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Chapter Four Expansion of Territory



Chapter Four Expansion of Territory

The initial agenda that Yoshishige faced after pacifying Bungo was the re-organization of the internal government of Bungo and expanding Ōtomo rule into neighbouring territories. We begin by taking a look at the latter concern. Since Kenei 2 (1207), the province of Chikugo had been designated as part of the holdings of the founder of the Ōtomo household in Kyushu, Ōtomo Yoshinao, who was appointed as its shugo (according to the Kamizuma Monjo 上妻文書). This was the only province outside of Bungo that held ties with the Ōtomo from a very early stage onwards. During the Kamakura period, the Ōtomo would wrestle the Mihara family for control of Chikugo (according to the Mihara Monjo 三原文書). The authority that the Ōtomo exercised in Chikugo was a legacy of the capture of the office of shugo, a prize that came relatively easily when compared to developments elsewhere during the medieval period. Another factor that favoured the Ōtomo was the absence of any major landlord within Chikugo – the province was mostly populated by smaller landholders competing against one another.(27-28)

With the coming of the Muromachi period, the Ōtomo finally solidified their hold over Chikugo and began to process of issuing edicts and orders to both shugodai and gundai (郡代). The system of control that the Ōtomo exercised was quite well organized. For example, the holdings of various landlords tied to the Ōtomo within Chikugo were written down in the Chikugo Kokuryō Shutsuki (筑後国領主付) for Tenshō 6 (1578) (a document that forms part of the collection of the Dazai Kannai Shi 大宰管内志)
三池総介居城   三池今山
田尻中務居城   山門高尾
田尻左京居城   山門郡飛塚
蒲池弾正居城   山門郡柳川
津村大介居城   三瀦(ちょ)郡津村
江島遠江守居城  三瀦郡江島
五条七郎右衛門居城 上妻郡矢部栗原城
黒木兵庫居城  上妻郡猫尾城
谷川新三郎居城 同郡谷川城
辺春勘解由居城 立花城      (上妻か)
豊饒(じょう、ゆたか)美作守居城 「   」郡兼松城
上妻越前居城           「   」郡山崎
溝口常陸介五「 」町
水田藤四郎六町五段 (28-30)

This record shows the various landholders within Chikugo at the height of Ōtomo rule (just before the battle of Hyūga Mimigawa that took place in the 11th month of the same year, which resulted in a crushing defeat of the Ōtomo at the hands of the Shimazu). The record outlines those castles owned by landlords and the positions that accompanied them, and while there are some inconsistencies in the format, the record gives us an almost complete picture of the types of landholders present in Chikugo. Overall, the province is recorded as having thirty three castle holders. Along with those castle holders from Chikugo, many castle owners also originated from Bungo, such as the Hōjō (豊饒) family of Kanematsu (兼松城) castle. The Hōjō family took up a shugodai position within Chikugo during the Muromachi period. As for other families, both the Kusano and Kuroki families possessed over 600 chō (or fields), whereas more than half of the retainers in Chikugo had no more than 10 fields under their control.(31)

These smaller landowners certainly paid close attention to developments around them. In the Spring of the 4th year of Daiei (1524) while Ōtomo Yoshiaki was in the process of applying Ōtomo rule in Chikugo, Akizuki (秋月) Shigenari of the Chikuzen Akizuki family formed a pact with Sue Mimasaka no Kami of the Ōuchi family of Suo and  revolted against Yoshiaki. Yoshiaki sent Takita (田北) Chikasada to deal with the uprising, who promptly defeated Shigenari and forced him to recant on his alliance (according to the Chikugo Kokushi (筑後国史) among others). By the time Yoshishige took power, it appears as though he too shared a propensity for allowing retainers who had defied his rule to return to his service in order to maintain peace within the provinces. In the aftermath of the defeat of the Ōtomo in Tenshō 6 (1578) at the battle of Mimigawa, both the Akizuki and Ryūzōji families rose in revolt. Once they did so, others followed suit. However two families were particularly notable for their continuing support of the Ōtomo - these being the Monchūjo (問注所) and the head (or `Zusu`) of the Kōrasan mountain temple (高良山座主). In later years, Yoshishige`s son, Yoshimune (義統) would come to heavily rely upon the support of Monchūjo Munekage, adding him to his retinue of faithful retainers (according to the Monchūjo Monjo 問注所文書).(32)

