The Matsunaga clan (松永氏)

The Matsunaga clan was a warlord group in Yamato-no-kuni.

It is believed that the Matsunaga clan originated from Shinzei, the sixteenth generation from the ancestor TAKENOUCHI no Sukune, who had become a Kokushi official of Wakasa-no-kuni and therefore called himself Matsunaga KI, after Matsunaga no sho, the domain of Onyu, in Wakasa-no-kuni. This means that the Matsunaga clan is descended from the Ki clan, but the warlords of the Matsunaga clan referred to themselves as being descended from the Fujiwara clan or the Genji (Gen clan).

The Matsunaga clan was a family of feudal lords whose originator was Hisahide MATSUNAGA, a Kanyu (crafty hero) from a period of troublesome times, but even the specifics of Hisahide's place of origin are not known. However, recent study has brought forth Iwashimizu Hachimangu in Yamashiro-no-kuni as the widely accepted theory, and from this theory there comes another theory that Dosan SAITO, who was also from Yamashiro and had assumed control of Mino-no-kuni, was an old friend of Hisahide.

At first, Hisahide became Yuhitsu (amanuensis) of Chokei (Nagayoshi MIYOSHI), who served the Hosokawa clan. Hisahide then emerged rapidly as a Kyoto magistrate and thereafter as prime minister of the Miyoshi clan. Hisahide excelled at military strategy and fortification, and, as is apparent from the fact that in 1560, although he was still a vavasor, he (including his master's house) was appointed as a shobanshu (an official who accompanies the shogun) of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun); thus the Matsunaga clan had come a long way, thanks to Hisahide's excellent abilities.

However, it is a widely accepted theory that the sudden death of Chokei's younger brother Kazumasa SOGO in 1561 and the death of Chokei's son Yoshioki MIYOSHI in 1563 were the results of poisoning by Hisahide. At the very least the death of Chokei's younger brother Fuyuyasu ATAGI in 1564 is attributed as murder, as the end result of Hisahide's slander against Chokei; moreover, it appears that Hisahide was trying to take over the Miyoshi clan. During the same year Chokei also died of an illness, which led to the weakening of the Miyoshi clan, and in 1565 Hisahide murdered Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, the Shogun of the period, in an attempt to gain the hegemony in Kinai. While being opposed to Nagayasu MIYOSHI, Tomomichi IWANARI and Masayasu MIYOSHI, Hisahide for a while gained the hegemony in Kinai, which lead to the full blossoming of the Matsunaga clan; however, in 1568, when Nobunaga ODA came to Kyoto in support of Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, Yoshiteru's younger brother, since Hisahide noticed Nobunaga's excellent caliber and overwhelming military power, Hisahide presented a fine art work--a tsukumonasu (Chinese tea caddy)--to Nobunaga as a sign that he would yield, and thus he became Nobunaga's vassal.

However, when Nobunaga became opposed to Yoshiaki and faced a predicament because a military cordon around Nobunaga had been organized, Hisahide betrayed Nobunaga. However, at this time various negative factors, such as the death of Shingen TAKEDA and the downfall of Muromachi bakufu, compelled Hisahide surrender to Nobunaga ODA at the end of 1573.

In 1577, in response to Kenshin UESUGI's invasion of Noto-no-kuni and Kaga-no-kuni, Hisahide raised a rebellion again and was shut up within Shigisan Castle. However, because the Oda army had power to spare--despite the defeat by Kenshin UESUGI in the Battle of the Tetori River--Hisahide was soon driven into a corner by the Oda army, which used the strategy of defeat one by one. Hisahide died in an explosion by embracing Kotenmyo Hiragumo, a tea kettle, that Nobunaga had wanted to possess. At that time, Hisahide's heir, Hisamichi MATSUNAGA also killed himself, which resulted in the complete downfall of the Matsunaga clan.

However, it is said that Hisahide's son, Nagatane MATSUNAGA, who ultimately became a priest and led a wandering life, survived, and that his son Teitoku MATSUNAGA left his name to posterity as a Haiku poet. There was also a Confucianist whose name was Kokka MATSUNAGA in the domain of Owari, and he too was considered a descendant.