, and an end to Chosokabe Motochika’s comfortable way of life. In late 1585 preparations for the invasion of Shikoku were being made, mainly at the ports of Hiroshima and Osaka, where the reassembled Mori armies were forming as part of the treaty between Terumoto and Katsuyori. The daimyo of Buzen would lead the invasion of Shikoku and Tosa himself, as part of the spearhead offensive made by his own 20,000 men contingent.
The actual invasion came on February of 1586, when the new Mori army invaded the island, only finding token resistance. The state of the Chosokabe army was deplorable; 10,000 poorly armed men with low morale. The state of the outdated equipment and the lack of cohesion found in the enemy army surprised the Mori invaders, to the point in which further reinforcements were later cancelled due to the need to save men from the upcoming campaign in Kyushu.
Motochika was found to be incredibly eager to negotiate with Terumoto and Katsuyori when they approached his castle, and the conditions were found to be most generous and acceptable; the defeated daimyo would be allowed to keep his province of Tosa as well as his head, an offer Motochika was not inclined to refuse.
Six weeks after the invasion, the provinces of Shikoku had been pacified and a fleet was being readied for the reinforcement of Otomo Sorin’s positions in northern Kyushu, where the Christian daimyo of Bungo had held for nearly three years with incredible tenacity.
In the island of Kyushu, the second in the Empire of the Sun in importance, size and population, existed two rival realms in the final years of the Sengoku period.
To the south laid the province of Satsuma, a domain governed by the Shimazu under warlord Yoshihisa from his capital of Kagoshima; and in the north there was the realm of Bungo, under the rule of daimyo Otomo Sorin, who by 1582 By this point, Sôrin could claim control of Bungo, most of Buzen, Chikuzen, Chikugo, and considerable influence over Higo and Hizen. Shimazu Yoshihisa on the other hand only controlled his rich province of Satsuma, but by alliance the southern clans, enemies and rivals of the Otomo, fought under the banner of Yoshihisa. 
Otomo Sorin, known in western sources as Francisco Otomo, following the expansion of his realm in the 1550s and 1560s, took interest in religious affairs when in the decade of the 1570s he became involved in the activity of the Jesuit missionaries within his realm despite the resistance of several retainers and his own wife . The issue of Christianity as well as the rivalry with the Shimazu, which had become a force to be reckoned with in those years, plunged the Christian daimyo and his realm into a crisis and an eventual war against the Shimazu as part of the second Anti-Takeda coalition.
Even before the Mori, the Shimazu and the Chosokabe had allied against the Takeda of Kai, Otomo Sorin had been approached, first by Shingen and then by Katsuyori, with the prospect of an alliance to keep the Mori in check, a proposition that the lord of Bungo was quick to accept.
Limited operations had been undertaken in the island of Kyushu in the late 1570s, the Shimazu invasion of Hyuga and occupation of Sadowara had let to the fleeing of the Ito lord of Hyuga, who sought refuge in the Otomo lands; Then followed a limited war that was interrupted when news of a gathering of Mori troops near Buzen and the Otomo took defensive positions. A general war was averted by the second entrance of the Takeda army in Kyoto, this time under Katsuyori, a threat too great for the Mori at the time.
War would nonetheless come three years later, and this time Kyushu was not spared.
The Satsuma had consolidated their gains in Hyuga province, which prompted the impetuous Otomo Yoshimune (Constantinho) and his retainers to launch a general invasion of southern Kyushu in 1581, with as many as 40,000 men under his command. The father followed the son, upon whom the nominal rule of the realm had been delegated, and the clan marched as a family.
The invasion, followed by a vicious campaign of destruction of Buddhist and Shinto Shrines and Icons through Hyuga, caused discontent amongst the Otomo ranks and the local population, a fact that did not stop the father and son team from crossing the Omura river and besieging the castle of Taka-Jo, under the command of Shimazu Yoshihise’s brother, Iehisa. The siege was short as the numerically superior Otomo army allowed them to overwhelm the fortress after thirteen days, a period short enough to be considered a victory but too slow for the Otomo, who wished to crush the Shimazu and create their Christian realm of Kyushu as rapidly as possible. 
This rush and the overconfidence of the Otomo retainers and lords would nonetheless result in the disaster of Mimigawa. 
On September of 1582 50,000 men of the Otomo clans stood near the Mimigawa river after their success at Taka-Jo castle and a series of maneuvers by which the Shimazu had driven north and eluded the Otomo until that day. Yoshihisa only had 30,000 men under his command. Tawara Chikataka, relative and retainer of the Otomo, was as impetuous and impatient as his masters, and had the Otomo army under his command at Mimigawa, while the Shimazu army was led by Yoshihisa and his brother Yoshihiro, both very capable and accomplished tacticians.
Adopting a defensive posture, the outnumbered Shimazu army was inviting an attack. Tawara saw this as a sign of weakness and considering the battle to have been won already, led a charge with the entire Otomo army upon the Shimazu troops at the Taka area. The sheer force of the attack tore apart the center of the Shimazu line and several generals fell along with thousands of men; it seemed to spell the ruin of the Shimazu clan. But the catastrophe did not fall upon Yoshihisa.
The Shimazu daimyo was not the kind of man to flinch or panic and refused to take his banner one inch back and stood firm, rallying his faltering men and proving the kind of general he was. Yoshihisa ordered the troops at his flanks to charge at the Otomo flanks in a pincer movement. The Ôtomo levies panicked and suddenly the battle had developed into a rout, with the Shimazu mercilessly riding won their defeated enemy as they fled north. Hundreds if not thousands were drowned attempting to cross the Mimigawa.
Over 20,000 men of the Otomo camp lay dead at the battlefield, most along the Mimigawa, after the battle, including Tawara Chikataka and several other retainers. As the Otomo flee northwards, back to the safety of their domain, Shimazu Yoshihisa marches through Hyuga and central Kyushu rallying support for his campaign against the Otomo as his popularity and reputation soars.
By 1583, he is able to launch an invasion of the Otomo domain proper.
1. Motochika unified the island under his rule by 1575 IOTL but was later forced to give back some of the new lands by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion in 1585;
2. This is as IOTL;
4. Similar events took place IOTL in the 1570s as well;
5. The ITTL battle of Mimigawa is based on the IOTL battle of Mimigawa, but ITTL is 1582 rather than 1578.
This Town is Not Big Enough for the Both of Us
In the weeks that followed the disaster otherwise known as the Battle of Mimigawa, the island of Kyushu became a scenario to a convulsion of events and a comedy of errors better known as the Shimazu-Otomo war.
As what remained of the Otomo Armies began a hurried and desperate retreat to the safety of the Otomo castles, the marauding armies of Shimazu Yoshihisa wasted no time before regrouping and restarting their campaign by reinvading Higo and Hyuga, occupying the castles and towns of Obi and Minamata and engaging in a series of diplomatic and military operations in central Kyushu with the intent of supplanting the Otomo sphere of influence in the island.
Hyuga offered little resistance after the destructive march of the Otomo army back and forwards. Several warriors and local lords joined the Shimazu were wise enough to see which way the wind was blowing and offered their fealty. Higo nevertheless proved to be a tougher nut to crack, and offered at least some resistance in the form of Sagara Yoshiaki of Minamata, the main daimyo of the region, which refused to allow the passage of the Shimazu armies through his land.
The stand at Minamata led to a five day siege which the Shimazu armies won by force of arms and speed against the smaller and unprepared force of Yoshiaki. The Lightning Campaign of late 1582 and early 1583 led to the near complete conquest of Higo and Hyuga by the Shimazu, thus giving Yoshihisa control of the southern half of the island.
These campaigns, occurring in the aftermath of Mimigawa, were at the same time joined by the entrance of yet another Kyushu daimyo into the scene: Ryuzoji Takanobu of Hizen, who took the opportunity given to him by the Shimazu to expand his own domains at the expense of the Otomo, the traditional regional power. 
Now the scene was dominated by two rising powers, the Ryuzoji and the Shimazu, taking advantage of the downfall of the Otomo yet finding themselves at opposing ends of a fight; had they joined forces or even ignored each other, the Otomo would have been vanquished in the spring and the summer of 1583 before the Takeda could come in their aid, but blind ambition proved to be a greater foe for Shimazu Yoshihisa’s and Ryuzoji Takanobu’s dreams of a Kyushu unified under their Banners. The peninsula of Shimabara, in western Kyushu, had been under the rule of the daimyo Arima Haronobu since the death of the previous lord, Arima Yoshisada.
Haronobu’s northern neighbor, Ryuzoji Takanobu, had first made his expansionists intensions clear in the late 1570s, when Shimabara was first threatened and the daimyo was forced to follow the same policy as his uncle Omura Sumitada, and ask for the help of the Jesuits. Portuguese weapons and ships in 1579 following Haronobu’s baptism as Protasio gave him time. The intervention and mediation of Otomo Sorin finally put an end to the conflict. Then the battle of Mimigawa took place. 
Takanobu’s invasion of the Shimabara domain came in earnest in late 1582 following the defeat of the Otomo at the hands of the Shimuza; as two vultures preying on a carcass, the Shimazu and the Ryuzoji launched their hordes upon the Otomo domains. The Shimazu began expanding their areas of influence over Hyuga and Higo as the Ryuzoji did the same attacking the Arima and the Omura at Hizen while also trying to expand their domains east of Hizen, invading the province of Chikugo, defeating the undermanned Otomo garrisons there and entering northern Higo, just in time to meet with the invading armies of Shimazu Iehisa.
Thus what had initially begun as a two way war in the contest of a national civil war, had now turned into a regional three-way war for regional supremacy.
The spring of 1583 saw what was left of the Otomo armies and establishment barricading themselves at Funai castle, gathering men and supplies, while the Shimazu were forced to engage the more assertive Ryuzoji before dealing a coup de grace to the Otomo. Ryuzoji Takanobu, in the meantime, had made the tactical mistake of splitting his forces, sending only a token force of 6,000 men to Shimabara castle while 12,000 soldiers stood at Higo.
Even when Nabeshima Naoshige’s army of 12,000 men outnumbered anything that Shimazu Iehisa could bring to northern Higo, the fact that Shimabara refused to fall meant that a significant amount of men and resources were being diverted to the Shimabara peninsula when they were needed in the east. Both Nabeshima Naoshige and Shimazu Iehisa were first engaged in a series of meaningless skirmishes until the battle of Yanagawa, near Yanagawa castle.
The Ryuzoji had conquered that castle upon their invasion of the Chikugo province in early 1583, but Shimazu Iehisa was aggressive enough to push the numerical superior Ryuzoji northwards from Higo towards Chigoku through a series of flanking maneuvers and feigned attacks through late July of 1583.
The ultimate defeat of the Ryuzoji army, 4 times bigger than their opponent force, came in early August of 1583 as the two forces were approaching Yanagawa castle; Shimazu Iehisa launched a bold attack with his 2,500 men through the unprepared enemy lines. The swordsmen reached the enemy command post where Takanobu and his generals were discussing the battle strategy and the rest was history.
Only two men were nowhere to be found in the ensuing carnage: General Nabeshima Naoshige, whom had been supposedly sidelined and overruled by Takanobu earlier that day as the daimyo took supreme command of his armies; and Ryuzoji Masaie, Takanobu’s son, who was camping with a minor force north of the Castle and did not take part of the battle or the rout that took place following the massacre at the command post. 
Peace was brokered between the Ryuzoji and the Shimazu. Masaie and Naoshige agreed to evacuate Higo and Shimabara, therefore ending the siege of Shimabara Castle, whereas their occupation of the Chigoku province would be accepted as a fait acommpli. September of 1583 was the zenith of Shimazu Yoshihisa’s power; the Otomo could not move from their castle at Funai until the Takeda were done with the Mori, and the Ryuzoji had been eliminated as a threat to his dreams of domination. Now, the only true menace stood to the other side of the island, at the castle of Funai.
Funai Castle was built in 1562 by order of the lord of Funai, Otomo Sorin, and had since then served as a stronghold and capital of the vast Otomo domains that stretched through northern Kyushu. 20 years later, what had once been the most powerful clan of the island found itself on the run, preparing to make a desperate stand at their own fortress against an invading army that had once only been a backwater and a minor threat.
The once mighty Ôtomo shichikakoku no zei, The Seven Province Host of the Otomo, was now mostly in ruins; the domains predated by its neighbors, the clan’s allies deserting their master along with several disloyal retainers that have chosen either to be neutral or ally with the invading Shimazu. 
While Otomo Sorin had been the most powerful daimyo of Kyushu and his domains the most vast, with the north and east of the island under his banner, the lord had never achieved the same control over his retainers and vassals as other daimyos of the same period had, in many cases these retainers being more like allies than vassals and operated with such a degree of independence that some were like daimyo themselves. This was the case of minor clans such as Tachinaba and the Tamura. Embracing Christianity and the Portuguese missionaries that brought it with them did not do much to endear him with his vassals either.
Winter was rapidly approaching in late 1583, yet the Shimazu wanted to move fast after their lightning victory over the Ryuzoji, and thus their armies gathered once more at Hyuga with the intention of rallying a big enough army to march upon Funai, on the northeastern corner of Kyushu.
The invasion was swift, as 30,000 men carrying the Shimazu banners marched into Bungo and facing no resistance, reached Funai by late January of 1584, laying siege to the Otomo fortress as they arrived.
The third stage of the Kyushu campaign began in the winter of 1584, when Shimazu Yoshihisa led an invasion of Bungo in northern Kyushu. Between September of 1582 and January of 1584, that is nearly 15 months, the Otomo waited and observed as their rivals, the Ryuzoji and the Shimazu, launched themselves at each other’s throats for the opportunity of devouring the carcass of the Otomo domains. The time was nevertheless well spent by the Otomo, who did their best to rally their allies and troops, prepare and improve their defenses and gather supplies as emissaries sent to the east returned with nothing with bad news; the Takeda and the Mori were still battling and no reinforcements could arrive.
Of the mighty 50,000 men strong army that marched on Satsuma over a year ago, the Otomo have only been able to save a force with figures just above the 20,000 men. No immediate help or reinforcements are expected. The Portuguese are allegedly helping the Christian daimyo of Shimabara in the west, but they are unable to reach Funai castle. The Takeda are otherwise engaged, and several former vassals are either deserting, making deals with the Shimazu or preoccupied with defending their own domains, as is the case of the Tachinaba at Buzen.
The siege itself, in its length and rather colorful development have given the siege of Funai a rather distinguished place in the history of the Otomo Clan, Bungo province and the island of Kyushu as a whole. The campaign started when an impatient Shimazu Yoshihisa offered the Otomo the chance to surrender, to which the aging lord of Bungo replied with a long and rather messy letter that most sources call a “long list of thinly veiled insults, overtly dramatic dares and even a reference to having Kagoshima burnt”
Having lost his temper, Shimazu hurled 10,000 tired and poorly organized men at Funai trying to force an entrance. The results were rather miserable. A second and a third attempt to enter Funai by force brought similar results, with the added complication of having lost a week in the attacks, taken several casualties and needing nearly two weeks to recover.
While Yoshihisa still fell outraged, he was persuaded to continue the campaign with a more conventional tactic of simply starving the defenders.
The Otomo were nevertheless prepared and had enough supplies to resist the Shimazu for considerable time. Sorin was nevertheless determined not to sit down and wait for help until the Takeda were able to ‘rescue’ him. An even more bizarre episode than the one involving the letter took place on May of 1584, when a retainer of the Otomo whose name has been long forgotten by history, led his men under the cover of a rainstorm into the Shimazu camp and set a number of fires and generally created chaos.
The ensuing anarchy at the Shimazu clan claimed the life of over 500 men. The similarity of this tale with a similar move made during the Fourth siege of Odani 12 years earlier, in which an Asakura retainer under similar circumstances achieved the same at the Oda camp, has led some to doubt the veracity of either tell, even when most tellings of the story include said tale as historical.
Nevertheless, just as happened at Odani, the Otomo were unable to take advantage of the fiasco at the enemy camps, as the attack that followed was bogged down and ultimately unsuccessful due to its lack of organization, hasty execution and the poor terrain and weather conditions that the storm had left, making the battlefield hardly suitable for an operation such as the Otomo launched after the camp fires. The next months, the siege would continue more or less as a chaotic and fluctuating maelstrom of attacks and counterattacks as the results proved more and more indecisive. 
1. This happened after the IOTL Battle of Mimigawa as well;
2. This is more or less IOTL;
3. Nabeshima Naoghige IOTL took the chance presented by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion and the weakness of Takanobu’s heir Masaie to switch sides and join with Toyotomi’s army; ITTL, he throws his lot with the Shimazu;
4. Due to age and the controversy over the conversion to Christianity, Otomo’s domain suffered a lot of decay around this time, just as IOTL;
5. The Shimazu had indeed conquered most of Kyushu and only the Otomo remained by the time Toyotomi invaded in 1587; the Otomo avoided conquest by allying with Toyotomi, but ITTL the Takeda are taking too long and thus the Otomo are directly threatened by the Shimazu Armies;
The Cavalry Arrives
Siege operations continued during June of 1584 at an alarmingly slow pace. Following the disaster suffered in their camps on may, the Shimazu army was forced to move and fortify their positions around Funai, changing their tactic to a plan of out-waiting the Otomo until they ran out of supplies and dissent spread through their ranks.
Morale and strength within the walls of Funai castle began to wane by the third week of June, and with a lack of truly loyal allies and retainers, support for the Otomo began to dissipate and desertion began to be a common practice amongst the defending forces.
Nevertheless, Shimazu Yoshihisa refused to accept deserters, with the intention of reducing Funai’s foodstuffs as quickly as possible. The desperate situation was of course worsened by the absence of Sorin’s son, Yoshimune, who had gone to Kyoto to plead for assistance and relief from the Takeda clan. The disappearance of the daimyo’s son along with several retainers, along with renewed attempts by the Shimazu to encircle and break through the fortress caused panic to spread like wild fire within the walls of the castle.
Emboldened by the growing calamities falling upon Funai and angered after weeks of waiting, the Shimazu generals finally convince Yoshihisa to lead an attack against the fortress, not with the intention of overwhelming the defenses but of destroying the will of the defenders.
The attack that came on June 22nd of 1584, began with a double thrust against the Otomo camps north of the Castle, and was only interrupted on June 23rd, when disturbing news arrived from the eastern shore of Bungo: Otomo Yoshimune had returned, with a relief force sent by Takeda had landed and was ready to march to the defense of Funai.
The rumors that arrived on the Shimazu camp on June 23rd paralyzed operations against the Otomo for three days until they were confirmed. Yet the panic had been to a degree senseless; the Takeda auxiliary force under Urano Shigenari numbered only 3,000 men, all that could spared from the main campaign against the Mori.
The rumors, mostly spread by agents of the Otomo clan, nevertheless proved quite useful for the defenders of Funai: first, it stopped the Shimazu attack for a moment, forcing them to regroup in panic; and secondly, it temporarily restored the morale of the Otomo clan, while buying some time to allow for the Takeda force to arrive and the Otomo forces to regroup. The 3,000 warriors that arrived carrying the Takeda banners boosted the Otomo numbers just north of 18,000 men. Their presence was nonetheless enough by itself to convince the defenders to resist until a proper relief force could arrive. Yet even this boost was not enough to keep the number of deserters from rising, and retainers of the peace party to meet and whisper in the darkness.
Two more skirmishes in mid-July of 1584 cleared the path for a major battle on a date that most experts agree to be July 19th of that year. In the main island of Honshu, the Takeda had begun their grand invasion of the Mori domains and were besieging Hiroshima and Tottori castle, whereas in Shikoku, Chosokabe Motochika calmly waited, sitting on the throne of a unified island of Shikoku.
Across the Oita River, the two armies set camps in anticipation for the battle. As the war in the east was seemingly approaching its climax, the two most powerful clans of Kyushu decide to end the stalemate in a single move, with the intention of presenting their victory as a fait acomplii to whoever stands victorious in the Honshu showdown.
The battle begins in the early hours of the day, when Urano Shigenari spearheads the Otomo offensive with his 3,000 men, with the support of 2,000 Otomo infantry soldiers, and despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, great progress is made on the battlefield in the first moments of the attack. The tide does not turn until midday, until after the Otomo commit up to 7,000 troops on the attack, when Yoshihisa finally reacts by flanking Shigenari with his reserves while the main troops keep the Otomo, father and son, occupied at the center of the formation.
Seven hours after the beginning of the table, both sides of the Oita River are covered by the remains of both camps, lost banners, armors, spears and bodies. Urano Shigenari and 2,000 of his men lay dead on the battlefield along with 1,200 soldiers of the Otomo clan and 1,350 of the Shimazu army.
Beaten and hopeless, what remains of the once great Otomo host retreats to the other side of the Oita River leaving a trail of blood and despair behind them.
Following the massacre that took place on late July, the siege of Funai reaches its final stages. The fate of the entire campaign and even of the Otomo clan had been risked in one last gamble and Sorin had lost. After the disaster on the battlefield and the obliteration of the Otomo forces, Shimazu Yoshihisa sees his chance and reverses his policy on deserters: by accepting them now, the defending forces are now even more depleted and weakened. A week after the battle along the Oita River, only the most loyal of retainers remain behind their master, whereas a majority of allies and former vassals have fled to save their lives.
The ceasefire that took place on the first week of August of 1584 signaled not only the fall of Funai and the end of the campaign, but an effective end of the Otomo dominance over Kyushu and their direct control over the northern half of the island. With the Ryuzoji controlling the west and the Shimazu the south and the center, the domains of Otomo Sorin and his son were torn asunder; several vassals and allies such as Akizuke Takezane had rebelled during the course of the war, dissent was running high, and with the loss of their capital, the fate of the once great clan was sealed.
Shimazu Yoshihisa’s greatest victory would nevertheless prove to be only temporary. Even as a definitive military triumph had been achieved, there were more pressing matters at hand: firstly, news had arrived from Honshu: Tottori castle was about to fall and Hiroshima, the Mori capital, was directly threatened by the Takeda. While this meant that it would take the Takeda army months if not years to directly threaten his domains in Kyushu, if the Mori were defeated, then nothing else in the entire empire could stop Takeda Katsuyori. The only choice left was to present the unification of Kyushu as a done deal and negotiate with the Takeda daimyo upon his arrival. 
The second main problem was the general situation with Kyushu itself: the Otomo domains in Bungo had disintegrated, but where order once reigned now chaos prevailed. Several if not most of the former vassals and allies were in open rebellion and seeking their independence from the Otomo, and in many cases, entering into alliances with the other two clans, the Shimazu and the Ryuzoji.
Even worse, matters in the west with the Ryuzoji clan had not been properly dealt with or even concluded, to the point in which the situation at Hizen and Chikugo were even worse than when the Shimazu had left a year before. Upon the Ryuzoji defeat at the hands of Yoshihisa and the death of his son Ryuzoji Takanobu, a power struggle erupted, mere weeks after stability had returned to the region.
The eldest son Masaie, a weak and indecisive man, lost the allegiance of the most powerful retainer of the clan, Nabeshima Naoshige, who formed an alliance with Masaie’s brother Ryuzoji Ietane. What at first seemed a common war of succession over the lands and titles of the Ryuzoji clan became a regional conflict that engulfed three provinces in western Kyushu (Hizen, Chikugo and Chikuzen) as minor daimyos and retainers began to take and exchange allegiances in the midst of the Ryuzoji war. 
By August of 1584, Nabeshima Naoshige was in alliance with two of the Ryuzoji brothers, the strong willed Ietane and the Christian sympathizer Ienobu, as well as the Christian daimyo Arima Harunobu of Shimabara, and Akizuki Tanezane of Chizuken.
Ryuzoji Masaie, the weakest brother was assisted by his uncle Ryuzoji Nobuchika and a coalition of local daimyos that remained loyal to him, but he nonetheless had several military and political disadvantages that forced him to ask for the help of Shimazu Yoshihisa on September of 1584.
Shimazu Yoshihisa intervened in earnest a month later, but after years of war, his strategy revolved around diplomacy at first, hoping that his recent victory over the Otomo would compel the rebel factions to accept his authority and submit to him.
The lord of Kagoshima was nevertheless sadly mistaken. His token force of 5,000 men arrived at Saga castle was barely enough to deter Nabeshima and his allies, but it showed that the de facto ruler of the island had chosen a side.
1. It’s certainly taking a lot of effort to subdue the Otomo: partly due to me wanting to make it more dramatic, partly because of poor luck and overconfidence;
2. This is the one part of the TL in which I’m complicating something rather than simplifying it: IOTL Toyotomi invaded, Nabeshima Naoshige switched sides and he was rewarded with the old Ryuzoji domain, whereas ITTL, there’s a bloody succession struggle;
The war in western Kyushu, representing more than an inner power struggle but a great battle for the domination of the island, while starting as a minor nuisance to the Shimazu designs for regional domination, had become by late 1584 into a bloody labyrinth without exit.
The bulk of the Shimazu forces were elsewhere, pacifying the island, overseeing the recently conquered or occupied territories and preparing the clan’s armies and fortresses for the eventuality of a Takeda invasion. Thus, when Nabeshima Naoshige began his final drive towards Saga on October of 1584, a much delayed move thanks to months of preparation, diplomatic battles between daimyos and minor skirmishes throughout the province, the Shimazu-Ryuzoji forces were barely able to take the blunt force of the attack.
Furthermore, thanks to his alliance with the Christian daimyos of Shimabara and Nagasaki, Arima Harunobu and Omura Sumitada, Nabeshima and the two rebel Ryuzoji brothers were in alliance with the Jesuits and were able to exploit their support to obtain weapons and even the help of Portuguese ships, thanks to the ambition and greed of some of the European captains. The three sieges of Saga are of course only a minor conflict within a regional conflict for the domination of Kyushu, whereas the main battle for the domination of Japan takes place elsewhere.
The distraction that keeps Shimazu Yoshihisa occupied in a minor dispute to the other side of the island is nonetheless the perfect opportunity for the fallen Otomo clan. News of the siege operations in the western provinces arrived to Bungo in only a matter of days, and thus Otomo Sorin hatched his plan. Abandoning his place of mandatory retirement, Sorin left Usuki on November of 1584 in the company of the few loyal servants that had been allowed to stay by Yoshihisa, and upon eluding the Shimazu guards and soldiers at the town and throughout the province, Sorin finally reached Osaka in early December, with the intention of meeting with Katsuyori himself at Hiroshima.
Otomo Sorin accompanies Takeda Katsuyori in his conquest of the Mori Domains throughout 1585, serving as an involuntary witness as he waited for his chance to talk to the rising super-daimyo on his path to unification, and convince him to intervene in the tribulations of Kyushu on his behalf.
The last days of Tottori and the entirety of the Hiroshima campaign passed, as did the surrender and near destruction of the Mori clan, with Sorin as an unwilling and impatient spectator yet he waited. It wasn’t until the summer of 1585 that the war against the Mori was concluded and the Takeda Armies were free to eliminate the last remnants of resistance to Katsuyori’s rule: the Chosokabe and the Shimazu.
Chosokabe Motochika was the first to suffer the consequences of his disobedience, and following a six weeks campaign he saw his domains occupied and reduced to his province of Tosa, denying him the dream of unifying Shikoku once more.  The rush campaign through Buzen and Shikoku was followed by the invasion of Kyushu on September or 1586, with over 30,000 men under the personal command of Takeda Katsuyori while his ally Mori Terumoto joined him with a host of 60,000 troops.
In the time between Otomo Sorin’s escape to Kyoto and the arrival of the Great Takeda army, Shimazu Yoshihisa spent his resources consolidating his position in the island and pacifying the provinces that refused to acknowledge his rule. The rebellious daimyo of the north had been crushed just in time for the Shimazu to barely be prepared to meet the Takeda, and even then, the Ryuzoji succession war still raged in the western provinces when Yoshihisa was forced to leave his allies to his own devices. Having to leave his allies to prepare his own forces would cost them the war, as Nabeshima Naoshige captures Saga two months later, on August of 1585.
Following the landings at Northern Kyushu, the Takeda and Mori forces advanced southwardly at fast pace, facing little to no resistance from the Shimazu armies. With his numbers just barely north of 40,000 men, Yoshihisa decides to abandon his conquest in Bungo and Katsuyori raises his banners over Funai Castle by mid-September, being followed by Mori Terumoto and Otomo Sorin.
The conquering armies march through Hyuga effortlessly as the Shimazu prepare for the inevitable, fortifying their positions at home, at their capital of Kagoshima.
The only resistance before Satsuma proper is invaded is seen at the Sendai River on October of 1586, when Shimazu loyalists under Niiro Tadamoto led a fanatical charge against the vastly superior Takeda army, delaying their advance by a day but losing nearly 500 men and his own life before his forces were forced to retreat.
Kagoshima became the main target on November of 1586, and as winter approached, it was feared that a prolonged siege would take place as had happened during the wars against the Mori and the Uesugi. Nevertheless, the final conflict is anticlimactic. Even though over 30,000 men were ready to fight the Takeda Juggernaut, Yoshihisa saw his fate sealed and took the most reasonable road: surrendering to Takeda Katsuyori as his armies surrounded Kagoshima from land and sea. 
1. This was not particularly more complicated for the Takeda Army than for the Toyotomi Army of IOTL, but there’s a lot more drama in the prologue to the invasion;
Shimazu Yoshihisa, who had for nearly two years come closest of any daimyo to achieve the unification of Kyushu, presented himself with his head shaved and with a submissive attitude at the Takeda Clan, presenting his respects to the son of Shingen.
The Shimazu domain was reduced to Satsuma, Osumi and southern Hyuga and most lives spared, while Yoshihisa would be forced to abdicate and his younger brother Yoshihiro would take the reign of the Clan.
The Otomo domains were restored, but the clan lost most of their power and influence, remaining as an empty shell, becoming puppets of the Takeda Clan in Kyushu with little power by themselves, as had happened to the Uesugi relocated in Kanto.
Peace was elsewhere forced down upon the people of Kyushu: the minor lords that refused to obey were punished and their land redistributed amongst the loyal generals and the local daimyos that became part of the Takeda camp. The last include men like Nabeshima Naoshige, virtual lord of Hizen and Chikugo, joined by his vassals, the Ryuzoji brothers.
An unexpected effect of the new system of allegiances was the growth of the Christian influence in Kyushu, especially in the west and in the north, as the catholic daimyos of Nagasaki, Bungo and Shimabara saw their influence grow and the Catholic faith brought mainly by the Portuguese and the Jesuits soon expanded through the island, especially in ports such as Nagasaki, Hakata (later Fukuoka) and Kagoshima. The path to Unification had been cleared and the only group not directly under the rule of the Takeda banners was those daimyo of the west and the north in Honshu, whom Katsuyori would visit soon enough. 
1. This is a rather similar result to what happened IOTL except for the stronger Christian presence and a stronger puppet Otomo domain;
By the winter of 1586, peace had returned to the empire of Japan, as all the lords of the Great Clans, the Uesugi, the Shimazu, the Mori, the Otomo and so many others fall under the banners of the Takeda Clan and the marching armies of Takeda Katsuyori.
But even as the daimyo of Kai returns to Kyoto in the spring of 1587 at the head of an ever victorious conquering army, a small quarter of the nation remains independent from the central government at the Imperial Capital: the North. Beyond the western borders of the Takeda and Uesugi domains at Echigo and Kanto, beyond the control of the great lords of central and western Honshu, the local clans acted with great autonomy and in many times with indifference to events in the central provinces, even as Takeda Shingen and Katsuyori began their quest to bring the nation under one banner. The destruction of the Hojo and the Uesugi, the return of the Uesugi to the Kanto, all served as signs to show them the shape of things to come. The northern provinces of Dewa and Mutsu were ruled by several warring clans including the Ashina, the Date, the Nambu, the Hatakeyama, the Mogani and several others.
Two reasons explain why Takeda Katsuyori didn’t bother to subdue the region and its daimyos, or even care about Dewa and Mutsu until the summer of 1588.
Firstly, the Takeda were always preoccupied with more immediate concerns and threats. Following the war against the Uesugi and the Hojo in the 1570s, the Takeda faced the new administrative and military challenges of controlling such a large domain, and then a war against the Mori and the Shimazu. And once this new menace was dealt with, Katsuyori was forced to spend considerable time in Kyoto dealing with the administration of a unified Japan.
Secondly, the region lacked any significant political or economic importance that could have warranted the attention of the Takeda Daimyo. It was the personal ambition of Katsuyori, the goal of having the entire nation under his control, what drove him to the northern confines of Honshu in 1588. Now, as opposed to the bloody wars against the Oda, the Uesugi and the Mori, or the shorter military campaigns against the Shimazu and the Chosokabe, marching from Kyoto to Sendai was more of a political show of will than a military show of strength.
Having destroyed the greatest armies that the rivaling clans could yield on the field, there were no battles left to fight, no one to resist. By July of 1588, the hegemonic power in Mutsu was a Daimyo by the name of Date Masamune, a resourceful and intelligent tactician known as the “One-Eyed Dragon.”
In the years spent between 1573 and 1588, the fight for supremacy in northern Japan had devolved in a two-way war between the Date led by Masamune and whatever coalition was formed to stop him, generally led by the rival Ashina clan. Upon taking the reins of power in 1582, Masamune soon found himself entangled in conflicts with the Ashina, over the defection of several Date retainers, and the traditional rivals of the Date, the Hatakeyama. The wars against these two clans would come to show the great ability and the ruthlessness of the man Masamune. 
Having marched south and defeated the Ashina of Aizu in a surprising victory at Hibara, he inflicted a terrible vengeance on the traitors to the clan, putting nearly 800 men of all ages to the sword. News of the massacre soon reached the Ouchi at Obama Castle, causing them to panic and flee. 
But his reputation as a warrior without pity came when fighting the forces of Hatakeyama Yoshitsugu, who after failing to negotiate with the young and hot-blooded daimyo, asked his father Terumune to mediate between the two. Yoshitsugu nevertheless kidnapped Date Masamune’s father in a trap. Masamune and his men caught up with them near the Abukuma River. In the ensuing confrontation, Terumune ordered his son and his men to open fire regardless of his own safety. Without hesitating , the men fired at the Hatakeyama party, killing everybody including the Hatakeyama lord and Date Masamune’s own father.
Following the incident, Masamune marched upon Nihonmatsu castle. A few months later, a general war erupted as the Hatakeyama rallied the Ashina, the Satake, the Soma and other clans to fight the Date. The coalition would nevertheless prove to be short-lived, as the Satake would be forced to leave the war in order to defend their own lands from the Satomi, upsetting the balance of power and giving the Date the chance to broke new deals and clear his path to regional hegemony. When Katsuyori met Masamune on August of 1588, he had subdued the Soma and was in the process of besieging the Ashina headquarters at Kurokawa. By the end of the operation, the Takeda recognized the Date as the main clan of Mutsu, whereas Masamune presented Kurokawa and an over 2,000 enemy heads on pikes as a sign of respect and vassalage.
The conquest of Aizu and the lands of the Hatakeyama, authorized by Katsuyori in the fall of 1588, would put the Date domain at the height of its power; coincidently just as the Takeda themselves were at the pinnacle of their own.
1. IOTL, Masamune took over in 1584;
2. IOTL, Masamune was stopped at the Hibara by Iwashiro Morinuki, not present ITTL;
3. IOTL, two versions exist: a. Masamune hesitated before shooting, and the Hatakeyama lord escaped; b. Masamune did not hesitate, and killed them all...I'm going with version B for ITTL;
The year is 1589, and for the first time since 1467, the beginning of the Onin war and the Warring states period, there is a centralized government at Kyoto under the near absolute authority of Takeda Katsuyori, son of Takeda Shingen, lord of Kai, Shinano and most of central Japan.
This first period of peace and centralized government before the establishment of the official shogunate would be known as the Kofu-Fukuchiyama period, in reference to the two capitals of the Takeda domain: the fortified palace of Tsutsuijigasaki at Kofu (Shingen had never needed a proper castle for his domain) and Fukuchiyama Castle, at which Katsuyori set his residence at Kyoto.
When Takeda Shingen first entered Kyoto in 1573, he settled in the old and strategic Shoryuji castle, which guarded the western gates of Kyoto. It was Katsuyori the one to choose Fukuchiyama castle, originally property of the Yokoyama clan, as his residence in the capital. In his absence, Katsuyori’s uncles Nobukado and Nobuzane served as administrator of the Takeda domains in Kai and Shinano while Katsuyori remained the military leader of the nation.
It is important to notice though, that while Takeda Katsuyori had a nigh absolute power as military governor of Japan, and as son of Shingen, he was a descendant from the Minamoto Clan, Katsuyori was never given the title of Shogun, as his son Nobukatsu was the true heir to the Takeda clan. Thus, even as Katsuyori wielded all the power, he was merely a regent for his son.
Katsuyori’s government, assisted by several veteran retainers and advisors, would last many years after his son Nobukatsu had reached the age of majority, continuing and expanding the intricate and efficient war machine and system of governance that it had taken the great Takeda Shingen 30 years to build.
Amongst the measures initiated in Kai and expanded on a national level by Katsuyori in the late 1580s and early 1590s, there was doing away with the corporal punishment for minor offences, instituting in its place a system of fines - an act that earned him considerable praise from the peasants and townspeople of Kai and all of the country.
Furthermore, the tax system instituted by the Takeda in this early years was the first to tax most of the people evenly (most exempted powerful samurai families and/or religious establishments at the beginning), and with the option of payment in either gold or rice (a forerunner, in some ways, to the later Kandaka system, which assessed the value of the land in terms of a cash unit and determined the size of the land and military obligations each vassal and daimyo owed).
Further measures extrapolated from the rules of the Takeda code of Kai included limitation of the activities of the Ikko-Ikki and the Nichiren Buddhist sects in land directly administered by the Takeda (although not in other domains), and limitations and prohibitions to the abilities of subjects to move freely and communicate with other provinces, restrictions that had existed well before Katsuyori due to the permanent state of war.
As Established by the Takeda House Code:
“The Pure Land Sect and Nichiren Band (tô) are not permitted to engage in religious controversy within our domain (bunkoku). If there are people who encourage such controversies, both the priests and their parishioners will be punished”
Pay proper reverence to the gods and the Buddha. When your thoughts are in accord with the Buddha's, you will gain more power. If your domination over others issues from your evil thoughts, you will be exposed, you are doomed. Next, devote yourselves to the study of Zen. Zen has no secrets other than seriously thinking about birth-and-death.
These policies nevertheless did not affect the activities of Christian missionaries in western and even central Japan, although their activities were frowned upon in Tokyo. This can be attributed to Katsuyori never having displayed the same levels of Buddhist fanaticism that his father had. Christianity thus spread like wildfire in Kyushu and other provinces, in contrast to the monolithic Buddhist hegemony in Shikoku and the growing confrontation between the Zen Buddhism of the Takeda Domain and the more fanatical Ikko-Ikki and Nichiren sects.
Public works that imitated the damming of the Fuji River in the 1560s also took place in the 1590s, the 1600s and again in the 1650s, all with various degrees of success but only a few matching to the feat that was the Fuji damming project as built by Shingen.
The Third Shogun, Takeda Nobukatsu, was, as his father before him and the great Takeda Shingen before him, a follower of Buddhism. Thus he devoted himself to the study of Zen, one of the main schools of Buddhism in Japan. And as those of his lineage before him, the third Takeda Shogun was well aware of the dangers of religious sects and their pervasive influence in society.
Buddhism can be divided into two main branches: Theravada (Ancient Teaching), which is widespread in south-east Asia; and Mahayana (Great Vehicle) which is prevalent in eastern Asia.
Mahayana Buddhism, the dominant religion in Japan, can be divided into several sects, which interact in different manners with Shintoism, which has lost popularity since the arrival of Buddhism, and the central government.
Zen Buddhism, seen by the Takeda as an unofficial state religion to be encouraged, is amongst the biggest ones, followed in the early 17th century by Nichiren Buddhism and by the Pure Land Buddhism, which itself contains the more radical True Pure Land School. Tendai and Shingon Schools of Buddhism are also important, but are not seen by the Takeda as a direct threat. (2)
The Nichiren School was founded by the 12th century monk Nichiren, a revolutionary and progressive thinker. The Controversy around the Nichiren sect, besides the fanaticism of some of its members, was caused by Michener’s ideas: that every other Buddhist sect was wrong in its dogma and did not teach the truth path to enlightenment, and that woman could too achieve enlightenment. Nichiren Buddhism is generally noted for its focus on the Lotus Sutra  and an attendant belief that all people have an innate Buddha nature and are therefore inherently capable of attaining enlightenment in their current form and present lifetime.
The Pure Land Sects on the other hand, based on the teachings of the Pure Land Sutras. Adherents believe that Amitabha Buddha provided an alternative path towards attaining enlightenment: the Pure Land Path. In Pure Land Buddhist thought, Enlightenment is difficult to obtain without the assistance of Amitabha Buddha, since people are now living in a degenerate era, known as the Age of Dharma Decline. Instead of solitary meditative work toward enlightenment, Pure Land Buddhism teaches that devotion to Amitabha leads one to the Pure Land, where enlightenment can be more easily attained.
The practices of Pure Land Buddhism are particularly popular amongst those considered “impure” such as hunters, fishermen, those who tan hides, prostitutes and so on. Pure Land Buddhism provided a way to practice Buddhism for those who were not capable of practicing other form.
