Uesugi Kagekatsu (上杉景勝)

Kagekatsu UESUGI/Akikage NAGAO or Kagekatsu NAGAO was a feudal lord who lived from the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) until the early Edo period. He was one of the five chief ministers of the Toyotomi administration. He served as the first lord of the Yonezawa domain in Dewa Province.

From Birth until the Feud of Succession of the Uesugi Family

Kagekatsu UESUGI was born in 1555 in Echigo Province (Niigata Prefecture as it is known today) as the second son of Masakage NAGAO, who was the head of the UEDA NAGAO clan at that time. His real mother was Sentoin, who was a real sister of Kenshin UESUGI, therefore Kagekatsu was a nephew of Kenshin (Kagetora). He became the heir in place of his elder brother, who died young. After the death of his father (Masakage) in 1564, however, Kagekatsu moved to Kasugayama Castle to be adopted by his uncle (Terutora (Kenshin) UESUGI). It is supposed that his first campaign was the dispatch of an expeditionary force to Kanto in 1566. Thereafter, Kagekatsu played a key role under Kenshin's administration; he acted as a mediator between Yasutane SHIINA, an official of the Ecchu domain, and Kenshin; he also assigned military duties to Suketaka YOSHIE, a direct retainer of Kenshin.

In 1575, he changed his name from Akikage NAGAO to Kagekatsu UESUGI (or Kagekatsu NAGAO, according to another view) and inherited the rank of Danjo-Shohitsu (junior assistant President of the Board of Censors) from Kenshin.

After the death of Kenshin in 1578, a dispute over the line of succession broke out--Kagetora UESUGI, who was Kenshin's adopted son sent from the Hojo clan as a hostage and was Kagekatsu's elder (or younger) brother (the Otate Disturbance). There appears to have been a series of complicated circumstances underlying this dispute; such as Kenshin's sudden death before the completion of arrangements for the succession, as well as struggles for power which continued for generations mainly among the Nagao families in Echigo. In the Otate Disturbance, Kagekatsu occupied the donjon and treasure-house of Kasugayama Castle immediately after Kenshin's death on the false premise that it was bequeathed to him by Kenshin, and then he fought against Kagetora, who holed up in Otate (the residence of Norimasa UESUGI) located outside the walls of Kasugayama Castle. During the Otate Disturbance, Kekeiin, who was Kagetora's wife and Kagekatsu's elder (or younger) sister, refused Kagekatsu's order for surrender and killed herself. Norimasa, Kagetora's adoptive grandfather, attempting to make overtures for peace was killed by a Kagekatsu soldier along with Domanmaru UESUGI, Kagetora's eldest son (alternative accounts have them surviving after receiving shelter from the Ichikawa clan, a powerful clan in Shinano Province). Due to circumstances such as the above, Kagetora's position was gradually undermined, and Kagetora killed himself in March 1579.

In addition, Kagekatsu made contact with Katsuyori TAKEDA in Kai Province, who dispatched an expedition force to Echigo for the purpose of mediation in accordance with the Koso Alliance (an alliance between the Takeda clan in Kai Province and the Hojo clan in Sagami Province) at the early stage of the Disturbance where the tide of the Disturbance was against Kagekatsu's side. Then, Kagekatsu took Kikuhime (Daigiin), Katsuyori's half sister by a different mother, as his lawful wife in December and concluded the Koetsu Alliance (an alliance between the Takeda clan in Kai Province and the Uesugi clan in Echigo Province), so that the relationship with the Takeda clan would be strengthened. (Kagekatsu was the second incumbent head of the Uesugi family, after Zenshu UESUGI, to take a woman born to the Takeda family as a lawful wife). As a result, Kagekatsu obtained support from the Takeda clan and turned the tide of the Disturbance. In the following year, 1580, Kagekatsu caused powerful clans in Echigo to follow him and became the de facto head of the Uesugi family.

