I have not wrote anything on Nobunaga and Mt. Hiei in ages. The last time I was able to visit Mt. Hiei was in 2001. It was an awesome place to visit and learn. It still amazes me even today how Nobunaga and his army climbed up the mountain and put practically everyone to the sword in 1571.
There is an excellent book in English by Neil McMullin, Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan, which explains the many reasons why Nobunaga put Mt. Hiei to the torch. The monks of Mt. Hiei either bought their way out, fought their way, or prayed their way out of troubles. That being said, Nobunaga was very different and had no fear to show Mt. Hiei a lesson they will never forget.
Here are some of the main reasons why Nobunaga attacked Mt. Hiei in 1571.
- Mt. Hiei was a member of the anti-Nobunaga league united at least indirectly with the Honganji against Nobunaga.
- Mt. Hiei was on the doorstep of Kyoto. It was very dangerous to come and go.
- Nobunaga had a chain of forces against him. To break the chain, Mt. Hiei was the weakest link of that chain.
- Mt. Hiei was located in a strip of land between the Honganji to the west and the provinces to the east such as Echizen and Kaga that Nobunaga wanted to control.
- Mt. Hiei challenged Nobunaga's authority. A very bad idea indeed. Challenging the Uesama's authority only results in death! A year earlier, Nobunaga gave Mt. Hiei a stern warning. The priests disregarded the warning which costs them total destruction of the entire area.
Nobunaga no tame!