Hosokawa Masamoto (細川政元)

Masamoto HOSOKAWA was a Shugo (military governor) daimyo in the mid- to late Muromachi Period. He was the head of the Hosokawa Clan, one of the Kanrei (shogunal deputies) families of the Muromachi shogunate. His father was Katsumoto HOSOKAWA while his mother is unknown. Although there is a theory that his mother was Katsumoto's lawful wife, who was a daughter of Hirotaka YAMANA (her foster father was Sozen YAMANA), there is no documentary evidence to support this theory. He did not have any sons of his own and adopted Sumimoto HOSOKAWA, Sumiyuki HOSOKAWA, and Takakuni HOSOKAWA.

As Kanrei, he dominated the shogunate government and led the Keicho branch of the family to its heyday, but his adoption of the three children triggered fights over the headship of the family, and after getting involved in the struggle, he was assassinated by a retainer (known as the Eisho Disturbance).

Succession to the Headship of the House

He was born in 1466, the first son of Katsumoto HOSOKAWA. In 1473, at the age of only 8, he inherited the headship of the family from Katsumoto, who had died of an illness during the Onin War. He became the Shugo of Tanba, Settsu and Tosa. As he was only a child at that time, he was advised by Masakuni HOSOKAWA.

In 1474, he made peace with Masatoyo YAMANA of the western forces. In 1478, upon coming of age, he was granted permission to use a part of the name of the retired Shogun, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, and started to call himself Masamoto. Although he was appointed Kanrei, he resigned after a short while.

Coup D'etat

In 1489, the shogun, Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA, was killed in battle during the subjugation of the Rokkaku Clan in the Province of Omi. Masamoto recommended Kogen-In Seiko (Yoshizumi ASHIKAGA), a son of the Horikoshi Kubo, Masatomo ASHIKAGA, as the next shogun but, as a result of support by Tomiko HINO, Yoshiki ASHIKAGA (later called Yoshitane), a son of Yoshimi ASHIKAGA, became the 10th shogun. Dissatisfied with the outcome, Masamoto began to remove himself from governmental affairs. Yoshimi and Masanaga HATAKEYAMA's influence increased after Yoshiki became shogun, with Masanaga becoming the dominant power after Yoshimi's death in January, 1491.

In 1493, the shogun, Yoshiki, and Masanaga left for the Province of Kawachi to subjugate Yoshitoyo HATAKEYAMA. In April, Masamoto, who was staying in Kyoto, started a coup d'etat and backed Kogen-In Seiko as the 11th shogun (the Meio Coup). Masanori AKAMATSU, who was originally on Masanaga's side, switched to Masamoto's side after the coup, and as a result, the isolated Masanaga killed himself and Yoshiki was caught and confined in Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto. In 1494, having installed Kogen-In Seiko as shogun and having himself appointed as Kanrei, Masamoto dominated the shogunate government, with the shogun just a puppet.

Power Struggles

Yoshitane (Yoshiki), who had escaped to Ecchu Province after the coup, led Hokuriku soldiers in an invasion of Omi Province in 1499, but was defeated, together with Hisanobu HATAKEYAMA, by Masamoto.

Meanwhile, Masamoto remained single until the day he died and his strange behavior, like wandering from province to province due to his belief in the mountain ascetic way, sometimes caused confusion in the shogunate government. The fact that he tended to be moody and that he did not have any children of his own affected the issue of succession in the Keicho family. In 1502, Masamoto adopted Sumiyuki from the Kujo family on the condition that he would inherit the family estate but in June, 1503, he adopted Sumimoto from the Awa-Hosokwa branch of the Hosokawa Clan as his heir and he disinherited Sumiyuki. This brought the two sides into conflict.

In October, 1504, Masamoto suppressed a rebellion by Motokazu YAKUSHIJI, the deputy shugo of the Province of Settsu, and then in 1506, he subjugated Yoshihide HATAKEYAMA of Kawachi and invaded the Province of Yamato. In 1507, Masamoto further expanded his domain by invading first the Province of Kii and then defeating Yoshiari ISSHIKI of the Provinces of Tango and Tanba. In so doing, he led the Keicho family to its heyday.

Masamoto however seemed to dislike the maelstroms of war, and started to express his desire go on a pilgrimage in the mountains of Mutsu to practice the ascetic religion, Shugendo, but was dissuaded from doing so by his retainer, Yukinaga MIYOSHI. On August 11, 1507, Masamoto was attacked and killed while taking a bath by his own guards Magoshichi TAKEDA, Motonaga KOUZAI, and Nagatada YAKUSHIJI, who had been persuaded to side with Sumiyuki (the Eisho Disturbance). He was 42 years old.

After his death, the Keicho family succumbed to repeated infighting and rapidly fell.

Personal Profile and Anecdotes

Because of his strange behavior and the infighting after his death, he had received a bad reputation but the currently accepted theory is that he was able to hold on to the position of Kanrei for a long time and also to remove the shogun, and this was the time that the Hosokawa-Keicho family was in its prime.

He was known as the Semi-Shogun since he dominated the shogunate government and was also the most powerful daimyo at that time.

There are a few theories as to why he never got married; some say that it was because he was too immersed in Shugendo, and others say that it was because he was homosexual.

He was so immersed in Shugendo that he sometimes walked off from his political tasks and left Kyoto to visit the Province of Tanba; it has been said that he had to be brought back to Kyoto by his chief vassal Motoie YASUTOMI, retainer Motosuke SHO, and Yukinaga MIYOSHI. His master in Shugendo was Shisenin Kosen (also known as Ietoshi SHISHIDO) from the Aki-Shishido Clan.

He met with Shugos of various provinces when he was wandering and some believe that his travels had political purposes, such as expansion of the power of his group.

Masamoto was not necessarily a great person, but he had many excellent subordinates and this is said to have led the Hosokawa family to its prime.