Strategy against the Kikuchi and control of Higo

There were three notable families within Higo province during the Muromachi/Sengoku period - the Aso, Sagara (相良), and the Kikuchi. The oldest among them was the Aso (阿蘇), who had been appointed to the position of `Tate Iwata Tatsu no Mikoto` (健磐龍命) in order to oversee religious ceremonies performed in veneration of Aso volcano in Aso gun. The family, adopting their name from the local region, extended their influence within Higo, especially after being granted the office of `Kuni no Miyatsuko` (国造, under the Ritsuryō system) by the Yamato court (according to Sugimoto Yasuo (尚雄), 中世の神社と社領, pg.6) The successors to the Aso name were later granted the office of Ōmiya no Tsukasa (大宮司) and became administrators to a large number of shōen estates. This family gradually became militarized during the Nambokuchō period, and advanced down the road to feudalism.(32)

The Sagara family were originally a `gozoku` from the eastern province of Totomi, Sagara gun. According to the Sagara Shi Keizu (相良氏系図) and the Sagara Kefu (相良家譜), in Kenkyū 9 (1198) Sagara Yorikage was appointed to office in Higo. His eldest son Nagayori was given control of Kuma (球摩) gun, his second son Yamashika gun, while his third son Yorihira ruled over Tamana (玉名) gun. There are some problems regarding the date of the appointment of the Sagara to Higo, however what is clear is that this family, like the Ōtomo, were part of the `Kudari shū (下り衆) that had originated in the Kantō. They continued to increase their territorial holdings in Kyushu as local landlords, and were well on the path to becoming Sengoku daimyō households by the late Muromachi period. (33)

According to research into the Kikuchi family done by Dr Shikata Masakazu (菊池氏の起源について 熊本史学 一五・一六), the Kikuchi were descended from Fujiwara no Masanori (藤原蔵規) who served as an official in Dazaifu after being sent there by the court. The family later established themselves within Waifu (隈府) in Kikuchi gun, Higo province, and slowly became militarized. At the time of the Genpei War (1185-1189), Kikuchi Takanao, who had originally been part of the Taira forces, briefly switched his allegiance to that of the Minamoto before once again going back to the Taira (an act known as `kaerichū` 返忠). After the establishment of the Kamakura Bakufu, Takanao was punished for his betrayal, and the family did not prosper. Towards the end of the Kamakura period, Kikuchi Taketoki decided to launch a sudden attack on the Chinzai Tandai Hōjō Hidetoki, knowing that the time was right for an uprising against the waning power of the Hōjō.(33)

During the Nambokuchō period, the Kikuchi became the most loyal supporters of the southern court within Kyushu and clashed with the Ōtomo, Shōni, and Shimazu shugo. However, after the re-unification of the two courts, the Kikuchi did not engage in any further notable enterprises. What is more, during the Bunmei era (1469-1486) the household plunged into an internal dispute over the exercise of authority.(33-34) Kikuchi Yoshiyuki (能運), the son of Kikuchi Shigetomo and shugo of Higo province, faced a rebellion orchestrated by one of his councillors, Kumabe Tadanao (隈部忠直) in the seventh year of Meiō (1498). In the first year of Bunki (1501), Tadanao defeated Yoshiyuki, who was forced to seek refuge with the Arima family of Bizen following the fall of Waifu castle. In the aftermath of this coup, Uto Tamemitsu (宇土為光) was named shugo of Higo. However his rule barely lasted two years before Kumabe and the Shiro families (both councilors to the Kikuchi) met with Kikuchi Yoshiyuki in the third year of Bunki (1503) and re-confirmed him as shugo over Higo. This was then followed by the ousting and the subsequent death of Uto Tamemitsu. However just as Yoshiyuki regained the position of shugo, he fell ill and died at the age of 25 in the first year of Eishō (1504).(34)

