Saikashu (Saika group) (雑賀衆)
Saikashu was a group (ikki) of combined local lords, powerful local clans and local samurai who resided in private estates in the center of Saikasho in the north west part of Kii Province (present day Saikazaki, Wakayama City) during the Sengoku period (Warring States period).
Saikashu is also known as Saikato, and 'Saika' can also be read 'Saiga.'
Saikashu members were armed with thousands of matchlock guns, which was considered a huge number for that time, the 16th century. They had a substantial military force and acted as a group of mercenary soldiers.
The Tsuchibashi clan in Saikasho and the Suzuki clan in Jikkago (present day north western part of Wakayama City, the northern shore near the Kino-kawa River estuary) are known as the most important members of Saikashu.
Saikashu appeared in history around the 15th century, and after the Onin War they fought in various battles in the Kinki region responding to requests from the Hatakeyama clan, which had provided the military governor and feudal lord of Kii and Kawachi Provinces for generations. Saikashu gradually grew into a group of mercenary soldiers. It is believed that Saikashu were also involved in marine transportation and trade as they controlled the area near the estuary of the Kino-kawa River. It seems that they also had a marine force. Saikashu, following the Negoroshu, adopted the use of guns as soon as the manufacturing of guns was introduced into Tanegashima. Saikashu grew as an eminent military force by producing skilled shooters and designing tactics which made use of guns most efficiently.
In 1570 the Battle of Noda-jo Castle and Fukushima-jo Castle broke out between Nobunaga ODA and Miyoshi Sanninshu (the triumvirate of the Miyoshi clan). Saikashu, led by Magoichi SUZUKI (a.k.a Magoichi SAIKA) and others, fought with the army of Miyoshi Sanninshu as a mercenary command. On the other hand, Akitaka HATAKEYAMA responded to the request from Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, and dispatched the reinforcement troops of Saikashu and Negoroshu to assist the army led by Nobunaga ODA. After that, the exchange of fire and the laying of siege became widespread. "Sengoku Teppo Yoheitai" (Warring Guns - The Mercenary Force) introduces the possibility that the members of Saikashu fought each other. However, when a group based in Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple entered the battles of Noda-jo Castle and Fukushima-jo Castle, Saikashu acted in unison to support the Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple side, and fought against the army of Nobunaga ODA. Although Oda's army was well-known for their effective use of guns, Saikashu's gun-handling skills and the amount of guns they possessed troubled the Oda's army. Nobunaga himself was once wounded while being badly defeated (Ishiyama War).
In order to defeat Hongan-ji Temple, Nobunaga first considered taking control of Saikashu. In 1577, a large force led by Nobunaga himself invaded the Kii region (The First Conquest of Kishu) through Izumi Province and Kawachi Province, and forced Saikashu to swear their allegiance. However, the Oda's army suffered huge losses in this battle, and Saikashu, who were supposed to be under Oda's control, soon resumed their independent activities and assisted Hongan-ji Temple.
The Ishiyama War ended when Kennyo, the chief priest, left Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple in 1580, and the members of Saikashu welcomed him to Sagimori in Saika (present day Sagimori Annex). They showed their intention to fight against Nobunaga under Masanao HATAKEYAMA. However, the faction which was willing to obey Nobunaga ODA, and the faction which wanted to remain anti-Oda confronted each other after that. Consequently Saikashu was internally split. In 1582 Magoichi SUZUKI of the pro-Oda faction defeated the Tsuchibashi clan of the anti-Oda faction, however Nobunaga was killed in the Honnoji Incident of the same year. Subsequently Magoichi fled to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and the Tsuchibashi group took the initiative of Saikashu.
From then on, Saikashu consistently rebelled against Hideyoshi's administration that was promoting the centralization to dissolve the land ruling by each powerful local clan. In the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute, Saikashu dispatched troops as far as around Osaka in cooperation with Negoroshu, and threatened the rear of Hideyoshi as he went to the front in Owari Province. In 1585 Hideyoshi, reconciled with Ieyasu, invaded the Kii region (The Second Conquest of Kishu). Following the arson of Negoro-ji Temple, Saikashu was attacked. Although Saikashu resisted, they were destroyed.
Former members of Saikashu returned to farming or settled in other regions to serve daimyo (feudal lords) using their gun-handling ability. In this way Saikashu disappeared from history.
Connection with Negoroshu
Although in some descriptions Negoroshu and Saikashu are mistaken for each other, in fact they have both completely different points and very similar points. Saikashu can be considered to be a group of believers of the Jodo Shinshu sect (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) as its members, including Shigehide SUZUKI and Morishige TSUCHIBASHI, were besieged in Ishiyama Gobo (Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple). On the other hand, Negoroshu refers to a group of monks of the Shingon sect, mainly in Negoro-ji Temple. Some say that the land belonged to temples reached 500,000 or 700,000 koku (unit of measurement) in the Warring States Period. Monks in Negoro-ji Temple were divided into 'gakuryo' who were in charge of learning religious doctrines or rituals and ceremonies, and 'gyonin [Buddhism]' who were responsible for the maintenance of temple buildings and the defense of the temple. Most Negoroshu consisted of gyonin. Sometimes Negoroshu is regarded as a group of armed priests, as gyonin means armed priests. On the other hand, it is believed that there were no gyonin or armed priests in Saikashu.
Saikashu is thought to be a grouping of many powerful local clans who were based in the whole area of present day Wakayama City and a part of Kainan City, and closely attached to the local community,
As what Saikashu and Negoroshu had in common, they were both excellent gun forces and mercenary forces. Their areas were geographically close and also is thought to have been much interaction between their members. It seems that some became believers in Negoro-ji Temple and later acted as Saikashu, and the reverse often happened too.
It is believed that guns were first introduced to Tanegashima, Japan in September, 1543. Later, a monk in Negori-ji Temple, Kazunaga TSUDA, and others brought guns back to the Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara). According to "Sengoku Teppo Yoheitai," guns are believed to have been brought to Saikashu through Negoroshu. There is a description that a member of Negoroshu, Iganokami SATAKE, started to learn how to use a gun in 1549. Therefore it is believed that guns had been introduced to Negoroshu before this. It is believed that Negoroshu had a certain amount of guns. However, what made it possible for Negoroshu to supply these guns is still unclear today. There are a variety of theories including that they imported the guns from abroad through Sakai region, that the guns were locally produced, and that craftsmen were invited from other areas as they did not have the technique of producing guns at the times. However all of these opinions are only speculative. Even if they manufactured guns for themselves, iron and brass which guns are made from and saltpeter which black gunpowder is made from are not produced in Saika, and there is no material to suggest the source of their supply and others.