This leads us to the Jodo Shinsu (True Pure Land Sect) and the Ikko-Ikki, its militant wing. Unlike the other Buddhist sects, the True Pure Land rejects Shintoism and any meshing of the Pantheons. At the same time, it discouraged all of the traditional Buddhist practices of the other sects and discouraged Kami (deity) veneration. Relations were extremely bad with the Nichiren sect in particular. Mobs, peasants and farmers along with Shinto priests and local nobles began to rise against Samurai Rule in the 15th century following the teachings of the Jodo Shinsu priest Rennyo . Thus the Ikko-Ikki, the “Single-Minded Leagues” were thus born in the 1480s, and by the decade of the 1570s, as a result of the fanatical extermination campaigns of Oda Nobunaga, would become a highly organized and feared force in Japan.
The provinces of Kaga and Noto were taken in the last decades of the Sengoku period, the first time Japanese provinces were ruled by commoners, and the revolutionary ideas of the Ikko-Ikki spread, thanks to their success and their hold of Ishiyama Hongan-Ji, just outside of Osaka. Warrior monks, peasants, former prostitutes, farmers, ronin that found themselves without purpose given the new peace, local nobles, all were attracted by the militant sect and their growth in the early decades of the 17th century was only equaled by the only other sect that was as dangerous to the central government: Christianity.
-Ah! Kamisama!=Oh! my God!
2. Tendai and Shingon are along with Zen and Pure Land, the biggest sects in Japan, part of Mahayana Buddhism;
3. Sutra: rope or thread; a type of literal composition, in Buddhism, refers to the canonical scriptures that are the teachings of Buddha; so, for practical purpose Sutra=Gospel
4. Rennyo (1415-1499), a Buddhism missionary and thinker, was ambivalent and rather neutral to the Ikko-Ikki.
The Six Great Gateways
During the years of the Takeda Shogunate, six ports were opened for trade with foreign nations: Hakata (later Fukuoka) and Nagasaki in Kyushu, along with Kagoshima under the Shimazu; Osaka; Sendai in the domains of Date Masamune in the North and Hiroshima under the rule of the Mori Clan.
Hakata was a city of merchants which is believed to be the oldest city in Japan, had benefited from commerce with the Chinese, Korean and other foreign merchants, before decaying as a result of several wars including the Mongol invasions. It was under the rule of Kuroda Nagamasa that the city would become prosperous again, as Takeda Nobukatsu gave the city its role as gateway to the continent. Fukuoka castle was built in the early 1600s on the southern shores of the Naka River. 
Nagasaki, the only port under the control of a Kirishitan (Christian) daimyo, was not only ruled by the convert Omura Sumitada, one of the first daimyos to convert and open his domains to the richness of western culture and products, but surrounded as well by catholic domains, as the port served as a gateway for the entrance of European (chiefly Portuguese and Spanish) merchants and missionaries. 
The neighboring daimyos, including the Arima of Shimabara and the Ryuzoji, soon became influenced by the preaching and the economic advantages of dealing with the Portuguese, and soon enough Catholicism spread like wildfire through western Kyushu as Nagasaki became a permanent foothold of the Society of Jesus and other minor orders, including the Augustinians and the Benedictines, which arrived in the 1600s and 1610s, decades after the Jesuits.
The policies of Otomo Sorin in the northeast and the Kirishitan daimyos of the west assured that Christianity would become a mayor influence through Kyushu, and it was even rumored that the Nabeshima had converted in order to benefit from the trade and avoid isolation.
In the south, on the other hand, the Shimazu through the port of Kagoshima had learned to deal with the always willing Dutch and the English, and thus now religious links were attached, even if deals with the Portuguese were also made. Despite their debilitation after the Takeda campaign of the 1580s, the Shimazu Clan of Satsuma was able to recover thanks to the seas. Expansion through the seas was encouraged by the daimyo at Kagoshima, and while European merchants were welcomed, military adventures against pirates and the independent kingdom of Ryukyu were undertaken with the tacit consent of the Shogunate. 
In 1612, the Shimazu under the daimyo Tadatsune led the invasion of the Chinese vassal Kingdom of Ryukyu. The trade benefits thus acquired, and the political prestige of being the only daimyo family to control an entire foreign country secured the family's position as one of the most powerful daimyo families in Japan at the time.
Hiroshima, under the rule of Mori Terumoto, the man that had built it out of nothing just years before, was somewhat more isolated that the other ports, but was nevertheless given the status of Open Port due to the importance of the Mori Clan within the Shogunate. Inviting a mixture of European merchants, it didn’t gain the importance of some of the other ports, although it did bring considerable profit for its daimyo. 
Osaka was one of the reasons Hiroshima never prospered as much as Nagasaki or Kagoshima, as it had been for a considerable part of Japan’s history one of its most important economic and cultural centers. Most interestingly, it also became the center of Japan’s most violent religious controversy in the 1630s and 1640s, as the Ikko-Ikki, who had their base at Ishiyama Hongan-Ji, became involved in several disputes with the Jesuit missionaries that arrived at Osaka. 
Finally Sendai, the last of the ports to be opened and the most isolated, was nevertheless the one to grow the faster, thanks to its exclusive trade with the Spanish in Mexico and the Philippines. Date Masamune had through a diplomatic mission sent by him and led by his retainer Hasekura Tsunenaga, made contact with the governments of France, Spain and the Papal States, and assured a constant economic link with the Spanish Empire, as well as the establishment of a Jesuit Dioceses in Sendai. 
The building of the Dioceses under Padre Sotelo, an emulation of the policies of the rich daimyos of Kyushu, assured that Christianity would have two entrances to Japan and a lasting influence over its society, economy and culture.
1. The Fukuoka area is believed to have been the oldest city of Japan, being the closest port to China and Korea, and is among the oldest non-Jomon settlements in Japan;
2. Omura Sumitada profited greatly from his conversion to Christianity as he gained access to European weapons and products, and under his reign a port was built to accommodate the Portuguese Ships in 1571; IOTL, Nagasaki was briefly under the administration of the Society of Jesus, but that doesn’t happen ITTL;
3.Having seen how the Omura have profited from their alliance with the Europeans, it stands to reason to see the Shimazu try to do the same, and only the Dutch have enough presence in the area, the Spaniards being confined to The Philippines and otherwise stuck in a Monarchic Union with Portugal between 1580 and 1640;
4. This is basically a ploy by the Mori to not fall behind the times and a bribe that the Takeda give them as a “reward”, although there is not as much European traffic for the time being;
5. Osaka is technically the Takeda Port, but the city works as a de-facto city state run by Merchants, Catholic missionaries and Ikko-Ikki Priests;
6. Meaning Sendai profits mainly from trade with the Philippines and Mexico, and later Peru, obtaining Spanish products and gold while receiving copious amounts of bibles, Jesuit and Dominican Missionaries, Coca plants, Coffee, etc;
Last edited by maverick; December 2nd, 2010 at 05:31 PM..
The Sudden Death of Takeda Katsuyori and the Birth of the Takeda Shogunate
It was a cold morning of April, the day that death found Takeda Katsuyori, and the year was 1595. It had been less than a year before that his son, Takeda Nobukatsu, took the title of Shogun, the first since the overthrowing and vanishing of Ashikaga Yoshimoto in 1580 by Katsuyori himself. Since then, while the emperor remains as the de jure ruler of Japan, the Lord of Kai and heir of Shingen had practically become the absolute ruler of the country. The Takeda Shogunate, or Fukuchiyama Shogunate, that was established in 1594 shared many similarities and had many differences from its predecessors, the Kamakura and the Ashikaga shogunates. For instance, the daimyos of the major and minor provinces were not required to reside in Kyoto while delegating their responsibilities on relatives or retainers, but were allowed, and in some cases forced, to remain in their capitals for the better part of the Shogunate. 
In fact, communications between some domains were restricted, as was between subjects of certain territories, as was the ability of the subjects of the country to move from one domain to the other. These restrictions were especially severe regarding the members of certain religious sects, such as the Ikko-Ikki, even if during the rule of the first Takeda shoguns the enforcements of these laws was somewhat relaxed and in some cases non-existent.
Nevertheless, the power structure was never as decentralized as under the Ashikaga, nor did the Takeda depend on the Daimyo as much as the Ashikaga had. To a degree, the power was centralized enough that several of the daimyos had been forced to become puppets of Kyoto or allies, as was the case of the Date and the Mori. The fact was that during the first 50 years of the third shogunate, no daimyo or coalition of daimyos would have been powerful enough to challenge the power of the central government.
An interesting fact to note about this degree of centralization is that the military and political power of the Shogun was that of the Kamakura and was not shared with the Emperor and the Daimyos as was with the Ashikaga, thus giving the Takeda shogunate a greater amount of stability in its first decades of existence. 
Finally, one must note that the great degree of institutionalization that took place in the late Shogunate was incredibly far from what was taking place between 1595 and 1632, the reign of Nobukatsu, as the Empire was still leaving the times of the warring daimyos and entering into a period of peace and political reorganization. For the time being, Japan would be more of a confederation of regional military caudillos with the strongest one, the Generalissimo, residing in Kyoto.
1. Basically the opposite of the policy instituted by the Tokugawa, whose residency system demanded that the daimyo spend half the year in lavish palaces in far-away Edo and that their relatives remain in Edo as hostages for the other half of the year; This was meant to be so expensive that the Daimyos would be too weak to act against the Tokugawa, but the Takeda just don’t think about this or don’t think that they need it;
2. The Takeda Shogun is more of a Primus Inter Pares amongst the Daimyo, not a military dictator at the helm of a strongly centralized government as the Tokugawa or the Minamoto;
A Thousand Victories in Succession
By 1626, Japan had enjoyed nearly 40 years of peace under a strong and unified central government in which the Shogun and the Emperor once again sat together at their palaces in the Imperial Capital of Kyoto. Takeda Nobukatsu had for over 30 years been the absolute military and political ruler of Japan, in a tradition that went as far back as his ancestor, Minamoto no Yoritomo.
Nobukatsu was nevertheless part of a long tradition of military conquerors; his grandfather, the great Shingen, had conquered Shinano, Kyoto and much of central Japan, and his father Katsuyori had completed the unification of Japan that his father before him had started 50 years ago. Now the Shogun stood in a peaceful capital, in a throne of peace bought by the blood of thousands. The growing and pervasive foreign influences that penetrated into the heart of Japan from all directions, from the Chinese and Korean merchants to the Catholic missionaries, combined with an uneasy sensation of tranquility that dominated the heart of the Shogun had begun to push him towards the direction of military glory and conquest.
The Shimazu conquest of the Ryukyu Kingdom, a Chinese vassal archipelago to the South of Japan, convinced Nobukatsu not only that the chance of creating a name for himself had arrived, but that no power in earth no matter how great could stop him. He interpreted the lack of Chinese intervention over Ryukyu as a sign of weakness.
The first designs of Nobukatsu contemplated the possibility of invading the island of Formosa, or the Spanish domains in the Philippines, both strategic positions that would have given him an enormous deal of power in the region. Yet the weaknesses of the Japanese fleet, as well as a desire for a more glorious and worthy military campaign led to the final and fateful decision to invade the Empire of Korea, in a plan that many testimonies later blamed to madness and even megalomania. Preparations began in earnest in the early months of 1626, as Nobukatsu rallied the men loyal to him from the 24 Hosts of the Takeda Clan, an organization inherited and inspired by the traditional “24 Generals” of Takeda Shingen, and called for the Clan’s allies to come forward for the great Endeavour that was the Conquest of Korea. 
The Mori, the Otomo, the Uesugi, the Date, the Ryuzoji, the Asakura, the Azai, the Yamana and several other clans responded to the calls, as did the Chosokabe and the Shimazu, although on a lesser scale. The army that was assembled at Kyushu under the banners of the Takeda Shogun numbered around 150,000 men. 
Korea, under the rule of the King Injo of Joseon, had been weakened politically and economically by the 1621 coup that put Injo on the throne in the first place and by the 1624 civil war between Injo and his former supporter, Yi Gwal. These circumstances left a debilitated government in the midst of an economic crisis, trapped between the Jurchens in Manchuria, who had taken the region from the Ming Dynasty of China, and the belligerent Empire of Japan. Having invaded Tsushima in the spring of 1626, the vanguard of the Imperial Japanese Army landed in Southern Korea, the offensive being spearheaded by troops of the Mori and Date clans led by Mori Hidenari in a nominal capacity. 
The Japanese invasion was justified as an intervention in the internal crises plaguing Korea, and with the poor state in which the Korean military and economy found itself in 1626; Nobukatsu was able to overrun half of the peninsula by the summer. After nearly a century of war, Japan had experienced almost 40 years of peace, a factor that contributed to the stabilization of the Japanese government and economy, as well as military strategy and doctrine, but meant that there was some scarcity of battle hardened soldiers and commanders, as a mayor war had not taken place since the 1580s. 
The Koreans on the other hand had just come out of a civil war and had faced the threat of the Jurchens from Manchuria for the better part of the last two decades, but had seen their economy and government nearly obliterated. The Japanese steamroller, at the time the most disciplined force in the region, from the Ashigaru infantry to the battle hardened Samurai and the Takeda Cavalry and Arquebusiers, began preparations to besiege the Korean capital of Hanseong by July of 1626, taking the half emptied city by the end of that month and pursuing the fleeing Korean Court of King Injo northwards, towards Pyongyang.
The capture of the Korean capital was followed by three days of celebrations in which Nobukatsu began to expand his plans for Asia, contemplating the conquest of strategic positions such as Luzon and Taiwan, as he had before deciding to invade Korea, while also making plans for a possible invasion of Manchuria, taking advantage of the conflict between the Joseon of Korea, the Jurchens in Manchuria and the Ming Dynasty in China.
It was on August of 1626 that Nobukatsu changed his name to Takeda Katsuchiyo, to reflect his successes in Korea, Katsuchiyo meaning: “Thousand Victories in Succession”
The joyous mood in the Japanese camps would nevertheless prove to be short-lived as an unexpected complication would come to turn the war into a labyrinth of epic proportions and a regional crisis through the intervention of Khan Nurhaci of the Manchu, thus beginning the Manchurian phase of the War.
Khan Nurhaci of the Manchu had been Chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchen for more than 40 years before the Korean War, and had for his reign worked tirelessly towards the unification of the Jurchen tribes, through the conquest of the Hulun tribes and the unification of the Ula and the Yehe Clans with his own Jin Dynasty. 
Having waged war against the Ming Dynasty in China, the Mongols, the Koreans and the other Jurchen Clans, the territory of the Jin Dynasty had greatly expanded by the 1620s, decade by which Nurhaci had unified most of central and southern Manchuria and was in the process of putting all the Jurchen tribes under his banners while pushing the Ming out of Manchuria and northern China. It was here that events in Korea caught his eye, as the threat of Japanese Imperialism and the opportunity presented by the weakness of the Korean Kingdom provided a proper casus belli for a Manchurian intervention. Even as preparations were being made to attack the great Fortress of Ningyuan in northern China, the most solid stronghold the Ming had against the Manchu, Nurhaci suspended that campaign and decided to intervene in the Korean crisis as per the request of the rebels defeated during the Korean civil war of 1624.
King Injo’s pro-Ming and anti-Manchu policies did not help matters with the Manchurian court, and thus the requests of the exiled Korean rebels under Han Yun. In the late months of 1626, 30,000 Manchu cavalry under Ah Min and former General Gang Hong-rip invaded Joseon, calling for restoration of Gwanghaegun and execution of Westerners leaders including Kim Ja-jeom. 
With the Japanese holding Hanseong and the Manchu fast approaching from the North, the situation of the Injo King and the exile court had become incredibly desperate, and from their safe haven at Ganghwa Island, on the estuary of the Han River just a few miles north of Incheon, they waited to see how the situation developed. Events in the occupied capital of Hanseong transpired somewhat differently, as Takeda Katsuchiyo saw the Manchurian invasion as a threat to Japanese interests in the region and a direct affront to his personal honor. The angered Shogun and his worried generals remained at the capital for a week nevertheless discussing strategies as the occupation armies halted their advances in southern Korea, allowing the Korean court to relocate to safety in the west.
The Takeda Shogun was nevertheless not the kind of man to sit idly as events developed around him, and thus ordered his Grand Army to march northwards to take on the Manchus directly, setting a chain of events that would result in the battle of Pyongyang on October of 1626 and unleashing of the full strength of the Jin hosts upon the Korean peninsula.
1. The ITTL invasion of the Ryukyus under the Shimazu takes 3 years later than IOTL, happening in 1612 rather than 1609;
2. A sensation of emptiness, the desire to fulfill a great destiny and match the glory of the founders of the Takeda Shogunate and plain old Megalomania are the Takeda Shogun’s motivations ITTL, not unlike the bizarre vision that prompted Toyotomi Hideyoshi to think that he could conquer all of Asia;
3. Slightly smaller than the army Toyotomi brought to Korea in 1592 IOTL, but still a solid bunch;
4. Butterflies should be bigger here, but without the Imjin War of 1592-1597, Korea goes as it was before the war, with factional struggle preventing any major reform, but without the destruction brought upon by the war Korea does better in the 1590s and early 1600s; King Seonjo still dies in the 1600s and leaves three sons to duke it out in a succession struggle, and the able but not first-born Gwanghaegun is deposed by the conservatives in 1621, two years earlier than IOTL; Yi Gwal, just as IOTL, feels that the reward for putting Injo on the throne was too small and thus launches a rebellion;
5. On one side, Toyotomi had soldiers fresh from the Sengoku period, which ended just two years before the invasion of Korea IOTL, but ITTL the Takeda are able to take advantage of the long peace between 1590 and 1626 to recover economically and cement their power, not to mention that Korea has recently suffered from a debilitating civil war;
6. More on Nurhaci’s life in Part V, dealing with Manchurian history; suffice to say, he’s an able military commander and administrator, and the Manchu have been raiding Chinese Liaodong and northern Korea as means to assert their domination over the area in the 1620s, just as IOTL;
7. IOTL, Nurhaci attacked Ningyuan in 1626, was completely defeated and died from wounds sustained at that battle;
8. These renegade Koreans helped the Manchu when they invaded Korea in 1627 IOTL;
The Twenty-Four Great Hosts and the Eight Banners
Khan Nurhaci of the Manchu had created the Eight Banners as Administrative divisions in which all Manchu Families were placed, providing the basic framework for the Manchu military organization. The fundamental building block of the banners was the company, some of which reflected pre-existing lineage or tribal connections in their membership, while others deliberately overrode such connections in an effort to create a more centralized military force. Each company was, in principle, required to furnish 300 troops to the larger banner army. 
The Twenty Four Great Host Army of the Takeda, whose structure was reminiscent of the old armies that Shingen had once taken to conquer Shinano, Kyoto and Echigo, was a more decentralized structure at the time of the war in Korea, due to the need to meet several challenges in the peninsula, from occupation duties to fighting the Joseon armies and the guerillas formed in occupied territories and of course, maintaining the advance northwards to both chase the fleeing Korean court and meet the invading Manchu Army.
The 30,000 men strong Manchu Army that crossed the Yalu River on October of 1626 advanced rapidly though Northern Korea just as the Takeda Shogun ordered his Generals, Mori Hiromoto and Yamagata Ryusaku, to march northwards to engage the Manchu with 60,000 soldiers, including the best of the Takeda and Mori Samurai and Ashigaru Infantry and Arquebusiers, along with most of the army’s cavalry regiments. Having marched deep into Korean territory, the two rivaling armies met in the proximities of Pyongyang in late February of 1627, only to then spend a month avoiding battle, in an attempt to better position themselves against the enemy forces. By March 20th, both commanders were finally forced to engage their opponents north of Pyongyang, after having completely ignored the city for 5 weeks and failing to occupy it.
Despite Mori Hiromoto’s overcautious nature and reports about the Manchu army numbering about 90,000 troops, the more impulsive and aggressive Yamagata Ryusaku managed to prevail over the Mori Commander and upon receiving reports revealing that the Manchu army was smaller than the Japanese army, he ordered an attack for the next day. 
The left wing of the Japanese army under Yamagata crossed the Taedong River, thus bringing 30,000 men to engage the Manchu camp north of the River. Mori Hiromoto would cross the River three hours later with the cavalry and an 8,000 men strong Infantry force to attack the Manchu rear. In a matter of five hours, the Manchu army had been decimated and its remains either scattered or forced to flee northwards, where they’d been further defeated along the Taedong once more two weeks later.
Militarily, the first engagements between the Manchu and the Japanese were a show of Japanese numerical and tactical superiority, having mastered the combination of firearms and arme blanche (arquebuses, muskets, Swords and spears), and upon having spent years studying Korea and months occupying it, even Joseon weapons such as the Korean Cannon, known for its accuracy and range, and the Turtle Ship (adapted as the Atakebune in Japan) were employed by the Conquering Japanese army. 
Politically, the loss of over 16,000 men in a matter of months, along with the death of the Jin Princes Jirgalang and Ajige, along with the capture of Amin and the death in battle of the Korean general Gang-Hong Rip, caused a great deal of shock at the Manchu Court at Mukden, enough to convince Nurhaci to postpone his plans to invade China and concentrate all of his efforts in destroying Japan and turning Korea into a vassal.
Thus the real war between the Jin Dynasty of the Manchu and the Takeda of Japan had begun.
1. This is mostly IOTL; for more details check Part V, the chapters dealing with the Manchu;
2. Yamagata Ryusaku and Mori Hiromoto are fictional characters here, of the Yamagata clan, which served the Takeda, and the well-known Mori Clan; this is mostly due to incoherent use of butterflies, in which fictional characters become the protagonists in Japan after 40 years but in Korea few has changed until the 1620s;
3. The Japanese has access to better cavalry, which was one of their main weaknesses during their IOTL invasion, and have European weapons and artillery as well, the Manchu’s main weakness and why they’re having such a hard time subduing the Chinese in the 1620s;
The Manchu-Takeda War
Khan Nurhaci’s Decision to postpone his war against Ming China, a war he had commenced upon when his ‘Seven Grievances’ were sent to the Ming Court in 1618 along with a demand of tribute, was met with both concern and quiet enjoyment in Beijing, as now the Imperial Government could sit back and see how their two greatest threats, the Japanese and the Manchu destroyed each other, at minimum cost for the Ming.
Takeda Katsuchiyo’s reaction was on the other hand one of mainly anger, whereas his generals were concerned about the possibility of direct Manchurian involvement and even taking the war north of the Yalu, far away from their bases and supplies in Japan. Following the battles at the Taedong River, Mori Hiromoto and Yamagata Ryusaku, the commanders of the army of the North, proceeded to occupy Pyongyang and secure the nearby provinces, while in the south consolidation of Japanese forces in the peninsula continued.
The 100,000 men that crossed the Yalu in the late summer of 1627, with a 60,000 men strong vanguard under Nurhaci Khan spearheading the invasion itself, began advancing directly towards Pyongyang as soon as the Manchu were able to assemble it, most of it having been assigned to attack the Chinese Fortress of Ningyuan.
Hardly panicking, Mori Hiromoto suggested retreating southwards and meeting with reinforcements from Hanseong before engaging Nurhaci, while Yamagata wanted to face the Manchu directly and destroy them in a single decisive battle. Camping along the Taedong some 15 miles west of Pyongyang, Yamagata Ryusaku finally had his way, when he met the vanguard of the Manchu Invasion.
The Manchu army, under the direct command of Nurhaci’s eighth son and eventual heir, Huang Taiji, advanced along the River southwardly, approaching the Japanese camps with 60,000 advancing on the western banks and 20,000 doing the same on the opposite banks and moving with greater speed, with the intention of catching the Japanese off guard with a diversionary attack.
Disregarding Hiromoto’s caution and reports from scouting parties, Yamagata proceeded to cross the Taedong and attack the secondary Manchu force east of his camp, leaving only 30,000 men to deal with the bulk of the Jurchen army that would come hours later. Whereas a better commander than Yamagata might have avoided a mistake like this, the Manchu numerical superiority and Huang Taiji’s military skills assured this first victory, in which Yamagata Ryusaku was killed and the Japanese Army of the North was routed towards Pyongyang, where Mori Hiromoto would defend the stronghold in a three month siege before the city could be relieved.
The Siege of Pyongyang, taking place during the winter of 1628, was a reversal of the fate suffered by the Japanese at the Third Battle of the Taedong, as the forces rallied by the Mori commander proved a more cohesive and disciplined force despite their numerical inferiority. Having burnt anything outside with little regards of the impact on the civilian population, Mori Hiromoto proceeded to defend the city with fanatical impetus, waiting for reinforcements from the south.
The 100 day siege, upon leaving thousands of dead on both sides, was finally concluded thanks to the arrival of the Japanese Army of the South, which albeit outnumbered directly by the Manchu, was combined with the besieged forces enough to force an end to combat operations around Pyongyang and take the war to its next phase.
1. The Japanese aren’t an actual threat to China, but the Ming are concerned about their power after they randomly invaded Korea; The Seven Grievances was a real document and were that:
The Ming killed Nurhaci's father and grandfather without reason;
The Ming suppressed Jianzhou and favored Yehe and Hada clans;
The Ming violated agreement of territories with Nurhaci;
The Ming sent troops to protect Yehe against Jianzhou;
The Ming supported Yehe to break its promise to Nurhaci;
The Ming forced Nurhaci to give up the lands in Chaihe, Sancha and Fuan;
The Ming's official Shang Bozhi abused his power and rode roughshod over the people.
Life During Wartime
Following the siege of Pyongyang, the war between the Manchu and the Takeda continued in the lands lying from Hanseong to Pyongyang for most of 1628 and the early months of 1629 without great engagements between the two great armies, as the generalissimos of the two grand forces continued to evaluate and study their opponents following the debacles along the Taedong River.
For the Koreans, on the other hand, each passing day turned their lives more into some kind of hell, as the excesses of the occupation armies continued savagely in a double attempt to subdue the Korean people and leave nothing to the enemy, be it Jurchen or Japanese.
From Gangwha Island the Joseon court and King could only sit back and contemplate in absolute horror as the two foreign beasts, Nurhaci and Katsuchiyo, devastated and pillaged his lands. After Six years of war, the destruction brought down upon by the foreign invasions and occupation would only leave between 50% and 60% of arable land in the peninsula, greatly destroying the agricultural economy of Joseon Korea and condemning the Kingdom to famine, strife and desolation to the once prosper and rich realm. 
But even as the chaos and destruction left by the aftermath war would last well into the 1650s, perhaps most astonishing consequence was to the culture and arts of Korea, as the Takeda Shogunate took nearly 60,000 Koreans captive, bringing them to Japan, including scholars, craftsmen, medicine makers, and gold smelters. They provided to Japan with many cultural and technological gains.
The Japanese had already incorporated many elements from other cultures and nations, including the Korean and Portuguese cannons, European horses, the Korean armored ships known as Turtle Ships, which would provide the inspiration for the Japanese Atakebune, and thus the abduction of over 50,000 Korean men and women was the latest and most dramatic movement towards Japan’s ‘program’ of artistic and cultural expansion. 
Those that by the 1640s weren’t sold to Portuguese or Spanish merchants or returned to Korea would create the very healthy Korean minorities of Kyoto and northern Kyushu, which would make smart ports like Hakata almost predominantly Korean by the end of the century. 
This and other Japanese excesses and activities throughout the southern peninsula were the main motivation for the irregular Korean militias that formed the core of the resistance to the occupation, fighting the Takeda forces numerous times throughout the war.
These militias consisted of three forces: the surviving and leaderless Korean regular soldiers, who would with time join forces with the Manchu upon having fought with great success in guerrilla and irregular warfare operations in occupied Korea; secondly, the so-called Righteous army, consisting of patriotic aristocrats that would become the first to ally with the Manchu against Takeda Japan; and finally, warrior Buddhist monks that fought independently resisting the Japanese forces in the south.
The resistance took form in direct engagements, guerrilla raids, attacks to supply lines and communication lines; although later they’d engage the Japanese more directly as they had at the beginning and/or join with the Manchu in the North, assisting them in the war against Japan. The first time the Righteous Army was forced to actually fight against the undivided attention of Takeda Katsuchiyo would come in the summer of 1629, during the 400 day truce between the Jin and the Takeda that lasted from the winter of 1629 to the first days of spring of 1630. Several battles took place as the Japanese army was now focusing on the Korean militias, but the most remembered is the only mayor victory achieved by the Righteous Army, the Battle of Changwon, one of the most dramatic emblems of Korean nationalism. 
Having been chased by the bigger and better prepared Japanese army, the rebels took refuge in the city of Changwon, where the people had recently risen up in arms and overthrown the local Japanese garrison. The ensuing siege would cost the Japanese 5,000 men in six weeks, after which most of the rebels managed to escape leaving little behind in terms of men or supplies. The short-lived victory, followed by the burning of the city to the ground and the destruction of several guerrilla armies throughout occupied Korea, nonetheless did much to raise the morale of the defending militia forces in their plight against the Japanese Empire.
The growingly tired, harassed and malcontent Japanese Army would keep their campaign to destroy Korean resistance going nevertheless, well into the spring of 1630, when the Manchu broke the Truce and began a new offensive, led by the new Jin Khan Huang Taiji.
The 400 Day Truce, called after a small skirmish along the Taedong River on February of 1629, would eventually be revealed to have been a rouse by the Jurchen Prince Huang Taiji
, who consolidated his power as a result of that skirmish, in which the Nurhaci Khan had been wounded and killed by a Japanese Arquebusiers.
Thus was the secret and lonely death of the King Nurhaci, and the dramatic turn that took the war as a result.
1. It was common for the Joseon Court to evacuate to this island if the capital was in danger or occupied, as happened IOTL with the Japanese and Manchu invasions; similar damage to the one described in this paragraph was seen IOTL due to the Imjin War and subsequent conflicts;
2. Once again, something like this happened when Hideyoshi invaded Korea in 1592, although in lesser numbers since that occupation was short-lived as opposed to the ITTL one;
3. The Koreans lack a strong central Government and able men such as Admiral Yi-Sun-Sin, who would have died of disease or old age ITTL some time ago; there is some naval resistance to Japan, but disorganized and lacking in command and success;
4. Koreans are the first minority in Japan to this day, but ITTL their numbers are greater, especially in Kyushu, due to this war and its aftermath;
5. The Righteous Armies were one of the main difficulties the Japanese encounter IOTL and ITTL, being enough of a threat to supply lines or rear-units that they can wreak as much havoc as the Manchu army; this of course only makes the Japanese occupation even more brutal and merciless;
May of 1630
Four years have passed since the Great Takeda Shogun set foot on the shores of southern Korea.
Four hundred days have passed since the long truce was begun between the Jurchen Manchu and the Takeda armies.
Four Days have passed since the new Jurchen Khan, Huang Taiji, chose to end the truce and attack the Japanese in their southern camps.
Having pushed the northern army under Mori Hiromoto southwards and overrun the Japanese positions along the Taedong River, the Manchu have seemingly recovered the initiative, a reality that is highlighted by a resurgence of resistance activities in Japanese occupied Korea following the Takeda inability to completely destroy the Righteous Armies of the Korean resistance.
Takeda Katsuchiyo is nevertheless adamant in his desire to see the Manchus expelled from Korea and the peninsula subjugated to the Great Empire of his Son. The banners of the 24 Great Host Army now read in Kanji: “The Ever Victorious Army”
Mori Hiromoto has been able to evacuate his army from the Taedong almost intact despite the insistent and continuous drive of the Manchurian Army, and has in fact been able to outmaneuver the larger and more aggressive Jurchen force along the Taedong delta until new orders from the Shogun arrive. All of the Imperial Armies on the Peninsula would rally and reorganize into a single force once more. The objective was obvious: to once again try to draw the Manchu into an open, definitive and hopefully final battle.
The Yesong River, some 90 miles south of Pyongyang and the Taedong River was initially considered by Mori Hiromoto as the site for the concentration of his Northern Army with the Army of the Center, under the command of Mori Hidenari and Date Tadamune, but the need to properly organize that force and await for reinforcements from the South forced the Army of the North to retreat further south to the Imjin River in order to avoid a direct confrontation with Huang Taiji.
In the dying days of the spring of 1630 and the first days of the summer, the Great Takeda army once again assembles at the southern shores of the Imjin River, under the overall command of the Mori Brothers and the supreme command of the Shogun, Takeda Katsuchiyo. The Japanese army in Korea was not at its greatest strength since the first days of the invasion, and once again ready to battle the Manchu in equal terms, but the cost of assembling such a force was the loss of control of roughly half of the occupied territory of Southern Korea, where the Righteous Armies were able to obliterate the small occupation armies left behind by the Japanese in a brutal campaign of liberation that would have the most dire consequences in the final months of the war, but that for the summer of 1630 meant that the very fate of the war was being gambled in one final battle.
The fate of Korea being gambled in a gigantic battle between the armies of Manchuria and Japan at the shores of the Imjin River has had great meaning to history, historians and the Korean people alike ever since, yet the fact is that the Koreans were more than simple spectators to their own history; not only was the Righteous army active in the South and marching towards Hanseong in an attempt to liberate their capital while the bulk of the Japanese army, but Korea soldiers also took part of the battle directly, having been recruited by both sides to fill the gaps in the rank and file left by years of bloody war throughout the peninsula, a tactic that would be more beneficial to the Manchu than the Japanese, as the battle would prove.
It is now August 1st of 1630 and two armies, the greatest the peninsula has ever seen now stand across each other at the shores of the Imjin River, quietly waiting for a sign to attack.
Devas and Generals
The Imjin River runs from North to South, the water on its delta flowing just miles north of the then Korean capital of Hanseong.
The rainy season will be over soon, but the river remains a raging and uncontrollable torrent, unleashing such anger that many of the soldiers stationed at both sides of the river do not believe that its rocky banks will contain it or prevent it from devouring both armies and throwing them to the seas.
Huang Taiji, the Manchurian Khan, stands at the vanguard of his force and stares across the mighty river, his face displaying confidence, anger and expectation at the same time, his eyes focused almost as he expected to see his great enemy, the Takeda Shogun, staring right back at him, his arms crossed, with fire in his eyes and one hand on his sword.
Katsuyori is nevertheless resting comfortably in the safety of his tent, consulting strategy matters with the heads of the 24 Great Hosts, the Mori Brothers, the Date Daimyo of the Sendai Domain, the lords of the Shimazu, Otomo and Yamagata feuds, and his uncles, of which the ageing Takeda Nobuchika.
The frontlines muster a force of 30,000 men in formation, serving the purpose of giving the enemy a false sensation of security, whereas the bulk of the army remains at the center or the backlines in separate camps, ready to interfere at any given command. Mori Hidenari remains confident in his abilities as Commander of the Army of the Vanguard and thus takes the initiative by sending a small force of light infantry Ashigaru to break the deadlock in the same way he’s planning on winning the entire battle: by luring the enemy into a false overconfidence that can be easily exploited.
The ease with which the veteran Manchu Cavalry savages mows down the Japanese infantry and tears them to pieces does more than enough to convince Prince Abatai that he battle is won and the glory belongs to none other than him; as he chased them, the forces of the left wing under Mori Hidenari retreated from the southern banks of the Imjin in the direction of the town of Munsan, where the Army of the Center and the reserves were camping.
The battle nevertheless did not involve them; as the Manchurian cavalry entered the small valley leading from the Imjin ford towards Munsan and the pursue had to be done uphill, Hidenari ambushed Prince Abatai with his famed Arquebusiers, wreaking havoc and panic amongst the Jurchen lines, and especially, their horses. As the Samurai infantry finished the job in an overly bloody manner, Hidenari organized his forces with reinforcements from the Munsan reserves, giving him now a force of 40,000 men to return to the Imjin, where another 50,000 Jurchens were in the process of crossing the River with the intention of cementing the foothold they believed was created by the forces of the deceased Prince Abatai.
A force of 15,000 Japanese Ashigaru infantry had been sent from a camp on the southwest of the battle site precisely to prevent any further landings, but upon having stopped the first barges, the Manchu assault and the rain of arrows could no longer be contained; adding to the confusion was the fact that the light infantry force tasked with preventing further landings was not expecting nor was prepared to deal with the new Manchu artillery, provided by the remains of the Korean armies in the North, now allied with Huang Taiji. The two armies clashed some miles north of Munsan, creating a deadlock for approximately two hours in which the bloody carnage cost the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
Chance would decide the fate of this second phase of the battle, as a Korean soldier, hiding behind the enemy lines, was able to kill one of Hidenari’s messengers carrying a request for reinforcements, whereas Huang Taiji received fresh troops from across the Imjin just in time to crush the Japanese center and drive through their lines.
Mori Hidenari died at noon, along with 4,000 of his men.
An hour later, the regrouping Manchurian army, now ready for an offensive against what they believed was the open town of Munsan, were informed by their Korean spies that Takeda Katsuchiyo himself had his command there, along with the bulk of the Japanese army and the now retreating remains of the Army of the Vanguard.
The Manchurian Khan was nevertheless unable to cease the opportunity, as he waited for the entirety of his army to have finished crossing the river before committing to what he believed would be the end of the war. And right he was, if one was to discount the result, for Katsuchiyo was not a patient man.
The bulk of the Japanese 24 Great Host Army was two hours following the death of Mori Hidenari mobilizing against the Manchu in an attempt to surprise them. The little time that had passed gave Huang Taiji little time to prepare adequately against the Army of the Center and the Japanese reserves, yet he had some surprises in line for the Japanese, most importantly the rather large contingent of Korean troops that had joined the Jurchen side and brought their artillery with them.
Even with superiority in numbers when it came to Artillery and firearms thanks to the Japanese divisions of Arquebusiers and Musketeers, the battle at the center quickly became a stalemate in which both sides had no shame in butchering their own reserves and most sadly, the Korean soldiers that had joined both sides, be it Korean slaves freed by the invading Japanese or free Koreans of the Righteous army that had joined the Manchu; even more tragically, throughout the frontline, Korean soldiers ‘conscripted’ into the Japanese armies abandoned their positions and tried to surrender and join the Manchu side, only to be butchered by their own countrymen.
At the flanks, the situation was more fluid but not any less brutal.
The famed Takeda Cavalry had met its match in their Manchu and Korean counterparts, and for around five hours both sides butchered themselves, costing the lives of precious and irreplaceable warriors. In the case of the Japanese, it also meant the loss of irreplaceable European horses, a fortune consumed by the fires of the asura in a matter of hours in a forsaken field in Korea. It would take years for the merchants of Kyushu to replace them. Yet the Human loss could not be replaced.
The Japanese right flank had been at first decimated by the attack led by the Dorgon Prince, but after four hours, it had been obliterated; 15,000 men lying on the ground dead or wounded, the commander presumed missing or escaped. Five and a half hours after noon, Takeda Katsuchiyo, seconded by Yamagata Toramasa, took the fateful decision that unbeknown to anyone but himself, would change the course of the battle and the tide of the war and history itself.
Little is known about the events that preceded Katsuchiyo’s charge on the eleventh hour (other sources claim that it took place on the ninth hour of the battle), yet later circumstances would point to the most likely cause: dementia.
Taking his guard, most trusted retainers and 10,000 reservists, the decision to strike at the right flank and drive towards the center from behind was most unusual given the issue of numbers and momentum, but fortune has often proved to favor the bold: the reckless attack took the Manchu cavalry by surprise and the skirmish turned into a route that Katsuchiyo sought to turn into complete and total victory.
The Eleventh Hour charge (or Ninth Hour Charge) was thus able to reach the center of the Manchu army and wreak havoc in their makeshift camp, yet the charge had halted to a crawl by the time victory seemed a certainty and the Manchu were able to regroup and call for reinforcements from the southern banks of the Imjin; the hasty retreat that followed and the loss of thousands of good and loyal soldier and retainers finally convinced Katsuchiyo that the carnage had gone long enough and ordered a general retreat as the battle died out in its twelfth and final hour.
In the quiet silence of the night, the Takeda Army made preparations to leave the battle site and even abandon Munsan without fighting for it, yet fate would once again favor the bold, much to the surprise of the Japanese camp the following morning, in which they found the battlefield deserted as far as the shores of the Imjin River and further northwards; the Manchu had even left their dead and wounded behind, along with a considerable amount of banners and materiel.
The Surprise that overtook most of the Takeda Generals was only surpassed by the joy that filled the Shogun’s heart and he exuded from his face. The Great Ruler would proceed to take his banner and plant it in the middle of the field, loudly proclaiming the battle a Great Japanese Victory and himself as the Undisputed Emperor of Korea, Conqueror of Asia. This many believe was the first public sign of madness.
At Kaesong, in the meantime, the new Manchurian Khan, Laimbu, pondered about the outcome of the battle over the body of his dead brother, Huang Taiji, who had followed the same fate of his father, having passed away from the wounds received at the devastating charge that ravaged through the center of the Manchu lines the day before.
Thus was the secret and fateful death of Huang Taiji, Great Khan of the Jurchen, and the end of a savage war of conquest.
Wandering through a Forrest of Cherry Blossoms
The days that followed the Battle of the Imjin River were characterized by an overpowering sense of confusion and indecision on both sides of the river, with both armies paralyzed by the inability of their masters and Generals to understand what just occurred.
In the vicinity of the Korean city of Kaesong, the Manchu army camps unknowing of the reasons that led to their sudden retreat from the Imjin River, and while the Jurchen soldier ponders, at the city a power struggle begins in earnest around the issue of Huang Taiji’s succession amongst his surviving brothers, the sons of Nurhaci Khan. The war, the battle along and south of the Imjin and thousands of soldiers lying tired, wounded and or dead across Korea do not exist in the mind of the Jurchen Princes, and neither does the Japanese Army camping just a few dozen miles south of the Imjin.
At the town of Munsan, where the Japanese are burying their dead and spending their days trying to recover and regroup from the savage engagements with the Manchurian hordes, the feelings of confusion are obfuscated by the celebration of the great victory achieved by the Takeda Shogun, who has spent the two days following the battle fighting with the puzzle that is the immediate Manchurian withdrawal from the battle site that allowed for his ‘victory.’ The Takeda Generals walk around in circles and spent hours meditating about the next move of the Great 24 Host Army.