Fight against the Oda Family

In 1581, amid the disorder caused by the Otate Disturbance, the issue of rewards for the feats in the Disturbance caused Shigeie SHIBATA, who resided in northern Echigo and was confronted with the Uesugi family, to come to be in touch with Nobunaga ODA and rebel against the Uesugi family. In addition, the Uesgi family had Ecchu Province invaded and attacked by the Oda forces led by Katsuie SHIBATA, a hereditary vassal of the Oda family. Those circumstances and other circumstances brought the Uesugi family to the brink of extinction.

In 1582, when the Oda forces's complete seizure of the Ecchu made the Uesugi family in a difficult situation, Nobunaga ODA committed suicide at Honnoji Temple (the Honnoji Incident) on June 2, as a result, the Oda expeditionary forces had to renounce aggression, allowing the Uesugi family to survive narrowly. Nevertheless, the prolonged disorder after the Otate Disturbance along with the invasion by the Oda forces, made it impossible for the Uesugi family to pacify the situation by themselves, this resulted in Uesugi's provincial power, which had expanded over the course of Kenshin's lifetime, and the Uesugi family's prestige to decline markedly.

Period of the Toyotomi Administration

After the death of Nobunaga, Kagekatsu invaded northern Shinano Province and placed a portion under his control. In addition, he temporarily subordinated Masayuki SANADA to him.

To survive after the rise of Hideyoshi HASHIBA (Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI) following Nobunaga's death, Kagekatsu had Yoshizane HATAKEYAMA (he had assumed the name of Yoshizane UESUGI at that time), Kagetora's adopted son and nephew, taken by Hideyoshi as a hostage in June 1586, and rendered homage and service to Hideyoshi. At that time, he surrendered the fief of Ecchu and Kozuke (the surrendering of Kozuke resulted in the Sanada clan becoming independent to act as a feudal lord), and he was permitted to occupy Sado and Dewa instead. Concurrently, Kagekatsu had an audience with the Emperor Ogimachi and was appointed to the post of Ukone no Shosho (Minor Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

In the Battle of Shizugatake, which occurred in 1583, Kagekatsu took the side of Hideyoshi and was ordered to invade Ecchu. However, he could not participate in the battle because he could not leave his province. In the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute and the Battle of Toyama (Siege of Toyama Castle), which occurred in 1584 and 1585, he contained Narimasa SASSA.

In 1588, he once again travelled to Kyoto and was promoted to Sangi (state councilor), Chujo (Middle Captain) and Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank). On this occasion, he was permitted to assume the surname of Hashiba and came to be called Echigo Chunagon.

In 1587, Kagekatsu defeated Shigeie SHIBATA, with whom he had been in conflict for years, with the backing and cooperation of Hideyoshi, thereafter in 1589, he subjugated the Homma clan and established peace in Sado. He also dispatched an expeditionary force to the Odawara Campaign against the Gohojo clan in 1590 with Kagekuni YAMAURA in the vanguard.

He participated in Bunroku Keicho no Eki (Japan's invasions of Korea) along with Yorichika TAKANASHI, his retainer, between the period of June 6 to September 8, 1592. At that time, he built a castle (Wajo, or a Japanese-style castle) in Ungchon so that it would be used as a base at the front of the Japanese armed forces.

In 1597, he was raised to one of the Gotairo (Council of Five Elders) of the administration of the Toyotomi clan to replace Takakage KOBAYAKAWA who had died. In 1598, under the orders of Hideyoshi, he was awarded an increase of 1.2 million koku with some of his fief transferred to Aizu. Among his former fief, he was only allowed to continue to govern the whole Sado Province, a small part of Echigo (Higashikanbara) and Shonai Region in Dewa Province, of which Shigenaga HONJO had deprived Yoshiaki MOGAMI after a fierce scramble. Besides the above, he was allowed to govern Okitama Region in Dewa, and Date-gun, Shinobu-gun and Katta-gun in Mutsu Province, all of these had been the fief of the Date clan in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), as well as the Aizu Region which had been conquered by Masamune DATE. Each of the above areas were isolated from one another by mountains, and is, even now they are only connected to one another by trecherous mountain passes. There were always dangers of conflicts with Yoshimitsu MOGAMI and Masamune DATE whose fiefs bordered the northern edge of the Kagekatsu's fief. Thus, Kagekatsu was stationed there to monitor and check feudal lords in Tohoku in place of the Gamo clan, which had forfeited the fief located there.

