Matsunaga Hisahide (松永久秀)

Hisahide MATSUNAGA was a busho (Japanese military commander) in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States). He was a warring lord of Yamato Province.

Brief personal history

Hisahide's father is unknown. Hisamichi MATSUNAGA was his eldest son, Nagatane MATSUNAGA was his adopted son, and Nagayori MATSUNAGA was his younger brother.

He first served Nagayoshi MIYOSHI. Eventually he became distinguished among the retainers of the Miyoshi family. After Nagayoshi died, he and the Miyoshi Sanninshu (Triumvirate) murdered Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, the 13th shogun to rule the Kinai region. However, Nobunaga ODA entered Kyoto under Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, the younger brother of Yoshiteru. Hisahide surrendered to Nobunaga and became his retainer. Later he unsuccessfully rebelled against Nobunaga. He killed himself in an explosion, which had never happened before in the recorded history of Japan.

He was a typical busho embodying 'gekokujo' (an inverted social order where the lowly reigned over the elite). He is known as the assassin of Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, the 13th shogun, as well as the mastermind of the destruction by fire of the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple. He womanized at the front.
He was a sly and arrogant 'villain in troubled times.'
He, Soun HOJO and Dosan SAITO comprise Japan's three greatest villains. On the other hand, he was famous for his graceful attitude and looks. He was an educated man versed in renga (linked verses) and sado (tea ceremony). He is also known as a great lord who ruled his territory with benevolence. Even now he is popular among the people in the neighborhood of Shigisan-jo Castle. He is venerated by a group of enthusiasts who love his way of life.

Date of birth and place of origin

Hisahide MATSUNAGA's year of birth, which some have assumed to be 1510, has not been validated, as his earlier life is shrouded in mystery. His place of origin has been variously explained, for example, as Awa Province, Nishioka, Yamashiro Province, or Yosumi, Settsu Province in which he came from a ruling family. There is also a theory that he was of the merchant class. This theory has been conjectured based on Dosan SAITO, who was his age and who led a life parallel to his. As popular tradition has it, they were old friends.

Hisahide as retainer of Nagayoshi MIYOSHI

In 1540 Hisahide began to serve Nagayoshi MIYOSHI, who was hikan (a low-level bureaucrat) of the Hosokawa clan, as 'yuhitsu' (amanuensis).

In 1549 Nagayoshi expelled Harumoto HOSOKAWA and Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA to conquer Kyoto. Hisahide went to Kyoto with him. He became 'kasai' (main retainer) of the Miyoshi family.
Appointed 'Danjo no Chu' (an officer in the Danjodai or Board of Censors), he called himself 'Sotai,' the Chinese equivalent of 'danjo no chu.'
Nagayoshi appeared to recognize Hisahide's talent from early on, as he gave his daughter in marriage to him.

After that Hisahide was involved in shogunate government, following Nagayoshi. When Nagayoshi conquered Kinai in 1553, he appointed Hisahide the lord of Settsu-Takiyama-jo Castle (in Settsu Province). In 1559 Hisahide moved to Shigisan-jo Castle in Yamato Province where he settled. In 1560 he defeated Kofuku-ji Temple and unified Yamato Province. At the same time he was appointed by Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, the 13th shogun, as 'shobanshu' (an official who accompanied the shogun), together with Yoshioki MIYOSHI, Yoshinaga's heir. He was given the title of 'Danjo Shohitsu' (Associate Deputy Minister of Board of Censors) with the rank of Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). In 1561 he began to identify himself with the Minamoto clan instead of the Fujiwara clan, of whom he used to claim to be a member. In 1562 he moved to Tamonyama-jo Castle, which he had constructed.

Trusted by Nagayoshi, he thus extended his power. His lord, Nagayoshi, on the other hand, became more and more depressed over time as he was hit by misfortunes one after another, such as the premature deaths of Kazumasa SOGO and Yoshikata MIYOSHI, his younger brothers, and of Yoshioki MIYOSHI, his heir. Hisahide allegedly assassinated Kazumasa SOGO and Yoshioki MIYOSHI; however, this remains conjectural.
(A standard explanation is that Kazumasa died of an injury incurred when he fell from a horse and Yoshioki died from an illness.)

