Kannonji family feud (観音寺騒動)

The Kannonji family feud is the family trouble that broke out in the family of Rokkaku clan that was a warring load of Minami Omi Province in 1563 during the Sengoku period (the Warring State Period of Japan).

Summary of the feud

When Sadayori ROKKAKU was the family head (or Jindai, a deputy whose role was to proceed to battlefield on behalf of his load during the Muromachi period thereafter), Rokkaku clan entered into the height of its prosperity such as dominating in effect the Azai clan who was the warring load of Kita Omi Province and being granted the post of Kanrei-dai (representative of a shogunal deputy) by Muromachi Shougunate. After the death of Sadayori, his successor Yosikata ROKKAKU attacked Nagayoshi MIYOSHI who was then Kanrei-dai and started building up a strong political power in Kinai area and tried in vain to expand his strength among the national political arena. On the contrary, the importance of Rokkaku clan declined in Kinai area. Besides, Azai clan under domination by Rokkaku clan started to show signs of independence at the opportunity of the death of Sadayori.

In 1560, Yosikata intended to defeat Azai clan heading a battalion but was defeated by Nagamasa AZAI at the Battle of Norada. Yosikata ROKKAKU declined his authority in Omi with the family trouble of Omi Sasaki clan also involved. Yosikata, who had handed over the patrimony to Yoshiharu ROKKAKU, his son in the previous year, entered into priesthood taking the occasion of this defeat.

While Yoshiharu succeeded the patrimony, he assassinated Katatoyo GOTO in the Kannonji Castle in 1563 who was an important chief retainer of Rokkaku clan. Amongst various views of the background, it is said that Yoshiharu assassinated Katatoyoin order to recover the authority as the family head, after struggles between Katatoyo's authority and Yosiharu, the young family head, since Katatoyo was such a well respected chief vassal as a meritorious retainer of Rokkaku clan since the period of Sadayori and well admired of as "twin To (phonetic alphabet of 藤 後藤, GOTO and 進藤, SINDO) of Rokkaku clan" that he held the authority to execute administrative affairs on behalf of the family head.

Aftermath of the Kannonji family feud

The Kannonji family feud caused a big impact on the vassals of Rokkaku clan. Since Katatoyo was regarded as the top of senior vassals and well respected as described above, this feud (the pretext why Yoshiharu killed Katatoyo being feigned to be bureiuchi (death penalty by sword slash for rudeness)) led up to distrust of Yoshiharu among the feudatory of Rokkaku clan in connection with the trouble of reigns of the both families of Rokkaku clan and Sasaki clan, the latter being Rokkaku clan's root. And in response to Azai's movement to attack Rokkaku clan, there appeared in Rokkaku clan some traitors to stand for Azai's side.

Further, Yoshiharu, together with his father, was deported from Kannonji Castle temporarily by elements of the Rokkaku feudatory who felt discontented with the feud. Although Yosikata and Yoshiharu, father and son, returned to Kannonji castle through the mediation by Sadahide GAMO and Katahide GAMO, father and son, Yoshitaka and Yoshiharu had to consent to hand over the patrimony to Yoshisada ROKKAKU (Yoshiharu's brother), and furthermore, to clip the power of Rokkaku clan as the family head through signing for "Rokkakushi shikimoku (Rokkaku clan's bunkokuho, laws and standards established by Sengoku daimyo to govern their territories)".

Meanwhile, the patrimony of Goto clan was succeeded by Takaharu GOTO, the second son, because the first son, Iki no kami (governor of Iki Province) had been murdered together with their father.

Cause and influence of the feud

It can be given as the root of the feud that Rokkaku clan had not grown out thoroughly from shugo daimyo (shugo, which were Japanese provincial military governors, that became daimyo, which were Japanese feudal loads) to warring load of the early-modern times. Most of Vassals of Rokkaku clan were such local samurai loads that they were highly independent although they were retained. Those vassals served obediently during the period of Sadayori who was a wise ruler, but Yosikata and Yoshiharu who succeeded to Sadayori after his death repeatedly made political errors against Nagyoshi MIYOSHI and Nagamasa Azai, and lost control over powerful local loads (kokujin) such as Goto clan. This feud can be defined as affairs that happened in the middle of the system conversion into warring loads in the Sengoku period. Also according to a different view which denied Yosikata and Yosiharu as the head family of Rokkaku clan, among the Rokkaku family, there was the legitimate Rokkaku family whose heads were "Ujituna-Yoshizane-Yoshihide-Yosisato" that held higher social standing than Mitsukuri family whose role was Jindai and whose heads were "Sadayori-Yoshikata-Yoshiharu", and the relationship between the legitimate Rokkaku family and the family of Jindai including Yosikata was opposing to each other and very uncertain.

The Kannonji family feud led to the decline of unity and power of not only the head family of Rokkaku clan but also allied local samurais in Minami Omi area. Nobunaga ODA took this opportunity to invade Minami Omi in 1568. Although Rokkaku clan once defeated back ODA with support by Miyoshi Sanninshu (Miyoshi Triumvirate) who were also opposed to ODA, the next year Mitsukuri Castle was attacked to fall, and Rokkaku clan also lost their footing around Kannonji Castle. Rokkaku clan was made to transfer their foothold to Koga county, and some local lords such as Sadahide GAMO and his children became to belong to ODA's side. While this feud was a prelude to the fall of Rokkaku clan, it was a very favorable incident for Nobunaga to secure the route for Kyoto from Gifu where he headquartered.