Thus a week passes, in which nothing exists but two armies impatiently waiting for the other to make a move in a bizarre monotony that is only interrupted with an even more surprising an unexpected announcement: the Laimbu King, Khan of the Jurchens, was offering peace to the Shogun of Japan. Laimbu, with support of his brothers, the Princes Dorgon, Daisan and Dodo, had come on top in the crucial days following the death of Huang Taiji, was fully aware that continuing the war would be suicidal and detrimental to the Jurchen in the long term, and was also aware that the Japanese were in the same situation as the Manchu. From this it could only be deducted that the Takeda Shogun, or at least his Generals, would agree to end the costly and brutal war.
Intransigence and ambition drove the Takeda Shogun, but after nearly four years of war, the reality was that his army could simply not sustain itself in Korea, not against the Manchu, not against these circumstances, yet it was only once the harsh reality had to be accepted that a treaty could be signed at Kaesong. The Imjin River would serve as a border between the Takeda and Jurchen domains; the lands north of the River would be recognized as the lands of Joseon Korea, now a vassal Kingdom to the Manchu, under the rule of the Prince Sohyeon, son of the King Injo, whereas the lands south of the mighty River were now to be part of the Empire of Japan.
The treaty, which signaled the end of the bloodiest war in Korean history thus far, also marked the beginning of one of the darkest eras in the history of the peninsula, as now where once stood a proud nation now stood two states divided by their ambitious and expansionist neighbors.
Following what the Koreans would later call “the Manchurian betrayal”, the Laimbu Khan proceeded to sack King Injo via a Palace coup, putting his son the Crown Prince Sohyeon as Joseon King in Pyongyang, the new Korean Capital. The Japanese on the other hand did away with such formalities and simply proceeded to cement their rule in their half of the peninsula, and the first step to made the extent and power of their rule clear was with the subduing of Hanseong, the former capital of the Joseon Monarchy, which had been occupied by the Korean Righteous Army while the Takeda Forces stood at the Imjin. During the battle the Righteous Army had slaughtered the Japanese garrison and the Korean insurrection overtook the entire city.
The Takeda army marched south following the end of the negotiations and besieged the town for seven days, later known as the Seven Days of Fire, in which the Japanese forces did their utmost best to destroy the Koreans in detail, finally failing in breaking the defenses and burning the city to the ground, while the surviving Korean militia were finished by force of the Arquebusiers, cavalry and Ashigaru infantry.
The destruction of Hanseong to this day remains one of the darkest hours in Korean history and a rallying cry for the Korean nationalists for nearly 182 years of occupation prior to the Great National Awakening of the 19th century.
The atmosphere at Kyoto on the Spring of 1632 is one of most exultant celebration and jubilee as the heroes of the Great 24 Host army of the Takeda parade through the streets of the Imperial capital with the great Takeda Shogun at the head of the formation, behind him the banners captured from the Manchu and Koreans, and behind those helmets, artillery pieces and other captured materiel that forms part of the victorious displays of the Shogun.
But behind the great jubilee hides the horrible truth and the high costs of the war.
Tens of Thousands of Japanese warriors, from well-trained and well-bred Samurai to lowly farmers conscripted into the Ashigaru Infantry are now being honored in Shrines by their families and Buddhist priests, whereas their bodies remain lost or buried in Korean soil. The economic cost of the war is barely discussed amongst those daimyo who’d rather not mention their losses to the overjoyed Shogun, or those who’d rather mourn their dead.
After the Takeda domain, the Date and Mori lords have been the ones to suffer the most losses and the war has in fact left them on the brink of economic disaster.
In 1632, the year in which the Great armies finally return home and the ever victorious host of the Takeda parade through Kyoto, Peace is the greatest price of all as far as anybody involved is concerned. Yet there is one voice that disagrees and that is the voice of the Takeda Shogun, Katsuchiyo, who’s thirst for glory and conquest have not only not been placated by six years of bloody and exhausting war, but have grown ever since the bloodbath at the Imjin and the forced negotiations between two tired and nearly crippled enemies. Ever since the day in which he stood in the fields abandoned by the Manchu, littered with the corpses of the fallen Jurchen and Takeda warriors and proclaimed himself Emperor of Korea and Conqueror of Asia, Katsuchiyo has dreamt of great military exploits and conquests, filled with the same desire to emulate and outdo the great Takeda Shingen that drove him to invade Korea six years earlier.
These boasts and bursts of joy were often accompanied by accesses of anger or depression, blaming the losses of the war and the inability to completely defeat the Manchu and subdue the Koreans on his generals and allied daimyos, which he accused of incompetence and treason, or wondering the Takeda palace in Kyoto silent or sometimes talking to himself, for months his state being hidden until a fateful evening in October of 1632, six months after his grand arrival at the Imperial Capital.
It was in the autumn of 1632 that the Shogun, Katsuchiyo abandoned his prostration and solitude and once again returned to his boastful and energetic personality; he once again proclaimed himself as the rightful Emperor of Korea and Conqueror of Asia and all under Heaven, and once again ordered for the mobilization of the Great 24 Host Army of the Takeda. Soon panic was widespread amongst those daimyo and generals who had participated in the Korean campaign and wanted to take no part in further fruitless and senseless campaign, but the worry was even greater amongst the retainers who had to serve as witnesses to their master’s delusions and growing madness, as he made unrealistic boasts, ordered preparations for a new invasion of Korea as if the previous one had never taken place and called for Generals and Retainers that had been dead and buried in Korea for years.
Only a few days passed between the first proclaims of the Takeda Shogun and the reaction.
In the months following the end of the war, the armies of the Takeda Host that had not been dispersed or demobilized, remain camped south of Kyoto awaiting for orders to disband and go home, and amongst the officers that remained there was a young Takeda Nobutoyo, Katsuchiyo’s nephew and veteran commander of the Korean war. Nobutoyo, realizing what disasters awaited Japan should Katsuchiyo remain in power any longer and try to fulfill his wildest dreams, thus set in motion a chain of events that would end 40 years of domestic peace in the Empire of Japan and of uninterrupted Takeda rule of Shingen’s heirs. Mobilizing his retainers and fellow commanders, Nobutoyo quickly assured himself the loyalty or neutrality of most of the remaining Generals and control of the armies south of Tokyo.
It was in the morning of October 22nd of 1632 that Takeda Nobutoyo and an army of 5,000 Samurai soldiers, 2,000 cavalry and 2,600 infantry, crossed the Rashomon gate, the southern entrance to the Imperial capital, and marched through the great city directly towards the Takeda Palace, which stood in the northern districts of the city. News quickly spread through Kyoto about the intentions of Nobutoyo and his mutinous cohorts, yet the reaction in the Takeda palace was not that which one might have expected, as a considerable amount of soldiers from the rank and file guarding the castle left, leaving only 400 loyal retainers of the Takeda Clan to guard the palace and their master, the Shogun.
The engagement that ensued has been the subject of much speculation, much debate, and the source of a great historical legend, and thus the facts have been somewhat skewed by centuries of distortion, revisionism and the grandeur of the legend that was a result of said events, but most sources agree that the Shogun’s retainers fought until there was none of them left and took over 1,000 enemy warriors with them. Takeda Katsuchiyo was found with a broken Tanto (dagger), with which he had attempted to commit Seppuku, and according to most sources, he was either executed or given a new sword, although there are versions implying that the great Shogun and descendant of Shingen was exiled to a Buddhist monastery in the old Takeda domain of Kai and died of old age.
Thus was the secret and often disputed death of Takeda Katsuchiyo, and the beginning of the reign of Takeda Nobutoyo, Daimyo of Kai, lord of the Takeda Clan, Shogun of Japan.
The days that followed the death of Takeda Katsuchiyo see little besides chaos and confusion in the streets of Kyoto, where gangs made up of soldiers, ronin and enforcers for local Daimyo and prominent personalities of the capital roam in a three day power struggle that culminates when the emperor and a group of nobles representing one of the struggling political factions in Kyoto ask Takeda Nobutoyo to raise his camp at Fukuchiyama castle and restore order in the city.
The followers of the old shogun Katsuchiyo, albeit a minority, are a strong, vocal and well-armed one, and even if many are willing to disarm, negotiate or outright recognize the new government, the hardliners refuse to lay down their weapons, thus turning the imperial capital into a battleground for several days. Thousands are killed in the streets of Kyoto, executed or forced to commit Seppuku. The most prominent rebel lords are allowed to honorably commit suicide or are exiled to Okinawa or Ezo.
By the end of the bloodbath, Nobutoyo is recognized as the new Shogun, being hailed as a liberator and savior of Japan, having ended the tyrannical madness of Katsuchiyo and the anarchy that ensued upon his death, but the cost had been high, and those who did not see Nobutoyo as a liberator saw a usurper, and the new shogun is well aware of this, enough to have himself surrounded by retainers and bodyguards at all time and the soldiers at Fukuchiyama castle on guard and ready to confront any menace at any given time of the day.
A good deal of the paranoia that characterizes the one year that Nobutoyo spent in Kyoto was fueled by an atmosphere of distrust in Kyoto and the courts of several daimyos, both the ones residing in Kyoto and the ones that remained in their domains for the best part of the year. Several small rebellions were crushed in the provinces surrounding Kyoto, many of them launched due to high taxes and the poor crops in the area, but inevitably blamed on enemy or disloyal daimyos, followers of the old shogun or Christian missionaries, whose influence in the rural population was beginning to grow as much as it had in the very capital of Kyoto. Thus Nobutoyo’s secret police began a massive crackdown on subversive organizations and characters that for a year unleashed a reign of terror in the Imperial Capital. When the Shogunate’s intelligence uncovered an alleged assassination plot against Nobutoyo in the winter of 1628, the Shogun’s peace of mind was broken and thus he set his residence in the old Takeda capital of Kofu, at the palace of Tsutsuijigasaki.
Tsutsuijigasaki, the old residence of the Takeda in Kofu, had been abandoned for years to the care of local retainers upon the Takeda conquest of Central Japan and the unification wars, and despite being conventionally lavish and grand, it had never been fortified or given much use by its lord, Takeda Shingen, who had never been threatened in his own domain and thus never seen the point in turning his home into a fortress.
But Nobutoyo was not Shingen, and even as he found the new residence to be isolated enough from his enemies, he found the palace lacking in presence and defensive measures, and thus he began the expansion and fortification works in the spring of 1629. It would take three years to leave the Shogun satisfied by his new fortress, but by the time it was officially over in the summer of 1632, the castle was one of the most imposing and modern military fortresses in the entirety of Japan, even overshadowing the Mori Castle at Hiroshima and the Fortress at Pusan in Korea in presence and magnificence.
Tsutsuijigasaki would nevertheless never be a finished work, as Nobutoyo would over the years call for more renovations and expansions, as his paranoia and distrust grew higher throughout the years, and some even say so did his madness. Claims exist that he purposely tried to turn the castle into a labyrinth of endless passages, hallways, empty rooms, fake doors and exits and such features in order to lose himself and confuse the ghosts of the men that died during his fifty year rule, although this story has been the source of legends rather than actual historical reconstruction of the life of the Shogun.
What is certain is that Nobutoyo never left Tsutsuijigasaki following the summer of 1632, and for the rest of his rule, he’d reside in the gargantuan and bizarre labyrinth fortress that his madness had created.
Structures of Power
In the beginning, the rule of Takeda Nobutoyo, third Shogun of the Takeda Clan, coinciding with the first years of the reign of the Empress Meisho, who had herself ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne in 1629, three years before the events at Fukuchiyama castle, had been a continuation of the structures and evolution established by the first shogun, Katsuyori, and his son, Katsuchiyo. 
Unlike the highly centralized military government of the Kamakura Shogunate that reigned supreme for nearly 150 years, and the decentralized system of the Ashikaga shogunate, in which the Shogun shared his power with the Emperor and the daimyo, the Takeda Shogunate served as a confederation of Daimyo that had coalesced around the Takeda domain, the greatest and most important of them all, holding the central lands of Japan and the Imperial capital of Kyoto. The Imperial Court of Kyoto and the Emperor had in all ways relinquished their powers to the Takeda Clan and therefore despite his role as legitimate ruler of Japan, the Emperor only served in a symbolic role for the duration of the Takeda Shogunate, which held absolute or near absolute power throughout most of its existence.
Thus the only other forces existing to balance the power of the Takeda Clan and their vast domain were the other daimyo, or more specifically, the Tozama (outsiders), which had been forced into alliance or submission by use of force or had only become vassals after the campaigns of Takeda Shingen and Katsuyori. Most prominent are the lords of Sendai, Aki and Satsuma, with the lords of Hizen and Kanto providing less concrete threats to the power of the Clan. 
The Date (Sendai in the North), the Mori (Aki in the west) and the Shimazu Family of Satsuma, in southern Kyushu, had since the war been the most autonomous and powerful domains, maintaining impressive fortresses and private armies that rivaled those of the Shogun, and even when the Mori and the Shimazu had been subdued by force and the Date forced into vassalage due to their isolated position, they still presented a threat to the monolithic power of the Takeda through sheer force of arms and money, and every Shogun from Katsuyori to Nobuharu, also known as Ikkyu, would come to learn this simple fact in every one of their reigns.
Opposite to the Tozama Daimyo were the Fudai Daimyo, a ring of domains that surrounded the main Takeda domain as satellites and buffer states, which at the same time could be divided into two subcategories: one of pre-existing daimyo that had allied with the Takeda during the wars against Oda Nobunaga and the daimyos of central Japan, including the Rokkaku, Asakura and Azai clans, who kept and expanded their domains thanks to their services during the Oda war. Their domains in the western frontier of the Takeda domains served as buffer against potential threats from the Ikko-Ikki and Mori. The other group is that of small clans loyal to the Takeda, most prominently the families of the 24 Generals, who were given large fiefdoms, mostly in northern Japan, where the Echigo province had been vacated and the Uesugi clan expelled.
The Uesugi Clan, which had been decimated, crippled and moved to the Kanto, as well as the puppet Otomo Daimyo in Northern Kyushu, are often included in the category of Fudai daimyo due to their mostly loyal behavior throughout the duration of the Shogunate, but are in fact allied vassals dependent on the Takeda, rather than direct Fudai vassals, and of course lacking the autonomy and strength of the mayor Tozama lords.
The growing ambition and paranoia of Nobutoyo, further fueled by his thirst for power, had convinced the young shogun of two things in the first decade of his reign: that he was surrounded by enemies and that for the Shogunate to exist, the power had to be further centralized and all forms of regional or structural autonomy had to cease to exist.
The central bureaucracy of the Shogunate was at the time small and decentralized, focusing on administrative affairs and only serving as an extension of the power of the Shogun, as well as a way to employ a good amount of nobles and samurai that would be lacking employment in times of peace.
Nobutoyo’s first steps towards a more centralized government were small but nevertheless important and far-reaching: a policy of disarmament of peasants, first in the Takeda domains, and later on the entirety of the Empire, as a way to eliminating any internal threat in the form of an armed rebellion, a policy many daimyo followed as either they agreed with it or did not see the measure as a reason to confront the Shogun. 
Furthermore, travelling within the country itself was restricted, as was entrance to several big cities and the Takeda domain. Practitioners of the Nichiren or True Pure Land sects of Buddhism (this clause being targeted at the Ikko-Ikki, distrusted since the times of Shingen), as well as Christian missionaries were forbidden from entering the Takeda domain, or were severely limited in this capacity, and an internal system of check-points and border controls were instituted and passports and special permits would have to be issued by the Takeda Bureaucracy. Only Kyoto and the Seven Ports were open for foreigners and missionaries, and they were not allowed to exit those cities, under penalty of death. 
In the winter of 1636, the Shogun took a further step by limiting the number of ships that were allowed to trade with the continent and the Europeans, giving the commissioned ships Red Seal Patents as official permits, a system that would later result in the organization of the Red Seal Company between the captains and merchants benefiting from this monopoly. 
These first measures undertaken throughout the decade of the 1630s are often paired as the first Nobutoyo reforms, or as the Meisho Era Reforms, as they took place under the nominal rule of the Meisho Empress, or at least the general dates coincide with the rule of the Empress between 1629 and 1642. Albeit the coincidence in dates is nothing more than that, a coincidence, few have let this stop them from pointing it out.
In the winter of 1642, the Meisho Empress abdicated the throne, allowing her brother, later known as the Emperor Go-Komyo, to ascend.
On the other side of the empire, on a much more ominous and grander palace, the real power is about to start a more serious and dangerous series of reforms.
1. The Empress Meisho ascends to the throne as IOTL, as the 109th Monarch of Japan, and the second to last woman to ascend to the throne, although that might change ITTL, depending on what I can do about the Imperial Succession;
2. Tozama is a IOTL term as well, although used to describe those daimyo who had summited to the Tokugawa after the Battle of Sekigahara, whereas those who had been allied or in the service of the Tokugawa before the battle were the Fudai Daimyo;
3. This disarmament policy is a watered-down and far less reaching policy that the one instituted IOTL, and with less success in many parts of the country;
4. In contrast to IOTL, in which the Tokugawa expelled all foreigners except for the Dutch, who were only able to set foot in the tiny island of Dejima at Nagasaki;
5. The Red Seal Permits existed IOTL, but in a different form than ITTL;
The Lamentable Tragedy of the Koga Clan
Before further dwelling into the great crisis of the Keian period that the Takeda Shogunate underwent during the second half of Nobutoyo’s rule, let’s take a moment to explore the trigger and the immediate cause to said crisis. Let’s take a look at the Koga Clan of Koka.
The Koga-Ryu, or Koga School of Ninjutsu, was born in the town of Koka in the province of Omi, part of the domains of the Rokkaku Clan, which had been mighty once during the Muromachi period, times of the Ashikaga Shogunate. It was during the rule of Rokkaku Takayori that the Ashikaga Shogun warred with the increasingly rebellious and autonomous Rokkaku domain, invading Omi Province in 1487 with a grand army. 
Upon the fall of the main Rokkaku base at the castle of Kannonji, Rokkaku Takayori and his father, Masayori, fled to the castle of Koka, although others claim that they abandoned the castle to the Ashikaga without a fight. Thus General Ashikaga Yoshihisa brought the fight to Koka, where the castle fell with little resistance but the war would drag for years.
The Koka warriors that followed the Rokkaku lords following the fall of the Castle were urged by their masters to continue the fight and mount a heavy resistance against Ashikaga using what would later be labeled as Guerrilla Warfare, or irregular warfare.
Exploiting their geographical advantage in the mountains and mobility proportioned by their small number, the Koka warriors launched a wide range of surprise attacks against Ashikaga’s forces, and tormented them by using fire and smoke on Ashikaga’s camp during the night. The known Ninja arts of espionage, sabotage and assassination were also first practiced by the Koga during the war against the Shogunate, during the three years that the conflict lasted, preventing a definitive and final showdown between the opposing forces and denying the Shogun a conclusive victory. Ashikaga Yoshihisa would die as a result of wounds inflicted in one of such small scale battles during the spring of 1589, bringing an end to the war and contributing to the great fame of the Koga Clan and their effective use of Guerrilla warfare.
The war had seen the Rokkaku being defended by the two great schools of Ninjutsu born during the Muromachi period: the Iga Clan of Iga province and the Koga Clan of Omi, both of which contributed with their warriors and knowledge to the fight against the Shogunate.
The need to develop special skills and styles of warfare as a result of unequal conditions or the circumstances surrounding the story of the clans had resulted in the birth of these two schools or styles of Ninjutsu, specializing in unorthodox arts of war, the martial art, strategy and tactics of unconventional warfare. 
Thus the Shinobi or Ninja entered the scene of the war-torn Japan during the last years of the Ashikaga splendor and the beginning of the Sengoku period. Espionage, Sabotage, infiltration and assassination were the functions of the Shinobi, as well as open combat if the situation required it, and they served as the opposite of the Samurai; if the later were the great servants, poets and warriors of a higher caste, whose life was based on honor and loyalty, the Shinobi existed purely to exercise underhanded tactics, live with questionable reputations and in simpler terms, do the dirty job.
Iga and Koka (later written as Koga) produced professional ninja hired by Daimyo between 1485 and 1577, year in which Takeda Shingen consolidated his conquest of the Oda domain, bringing the provinces of Omi and Iga under Takeda rule. 
For the better part of the next decade, both clans would serve the Takeda campaigns against the Uesugi, the Mori, the Shimazu and every clan that stood in the path of Shingen or Katsuyori, until the end of the Unification wars, when the only active Shinobi were under the employ of the Shogunate in the function of spies and local law enforcement works. It wasn’t until the invasion of Korea that the great Shinobi clans would once again take a role such as the one they had had during the Sengoku Period.
Thousands of Shinobi were called by the Takeda Shogun Katsuchiyo during the spring of 1626, and thousands more would be called during the next 6 years of war, lending their services throughout the Korean peninsula. A small group would form part of Katsuchiyo’s bodyguard corps, but the vast majority would serve in other functions during the war.
A small group of 80 Shinobi of the Koga clan thus gained fame for raiding a Korean outpost south of Hanseong on July of 1626 and opening a path for the main Takeda Army, infiltrating the castle and setting fire on its towers and killing the Castellan along with a large part of the garrison. A similar but less verifiable story surrounds the theory that Shinobi of the Iga clan were responsible for the death of the Nurhaci Khan in 1629 and Huang Taiji in 1630 (either poisoned or wounded by an infiltrate), although there is a degree of truth to these rumors: the Manchurian Prince Ajige was indeed murdered by a ninja often known as Sarutobi Sasuke (also called Kozuki Sasuke) in the fall of 1626. 
Similar stories would take place throughout the war, including the tale of the 150 Iga Shinobi that tried to infiltrate the court of the King Injo of Korea at Gangwha Island on the winter of 1628, where they killed 500 of the King’s men before being surrounded and forced to fight to the last man. Other accounts nevertheless suggest far less grandiose numbers: 60 Iga men against 130 Korean warriors, the survivors being executed rather than forced to fight or commit Seppuku, as late Romanization of the tale would narrate. 
In their classical roles of Espionage and sabotage, the Iga and Koga ninja would serve as an efficient counterpart to the Korean irregulars and their Righteous Army, providing support and an important part at Changwon and Pusan, and later during the short-lived Korean occupation of Hanseong in 1630.
Thus were the great services provided by the Shinobi clans of Iga and Omi, that gained them great fame and the trust of the Takeda Shoguns for decades.
The chain of events that would lead to the tragedy, which as with the birth of the Koga clan, would involve a war against the Shogun and government and would once again bind the fates of the Koga, Rokkaku and Iga clans, was set in motion by the death of Miyoshi Nagamoto, lord of the Miyoshi Clan in the Settsu province, vassal of the Takeda clan and Fudai daimyo within the system of the Takeda Shogunate.
The Miyoshi daimyo died on the winter of 1645, and soon rumors spread about the daimyo having being assassinated by agents of the Koga clan under the employ of the Rokkaku or Osagawara Clans, or even of the Ikko-Ikki. Late in the winter as spring approached, the rumors had filled the head of the Shogun Nobutoyo and he was soon convinced about the dangers of the Iga and Koga clans, and the menace posed by their Shinobi arts. The final crisis was thus unleashed when the Shogun survived an assassination attempt inside his own Fortress, as he was attacked by an unstable servant with a cloaked dagger. 
Convinced that the assassin had been sent from Koka, the die was cast…
1. This is of course IOTL;
2. The Shinobi or Ninja are mostly assassins or experts in Guerrilla warfare, nothing special, actually, but they did have a role IOTL; the point of this chapters is to present them, let’s say that “realistically” and perhaps have a few Samurai vs Ninja fights;
3. Assassins and spies are of course always necessary for war, especially bloody civil wars; gathering information or sending a spy undercover as a cook or a servant to an enemy’s house to have him murdered was commonplace during the period;
4. Sarutobi Sasuke is a legendary Ninja in Japanese folklore and the reason why the name Sasuke might be associated with ninjas;
5. Some of these stories might of course be embellished; that’s what legends and war stories are for after all;
6. The Miyoshi clan is real and a cadet branch of the Takeda, apparently; IOTL Yoshitsugu was apparently the last head but they last longer ITTL and Nagamoto becomes Daimyo, at least until his death/possible assassination ITTL; The Koka didn’t really assassinate Nagamoto, but Nobutoyo is convinced that the Shinobi of Koka are an army of supermen dressed in black that can mobilize in the cover of the night and murder him without anyone noticing;
The drama that unfolded in the winter of 1645 quickly escalated into a classical tragedy by the early spring of 1646, time by which the fears and paranoia of the Shogun Takeda Nobutoyo had grown proportionally to the numbers of days passed since the incidents at Sasayama Castle (the death of Miyoshi Nagamoto) and the Tsutsuijigasaki Palace.
Following the attempt on his life, Nobutoyo had the would-be assassin executed by his guards and immediately put the blame on the Koka shinobi, believing himself to be the victim of a conspiracy of disaffected ninja clans and disloyal daimyo. The man responsible for the attack, a cook and long time servant of the Castle has nevertheless ever since always been believed to have been a mentally unstable man unrelated to any conspiracy, attacking the shogun as a result of his own dementia.
None would dare correct or change the Shogun’s mind. The old retainers and staff of advisors and bureaucrats would indulge Nobutoyo throughout his reign with the hope of containing his madness and remaining unaffected by his fits of anger or paranoia that would cause the ruin of so many men through the five decades of his rule. Some elders within the Shogunate’s court would even feed the man’s fears and anger to distract him from their own actions or eliminate their own enemies within the court or outside of it, by presenting them as the Shogun’s enemies as well. What happened in 1645 and 1646 was more of a case of the advisors believing that directing the wrath of the Shogun in a malleable and small-case conflict would help control him better.
Thus we find a small incident turned into a regional crisis as the influence of the Clans in the provinces of Omi, Yamato and Iga played a hand in the Courts of Kyoto and Kofu; the elder (Rōjū) Kosaka Masatoshi, who as a descendant of one of Takeda Shingen’s 24 Generals was amongst the highest ranking advisors within the Shogunate, had a longstanding interest in the Omi province, where the ancient Rokkaku Clan and the Koka School were established. Using his influence with the Shogun, the crisis was transformed into a regional war that now threatened the Rokkaku Clan and the Koga-Ryu in Omi Province, their allies the Iga-Ryu in Iga province, with the excuse of protecting the Miyoshi clan in Settsu province, a cadet branch of the Takeda Clan.
The Shinobi-no-Ran (War of the Ninja, or Ninja revolt) would nevertheless not start in earnest until the summer of 1646, the previous months being preoccupied by courtesan political maneuvers at Kofu and Kyoto, military preparations and a long array of edicts that included the banishment of the Shinobi guard provided by the Iga and Koga clans, that had until then been responsible for the personal protection of the Shogun, and other such measures in the built up to the direct conflict.
The first stage of the war was nevertheless what one would expect of a Shinobi war.
Intelligence and counter-intelligence played an important role, as the Shogunate used its own network of spies and Ninjas.
A good part of the Shogunate own network was interestingly enough been composed of kunoichi (female ninja) that were first formed by Mochizuki Chiyome during the times of Takeda Shingen.
Chiyome, a woman who came from a long line of Koga Ninja according to most sources, was the wife of a Shinano warlord who died at the Battle of Kawanakajima in 1561 and was thus left in the care of Shingen, who tasked her with create an underground network of female ninja (kunoichi). Takeda’s plan was to have fully trained female operatives who could act as subversive agents used to gather information and deliver coded messages to his allies.
Unlike the Shinobi of the Koga and Iga clans, the Kunoichi were not tasked with combat, sabotage or assassination and were trained to become highly efficient information gatherers, seductresses, messengers and only when necessary, assassins.
Mochizuki Chiyome’s kunoichi, whom she had recruited amongst lost girls, orphans, prostitutes and victims of the warring period had served well during the unification wars that led to the establishment of the Takeda Shogunate, and even in the aftermath of the wars and the death of Chiyome in 1598, the network remained and expanded until becoming one of the main tools of the Shogunate during the Shinobi no Ran.
A second source came from ninja recruited from allied daimyo, who could barely be a match against the professional shinobi of Iga and Koka, and to a lesser degrees drawing men from a small clan of well-trained shinobi that served the Sanada Clan, originally established by the Takeda General Sanada Nobushine, also known as Sanada Yukimura, whose use of Shinobi guards had given him some fame during the Unification war and the Korean conflict.
Thus was the spring spent.
Summer arrived with the formation of a small army led by daimyo Kosaka Nagahide, numbering some 20,000 men from the Kosaka, Ogasawara and Saigusa domain, all high ranking Fudai daimyo within the Takeda hierarchy and based in the central provinces of Japan, which form the western domains of the Takeda sphere of influence.
Thus was the Shinobi no Ran truly started.
The Iga and Koka clans are in fact very real and played an important role in the development of the Shinobi (ninja)
Now, as opposed to the popular depiction of a ninja, they would normally dress as the typical Japanese man, since it was their job to go undercover and serve as spies/assassins/saboteurs; if they were to serve in battle, they would dress in the best armor they could be supplied with.
Dressing in black would not be an option, and the image of a black-clad ninja disappearing into the night, practically flying like in a bad Holywood movie and using what amounts to magic tricks is an unrealistic depiction; the black dress actually comes from Japanese theater, in which the character of a ninja dressed in black represents that he is invisible to the other characters;
The Kunoichi are in fact very real as well, as is the character of Mochizuki Chiyumi, whose husband served under Shingen, who was his uncle;
The history of the Rokkaku is also mostly IOTL, as is the war between the Koka-Rokkaku against the Ashikaga shogunate, obviously;
For a geographical reference, see the map a few posts above, which highlights the Saegusa, Osagawara, Kosaka and Miyoshi clans.
North of Kosaka, there's a big lake, and surrounding it is Omi province, where most of our current story is taking place.
Iga Sokoku Ikki
North of the main Kosaka domain, in the northern confines of the province of Iga, bordered by the provinces of Ise to the east, Yamato to the South and west, and Omi to the north, lays the town of Iga and the domain of the Iga Clan of the Shinobi.
Near the town of Iga and the old city of Ueno a castle had been built in the decade of the 1580s by the allied daimyo Rokkaku Yoshiharu as part of the outer ring of fortifications created to defend the periphery of the then nascent Takeda Shogunate. Expanded in the 1590s and 1620s by Yoshiharu’s successors, the Iga-Ueno Castle became one of the most formidable fortresses in central Japan, and an impressive enough threat to the Kosaka hegemony in the region that the punitive expedition led by Kosaka Nagahide made the castle its first target.
Operations against the Iga-Ueno castle in August of 1646 met with three serious difficulties: first was the haste in which the expedition had been assembled, armed and prepared, secondly was the lack of experience of Kosaka Nagahide as a military commander, and thirdly was a sense of overconfidence in the higher ranks of the small army and the Shogun’s court, which considered the campaign to be just a provincial rebellion of peasants and ronin which could be crushed within a season, not the beginning of a long term crisis and a regional conflict. 
The Iga Sokoku Ikki, the Iga Republic, responded to the invasion of their domain along with the army of the Rokkaku daimyo, mustering some 12,000 troops between Iga and Koka ninja, soldiers of the Rokkaku Clan, ronin and armed peasants and volunteers from Iga province that rallied against the invasion. 
The Iga Sokoku Ikki had been organized during the chaos of the Warring States period, in which all central and even provincial authorities disappeared, leaving bands of ronin and local province samurai to battle each other in a state of semi-permanent anarchy until the collapse of the manorial system of lords and rulers, that gave way to the people of Iga creating living areas by manor in units of clans, formed an organized party of landowning farmers, and did not defer to the control of central regimes, an important 12-member council (representatives) was chosen from among the 50-60 members of the party in Iga, and they maintained safety in Iga by cooperation. Iga had a fame of being the home of Samurai and Daimyo who were exiled or exiled themselves to the province, and according to many sources these were the ones to rebel against the original lords of Iga and establish the Iga Sokoku Ikki. 
The council of the Clans that was in charge of making the decisions for the Republic had enjoyed good relations with the Shogunate for most of its existence, but the enmity between the Rokkaku and Kosaka clan transcended history and loyalties, and the provincial coalition of the Iga and Koka Shinobi clans could do little against the machinations in the Shogunate’s court at Kofu.
The very nature of the Iga republic had gained it the hatred of the local daimyo through the years, and in 1646 the opportunity Kosaka Nagahide and his family had been expecting to crush the puny and defiant republic finally presented itself, by the hand of a mad shogun and a meaningless regional dispute. The defenders divided their forces, one camping at a safe distance from the castle and the battlefield while the bulk of the provincial army took defensive positions at the Iga-Ueno Castle, which Nagahide promptly began to besiege on August of 1646.
Nagahide was nevertheless, as has been pointed out before, inexperienced in the arts of war, and while camping near the Castle and partially surrounding it, he did little to contribute positively to his own campaign. An early attempt to force surrender through bribes and then grandiose threats and ultimatums only resulted in the Kosaka Lord losing his patience and launching an ill-fated and ill-planned assault on the fortifications that, while only costing him some 500 men, provided a much needed boost to the defenders.
Amongst the advantages of the Iga-Ryu also was the knowledge of Geography and terrain, which the Shinobi could always explode as part of their arsenal (the art of Chi-Mon) within the greater scope of irregular warfare, and the vast network of spies and saboteurs laid in the Iga and Omi provinces that provided the defenders with vastly superior intelligence to the one that the invaders could obtain. 
Through August of 1646 the armies of the Kosaka daimyo would be harassed by partisan mobs and detachment of Iga Shinobi while counter-intelligence was fed to the retainers in order to keep the invading army occupied in useless maneuvers. But the greatest blow to Nagahide’s campaign and honor would come on one dark summer night as the ninth month was near. A group of 80 Iga Shinobi infiltrated one of the main Kosaka camps on the right flank of the formation, taking advantage of the lack of discipline in the camp and the guards, most of whom were drunk or missing at the time of the infiltration. Thus while most of the warriors were asleep or still celebrating in a drunken stupor, the Shinobi murdered two of Nagahide’s retainers and set the camp on fire, spreading panic through the enemy base.
Once the soldiers had panicked and the officers began to frantically try to reestablish some order in the camp and put the fires down, the Iga Shinobi made their move; 600 warriors including Ninja, ronin and local community samurai charged from nearby positions, ambushing the escaping soldiers from the camp and further spreading panic and chaos through the right flank camp. 600 troops launched a surprise attack against a camping army of some 6,000 soldiers and the later did not stand a chance. By dawn, most of the Kosaka army had been dispersed, the camp laid in ruins and burnt, dozens of banners and a considerable amount of equipment left abandoned along with some 1,1000 men and several confused captured retainers of the Kosaka Clan.
Disgraced and in panic the bulk of the Kosaka army had fled the scene rather than face the enemies that had come from the woods lurking in the shadows. Kosaka Nagahide himself had been wounded and scarred in the ambush, yet the greatest injury that befell him was the loss of his honor and good name against an army of peasants, traitors, ronin and terrorists.
Thus was the disgrace of Kosaka Nagahide and the role he played in this story, which ended the second act of the Shinobi-no-Ran.
1. Overconfidence and lack of proper preparations are amongst the main reasons why events unfold as they do in this chapter;
2. The Iga Republic existed IOTL, but it wasn’t actually a Republic in the European sense, more like a non-daimyo communitarian political entity;
3. This happened IOTL, at least until Oda Nobunaga destroyed Iga in 1581 and slaughtered many Shinobi and their families;
4. All of these skills were more or less developed by the Iga and Koga ninja, IOTL;
News of the defeat and disgrace of Kosaka Nagahide at Iga province travelled fast through the Empire of the Sun. Great was the shame that befell upon the Kosaka clan, descendants of one of the 24 Generals of Takeda Shingen, Kosaka Masanobu, and great was the anger that invaded the Takeda shogun and the residence at Tsutsuijigasaki for several days in August of 1646.
The fall of 1646 is not a quiet one in the Takeda Domain.
On September, Sanada Nobuyoshi was given the mission of destroying the rebellious Rokkaku and Shinobi clans of Iga and Omi. Son of Sanada Nobuyuki, lord of Ueda in Shinano and Sakurabora Castle in their vast domain of Hida Province, grandson of Sanada Masayuku, nephew of Sanada Nobushige, Nobuyoshi was the heir to a long and proud military tradition and the general himself a veteran of the wars in Korea.
Recruiting amongst his vassals, allies and retainers from Hida and Shinano province, Nobuyoshi gathered an army of 30,000 men between October and November of 1646, taking the title of Taisho (“General”), and unlike the conscripted men of the Kosaka domain, the Sanada army was mostly made up of experienced warriors and Samurai, not only Ashigaru infantry conscripted amongst the peasantry and armed with a short sword, a jingasa (conical helmet of the low-class soldiers) and with any luck a naginata.
The 30,000 men strong army included a cavalry force equipped with European horses imported through Sendai and Kyushu, as well as the ones breeded at Shinano, 3,000 in total; a force of harquebusiers and musketeers numbering 8,000 well trained men of the Sanada and Takeda clans, armed with the best cannons coming from the gun factories of Kunimoto, Kofu and Hamamatsu, and muskets brought from the Netherlands and Portugal; 1,000 archers and 15,000 Ashigaru infantry soldiers paired with a division of Samurai infantry led by Kirigakure Isa, leader of the right wing of the army.
This was the army that set winter camp at the western border of Hida province and invaded Omi province from the north in late January of 1647.
Standing opposite of Nobuyoshi, the Iga commander Fujibayashi Saburo, lord of northeastern Iga and part of the legendary Shinobi clan of the Fujibayashi prepared the defenses of Iga-Ueno castle, along with Momochi Yasuyoshi, grandson of Momochi Tambanokami, of the Momochi Clan of Southern Iga. Together they commanded an army numbering some 16,000 troops, including Shinobi, ronin, samurai, conscripted peasants and farmers, men sent by the Rokkaku clan and volunteers. Nobuyoshi was in his camp just a few li north of Iga in late January of 1647, when he started his campaign.
Unlike Kosaka Nagahide, Nobuyoshi was experienced and made the proper preparations when dealing with the Shinobi and warriors of the Iga and Koga clans; the camps were protected by palisades and trenches, not to mention well-guarded by loyal men, and contact with outsiders was prohibited. What was more, if a suspicious stranger, be it man or woman, peasant or drifter, was caught near one of the Sanada camps, he was immediately executed. To complement these measures he countered the Ninja with his own army of spies and informants which would be thoroughly part of Iga province and almost unrecognizable from the province’s own inhabitants within a matter of days.
Proper military operations began in earnest and with an unexpected excess in speed and violence when Kirigakure Isa took 12,000 of his men and attacked the town of Ueno, defended by 5,000 men under Momochi Yasuyoshi, on the right flank of the Iga-Ueno Castle.
The battle was swift and brutal.
The Sanada harquebusiers were grouped in three lines, each composed of 500 shooters; the first line opened fire upon the vanguard of the Iga-Koga forces, causing havoc, while the second and third lines proceeded to further decimate the enemy frontlines as the first line reloaded. The disaster at Ueno was completed when the retreating warriors were caught between two pincers of the Sanada army and obliterated.
This was in the morning of February 2nd.
By noon, Kirigakure had chased the survivors all the way to Iga, where Rokkaku Ranmaru awaited at the head of 8,000 troops in a risky maneuver that left the castle unnecessarily exposed and under-staffed. Half an hour later, the second group of the Sanada army led by the Taisho Nobuyoshi himself stood on the other side of Iga, effectively surrounding the town and cutting the Ueno-Iga Castle from the rest of the world.
This is how the siege of the Ueno-Iga Castle began.
The Fall of Iga and the Invasion of Koga
In the aftermath of the fighting around Ueno, both the Sanada and the Iga armies took the opportunity left by the post-battle chaos to regroup. Fujiyabashi Saburo and 300 of his warriors were able to escape the occupation of the town and reach Iga to join with the main army of Rokkaku Ranmaru, whereas Kirigakure Isa was forced to regroup and link with his supply lines, wasting precious time consolidating his position at Ueno while the enemy forces made preparations.
Thus by the time Kirigakure and Sanada’s two pronged army reached Iga from the south and the north of the town, Rokkaku Ranmaru had already overseen the exodus of most of the town and the relocation of its supplies to the safe confines of Iga-Ueno castle, while the 8,000 men strong army awaited at Iga town in order to stall the Sanada army.
North of Iga, Kirigakure and 8,000 of his men led another attack with harquebusiers, yet this time the Iga warriors were better prepared; soldiers created defense in the form of rice bales or rolled green bamboo. This allowed them to create quick defensive positions on the front lines, as was the usual custom in dealing with firearms in the late Sengoku period. The real blow would nevertheless come when Shinobi warriors prepared in smaller formations near the town assaulted the rear lines of Kirigakure’s army, attacking and killing the Teppo-Taisho (“rifle commander”) and disrupting the supply lines by attacking the . Support crews, stationed behind the rifle squad were utilized so that soldiers had a steady supply of ammunition and gunpowder.
The disruption of the northern attack bought the southern flank, which was facing the main Sanada army of 14,000 men enough time to hold them off as reinforcements from the northern flank arrived to provide some balance. The size of the small town played an important role in allowing this maneuver to work. By nightfall, nevertheless, the reserves of the Sanada army had caught up with the vanguard and were camping near Iga, boosting the invading army to full strength, and during the night they surrounded Iga and the Iga-Ueno castle completely.
What followed was yet another surprise and daring maneuver on behalf of the Iga and Rokkaku clans; First by setting the northern defenses and houses of Iga on fire and launching small raids with compact units of Shinobi against the southern Sanada army as dawn approached. Attacking the Sanada outposts to the south-west of Iga concluded the maneuver, which draw the Sanada attention away from the main troop movement: the evacuation of the Rokkaku army to Iga-Ueno Castle.