Nagayoshi's weakening leadership enabled Hisahide to further extend his influence. To Nagayoshi, Hisahide spoke ill of Fuyuyasu ATAGI (who was Nagayoshi's younger brother) and who rivalled him in struggle for controlling the Miyoshi family. He made Nagayoshi kill Fuyuyasu. After Fuyuyasu died, he became the most powerful man in the Miyoshi family. In fact he became more powerful than his lord's family. When Nagayoshi died in 1564, he and the Miyoshi Sanninshu ruled the Miyoshi family as they pleased, using Yoshitsugu MIYOSHI, Yoshinaga's adopted son as a puppet.

Towards Hegemony over Kinai

After Yoshinaga's death, Hisahide and the Miyoshi Sanninshu became the guardian of Yoshitsugu MIYOSHI, Yoshinaga's 'koshi' (inheritor). In 1565 Hisahide attacked and killed the Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA to control the shogunal government (Eiroku Incident). After Yoshiteru died, he expelled the Christian missionaries.

He thus ruled supreme over Kinai. In the same year Nagayori MATSUNAGA, his younger brother, perished in a battle in Tanba Province. In 1566 he became antagonistic to the Miyoshi Sanninshu in the struggle for leadership in Kinai. He was losing out to the Miyoshi Sanninshu in the struggle. In 1567 he fought in Kamishiba with the Miyoshi Sanninshu and their ally, Junkei TSUTSUI, the lord of Tsutsui-jo Castle. Attacked from both sides, he was defeated (in the Battle of Kamishiba).

On November 20, 1567 he attacked and burned down Todai-ji Temple where the Miyoshi Sanninshu had taken refuge (this is called the Clash at the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple). Frois, however, mentions in 'Frois's History of Japan' that the Christians on Miyoshi's side set fire to the temple. (Some argue that, overjoyed with their victory over the Triumvirate's troops, Hisahide's officers and soldiers burned it down).

Hisahide's time with Nobunaga ODA

When Nobunaga ODA entered Kyoto in October 1568, Hisahide immediately surrendered to him. Offering him 'Tsukumononasu,' known as an excellent Chinese tea caddy, he expressed his obedience to Nobunaga. Accordingly, his lordship of Yamato Province was recognized and guaranteed by Nobunaga. On January 21, 1569 he visited Nobunaga in Gifu to offer him a sword by Kuniyuki FUDO and other specialties. In 1570 he joined Nobunaga in the conquest of Yoshikage ASAKURA. Persuading Mototsuna KUTSUKI, the lord of Kutsuki-dani, Omi Province, to take sides with Nobunaga, he saved the latter (in the Battle of Kanagasaki).

After that he continued to work as Nobunaga's retainer, taking part in the siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple. Nobunaga, however, was put in a disadvantageous position as the anti-Nobunaga network was formed. Solicited by Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, the 15th shogun, Hisahide betrayed Nobunaga. He joined the anti-Nobunaga network.
In April 1573 he allied himself with Shogun Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA and rebelled against Nobunaga,
In May Shingen TAKEDA, who was Nobunaga's archenemy, died from illness. Takeda's troops retreated to Kai. Oda's troops began to fight back. In August Yoshiaki was expelled and the shogunate collapsed. In December 1573 Yoshitsugu MIYOSHI was defeated and killed in Wakae-jo Castle in Kawachi Province. Hisahide once again surrendered to Nobunaga by offering him his Tamonyama-jo Castle.

Hisahide's Death

Following Nobunaga, he then took part in the siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple. In 1577, however, he disobeyed Nobunaga's order, cooperating with the anti-Nobunaga powers, including Kenshin UESUGI, Terumoto MORI, and Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple. He withdrew from the siege without Nobunaga's consent. He locked himself in Shigisan-jo Castle in Yamato Province where he rose in revolt.

Sending large troops mainly consisting of Tsutsui factions under the general command of his eldest son Nobutada ODA, Nobunaga made them besiege the castle by November. At that time he told Hisahide to give up his famous tea kettle called 'Kotenmyo Hiragumo' so that he would spare his life, but Hisahide refused. He therefore gave orders to execute Hisahide's two sons who had been in his custody in Rokujo-gawara, Kyoto City. When Oda's troops began to attack the castle, Hisahide broke the Hiragumo into pieces in the 'tenshukaku' (keep) of the castle. (Some say that he put gunpowder in the tea kettle to kill himself in the explosion). On November 29 he died in an explosion. He died at the age of 68.

