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Writings by Akechi Mitsuhide, subject of new NHK historical drama, marked for rare display

Prohibition decrees that ban certain activities at the Taga Taisha shrine that are said to have been written by Akechi Mitsude in the days following the 1582 Honnoji Incident are seen in this image provided by the Taga Board of Education in Shiga Prefecture.

HIKONE, Shiga -- Prohibition decrees said to have been written by feudal warlord Akechi Mitsuhide just days after the famous 1582 "Honno-ji incident," an attack he led that caused then daimyo Oda Nobunaga to perform ritual suicide, will go on display for the first time ever at a community center in the western Japan town of Taga, Shiga Prefecture, on Jan. 19.

The writing was made out to Shiga's most important shrine, the Taga Taisha. On the same day that it will be available for viewing, public broadcaster NHK's 2020 historical "Taiga" drama, "Kirin ga Kuru," which will center on Akechi, is set to commence its year-long run. The writing will be on display on Jan. 19 only, as a way to celebrate the drama's start.

The writing includes a promise to protect the safety of the shrine, which researchers say demonstrates the sense of unease in society at the time.

Taga Taisha is situated about 16 kilometers northeast from Oda Nobunaga's seat of Azuchi Castle in what is now the city of Omihachiman. Worshippers of the deities of long and active life have gathered at the shrine since long ago.

The writings going on display for the first time come from a collection of letters and other pieces totaling 136 documents that were conveyed to the shrine from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) to the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868). To avoid them becoming scattered and lost, the shrine had them backed and bound into the Taga Taisha documents. Among the directives of Akechi's writings are, "There will be no troop encampment on the shrine's grounds, no acts of violence, and no demands for money or provisions."

The scroll is dated June 6, 1582, the 10th year of the Tensho period, and also includes Akechi's "kao," a kind of stylized signature or mark. The Honnoji Incident is said to have taken place on June 2 of the same year, so the writing was apparently drawn up just four days after those events. According to Hiromi Inoue, a former curator at the Museum of Shiga Prefecture Biwa-Bunkakan who is also a member of a Taga city panel reviewing the preservation of cultural properties, it appears the shrine sent a messenger to Akechi, who then wrote the orders for them.

After the Honoji Incident, Akechi occupied Azuchi Castle, and set about capturing other fortifications located in the prefecture. He took Nagahama Castle, situated in the city of the same name, and Sawayama Castle in the city of Hikone.

Taiga Taisha lies in close proximity to all of these castles, and it is thought that it wanted to avoid the dangers of being embroiled in the conflicts around it. Inoue said, "Even though it is a shrine, the documents show that it kept a close watch on the movements of the warrior classes, which enables us to surmise that there was social tension during the war-torn era."

The writings will go on display from 1 p.m. and the public viewing of NHK's drama will start at 8 p.m. on Jan. 19. Admission will be free. Any questions can be directed to the Taga central community center at 0749-48-1800 (Japanese language only).

(Japanese original by Koichi Nishimura, Hikone Local Bureau)

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