By dawn, what was left of Iga town was burnt to the ground by the Sanada army and siege operations began in earnest.
Sanada Nobuyuki quickly occupied all the immediate surroundings and secured both the roads and the small towns, while keeping a watchful eye on the mountains, the forests and the hills, which the local Shinobi could easily use in irregular warfare attacks against a formal army. The proceedings were otherwise relatively the ones that one would expect from such a campaign; Nobuyuki was not expecting the Rokkaku clan or the Koka-Ryu to send a relief force, and he knew that whatever militia the Shinobi could muster would be no threat to the besieging army. Supply lines were in his control and the water supply would be cut as soon as the river could be diverted, it was all a matter of waiting.
Field artillery was used from time to time with great effect, not with the intent of actually bringing the castle’s walls down, which would have been a real possibility had Sanada Nobuyuki counted with enough artillery pieces, but rather to inflict psychological damage upon the defendants, as the cannons would be used irregularly and at increasingly late hours, to disrupt the defendant’s sleep and peace of mind. February was reaching its end when Iga-Ueno castle fell, as the defenders began to suffer from the lack of food and water. Attempts to attack the enemy camp through usage of Shinobi units or tactics had diminished greatly by the end of the Iga campaign, the monotony and harshness of the siege wearing down the spirits of both armies.
The fall of Iga was followed by some days of celebration in which Sanada Nobuyuki was a guest at Kosaka Nagahide’s palace in southern Iga province. His pride fatally wounded, his honor gone and his body suffering from a wound from the battle that would kill him (a bullet incrusted in his right leg, that once removed would cause the wound to go septic), having to play host to the officers and retainers of the Sanada Taisho was the final blow to the Kosaka Clan.
Around March 14 and the 15th, the Sanada army, properly resupplied and reinforced left Iga province for Omi, where the bulk of the Shinobi of the Koka-Ryu, survivors of Iga and the Rokkaku clan awaited.
The invasion of Omi province in the spring of 1647 begins at a rather apathetic and slow pace, but showing some rather methodical attention to the necessities of the campaign, as no detail is small enough to be left unnoticed and up for the opponent to take advantage. The 40,000 men strong army that crosses the southern, western and eastern provinces of Omi, reinforced by warriors and conscripts from the Kosaka and Sanada clans is very careful indeed when it comes to occupying towns, securing roads and disabling any possibility of escape for the enemy.
Surrounding the soldiers of the Rokkaku clan and their allies, the Shinobi of the Iga-Ryu and Koka-Ryu, the Sanada army is quick to overrun the province in a few weeks, and laying siege to the castles of the Rokkaku clan, both of which were taken with relative ease, the first as a result of a betrayal, in which one of Sanada’s Kunoichi assassins infiltrated the castle, seduced the Rokkaku retainer in charge of commanding the defense and poisoned him, as was the way of the female ninja of the period. The second castle was taken by a combination of bribery and imposing force, as the overwhelming numbers of the Sanada army reduced many of its defenders to a state of panic and cowardice.
The collapse of the front soon meant a devolving of the war from open confrontations to asymmetrical warfare as the Shinobi of the Koka-Ryu disbanded their formations and took refuge in the woods, the mountains, the deep valleys and the small villages to continue the war as they were mercilessly hunted down by Sanada Nobuyuki for a time of about 4 years in which the war officially took place.
Fujibayashi Saburo, of the Iga clan, who had miraculously survived the fall of the Iga-Ueno Castle and the destruction of the Iga republic was murdered as part of the extermination campaigns of 1648-1649, as he and the band of wandering Shinobi that had been leading raids against the Sanada forces were ambushed and killed to the last man. The families and associates of the Fujibayashi and Iga clans were subsequently exterminated en masse as well.
The Rokkaku castle of Kannonji, as well as Koka Castle and Iga-Ueno Castle were burnt to the ground in the summer of 1648, as the war grinded to a halt in Omi province and the court at Tsutsuijigasaki lost interest in the war. The Rokkaku lord and his retainers had died during the course of the invasion of Omi, their armies dispersed and retainers assassinated or forced to commit Seppuku.
The ruin was complete for everyone involved.
The Takeda Shogun released his anger on the Kosaka and Rokkaku clan alike, as well as the minor clans involved directly or indirectly, or even just bordering the provinces, in which the affair took place. Thus the properties of the involved clans were taken away and the families ruined as the Sanada lord gained large estates in the Iga, Omi and Yamato provinces.
Thousands of peasants, merchants, retainers and warriors were left destitute as a result of the war and its aftermath, and the ronin that wandered through the provinces of central Japan almost became an epidemic, just as problematic as the continued Shinobi resistance in Omi, which refused to die or end. Even after the destruction of Iga and Koga, the survivors either continued the war or left eastwards, where they were welcomed by the Mori and Asakura clans, or by the Ikko-Ikki of Kaga, where they were able to save their history, practices and teachings from the systematic destruction undertaken by the Takeda Shogun in the 1640s and 1650s.
Sanada Nobuyuki himself found an ignominious demise in the spring of 1651, year in which the social and political conditions of Iga, Yamato and Omi brought about the uprising of the ronin, most of them left masteries by the downfall of the Kosaka and Rokkaku clans, whose lands now fed the Sanada domain. The revolt, which reached its zenith as the summer of 1651 approached, when the rebels, 108 of them according to legend, irrupted into the chambers of Nobuyuki and murdered both him and his son on a tranquil night of June of 1651.
Thus was the death of Sanada Nobuyuki, and what was in a way the symbolic end of the Shinobi no Ran.
The Sons of Heaven
Manchuria during the Ming
The Liao valley is the heartland of the region known to westerners as Manchuria, a place where forest, steppe and agricultural land may overlap. In the sixteenth century, the region extended southward from the Amur River and included a Ming administrative area in the lower Liao valley and the Liaodong peninsula. In the east it reached the Tatar Strait, the Sea of Japan and the Korean border. In the west it connected to what would later be the province of Jehol, in northeastern China, extending northwest from the Great Wall to the Mongolian pasturelands on the slopes of the great Khingan Mountains. 
As most Chinese activities in Manchuria were carried through Jehol, this area gained great importance in the history of Manchuria. During the Ming Era Jehol was the home of the Eastern Mongols, referred as Tatars in Chinese records, though this term also included Jurchen.  The Jurchen were the main ethnic group of Manchuria, and had previously exerted a role in Chinese history by establishing the Jin Dynasty in the Empire between 1115 and 1234, which dominated Northern China as the Song Dynasty dominated the South.
During the Ming Dynasty, China distinguished three groups of Jurchens: the Wild Jurchens, the Haixi Jurchen and the Jianzhou Jurchen, although at times these three groups were referred to collectively as the wild people (yeh-jen). The Wild Jurchens occupied the northernmost part of Manchuria, which stretched from the western side of the Greater Khingan Mountains to the Ussuri River and the lower Amur, and bordered on the Tatar Strait and the Sea of Japan. This area was a sparsely populated hinterland to the more populous Liao valley and contained various tribal groups, primarily the Hurha, the Weji and the Warka. Wild Jurchen hunters and fishermen complemented their economy by pig raising and, where possible, migratory agriculture.
The Haixi or Hai-hsi Jurchens were named after the Sungari River, known in the times of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties as the Hai-hsi River, and lived east of the Nonni (Nen) River, around Harbin and on the various tributaries to the Sungari River. Crop cultivation predominated towards the east whereas pastoralism predominated towards the west, where the pastoral frontier zone bordered on the Mongolian steppes. It is important to note that the Mongols exerted great cultural influence over the Haixi Jurchens and the western Wild Jurchens. 
The Jianzhou Jurchens lived along the Mudan River, a tributary to the Sungari and in the vicinity of the Great White Mountain. They hunted for food and for furs, and engaged in Agriculture, as well as pearl and ginseng gathering. The population in this area was mixed, with Koreans and Chinese living besides the Jurchen.
Communication between China and Liaodong often went by Sea from Shandong, a route that the first Ming emperor would use to send military provisions to the troops he had sent to occupy Liaodong, while the main established route from Peking to Liaodong was via the Hsi-Feng Pass, Ta-ning and Kuang-ning, and when the area was occupied by the Uriyangkad Mongols , under the patronage of the Mongols after 1389, the main route shifted to the Shan-Hai pass route. Communication between the various parts of Manchuria would be limited, and only in southern Manchuria a horse postal relay system implemented by the Ming to facilitate military communications, Government trade and exchange official envoys, existed. This was complemented by Jurchen use of the waterways and in some places dog relay stations.
After the fall of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1267-1368), various pockets of Mongol power remained in the Northeast along with the rump Northern Yuan Dynasty in Mongolia, and Ming China continued to be preoccupied with the defense of the northern borders.
In 1375, a Mongol official and leader Nahacu, loyal to the Northern Yuan court and to the last Yuan ruler of China, the Huizong Emperor  , invading Liaodong, under Ming control for about four years at this stage. Upon Nahacu’s defeat in 1387, after several years of holding southern Manchuria with the intention of restoring the Mongol dynasty, the Ming sought to protect their northern borders by setting up a military form of government in the area. They divided the area under their control in Twenty-Five Guards (Wei) supervised by a Regional Military Commission in Liao-Yang. Thus, following the traditional policy of using one barbarian group to control another, the Ming courted or pacified the Jurchen in order to control the Mongols. 
1.The Greater Khingan Mountains run south to north in inner Mongolia;
2. Due to conflicting sources, some names will be in Pinyin and others in Wade-Giles; sorry if this is too confusing;
3.Jehol is nowadays Rehen province in China;
4.Important Mongol tribe that settled east of Mongolia
5. Also known as Ukhaantu Khan, last Chinese Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, overthrown by the Ming in 1368; the Yuan Dynasty was then ruled by the Khagans, a title slightly lower than Khan. More on this in the upcoming Chinese Chapter
6.All of this is IOTL, taken from the 9th volume of “The Cambridge History of China”
The Jurchen and the Ming before the times of the Nurhaci Khan
In the year of 1388, immediately after the defeat of Nuhacu, the first Ming Emperor made the first overtures to the Jurchen, contacting the tribes inhabiting the area at the confluence of the Sungari and Mudan rivers, where two strong tribes, the Odoli and the Hurha were ruled by fraternal clans who had split in the 1380s. A short-lived relationship was forged and later ended due to the problems regarding keeping the Ming mission well supplied.
Around the year of 1402 a southward push of more northwardly people precipitated a southward migration among the Jurchen, as Haixi groups moved from Hulan and the Sungari rivers to the area north of Kaiyuan near the Liao River , whereas the Odoli, Hurha and T’o wen tribes established themselves in the vicinity of the Tumen river, near the Korean border , the Jurchen who settled south of the Sui-Fen river becoming known as the Mao-lien Jurchens.
The Ming Yongle Emperor sent numerous missions to the various Jurchens in the aftermath of the southward moves, often led by envoys of Jurchen descent, and began establishing the Jurchen Guards and posts: In 1403 the Hurhan Chief Ahacu was recognized as Commander of the Jianzhou guard, and in 1405 created the Mao-lien Guard under the leadership of one of Ahacu’s sons. A Ming Embassy would also reach Mongke Temur, chieftain of the Odoli, on the Tumen River, and despite the best efforts of the Korean Government to dissuade the chieftain and bribe him themselves; he accepted Ming recognition as leader of a separate Jianzhou Jurchen Left Guard. He also accepted the Chinese surname T’ung, a name that generations later the great unifier of the Manchu nation, Nurhaci, used to claim descent from Mongke Temur. 
Between 1406 and 1440 the two Jianzhou groups undertook several short-distance moves, sometimes separating and others reuniting. They moved west between 1406 and 1411 to evade Wild Jurchen attacks and Korean pressure, but were forced to return to the Korean border in 1423 due to Mongol invasions in the west, and in 1436 after being defeated by the Koreans, the Hurha guard moved west and settled north of the Suksuhu River, while at the same time the Left Guard freed itself from Korean control. In 1442 a succession dispute between Mongke Temur’s son Cungsan and Cungsan’s half-brother Fanca led to a division of the Jianzhou Left Guard, the first inheriting his father’s title as leader of the Left Guard and Fanca receiving Chinese recognition as Leader of the newly created Right Guard, therefore existing three Jianzhou Guards before Cungsan was eventually able to take over the Right Guard.
The Ming created as many as two hundred guards amongst the Haixi Jurchen. Judging from the level of titles the Jurchen leaders received, the Jianzhou Jurchens were of considerably higher concern to the Ming than the Haixi or other Jurchen groups, never honored by receiving titles such as Commissioner in Chief or Commander given to the Jianzhou leaders. Due to the expenses and logistical difficulties, maintaining anything other than nominal control over Manchuria was always impossible to the Ming, and thus the Jurchen commanders that received Ming titles served as Ming local officials, and while they paid tribute and submitted to the ritual of the Ming Court and even Ming customs such as the usage of Ming titles and calendar, the Ming were never able to occupy or tax the Jurchen lands, or even establish more control than diplomatic recognition and trade relations, especially with the northern tribes.
Relations with Korea were also complex in this era, and while Korea was nominally a tributary vassal of Ming China, they also sought to draw the Jurchen into their own sphere of influence, granting them titles and recognition, and even monetary stipends to Jurchen chiefs who received recognition from Joseon. Not only Jurchen envoys and officials would be common in Hanseong, but also Jurchen commoners serving in the Korean Royal bodyguard would be common in Korea. Despite Ming attempts to stop any sort of Joseon-Jianzhou diplomatic or political relationship, this Ming policy was only sporadically obeyed, and on the occasion of a Mongol invasion of Liaodong in 1450 and the Jurchen return to Korea, the Jurchen-Korean alliance would reach a zenith only later broke down in the 1460s, when Jurchen tribes began engaging in border raids as part of a local rebellion.
In 1467 a joint Korean-Ming counterattack against the raiding Jurchen resulted in the death of Li-Man-Chu, chief of the Hurha, and his son. Cungsan was assassinated by Ming agents in the same year, and although the Ming Government reinstated his son as commander of the Left Guard, the power of the Jianzhou was severely weakened. Major hostilities between the Jianzhou Jurchens and the Ming would cease after a second Ming-Korean campaign in 1478. No strong leader would surface in decades, and the Jurchen were forced to acknowledge Ming suzerainty and to return to the Tribute System.
Weakening tribal and clan cohesion in the ethnically diverse south made it easier for successful Jurchen chiefs to build confederations that cut across tribal and clan lines. By the mid Sixteenth century, following several decades of hectic and rather murky Jurchen history, the Ming Guard structure had mostly disappeared and two Jurchen Confederations appeared.
The Haixi Jurchens, having been devastated by the Mongol invasions of 1450, had moved south to areas north and east of T’ieh-Ling in Liaodong, and were known as the Hulun Confederation, or the Four Hulun States, these being the Hada, Ula, Hoifa and Yehe, each occupying certain district, often named after a river. Each was ruled by a sub-clan belonging to the Nara Clan.
In 1548, Wang Tai became chieftain of the Hada and asserted his hegemony over the Four States, with time establishing good relations with the Ming Court, as an ally to help keep the other Jurchen and the Mongols contained, given the power with which Wang Tai had warred to enlarge his state, even proclaiming himself Khan of the Hulun Confederation. The year of his death, 1582, is significant, not only as his son’s inability to maintain power lead to the dismemberment of the Hulun Confederation and its losing its hegemonic role in Manchuria, but also due to developments in the southern Jianzhou Confederation.
A contemporary of Wang Tai, Wang Gao of the Jianzhou confederation, ruled the Suksuhu River, Huhehe, Wanggiya, Dongo and Yecen tribes, while exerting influence on the Yalu and Great White Mountain tribes. Powerful enough to ally with the Mongols and turn into a nuance to the Ming, in 1573 he brought upon his own downfall when in a raid on the Ming border he killed the commander of Fushun, provoking a strong Ming Counterattack. The result was the downfall of the Jianzhou Confederation and the eventual death of Wang Gao in 1575.
In the power struggle that ensued in the former Jianzhou Confederation, a character by the name of Nurhaci makes his appearance.
1. IOTL northeastern Liaoning province;
2. The Tumen River is the IOTL meeting point of the Russian, Korean and Chinese borders;
3. Not to be confused with the Mongol Khan of the Golden Horde who has the same name;
The Manchurian Khan
Following Wang Gao’s death in 1582, several leaders rose in an attempt to take his place as head of the moribund Jianzhou Confederation, namely his son Atai and the warlords Nikan Wailan and Giocangga. Nikan Wailan joined forces with the Ming against Atai as Giocangga attempted to play both sides against each other, but being ultimately killed at Fort Gure along with his son Taksi and the Fort’s inhabitants.
Thus Nurhaci, son of Taksi and grandson of Giocangga, succeeded to the leadership of the Jianzhou Left Branch, in the midst of the most favorable of historical circumstances. As leader of the Aisin Gioro, or Golden Clan, Nurhaci also claimed descent from the Jurchen chieftain Mongke Temur, a relation often questioned and believed to have been fabricated to lend Nurhaci’s nascent dynasty further credence. Having, according to legend, inherited only 13 Suits of Armor and a core of Jianzhou Jurchens from the Suksuhu River Tribe, Nurhaci began his memorable career by seeking revenge on Nikan Wailan, the man responsible for the deaths of his father and grandfather at Gure. Nikan Wailan was defeated and beheaded the next year, a most auspicious beginning for Nurhaci’s campaign.
As Nurhaci dealt with the inner divisions of the Jianzhou, the Hada and Ming troops feuded with the Yehe in the former Hulun Confederacy. As Ming General Li Chengliang warred against the Yehe and destroyed any chances of a revitalization of the Hulun Confederacy, Nurhaci united the Jianzhou, founding his first walled city, Fe Ala, in 1587.
Once the Jianzhou were more or less under Nurhaci’s firm rule, he campaigned in the north against the former Hulun Confederacy, warring against the powerful Nara Clan,  which ruled the Four Hulun States (Hoifa, Yehe, Hada and Ula), and forcing the Haixi clans to submit one by one. This campaign reached its zenith at the Battle of Gure, in which the Manchu and Mongol Clans of Hada, Yehe, Hoifa, Ula, Khorchin, Sibe, Guwalca, Jušeri, and Neyen attacked Nurhaci and were annihilated. This was in the year of 1593. The proper conquest of the Four Hulun Tribes would begin in 1599: the Hada Clan was conquered in1603, the Hoifa in 1607, followed by the Ula in 1613, who had first tried to gain Nurhaci’s favor by providing him with a consort, Lady Abahai. The most powerful Tribe, the Yehe, was finally vanquished in 1619. Thus was the end of the once all mighty Nara clan, and the rise of the Aisin Gioro clan of Nurhaci.
Known as the “Wise and Respected” (Kundulun) Khan by the Mongols, Nurhaci proceeded to engage in further state and dynasty building. He named his clan the Aisin Gioro or Later Jin Clan, in an attempt to link his Dynasty to the Jurchen Jin Dynasty that had ruled Northern China in the 12th Century and had been the ancestors of the Jurchen. By this time Nurhaci had proclaimed himself Khan, or King, of the Jurchen, and had gotten rid of his brother Surhaci and his son Cuyen, with whom he had shared his power.
Employing a veritable army of advisors, Nurhaci established a proper legal system, developed the Manchu script through his use of scholars and bi-lingual advisors, and at the top of it all, Five Grand Ministers were created from five long term companions-in-arms who owed their position to him, not to their birth, and were to serve as his closest advisors and executors of his orders.  The key to Nurhaci’s power was nevertheless not political, but military, as his ability to deploy and command men gave him the ability to rise above the war-torn Jurchen tribes and rise to unify Manchuria in the early 17th Century: the long and complex process of military organization undertaken by Nurhaci would prove to be his greatest legacy.
The Eight Banners were organized with a minimal unit, the Niru, which ideally would have 300 men; 5 Niru would form a Jalan and 5 Jalan would form a Gusa, or Banner, although this was only ideally and the numbers in reality often did not match this norm. At first the Banner system did not disturb pre-existing social units, and as tribes, clans or villages of the Jurchens, Mongols or Chinese submitted to the Manchu, such units remained intact and their leaders retained authority over their people. Gradually Tribal and village units were transformed into new, artificial units of more or less equal size. This provided Nurhaci with an organizational system which was expandable as new manpower became available and which was not restricted by clan size or clan loyalties. Unlike earlier uses of squads and companies, the new Banner squads and companies were not temporary organizations for specific tasks. They were permanent organizational units. 
In 1618, Nurhaci announced his Seven grievances against the Ming, listing his father’s and grandfather’s murders, lack of respect shown to his envoys and various border violations, in what was basically a recapitulation of past offenses reedited as a legal excuse for a casus belli.
Nurhaci first conquered Fu-shun, one of the biggest markets in Manchuria, and subsequently captured the exit and entry point between the Manchu and Ming Liaodong, in a series of campaigns that culminated in the victory of the Nurhaci Khan over the combined Ming and Korean forces that gathered to combat the Manchu at Sarhu. The result was the ultimate destruction of the Yehe, the last Haixi clan to resist Nurhaci’s rule, as well as the fall of the Kaiyuan and Tiehling garrisons.  Sarhu saw, interestingly enough, the Manchu cavalry defeating Chinese and Korean armies armed with Matchlocks and cannons, leading to interesting comparisons with the Korean war, in which the Japanese, also armed with Muskets and Cannons, proved a more worthy adversary.
What followed was the conquest of most of the Liaodong, including the towns of Shenyang, Liaoyang, Hai-chou, Kai-chou and Fu-chou, leaving only the southernmost tip of the Liaodong peninsula in Ming Hands. Furthermore, the results of this and future campaigns involving Korea would destroy the Ming economy as the Korean markets were made unavailable for China. By 1626, Nurhaci had eliminated any internal threat to his power and had worked to nullify Korea, which, although not agreeing to an alliance with the Manchu, also stopped supporting China by military means. Thus the Manchurian Khan made the decision to boldly strike at the Ming military in Manchuria, his next target being the fortress of Ningyuan, under the command of the able general Yuan Chonghuan. 
The planned campaign against Ningyuan was nevertheless never undertaken, as news of the Japanese invasion of Joseon arrived at Nurhaci’s capital of Shenyang just as he prepared his armies. Reasons for an intervention in Korea were twofold: first, the Empire of Japan threatened the Jurchen position, not only by upsetting the balance of power in the continent, but also by the possibility that the Japanese might not stop at the Yalu River, but instead continue and try to conquer Manchuria; and secondly, the war in Korea provided Nurhaci with a perfect pretext to expand his influence over the troublesome Kingdom and create a protectorate over Joseon.
Little did he know about the consequences that such a fateful decision would bring upon him. The war between the great Aisin Gioro, or Later Jin Dynasty of Manchuria and the great Takeda clan of Japan would last for another 6 years, and the Nurhaci Khan himself would meet his fate at the shores of the Taedong River in Korea, during the winter of 1629.
The events that followed would determine the history of Manchuria for Generations.
1. The Nara clan ruled the four Tribes of the Hulun Confederation through its four branches and was indeed the most powerful clan in Manchuria before the times of Nurhaci;
2. All of this is IOTL; bilingual advisors played a key role in Nurhaci’s reign, recording and writing laws, developing the Manchu script, recording the Manchu language and saving it from extinction, amongst many other cultural and legal policies that, unfortunately, do not form the core of this story;
3. All of this is IOTL; for a more thorough history and explanation, please check this bookhttp://books.google.com.ar/books?id=_qtgoTIAiKUC&pg=RA2-PA54&dq=Nurhaci&cd=2#v=onepage&q=Nurhaci&f=false
4. It is interesting to note that, throughout the campaigns of Nurhaci Khan, Manchuria had always been economically dependent of China, and the wars against the Ming did much to damage the economies of both China and Manchuria during the 1610s and 1620s.
5. Ningyuan was the battle in which Nurhaci would end his demise IOTL, as Yuan Chonghuan incorporated the Portuguese cannon effectively while not giving the Manchu the advantage of fighting in the open field, where their mobility and combining of cavalry and infantry tactics gave them the edge;
Manchuria in the Days that followed the Death of the Nurhaci Khan
Following the death of the Nurhaci Khan in the winter of 1629, his eighth son, Huang Taiji, succeeded him, seemingly averting a succession crisis in times of war. At least that was the situation that persisted until the events that unfolded along the Imjin River in the later winter of 1630.  Amongst the princes, lords and minor chieftains that had died in the course of the war, two Khans of the Manchu Nation, first Nurhaci and then Huang Taiji would share the fate of their men, paving the way for a second and very real succession crisis in the Manchu Royal Clan.
Like the Mongols and the Turks, the Jurchens did not observe a law of primogeniture or other regular principles of succession. According to tradition, any capable son or nephew could be chosen to become leader, though in practice, he was ordinarily expected to be one of the deceased ruler’s sons. As far as possible, the ruler would try to predetermine the choice during his lifetime, but there was no way to avoid infighting or at least tension amongst his heirs, with likely candidates forming coalitions of personal supporters and sometimes trying to hasten their father’s demise so as to ensure the desired outcome. At a ruler’s death, a fast-moving candidate might ensure his own accession by killing off his rivals in order to preserve the beileship for himself. 
Nurhaci’s eldest son, Cuyen had been the earliest candidate for succession, but was brought down when his brothers Daisan, Manggultai and Huang Taiji conspired with their cousin Amin to sow suspicion in Nurhaci’s mind against Cuyen.
Following Cuyen’s death, Nurhaci favored Daisan as a potential successor, but changed his mind in 1620, when he learned of an inappropriate liaison between Daisan and one of his minor wives. While a relationship of this kind between the designated heir and a ruler’s wife was not particularly strange, the affair was used to tarnish the reputation of Prince Daisan and the mother of Prince Manggultai. Thus the benefited party was the Prince Huang Taiji, who would succeed his father in the winter of 1629, never considering that events would move fast enough to deprive the Manchu of a proper line of succession in short order.  Nurhaci’s sons therefore abandoned the field of the battle of the Imjin River immediately after Huang Taiji’s death and reunited in a special council. In complete secret, only allowing the presence of the Khan’s closest advisors and the commanders of the Eight Banners, they would deliberate on the future of the dynasty and the war. The Council was from the beginning dominated by the Princes Dorgon and Daisan, who for the duration of the process subjugated the other Princes and the Khan’s ministers to their will.
Daisan and Dorgon themselves lacked the complete support of the entire clans, and electing one or the other was seen as a way to insult the other party, whereas other princes with enough power had been killed, captured or were still in the battlefield. What was needed was a compromise candidate.
Prince Laimbu, 13th son of Nurhaci, was only slightly older than the Princes Dorgon or Dodo, or Prince Hooge, son of Huang Taiji, and most importantly, lacked the necessary power, and as perceived by most of the Jurchen Princes, the necessary cunning, to be an effective Khan on his own, and thus a consultative rule with the other princes serving as a special government council, could be maintained for the duration of the war or even indefinitively. 
The peace of 1630 settled the Manchu-Takeda war at Kaesong, dividing the realm of Korea between a northern vassal of the Manchurian Khan and a southern Korean state that was to become a domain of the Japanese Shogun.
The Laimbu Khan returned to the capital of Shenyang with a desolated and malnourished army, and while the war had extended the Jurchen sphere of Influence to the Imjin River, the armies had been decimated, several commanders and princes lost, two Khans, Laimbu’s father and brother, had died and the Manchurian economy remained in ruins.
The miseries of the Jurchen domains were not solely brought by the war in the Korean peninsula though, but were intimately related to the development of events in the six year war. The war in Korea had not only destroyed the Manchu Economy, but also the Ming Economy, as Chinese merchants and their products could now never reach the Korean markets. Furthermore, in an unforeseen side-effect, the Manchu conquest of Northern Korea resulted in the displacement of Ming General Mao Wenlong, who had set up a stronghold on the Yalu River and engaged in asymmetrical warfare against the Manchu, most famously in the Great Raid of 1624.
Forced to leave Korea with most of his army, Mao Wenlong would return to China as a hero for his daunting campaigns, which contrasted all the more due to the rather grave failings of the Ming military in its war against the Manchu, most prominently the loss of Liaodong. Mao’s fame and influence in the court would land him near General Yuan Chonghuan, another capable and famed military leader, commander of the Manchurian front at Ningyuan. Mao Wenlong and Yuan Chonghuan were as different as night and day, one a respected and sober scholar-officer, the other an over-ambitious and amoral warrior, while both being highly competent and ambitious military commanders. 
A clash was almost inevitable given the two personalities, and Yuan Chonghuan’s explicit disapproval of Mao Wenlong’s own war in the Yalu-Liaodong area, yet two circumstances brought them together: first was the Manchu menace lurking on the northern borders, and second a growing dislike slowly turning into hatred of the two generals that began appearing in the dark corners of the Ming court. The faction was in its majority composed of elder bureaucrats, jealous courtesans and Ming Generals that were distrustful, worried or unable to understand what Mao Wenlong and Yuan Chonghuan were doing.
An early result of the Yuan-Mao cooperation took place in the summer of 1627, when Mao Wenlong and his army, mostly composed by his famous Marine Corps, launched a campaign against the Manchu as the majority of the Eight Banners was preoccupied warring south of the Yalu. The result was a rather resonant success, as the Manchu garrisons left on the border were easily destroyed and Mao was able to push as far as the Liao River before being forced to return to Ming territory.
The success of the raid convinced Yuan that a successful campaign against the Manchu could be mounted, but reticence from the Court and General Gao Di, Commander in Chief of the Manchurian front prevented preparations from being made until the winter of 1631. The downfall of the powerful Eunuch Wei Zhongxian and the end of his dictatorship in October of 1627 allowed the return of the literati and ministers purged by his government, and thus Gao Di was replaced in 1628, at the request of Yuan.  Undertaken in the summer of 1632, the campaign resulted in the destruction of a veteran Manchu army at the hands of Yuan and Mao near Kuang-ning, retaking both the town and the city of Jianzhou, both of which were fortified in the same manner as Ningyuan and established as a new border.
These events coincided with the most turbulent moments of the Court of the Laimbu Khan at Shenyang.
The Prince Jirgalang, son of the Chieftain Surhaci and nephew of Nurhaci, returned to Shenyang in the winter of 1631 after years in captivity, having paid hefty bribes to his Japanese captors. Jirgalang’s brother Amin and cousin Daisan used the return of Jirgalang as a way to shift the balance of power in the Great Manchu council, restoring him the command of his host and giving him a seat in the council itself. This more or less balanced the playfield between the party of the Prince Dorgon and that of Prince Amin, at least until the Battle of Kuang-ning in August of 1632, in which the armies led by the Prince Dodo and the Laimbu Khan were defeated, the borders readdressed and the balance of power between the Manchu and the Ming reestablished.
The 1632 campaign could not be continued after Kuang-ning for a variety of reasons, including but not being limited to the growing rivalry between Mao Wenlong and Yuan Chonghuan, who competing for recognition and glory, the economic exhaustion of the Ming, the growing socio-economic crisis that would result in so many provincial rebellions.
With the Northern Border paralyzed, the court at Shenyang saw an escalation in the factional disputes, as the two parties tried to gather as much power and allies as possible before the inevitable occurred. The inevitable would finally occur in the spring of 1634, when the Prince Daisan, second son of Nurhaci, proclaimed himself as Emperor of the Later Jin and Chieftain of the Manchu.
Thus began what some would term the War of Manchurian Succession.
1. See Part V, “Devas and Generals”, the Battle at the Imjin River on August of 1630;
2. This is IOTL, and you thought you were saved from obscure Manchurian culture after the last chapter, right? Beile is Manchu for “Lord”, a title beneath Prince and Prince of the Blood, reserved for members of the Imperial Family, the Aisin Gioro;
3. Very common in Manchu succession politics; Huang Taiji also allegedly drove Nurhaci’s wife, the Lady Abahai, to suicide, for political reasons; Needless to say, Prince Daisan was not involved with his mother, but with a secondary wife, as the Manchu were not monogamous;
4. It was common that upon ascension a Jurchen Chieftain be subjected to consultative rule; this was the reason why Nurhaci first reigned along his brother Surhaci and his son Cuyen;
5. IOTL, Mao Wenlong was executed on Yuan Chonghuan’s orders, due to, amongst other reasons, Mao Wenlong’s behavior, power-hoarding, intentions to become a warlord independent of China or Manchuria, his corruption and carrying of a war that was believed to be a waste of resources, and his attempts to usurp or disrupt Yuan’s authority; ITTL, the events that immediately led to Mao’s execution do not occur.
6. Korean and Chinese refugees from the Manchu conquests of Liaodong and Korea, which also formed the core of Mao Wenlong’s army IOTL;
7. As the most powerful Eunuch, and near Prime Minister, Wei had almost unlimited power; more on this on the chapter dealing with the Ming background and last years;
The Hetu-Ala Confederacy, also known as the Hetu-Ala League, formed around the Prince Daisan in the spring and the summer of 1634 has been for centuries seen and studied in many ways, from a common down-the-mill succession dispute within the Aisin Gioro Clan to a manifestation of a dogmatic dispute that had been present ever since Nurhaci Khan took over as Chieftain of the Left Wing Jurchen.
Those who rallied behind Daisan, the followers of the former Nara Clan and the old Four Hulun States, The Hada, the Ula, the Hoifa and the Yehe, along with the Princes Amin and Jirgalang, Daisan’s cousins, not only represented half the power of the Manchu state, but also the political faction that had from the very beginning opposed Nurhaci’s dynastic policies, his attempts to recreate the Jin Dynasty and supplant the Ming in China. The beiles and minor chieftains that followed Daisan had criticized Nurhaci’s policies and favored a continuation of the status quo regarding China and Korea, especially as the Manchu economy suffered from the end of the payments from Ming China and the destruction of commerce in Manchuria.
The cities of Kai-Yuan, Tieh-Ling, Sarhu and Fu-shun were the first to fall to Daisan’s Confederacy, as the Laimbu Khan stood by the Princes Dorgon and Dodo at Shenyang in a defensive position, trying to muster enough force to resist should Daisan decide to march immediately on the Manchu capital. The expected invasion, which many feared would spell the end of the Dynasty and the Manchu state forged by Nurhaci, would nevertheless never come.
Insecure and fed with erroneous information regarding the size of the army stationed at Shenyang, Daisan preferred to consolidate his power base at Hetu Ala and prepare his army for the late summer, or even to defend his capital should the Laimbu Khan and his brothers strike first. Many believe that had the Daisan Khan had marched and attacked Shenyang immediately in the spring of 1634, his enemies would have been caught off guard, and most of northern Liaodong would have fallen in short order. Consequently, by not attacking, many believe that Daisan lost the war merely days after he had started it.
Controlling the territories west of the Liao River as far as the Hoifa and north of the Su-Tzu as far as the Sungari, Daisan held a powerful base and half of the Great Manchu army, veteran of countless battles in Liaodong and Korea, but to the east and north of the territory he controlled roamed the Wild Jurchen, the Hurha and Warka tribes, roamed free after having declared their independence, lost to Nurhaci’s unification campaigns in 1616.
The same path was followed by the court of the Joseon King at Pyongyang, who witnessed events unfold at Manchuria with a mixture of bemusement and expectation, as the yoke of the Manchu weakened even sooner than the Korean King had expected.
At Shenyang, in the meantime, the Prince Dorgon proceed to take over the Government, dismissing many of the ministers put in place by his father and de facto becoming the head of government while his brother Laimbu stood silent and frightened. Raising an army was Prince Dorgon’s chief concern, as the loss of Four Banners from the great Eight Banner Army had left him in an indefensible position at Shenyang. The loss of the former Hulun tribes meant that the new armies would have to come from the Chinese population of Liaodong.
The spring of 1634 was spent making preparation, sending diplomatic overtures to Korea, to the Hurha and the Warka, setting up defenses at Hetu-Ala and Shenyang and raising armies. Daisan counted with half of the Manchu Army, whereas Dorgon and Laimbu proceeded to further integrate the Chinese and Koreans residing at Liaodong at record speeds as the needs for a standing army became imperious. The first actual combat operations took place in the summer of 1634, when the Laimbu Khan and the Prince Dodo launched a brief expedition in an attempt to recapture Fu-Shun. The result was somewhat predictable, as the expeditionary force was ill-prepared and organized, whereas the defenders at Fu-Shun were veterans of the Korean campaigns and formed the vanguard of the army Daisan had been preparing for the invasion of Liaodong.
Mistaking Laimbu’s failure and projecting the expedition’s failure to the entirety of Laimbu’s army, Daisan left his caution aside and launched an offensive with 15,000 men of the two Red Banners he controlled against Shenyang on August of 1634. Opposing him were 8,000 men gathered at Shenyang and 7,500 at Tung-Ching, to the south, this being the full strength of the two white Banners at the moment. Knowing himself to be outnumbered, Dorgon took his men and his brothers and left Shenyang, opening the doors of the city and marching along the Hun River in order to meet with the other half of his army along the Hun, leaving only a token force at the capital.
As Dorgon had expected, Daisan distrusted the sight of the seemingly open Shenyang, and suspected a trap. Thus he camped south of Shenyang, along the Hun, as Dorgon’s army marched west. This cost Daisan a day, and by the time he had figured out what had happened and set to chase Dorgon, the momentum had been lost. The two armies would meet in late August of 1634, on the northern shores of the Hun River, Dorgon’s armies numbering 16,000 against Daisan’s 15,000. While the pitched battle gave somewhat equal conditions to both armies, Daisan’s armies were tired of the march and caught off guard when they were forced to face Dorgon’s Army. The route would nevertheless have the bizarre effect of resulting in Daisan’s army retreating and occupying Shenyang while the loyalist army chased them.
Jurchen military history and tactics would play a decisive role in the thinking of Dorgon and Daisan here, as sieges had never been part of the Manchurian military repertoire and neither army was prepared or even remotely capable of undertaking siege operations.
As autumn approached, Dorgon made two unexpected moves in an attempt to lure Daisan out of Shenyang and into the open field, where the Manchu fought the best: first he raised the size of the White Banners to 20,000 by incorporating further Chinese and Korean troops from Liaodong, and secondly he divided the force, sending 10,000 men of the Plain White Banner to occupy Fu-Shun and threaten Sarhu.
Unfortunately for Dorgon’s armies, Fu-Shun was defended by the Red Banner army of Prince Jirgalang, who proved to be more than Prince Dodo’s match at Fu-Shun: within an hour Dodo was routed and his Banner left in ruins; trying to overrun Fu-Shun in a swift maneuver with Chinese recruits had failed miserably, and now a second army came to the relief of Daisan. Naturally, this prompted Dorgon and Laimbu to retreat to Tung-Ching, which would become the new temporary capital, thus de facto abandoning Shenyang and Ch’ing ho. Having gathered some 20,000 men by the early days of September, Daisan set upon to march on Dorgon’s army, which had by then retreated to Liaoyang. The Red Banner Armies nevertheless found no sign of Dorgon’s army or anything else at Liaoyang. In fact, he found no evidence of a city ever existing besides the charred remains that stood where Liaoyang once stood. The city, its buildings and tents, its inhabitants, all was gone. It didn’t take long for Daisan to understand that Dorgon was scorching the lands as he abandoned them, forcing the Daisan Khan to face the decision whether to advance into a sea of nothing and starve, or retreat to Shenyang and set camp for the winter.
Just as the winter was close, so was the end of the war, and Daisan figured that Dorgon would find himself in the same situation as Daisan, or perhaps an even more desperate state, as he had taken the inhabitants of Liaoyang as he left the city’s remains. The former inhabitants of Liaoyang had nevertheless not been taken by Daisan, but by Prince Dodo, who lead them in an opposite direction from the main army, forcing Daisan to split his army and pursue both Dorgon’s real army and Dodo’s token force all the way to K’uan T’ien.
Daisan and Dorgon finally fought again at Yao-chou, in southern Liaodong, after having forced Daisan to March and counter-march hundreds of miles through Liaodong. At Yao-Chou, the Prince Dorgon and the Prince Hooge, son of Huang Taiji, took 6,000 Jurchen divided in two wings and took Daisan’s vanguard by surprise, effectively neutralizing a force of 5,000 men within an hour and routing the remaining army, some 8,000 Manchu riders, through the fields east of Yao-Chou. Daisan would be further defeated at Hai-Chou three days later, as he reassembled his battered army, and for the following weeks he’d be harassed by Dorgon’s troops and the small-scale partisan bands set up just for this purpose.
By the time Daisan and Jirgalang returned to Tung Ch’ing in late September of 1634, the Princes Dodo, Dorgon and the Laimbu Khan had assembled a 20,000 men strong army and were ready to converge and take on the Hetu-Ala army, when suddenly Daisan ordered Tung Ching and Ch’ing ho abandoned for Shenyang, their resources and men taken by Daisan to further prompt the defense of Shenyang.
The campaign to take Shenyang would nevertheless not come, as both armies set camp for the winter of 1634 and 1635, whereas the minor beiles and chieftains mobilized in anticipation a prolonged war in southern Manchuria.
The first stage of the Manchurian Civil war had concluded.
Throughout the winter of 1634 and for the first months of 1635 the Manchu hosts engaged in limited campaigning around the capital at Shenyang. Throughout the cold winter months both the armies of Daisan and Laimbu continued to expand their forces and mobilize the other Banner armies, each side gathering as much as 30,000 or 40,000 men by the first days of the spring of 1635.
The arrival of the spring brought forth two big changes in the general situation of the war: the first was the Battle of Shenyang in April, in which the Princes Dorgon and Dodo lead an army of 25,000 men of the White Banners against Daisan, driving his army away from Shenyang and the Hun River Theater. Daisan was thus forced to flee to Fu-Shun and meet with the bulk of the new army raised by Jirgalang at Hetu Ala, effectively restoring the east-west balance of the early stages of the war.
