Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長 June 23, 1534 - June 21, 1582) was a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. Son of Oda Nobuhide, a minor warlord with meager land holdings in Owari province, Nobunaga lived a life of continuous military conquest to eventually conquer most of Japan before his untimely death in 1582.
Militarily, Nobunaga's revolutionary dreaming not only changed the way war was fought in Japan, but also in turn made one of the most modernized forces in the world at that time. He developed, implemented, and expanded the use of long pikes, firearms, ironclad ships, and castle fortifications in accordance to the expanded mass battles of the period. Nobunaga also instituted a specialized warrior class system and appointed his retainers and subjects to positions based on ability, not wholly based on name, rank, or family relationship like prior historical periods. Retainers were also given land on basis of rice output, not land size. Nobunaga's organizational system in particular was later used and extensively developed by his ally Tokugawa Ieyasu in the forming of the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo.
Nobunaga's dominance and brilliance was not restricted only to the battlefield for he also was a keen businessman and understood the principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics. First, in order to modernize the economy from an agricultural base to a manufacture and service base, castle towns were developed as the center and basis of local economies. Roads were also made within his domain between castle towns to not only facilitate trade, but also to move armies great distances in short timespans. International trade was also expanded beyond China and the Korean peninsula to Europe while namban (barbarian) trade with the Philippines, Siam, and Indonesia was also started.
Nobunaga also instituted rakuichi rakuza policies as a way to stimulate business and the overall economy. These policies abolished and prohibited monopolies and opened once closed and privileged unions, associations, and guilds which he saw as prohibitive to overall commerce. He also developed tax exemptions and established laws to regulate and ease the borrowing of debt.
As Nobunaga conquered Sengoku period Japan and amassed a great amount of wealth, he progressively supported the arts for which he always had an interest, but which he later and gradually more importantly used as a display of his power and presitige. He built extensive gardens and castles which were themselves great works of art. Azuchi castle on the shores of lake Biwa is said to be the greatest castle in the history of Japan, covered with gold and statues on the outside and decorated with standing screen, sliding door, wall, and ceiling paintings made by his subject Kano Eitoku on the inside. Nobunaga is remembered in Japan as one of the most brutal figures of the Sengoku period. He embraced the Christianity which had infiltrated Japan and used this as the moral basis for his persecution of the Ikko monks. During this time, Nobunaga's subject and tea master Sen no Rikyu established Japanese tea ceremony which Nobunaga popularized and used originally as a way to talk politics and business. The beginnings of modern kabuki were started and later fully developed in the early Edo period.
1534 Born the second (or maybe third) son of Oda Nobuhide however is the first son not born to a concubine so is heir to the Oda clan and domain.
1539? Becomes master of Nagoya castle around the age of 5. Is separated from father and mother who raise his younger brother Oda Nobuyuki at Suemori castle, while Nobunaga is brought up alone by retainer Hirate Masahide.
1547 Nobunaga sees first, however short, military action
1549 Marries daughter of Saito Dosan, daimyo of Mino province (Gifu prefecture). It is a political marriage set up by his father and Hirate Masahide.
Unification of Owari Province
1551 Father Nobuhide dies and Nobunaga inherits domain. Becomes engaged in struggle with younger brother Nobuyuki for succession of the Oda clan and with others for total control of Owari province.
1552 Battle of Kaizu. Nobunaga defeats the rebelling Oda Nobutomo.
1553 Retainer Hirate Masahide commits seppuku out of shame for Nobunaga. Nobunaga meets father-in-law Saito Dousan for the first time.
1555 Battle of Ino. Defeats younger brother Nobuyuki and Shibata Katsuie to become undisputed head of the Oda clan.
1556 Father-in-law Saito Dousan killed in coup in Mino province.
1557 Nobuyuki again plans to overthrow Nobunaga. Nobunaga informed of the plot by Shibata Katsuie and in turn forces Nobuyuki to commit seppuku.
1558 Battle of Ukino. Defeats the Oda Nobukata, last of the rebelling relatives in Owari province.
1559 Nobunaga goes to Kyoto to announce his unification of Owari province to the 13th Muromachi shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru.
First Major Campaign
1560 Battle of Okehazama. Defeats invading daimyo Imagawa Yoshimoto, ruler of the Mikawa (eastern Aichi prefecture), Suruga (western Shizuoka prefecture), and Totomi (eastern Shizuoka) provinces.
1562 Forms "Kiyosu alliance" with Matsudaira Motoyasu (later Tokugawa Ieyasu), new daimyo of Mikawa province.
1567 Nobunaga invades and conquers Mino province. Starts to have ambitions of conquering all of Japan, calling it Tenka Fubu, "Conquer through military force".
1568 Oda Nobunaga marches his armies into Kyoto at the request of 14th Ashikaga shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki. With Kyoto conquered and Ashikaga Yoshiaki installed as a puppet shogun, the Azuchi-Momoyama period of Japanese history officially begins (overlaps with Muromachi period until 1573).
1570 Battle of Ane river (Battle of Anegawa). Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu defeat the combined forces of daimyos Asakura Yoshikage and Azai Nagamasa.
1571 Attacks and razes the Tendai warrior monk complex Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei near Kyoto.
1573 Invades and conquers Echizen and Wakasa provinces. Nobunaga drives last Muromachi shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki out of Kyoto. The Muromachi shogunate ends.
Invasion of Chugoku (Western Honshu)
1575 Battle of Nagashino. Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu defeat Takeda Katsuyori. First invasion of Tamba by general Akechi Mitsuhide.
1579 Akechi Mitsuhide invades Tanba for the 3rd time and finally conquers it. Settsu province also invaded and conquered. Mimasaka and Bizen provinces "given" to Nobunaga.
1580 Miki Castle falls after 2 year siege by Nobunaga's general Hashiba Hideyoshi. Invades and conquers Tajima. Inaba province invaded.
1581 Hashiba Hideyoshi lays siege to Tottori castle. Inaba province conquered.
1582 Hashiba Hideyoshi invades Bitchu province. Takeda clan falls under the forces of Nobunaga; Shinano, Kai, and Suruga provinces conquered. Nobunaga falls in coup (Honnoji no Hen) by retainer Akechi Mitsuhide at Honnoji Temple, Kyoto.