Oyama Masamitsu (小山政光)

Masamitsu OYAMA (dates of birth and death unknown) was a busho (Japanese military commander) lived over the end of Heian period to the early Kamakura period. His original name was Masamitsu OTA. Masamitsu was the son of Yukimasa OTA, a Zaichokanjin (the local officials in Heian and Kamakura periods) of Musashi Province who was believed to be descended in a direct line from FUJIWARA no Hidesato. Masamitsu OTA moved to Shimotsuke Province around 1150 in the end of the Heian period and settled in Oyama shoen (manor in medieval Japan), calling himself Shiro OYAMA or Shimotsukenodaiten OYAMA to be the founder of the Oyama family. His Homyo (priest's name or posthumous Buddhist name) was Rensai. SAMUKAWA no Ama, the daughter of Munetsuna HATTA, who had been a Menoto (wet nurse) of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was one of his wives. His sons included Tomomasa OYAMA, Tomomitsu YUKI, and Yoritsuna UTSUNOMIYA (an adopted child). Among them, only Tomomitsu YUKI was a child born between he and SAMUKAWA no Ama. Masamitsu's official rank was Shoshichiinoge (Senior Seventh Rank, Lower Grade), the Ten (an official rank of provincial government) of Shimotsuke Province.

Masmitsu had a vast territory around Kokufu, Shimotsuke Province and led the largest armed group in Shimotsuke.


When Yoritomo raised an army in August 1180, Masamitsu and his son, Tomomasa were in Kyoto as Obanyaku (a job to guard Kyoto). However, Masamitsu's wife SAMUKAWA no Ama, who had once been a Menoto of Yoritomo, visited Yoritomo's lodging with her son Tomomitsu who had not yet reached the manhood, when Yoritomo raised an army again in Boso in October of the same year. SAMUKAWA no Ama's visit to Yoritomo led the armed groups belonging to the Oyama clan holding the fort to take Yoritomo's side because of the custom in those days: while the family head is away, his wife is authorized to handle all affairs of the clan. Afterwards, Masamitsu and his sons became Yoritomo's Gokenin (shogunal retainers of the Kamakura bakufu).

When Masamitsu entertained Yoritomo who was on his way to Oshu for joining the Battle of Oshu broke out in July 1189 at the lodging in Shimotsuke Province, the Naozane KUMAGAI's son, Naoie KUMAGAI came to pay a visit to Yoritomo.
In reply to the Masamitsu's question about the person, Yoritomo introduced Naoie by saying 'He is Kojiro Naoie KUMAGAI, the bravest warrior in Japan.'
When Masamitsu asked Yoritomo the reason why Yoritomo called Naoie the bravest warrior, Yoritomo praised Naoie saying 'Because Naoie and his father desperately fought a series of battles to defeat the Heike clan, including the Battle of Ichinotani.'
Masamitsu burst into a laugh at Yoritomo's remark and said, 'Naoie is not the only warrior to fight for our master (Yoritomo) at the cost of our own lives.'
Since such a fellow like Naoie cannot afford to employ enough retainers of his own, there is nothing he can do but render distinguish services by himself and gain fame.
In contrast to such a fellow, the likes of Masamitsu with lots of excellent retainers can show our devotion to our master only by dispatching part of retainers.'
Then, he sarcastically ordered his sons, 'Everyone, let's spearhead the next battle and render distinguish services by ourselves, otherwise we would not be praised as the bravest warriors in Japan by our master.'

This episode is known as an example showing the difference between 'Daimyo' warrior and 'Shomyo' warrior; the former, a feudal overlord, was allowed to regard his retainers' fame as his feats, while the latter had to win fame by himself.

The year of his death is unknown, but it is certain that he passed away before 1199.