The second big change would come in late May, when scouts from Laimbu’s army would report to Shenyang about the presence of several small armies camping on the shores of the Yeh-ho River, to the north of the Manchu capital. The following day emissaries of the camping armies declared themselves to be from the Ordos and Khorchin Mongol tribes, chased by the despotic rule and expansionist campaigns of the Mongol Khan, Lingdan.
Having inherited the Mongolian throne from his grandfather, Buyan Sechen Khan, Lingdan Khan of the Borjigin Clan was a descendant of the Dayan Khan , who had in the 16th century reunited the Mongols under his rule in the chaotic post-Imperial Mongolia, enthroning himself as Khan of the Yuan Mongol Empire. Dayan Khan’s system had established the Borjigin Clan and the Chahar Mongol Tribe as the dominant forces over the eastern Mongols, and recreated the late Yuan Mongol Empire as a force to be reckoned with by Ming China. 
Within Mongolia proper, the Dayan Khan’s campaigns between the 1480s and 1520s had brought the Eastern Mongol Tribes from the control of the Western Oirat Mongols  and established them into the Six Tumens: Khalka, Chahar and Uriankhai of the Right Wing, and Ordos, Tumed and Yongshiyebu of the Left Tumen, all under the suzerainty and protection of the Mongol Khan, who put his descendants as heads of the Tumens.
By the time of Lingdan Khan’s rule, the various Mongol tribes had been gradually emancipating themselves from the rule of the Senior Family and the Chahar, who authority had become very nominal. The Tumens nevertheless remained loyal, if disunited by their mutual distrust, ambition and jealousy, at least until the decade of the 1610s, in which the leaders of the Khorchin and the princes of the Southern Khalka became brothers in law with the rising Manchu. Throughout the rule of the Nurhaci Khan, the Manchu influence over the Eastern Mongols grew steadily, and as the Jurchen power grew, Lingdan’s anger grew as well.
When proceeding to deal with the debilitated state of the Mongol Khanate and the disloyal tribes, Lingdan moved with arrogance and brutality, alienating several of his allies and vassals as well as further dispersing the Six Tumens rather than reuniting them under Chahar rule. Lingdan’s campaigns first managed to bring a treaty with Ming China which turned the Chinese into tributaries and then proceed to attack the Manchu in Liaodong between 1615 and 1619, the result being the defection of the Eastern Tumens and the further loss of power to the rising Manchu Empire. 
This situation would remain unchanged, with Lingdan progressively losing power and influence to Nurhaci, until the Manchu invasion of Korea and the war against Japan, which the Mongol Khan immediately recognized as the perfect opportunity to once again strike at his enemies and reunite the Mongol State. In 1627 the Princes ruling the Sunid, Uzemchin and Abaga tribes within the Chahar state, revolted against Lingdan’s centralizing policies and entered into a coalition with the Three Right Wing Tumens against the Khan, attacking him at Zhaocheng. The allied defeat was followed by a renewed campaign against Ming China due to the want of tributes, the end of the new campaign being an increase in the annual tribute to 81,000 taels of Silver.  Lingdan’s war continued and in 1629 he attacked a new league of Khorchin, Tumed, Yugnshiyebu, Ordos and Abaga tribes that formed against him, destroying them after crossing the Khingan Range and striking deep into enemy territory. Following this he attempted to destroy his enemies in detail by invading Manchuria proper, but he was unable to repeat his successes in Liaodong and thus retreated, having reestablished his rule in Mongolia. 
Despite the terrible losses and the increased brutality of his reign, Lingdan Khan had reasserted his authority by 1631, creating a strong centralized state, appointing officials over the Tumens and further expanding his influence to the confines of Manchuria. Furthermore, the religious influence of the Mongols also increased, as Lingdan sought to expand Lamaism throughout his domains, taking much interest in the construction of Buddhist temples and statues, as well as the translation of Buddhist texts. 
This short-lived peace would meet its end in late 1632, when several Princes of the Five Khalkha tribes as well as the Tumed and the Ordos revolted once more, spreading the flames of rebellion along the Ming-Mongolian border at the Great Wall and the outlying domains of the Mongolian Khan. The new campaign was limited to Southern Mongolia for much of its early stages, until the rebel armies moved to the northeast and once again brought the Khorchin to their side in the fall of 1633.  In the late winter of 1635 and the early spring, Lingdan had chased the rebel armies past the Khingan range and into Liaodong once more, this time finding himself at the gates of Shenyang and a divided Manchuria. It would be needless to say that the opportunity was too good to pass.
While the remains of the Ordos, Khalka and Khorchin rebels received protection at the Manchu capital and Lingdan Khan camped at the Yeh-ho River, awaiting for the bulk of his army, the situation within the Manchu state changed: no longer was the war a simple dispute for succession, but now a general war that involved Manchuria and the affairs of the Mongol Empire. Not wanting to find themselves trapped in a war against the Red Banners and the Mongols, Laimbu Khan and Prince Dorgon sought to negotiate a temporary peace with Daisan and Jirgalang. While neither side wanted to lose a chance to destroy the other, the prospects of falling under Mongolian domination were even less appealing, and what would later be known as the 1,000 days truce was agreed on June of 1635, just as the Lingdan Khan announced his intentions of besieging Shenyang and conquering Manchuria.
Thus in the summer of 1635 the armies of the Daisan Khan and the rebel Banners undertook a pacifying campaign against the neutral wild Jurchens, the Warka and the Kurka, while the Lingdan Khan and the Laimbu Khan met north of the Manchu capital of Shenyang.
1. Lingdan took the Throne in 1604, whereas Buyan Sechen was Khan between 1592 and 1604, and Dayan between 1476 and 1516; by being descendant of Dayan Khan, Lingdan is by extension direct descendant from the Kublai Khan, and thus of Genghis Khan;
2. The Yuan Mongol Dynasty had ruled over China between 1271 and 1368 before being overthrown by the Ming and forced to retreat to Mongolia, where the North Yuan Dynasty was proclaimed. They nevertheless fell into chaos quite often and then under the Oirats, whom Dayan defeated, reforming the Yuan Empire in Mongolia;
3. The Oirats of Western Mongols are the Tribes originating from Dzungaria and Amdo, in Western Mongolia and China, today called the Kalmyk. Having often warred against the Eastern Mongols, their zenith of power within the Yuan dynasty came between 1388 and 1478, being ended by Dayan Khan;
4. This is IOTL, from the rising Manchu influence over the Mongolian princes to the invasion and the defections;
5. IOTL, Lingdan also won at Zhaocheng, but the cost was too high and he was ultimately unable to change the tide; due to the Korean war, and the need for Mongolian warriors at Manchuria to guard the Ming border and to fight with the banners at Korea, Lingdan is much more successful ITTL; the mentions of China, the raids against the Ming and the treaties are as IOTL;
6. This is the result of the Jurchen being preoccupied with Korea and Japan;
7. Much of this is IOTL, especially Lingdan’s close ties to Buddhism; he was given the title of Khutuku Khan due to his zeal in promoting Lamaism; he had monasteries and temples built, the Gand-Shur, one of the Encyclopedic works of Buddhism, translated to Mongol and established himself both as religious and political leader of the Mongols;
8. This is fueled by the despotic and brutal nature of Lingdan’s rule, which was IOTL the cause of much of the rebellions, as well as the inherent weakness of the Mongol State in the 1600s and the Manchu ascendancy;
The Manchurian War in 1635
Lingdan Khan’s campaign in Liaodong and Shenyang during the summer of 1635 was from the beginning destined to be short-lived. Having only crossed the Great Khingan Range by 20,000 of his warriors in pursue of defeated rebels, the Mongolian Khan had only advanced as far as the Liao River enticed by rumors of chaos and civil war in the Manchu homelands, and now he and his army stood just a few li  north of the Jurchen capital of Shenyang. Despite the Khan’s pride and impulsive nature, he began the campaign not by attacking Shenyang directly, but by marching eastwards along the Liao River and occupying the town Tieh-Lang, from which he could threaten Fu-Shun and Shenyang, as well as the Daisan Khan’s capital at Hetu-Ala.
The fact that the Daisan Khan only left a garrison of some 8,000 men at Hetu-Ala while the Mongolian army stood so close to Fu-Shun is often used, as with several other minor occurrences, to argue that the rebel Manchurian Khan and the Mongolian Khan were in league during the campaign of 1635, although there is barely any concrete evidence to suggest the reality of this assumption. In any given case, the Daisan Khan and the Prince Jirgalang took the Red Banner Armies and marched east to suppress the Wild Jurchen, whereas the Prince Dodo and the Laimbu Khan would march towards Tieh-ling with their own army and try to destroy Lingdan there and then.
Despite the numerical superiority of the Manchu armies, the Mongolian army was at that point a stronger and more cohesive force, whereas the Manchu were still having problems incorporating Chinese and Korean troops into the banner system, and at the Battle of Tieh-ling at least a third of the present army was composed of the Mongolian warriors Lingdan had chased past the Khingan Mountains. The poor incorporation of the Mongolians would prove to be the Manchu’s own undoing, as the Mongolian allies broke formation and launched an attack at Lingdan Khan’s center just as the Manchu forces were being organized. The immediate result was a route as the Chahar warriors swept with the Mongolian rebels and began marching southwards. As some Manchu commanders panicked at the sight of the routed Mongolians and the coming armies, and others were unable to coordinate an attack given that the battlefield was occupied by the escaping Mongolians, the Laimbu Khan finally ordered a general retreat towards Fu-Shun by noon.
Leaving nearly 4,000 dead at the fields south of Tieh-ling, the Laimbu Khan and his banner armies sought refuge at Fu-Shun, which had been abandoned by Daisan as news of the Mongolian army on the Yeh-ho arrived, where Lingdan made preparations for a siege. Laimbu had little intention to defend Fu-shun, though, as he feared a conspiracy between Daisan and Lingdan would bring a vast army to surround and destroy him at the town, thus he left Fu-Shun for Shenyang, where he hoped to rally with Dorgon’s own army and destroy the Mongolians in a decisive battle.
Lingdan was nevertheless faster than Laimbu and several battles took place along the Hun River as the Manchu retreated, eroding their force and destroying their morale for the three days in which they attempted to march towards their capital. By the fourth day, Lingdan was able to force a new decisive battle as Laimbu tried to cross the river, this time costing the Manchu nearly 5,000 losses, between the dead and the wounded.
Following this disaster, the siege of Shenyang commenced.
The rebel Daisan Khan’s campaign against the wild Jurchen tribes of the Hurka and the Warka in the summer and autumn of 1635 took the form of a punitive expedition in June of 1635, when the Prince Jirgalang took his Red Banner Armies and marched towards the Tumen and Ussuri Rivers, while Prince Amin marched northwards against the tribes that roamed along the Sungari River.
For three months the expedition marched deep into the wilderness of Manchuria past the Hoifa and Mudan Rivers, as the rebel clans continued to avoid a definitive battle and instead chose to wear the invaders down. As the Great Mongol Khan besieged the capital at Shenyang, the constant marching and maneuvering was spreading the Daisan Khan’s forces thin on Manchurian soil. It was the beginning of the autumn when Prince Amin would, after weeks of light skirmishes, find a chance to deal a fierce blow to the Hurka some li north of I-lan, on the confluence of the Mudan and Sungari Rivers. The Hurka losses amounted to some 1,500 or 1,800 warriors, and two weeks later the results would be repeated by Jirgalang as he chased the Warka armies south towards the Korean border, dealing them with a crushing defeat at the northern banks of the Tumen River.
As it could be expected from two rival armies that had for centuries been fighting with the doctrine of the offensive and the cavalry charge in open fields, siege operations around Shenyang between July and September of 1635 proved extremely problematic. Not only was the Lingdan Khan unable to fully surround the city or efficiently cut off all communications from the outside world with his limited force, but the Laimbu Khan was also unable to properly maintain the order within his own capital as rationing had to be implemented and discipline be maintained. Furthermore, Prince Dorgon’s inability to relief the city throughout the late summer created a great crisis of confidence at Shenyang, were desertions and treasons were becoming quite widespread.
In late August, a fire broke out in Shenyang and the inability to properly control it only led to further panic and rioting, circumstances that the Mongols were nevertheless unable to fully use to their advantage. Several weeks later the Prince Dorgon led 30,000 men against the Mongol camp only to find himself repelled by the Lingdan Khan and abandoned by Laimbu, who was unable to coordinate an attack from the capital itself.
In mid-September, disease broke out in Shenyang, and soon spread to the Mongolian camps around the city.
The Beiles and Chieftains of the Hurka and Warka Jurchen promised their allegiance to the Daisan Khan and were bounded by treaty as vassals following the pacification campaigns of 1635, yet the rebel Emperor was wary of events in Liaodong, where the Lingdan Khan had set Fu-Shun as a base against Shenyang. According to Legend, for three days in the autumn of 1635 the Daisan Khan pondered. On the eve of the fourth day, the decision to march southwards and secure the Joseon King of Korea as an ally was made, and orders for a general mobilization of the Banner armies made.
In the aftermath of the debacle that was the siege of Shenyang, operations around Fu-Shun, Tieh-Ling and Ch’ing Ho occupied the better parts of the autumn of 1635, as the Lingdan Khan refused to abandon Liaodong without having destroyed his enemies, the Manchu. Despite only counting with some 10,000 men by this point against 35,000 warriors of the Manchurian banners, he was able to outmaneuver his divided and disorganized foes until news from home arrived at his camp in October of 1635: the Khalka, Ordos and Tumet had reassembled their forces and threatened Chahar lands once more.
Reluctant and bitter the Mongolian Khan was forced to return to his empire, although not before promising in a fateful threat that he would return.
The Manchu were, in the meantime, facing a continued civil war that their brethren had now taken to the southern lands of Joseon.
1. Chinese unit of distance, approximately 500 meters, half a KM and a third of a mile;
The news that arrived at the court of King Sohyeon in the early spring of 1636 had taken the Joseon Capital completely unprepared, and a strange sensation of unease and expectation soon spread through Pyongyang. An army of 30,000 Manchu warriors, carrying the Red Banners of Princes Amin and Daisan according to several witnesses, had taken the Hosan fortress at Dandong, crossed the Hushan Great Wall as well as the Yalu River and were marching towards the capital. 
Having sought to maintain a policy of strict neutrality during the Manchurian war of succession, both King Sohyeon and his court, at the time controlled by the most conservative factions within the realm, were caught completely by surprise by the sudden Manchurian invasion. Whereas the archconservative scholars of the Sarim faction  and elder statesmen of the old Western Faction  had been able to gain power quickly in the aftermath of the Japanese invasions and the birth of the North Joseon Dynasty, the Manchu alliance had created many rifts amongst the older Ming Loyalist factions, and thus the conservative parties remained fractured. The political chaos between Ming and Jurchen loyalists, as well as the remnants of the old Northern and Western Factions soon engulfed the Joseon Court and all of Pyongyang, especially as the Armies of Daisan approached the capital with the speed of lightening.
The Daisan Khan’s strategic thought, if there was any (the prevalent view in official Manchu records is that Daisan had always been a mad King) was that the strong and experienced Korean army was the key to upsetting the balance in the Manchu civil war in his favor, even at the risk of leaving Hetu Ala undefended. And even if Hetu Ala was threatened, Jirgalang could retreat to the Hurka and Warka allied lands and wait for the Korean reinforcements.
The Joseon reaction to an army marching through the Northern provinces was nevertheless not what Daisan had expected. Whereas in the planning the Khan had foreseen some resistance, he had expected that the Joseon court would follow a reasonable course and join him rather than resist his army, which was supposed to act in Korea only as a show of strength. Being forced to march towards Pyongyang himself at the head of his army and leaving Dandong, and the only path back home neglected would prove to be his undoing.
As the fortress and defenses of Pyongyang were prepared, King Sohyeon mobilized some 30,000 soldiers under the command of the capable General Im Gyeong Eop  in the spring of 1636. Anticipating Manchu tactics, the General set up the defenses and a system of trenches and traps along the walls of the fortress, while disbanding small groups of his army and setting them to harass the Manchu lines as they advanced towards Pyongyang.
By the time Daisan arrived at the Korean capital, Pyongyang was defended by a strong and determined army barricades behind an impregnable system of defenses and fortifications for which the Manchu were not prepared. Far from impressed by the somewhat smaller Manchu force, Im proceeded to harass Daisan from within and outside the fortress, even going so far as to taunting him to attack the great fortress of Pyongyang directly.
Following several days of skirmishing and fruitless maneuvering, a great battle ensued.
On a quiet spring morning, General Im left 10,000 men behind the city’s walls and trenches and divided his main offensive force into three groups: two groups numbering 10,000 troops and one of about 6,000, and set to attack the Manchu camp in the second week of the improvised siege. Im himself led the main force that crossed the Taedong River and stroke at the heart of the Manchu force from the south as they were resisting the attacks coming from the eastern and the northeastern flanks. Taking the Manchu center and their reserves by surprise, the result was a rout, and the siege of Pyongyang was ended just two weeks after it had started in late May of 1636.
Having lost 5,000 men and some of his best commanders, Daisan retreated along the Taedong River demoralized and on the edge of madness. In later engagements along his retreat Daisan would cry for revenge against the Koreans and pledge to burn Pyongyang to the ground, but as the spring faded and the summer approached, his horde was depleted by battle, by desertion, by disease and by treason. Having first crossed the Yalu River with some 25,000 men, in July of 1636 he returned with only 8,000 tired, demoralized and hungry soldiers.
Yet the situation had not reached its most desperate depths until July 30th, when Daisan and his men attempted to cross the Yalu River once more to seek refuge at the fortress of Dandong, when the fire from the captured Korean cannons and the presence of white banners at the walls of the fortress revealed a horrid truth: Dorgon and Laimbu had overwhelmed the small garrison left by Daisan at Dandong and occupied the fortress themselves.
The path to Manchuria had been cut, and there was no possibility of return.
Trapped between a rock and a hard place, Daisan and the remnants of his army would march to the northeast and attempt a last stand at the fortress of Uiju.
By the time Dorgon and Im Gyeong Eop were able to surround Uiju, only 4,000 warriors and Daisan’s most loyal followers remained by his side.
It is said that in his madness, Daisan set the fortress of Uiju on fire rather than to face the disgrace of surrender or to suffer his brothers’ peace.
And thus was the solitary and fiery death of the Daisan Khan, Emperor of the Jurchen.
1. Both located at Dandong, in Liaodong, China; Hosan was first built by the Goguryeo Dynasty, whereas the Hushan Great Wall was an extension of the Great Wall in Liaodong by the Ming, reaching as far as Dandong;
2. Sarim Faction: group of Conservative Neo-Confucian Scholars and literati that formed one of the most important political and ideological factions in Joseon Korea, originally in opposition to the Capital faction, based at Hanseong.
3. Political factions in Korea rose due to many issues, such as succession disputes and ideological squabbling; The Western Faction was conservative and had favored King Injo, whereas the Northern Faction was leftist reformists and had supported the King before Injo, who was overthrown in a coup by the Western Faction in the 1620s; The western and northern factions were later fragmented into several factions as well (example: Greater and Lesser Northern Factions)
IOTL Sohyeon was only Crown Prince and was executed due to his support of reformist policies and the Catholic faith, both of which he had picked up while in China; ITTL, he never goes to China and thus he turns into a puppet of the Conservative Western and Sarim factions;
4. Commander during the IOTL Manchu Invasions (1627-1636), descendant of a high minister, later joined the Ming against the Manchu in the 1640s.
I shot an arrow into the Sky
It is now the summer of 1644, and the Manchu Prince Dorgon, son of the Nurhaci Khan, stands north of the Hun River in Liaodong; north of his position lays the Jurchen capital, besieged by the armies of the Great Mongol Khan, and behind him barely stands the remnants of the once powerful Manchu White and Yellow Banners.
An important decision is to be made, but how could Manchuria be saved from the western hordes that came from the steppe?
The aftermath of the Manchurian Civil war between the Prince Daisan and the Laimbu Khan had only been the latest act in a series of misfortunes and disgraces that had befallen Manchuria ever since the times of the Nurhaci Khan; the Khan’s wars of unification and subjugation and his campaigns against the Ming, the Manchu involvement in the Japanese war in Korea and now the war of succession had left Manchuria a poorer land.
Poorer in wealth and power, as the lands were raided and burned and all commerce destroyed; poorer in men as tens of thousands of men had died in the wars of the Jurchen under the self-proclaimed Later Jin Dynasty, from Korea to the Amur and the Khinggan Mountains; poorer in standing, as Ming China no longer feared the might of the Manchu and the Koreans could claim to be allies with Pyongyang having equal standing with Shenyang. The concession of Dandong to the Joseon King of Korea and the loss of Kuang-ning to China had been the first nails in the coffin of the Nurhaci Khan’s imperial dream.
The reaper itself would nevertheless not come in the form of Generals Yuan Chonghuan or Mao Wenlong of Ming China, or the Sohyeon King of Korea, but with the return of the Sons of Genghis Khan in the winter of 1644, when the Lingdan Khan, victorious from his wars of subjugation, returned to Manchuria with the intention of seeking revenge upon the Manchu and extending his Empire from the Altai mountains and the Gansu Corridor to the Strait of Tartary and the Yalu River.
The coming of the marching armies of the Lingdan Khan, Great Khagan of the Mongols, had come just as Manchuria under the reign of the Laimbu Khan suffered from the worst symptoms of an economic collapse that was the result of decades of warfare in the region. Such was the social and economic decay of Manchuria when the Mongols came that even attempting to rally the old Banner System resulted in several uprisings amongst the Chinese and Korean inhabitants of Liaodong, and many towns could not be subdued by the time in which Lingdan invaded Manchuria proper in the summer of 1640.
Bringing an army of nearly 60,000 warriors from the vast extension of the new Mongol Empire, the first campaign stroke the heart of Manchuria in the former lands of the Hulun States, dispersing the once most powerful Jurchen Tribes and taking the raid as far as the Korean border before turning west in order to meet with the main army near Hetu Ala, which was besieged for six months and the totality of the winter of 1640 and 1641. Only when it fell the Lingdan Khan himself would march on the Jurchen Capital of Shenyang, and the troubled lands of Liaodong.
The Laimbu Khan and the Prince Dorgon had been able to subdue the disturbances at the capital and northern Liaodong using the core of the armies that had been assembled and kept since the end of the Succession war, and thus Shenyang did not fall immediately when the first Mongolian raid threatened the city in the late summer of 1640, but the winter of 1641 saw the Lingdan Khan amass over 40,000 troops around Shenyang, a number that would rise to 50,000 by the end of the winter.
The second campaign would drive the Laimbu Khan and the Prince Dorgon’s armies through Liaodong as the Great Khan’s sons, Ejei and Abunai, took the war to the heart of the Manchu possessions in a war of maneuvers throughout the former Chinese province. Both sides suffered from several eventualities for which they were not prepared: the Korean and Chinese villagers and peasants of the province rose once again, this time prompted by the allegedly neutral Korea and by Ming General Mao Wenlong, while the Mongolians continued to suffer from desertions amongst Lingdan’s alleged allies.
Perhaps most worrying was the fact that no side was properly prepared for the bloody carnage that would come to be known as the Siege of Shenyang; expecting an easy victory brought upon by their numbers, the Mongolians took little precautions and engaged in little to no preparations for a proper siege, just as the Manchu fortified the capital and brought more troops while evacuating the civilians. It wouldn’t be until the seventh month that the Mongols would be able to properly surround and isolate Shenyang, and even then many ways of communication with the outside world remained, which could also be used as means of obtaining supplies and reinforcements.
Thus the Shenyang campaign was prolonged.
Korea’s entrance in the war, brought upon due to a Mongolian attempt to take Dandong and isolate Manchuria, barely produced a change in the situation, mainly due to the reluctance of King Sohyeon to commit a large force in Liaodong, instead sending an army of roughly 15,000 men under General Im Gyeong Eop to assist the Manchu, while using a separate but larger force to reinforce Dandong and the border.
And the siege of Shenyang lasted for another three years...
According to legend, the Prince Dorgon of the Manchu stood on a road along the Hun River in the summer of 1644, pondering about the fate of the Manchu nation.
At Shenyang, the great armies of the Great Mongol Khan besieged his brother the Laimbu Khan of the Jurchen and the battered remains of the once mighty Eight Banner Armies. Behind him stood 7,000 warriors of Liaodong, what was left of Dorgon’s Blue Banner Army, now the most important Jurchen force not fighting at Shenyang.
A recursive thought often preoccupied Dorgon, a plan that for some time had been considered and rejected as an impossibility, but now it seemed as if there was little choice. He had concealed these thoughts and hid them from the other commanders, but it was now apparent that there were few courses of action. March towards Shenyang once more and try to relieve the city? Evacuate his force to Dandong and seek refuge in Korea? Or listen to his conscience and implement his plan in one last ditch effort to save the Jurchen Nation?
According to Legend, the Prince Dorgon stood north of the Hun River in Liaodong when he took a bow and arrow and shot an arrow into the sky.The arrow allegedly landed to Dorgon’s left, and thus he took his army to the west, to Kuang-ning and the stronghold of Yuan Chonghuan, to decide the fate of Manchuria. Little did he know about the changes that had occurred in China by the time in which he made his fateful decision.
Last edited by maverick; December 2nd, 2010 at 11:55 PM..
Commander Yuan Chonghuang has guarded the northern border of the Chinese Empire for decades by the summer of 1644, his fame and ability making him one of the pillars of the Chinese Army and its defenses, the responsibility for guarding the entrance to China and the Manchurian border resting solely on his shoulders. He has been at the forefront at Liaodong for years and even prided himself on being a “frontier talent”, and would with time be regarded as one of China’s greatest generals and the key figure in the Chinese Military Revival of the mid-17th century, and now, as the summer of 1644 dawns, he finds himself with the possibility of embarking on his most ambitious project: the Chinese Reconquista of Liaodong from the Manchu. 
Or at least that was the situation in the late spring of 1644.
In the first days of the summer messengers in representation of the Prince Dorgon of the late Jin Dynasty came to the gates of Kuang-ning.
The situation then changed in a manner most unexpected, but to understand the context, one must consider the historical circumstances in which China found itself in the summer of 1644.
The Ming Dynasty was born from the ashes of the Great Mongol Empire, which had under the rule of the Kublai Khan come to rule China proper for nearly a century before a prolonged period of conflict, famine and bitterness in the Han domains lead to massive peasant rebellions in the southern domains, and the foundation of the Ming Dynasty by rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang, later known to history as the Hongwu Emperor.
From the foundation of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 to its downfall in 1644, the Chinese Empire would come to grow and prosper economically and reap the benefits of peace and order, as well as become part of the world economy thanks to trade with the European powers and Japan, and ultimately share the destiny that any Chinese Dynasty would suffer, regardless of how many talented or talentless emperors came to the throne, whether the rule of the Dynasty was fair or not, or whether it had been founded by commoners or foreign invaders.
As with many other Dynasties, the Ming could not resist the effects of disasters far from their control, from widespread famines to earthquakes that resulted in calamities such as the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556, which killed over 800,000 people. The sequence of natural disasters added to the political crisis caused by a growingly sclerotic and inefficient court ruled by corrupt scholars and Eunuchs, whose grip on power not only brought upon many disgraces due to the inability, corruption or even autocratic madness of men like eunuch Wei Zhongxian, who controlled the court of the Tianqi Emperor with an iron fist, but also due to the distance that the rule of such men would put between the people and the Ming Court. 
In the early 17th century, the situation facing Ming China reached new depths as the empire’s chief medium of exchange, silver, began to suffer a widespread shortage due to a variety of reasons, first amongst them being the change in the nature of Spanish trade in the region. The growing power of the Netherlands and England in the Pacific, coupled by a crackdown on illegal Silver smuggling from the Spanish Indies brought upon a grave Economic crisis in China, compounded by the Japanese-Manchurian war in Korea, which deprived China from the Korean markets as well as the Japanese ones, closed for China by orders of the Takeda Shogun, due to a perceived Ming favoritism to the Manchu during the Korean affair.
The weakness of the Ming Court had be seen by many as an opportunity, especially by the likes of the Mongolian Khan, Lingdan, and the Manchu, who had often engaged in raids against northern China as means to obtain tribute and recognition, but no man would benefit by the collapse of the Ming Dynasty than a peasant soldier by the name of Li Zicheng.
Like many rebels, Li Zicheng had been a soldier in the Ming Army before joining a rebel group in 1629, one of the many that existed in the late Ming years, as repeated famines and widespread government disintegration pushed the countryside and periphery provinces pushed Beijing farther and farther from the rest of China. Yet, while peasants made up the bulk of the rebel forces, their leaders were usually professional soldiers, military couriers and lifelong bandits, and it was not unusual for rebel commanders to easily pass back and forth from Imperial to Rebel camps, some point out as a result of the general pattern of social militarization of the late Ming.
These rebellions occurred in four distinct Phases.
The first, from 1627 to 1631, took place in Shaanxi province where a series of mutinies and bandit attacks swelled into a steady plundering by discrete mobile bands. According to folklore, in 1630 he was put on public display in an iron collar and shackles for his failure to repay loans to an usurious magistrate, Ai. Ai struck a guard who offered shade and water to Li, whence a group of peasants tore apart Li's shackles, spirited him to a nearby hill, and proclaimed him their leader. Despite having only wooden sticks, Li and his band ambushed police sent against them and obtained their first real weapons. How close the legend is to reality is often put in question, but as far as official records are concerned, Li Zicheng joined the rebellion in the early 1630s as a Ming Soldier, and his fortunes rose and fell throughout the 1630s, along with the fortunes of the rebellion.
In the second phase, from 1631 to 1636, was also one of disorganized raiding in the western provinces, but rebel units were larger and the terrain across which they moved was more extensive, covering most of the forested border areas of Huguang, Henan and Shaanxi, and while the Ming military maintained its superiority, Civilian Coordinators such as Hong Chengchou found it increasingly difficult to ensure the obedience of professional military commanders like Zou Liangyou.
During the third phase, 1637-1641, the rebel armies coalesced into larger armies under Zhang Xianzhong and Li Zicheng, and although they suffered from a brief period of decline in 1640, March of 1641 saw the tides of the war change as the Imperial forces lost Luoyang to Li Zicheng and Xiangyang to Zhang Xianzhong. After this pivotal year, both rebel leaders came to feel the stirrings of Dynastic ambition. 
For Li Zicheng, the shift from bandit general to monarch occurred in Henan, following the fall of Kaifeng in 1642, where he secured the support of several local military leaders and gentry-men who later proved crucial for his ambitions. The backbone of Li Zicheng’s political projects was formed by able officials such as Song Qijiao, who had joined him in 1634 and would later become his Minister of Personnel in 1643, Li Yan, a prominent figure in Kaifeng, where he had gained a reputation for siding with the exploited classes against avaricious gentry, and his classmate, Niu Jingxing, a hard-drinking Muslim juren from Baoji county. Niu Jingxing in particular would play a central role as an advisor, encouraging the rebel general to seek the support of other literati in the area, as many members of the upper gentry in Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi were displeased with the Ming Government.
This move, which attracted the scholars and gentry-men opposed to the Donglin partisans that dominated the Ming court, would with time be the first in a series of events that came to consolidate the shape of things to come in the future court, but that must be left for another chapter. 
The military campaigns of 1642 and 1643 continued with mixed results, as the Ming Government proved unable to deal a death blow to the rebellion and Li Zicheng was similarly incapable of ending the war. In mid-1643, he formed his own Six Ministries at his home province of Shaanxi and was able to score a great military victory against a Ming invasion of Henan, the famine-stricken province wreaking havoc on the Ming and their supply lines. Xi’an was occupied by the Ming in August of 1643 and renamed as Chang’an after the old Tang capital. 
“The Hundred and two Mountains of Qin” were now in rebel hands, noted the poet Li Wen as the realization that Li Zicheng now controlled the same strategic region whence so many successful dynasties had sprung.
On the eve of the Moon Festival in September, Li Zicheng proclaimed the beginning of the Yongchang reign era of the great Shun Dynasty. This would prove ominous to the Ming, as according to Folklore, the Moon Festival commemorated the birth of the rebellion that overthrew the Yuan Mongol Dynasty and brought forth the Ming Dynasty.
When in November of 1643 the armies of the newly born Shun Dynasty crossed the Yellow River into Shanxi, breaking the initial line of the Ming capital’s defenses, the mood at the northern Imperial capital quickly changed from shock to panic, as ministers were sacked and imprisoned, military commanders quickly brought and replaced, others outright refusing to take charge of a new military expedition, and even plans for recalling the military garrison in Manchuria to defend the capital being drawn.
Li Zicheng’s slogan of “dividing the land equally and abolishing the grain taxes system” was often heard in Beijing during the last days of the reign of the Chongzhen Emperor, as ominous auguries began to spread through the capital. Public officials that had lost their faith in the government, palace courtesans and eunuchs who began to abuse their power as never before thanks to the sense of emergency imposed by the need to defend the capital with a poor and starving garrison made up of the old and the weak, it all contributed to the sense of impending doom that was so pervasive in Beijing throughout the winter of 1643 an 1644.
Little resistance was encountered on the march towards Beijing, as military and public officials lost faith in each other and in the Ming, and opened the gates of the towns in Li Zicheng’s path.
On the Lunar New Year’s Day of 1644 (February 8th), the armies of the Shun Dynasty conquered Beijing, and Li Zicheng became took the name Xianbao, meaning “Great Protector.”
The Mandate of Heaven had changed hands for the first time in 276 years.
1. IOTL, Yuan was killed in 1630, due to a Manchu manipulation of the Ming Court against him; ITTL, the Manchu are busy with Korea and later a civil war, not to mention that the man behind Yuan’s death, Huang Taiji, has died in Korea ITTL;
2. All of this is IOTL, but I figured that a short description would be welcomed after so many chapters dealing with obscure Manchurian history;
3. IOTL, more on Zhang in later chapters;
4. The Donglin movement, political and philosophical faction within the Ming Court, was based around the Donglin Academy, the examination system and old Confucian Conservative ideas; being a southern faction, the northern gentry and scholars that are now supporting Li Zicheng are not particularly fond of them;
5. Events are moving faster than IOTL due to butterflies resulting in small changes along the line for the Rebellion. IOTL, Xi’an fell in late 1643, the Shun Dynasty was proclaimed in February of 1644 and Beijing fell in April.
New Dynasty in February
The celebrations that followed the fall of the Ming and the birth of the Shun Dynasty would last for the better part of February, the pinnacle of the affair being the ceremonies in which the “Dashing Prince” Li Zicheng would establish himself as the Xianbao Emperor, the Son of Heaven sitting at the Dragon Throne. At the ceremonies the emperor was constantly accompanied by his Minister of Personnel Song Qijiao and Grand Secretary Wei Zaode, one of the most prominent defectors from the Ming Dynasty in the early days of the new Shun Regime, a sign of things to come.
Wei Zaode was of course not alone in his decision to acknowledge the changing of the winds, and in fact many allegiances were reconsidered during the winter of 1644. Amongst the most notable cases of former Ming loyalists who welcomed their new overlords with open arms there is the case of the three hundred palace eunuchs that escorted Li Zicheng as he first entered Beijing through the Chang’an Gate in early 1644; the case of Generals Wu Sangui and Tang Tong, both properly bribed and given higher titles and honors within the new regime , swiftly accepting the offers that the new Dynasty offered them and that would later be extended to men like General Yuan Chonghuang and Mao Wenlong in Liaodong, amongst others.
It is estimated that 162 former Ming officials joined the new Dynasty in the early months of 1644, whereas the official numbers gives 32 suicides that followed the fall of Beijing. Taking this numbers, it can be seen that there was a higher proportion of southern officials amongst the suicides, a less than surprising fact given the overrepresentation of the southern provinces in the Ming Court. In contrast, the distribution of the 162 officials that would serve the Xianbao emperor in 1644 was surprisingly far more equal, and if the provinces of Sichuan, Nanzhili and Huguang are considered as part of the south of China, then the spread was absolutely equal: 81 northerners and 81 southerners. 
The open invitation to former Ming officials to serve the new regime “at their own convenience”, while appealing to a great number of literati, created a complex dynamic in the nascent government, as the old guard of the Dynasty, those who joined Li Zicheng before the conquest of Beijing, began to distrust the growing number of former Ming Loyalists joining the Shun. The prominent literati amongst the Shun, especially Minister of Personnel Song Qijiao, Minister of Works Li Zhengsheng and vice-Minister of Rites Gong Yu, all took the habit of recruiting former classmates and friends for office in the new government, whereas in the military faction, the addition of former Ming generals Yuan Chonghuan, Wu Sangui and Tang Tong disrupted the balance and power held by the original Shun Generals, Liu Zongmin and Li Gou.
The winter of 1644 was thus a breeding ground for several political rivalries and disputes that would take a central role in the events of the decade of the 1650s, yet for the moment, the Shun Dynasty was more preoccupied by its immediate survival.
It was in this first period that the Xianbao emperor faced his first problems as the Son of Heaven. Having the responsibilities to keep his army content and bring peace and stability to the people of Beijing, the former rebel leader was nevertheless not the type to impose his will on others with the strength and vigor that was needed from a monarch, having established strong bonds of camaraderie with his men through decades of warfare. While this meant that he was unable to impose discipline on his men by himself, it also secured the role of men like his Grand Secretary Niu Jinxing, who would exert overall and near absolute administrative power through the first twenty years of life of the Shun Dynasty. 
Thanks to a stroke of good luck, the escape of the Chongzhen Emperor and the Ming Court to Nanjing in the late winter of 1644 left several properties and treasuries abandoned, given much needed resources to the Shun Dynasty in the harsh months of February and March of 1644. Keeping the army in line and the people fed was thus made somewhat easier as several properties belonging to die-hard Ming loyalists were sacked and its properties distributed amongst soldiers and citizens of Beijing.
Thus the situation was stabilized within the capital, as Ming troops were brought as new Shun soldiers and proper order could be established in Beijing. Peace and relative stability was thus brought to northern China under the Shun, giving the Xianbao emperor much needed room to breathe and consider his strategic situation. 
The Chongzhen Emperor and the Ming Court had relocated to Nanjing with the intent of continuing the war from there, thus directly threatening the Shun’s legitimacy and claim to the Mandate of Heaven .The scene was further complicated by the presence of warlord Zhang Zhongxian in Sichuan province, and the warring Manchu and Mongol states in Manchuria and Liaodong. The decision on which course of action to take thus divided the Shun Court in two short-lived factions through March of 1644: those who wished to immediately march upon Shandong and Nanjing to crush the Ming, and those who favored consolidation of the northern territories and a possible intervention in Liaodong to stabilize the northern frontier, for years threatened by Manchu and Mongol alike.
The discussion at the Shun Court had barely begun to reach potentially dangerous proportions when a message from General Yuan Chonghuan, commander of the northern frontier and the Kuang-ning Garrison, informed the court of a most surprising and auspicious visit: the Prince Dorgon of the Manchu had come to General Yuan Chonghuan and asked for assistance against the grand armies of the Lingdan Khan, who were at the time roaming through Liaodong and besieging the Jurchen capital of Shenyang.
Provided with a perfect excuse to interfere in the affairs of the Manchu, eliminate a potential threat to the Imperial Capital and end a debate that threatened the stability of his court, the Emperor took the decision to follow Yuan Chonghuan’s advise and send an expeditionary force to Shenyang, with the intention of asserting Shun influence and sovereignty over Liaodong, Manchuria and even Korea proper if that was possible.
The expedition, as planned and executed by the Commander of the Frontier Division himself, was lunched in the late days of the Spring of 1644, with 50,000 troops leaving Kuang-ning under the overall command of Yuan Chonghuan, who was in turn assisted by his Lieutenant, Mao Wenlong, and the Emperor’s trusted General, Li Gou, who were in command of the left and right wings of the army, respectively.
As the army marched through northern Liaodong, Yuan encountered the ravaged remains of a one rich province that had suffered from the privations of war and the rule of the Manchu and now welcomed the soldiers of the Shun Dynasty as liberators, or at least that was the versions that the official chronicles of the Dynasty would give to the world about the Admirable campaign against the Northern Barbarians. The scene at Shenyang was even sadder, as two weary and starving armies stood across each other in a stage that was most unworthy of the great warrior riders of the steppe: that of a long and prolonged siege.
After nearly three years, Shenyang still stood, and with it the battered yet still fighting armies of the Laimbu Khan and the Emperor of the Mongols, the Lingdan Khan. The situation at the battlefield was favorable for the Chinese army that arrived to the south of the main Mongol camp at the Hun River in the early summer of 1644, as the warriors from the steppe were less than ready to resist an attack by a force that was superior in terms of numbers, weaponry and morale. The first skirmish south of Shenyang was also the first occasion in which Yuan Chonghuan demonstrated the power of the Portuguese Cannon against the Mongols, dispersing the surprised and panicked enemy combatants and wreaking havoc upon their camp. 
On the following day, the Lingdan Camp ordered his army to gather north of Shenyang, allowing General Yuan to enter Shenyang along with Prince Dorgon as liberators.
The Battle that followed the next day began in the morning, as the two wings of the Shun Army split to outflank the Mongol army: Mao Wenlong attacking from the west as a hammer whereas Li Gou’s own army acted as an anvil that would crush the forces of the Lingdan Khan. Most notoriously, Mao Wenlong’s thrust included a use of combined arms as the Prince Dorgon’s allied Manchu Cavalry attacked in coordination with General Mao’s own veteran marines. While the battle plan resulted in the near annihilation of the Mongol vanguard, and the “barbarian red cannons” were once again used to great effect to decimate a Mongol charge more than once, General Li Gou was unable to contain the right flank of the Mongol Army and the Lingdan Khan was thus capable to overwhelm the Shun General and escape with his army. 
