- Rider(s):Kusunoki Masasige
(1294 – 1336) was a 14th-century samurai who fought for emperor Go-Daigo in his attempt to wrest rulership of Japan away from the Kamakura shogunate. He is remembered as the ideal of samurai loyalty. A brilliant tactician and strategist, Kusunoki’s cunning defense of two key Loyalist fortresses at Akasaka and Chihaya helped Go-Daigo to briefly return to power. However, one of the loyalist generals, Ashikaga Takauji, betrayed Go-Daigo and led an army against Kusunoki and the remaining loyalists. Kusunoki suggested to the emperor that they take refuge on sacred Mount Hiei and allow Takauji to take Kyoto, only to swoop down from the mountain, and with the help of the monks of Mount Hiei, trap Takauji in the city and destroy him. Go-Daigo was unwilling to leave the capital however, and insisted that Kusunoki meet Takauji’s superior forces in the field in a pitched battle. Kusunoki, in what would later be viewed as the ultimate act of samurai loyalty, obediently accepted his emperor’s foolish command, left his death poem with his young son Masatsura and knowingly marched his army into almost certain death. The battle, which took place at Minatogawa, was a tactical disaster. Kusunoki, his army completely surrounded, down to only 73 of the original 700 horsemen, died in battle along with his brother Masasue, 11 close clan members, and 60 others.
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