Hosokawa Katsumoto (細川勝元)

Katsumoto HOSOKAWA was a shugo (military governor) daimyo in the Muromachi period, a kanrei (shogunal deputy or a chief official) of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and the head of the Hosokawa clan (as one of the so-called three shogunal deputies) in the main Hosokawa clan line. His official rank was Ukyo no Daibu Jushii, meaning that he was the minister of the Kyoto Right Administration Office with the junior fourth court rank. His father was Mochiyuki HOSOKAWA, and his official wife was Shunrinji-dono, a daughter of Hirotaka YAMANA and the adopted child of Sozen YAMANA. His children were Masamoto HOSOKAWA and Tosho-in (Masanori AKAMATSU's concubine), and he also had an adopted child Toyohisa YAMANA and another child considered as his own, who was called Katsuyuki HOSOKAWA.

Succession to (the Headship of) a House and Kanreiship

Katsumoto HOSOKAWA was born in 1430 as the first true son of Mochiyuki HOSOKAWA. His childhood name was Somei-maru.

Upon the death of his father Mochiyuki in August, 1442, Katsumoto took over as the head of the family at the age of 13. At the same time, in accordance with the custom of being granted the right to use a portion of the superior's real name, he borrowed one of the characters from Yoshikatsu ASHIKAGA, who was the seventh shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, and thus called himself Katsumoto; and supported by the guardianship of his uncle, Mochikata HOSOKAWA, he became the shugo-shiki (the rank of military governor) of the provinces of Settsu, Tanba, Sanuki and Tosa.

In 1445, at 16 years of age, he became a kanrei (a shogunal deputy) and took over from Mochikuni (Tokumoto) HATAKEYAMA; from that point onward, he continued to influence the shogunate administration by serving as a kanrei at three different times for a total of 23 years. Katsumoto served as a kanrei (a shogunal deputy) from 1445 to 1449, from 1452 to 1464 and from February 1468 to May 1473, when he died.

Power Struggle

Katsumoto HOSOKAWA and Sozen YAMANA were believed to be on bad terms with each other because they had a hostile relationship during the Onin War, but in the beginning their relationship was different. Initially, the entire Hosokawa family was in charge of nine provinces and the Yamana clan was in charge of eight (including the former Akamatsu territories), since the Yamana clan was recognized for the achievement of defeating the Akamatsu clan in the Kakitsu Incident. For this reason, thinking it was unwise to fight against Mochitoyo, Katsumoto decided to align with him by accepting Mochitoyo’s adopted daughter as an official wife.

Therefore, when the Hatakeyama clan had an internal fight over the leadership of the family, Katsumoto and Mochitoyo YAMANA, who had become his father-in-law, supported Yasaburo HATAKEYAMA (Mochikuni’s adopted son) in driving out Yoshinari HATAKEYAMA (Mochikuni’s real son, who had been recommended by Mochikuni) in order to bring Mochikuni down, since he was Katsumoto’s political enemy. However, when Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, the eighth shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, and Katsumoto tried to support the Akamatsu clan, which had fallen in the Kakitsu Incident, Mochitoyo, who was in charge of the former Akamatsu clan territories, strongly opposed rebuilding the Akamatsu clan. This event nearly allowed Mochitoyo to be hunted down and killed by Yoshimasa, but because of Katsumoto's defense, Mochitoyo escaped the situation (and around this time Mochitoyo became a priest and thereafter called himself Sozen).

The forces of the Yamana clan, however, grew much more rapidly than Katsumoto had expected, and Katsumoto considered the expansion of Sozen’s power dangerous; therefore, when rivalry for the head of the family (the Buei disturbance) occurred in the Shiba clan, Katsumoto supported Yoshitoshi SHIBA, who fought against Yoshikane SHIBA, while Sozen supported Yoshikane SHIBA as they were related by marriage. Also, as for the issue regarding the rebuilding of the Akamatsu clan that Sozen had opposed, Katsumoto actively supported the rebuilding of the family, put Masanori AKAMATSU (the grandson of Yoshimasa AKAMATSU and a brother of Mitsusuke AKAMATSU) in charge of half of Kaga Province, and finally realized the rebuilding of the family. Furthermore, Katsumoto fought against Norihiro OUCHI and Michiharu KONO due to tally trade issues, but Sozen supported them, and this led to a conflict between the HOSOKAWA and YAMANA clans. Additionally, Katsumoto, who originally had no heir, adopted Toyohisa YAMANA, who was the son of Sozen, but he disinherited Toyohisa and compelled him to enter the Buddhist priesthood after the birth of his own son Masamoto HOSOKAWA in 1466, clearly indicating their diminished relationship.