Oddly enough, on the day 10 years before he had burned down the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple.

Hisahide's graveyard

Hisahide's grave lies in Myoekai Sobochi in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City. It is also in Daruma-ji Temple on Mt. Kataoka in Oji-cho Hon-machi (Oji-cho, Kitakatsuragi-gun) Kitakatsuragi-gun, Nara Prefecture. A memorial tower has been built for him in Sango-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara Prefecture.

Record of Hisahide's offices and ranks

He was given the rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), but the date and year of grant is unknown.

On March 10, 1560 he was transferred to the post of Danjo Shohitsu.

On February 27, 1561 he was promoted to the Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). He retained his position as Danjo Shohitsu.

1569

On April 24, 1569 he became governor of Yamashiro Province according to "Tokitsugukyo-ki" (The Diary of Tokitsugu YAMASHINA).

On April 29, 1569 he was called Matsu-Sho (an abbreviation of Matsunaga Danjo Shohitsu) in "The Tamonin Nikki Diary."

On October 10, 1569 he was referred to as Matsu Joshu (Matsunaga Joshu, which means Matsunaga, governor of Yamashiro Province) in the same diary.

Personal profile and anecdotes

Hisahide is an infamous 'villain in trouble times.'
He was one of the masterminds of the assassination of Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA and of the second destruction by fire of the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple. He famously womanized at the front. There is an image of him as being sly and vulgar. Nobunaga said to Ieyasu TOKUGAWA as follows, and this is how Nobunaga introduced Hisahide to Ieyasu.
I cannot trust this old man at all.'
He was renowned for the three evils he committed.'
His first evil was that he deceived and assassinated the Miyoshi clan'. His second evil was that he assassinated the Shogun'.
His third evil was that he burned down the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple.'
He is the man who achieved these three things, none of which an ordinary man can achieve.'
Some take this as a derogatory introduction, while others see it as a sign of recognition. Despite his real character and its various interpretations, the fact remains that he embodied the gekokujo as a busho in the Sengoku period.

He was an excellent strategist, surrendering to Nobunaga to take advantage of the latter's powerful military forces to conquer the kokujin-shu (powerful families) in Yamamoto Province.

Nobunaga ODA, who is generally regarded as having been cruel to his retainers, nevertheless forgave Hisahide, which was very uncharacteristic of him. He apparently tried to save Hisahide's life in exchange for the Hiragumo when the latter rebelled against him for a second time. This led some to believe that Hisahide was so talented a busho that even Nobunaga gave him due respect.

Hisahide was a leading architect of castles, inventing the tenshukaku and the Tamon corridor-style tower. He had a revolutionary idea, in those days, of spectacularly improving the defensive power of a castle in the tamonyagura (hall turret) that combined the castle gate with a turret, which we take for granted, having seen many existent castle buildings. It was once assumed that Tamonyama-jo Castle was the first castle with a tenshukaku. Recently, however, it has become clear that Itami-jo Castle had a turret equivalent to the tenshu. So Hisahide was not the first to build a tenshu. And yet it is possible that he was regarded its inventor because he improved the turret further to create a magnificent one. It is hoped that more research will be conducted in castle ruins and literature.

Hisahide burned moxa on the top of the head every day at a fixed time to prevent paralysis. At the end of his life he gave orders to prepare for moxibustion.
His retainer said to him, 'You don't have to take care of yourself in a situation like this.'
If I were paralyzed,' retorted he, 'when I stabbed myself on the stomach, people would think that I was scared to commit harakiri.
That would ruin my military reputation at once.'
So he had moxa applied before he stabbed himself in the stomach.

In those days he was highly regarded as a competent busho.
Kiyoki SHIMA who was 'karo' (chief retainer) of his archenemy, the Tsutsui clan, famously mumbled at the Battle of Sekigahara, 'No solider today is as bold as Mitsuhide AKECHI or Hisahide MATSUNAGA.'
This suggests that he was such a distinguished busho that even his archenemy acknowledged his prowess. (Some believe that the Shima clan were the former retainers of the Matsunaga clan).