Yoshiyuki left no heirs, hence Kikuchi Masatomo (政朝), who was a member of one branch of the Kikuchi family, assumed the name Masataka (政隆) and took over the position of shugo. The discord among the powerful councilors of the Kikuchi family inhibited the development of Kikuchi rule, which was seconded to matters concerning inheritance and power (as mentioned in the Chinzei Yōryaku 鎮西要略, the Intoku Taiheiki 陰徳太平記, and the Kumamoto Ken Shisōsetsu Hen 熊本県史総説篇).(34)

Ōtomo Yoshishige`s grandfather, Ōtomo Yoshinaga, eventually made a secret pact with Aso Ōmiya no Tsukasa Korenaga and Sagara Nagatsune (相良長毎) which shored up the support he needed to overthrow the Kikuchi. Moreover, the aged Yoshinaga, instead of maneuvering in the open, made secret contact with members of the Kikuchi household and conspired to have Aso Korenaga named as shugo once the Kikuchi had been removed. Kikuchi Masataka, having caught wind of Yoshinaga`s plan, was furious at the audacity of the Ōtomo and made preparations to invade Bungo. However while Masataka was in camp, news reached him of a coup launched by his own councilors which removed him from the position of shugo. In the aftermath of this event, Aso Korenaga was adopted into the Kikuchi family, taking the name Taketsune (武経) and declared heir to the position of shugo over Higo province. However Taketsune proved to be little more than a puppet for the Ōtomo family. He was caught between the voracious appetite for power which manifested itself in pressure from the Ōtomo as well as conspiracies on the part of Kikuchi retainers. He was unable to deal with both sides simultaneously, and so he gave up his position as shugo and heir to the Kikuchi household and in the 8th year of Eishō (1511) fled from Waifu castle.(34-35)

Ōtomo Yoshinaga next maneuvered to have the lowly born Takuma Takekane (詫磨武包) appointed as heir to the Kikuchi household and named shugo of Higo. However Yoshinaga, who had done much to try to overthrow the Kikuchi household, passed away in the 15th year of Eishō (1518). His son Yoshiaki then took over control of the Ōtomo household. Yoshiaki, who was to continue his father`s strategy against the Kikuchi, succeeded in forcing Takekane into exile in the 17th year of Eishō (1520) and appointed his own younger brother Shigeharu (重治) to the head of the Kikuchi family. This gave the Ōtomo the long-awaited prize of the office of shugo of Higo province. In his will written in Eishō 12 (1515), Ōtomo Yoshinaga stated that as a condition of rule…

“Be prepared to fortify the province of Higo, and have Kikuhōchimaru (Shigeharu) ready to take over [the reigns of authority]” (35)

Yoshinaga had been planning for Shigeharu to enter Higo for some time, for in doing so he could cut off the Kikuchi`s blood line and take direct control of the province for the Ōtomo. Furthermore, Yoshinaga`s wife was a daughter of Aso Korenori (惟乗), whilst Kikuchi (Ōtomo) Shigeharu took a daughter of the Sagara for his wife.(35) In spite of his political marriage, the stratagem employed by Yoshinaga against Higo was not without its setbacks. For instance, the succession of Shigeharu to the head of the Kikuchi household may at first glance seem like the Ōtomo had secured control of Higo. However Shigeharu did not act in accordance with Ōtomo wishes, and rebelled against his own family. Shigeharu`s unpredictable nature is evidenced by the number of times he changed his name - starting with Yoshitake, moving on to Kunitake, Yoshimune, and finally Yoshikuni (according to the Ōtomo Shi Keizu). As to the reasons why Yoshitake (Shigeharu) conspired against the Ōtomo, there is no clear answer. Nonetheless, Yoshitake`s revolt must have been particularly vexing for a family that had been trying for years to gain control of Higo province. (36)

Ōtomo Yoshiaki eventually chased Kikuchi Yoshitake out of office, and in the 12th year of Tenbun (1543) was named as shugo of Higo province. In the 19th year of Tenbun (1550), Ōtomo Yoshishige inherited his father`s position together with the province of Bungo. In the 23rd year of Tenbun (1554), Yoshitake would be attacked and defeated by his nephew Yoshishige, thereby bringing about the total collapse of the Kikuchi family. It was with the backdrop of these events that the Ōtomo established their authority over Higo.(36)

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© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in February 2012