In 1466, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA's biological son Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA was born, and a race for succession to the primary leadership started in the shogun family of Ashikaga. At this time, Sadachika ISE, who was a close retainer of Yoshimasa, recommended the disinheritance of Yoshimi ASHIKAGA, who had once been nominated as a successor by Yoshimasa, as well as Yoshihisa's succession as the shogun. However, Katsumoto, who supported Yoshimi, was opposed to the idea. Furthermore, because Sozen was embittered by Sadachika's increased power within the government, he agreed with Katsumoto only on this occasion and together requested that Yoshimasa cast out Sadachika; this was achieved through a concerted effort (the Bunsho political change).

In December, when the powerful figure disappeared from the shogun family, Sozen YAMANA ordered Yoshinari HATAKEYAMA, who had once been an outcast, to enter Kyoto; moreover, he ordered that he be granted a pardon through Yoshimasa. Additionally, in January 1467 Sozen demanded that Yoshimasa deprive Masanaga HATAKEYAMA (Mochikuni’s adopted son and a brother of Yasaburo), who was supported by Katsumoto, of his kanrei position and suspended him from serving, and instead made Yoshimasa appoint Yoshikane SHIBA, who was supported by Sozen, to the position of kanrei (a shogunal deputy). At this point, armed conflicts between Katsumoto and Sozen were inevitable.

The Onin War

The first conflict started when Yoshinari HATAKEYAMA and Masanaga HATAKEYAMA finally clashed with each other at Kamigoryo-sha Shrine (the Battle of Goryo). When this occurred, Sozen supported Yoshinari by securing the support of retired Emperor Gohanazono and Emperor Gotsuchimikado, but Katsumoto watched the event calmly since he was prohibited by Yoshimasa from letting himself be involved in the Hatayama family dispute. Consequently, Masanaga lost the battle.

On May 25, however, against Sozen (who had the Emperor's support), Katsumoto occupied the government and recruited a shogun, and on May 26 he provoked a battle against the Yamana side (the Onin War). Katsumoto HOSOKAWA led the eastern force and Sozen YAMANA led the western force. Although Katsumoto was instructed by the shogun Yoshimasa to hunt down and kill Sozen, they were evenly matched. Also, Katsumoto supported the adopted son-in-law Masanori AKAMATSU and ordered him to invade the Yamana territory. The war situation was temporarily advantageous to the eastern force because they were able to secure both the retired Emperor and the Emperor that Sozen once had, but they were unable to make a decisive attack. After Yoshimasa let Sadachika ISE return to his former position in the intercalary month of October 1468, the war situation changed as Katsumoto lent his support to Yoshihisa and Sozen started to support Yoshimi. Under these circumstances, in 1472, Katsumoto tried to negotiate peace with Sozen, but the negotiation effort collapsed.

Katsumoto dominated the situation upon the death of his longtime foe Sozen in March 1473, but soon after, on May 11, 1473, he also died. He was 44 years old when he died. His son, Masamoto HOSOKAWA, took over his position.

Although it is commonly believed that Katsumoto died of illness, there was also an assassination theory involving the Yamana faction.

Personal Profile

Katsumoto belonged to the Zen sect, established Ryoan-ji and Ryuko-ji temples, and had extensive knowledge of Koi dishes.

He studied the art of medicine and later wrote a medical book titled ‘Reiran-shu’; additionally, he was a man of culture who was highly talented in drawing and waka reading.

Although he had high political skills, he was undoubtedly one of the people who started the Onin War, triggered the rise of local samurais and ultimately started the he Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) as a result.

Record of Official Titles and Ranks

Dates shown are based on the lunar calendar.

August, 1442: Became head of the Hosokawa clan. Borrowing one of the characters of the name of the Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") Yoshikatsu ASHIKAGA, he named himself Katsumoto. At the same time he was appointed to serve in the central administration with the rank of Jugoi (junior fifth court).

Unknown date: Took charge of the Musashi Province.

Unknown date: Promoted to the Jushii (junior fourth rank).

March 29, 1445: Became a kanrei (a shogunal deputy) of the Muromachi bakufu.

October 5, 1449: He resigned as a kanrei.

November 26, 1452: Again became a kanrei of the Muromachi bakufu.