Kazumasa SOGO, Yoshioki MIYOSHI, and Fuyuyasu ATAGI, who were of the Miyoshi family, died one after another, probably because they were assassinated by Hisahide. It is uncertain, however, that Kazuma and Yoshioki were killed by Hisahide, because some ascribe their deaths to disease. On the other hand, it is highly likely that Hisahide spoke ill of Fuyuyasu to Nagayoshi so that the latter would murder the former.

Some argue that he did not take initiative in assassinating Yoshiteru. (Yet it was Hisamichi, his adopted son, who actually assassinated Yoshiteru). There is a theory that the Great Buddha Hall was burned down by an accidental fire. It can be said, however, that Hisahide had to commit such a series of violent acts to control Kinai, where Nagayoshi's death brought in a schism into the feudal lords and encouraged the decentralization of power.

While he is said to have run a good government, there is an opposing view. His government was extremely severe. In punishing the farmers who failed to pay rice taxes, he made them put on straw raincoats, gave orders to set fire to them, and let them die in agony. He called this 'Bagworm Dance' and enjoyed watching it. For this reason the people in the territory were extremely happy when he was brought to destruction. They sold their farming equipment to buy sake to celebrate his death.

"Ashikaga Kiseiki" (The Last Ages of the Ashikaga) mentions that he was a miser. Matsunaga is a man of discernment, talented and good-natured. He has no match in military prowess.
Everybody should employ him, but he is a born miser and extremely greedy.'

There remains an unusual record in which Hisahide commanded (or responded to) a Christmas truce for the first time in Japan. The truce took place in 1566, a period during which he was fighting the Miyoshi Sanninshu.

There is an anecdote where Hisahide, who lived with military prowess and clever schemes, was once frightened. This took place when he lived in Tamon-jo Castle. He invited Koji KASHIN, a hermit who freely manipulated powerful rulers such as Nagayoshi MIYOSHI and Nobunaga ODA with his magic. He met him. 'I have never tasted fear even on the battle field.
Frighten me,' declared he, 'with your magic.'
Koji KASHIN complied. Putting out the light, he made everyone leave the room except Hisahide. Transforming himself into a woman, he approached Hisahide. Outside, all of sudden, lightning struck and a thunderstorm broke. Hisahide turned pale.
He could not bear it anymore, and screamed, 'All right, stop it.'
Then the ghost suddenly disappeared. This female ghost was in fact his wife who had gone to the other world. He could not stop shivering.

Exocentric in a both good and bad ways, he is relatively frequently featured in novels, though rarely appearing in cinematic works.

He was very friendly with Dosan MANASE, a physician. He wrote a very practical sex manual which can be consulted even today. It was Manase who instructed him in the art of bedchamber.

He killed himself in an explosion with the famous Hiragumo tea kettle. However, there exists a tea kettle, known as Hiragumo. According to its origin, it was excavated from the castle ruins after the war and fell into Nobunaga's hand.

In the "Nobunaga's Ambition" series, which is a series of historical simulation games by Koei, with the advent of the parameter called 'loyalty' Hisahide MATSUNAGA has been given the lowest parameter. In some games a scene of killing himself in an explosion with a tea utensil in his arms is re-enacted as an event. He is highly regarded as a strategist and ambitious man throughout the series.

He is not infrequently dubbed "the bomberman" because of the way he died.

Hisahide MATSUNAGA as a master of tea ceremony

Having studied with Jo TAKENO, Hisahide had many friends as a master of tea ceremony.

He has been best known as the owner of the Kotenmyo Hiragumo. The Tsukumonasu (currently owned by the Seikado Bunko Art Museum) was once in his possession.

He had many other famous tea utensils. He was a high-ranked master of tea ceremony in his times.

There has been a theory, of old, that he was the father of SEN no Shoan, the founder of the Sansenke (three Sen families).

Offspring

Teitoku MATSUNAGA, a haiku poet, was Hisahide's grandson. Sekigo MATSUNAGA, a Confucianist, was his great grandson.

There is also an account in which Hisahide did not in fact die on Mt. Shigi but successfully escaped to become Hideyoshi's 'otogishu' (advisor) while concealing the Kotenmyo Hiragumo on Mt. Katsuragi.