Even as he was able to retreat to his domain in the aftermath of the battle, nearly 10,000 Chahar warriors were lost to the Lingdan Khan that day, along with 20,000 allies who abandoned the Mongol Emperor and destroyed his chances of continuing the war in Manchurian soil.
The Second Act in Yuan Chonghuan’s Northern War would be devised to surpass his successes at Liaodong: an invasion of Mongolia proper in the late months of 1644.
1. All of this is IOTL, except that Wu Sangui was stationed at Ningyuan and thus unable to respond to Li Zicheng’s offer with enough expediency, so he was unable to join him; and the fact that Mao Wenlong and Yuan Chonghuan were already dead at this point IOTL;
2. Also IOTL, except that the suicide figures were higher IOTL, as ITTL the plan to evacuate the court to Nanjing is approved by a panicking court and Ming emperor, so less suicides and more escapes.
3. Many blame this flaw in Li Zicheng’s personality for the downfall of the Shun Dynasty, being unable to rein in his armies and letting his subordinates doing whatever they want IOTL, eventually sacking Beijing and losing the favor of the people; ITTL, he gets luckier, amongst other things, gets more competent Ming subordinates that add some equilibrium to the Shun Dynasty official corps.
4. Not an ideal solution, but these are the critical months that separate a successful dynasty from an abortive one.
5. IOTL, the plan to evacuate to Nanjing was not approved and the Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide in April of 1644; He of course wanted to escape, but for reasons of honor/politics/imperial dignity/lack of time he was unable; ITTL, there’s much earlier pressure and panic;
6. Yuan Chonghuan was renowned for using western tactics and weaponry, such as the Portuguese Cannon, which he famously deployed against Nurhaci in 1626, killing him at the battle of Nuanying. Mao Wenlong was also somewhat famous for his unorthodox tactics, not to mention his personality;
7. Li Gou is of course a bandit general, not an actual army officer like Yuan, Mao or Wu Sangui, and lest we forget that Li Zicheng lost many of his actual battles against actual military commanders in conditions to fight; of course, rebellions are not won by fighting fair fights against able commanders;
A Piece of Heaven
Yuan Chonghuan’s “Admirable Campaign”, as the Northern Campaign of 1644-1645 would be remembered in the Annals of the Shun Dynasty, began in earnest in the spring of 1645, when the bulk of the Shun army at Manchuria joined his camp at Inner Mongolia for the final drive against the Lingdan Khan’s forces. While the campaign itself only lasted for nine weeks and ended with a single military engagement near the Mongol Khan’s capital at Chagar, it is still remembered as part of the foundational myth of the Shun Dynasty and the pinnacle of Yuan Chonghuan’s long and distinguished military career.
Details regarding the battle of Chagar itself are scarce and contradictory: despite taking an army of nearly 80,000 soldiers, including Manchu, Mongolian and Korean allies, it is estimated that only a third of the Shun Army actually took part in the battle, the engagement itself only lasting for an hour yet allegedly resulting in the death of 10,000 Chahar warriors. But perhaps the most disputed fact lies behind the death of the Mongolian Khagan himself, as the Annals of the Shun Dynasty claim that he was wounded in battle whereas elsewhere it is said that he was betrayed and stabbed while in his camp before the engagement took place.
Whatever the truth, the triumph of the Chinese armies meant the end of the Mongolian Khanate and the northern Yuan Dynasty, which had once ruled China for a century before being driven north by the Ming in the 14th century.
The dying Lingdan Khan was carried from Chagan to the monastery of Erdenne Zuu, near the ruins of the ancient Mongol capital of Karakorum. Following the death of the last Khan of the Mongols, descendant of Genghis Khan and the Kublai Khan, the last ruler of the Mongolian Khaganate, Lingdan’s son Ejei, was forced to surrender to Yuan Chonghuan and give him the great Seal of the Yuan Emperor. 
With this simple act ended what some Shun historians have termed as the “Year of the Five Emperors”, which had started with the proclamation of the Shun Dynasty by the Xianbao Emperor in the New Year’s Day of 1644. The spring of 1645 would also see another claimant to the Mandate of Heaven surrender his titles and claim. 
On June of 1645, the Laimbu Khan, son of the Nurhaci Khan and emperor of the Later Jin Dynasty, was ousted by his brother the Prince Dorgon with the blessing of the Shun Court at Beijing. As Chieftain and King of the Jurchen, the Dorgon Khan abandoned the claim to the empire of the Jin Dynasty, which had ruled northern China in the 12th century before the times of the Yuan, and became a vassal of the Xianbao Emperor of the Shun.
The situation now left three sovereigns seeking the Dragon Throne and the Mandate of Heaven: the Xianbao Emperor of the Shun at Beijing, controlling the north; the exiled Chongzhen Emperor, who had taken the Ming Court to Nanjing in the South to continue the war against the Shun, and finally, the wild card of the conflict: warlord Zhang Xianzhong, who had taken control of Sichuan province and declared himself as Emperor of the Daxi State, with the name of Tianwang (Sage King).
As China disintegrated into an unstable patchwork of warlords serving conflicting interests, the Xianbao emperor at Beijing and the Chongzhen Emperor at Nanjing worked to secure their position and restore some order to the Mandate of Heaven.
Following the death of the Lingdan Khan, the emissaries of the Shun Court returned from the Gansu province in the far west with auspicious news: General Tian Xiong, commander of the garrison at Lanzhou, accepted the offer made by Beijing and entered the services of the Xianbao Emperor. With Tian Xiong, the entire northwestern frontier became a domain of the Shun Dynasty. 
The drive southwards, on the other hand, had already begun in the summer of 1644, when Ming General Liu Zeqing, in direct disobedience the orders of the Chongzhen Emperor, abandoned Shandong for the southern province of Fengyang. As the Ming General moved southwards in the search of riches, Shun General Liu Zongmin took advantage of the chaos left by the fall of Beijing and the escape of the Ming Court to march upon the now abandoned Shandong and establish Shun rule in the province.
The gentry of Shandong were quick to realize the reality of their situation and swore loyalty to the Shun regime en masse, just as the peasants and the opponents of the Ming greeted Liu and his men as liberators. Unfortunately for the ambitious Liu Zongming the march of the Shun army was not entirely free of complications; pockets of Ming resistance rose due to the instigation of the Ming court at Nanjing as soon as the regime’s armies set foot on Shandong. Most prominent was the resistance of Dezhou, a junction of the Grand Canal and the Imperial Post road on the Shandong-Beizhili border, where a relatively small Ming force tied down Liu Zongmin’s army of 10,000 men for nearly 15 months. 
In the meantime, the Ming Court at Nanjing moved as swiftly as possible under the guidance of Minister of War, Shi Kefa, who undertook a series of negotiations with the several former Ming Generals turned warlords in Southern China and persuaded them to accept the Chongzhen emperor as the legitimate occupant of the Dragon Throne, painting a continued Ming dynasty as preferable to trying their luck with the likes of the Xianbao Emperor and the new Shun Regime. 
As Shi Kefa tried to maintain the rule of the Ming over the southern warlords, the Shun Court faced a similar situation in the north, being forced to turn their eyes to their neighbors, the Manchu, the Mongols and the Koreans, who had fought alongside the Shun against the Lingdan Khan and were now forced to recognize the Suzerainty of the Shun Emperor.
As a result of Yuan Chonghuan’s campaign in Manchuria, Liaodong province returned to China, with General Yuan as Military Governor, with the exception of two cities: the fortress of Dandong, which was recognized as under the rule of the Sohyeon King of Korea, who in turn accepted vassalage to the Shun regime; and Hetu Ala, which was declared as the new capital of the Jurchen Kingdom under the Dorgon Khan.
The situation of the Mongol allies was left somewhat ambiguous during the early years of the Shun regime, as no central rule existed following the death of the Lingdan Khan. The princes of the old Tumens and tribes, both right and left, accepted the Suzerainty of the Chinese Emperor of the Dragon Throne, but it wasn’t until 1558 than their situation would be finally determined, when Yuan Chonghuan, acting as Minister of War, took the Mongol and Jurchen tribes and established them within a new Forty Nine Banners system.
The Forty Nine Banner system organized the Mongols and Manchu along tribal lines into Forty Nine administrative bodies and military units, divided into four Hosts, each commanded by a Mongol or Manchu Prince loyal to the Dragon Throne and the Shun Ministry of War. Within the new System, the former Khalka, Chahar and Uriankhai Tumens would form the Twenty Five Banners of the Left Host of the Mongol Guard, whereas the Ordos, Tumed and Yongshiyebu Tumen would form the Five Banners of the Right Host of the Mongol Guard. The remaining Nineteen Banners, divided into the Left and Right Host of the Jurchen Guard, would be organized taking the divisions of the Jurchen Clans in mind, respecting the former Haxi, Jianzhou, Hurka and Warka tribes, amongst others. 
The Forty Nine Banner System and its four Great Hosts would form the backbone of the Shun Dynasty’s northern frontier and defense for most of its existence, providing the regime with a strong, centralized and efficient system that would maintain the northern border pacified and a strong military reserve available for the many military campaigns of Shun China.
It is now the winter of 1645 and the Huai River is once again the border of China.
The war for the Mandate of Heaven continues.
1. IOTL, the Lingdan Khan found a similar fate as he was unable to unify Mongolia and most Mongol Clans preferred to join the rising Qing in Manchuria; ITTL, Lingdan Khan is unable to escape to Qinghai province though, so he meets his end at Mongolia rather than Gansu; His son Ejei was forced to surrender the Great Seal of the Yuan under similar circumstances IOTL;
2. “The Year of the Five Emperors” is mostly an historical construct, as neither Lingdan Khan or the Laimbu Khan, or Zhang Xianzhong, for that matter, could realistically hope to obtain the Mandate of Heaven, so their importance in 1645 is only highlighted in benefit of Li Zicheng by later Shun historians;
3. The circumstances behind Zhang Xianzhong’s rule are slightly different IOTL, and amongst other changes, he chooses a different names; more on this later;
4. IOTL, Tian Xiong surrendered to the Qing after the fall of Nanjing; presented with the options of fighting to the death in the name of the Ming or taking a bribe and serving Li Zicheng, it’s most likely that he’d take the bribe and keep quiet; technically, Gansu is part of Shaanxi, but is far enough to not have been taken by Li Zicheng earlier on, when the province fell to him;
5. IOTL, the gentry and the peasantry also was quick to welcome Li Zicheng’s men, but were disenchanted when the reign of terror began, which included tortures, political assassinations, extortion and taking the land of the gentry to give it to the peasantry; ITTL, the invasion is faster and has to deal with military issues sooner, not to mention than Li Zicheng has more time to let his more level headed advisors take the important decisions, such as not torturing every rich man in a determined province;
6. Minister of War Shi Kefa had a similarly pivotal role within the Southern Ming Dynasty IOTL; more on this on future chapters;
7. Partially based on the Manchu Eight Banner System and the old Mongol Tumen Division; ITTL, the Forty Nine Banner System is designed to keep the northerners well organized, but divided.
Kofu-Fukuchiyama and the World
Here, There and Everywhere
Contact between the Empire of Japan and Europe first started in 1543, when a Portuguese Ship, blown off its course to China, landed on Tanegashima Island. This first encounter, despite its historical significance, was far from grandiose or celebrated by the Japanese, who were less than impressed with the crude manners and lack of hygiene of the Portuguese. On the Annals of the Empire, the following description appears:
"They eat with their fingers instead of with chopsticks such as we use. They show their feelings without any self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters"
But in spite of this rather inauspicious and banal first contact between two civilizations, relations between Japan and the West thrived over the course of the 16th century, as Portuguese and later Dutch and Spanish merchants came to Japan and brought knowledge and technology: the harquebus, European-style cuirasses, European ships, decorative art, language (integration to Japanese of a Western vocabulary) and even the culinary world was benefited, with the introduction of the tempura and above all the valuable refined sugar, creating nanban-gashi or "Wagashi with a new wind", with confectioneries like castella, kompeito, aruheitō, karumera, keiran sōmen, bōro and bisukauto. 
Trade with the Portuguese not only opened Japan to the Western world, but also to China and its rich markets and products, which had been banned to Japan as punishment for Wako pirate raids launched from Japanese ports. As a result, both sides benefited from the arrangement and trade between Europe and Japan thrived.
The end of the warring states period in the 1580s and the unification of Japan under the Takeda Clan and a new Shogunate meant a radical change in the nature of the Japanese-European relationship. While Takeda Katsuyori was indifferent to Europe and chose to neither facilitate nor prevent contact and trade with the west, his lack of an official position on the matter of foreign relations allowed for enough room so as to let other daimyo pursue their own foreign policies.
The most notable case is that of Date Masamune, lord of Sendai and ruler of much of Mutsu province in the north, who had in 1609 came into contact with Franciscan friar Luis Sotelo and from then on became Christianity’s most prominent patron in northern Japan. It was Sotelo’s influence and Masamune’s ambition what drove the famous Keicho Embassy project: an embassy of 180 people to the pope in the name of Date Masamune, led by Luis Sotelo and the Date retainer, Hasekura Tsunenaga.
For the expedition, Masamune employed 800 shipwrights, 700 smiths, and 3000 carpenters provided by the Sendai domain and the Shogunate in 45 days to build Japan's first Japanese-built Western-style sail warship: the Date Maru, most famously known as the San Juan Bautista. Upon completion, the ship left in September 13th of 1612 for Acapulco Mexico, with a crew of 10 samurai provided by the Shogunate, 20 samurai from Sendai, 120 Japanese merchants, sailors, and servants, and around 40 Spaniards and Portuguese. 
Rather than following the footsteps of the Tensho Embassy of 1582 , the Keicho expedition set sail to the west, arriving in Acapulco on December of 1612, where it would remain for a year before returning to Japan, while Hasekura Tsunenaga and Luis Sotelo continued to Europe. The Embassy itself arrived in Mexico City on March of 1612 and continued to Veracruz to board the fleet to Europe. The Mexican chapter of the expedition was nevertheless not without incidents, as the Spaniards and Japanese found themselves frequently at odds over issues such as the presents to be given to the Spanish monarch amongst other issues. The presence of the Embassy in Mexico is also significant as it first established trade relations between the two nations, a relation that would be the pillar of all Hispano-Japanese trade for the following three centuries.
In Spain proper, Hasekura Tsunenaga would be greeted with pomp and splendor by the Catholic Monarchy, and would even met with King Philip III of Spain and establish the first formal relations between Spain and Japan (or more accurately, the Sendai Domain), even if formal relations between Spain and the Shogunate proper wouldn’t be actually made official until the signing of the treaty of Madrid in 1692. Most significantly, Hasekura would be baptized during the eight month stay of the embassy in Japan, along with the rest of the emissaries that had not been prior baptized in Mexico. The official records recognized Hasekura as Philip Francis Faxicura, Ambassador to the Pope, from Date Masamunni, King of Woxu in Japan.
Finally, the Japanese Embassy would arrive in Rome in late 1614, where Hasekura remitted to the Pope Paul V two gilded letters, one in Japanese and one in Latin, containing a request for a trade treaty between Japan and Mexico and the dispatch of Christian missionaries to Japan. Being recognized as the Emissary of King Date of Woxu and an honorary citizen of Rome, “Francisco Felipe Faxicura” and his Embassy had a resonating effect in Europe, attracting the attention of the European prominenti wherever they went. The success of the Embassy would even exceed the expectations of Sotelo and Masamune, as the Pope agreed to send more missionaries to Japan and establish a diocese at Sendai, whereas the King of Spain agreed to establish proper trade relations with the Sendai Domain, as proposed by the Date retainer and supported by Sotelo and the Pope. 
The diplomatic successes of the Embassy, coupled with the sensation made on the populace in Mexico, Rome, Spain and Southern France, would be the seeds of long and prosper cultural and economic relations and become the basis of later treaties and agreements made between the courts of Japan and the courts of Europe, not to mention the source of much anger and paranoia from the anti-western elements and factions in Japan, who saw the nature of the Keicho Embassy and its submission to Papal and European interests as a vanguard for further European intervention. 
The Tensho Embassy of 1582, launched just before the Unification Wars came to Kyushu and the Otomo Domain, and the Keicho Embassy of 1612, which came decades after peace had returned to Japan, would serve as precedent for a third formal embassy, the Genna Embassy launched in 1616 by the Satsuma Domain under the auspices of daimyo Shimazu Iehiza.
Made rich and powerful thanks to trade with the Dutch and the Portuguese, Shimazu Iehiza was interested in increasing both his power and his stance within the Shogunate, which was why he was prompted to conquer the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1612 and launch the Genna Embassy in early 1616, in which he sent his trusted retainer Hongo Hidetora and his son Shimazu Tsugutoyo along with English navigator William Adams on board of the Shimazu Maru or “Liefde”, a western-style sailing ship built under Adams’ guide. 
Visiting Macau, Kochi and Goa, much like the more religiously-minded Tensho Embassy, the Genna Embassy finally arrived at Lisbon in late 1616 and spent two months before parting to London and Amsterdam, with the hopes of establishing commercial relations with the two nations.
After nearly 16 years in Japan, William Adams finally returned to England. At London, Adams obtained permission to set two trading factories at Kagoshima and Osaka on behalf of the British East India Trading Company, being put in charge of the factory at Kagoshima. The Dutch envoys sent on the mission would on their own reach good agreements on their own with Maurice of Nassau.
The return of the Keicho Embassy in 1619 and the Genna Embassy in 1620, which resulted in the establishment of formal relations between the Lords of Sendai and Satsuma with the courts of Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam and London as well as the establishment of the Diocese of Sendai and trading factories at Osaka, Kagoshima and Nagasaki, would stir a great controversy within the court of the Takeda Shogun, Nobukatsu. While the Shogun refused to interfere or dictate a foreign policy, he could not allow his nominally allied and vassal daimyos to have an foreign policy independent of that of the Shogunate, and thus in 1621 he recognized the results of the Keicho and Genna Embassies but limited its effects by establishing the Six Great Gateways as the only ports made available for foreign trade or contact.
The system, aimed at limiting the power of the Daimyo that were supposed to be direct vassals of the Shogunate, in fact served to concentrate and consolidate all trade and economic power in the hands of those who held the six ports (the Shimazu, the Date, the Mori, the Nabeshima and the Omura) while the Takeda Domain proper would be isolated from international commerce and influence for the better part of the 17th century.
1. So far, what happened IOTL;
2. The Keicho Embassy happened IOTL as well, just the circumstances are different; granted, it’s just as likely that Luis Sotelo could have gone south or stayed in the Philippines ITTL, but the Keicho Embassy is such an interesting project to butterfly away; bear with me on this one;
3. The Tensho Embassy is launched as IOTL as a cooperative project between the Christian Daimyo Otomo Sorin, Omura Sumitada and Arima Harunobu, prompted by Jesuit Alessandro Valignano; It was also sent to Rome to meet the Pope, although they first reached Lisbon through Macau, Kochi and Goa;
4. IOTL King Philip refused because Hasekura did not represent the central government, and because the Tokugawa was just beginning to expel the Christians and the European missionaries; ITTL, with a more friendly or neutral government not persecuting them, the King of Spain can be persuaded to sign the treaty and open Spain to the Japanese markets; or at least that’s my logic;
5. To be fair, the letter to the Pope did start with:
“Kissing the Holy feet of the Great, Universal, Most Holy Lord of The Entire World, Pope Paul, in profound submission and reverence, I, Idate Masamune, King of Wôshû in the Empire of Japan, suppliantly say”
6. Amongst other things, William Adams was the first Britton to set foot in Japan (1600), served under Sir Francis Drake against the Invincible Armada, IOTL became the First actual White Samurai, served the Tokugawa, built the first western-style ships in Japan, including the San Buena Ventura; he also took part in the negotiations that led to the establishment of the Dutch in Japan and the first English trading factory in Japan and was an influential figure in south east Asian trade until his death in 1623; More on him in later chapters, but ITTL, he has mostly served the Shimazu in Kyushu;
The Red Seal Company
As international commerce gained an ever increasing importance in East Asia during the latter half of the 16th and the first half of the 17th century, the balance of power in the region shifted exponentially, as did the nature of trade relations in the region.
Attempts to regulate trade, based on vague concerns regarding the growing influence of the Southern Barbarians within the empire would result in the implementation of several measures, most famously the Red Seal Permit system, first used by the shogun Katsuyori in 1593 and formally established by his successor, Katsuchiyo, in 1598, when the shogun issued eleven red-sealed permits to his favorite daimyo and merchants that allowed them to engage in foreign trade with the sanction of the government. The Red Seal permit not only allowed those who held it to trade overseas, but also served as a guarantee of protection for the ships, as the Shogun vowed to pursue any pirate or nation that violated it. 
The Red Seal System, while theoretically created as a means to better control and regulate the merchants, as well as reducing piracy in the South Sea, also had the unexpected side effect of creating a trade monopoly in Japan, with the most prominent Japanese trading families quickly seizing the opportunity that the new system presented them and forming small guilds and rackets that would with time come to absorb the European and Chinese residents who had been given the Red Seal permits. 
Red Seal ships were built at various places, generally shipyards at Nagasaki, Osaka and Kagoshima, although at the beginning many were Chinese Junks or European ships purchased by the big trading families. Those built in Japan usually combined Japanese, Chinese and European design, and even on some occasion were partially inspired by Korean turtle ships captured during the Korean War, resulting in the first armored ships used for commerce in the 1640s and 1650s. While the Red Seal Ships usually ranged in size between 500 and 750 tons, a size equal or superior to European galleons, but inferior to that of the massive Portuguese carracks, which were often over 1,000 tons, some ships especially built by the Sueyoshi and Araki family could rival the carracks in size. 
Between 1598 and 1620, 350 ships are recorded to have sailed in the Southern Seas using the Red Seal Permits, a number that would grow exponentially in the subsequent twenty years, the main destinations being the major Southeast Asian ports of Manila, in the Spanish Philippines, Vietnamese Hoi an, Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, Portuguese Macau and Malay Pattani, as well as the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which welcomed the Japanese merchants, many Japanese in turn settling in these ports, forming small Japanese enclaves.
The activities of the Red Seal Ship in this first stage of its existence also contributed greatly to the creation of amicable relations between the Government of Japan and those of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and Dai Vet, the Takeda Shogun and the high-ranking daimyos often exchanging letters, gifts and embassies with the Siamese King and the Nguyen Lord of the Great Viet. The prosper relations between Japan and the powers of the South Seas also bore unexpected fruits, such as the birth of a profitable market in which Japanese samurai and pirates could act as mercenaries for the Dutch East India Company or the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, many of them forming the core of the Japanese enclaves at Da Nang and Ayutthaya that would reach the thousands by the mid-17th century. 
By the 1610s, the rich and powerful Japanese trading families such as the Araki, Sueyoshi, Suminokura, Goto and Chaya had created an economic hegemony over Japanese trade that was further tightened in 1621, when an edict by Takeda Katsuchiyo limited all commerce to the Six Ports of Nagasaki, Osaka, Sendai, Kagoshima, Hiroshima and Hakata, where the factories and shipyards belonging to the families operated and could easily control all aspects of commerce. Only the political and economic power of the Daimyo in charge of the ports, and still in possession of Red Seal permits themselves, and the presence of independent adventurers such as Jan Joosten or Murayama Toan stood in the way of the monopoly that would later become the Red Seal Company. 
The Red Seal Company, as first established in November of 1620, was far from the infamous reputation it would gain in the latter half of the 17th century, starting as a loose association of rich merchants seeking to put all Japanese trade in the hands of a few powerful families, that is their own hands and nobody else’s. Throughout the decade of the 1620s the RSC worked to create a monopoly over trade, concentrating the power of the powerful Japanese merchant class in a single powerful body that could act with collective power over the competition, not only by pooling their resources, but by effectively strong arming their way into complete control of the Japanese markets. At the Six ports, the RSC would between the 1620s and 1640s create protection rackets and come to control all the import houses, assuring that by the end of the decade every trader in Japan would work for the RSC in one way or the other.
The protection racket, as extended to the Import Houses in the Six Ports and the Ships of the Company and its “associates”, while extending the power of the Company to virtually all levels of trade within the Empire, also meant that the RSC had to show some teeth, and to that effect a militarization process was put into effect through the late 1620s. Samurai, Ronin and former pirates were employed by the Company, along with the usual Portuguese Pilots and mercenaries, effectively creating a small private army at the service of the RSC; European artillery and arquebuses were also purchased en masse, along with leftover Korean weaponry from Japanese Chosen; furthermore, three Portuguese style carracks and several galleons, were built between 1629 and 1632 for the sole purpose of serving as warships in service to the company.
By the mid-1630s, the Red Seal Company possessed a fleet of over 300 ships, half of them armored to the teeth and employing permanent guards, while maintaining permanent Japanese residents and factories at Batavia, Ayutthaya, Malacca, Macao, Ambon and Makassar in the Spice and Banda Islands, Da Nang and even Taiwan. The company continued to export Silver, Copper, Diamonds, Swords and other artifacts, in many cases luxury items, while also expanding to partake in the export of mercenaries and weaponry, the Japanese factories providing firearms for the Trinh-Nguyen war of the 1620s and Ayutthaya’s wars for a generation.
The final contributing factor to the rise of the RSC in the mid-17th century lies within the geopolitical dimension of the South Seas trade, an aspect that gains the most importance when one sees the existence of the Red Seal company in the context of the Dutch-Portuguese Commercial rivalry in the pacific. The inception of the Dutch East India Company in the early years of the 17th century and their establishment in the East Indies and Japan contributed to form an East Asian theater for the wider and more far-reaching Dutch Portuguese wars of the 17th century. The war, aimed at tearing the Portuguese Empire asunder to reap the fruits of the decaying Portuguese tree, first saw the involvement of the Company in 1632, when ten Red Seal Warships participated in the intermittent siege of Portuguese Goa in India, and several naval operations against the Portuguese in the South Sea.
The opportunistic entry of the RSC on behalf of the Dutch was not without consequence, nevertheless: the war sees the first clash between Company interests and those of rival daimyo with alliances with the Portuguese, chiefly the Date Clan of Sendai, which holds a monopoly over all trade between Spain and Japan, and the Nabeshima Clan in Kyushu, which would in 1635 contribute to the defense of the Portuguese settlement of Decima in Nagasaki, the first major defeat of the RSC in its history. Following the debacle at Decima and the death of Chaya Shirojiro Kiyotsugu, one of the most fervent proponents of the Dutch alliance within the Company, the RSC began disengaging itself from the main theater of operations. From then on, the RSC would only participate as auxiliaries to the Dutch at the Malacca campaign of 1640, but ultimately with the intent of taking an independent approach that could avoid the creation of a Dutch monopoly to replace the previous Portuguese hegemony. With that intent in mind, Company Chairman Suminokura Soan undertook a policy of prompting up the strongest or the weakest side of the conflict in order to maintain the balance of power, and avoid further antagonizing the daimyo of Kyushu and Sendai.
The short lived intervention in the Dutch-Portuguese war ends with Red Seal Ships in auxiliary roles during the Dutch conquests of Malacca and the Spice Islands, while Suminokura Soan seeks to protect the Portuguese presence in China, Nagasaki and Dai Viet to preserve the balance of power in the region. The war otherwise ends with a Portuguese victory in the Americas and a Dutch hegemony over the East Indies, the situation being more contemptuous in India, but for the Red Seal Company the war meant an opportunity to grow and find a way to the center of the stage. 
By 1647, the Company had built enough power and prestige so as to undertake a bold diplomatic endeavor on its own devices. The spring of 1649 sees ten ships led by a Chinese-style war-Junk enter Nanking in the name of Suminokura Soan and Yodoya Saburoemon. The mission, later labeled as the Keian Embassy, had sailed to Nanking with the purpose of establishing trade and diplomatic relations between the Southern Ming Court, exiled to Nanking by the Shun regime in the north, and Japan. 
The Shoho Embassy of 1647 was despite all the pomp and circumstance with which it was undertaken, or the historical significance it has often been attributed to it, little more than an opportunistic swindle, some would even say extortion, that took advantage of the desperate situation that the Ming court of the Yongguang Emperor. Minister Shi Kefa, the de factor ruler of the Ming court, was faced with an usurper northern dynasty in the north, disaffected warlords through the south and an economy reaching the breaking point by 1647. The more fortunate situation of the Red Seal Company as a rising economic power in the South Seas thus created for an unbalanced situation for the first time in the history of China, also the last as far as the Ming were concerned, and thus allowed for what was perhaps the Company’s greatest diplomatic and commercial coup.
The Shoho embassy also serves as a turning point for both the Red Seal Ship Company and Ming China, from which one would rise to its zenith and the other spiral down to its ultimate downfall.
1. This was more or less the base of the IOTL Red Seal Permits, allegedly established by Toyotomi Hideyoshi but mostly used by Tokugawa Ieyasu before the Shogunate decided to ban any Japanese from going overseas in the 1630s, when the Shogunate reached its most xenophobic and anti-Catholic phase;
2. IOTL as ITTL, Chinese and European residents are also given Red Seal Permits; Amongst those who got Red Seal permits IOTL were 11 European and 11 Chinese residents, the Araki, Suminokura, Goto, Chaya Shirojiro, Imai and Yodoya trading families, as well as European adventurers such as William Adams or Jan Joosten, or even European adventurers such as Yamada Nagamasa;
3. Nothing as big as a Carrack was built IOTL, although the rest is mostly as in RL;
4. Japanese residents and enclaves existed IOTL as well, most prominently the Japanese colony at Ayutthaya and the Enclave at Manila, Dilau; Relations with the Dai Viet and Ayutthaya were also extremely cordial IOTL at this point;
5. The Red Seal Company exists ITTL as well as in my TL The Dragon Rises High as a Japanese counterpart to the European East India Companies, although without the colonization efforts, as a development from the IOTL Red Seal Ships; I use the RSC ITTL because the realm of the Mountain is supposed to be an improved and expanded version of the Dragon Rises High, with the glitches and major errors gone;
6. The war ends with mostly the same results as IOTL, except for the fact that Decima remains Portuguese rather than become Dutch; even the presence of Japanese auxiliaries in Malacca is not particularly helpful, and Malacca falls just a few months earlier than IOTL;
7. As explained in the last chapter, Ming China prohibited trade with Japan as punishment for the Wako Pirate raids; now the RSC is taking advantage of the poor Ming situation to extort some trade out of them, cutting out the middle man, Portugal.
The House of Wisdom
Nabeshima Katsushige was, as his father before him, a very pragmatic man who knew himself to be in the possession of great resources while positioned in the midst of a complex game of economic and political power, all by his control of the Third Great Gateway to the West, the port of Nagasaki, where the Portuguese controlled the island of Decima and the Jesuits had their strongest foothold in all of the Empire of the Sun. Also like his father, the current lord of Hizen knew that to have an edge over his rivals, the Otomo in the East and the Shimazu in the South of Kyushu, he’d have to make the most with the resources he had at hand, namely the economic revenue of Nagasaki and the presence of the Portuguese in the city.
The effort to keep abreast with Western Science and technology, while nominally motivated by a need to keep an edge over rival daimyos in military and technological affairs, was also motivated by a growing curiosity amongst the Japanese ruling classes, where a market for Western products, curiosities and nick-knacks driven by a trend that by the middle of the 17th century had turned into an obsession with everything European, a mix of fondness for the exotic and intellectual curiosity that was especially prevalent in big cities and ports such as Osaka, Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Kagoshima, to the point in which some Daimyo would go as far as to include western “advisors” or “councilors” in their provincial courts. Such was the case of the Englishman William Adams in the Shimazu Court at Kagoshima, and that of Jesuit Father Gonzalo Garcia at Nagasaki, who is often considered as the father of the ‘Nangaku’ or ‘Southern Studies’ movement in Japan. 
The ‘Nangaku’, sometimes called Nanbangaku (Southern Barbarian Studies) or Seigaku (Western Learning) describes the body of knowledge developed by Japan through its contacts with the Western world, namely the European nations, most notably centered around medicine and western technology in the times of the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. 
At Nagasaki, in 1636 and under the auspices of Father Gonzalo Garcia and the Society of Jesus the first Nangaku “School” was opened, in its early years dedicated to theological and philosophical studies, prompting many to see it as simply another tool for further Catholic evangelization. The introduction and teachings of the works of Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo in this period and in a minor scale those of Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, contributed to turning Nagasaki into the forefront of the debate between Eastern and Western Knowledge, giving the port a reputation of being a center for intellectual studies and not only a simple port open to foreign commerce.
While certainly more philosophically inclined than later initiatives, the Nagasaki Nangaku would also see the study of other fields of knowledge, including Geography, through the works of Matteo Ricci and continually updated information from the Dutch and the Portuguese, and Astronomy, whose studies benefited from the introduction of the first telescopes in 1632, presented by Jesuits and later Franciscan Friars to Nabeshima Katsushige. 
The rise of the Southern Studies movement in Nagasaki was not without consequences elsewhere, and the first to react to the works of the Portuguese and the Jesuits were the lords of Satsuma. At Kagoshima, the feudal authorities cooperated with the Dutch and English trading factories in creating a shipyard in which Western, Japanese and Chinese shipbuilding techniques could be combined, applied and taught. Navigation and geography studies were also commonplace in the immediate years before the birth of the Nangaku, which in Kagoshima was known as Rangaku, “Dutch Studies.”
At Kagoshima, in 1640, the Dutch Studies movement was started as a counter to the Portuguese-driven Nangaku at Nagasaki, thanks to the efforts of the Chief of the Kagoshima Factory, Willem Verstegen and the Shimazu Lord, Tadatsune. 
Unlike the most theologically inclined school at Nagasaki, renowned for its translation of western philosophical and religious texts to Japanese and its intellectual studies, the Rangaku School at Kagoshima started as a more practical endeavor, where first knowledge of navigation, shipbuilding, geography and mechanics could be taught to the locals. It wasn’t until later that the most famous developments of the Rangaku, its contributions to the medical and scientific knowledge of Japan, would take place, and almost always unintentionally at first.
The establishment of a permanent resident surgeon at Kagoshima was one of the factors to influence this evolution, as high ranking Japanese officials and rich merchants started to ask for treatment in cases where local doctors were of no help. The influence of the German doctor Caspar Schamberger in that regard, who induced a continuing interest in medical books, pharmaceuticals and treatment methods would contribute to the popularity and acceptance of western medicine in Kyushu while also creating a trend in which wealthy amateurs at Nagasaki, Osaka and Kagoshima would buy European medicine books and scientific instruments as exotic curiosities and souvenirs, many of which would form the seeds of the Nangaku medical knowledge. 
Throughout the late 1640s and 1650s, the number of scholars and translators dedicated to finding, translating, interpreting and keeping the knowledge obtained through western books would grow exponentially. By 1660, the three biggest libraries of western knowledge in Japan, each a compendium of European scientific, medical, religious, geographic and philosophical knowledge, would be built and guarded by the courts at Nagasaki, Kagoshima and Kyoto. 
The era also saw the introduction of a great variety of European and American products ranging from Coffee, Chocolate, Venetian Glass and Tempura to European weaponry, Ship-building techniques and Catholicism that had diverse effects depending on the previous isolation or the interest of the ruling classes and sovereigns, determining fates such as the success of Coffee and Murano Glass in Nagasaki and the failure of Coca and Chocolate in Joseon Korea, where it was first shunned for decades by the conservative Confucian factions in the Pyongyang court. The political and cultural idiosyncrasies of the different Asian markets also allowed for several developments that paved the way for Japanese interests to take a leading role in the Commercial dynamics of the region. 
Beyond the wild successes of mechanical clocks and Chocolate in many homes of Kyushu and Kyoto, or the building of small palaces and churches with expensive and imported Murano Glass, the continued influx of knowledge and products from the outside world also contributed to other developments, namely the rise of alchemy in the mid-17th to early 18th centuries, and a small scale scientific revolution through the western provinces of the Empire at that time.
Whereas the Nanban Trade and the Nangaku movement had enjoyed a great deal of influence in the evolution of the arts, literature, gastronomy and warfare, a less known side effect was the introduction of western texts dealing with the search of wisdom and knowledge, imported from Arabia, India and Europe through the Portuguese and the Dutch. The ancient Japanese practices of the Onmyodo, an esoteric cosmology and mixture of natural science and occultism gained a new measure of interest and popularity in the 1660s thanks to the introduction of Arabian and Indian texts dealing with Alchemy, as studied within the context of Medieval Islam, and traditional Indian Ayurveda (Herbal medicine) and Rasayana (Indian alchemy and chemistry). 
The studies of Alchemy in Japan took different turns, as some interpreted the search for Immortality or the Philosopher’s Stone to be symbolic representations of deeper philosophical queries, and others, influenced by the introduction of Indian metallurgy and Islamic chemistry through imported texts, engaged in diverse experiments through the 17th century. Notable cases include the experiments of Ikeda Mitsumasa , inspired by those of the Islamic chemist Al-Razi, on the transmutation of metals and duplicating his experiments which disproved Aristotle’s theories of the Five Elements. His page and successor, Kumazawa Banzan, would work inspired by Indian and European metallurgy, having seen the works of the Firearms factories and foundries at Kyoto and Nagasaki, and would be inspired by Indian texts to try to rediscover Wootz Steel and later Damascus Steel under the patronage of the Yamagata Clan , and would according to historical records spend 30 years of his life in the manufacture of better steels until his workshop was destroyed in a fire in 1689. Whether he had been more successful that his European peers in the search of the formula to make Wootz or Damascus steel is arguable, but his years of research would yield many improvements and techniques later applied at the steelworks in Kyoto and Kofu.
The evolution of the Nangaku movement was not without controversies, and it certainly played a role in the rise of the anti-western and anti-Christian groups within the Empire calling for the expulsion of the invading barbarians, but also established a permanent link between Eastern and Western knowledge
Upon his deathbed, Nabeshima Katsushige allegedly called his sons Ietane and Mitsushige and asked them “Where is the House of Wisdom?”
The meaning of these last words has been the subject of much historical conjecture, and even what exact words were used as well. Some theorize that his dying words meant to be a warning so that his successors would not let the Nangaku teachings be lost or misused, while others see in this question the concerns of an institution that has lost its meaning and purpose and by the end of his life was used as a tool of Jesuit evangelization and weapons manufacturing.
Whatever the truth behind the last words of Nabeshima Katsushige, death found him in the spring of 1658, during the first golden age of the Nangaku movement in Nagasaki, at the presence of his sons, retainers and even several scholars from the Nangaku who came to honor him.
The Annals of the Nabeshima Clan hold that Katsushige’s funeral was attended by Father Garcia and other members of the Diocese and the Nangaku School. Other sources deny any Jesuit presence.
1. This happened IOTL in the late 16th and early 17th century, when the craze for exotic European objects was in full swing;
2. Gonsalo Garcia was a Jesuit missionary IOTL as well, crucified in 1597 along with the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan; ITTL, with less religious persecution, he rises to some prominence in Nagasaki and winds up as a key figure in the Portuguese and Jesuits developments in the city, and by extension, a person of interest for the ruling Nabeshima Clan of Hizen.
3. This is the ITTL analogue to “Rangaku” or “Dutch/Western Studies/Knowledge”; IOTL it started in 1640 as an independent endeavor after the Tokugawa Shogunate forbade contact with the Europeans outside of the Dutch outpost at Dejima, also forbidding travelling, the presence of Europeans in Japan and foreign books; ITTL it’s more of a purpose-driven enterprise, the purpose being for the lord of Hizen to get the edge on the other daimyo and establish closer relations with the Portuguese, to counter the growing Dutch-Satsuma Rapport;
4. The IOTL Rangaku was rather limited in the 17th century, and it wasn’t until the 18th century that Japanese scholars could get access to greater amounts of information on medicine, physics, chemistry and other sciences; The Nagasaki “school” being more or less managed by the Jesuits and the Portuguese, it’s not surprising that it would also serve as a means to spread Catholic dogma and theological themes; There is a stark contrast between the theoretically-minded Nagasaki Nangaku and the more practical Dutch Rangaku in Kagoshima, directed by the more economically-concerned Dutch East India Company;
5. Verstegen is a IOTL figure and Dutch trader for the East India Company in Japan;
6. Caspar Schamberger is also a IOTL figure, the first western surgeon in Japan, working at Dejima IOTL, but in Kagoshima, where the Dutch factory is ITTL; He plays a similar role IOTL; the issue of wealthy amateurs and dilettantes buying medical books and instruments as exotic oddities happened IOTL as well, and played a similar role in the study of western medicine during the Edo Period Japan;
7. Libraries that wouldn’t have existed IOTL due to the Tokugawa edict of 1640 banning foreign books;
8. Coffee and Chocolate are introduced through Spain, New Spain and the Philippines, while Murano Glass is first introduced ITTL by the Dutch and Portuguese and only becomes important due to the particular interests of some wealthy daimyo and merchants who find it pretty;
9. The introduction of Alchemy and other such practices coming from India, the Middle East and Europe is a mostly ITTL development, due to the more widespread contact with the “west.” Islamic and Indian chemistry, along with Ayurveda and Rasayana might have some impacts in technical or medical developments, taking whatever is useful from each one, if there’s anything that can be taken, and then applying it to something else in a process of duplication and resynthesis;
10.17th century Confucian scholar and daimyo who ITTL finds a different path, which amongst other things leads to the Ikeda Clan to abandon Tottori province for something close to northern Kyushu, at the other end of the Mori domains, where Mitsumasa can come into contact with more western texts;
11. Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, Persian physician, alchemist and chemist, philosopher, and scholar who lived between 865 and 925, one of the great figures of Persian science;
12. Ikeda Mitsumasa’s page and protégé as IOTL; he follows his teacher’s path; the son of a Ronin born in Kyoto who met Mitsumasa at the Imperial Capital, they meet ITTL under different circumstances; contrived, I know, but not completely impossible;
13. As Mitsumasa and Banzan met in Kyoto, Banzan’s workshop is at Kyoto, Imperial capital and residence of the Yamagata ITTL; Wootz Steel and Damascus Steel are famous for their strength, quality and because nobody knows how to manufacture them, as the techniques were lost to the world between the 16th and 18th centuries;
Word of God, Word of Buddha
Religious controversy has always been part of the everyday life of the Japanese nation, and this was especially true during the times of great tribulation where peasant rebellions, armies of warrior monks and wars of religion were as common as the wars between daimyo or the conflicts between the central, provincial and foreign governments. As the never-ending crisis that was the Sengoku period fizzled out and found its end in the 1570s and 1580s, it was also expected that the fighting between religious sects would run its course with the establishment of the Takeda Shogunate.