Kagekatsu stationed Kanetsugu NAOE at Yonezawa Castle to play a pivotal role with 300 thousand koku (including foot soldiers; in this connection, some say that the yield of Naoe's fief was 60 thousand koku) to Kanetsugu; he was also to supervise Kagetsugu AMAKASU stationed at Shiraishi Castle located at the forefront against the Date clan, Shigenaga HONJO stationed at Fukushima Castle, Nagayoshi SUDA stationed at Yanagawa Castle and Yoshihide SHIDA stationed at Tozenji Castle.

Subjugation of Aizu

After the death of Hideyoshi in August 1598, Kagekatsu, one of the Gobugyo (Five Major Magistrates), opposed Ieyasu TOKUGAWA due to various circumstances, such as the intimacy of Mitsunari ISHIDA with Kanetsugu NAOE, a principal retainer of Kagekatsu. In February 1600, Kagekatsu ordered that the castles in his fief be repaired by the summer of the same year. In March, he anticipated that Wakamatsu Castle would become cramped in the future and ordered that a new castle be constructed at Kozashi, positioned roughly in the center of Aizu Basin.

In April, Ieyasu issued a recall order so that Kagekatsu would go up to Kyoto to give an explanation for the repair of the castles in his fief, but Kagekatsu refused this order. This recall order is assumed to have been a means to remove Kagekatsu. At that time, Kanetsugu NAOE wrote a sensational reply (the Naoe Letter), which incited Ieyasu to subjugate Aizu. Ieyasu went to the front leading vast forces to subjugate Kagekatsu. Kagekatsu ordered that Kozashi Castle be constructed as quickly as possible, but suspended the construction in June to respond to Ieyasu's forces. In July, Mitsunari, among others, took up arms (the Battle of Sekigahara) during the absence of Ieyasu, who had gone on an expedition, and as Ieyasu decided to go westward, Kagekatsu dispatched expeditionary forces from Aizu. Kagekatsu fought against Masamune DATE and Yoshiaki MOGAMI, who joined the East squad (the Battle of Dewa in the Keicho Era). However, Kagekatsu was forced to surrender to Ieyasu in December, because the West squad including Mitsunari was defeated in the final battle on September 15.

In 1601, Kagekatsu travelled to Kyoto with Kanetsugu NAOE to apologize to Ieyasu, as well as had Kikuhime, his wife, taken by Ieyasu as a hostage; this allowed for the survival of the Uesugi clan. All of the fiefs under Kagekatu's direct control were forfeited and the only three fiefs such as in Okitama Region, Shinobu-gun and Date-gun remained in Kanetsugu's direct control. Thus, he was transferred to the Yonezawa domain (consisting of the above three areas and yielding 300 thousand koku) in Dewa Province as the lord of a smaller fief in which led to the fall of the Uesugi family from the powerful Daidaimyo (a feudal lord having a greater power) in Shinetsu down to one feudal lord of half of Dewa Province over the course of Kagekatsu's lifetime.

The Edo Period

After the curtailment of Kagekatsu's fief, his retainers, including Kanetsugu NAOE and Naganori KIYONO, strove to establish a government for the Yonezawa domain.

In the 1614 Winter Siege of Osaka, Kagekatsu took Tokugawa's side and served successfully as a vanguard in the Battle of Kamono, among other times. In the 1615 Summer Siege of Osaka, he kept watch over Kyoto.

On March 20, 1623, Kagekatsu died in Yonezawa. He was 69 years old. He was succeeded by Sadakatsu, his illegitimate son.

Grave sites: Kagekatsu's remains were laid at Shojoshin-in Temple, Mt. Koyasan, located in Koya Town, Wakayama Prefecture while his ashes and court dress and crown were kept at the mausoleum of the Uesugi family located in Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture.

Personal Profile/Anecdotes

It is said that Kagekatsu respected Kenshin, his adoptive father, as a Sengoku Busho (Military Commnader in the Warring States Period), and had a strong inferiority complex regarding Kenshin. It is also said that he always acted in the hope of being a match for Kenshin, and, therefore, rarely displayed his emotion. It has been told that on one occassion Kagekatsu saw his pet monkey sitting at his seat and imitating him (nodding and giving directions to his subordinates with a perfectly straight face), and he found this so amusing that he couldn't help but smile. It is said that this was the only time his retainers saw him smile in his lifetime.