This was unfortunately not the case.
The first unifier, Shingen, had found himself a significant player in the last wave of religious crises of the Sengoku period, as his expansion into central Japan at the expense of the Owari province daimyo Oda Nobunaga led the lord to inherit not only the land but its problems: the zealous Zen fanatic that had driven the True Pure Land and Nichiren Buddhists from his land now controlled a land that was the center of a religious civil war between followers of the two sects, a land that was also the site of a controversy between the traditional Buddhist shrines and the foreign Christian missionaries coming to proselytize from Europe.
As he had done in his eastern domains, Shingen forbade the followers of the Nichiren and Pure Land Buddhism from engaging in Religious Controversies within the domains of the Takeda, and even hosted a conference between monks of both sects at Fukuchiyama Castle, where the violent disturbances would be resolved by Shingen’s arbitration: the Nichiren responsible for the instigation of violence were executed, the Nichiren establishment forced to apologize and pay an indemnity and both sides forced to swear loyalty and obedience to the new regime. The Fukuchiyama Religious Debate of 1576  was followed by an edict forbidding Christian activities in the Imperial capital of Kyoto, restricting the missionaries to Osaka and other ports outside of the Takeda sphere of influence. 
In the years that followed Shingen’s death and the birth of the Takeda Shogunate, some semblance of peace returned to the realm, yet the seeds for an even more profound crisis were already planted: what daimyo such as Otomo Sorin, Arima Harunobu and Omura Sumitada  had started in the dying days of the Sengoku period was continued by the lords of the Date, Shimazu, Mori and Nabeshima clans, to the point in which the presence of western missionaries had degenerated into a crisis of the faith by the times of Takeda Katsuchiyo and Nobutoyo.
Christian churches and missions could be found at Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and throughout the domains of the Otomo in Kyushu and Date in northern Honshu, the temples at Nagasaki and Sendai even becoming dioceses whereas missionaries and bishops of the Jesuit and Franciscan orders became part of the courts of the Otomo, Date, Arima, Omura, Nabeshima and even the Mori Clan. The freedom with which the missionaries operated within those domains incited some level of resentment, on principle at first, but with time the Buddhist and Shinto Shrines began to fully appreciate the danger of the Christian encroachment in Japan.
In some domains, followers would convert en masse after the conversion of the Daimyo or the local lord, while missionaries would walk the provinces tirelessly spreading the word of their foreign God, a practice that with time not only created tensions between the Buddhist and Christian monks, but within the Christians themselves, as members of the Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit order began to compete over influence and number of converts. There are tales of missionaries “converting” people on the streets by throwing holy water at any passerby and chanting in Latin, counting them as converted even as the confused pedestrians fled the scene in confusion. 
Rumors about the conversions of the Date and Nabeshima lords, some even propagated by the Jesuits and Franciscans according to a secondary wave of rumors, were not uncommon, and amidst a complete and utter indifference on the subject on behalf of the Shogun, secluded at Tsutsuijigasaki for some years by this point, a sense of great emergency overcame the Buddhist and Shinto shrines from Nagasaki to Sendai.
To put matters in perspective, a simple analogy in regards to Christianity might be helpful: Jodo (Pure Land) and Nichiren could be understood as ‘Protestant’ and Tendai as ‘Catholic’, while Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) represents a Japanese form of ‘militant Protestant fundamentalism’ akin to Calvinism. The Ikko-Ikki are the military arm of the True Pure Land movement, but not only in the traditional sense of it being a movement of warrior monks, but in it being a revolutionary social construct that wished to abolish the Japanese class system ruled by the Samurai and the Daimyo. 
Thus in this context existed two great threats to the Japanese social, political and religious order: the growing foreign, and most dangerously, Catholic, influence encroaching Kyushu, Sendai and the ports, which many saw as a beachhead for a European invasion; and the Ikko-Ikki ‘Peasants’ Republic’ in the north, which controlled the provinces of Kaga and Noto. 
To fight the subversive teachings of the Catholics, Nichiren and Pure Land, the traditional establishment was forced to abandon all hope of obtaining help from the Shogunate and instead focused on gaining the support of local daimyo while taking matters into their own hand by dusting an old and time-honored practice: that of the warrior monks.
The Sohei (warrior monks) had first appeared and gained enormous influence and power through the 10th and 15th centuries before their great stronghold at Mount Hiei was attacked, the temple of Enryaku-Ji burned to the ground and their armies dispersed and decimated in 1571. The fall of the Sohei coupled with the waning power of the Tendai created a dangerous situation for the monks of the traditionalist Buddhist sect. Their decision to arm themselves did not come suddenly, nor was it adopted lightly and without reason. Violent altercations had taken place throughout the reigns of Takeda Katsuyori, Katsuchiyo and Nobutoyo, incited by the most militant members of the new religions and sometimes by those of the old. Kyoto, Osaka, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, the central provinces and throughout Kyushu religious violence came in waves and every faction had a military arm to fall back should push come to shove; All but the Tendai.
In the Kanto, under the auspices of the Uesugi Clan, the Thirty-Three Bando Temples (Bando Sanjusankasho) dedicated to the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy Kannon  were amongst the first Tendai Shrines to form a ‘Coalition’ or Association and arm themselves, a move that was soon followed by the Tendai Shrines of Kyoto in the 1640s and that had even resulted in the militarization of the Eighty-Eight Temples of Shikoku, which followed Shingon Buddhism . The League of the Eighty-Eight Temples and the Bando Sanjusankasho Association of Kanto functioned as defensive leagues operating a common militia with the help of the local daimyo, but with time these militias would grow and some would even dream of reconquering the former glory and power that the Sohei enjoyed before the Sengoku period and the destruction of the temple at Mt. Hiei.
1. Based on the IOTL Azuchi Religious Debate of 1579, hosted by Oda Nobunaga with more or less the same results, except that Nobunaga doesn’t hate both sides and is more open to the Christians;
2. IOTL, Nobunaga allowed the Missionaries to build the first Christian Church in Kyoto in 1576;
3. The first daimyo to convert to Christianity and send an embassy to the Pope;
4. True story, honest;
5. Also IOTL; Nichiren and True Pure Land were socially progressive and even subversive in their teachings;
6. Peasants’ Republic is one of the names by which the Ikko-Ikki were known IOTL and ITTL;
7. The Bando Sanjusankasho exists of course; Kannon is the Japanese name/version of Avalokitesbara, a Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas;
8.The 88 Temples form the Shikoku Pilgrimage for Shingon Buddhists, although IOTL they never felt the need to militarize; given how virtually all daimyo in Kyushu are hosting Christians in way capacity or the other, and the same is happening at Osaka and Hiroshima, or how the Ikko-Ikki have a stronghold at Osaka, this might not be an altogether bad idea ITTL;
Chosen and Joseon
The days that followed the end of the Manchu-Takeda war in Korea and the signing of the Treaty of Kaesong, the “Infamous Treaty” as Korean History knows it, were days of great misery and shame for the Korean Nation. Long lost were the days of King Taejo and the Golden Age of Sejong the Great. Where one nation stood now two states stand: the rump Kingdom of Joseon in the North and Japanese Chosen in the South. 
Whereas the Jurchen and later the Shun limited their relation to Korea to that of converting Northern Joseon into a vassal state, Takeda Katsuchiyo and his successors saw their own sphere of influence as something more. The conqueror Shogun himself saw ‘Chosen’ as an extension of the sacred Japanese homeland, a piece of Japanese soil attached to the continent, and thus the newly acquired territories were incorporated into Japan itself as a new province, or rather, twenty-six new provinces. 
The division of the Southern Korean territories into twenty-six provinces was for the most part a recreation of Japanese Feudal System, with twenty-six Japanese generals being made hereditary governors of the Korean provinces as a reward for their services during the war against the Joseon and the Manchu. Amongst those to be appointed as daimyo of the Twenty-Six Domains of Joseon were Date Clan retainers Katakura Shigetsuna and the elder Date Shigezane, Mori retainers Kikkawa Hiroie and Mori Hidemoto, Takeda Generals Baba Kuranosuke and Hara Torasada, Generals Uesugi Sadakatsu, Naoe Kageharu, Hosokawa Tadatoshi and Nagao Hidekaga, and even the notable case of Takeda bodyguard Yamagata Yoshio, a boy adopted by the Yamagata clan who would during the Battle of the Imjin River, save the life of the Takeda Shogun during a Manchu charge, being later rewarded with the small fiefdom of Masan, in the southern reaches of Chosen. Above the Twenty-Six Daimyo in their twenty-six domains was the Magistrate General for the Realm in Chosen, a non-hereditary post akin to that of Governor-General appointed by the Shogunate, whose residence was at Busanjinjiseong Castle. 
Busanjinjiseong, also known as the Kokura Castle, was the de facto capital of Japanese Chosen if Kyoto was technically the official one, the biggest and most complex of the Thirty-Two Fortresses built in Chosen. Of the thirty-two Japanese-style castles, six were located on the southern shores and the most important one at Busan becoming Busanjinjiseong, ten on the border with Joseon Korea and the rest dispersed throughout the domains of the Chosen daimyo, depending on the size and importance of the provincial capital or the threat of the local garrison. 
The Thirty-Two Fortresses gained special importance during the continued resurgences of the Righteous Armies during the late 17th and 18th centuries, providing the backbone of resistance to Japanese rule in Chosen throughout the one hundred and eighty two years of Japanese rule in the peninsula which followed the War of 1626, although taking different roles throughout this period and even assuming a subordinate role to the Armies of Northern Joseon or other Resistance movements such as the Army of the Black-Winds or the Ever Victorious Army near the end of the struggle. But, leaving the actions of the Righteous Armies aside, and despite what later Joseon Historians might argue, Japanese rule was not universally hated amongst the populace. The attitudes of the local daimyo ranged from the benevolent to the indifferent and the despotic, and the same could be said about the general demeanor of the Japanese depending on who occupied Busanjinjiseong Castle at the time. Some Governors even incorporated nobles, administrators, scholars and officials of the deposed Joseon Regime when staff or advise on local affairs was needed, to the point in which several local courts were in fact acclimatized to Korean customs , the opposite of what happened in the provinces controlled by the Ten Southern Fortresses, where Japanese colonists and exiles were given land and homes at the expense of the Koreans, many of whom were abducted and brought to Japan, in great part due to a desire of Takeda Katsuchiyo for Japan to benefit from Korea’s arts and crafts. 
Thus, just as a significant Korean minority began to take hold in northern Kyushu and western Hizen, Japanese peasants began to farm Korean land in the southernmost provinces of Chosen whereas exiled daimyo, retainer, pirates and ronin began to take residence in Korea along with the clans rewarded for their bravery during the war and the families brought to colonize the most troublesome provinces.
Northern Joseon was, in an interesting parallel to Japanese Chosen, forced to adapt to adversity to a degree in which many have theorized that the rump Northern Joseon State was a renaissance period for the decaying and stalled Korea of the times before the Japanese invasion. Trapped at the crossroads of history, where the Chinese, Manchurian and Japanese spheres of influences met in the early 17th century, North Korea not only adapted to the situation, but even managed to thrive under the adversity of these hard and dangerous times.
Having taken the throne as a result of a Manchu-backed palace Coup that ousted his father, the King Injo, in the winter of 1631, King Sohyeon’s steady hand and sharp mind guided Joseon’s destiny through the turbulent times that followed the Treaty of Kaesong, when tribulations abounded: the fall of the Ming and the rise of the Shun, the death of the Shogun Katsuchiyo and the rise of the isolationist Nobutoyo, the anarchy of the Manchurian War of Succession. Through these and more crises Sohyeon’s cold mind perseverated where less capable men would have been lost. 
Others are less charitable with the memory of the man the Korean nation reveres as King Sohyeon the Great, arguing that his indecision during the Manchurian Succession Crisis led to Joseon being invaded and the capital of Pyongyang itself being threatened, while others applaud the sage King’s decision to play both sides and not move until the fortunes of the war had been decided. The weakening of the Manchu and the passing of the fortress of Dandong to Joseon were the rewards that the Gods extended to the Great King, but his rule would find Korea at the crossroads of history many more times.
The times before the Japanese invasion of 1626 had seen the Joseon Dynasty stagnate and decay; the state falling prey to the machinations of a growing bureaucracy, a self-indulgent and unimaginative aristocracy and civil service and to bitter struggling between political factions, basically, the problems that plagued most Dynasties at any given moment. The Sarim Faction, known for its strictly conservative interpretation of Neo-Confucianism, and elder statesmen of the former Western Faction were the first to coalesce into a stable political group following the loss of the Capital and that of King Injo, but the chaos that ensued following the treaty of Kaesong and the tribulations of the 1630s and 1640s ensured that their hold of power was weak. 
In this juncture, the reformist Silhak movement gained popularity amongst the Joseon court and the general population. Silhak or “Practical Studies” movement was a social reform movement that had first appeared thanks to the works of Confucian scholars in the late 16th and early 17th century, becoming prominent for their criticism of Joseon court politics during and after the Manchu-Japanese War and the War of Manchurian Succession, blaming the stagnancy of the state on the rigid social structure and the dogmatism of the court Confucians, whose bitter infighting had led to literati purges and factional strife. The leaders of the Silhak Movement advocated reforming the rigid Confucian social structure, land reforms to relieve the plight of peasant farmers, redefining the traditionally submissive relationship with China, promoting Korea's independent national identity and culture, encouraging the study of science, and advocating technology exchange with foreign countries. 
In the state of perpetual crisis that plagued Joseon during the first half of the 17th century, the Silhak movement quickly gained support through every strata of Korean Society, replacing many of the former factions and finding itself supported by Sohyeon himself, who during the siege of Pyongyang of 1636 and with the help of General Im Gyeong Eop, carried what was eventually termed the Night of Blood Incident, part purge and part self-imposed Palace coup which resulted in the death, exile or imprisonment of the anti-Sohyeon and anti-Silhak factions, administrators and courtesans in the court.
Scholar Yi Su-Gwang was made Yeonguijeong, Chief State Councilor, and the Six Ministries were given to followers of the Silhak faction. The opposition that remained once again coalesced behind the conservative Sarim Faction, but when all was said and done, the King had definitively chosen the Silhak.
Based on a realistic and experimental approach to social problems, and with a greater concern for the welfare of the people than previous regimes, the Silhak Movement and its influence have often suffered from an image of hopeless optimism and overbearing idealism that contrast with the official view of the movement as the ideological and intellectual foundation of King Sohyeon the Great’s reign.
Amongst the first measures undertaken by Yi Su-Gwang’s Ministry was to put an end to the endless cycle of rivalries and infighting between the elites aspiring for posts in the bureaucratic cycle by taking direct control of the corrupt and decrepit Civil Service Examination and the Military Examinations, weeding out the inefficient system of the products of nepotism, bribery and corruption and creating a system more akin to the Chinese Imperial Examinations. The new system, result of an arduous and rather bloody process, would create a veritable army of scholar-bureaucrats in the best style of Ming or Shun China, a vast majority of them proper followers of the Silhak doctrines that would engross the ranks of the reform movement through the second half of the 17th century and the better part of the 18th. 
The practical and experimental approach of Silhak, in stark contrast to the theoretical and ideological traditional Neo-Confucianism, led to the undertaking of great deeds and reforms through the reign of the Sohyeon King and his descendants, from the incorporation of new technologies and sciences from the foreign nations of the west to radical reforms of the Agrarian and political systems of Joseon. Great is the debt of Gratitude of Korea of Sohyeon and the Silhak Movement.
1. Taejo of Joseon, born Yi Seong-Gye, overthrew the Goryeo Dynasty and established the Joseon in 1392; Sejong the Great presided over a golden age for the Joseon Dynasty in terms of science, arts and technology, reining between 1418 and 1450;
2. Let it be noted that the famous Han system instituted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and later kept by Tokugawa Ieyasu was not established ITTL; Provinces pay tribute to the state, but they’re more autonomous than the IOTL Han divisions, and the internal divisions of the domains is not a concern for the Shogunate, for now.
3. Both IOTL people; Shigetsuna was a minor figure IOTL, who changed his name to Shigenaga because the name Shigetsuna was similar to that of shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna, who does not exist ITTL;
4. Hiroie and Hidemoto are real figures whose military prowess I’ve improved ITTL for the sake of the story; the others are entirely fictional, due to the divergences in the history of the main Clans of Japan;
5. Busanjinjiseong was built IOTL during the Imjin War along with many other Japanese Castles in southern Korea for military purposes; many more castles are built ITTL for political, military and psychological reasons, as they serve a purpose as administrative services, imposing fortresses and symbols of Japanese dominance, etc.
6. This will become important later on. The Righteous Armies have ups and downs through their long history, and many other resistance groups, some of them splinters from the RA, will come and go during the 182 years of Japanese rule in southern Korea;
7. Daimyo being too nice and even going native are the exception rather than the rule, but it happens enough to become plot-important later on;
8. The captives brought to Japan, including scholars, craftsmen, medicine makers, and gold smelters, provided to Japan many cultural and technological gains. This was first mentioned in the chapter “Life during Wartime” in page 6; this was of course an IOTL occurrence, although in a bigger scale as Japan dominates Korea for 182 years ITTL; I’ll explore the lives of Korean captives in Japan in future chapters;
9. Sohyeon is not in fact superhuman, that’s just how Korean Historians see him;
10. A cheap way to reduce the ridiculously complicated struggle of Joseon Political Factions, as I’m getting rid of the Western, Eastern, Northern, Southern, Old Learning and Young Learning factions, but this is after a civil war, the Japanese invasion, the division of the country into two states and the Manchurian civil war, so it’s not that implausible; former factions now turned into a coalition behind the Sarim will make a comeback, though;
11. The Silhak movement was born IOTL following the Imjin War and the Manchu Invasions, so it’s not hard to imagine it forming ITTL, in slightly different circumstances, and due to the constant chaos in Korea, them doing better and even taking power is not that crazy, not at all, no sir.
12. This was a problem that IOTL only got worse and worse over time with no solution ever being enough to clean this cesspool of corruption and incompetence.
The Two Thrones
Much has been said about the Chongzhen Emperor’s decision to abandon Beijing to the hosts of Li Zicheng, later the Xianbao Emperor, for Nanjing, the traditional stronghold of the Ming and Southern China. The Annals of the Shun Dynasty present the decision as motivated by cowardice and incompetence, while later tales are more favorable to the Ming Emperor and put the blame on untrustworthy ministers and unreliable advisors or instead paint the decision as pragmatic and intelligent. 
Whatever the reasons, the decision to fight on from Nanjing meant that the Ming Dynasty still had the will to continue to exist and deny the Shun an easy path to Hegemony in China. The mirror bureaucracy and state apparatus of Nanjing , propped up by the Presence of the Emperor and the exiled officials and courtesans that had managed to escape Beijing, would have nonetheless proven itself a flimsy and unsuited foundation for the Nanjing Loyalist Regime if not for the efforts of a talented and young Minister by the name of Shi Kefa, at the time serving as the Minister of War for the Nanjing Ministry.
In his meteoric rise, Shi had proven to be an excellent commander and an able administrator, beloved by his men and respected by the officers, and found himself making preparations for the defense of Beijing and the expansion of his garrison when the Chongzhen Emperor and many members of the Imperial Family and Court arrived at Nanjing in early March of 1644, just days after news of the fall of Beijing had reached the Southern Capital. Finding himself at the helm of the only army still swearing loyalty to the Ming and presented with the task of preserving the Mandate of Heaven from usurpers, Shi neither flinched or cowed. 
Realizing that the Loyalist Regime was lacking the military strength necessary to hold out against the northern rebels, the assembled officials of the Nanjing Government drafted a dispatch and sent emissaries in search of military assistance from military magnates and provincial warlords, many of them former Ming commanders, appealing to those generals who could identify themselves with the idealized military commanders of the classical era . Four leaders of Warlord armies standing at the Huai River between the Shun and the Ming would answer the call: General Liu Zeqing, quick tempered and politically ambitious, who had previously disobeyed the emperor’s orders and abandoned Shandong to the Shun and turned to Warlordism and plunder in Fengyang; Huang Degong, a superb swordsman and strict commander, who controlled the Luzhou Garrison in central Anhui; Liu Liangzou, a former bandit turned Imperial general turned warlord, said to command nearly 100,000 men in 1644; and Gao Jie, a ruthless commander who abandoned Li Zicheng’s rebel armies in 1635 for the Ming and since the fall of Beijing had been plundering and terrorizing the Huai Valley, antagonizing the leader of the Ming resistance in the area, Lu Zhenfei. 
Supported by a more or less stable coalition of warlords and loyalist commanders now known as the “Guardian Generals” of the Dynasty as well as officials and provincial governors, Shi Kefa found his first opportunity to test his armies’ strength and deal a blow to the Shun in the spring of 1645, taking advantage of the efforts needed to maintain Yuan Chonghuan’s campaign against the Lingdan Khan in Mongolia to strike against Shun General Liu Zongmin in Shandong, who has been fighting the Ming loyalist resistance in the province and besieging the stronghold of Dezhou. 
Hoping for a great victory to regain the initiative and cement his position as military commander of the Ming armies, Shi marched towards Dezhou, on the Shandong-Beizhili border, to relief the Ming loyalist armies after nearly 15 months of hardship and resistance. Heading an army that was officially 40,000 men strong, the Ming commander only counted with 18,400 men on the day of the battle against 23,200 under Liu Zongmin, although some sources point to the presence of other Ming loyalist forces near the battlefield, such as the besieged men at Dezhou, or claim that the “Guardian General” Gao Jie did in fact take place in the battle as opposed to camping on Shi Kefa’s rearguard and sitting out the engagement. 
Despite the conflicting sources, it is agreed that Shi Kefa and Liu Zongmin met south of Dezhou and their armies engaged in combat around noon, the center of both armies charging in a small plain while Shi’s subordinate, Zuo Liangyu, lead a cavalry detachment to attack the left flank of Liu’s army, wreaking havoc and leaving the bulk of the Shun forces exposed. Two hours later, the lifeless body of Liu Zongmin was paraded as a trophy through the streets of Dezhou by the triumphant army of Shi Kefa.
For the Ming, the victory served as a morale boost both for the people of Southern China and the panicking court at Nanjing, while also further increasing Shi Kefa’s fame and stopping the hemorrhage of provincial commanders defecting to the Shun in the spring and summer of 1645. Shi Kefa was now the undisputed Commander in Chief of all Ming forces, a move that the Chongzhen Emperor could not be persuaded from making, and that would set in motion a chain of events leading to the pinnacle of Shi Kefa’s power and the zenith of the Southern Ming Dynasty.
For the Shun, the defeat was a cause for a political crisis. The death of Liu Zongmin, one of the Dynasty’s greatest and most veteran officers, along with the loss of his army and the shame of being defeated by the Ming caused uproar in Beijing, where the Xianbao Emperor is said to have wept for the death of his old colleague, while former Ming turned Shun officials, commanders and scholars secretly celebrated the death of a prominent figure whose influence was a danger to competing factions. Furthermore, the defeat brought attention to the poor state of the Shun State: armies that were partly armed mobs of peasants and part former Ming personnel, of which the best troopers were deployed at Mongolia to chase after the Lingdan Khan, coupled with several provincial insurrections and an ongoing economic crisis spelled hard and difficult times for the nascent Dynasty in Northern China.
The defeat at Dezhou encouraged anti-Shun partisans to double their efforts: in Shandong, Ming loyalist bandits coalesced into the so-called Elm Garden Army, whereas along the Huai River Valley the loyalist forces organized by Lu Zhenfei fomented popular uprisings along the Huai and Yellow Rivers against Shun dominance, often trying to link with the Elm Garden Army of Shandong and other of the “Righteous Armies” of Northern China, but to no avail. The worst of the crisis would nevertheless not come until the spring of 1646, when the ageing General Mao Wenlong, Provincial Governor of Liaodong, led a rebellion against the Shun Dynasty proclaiming himself as “Hegemon King of Great Liao.” 
1. That was indeed the plan, which the Chongzhen Emperor really wanted to follow, but was unable to do to a variety of reasons dealing with the Court’s antics, treacheries and distrust, and the Emperor’s conflictive personality, which finally made him stay and commit suicide in his palace IOTL;
2. A shadow bureaucracy existed in Nanjing, duplicating the institutions in Beijing, but it was skeletal and lacked the vitality of the Beijing administration or be a proper government; it was also the chief bastion of military power in the Jiangnan area;
3. Shi Kefa rose meteorically IOTL through several southern ministries and led several armies in battle against rebel armies and the Qing invaders, similarly becoming the backbone of the exiled Ming government of IOTL as ITTL;
4. This happened IOTL, the Dispatch being crafted to appeal to the Generals’ honor and ego, likening them to the Great Generals of Classical History, the Sima, historical military commanders who followed the proper standards of Conduct and understood the nine rules of chastisement; Note that these are warlords of the pillage and burn type Nanjing is dealing with in 1644;
5. Most of this is IOTL as well; Gao Jie left the Shun armies because he stole his chief’s wise so he surrendered to the Ming to avoid retribution; both he and Liu Zeqing were ordered to leave what they were doing and come to stop Li Zicheng before he took Beijing, but both preferred pillaging and burning warlordism; Lu Zhenfei is as IOTL a Ming official who turns the Huai River Valley into a Ming Stronghold;
6. See Part V, chapter “A Piece of Heaven”;
7. Warlord Generals only in it for the money or power are reliable like that; of course, there’s few eye witness or sources beyond the Annals of the Shun Dynasty and the reports and unfinished memoirs of Shi Kefa and his subordinates;
8. Pretty much what happened IOTL, although the resistance is less stronger ITTL due to the Shun Dynasty not wanting to impose the ways of Cultureless northern barbarians;
9. Mao Wenlong was crazy like that, and his personality coupled with his rivalry with Yuan Chonghuan, and his IOTL living old enough to be a mad old man, lead to him rebelling as he did IOTL, but this time creating a short-lived state that tries to, for some reason, liken itself to the original Liao Dynasty, just like the Nurhaci Khan tried to do with the first Jin Dynasty by creating the Later Jin (Qing);
All Under two Heavens
For all the boasting that followed Shi Kefa’s victory at Dezhou, the battle itself yielded few actual results and the Ming Armies were immediately forced to abandon Shandong Province just days after the battle, as a Shun army 50,000 men strong under the command of Wu Sangui was sent from Beijing. The proximity of Dezhou to the northern Capital nevertheless meant that Shi’s victory over Liu Zongmin had a double psychological effect, as he had been able to kill one of the founders of the new Dynasty just a few hundred Li south of the capital.
Yet Wu Sangui was not able to pursue Shi Kefa or destroy his army in detail, as his duties as Military Governor of Shandong forced him to spend the better part of 1645 and early 1646 engaging loyalist uprisings and the raids of the bandit Elm Garden Army in the forests of southwestern Shandong. The Shun regime would find itself further strapped for military resources when in the spring of 1646, the Governor of Liaodong province, a former Ming General by the name of Mao Wenlong who had joined the new dynasty along with Yuan Chonghuan in 1644, raised his banners in rebellion and proclaimed himself as the “Hegemon-King of Great-Liao”. The choice of the name is generally agreed to have been an attempt to establish some sort of link to the historical Liao Dynasty, as the Nurhaci Khan of the Jurchen had tried to do with the Jin Dynasty when he proclaimed his Clan to be the “Later Jin”, whereas the reasons behind Mao Wenlong’s military uprising are somewhat less clear. 
Mao’s ambitious and violent personality often clashed with that of his superior, Yuan Chonghuan, during their time at Liaodong, protecting the northern border from the Manchu, and in many occasions Mao had disobeyed orders and even before the coming of the Shun had participated in his own private war against the Manchu in the 1620s and 1630s before returning to China to serve in the last years of the Ming. The everlasting fame attained by Yuan as the Conqueror of Mongolia following his Admirable Campaign of 1645 and his ascension to the Ministry of War, coupled with rumors about Yuan having Mao Wenlong exiled to eastern Manchuria or northern Mongolia as punishment for past offenses are likely to have driven the Governor of Liaodong paranoid, jealous and distrustful. In March of 1645, orders had arrived from Beijing informing Mao Wenlong that he would be given the Governorship of Lanzhou, in the Gansu corridor, prompting the ageing and paranoid Mao Wenlong to believe that a Courtesan scheme orchestrated by his great rival Yuan Chonghuan had been put in motion to exile him to the far west and kill him. It has also been pointed out that Mao Wenlong’s rebellion took place shortly after Shi Kefa’s victory at Dezhou and the beginning of the Pacification campaign at Shandong, which forced the Shun to deploy a great deal of their troops away from Beijing, a set of circumstances that might have enticed the ambitious Mao Wenlong into trying his look for the Dragon Throne.
As many warlords before and after him, the Hegemon-King of Great Liao counted with a cohesive and fearsome military force and a rather impressive stronghold, the rebuilt high-walled city-fortress of Shenyang, which was garrisoned by 45,000 men directly under the command of Mao Wenlong. Having arrested all Shun officials and called for the provincial militias to assemble at the stronghold of Shenyang, the Military-Governor-turned-Rebel-Warlord had a window of opportunity in late May of 1646, in which his now 50,000 men strong army could have overwhelmed the Shun garrison at the Shanhai pass and threatened the northern capital itself, had it not been for Mao Wenlong himself, or rather, his inability to bring the Manchu hosts into his plans. 
Presented with the chance of joining the rebellion by one of the Hegemon-King’s emissaries on the second week of May, the Dorgon Khan simply refused to answer to Mao Wenlong’s invite, while also secretly sending messages to the other Manchu princes and warning them to ready their hosts, as he himself closed the doors of Hetu-Ala and prepared for the worst. By the third week of May, Mao Wenlong’s patience was wearing out, and as messengers began returning from Hetu-Ala with stories of being chased away by the Manchu Cavalry, the Rebel King was convinced that the Dorgon Khan was in league with the Shun and would march against him the minute he marched east towards the capital, a persistent fear that at the end would force Mao Wenlong’s hand: as the end of May approached, the Hegemon-King of Great Liao took his banners and his hosts and marched east to besiege Hetu-Ala and bring Dorgon to his knees rather than march west to threaten the Xianbao Emperor at Beijing, the original purpose of the rebellion. 
Yuan Chonghuan was given the responsibility to quell Mao Wenlong’s uprising, a task that would take the veteran General the better part of 1646 and early 1647, while also increasing his fame and jurisdiction, holding the title of “Prince who Pacifies the East” and “Great Conqueror of the North”, his jurisdiction as Military Governor and Minister of War extending from the Korean border to the steppes of Central Asia and the lands of the western Mongols, granting him power over half of the empire’s land in 1646. Wu Sangui’s pacification of Shandong and Yuan Chonghuan’s Two-Hundred Day Campaign at Liaodong would end near the spring of 1647, although the activities of rebel forces such as the Elm Garden Army in Shandong and the Hundred Mountain Dragons in Hebei continued for most of 1647 and 1648 in a lesser scale, while mutinies amongst disaffected provincial commanders and small loyalist communities would be widespread between 1646 and 1647. 
The Xianbao Emperor and Yuan Chonghuan nevertheless considered the northern provinces to having been officially pacified on April of 1647, when Mao Wenlong committed suicide behind the walls of his last line of defense at Shenyang. Following the death of the Hegemon King of Great Liao, anti-Shun resistance petered out throughout the northern provinces and Yuan, in his capacity as Minister of War, began an ambitious program to reform and expand the armies of the Great Shun Dynasty and reclaim the entirety of the Mandate of Heaven. 
At Nanjing, the spring of 1645 ends as Shi Kefa and his army are welcomed as triumphant heroes, while underneath masquerade of glory and the false sense of security deliberately created by the Ming, the political rivalries, underhanded schemes and decadent power-games that had plagued the Beijing Court make their way to the Southern Capital and begin to fester beneath the surface. In the chaotic aftermath of the fall of Beijing and the move to the new Capital, the balance of power within the court had shifted , leading to the rise of new cliques to replace the old ones and the ascendancy of figures such as Ma Shiying and Ruan Dacheng.
There was no lack of scholars to staff the new Government, as the Southern Capital was home to High Officials of the Fushe and Donglin Movements , yet at the same time the anarchic nature and the circumstances behind the establishment of the Nanjing loyalist regime led to a situation in which only strength could keep the whole rotten structure together and a strongman was what the Southern Ming would get. Shi Kefa represented the core of the Ming Loyalist party in Nanjing as well as the Donglin Movement, and was fundamentally a “First amongst Equals” in this context, leading a coalition of willful and unreliable warlords. On the other side of the court, and representing the worst of Factional politics, were Ma Shiying and Ruan Dacheng, leaders of the Eunuch faction. 
Cunning and devious, Ma Shiying, who had been serving as Viceroy of Fengyang when Beijing fell, saw a golden opportunity in the arrival of the Chongzhen Emperor to Nanjing. Around Ma Shiying coalesced the pro-Eunuch party and his power grew between 1644 and 1646, especially when Shi Kefa was forced to leave the city due to pressing military concerns and the Ming Court was left virtually undefended from Ma Shiying’s depredations. It was this how he was able to appoint Ruan Dacheng, a man so hated for his actions during the government of Eunuch Wei Zhongxian that he had to be exiled for nearly a decade, as Vice-Minister of Rites, an appointment that nearly led to mutiny and massacre within the Ming Court. Following Dezhou, it was clear that Shi Kefa’s star was on the rise and Ma Shiying’s influence would decrease, a fact highlighted by the Chongzhen Emperor’s decision to appoint Shi Kefa as Minister of War in August of 1645. Just as concerning to the Eunuchs were the Emperor’s infatuation with the military and his growing obsession with undertaking offensive operations against the Shun to “retake the northern capital from The Usurper.” The Victory at Dezhou had taken place only five hundred Li south of Beijing , and the widespread anti-Shun rebellions at Shadong and Liaodong along with some somewhat justified underestimating of the Shun Armies led to clamors for a “Campaign to Retake the Northern Capital”, which Ma Shiying and his followers believed was fueled entirely by Shi Kefa and his partisans to keep the favor of the Emperor and hoard power.
Even as the tables turned through 1646 and the Shun pacified the north, the Chongzhen Emperor was enamored with the idea of leading a victorious army through Shandong and Beizhili and marching through the southern Gates of Beijing just as Li Zicheng had done two years before. These ideas would reportedly haunt the Emperor in his dreams and keep him awake for many nights, on occasions spending three days straight without sleeping, eating or enjoying the comfort of the concubines. It was in this state of affairs that a strong fever attacked the Chongzhen Emperor in the winter of 1646. Whether it had been the influence of a disease or poison, it was never fully established, but for three weeks the Emperor was confined to his bed, suffering from debilitating fevers and hallucinations.
As 1647 dawned on Nanjing, the Chongzhen Emperor, the 16th monarch of the Ming Dynasty, died at the age of 35.
1.Not as crazy as it sounds, given Mao Wenlong’s personality, IOTL History and relation with men such as Yuan Chonghuang; Making yourself Emperor of a new Dynasty is the oldest trick in the rebel book;
2.At this point, Mao Wenlong is not the same daring insane commander he was in his youth, except for the insane part, which goes well with his old age and undying ambition and penchant for betrayal;
3.Dorgon is smart enough to realize that Mao Wenlong doesn’t stand a chance, so he just closes the gates of Hetu-Ala and sits tight, waiting for the Shun to come in and kill Mao Wenlong;
4.The Elm Garden Army is real, the Hundred Mountain Dragons is not; Both are Ming Loyalist Bandit groups/armies fighting the new Dynasty in the North, as the Elm Garden Army and others did against the Qing IOTL; Small scale rebellions on the frontier or random provincial outposts were also commonplace in periods of Dynastic transition;
5.This is of course vital for securing the Mandate of Heaven, as Li Zicheng’s army is half his old bandit army and half old Ming troops;
6.Inevitable due to so many important people having defected, being killed or lost in the way due to the war and the moving of the Capital to Nanjing; Not to mention the willful Emperor’s mood swings and growing distrust of cliques, which he always hated and sought to prevent from rising in his earlier years;
7.This was the case IOTL as well; The Donglin Movement was a Reformist Movement of strict Confucians who dabbled in politics and controlled the Ming Bureaucracy at times and were persecuted by Eunuch-dominated courts at others; the Fushe Movement, or Restoration Society, was a coalition of Confucian scholars started as new Donglin movement of sorts, eventually controlling the examination system and the Ming Bureaucracy, rivaling the power of the Donglin; Both opposed the Eunuchs as well;
8. Both important and infamous OTL figures as well; Ma Shiying was a Financial expert exiled to the frontier for speculation before being made Governor of Fengynag in 1641 as part of a power-play in the late Ming court, later becoming the man behind the throne for the Southern Ming and the Honghuang Emperor; Ruan Dacheng was infamous IOTL for serving the tyrant Eunuch Wei Zhongxian to only later portray himself as a respected scholar above the excesses of the Eunuchs and the Donglin, earning some enmity from the Donglin and a well-deserved exile; Both were also old friends IOTL;
9. 480 Li=240 Km/150 miles; Using the current standardized version, though;
A Brother to Dragons
To see the fall of the old dynasty and give birth of a new house, to seek the Mandate of Heaven and occupy the Dragon Throne, that is the Great Enterprise, undertaken by countless men through the history of All Under Heaven, yet accomplished by so few. The Annals of the Shun Dynasty present the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the rise of the Shun, as well as the conquest of the Mandate of Heaven under the Xianbao Emperor as the end of a time of great tribulations, after decades of decadence and corruption of the old Dynasty. The Three Kingdom and Six Emperors Period is the name given in the Annals by the Historians of Great Shun, often derided as more poetic than historically accurate, to represent the years between 1644 and 1655, presenting the Nine “Claimants to the Mandate of Heaven” as, besides the Xianbao Emperor himself: the Chongzhen Emperor of the Ming, the Daisan Khan, and later the Dorgon Khan, of the self-proclaimed later Jin, the Lingdan Khan, representing the descendants of the Kublai Khan and the Yuan Dynasty, the failed usurper Hegemon-King of Great Liao, Mao Wenlong, and finally the Dragon King of Great West, Zhang Xianzhong. 
Of the Six Emperors, or Six Kings or Six Princes as they are also known, three rules the so-called Three Kingdoms that existed between 1644 and 1655: the Southern Ming ruled from Nanjing by the Chongzhen Emperor and his successors, the Great Shun ruled from Beijing under the Xianbao Emperor of the Shun Dynasty, and Zhang Xianzhong ruled in the Kingdom of the Great West, in the province of Sichuan.
Zhang Xianzhong, much like Li Zicheng, had started his quest for the Mandate of Heaven by joining the rebel armies of Gao Yingxiang in the 1630s through the ravaged and starved northern provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi, where the rebel general Gao took an army of roving bandits and anti-Ming discontents and formed a great rebel army, taking the title of “Dashing Prince” (Chuang Wang) and an army of a Hundred Thousand men against the Ming armies in Shaanxi and Henan, before his final defeat in 1636, leaving the title of Dashing Prince and command of the most formidable of the anti-Ming rebel armies to Li Zicheng, the future Xianbao Emperor. Despite the claims of later historians, critical of the Annals of the Shun Dynasty, and accusations that the deeds of Gao Yingxiang were fabricated or exaggerated due to their propagandistic value, it cannot be denied that both Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong started their rise to power in the armies of Gao Yingxiang in northern China, and by emulating his role and strategies both conquered realms of their own. A popular subject of speculation is to think whether General Gao, the original Dashing Prince, would have been able to secure the Mandate of Heaven had he not been captured and executed in 1636, and thus taking the place that was reserved to Li Zicheng in the history of All Under Heaven. 
Whatever Gao Yingxiang’s destiny might have been, his disciples learnt well and put their experience to use: in 1644 Li Zicheng finally marched on Beijing and expelled the Ming from the Northern Capital, while Zhang Xianzhong, after a career that took him from being a roving bandit in Shanxi to the commander of a 100,000 men strong rebel army in the Central Plains, moved to occupy the Western Province of Sichuan, establishing his capital at Chengdu and declaring himself to be Long Wang of Daxi (Dragon King of Great West), presenting his claim to the Mandate of Heaven at the helm of the second greatest rebel army and one of the most formidable military forces in China. 
Between March of 1644 and February of 1645 the Dragon King devoted himself to the administration of his Kingdom, placing his subordinates and sons in positions of authority throughout the province, hand-picking advisors from local collaborators and setting up a system of taxation to collect fund, and of examination to create a local court and administration in emulation of the Imperial Examination Systems. As it had been with Li Zicheng, Zhang Xianzhong was greeted as a conqueror and a liberator in Sichuan, finding a veritable host of willing collaborators from the former administration as well as officials and members of the gentry willing to resist. Those who joined the Long Wang ruler were properly compensated, the rest only finding their way to very public executions. During this first time Zhang’s ruthlessness was underplayed, as he dedicated himself to the military organization of his Kingdom in the name of claiming the Mandate of Heaven from his former colleague, Li Zicheng, and the Nanjing Loyalist Regime under the Ming.
An army of 80,000 men carrying the banners of the Dragon King of Great West marched southwards between February and June of 1645, occupying Yunnan and destroying what little Ming resistance could be found. This first phase of the Ming-Daxi wars took place just as Shi Kefa abandoned the Shandong Theater and the battlefield of Dezhou, prompting the Ming wars to shift from Shandong Province in the north to the frontiers of Sichuan and Yunnan. The Guardian General Liu Zeqing was given the task to march westwards and defeat the armies of the Dragon King, but between June and September of 1645 he was unable to deal Zhang’s armies a single defeat, being forced to retreat eastwards after having suffered a great loss to Zhang and his adopted son, Sun Kewang, in late September of 1645, prompting a hasty and costly route for the Ming and the loss of most of Guizhou province in the early fall of 1645. This auspicious beginning for the Armies of Daxi led to an atmosphere of euphoria at the court of the Dragon King. The King’s adopted sons, Sun Kewang and Li Dingguo, were appointed as viceroys of Yunnan and Guizhou respectively, while Liu Wenxiu led the armies of Great West at the front with the title of “Prince who Pacifies the South” given to him by the King of Great West. 
The victory over Liu Zeqing was nevertheless followed by a large scale defeat of Liu Wenxiu’s armies when Daxi invaded Guangxi and were subsequently broken in half by Zuo Liangyu’s forces north of Liuzhou, halting the thus far meteoric expansion of Zhang Xianzhong’s Kingdom and preventing it from reaching the South China Seas. The result of the defeat at Liuzhou on April of 1646 was twofold: to break the back of the Dragon King’s armies in the region and thus buying Ming time to solidify their position in the region, and to establish a psychological victory over Daxi, making the Dragon King Zhang Xianzhong obsessed with the conquest of Guangxi and gaining an outlet to the Sea. 
The Ming were nevertheless unable to further capitalize on their victory and drive the Daxi back, as any attempts to bring the war to Daxi territory resulted in defeat due to the rugged and difficult terrains of the Kingdom and the defensive skill of Liu Wenxiu’s armies. The inability of the Ming or the Daxi to move the from northern Guangxi or make any substantial change in the status quo created in early 1646 led to a stalemate that lasts more or less 18 months. In the midst of this “long truce” the Ming Succession Crisis kicked in.
The first days that passed since the death of the Chongzhen Emperor saw widespread panic in the Nanjing Court while on the streets one could barely tell that a crisis was in the making. Ma Shiying and the Eunuchs took great pains to prevent the news from spreading beyond the higher echelons of the Southern Ming Regime, and thus the first stages of the Succession crisis took place in absolute secrecy. Only when the crisis reached uncontrollable proportions did it became obvious that Nanjing was the scene of a civil war in the heart of the Southern Ming State. 
In the chaos that followed the fall of Beijing, many Imperial princes were killed, captured by the Shun or otherwise lost; including amongst them the sons of the Chongzhen Emperor and many other members of the Imperial Household, but many had already been residing in the south or had sought refuge with Lu Zhenfei at Huainan, later arriving at Nanjing. Amongst them were the Prince of Fu, the Prince of Lu, the Prince of Gui and the Princes of Zhou and Chong. Of these, the Prince of Lu was thought to be the most conscientious and respectable candidate for the Dragon Throne, his candidacy being supported by a large clique of senior officials identified with the Donglin party, as well as their de facto military leader, Shi Kefa. However, the Prince of Lu had an officially weaker claim to the throne than the Prince of Fu, a direct descendant of the Wanli Emperor, and despite claims of the Prince being illiterate, avaricious, cruel, drunken, lustful, meddlesome and unfilial, his line of descent was the most direct of all the princes gathered at the Southern capital. 
The party behind the Prince of Fu and the argument of propinquity was led by Ma Shiying and Ruan Dacheng, with the support of the eunuchs and the Guardian Generals that Ma had persuaded to join his side, namely Gao Jie and Liu Zeqing, as well as the hereditary military aristocracy, gaining the support of men such as the Earl Liu Kongzhao, commander-in-chief of River Control, and the Earl Zhao Zhilong, Commander of the Capital Garrisons . Taking advantage of the enmity between the Military Aristocracy, the warlord Guardian Generals and the Donglin Scholars, Ma Shiying had created a strong military party to oppose Shi Kefa and Vice-Minister of War Lu Daqi. Shi Kefa, in his capacity as Minister of War, was nevertheless seeking a peaceful solution, as he knew that without the support of the Guardian Generals or Ma Shiying’s forces there would be little to support the Southern Ming militarily, and thus a compromise was sought in offering the throne to the Prince of Gui, an uncle of the Chongzhen Emperor, or to accept the ascension of the Prince of Fu under better circumstances , but as the second week of January started, the circumstances precipitated another crisis and a shocking conclusion was reached.
1. The scholars of the Shun Dynasty are embellishing the rise of the Shun as the fight of six factions in a grand civil war; well, whatever it takes to make the boss look good;
2. Up to the point in which Li Zicheng was not driven out of Beijing by the Qing, this was all IOTL; Gao Yingxiang’s deeds and exploits are often considered to have been fabricated in large parts or even in its entirety, but it’s quite an interesting fact nevertheless; I considered having Gao as the Dashing Prince who conquers Beijing, and I probably should have gone with that plan, but I made a bad use of butterflies and felt that it’d be hard to do, as less is known about Gao than about Li Zicheng; the result might have been the same nevertheless except for the aesthetic circumstances, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered much anyhow;
3. Thanks for Subversivepanda for the name; except for the name, the rest was more or less IOTL;
4. Zhang Xianzhong was never able to extend his power beyond Sichuan IOTL, but ITTL he has a better chance; The three adoptive sons existed IOTL, but weren’t given such cool titles and positions IIRC;
5. Zhang Xianzhong is a crazy, egomaniacal, obsessive man; more on this in later chapters;
6. A similar crisis took place under different circumstances as the Chongzhen Emperor remained in Beijing IOTL and hanged himself in the Forbidden City; This crisis takes place 3 years later and thus much has changed;
7. The Perception of the personalities of the two princes are mostly IOTL, as are the princes that reached Nanjing, except for the Prince of Gui, who was IOTL elsewhere during the succession crisis;
8. IOTL Ma Shiying convinced ALL of the Guardian Generals to support the Prince of Fu, since he had gotten to Nanjing first and thus got to them as they fled from the Shun in Northern China; ITTL, Ma Shiying is not as early or as lucky, as thus he only gets the support of two Generals rather than four; the support of the hereditary military aristocracy is a given, due to how much they hate the Donglin; The guys who supported the Prince of Fu ITTL also supported him ITTL, plus a few more like Liu Zeqing and others;
9. The compromise with the Prince of Gui was offered IOTL, but the Prince was elsewhere, not in Nanjing; IOTL, Shi Kefa accepted the Prince of Fu’s ascension as it was better than to precipitate the country into a civil war; the Southern Ming were later conquered anyways;
The Gathering Storm
The Circumstances surrounding the February Incident of 1647 are as a whole unknown, but enough was uncovered during the crisis and the rest could be inferred from contemporary sources. The Southern Ming succession crisis had been seemingly solved by Shi Kefa’s acceptance of the Prince of Fu as regent, and thus the Prince was invited to come to Nanjing and assume his duties, arriving in the second week of January. At this time, Nanjing was plagued by internal strife between the factions led by Ma Shiying and Shi Kefa, whereas in the north the Governor of Huainan, Lu Zhenfei was caught in a power struggle with Guardian General Gao Jie. The crisis was compounded when Shi Kefa was forced to leave the capital for Huainan to mediate between the Warlord and the Loyalist Governor in the third week of January, just as Ma Shiying arrived at Nanjing along with a fleet of 1,200 war junks. 
Fearing that Ma Shiying’s arrival and Shi Kefa’s departure would prove to have ominous consequences for the Mandate of Heaven and more importantly, themselves, the leaders of the strict anti-Eunuch faction in Nanjing coalesced around the Vice-Minister of War and addressed Shi Kefa, asking for his immediate return and his intervention to keep the throne safe from the influence of the eunuchs. At the same time, rumors began to circulate about an upcoming purge aimed at the Confucian literati, scholars, traditional Confucians and any who opposed the Ma Shiying faction. Spreading like wildfire, the rumors created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in Nanjing. Two of the most widespread rumors concerned the idea that Lu Daqui would be replaced by Ruan Dacheng as Vice-Minister of War, whereas Ma Shiying would become Chief-Minister. The other rumor, which began spreading in late January of 1647, concerned the fate of Guardian General Liu Liangzuo, who had taken a neutral stance during the early stages of the succession crisis and had allegedly been speculating with his “vote” in exchange of a substantial bribe. By the early days of February, everyone in Nanjing “knew” that Liu’s days were counted and that his office as Guardian General had been promised to Ma Shiying’s ally, the Earl Zhao Zhilong. What happened later has led many to believe that the rumors concerning Liu Liangzuo were engineered and spread by Lu Daqui and his allies to drive a wedge between Ma Shiying and the warlord. 
Ambitious and ruthless, Liu Liangzuo was enjoying his “governorship” in Jiangsu province, besieging Yangzhou and extorting money out of its wealthiest citizens when a letter from Nanjing, informing him of Ma Shiying’s plotting and asking him to “honor the Emperor and expel the traitors” arrived at his camp. It was from the Donglin partisans and even though Liu distrusted them, he was fearful of his future and sensed that this was the chance to seize the power in Nanjing. Liu Liangzuo’s army, numbering around 60,000 troops stationed around Yangzhou, began their march southwest the following day and arrived at Nanjing the day after New Year, on February 5. The beginning of the Year of the Pig found Nanjing almost unprotected, as the celebrations, along with a distinct lack of discipline or preparation amongst the capital’s defense forces left Nanjing as a sitting duck for Liu Liangzuo’s army. Zhao Zhilong’s Capital Garrisons put up the most fight, but were crushed by the Guardian General’s army after a brutal fight in which the Garrison commander was captured and tortured on Liu’s orders. While his alleged replacement found a slow and painful death, Ma Shiying and Ruan Dacheng would meet a somewhat more fortunate end. Ma’s forces were caught off guard early in the fight, and as he tried to flee Nanjing with his fleet, his war junks were torched by Liu’s armies and Ma drowned in the Yangtze, his body never found. Ruan allegedly escaped the fate that Ma’s other followers would share and lived the rest of his life in the countryside, although others suggest that he was murdered along with the thousands of eunuchs that Liu Liangzuo put to death during his reign of terror in Nanjing.
Whereas Liu Liangzuo had been able to secure the Prince of Fu and destroy his “rivals” in a matter of days, he was nevertheless unable to gather any kind of support. The members and leaders of the Shi Faction, which had urged Liu to come and destroy Ma Shiying, barricaded themselves in their houses of had already left the city when Liu came. Amongst the latter was Lu Daqing, who arrived at Huainan on February 8th to ask for Shi Kefa’s intervention. In most versions of the story Shi and the warlord Gao Jie put their differences behind immediately and march towards Nanjing to restore the peace in All Under Heaven. A different story, some argue that the real one, tells that Shi had left Nanjing to talk to Gao Jie and convince him to join his own faction, while leaving the capital open for Liu’s attack and dispelling suspicions about his departure. Whether it was a plot by Shi Kefa, Lu Daqi, someone else or not a plot at all, Shi Kefa marched along with his army and engaged Liu’s army on February 12th of 1647.
The battle, pitting Shi Kefa’s Ming army against a barely cohesive and demoralized army of former rebels, bandits and mercenaries, was over in less than an hour and Liu was forced to retreat to the capital, with the intention of defending the stronghold in a siege, but his soldiers, those who had not wasted away in drinking and pillaging, simply disbanded and abandoned Liu. After only seven days, the reign of Liu Liangzuo ended with the Guardian General’s suicide.
Despite the great victory over the traitorous general, the senseless loss of men and material, who could have been used in the war to restore the Mandate of Heaven to the Ming, as well as that of General Liu were felt deeply by Shi Kefa. Furthermore, another loss was especially recounted on the night of February 13th: that of the Prince of Fu, who had last been seen in Liu Liangzuo’s company just before the arrival of Shi’s army. The Prince’s death was not confirmed until thirteen days later, when the Prince of Lu, the other claimant to the throne, was named Regent of the Southern Ming, a title that would later be done away in favor of that of the Emperor of Great Ming, for which the Prince would take the regnal name of Yongguang, meaning “Eternal Brightness.”
The Succession Crisis that rocked the foundations of the Southern Ming in the winter of 1647 was followed by two other ominous events.
The First was the invasion of the Kingdom of Daxi in the spring of 1647, a task given to Huang Degong and an army of 80,000 men carrying the banner of Great Ming. In this campaign, Huang showed his talent as a strategist and field commander by sweeping the Daxi armies from Guangxi and Guizhou in May of 1647, capturing many Black and Golden Banners of the Dragon Emperor of Daxi and inflicting copious casualties on his armies. Defeated, Liu Wenxiu abandoned his fiefdom of Guizhou and sought refuge in his father’s stronghold in Chongqing, where the Dragon King garrisoned an army 50,000 man strong and had built a great fortress, which Huang Degong declared as his next target in late June.
The size of the Dragon King’s army, the inability to support a proper supply line and the horrid weather of Chongqing, where the summer was so exceptionally hot that it prompted the soldiers of the Ming army to refer to the city as “The Furnace.” The siege was thus prolonged for 80 days before the Ming armies were forced to leave the site due to exhaustion and lack of morale. The more widely believed version in Sichuan tells that Huang’s army was broken by a monsoon in early August, which engulfed much of his forces to protect the city, although no Ming records can verify this. Defeated, Huang rebuilt his army in Guizhou but was not able to retake the offensive or easily replace the 20,000 men lost in his campaign. Daxi’s loss of 25,000 soldiers between May and August of 1647 was similarly crippling and often cited as the reason behind the end of the Kingdom’s military campaigns. The real reason was nevertheless in the disappearance of Zhang Xianzhong, the Dragon King of Great West, from the battlefield in August of that year. During the defense of Chongqing, which the King personally supervised, Zhang became terribly ill and was confined to his bed for the rest of the campaign, some say because of a cold, later revealed to be pneumonia, caught during an especially long battle in which it rained for four hours, although the theory that Zhang was mortally wounded during the battle, either by sword or arrow, and that the wound forced him to leave the battle is equally valid.
Whatever was the case; Zhang left for Chengdu as soon as the siege was over and never left his bed again. The mystery behind his death remains to this day.
The second event was not military in nature but political. In August of 1647 the Xianbao Emperor of Great Shun recalled Wu Sangui from Shandong and other prominent generals for a meeting with Yuan Chonghuan, Minister of War and Commander in Chief of all of the Northern Armies. The higher echelons of the Shun Military Command were present along with the Six Ministers, the most influential advisors and closest followers of Li Zicheng. The purpose of the assembly was clear to all involved: to complete the Great Enterprise and finish the conquest of the Mandate of Heaven.
1. Problems between Gao Jie and whoever was the actual governor of the province he occupied were common since Gao was more of a Warlord of the “pillage and burn” variety, even when he was nominally an agent of the Ming; Lu Zhenfei had this problems all the time, being an enemy of Ma Shiying and an able administrator not wanting warlords to sack his lands and cities;
2. Donglin Plot or just a series of unfortunate events? IOTL, it was Gao Jie the one besieging Yangzhou, a Ming City, for his own gain, and of course, it was always Shi Kefa’s job to mediate between the Ming Authorities and the Warlords; Shi Kefa thinks of course that placating Gao Jie in the northern frontier is more important than Liu’s behavior in Yangzhou since, well, Gao is at the border whereas Liu is a part of a plot that might or might not have been crafted by Shi Kefa;
3. This was rather hard to accomplish, but with some butterflies meaning that only half the Guardian Generals are on Ma Shiying’s side, and some underhanded schemes, nothing is impossible. Of course, Gao Jie had to be bribed to get him to switch sides, whereas the third warlord Liu Zeqing has been recently disgraced in his campaign against Zhang Xianzhong and thus weakened, plus he’s presented with a fait accompli some thousands of miles away across China;
The aftermath of the Shinobi-no-ran and the destruction of the shinobi clans of Iga and Koga, as well as their allies of Omi Province were celebrated in the halls and lounges of Tsutsuijigasaki Castle for several straight days in the summer of 1647, but had the Takeda Shogun counted with the benefit of hindsight, he could have realized the foolishness of his actions. 
The decade of the 1650s was a period of great tribulation for the Shogunate, as the consequences of the Shogun’s actions began to be felt throughout the land, starting in the provinces of Omi, Iga and Yamato, where the conditions left by the Shinobi rebellion and the destruction of the local clans had left thousands of destitute soldiers and Samurai, now forced to become ronin, along with peasants, merchants and artisans who were ruined by the destruction of the central provinces and the havoc wrecked by the war on the land and the local economy. The provinces, occupied, poor and oppressed by the new administration, to which the people felt little loyalty or respect, were thus imbued with the spirit of rebellion, prompting the Ronin rebellion of 1651.
The rebellion began with several former retainers and samurai of the Kosaka and Rokkaku clans, 108 of them according to legend, 87 according to other sources, who between 1647 and 1650 had taken the fight against the Sanada Clan, which had been rewarded with the central provinces of Omi and Yamato, all the time plotting revenge for their fallen masters. After three years of careful planning and preparation, the ronin had scaled down their attacks and prompted Sanada Nobuyuki to let his guard down, luring him into a false sense of safety. It is said that Nobuyuki had sent away half of his guards when the ronin, led by a former Kosaka retainer by the name of Hoshina Kichiemon, led the attack against the castle that had once belonged to Kosaka Nagahide. In the darkness of a moonless night of the spring of 1647, the 108 ronin invaded the estate and broke through the defenses, defeating a defending force 8 times their size before finally reaching Sanada Nobuyuki’s chambers and executing him, after the usurper had reneged of his duty to commit seppuku. Thanks to the cover of the night, the surviving ronin were able to take the head of Sanada back to the shrine were their former master was buried, and were welcomed as heroes by the townspeople and remembered for their bravery by history and literature. 
The Tale of the Kosaka Ronin is nevertheless only the fuse that lit the powder keg that was central Japan in the spring of 1647. The terrible social and economic conditions mixed with the mismanagement of the provinces, the high taxes and poor crops led to a massive rebellion of not only ronin, but also peasants and merchants, who formed militias and tried to overthrow the local government between the spring and the summer of 1651. The rebellion, lacking coherent leadership and proper goals, was short-lived and crushed by an expeditionary army barely north of the 10,000 men mark in July of 1651, yet it would only be a small sample of things to come. 
The crisis of the 1650s was marked by the rise of groups opposed to the actions of the Shogunate for a variety of reasons, amongst which we can find the ronin, who were left masterless, disgraced and destitute and who sought to change the conditions in which they lived, which is why most found new purpose serving as mercenaries for groups such as the Red Seal Company, tried to find fortune in the employ of the Daimyo of Chosen or found new homes thanks to the welcoming arms of the Ikko-Ikki.
Other groups opposing the Takeda Shogunate in this time have been commonly been referred to as the Shishi, or Ishin-Shishi, “Men of High Purpose”, an umbrella term used to encompass a variety of men and organizations who took action against the Shogunate between the 17th and 18th centuries, and amongst which we can find assassins, intellectuals, Shinto and Buddhist monks, warrior monks, former ronin, minor daimyo, former shinobi and the like which shared a common opposition to the Shogunate and in most cases, little else.
A common cause for the Shishi was opposition to European influence in Japan, be it in the form of the Catholic Church and Christian missionaries, their allied daimyo, the presence of European products and merchants in Japanese markets, and many other issues. A prominent form that this opposition took was the “expel the barbarians” drive that was popular amongst intellectual Confucian and Buddhist groups such as the “Three Virtues Society” and the “Double Leaf Society”, the last one gaining some fame for its 1650s campaign to “end all decadence and destroy barbarian influence” by attacking Christian missionaries in Nagasaki, burning bibles and other European books and attempting to sink several Portuguese and Dutch ships in Nagasaki and Kagoshima between 1651 and 1658. One of the most eccentric traits of this campaign was the opposition to the “invasion of the Japanese home”, that is the growing popularity of western furniture and implements in the homes of the wealthiest merchants, noblemen and daimyo of Kyushu. The Double-Leaf Society saw that the Traditional Japanese Home, spartan and minimalist as a good and honorable home should be, was being flooded by imported European luxury items that after destroying the sanctity of the decadent daimyo and merchants would find their way to the household of the common Japanese man in the street. The popularity of European beds, chairs, tall tables and cupboards were for many a sign that soon images of the Buddha would be burnt at the shrines and replaced by Crosses and images of European Saints. 
This hysteria reached its height when one follower of the Double-Leaf Society, known to history as Tanaka, assassinated Father Alfonso Perez de Guzman, missionary for the Company of Jesus, member of the Diocese of Nagasaki and advisor to the Nabeshima Clan, on October of 1655. Tanaka was killed on the spot by guards of the Nabeshima clan, thus incurring in the wrath of the local populace, which nearly lynched the two guards before the forces of the daimyo could prevent a massacre. Despite such intentions, during that night the Double-Leaf Society organized their numbers, such as they were, and tried to mobilize the population of Nagasaki, taking advantage of the anti-Christian sentiments of some of the citizens. What followed was an attempt to march on the Diocese the following day, and a bloodbath that incurred as the Diocese met the attackers with their own force, partly composed of warriors provided by the Nabeshima, partly an improvised militia of local converts and Portuguese sailors. Nagasaki became a battlefield for two weeks following this engagement and the peace would not return until November of 1655, when the Double-Leaf Society was defeated and disbanded and their leaders exiled or executed.
Such incidents would be widespread during the rule of Takeda Nobutoyo, and then throughout the early 1700s. In 1653, the Shishi played a role in the Usuki Incident, in which ronin of Oita province along with anti-Christian militias rose against the rule of the Otomo Clan and took Usuki Castle. Although the rebel army that took the castle was only 200 men strong when they took the castle in the autumn of 1653, the poorly coordinated and slow response from the daimyo Francisco Otomo allowed Usuki Castle to become the center of a province-wise rebellion and the Castle stood as a stronghold for the duration of the winter of 1653 and well into 1654, when the Otomo army was finally able to crush a rebellion that was amassing an army in the low thousands. 
While not all demonstrations from the Ishin-Shishi were violent, their actions in the turbulent 1650s have been mostly remembered due to their forceful and violent approach to their opposition to the Shogunate and the problem of European influence in Japan. Affairs such as the Usuki Castle Incident, the Omi and Yamato rebellion of 1651 or the Nagasaki Troubles of 1655 are remembered today as the most important events of the period, along with what was arguably the pinnacle of violence for the period, the Hanseong Uprising of 1658. 
1. As seen in Part IV, especially in “Omi”
2. In a way this takes the place of the Keian Revolt of 1651, although it’s also a completely different affair prompted by different circumstances and with different goals;
3. Being a fan of the Tale of the 47 Ronin, I couldn’t resist;
4. As opposed to the organized coup attempt that was the plan behind the Keian uprising of IOTL, this is a local affair, the result of local grievances exploding in an almost spontaneous act of anger and rebellion;
5. I thought that furniture, of all things, could too play a role in the construction of a AH world; European furniture is only popular ITTL in the homes of the richest merchants, local nobles, daimyos and retainers, and the daimyo only being the Otomo, Nabeshima, Date and to a degree the Shimazu, so it’s not like there’s an actual danger of tall tables, armchairs, sideboards and cupboards invading the household of the Shrine-going Japanese peasants or that the town Buddhist Monk or Confucian Intellectual will be crucified in a cross of imported Mahogany.
6. The glory days of the Otomo Clan are far gone, and now they’re mostly an empty shell prompted by the Shogunate and some local allies;
7. More about this in the next chapter about Corea.
The Southern Throne Shattered
Under the steady hand of the Yongguang Emperor, the Southern Ming was able to recover a measure of peace and stability, and some would even say prosperity. Commercial relations were reestablished with Japan through the Red Seal Company, along with Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish trade, whereas the stabilization of the southern provinces and the establishment of a centralized government in Nanjing brought an end to the economic turmoil suffered by the Loyalist Regime between 1644 and 1646. The Civil administration of the realm also benefited from the Emperor’s wise and sharp mind, and the Six Ministries along with several key positions in the central and provincial governments were awarded to the Confucian faction that stood behind Shi Kefa and the Prince of Lu during the succession struggle, leading some to call this a “resurrection of the Donglin Faction”, after several years that the strict Confucians spent in the wilderness. Yet, not all was good for the Ming: Military magnates and aristocrats, along with the Guardian Generals continued to depredate the land and act as iron-fisted autocrats in the provinces their armies occupied. Infamous was the case of Yangzhou, besieged in two occasions by two of the Guardian Generals, or that of the Province of Hunan, which had become a de facto fiefdom of Huang Degong. 
Yet Shi Kefa knew that he needed the Guardian Generals and their armies, for without them the Son of Heaven would stand no chance against the Usurper and his army of bandits and turncoats. The all-powerful Minister of War was so confident in the recovery he had seen in the year of 1647, with the ascension of the Yongguang Emperor, the campaign against Daxi in Guizhou and the purge of the Eunuchs, that in the spring of 1648 he began to envision a campaign to reclaim the Mandate of Heaven and restore the Ming to Beijing and the northern provinces. In Shi’s vision, Gao Jie would invade the Central Plains and retake Kaifeng in the summer of 1648, while he and Zuo Liangyu would march from Huainan to link with the rebel armies in Shandong and drive the Usurper from Beijing. 
Circumstances would nevertheless conspire against Shi Kefa’s plans and see that the military situation of 1648 be completely reversed.
Shun incursions along the Huai River, coupled with the continued wave of desertions along the temporary Shun-Ming border had weakened the northern defenses of the Ming, while Gao Jie’s inability to keep the Shun in check or to put a decisive end to his feud with Lu Zhenfei caused great rifts within the Ming court and the Ministry of War. The status quo that had persisted since the Battle of Dezhou was nevertheless only broken shortly after the so-called Third Battle of Huainan, when Li Jiyu, warlord of Suizhou in Hubei, defected to the Shun and invited their armies to the city, putting Wuhan and all of Hubei under direct threat from the Northern Forces. Shi Kefa reacted as fast as he could by sending relief to the Ming Army at Wuhan, but the wheels had already been set in motion: in April of 1648, the Armies of Great Shun descended upon the lands the Southern Ming in great force, carrying the banners of the Xianbao Emperor and marching across the Huai to conclude the Great Enterprise. 
The Shun Armies were led by the “Two Pillars of Great Shun”, Yuan Chonghuang and Wu Sangui, both Ming turncoats who had made names for themselves pacifying the northern provinces for Li Zicheng, and under them the “Seventeen Princely Generals”, all of whom gained great fame by serving in the Southern Campaigns of 1648-1650 and would form the backbone of the new Dynasty’s military hierarchy for the rest of the Xianbao emperor’s reign. 
During the initial phase of the campaign, General Li Gou led the Shun armies in the siege of Wuhai, whereas the main invasion force under the direct command of Yuan Chonghuan invaded Huainan, converging to meet Gao Jie’s army at the Battle of Hefei. Outnumbered, Gao was nevertheless able to take some advantage of the poor communication between the Shun headquarters in Hefei and the field commanders, thus being able to outmaneuver the Shun right flank and leave the field with minimal casualties. The Guardian General received reinforcements from Shi Kefa and Lu Zhenfei near Lake Chao the following day, in time for the Battle of Chao Hu, which saw a Ming army of 60,000 engage a Shun force of 80,000 for two days and hold them off until further Shun reinforcements tilted the balance and force the Ming to retreat once more.
As Li Gou was unable to break Zuo Liangyu’s forces at Wuhan and Wu Sangui chased Gao Jie across Huainan, in Jiangsu the Generals Zu Kefa and Zu Zezhong drove the Ming forces and took the northern shores of the Yangzi with great speed and ability. With Yangzhou and Wuhan under siege and Gao Jie retreating, Shi Kefa took direct command over all field armies and marched with the forces of Great Ming towards Hefei, while sending reinforcements to Yangzhou to fight the Zu and ordering Huang Degong to bring his army from Hunan to the battlefield. 
Through late May of 1648, the armies of Shi Kefa and Yuan Chonghuan engaged in a process of continued maneuvers in an attempt to force the circumstances against the opponent in terms of numbers and terrain. After several skirmishes in which one general managed to outnumber the other for a short amount of time, both armies finally converged once more north of the Chi River, the two armies numbering 82,000 and 76,000 men respectively, reinforcements scattered across Huainan or sent elsewhere. 
While having managed to obtain an advantage in term of numbers, Shi Kefa was not particularly confident enough and sought to further delay the match, if only to wait for Huang Degong’s 40,000 men to come and finally provide a decisive advantage in the Huainan theater. A further source of worries for the Ming commander was the loyalty of his commanders, which was suspect in many cases. Gao Jie and Liu Zeqing were particularly distrusted amongst Shi’s subordinates, as could be expected in the case of opportunistic warlords. Yet the Commander-in-Chief’s suspicions could not be proved, at least until the night of June 2nd of 1648, in which Ming spies discovered that the Guardian General Liu Zeqing had been exchanging correspondence with the enemy camp and that Yuan Chonghuan had sought to corrupt Shi’s subordinates and obtain several defections. The depth of the betrayal was unknown to Shi Kefa and in his mind only Liu was guilty. Yet another reason had presented itself and convinced Shi to abandon the field and seek for the decisive battle another day.
The following day, Yuan Chonghuan was informed of the suspicious movements taking place in the Ming camp and ordered his army to attack the Ming. The result was a complete rout, as the Shun vanguard of 25,000 men drove the center of the Ming army, somewhere north of the 45,000 men mark, and completely steamrolled the bulk of their force. This was the result of a clever use of artillery and cavalry on the part of Yuan, and an even cleverer use of espionage and counterintelligence used the night before.
During the night of June 2nd, Yuan had maintained correspondence with Ming General Xu Dingguo, commander of Shi’s right wing and an enemy of Guardian General Gao Jie, whose depredations during the chaotic years of 1644 and 1645 had resulted in the death of Xu Dingguo’s entire family. Having entertained notions of defection and revenge during his post on the frontier, Xu had been serving as one of Yuan’s men inside the Ming Army and finally, the night before the battle his services were called upon: under the cover of the night Xu would finally obtain his revenge, treating Gao Jie to a lavish celebration in his tent in anticipation of the “coming victory over the Usurpers” and ambushing him and his men. The massacre occurred just as Shi Kefa ordered his men to isolate Liu Zeqing in anticipation for his upcoming arrest, meaning that two of the Guardian Generals were incapacitated the night prior to the battle and their armies neutralized. 
The military accomplishments of Yuan during June 3rd must not be overlooked, nevertheless, as he used the bulk of his army to maneuver north of Liu Zeqing’s now headless army and pin it out, whereas he took his own veteran forces and broke the back of the main Ming army from the battlefield in less than two hours.
The battle was disastrous for the Ming: in addition to the 20,000 dead, Gao Jie and Liu Zeqing had been lost, their forces dispersed and an entire army defected en masse to the armies of the Usurper. Broken and alone, Shi Kefa retreated hastily in order to organize the Defense of Nanjing.
1. So while some things are better, due to the Southern Ming having four years (1644-1648) as opposed to one to reorganize and having the Prince of Lu takeover instead of the Prince of Fu, others things cannot be fixed, such as the abuses of the Guardian Generals and other assorted warlords that are necessary to keep the Ming afloat and safe from invasion; these abuses were just as common IOTL;
2. Shi Kefa did indeed have hopes of retaking northern China and had plans for retaking the Central Planes in 1645, all of which were shattered when Gao Jie was murdered that year;
3. Frontier commanders are by now adjusted to skirmishes and battles including irrelevant engagements such as the Second Battle of Bengpu, in which 10,000 soldiers were lost, or the Third Engagement at Huainan, etc;
4. The background for Yuan and Wu has been given already; the 17 Princely Generals are IOTL who served the Qing, Ming and Shun but ITTL find themselves fighting for Li Zicheng in 1648;
5. The Zu here are the family of Zu Dashou, who served in Liaodong and betrayed the Ming to the Qing, trying to give them Yinzhou in 1631, an event that does not take place ITTL, so everyone who defected to the Ming that day, including some very able commanders, work at the frontier, serve under Yuan and later defect along him to the Shun, as the Qing are not an option ITTL;
6. Mostly accomplished through complicated maneuvers along the Huai and Yangzi Rivers;
7. Xu Dingguo was a Ming Turncoat who switched to the Qing IOTL, but not before luring Gao Jie and murdering him in 1645, because he killed his family as ITTL; IOTL Xu defected in 1645 along with Li Jiyu, who defects three years later ITTL;
Is Hanseong Burning?
Several tragic episodes marked the 182 years of Japanese rule in the Korean peninsula, but few have ever matched the grandeur and scale of the Great Hanseong Rebellion of 1658 in the historical narrative of the national liberation struggle of Korea. The Great National Awakening of the 19th century would see the stand of the Righteous Armies at Hanseong as the birth of the Korean nation proper and its independence movement. 
The southern capital of Hanseong, awarded to Japan following the so-called Treaty of Kaesong, had been the epicenter of a major anti-Japanese rebellion before, in the immediate aftermath of the division of the peninsula between the Manchu and the Japanese. The Japanese response led to the Seven Days of Fire, in which large portions of the city were razed and up to 20,000 people killed as a result of the havoc and the fires that the Takeda armies used to reduce the city to ashes. While most of the city remained more or less inhabitable following the Seven Days of Fire in 1630, works to rebuild the former capital were undertaken almost immediately as the Japanese Government in Chosen deemed necessary to develop the cities on the northern border to present a proper defense against the rump Joseon State and the Manchu. 
As a result, thousands of workers were brought from nearby fields and even neighboring provinces to supply the force necessary to rebuild the city, with a special emphasis put to the city’s defenses. The inner and outer walls of the city were rebuilt along with the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, which were used by the new local government, while the Fortress of Namhansanseong, which was being modernized and expanded before the Japanese invasion in 1626, was completed in the 1640s and used as one of the Thirty-Two Fortresses. As a result of these 20 years of continued works to rebuild Hanseong, the local economy thrived but at the same time the internal migrations taking place in central Korea led to a difficult situation in the former capital and in its surroundings.
The poor working conditions, the lack of proper living accommodations or houses and the sheer number of workers brought along with the Japanese occupation troops meant that the city expanded greatly between 1638 and 1658, with several families or groups of workers generally sharing cramped and shoddily built houses in slums in the outlying areas of the capital, under the vigilant eye of the local Japanese administrators, poorly remunerated and with basic supplies and goods ranging from food to clothing being limited or only obtained through the black market. This situation created a perfect breeding ground for an insurrection, and thus agents of the Righteous Armies, dissolved in their majority after the end of the war but still working to fight the Japanese Occupation, worked tirelessly to spread the seeds of discontent amongst the people of Hanseong.
The spark that lit the powder keg presented itself when in the spring of 1658 the local government issued a new Rice Tax, reintroduced and increased after the recovery of the fields in central Korea reached a point in which the burden could befell on the taxpayers once more. The burden of the new tax, the severity of the new authorities and the poor crops drove thousands to the hands of the anti-Japanese rebels and finally the summer of 1658 saw a full out insurrection, first in the slums of Hanseong and in the fields surrounding the city, later throughout the former capital. On July 26th the local Japanese militias were run out of the slums and driven to the great southern gate of Hanseong, Sungnyemun  and there they were overwhelmed by the rebels. By the early days of August, the Japanese troops and officials that had not been killed by the angry mob left the city for the fortress of Namhansanseong. 2,000 troops under the command of Asano Nagatomo  resisted the onslaught and the prolonged siege by the rebel army, numbering around 10,000 men and women in arms by early august and 25,000 men by the end of the month.
The rebellion spread throughout the city’s immediate surroundings as the messengers from Namhansanseong did their best to leave the fortress in the midst of the night and get reinforcement from the other Thirty-Two Fortresses. Many of the commanders were eager to send reinforcements and crush the rebellion, but they, along with the Magistrate General, Obu Hirochika, feared that thinning their own garrisons would only encourage the rebels to rise in their own domains, and thus they remained indecisive for most of August as help was requested from the Shogunate. By August 20th of 1658, the central region of Gyeonggi Province saw the rebellion spread like wildfire, and the affair had caught the attention of the courts at Pyongyang and Tsutsuijigasaki.
The issue was especially complicated for the court of the King Sohyeon, who had followed a policy of non-intervention towards Japanese Chosen and had always sought to maintain Northern Joseon isolated from the world’s affairs so as to dedicate the strength of the nation to rebuild itself. The court, dominated by the reformist Silhak faction and under the figure of Chief State Councilor Song Siyeol , stood opposed to any form of intervention arguing that the finances of Northern Joseon would not allow for any kind of military adventures and that they could ill-afford a new war against Japan. Some in the Sarim faction, seeking to undermine the power of the Silhak, suggested that the King Sohyeon ask for the intervention of the Xianbao Emperor and send an envoy to Beijing, but the suggestion was met with little more than a scold. To ask for the assistance of the Son of Heaven would have been political suicide for the King, who sought to build his nation and dynasty through his own means and independent from foreign intervention. Avoid a return to a relation of vassalage with China was as vital for Northern Joseon as avoiding a new war with Japan, yet the results from this decision would come to haunt Sohyeon later on.
The reaction at Tsutsuijigasaki was faster and direct. The Shogun is said to have raged for three days and have vowed to reduce Hanseong to ashes and kill every single male in the island over the age of ten, but at the end the ominous threats uttered by Takeda Nobutoyo came to naught. A relief force of 20,000 men under the overall command of Mori Yoshihiro of the Chosu domain was sent to Busanjinjiseong in the late summer of 1658. By September 10th, Mori Yoshihiro’s army was reinforced by 8,000 troops from Busanjinjiseong and began the march towards Hanseong, arriving on September 20th, nearly two months after the rebellion had started.
The autumn campaign against the local insurrection pitted a Japanese regular army of 28,000 men against a nominal army of 50,000 men, but it was only a matter of days before the coherent and experienced regular army crushed the mobs of peasants, farmers and villagers assembled by the rebels to meet the Japanese forces. Yoshihiro marched straight towards the city and cleared the slums of rebel activity before coming to the walls of Hanseong and forcing his way through the city’s defenses. After having roamed through the former capital and the countryside unrestrained for nearly two months, inciting the populace against the Japanese and wreaking havoc in the Northern Province, the rebels were forced to take refuge behind the walls of Hanseong, where they suffered from the privations that come from any siege.
The Japanese revenge against the insurrectionists was a replay of the Seven Days of Fire, but with even greater strength and viciousness as Mori Yoshihiro’s orders called for him to make an example out of the rebels at Hanseong. What few leaders of the rebellion that can be found are decapitated, their bodies burnt and the heads sent to the four corners of Japanese Chosen, whereas nearly 5,000 more people guilty of collaboration or insurrection were executed in the first five days of the Japanese reoccupation of the city. Furthermore, the new commander instituted a policy of killing Ten Koreans for every Japanese soldier or colonist killed by the rebels and other draconian measures that marked Yoshihiro’s ten month governorship over Hanseong as a reign of terror. Sungnyemun and other historical landmarks were razed and the rubble was used to build the new buildings for the local Japanese administration.
To this day, Mori Yoshihiro is seen as one of the embodiments of the vile Japanese occupation by Korean Nationalists and his crimes seen as the darkest hour in the long history of atrocities and abuses that is thrown in Japan’s face by the Great National Awakening Movement and its heirs. The legacy of the Hanseong Rebellion of 1658 is further obscured by the role that the King Sohyeon and the Northern Joseon played in the insurrection, leading many to label the monarch as a collaborationist and blaming him for the failure of the rebellion, going as far as saying that the King turned a blind eye to show his support for the Japanese occupation of southern Korea as part of a secret pact made with the Japanese Shogun. Such was the controversy that arose from this incident that it is believed that Sohyeon’s Assassination in 1664 was an act of vengeance from the agents of the Righteous Armies of Chosen.
In Hanseong, the ashes bury the dead as the banners of the free Korea are taken down.
1. Foreshadowing, hurray!
2. This was previously covered in Part IV: Avatars, Wandering Through a Forrest of Cherry Blossoms; it was hinted that all of Hanseong was burnt to the ground, but that was mostly exaggeration; only a third of the city was actually burnt, perhaps less;
3. Namhansanseong (South Han Mountain Fortress) was IOTL built on the site of previous fortresses (Namhansan-South Han Mountain) in the 1620s, when the Manchu were threatening Korea, but was obviously not finished ITTL due to the Japanese invasion; since the border with Joseon is just a few hundred or thousand Li north of Hanseong, rebuilding the city’s defenses is a priority;
4. Sungnyemun (Gate of Exalted Ceremonies), also known as the Great Southern Gate (Namdaemun) is a real hallmark located in Seoul;
5. The ITTL version of the IOTL Asano Nagatomo, Lord of Ako;
6. The Chief State Councilor was the highest position within the state council and the equivalent of a “Prime Minister of Korea;” Song Siyeol is a IOTL figure that was part of the Young Learning (Noron) faction within the larger Western Faction in Joseon Politics; ITTL, Song Siyeol is still a philosopher, but for the Silhak faction due to the alternate developments in the Korean peninsula;
Last edited by maverick; December 7th, 2010 at 12:32 PM..