He is assumed to have been considerably fond of collecting swords. He had prominent connoisseurship, and the collection of swords selected from among those particularly striking his fancy, which is called '上杉景勝御手選三十五腰', includes many national treasures and important cultural properties.

Once, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI invited each feudal lord to a banquet held at Fushimi Castle in Kyoto (or Osaka Castle), and Toshimasu MAEDA snuck into this banquet. At the height of the banquet, Keijiro, wearing a monkey mask with a cloth wrapped over his head and cheeks and tied under his chin, started dancing in a comical manner with gestures at the seat farthest from the front while manipulating a fan. He became so daring as to continue his monkey imitation on the laps of the feudal lords, but he was never censured because his behavior was so entertaining for all of the banquet attendees. When he came to Kagekatsu UESUGI, however, Keijiro made no attempt to sit on Kagekatsu's lap. When asked why not, Keijiro replied, "When I was in front of Kagekatsu, he looked so majestic that I could never sit on his lap." Also, based on the fact that Keijiro said later, "I would never rely on anyone else in all the world but lord Kagekatsu of Aizu to be my master," some say that Keijiro's behavior represents his respect for Kagekatsu, whom he trusted as the only just person.

There are various views regarding relations with Kenshin UESUGI, Kagekatsu's uncle and adoptive father, ranging from Kagekatsu respecting and longing for Kenshin to one that such relations were tense. Some say that Kenshin's sudden death before the establishment of arrangements for the succession affected relations between them. Another account states that Masakage, Kagekatsu's father, was confronted and assassinated by Kenshin. These views might have also given rise to the view that Kagekatsu assassinated Kenshin. On the other hand, however, Kagekatsu assumed the Buddhist name of Soshin when he was ill in bed near the end of his life. It is told that Kenshin had previously assumed this Buddhist name while he was in Kyoto.

When Kagekatsu inherited the rank of Danjo-Shohitsu from Kenshin, some say that the two relevant letters were written in Kagekatsu's handwriting; that is to say Kagekatsu forged those letters in order to justify himself (The History of Niigata Prefecture, The History of Joetsu City: Complete History I: The Medieval Period). However, considering the fact that Kagetora UESUGI referred to Kagekatsu as the vice minister in his letter to Moriuji ASHINA, as shown in the statement, "Because the vice minister is uninteresting and strict, as I told you the other day,.....", it would be a safe assumption that Kagekatsu's government service was widely known in the Uesugi family.

A war chronicle entitled Ouu Eikei Gunki contains a tale of Kagekatsu having extraordinary hatred for women, that he actively kept women away from him, and that he did not get along with his wife, Kikuhime (Daigiin); instead it has been told that he had an affinity for men, and often kept good-looking boys close to him. However, the credibility of this book is problematic because it contains statements and documentation obviously inconsistent with historical facts; some of these inconsistencies follow: Keigannin, Kagekatsu's concubine, was a descendent of a prostitute; Kanetsugu NAOE forced this prostitute to disguise herself as a man and introduced her to Kagekatsu so that she would bear an heir to Kagekatsu; she bore Sadakatsu, but she incurred Kagekatsu's anger because he found out that she was a woman; this woman was disappointed by the loss of Kagekatsu's favor and killed herself; her suicide caused Sadakatsu to harbor ill will against Kanetsugu, and he killed Kanetsugu in person. There is another view that Kagekatsu was not homosexual, which is based on the fact that Kagekatsu issued an order forbidding male homosexuality in 1612 ('Chronological Table of Mie').

When being transferred to Yonezawa, Kagekatsu's fiefdom was considerably decreased; however, he brought all of his retainers to Yonezawa. This became the main cause of the financial difficulties of the later Yonezawa domain.

The origin of the name Kagekatsu-cho, located in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, was the location of Kagekatsu's suburban residence (called Fushimi no Shimoyashiki).