Miyoshi Motonaga (三好元長)

Motonaga MIYOSHI was a military commander from Awa Province (now Tokushima Prefecture) in the Sengoku period (period of warring states).


His father was Nagahide MIYOSHI according to a prevailing opinion, but there is a different opinion that he was a son of Yukinaga. Another opinion says that Nagahide was originally the heir of Yukinaga but Nagahide fell early in battle, so Yukinaga made Motonaga an adopted son of Nagahide.


In 1520, Yukinaga, who was the leader of the Miyoshi clan, was executed when his army was defeated in the battle against Takakuni HOSOKAWA, and before that his heir, Nagahide, had already died in battle. Therefore, as a direct descendant of Yukinaga, Motonaga became the new family head of the Miyoshi clan, but not finding a chance to counterattack Takakuni, he was blocked in Awa Province with a bereaved son of Sumimoto HOSOKAWA, Harumoto HOSOKAWA.

A chance given by Providence
The despotic government by Takakuni tried to consolidate its power by making Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA the new Seii Taishogun (literally, the great general who subdues barbarians) when Takakuni was estranged from Yoshitane ASHIKAGA, whom he had put back as the Seii Taishogun, but it revealed its flaw after Takakuni had Motomori KOZAI trapped and killed in August 1526. When brothers of Motomori (such as Tanemichi HATANO) rebelled in Tanba Province in response to Takakuni's unjust punishment on innocent Motomori, the Takakuni government could not suppress the rebellion exposing the weakness of its military force.

Motonaga and the rest took it as a chance and raised an army in November in this year. Supporting his lord, Rokuro (Harumoto), who was waging a war backing up Yoshitsuna ASHIKAGA, Motonaga moved up his army to the Kinai region (Provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara), where he waited until the next year. His army successfully united with the Hatano army which had rebelled against Takakuni, and in the next April (in 1527), they clashed with the government army (the allied forces between Takakuni HOSOKAWA and Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA) and defeated it (the Battle of Katsurakawara). They made the government army flee away to Omi Province and succeeded in reversing the situation.

Also, Motonaga rendered a great service to establish 'Sakaikubo (Sakaitaiju)' (a government which dominated the Kinai region based in Sakai) so that it could replace the Takakuni government which had fled and lost its political function. In order to build up a firm footing for the new ruling system of the Kinai region run by Rokuro, he lent a great deal of efforts.

Withdrawal to Awa Province
Due to his meritorious deeds by then, in July 1528, he was appointed to shugodai (an acting shugo, who was allowed the military and police authority to rule an appointed region) of Yamashiro Province. However, since he got onto bad terms with his new colleague, Kataharu YANAGIMOTO (a younger brother of Tanemichi HATANO and an older brother of Motomori KOZAI), in 1529 he withdrew to Awa Province to live there.

Meanwhile, Takakuni, who had been looking for a chance to make a comeback, finally persuaded the shugodai of Harima Province, Muramune URAGAMI, to support him to add to his son-in-low, Harutomo KITABATAKE, in Ise Province, and they raised an army. In order to lay the groundwork to advance to the capital, they fought battles in various places in Harima Province and won victories.

In September 1530, the allied forces between Takakuni and Uragami invaded Settsu Province, and that being so, the situation had become against the Sakaikubo group represented by Rokuro (Harumoto). Finally, some of their members, like Kunimori YAKUSHIJI, surrendered to the Takakuni army; thus the Sakaikubo group was falling into a critical situation.

A comeback to the Kinai region
In February 1531, begged by Rokuro (Harumoto), Motonaga came back but the situation was critical.

The Sakaikubo group had not been able to take effective action to deal with the allied forces of Takakuni and Uragami, which had been advancing accumulating momentum, while winning many battles since Harima Province. What troubled them most was the incident that happened in the following month, March. Nagamasa KIZAWA, a newcomer from Kawachi Province on the Sakaikubo side, gave away the defense of Kyoto and withdrew. The Takakuni troops succeeded in recapturing Kyoto without any difficulty.

The allied forces of Takakuni and others advanced into the southern part of Settsu Province in order to subjugate their nuisance, Sakaikubo.

In return, the Sakaikubo army, having gained reinforcements of 8,000 troops from Awa Province, beat the vanguard of the Takakuni army. However, even though they got reinforcements, the Sakaikubo army needed to spare more than half of its troops to protect Yoshitsuna ASHIKAGA who located in Sakai, so the number of the troops was not really enough to face the Takakuni army, and in consequence, the Sakaikubo army relied much on the ability of Motonaga (the Battle of Nakajima).

With regard to the war situation, the Takakuni army became cautious since its first attack was foiled, and so the battle reached a deadlock. Then, in July that year, by the betrayal of Masasuke (政祐) AKAMATSU, whose troops arrived as reinforcements of the Takakuni army, the situation changed. The Sakaikubo army soundly defeated the Takakuni army in surprisingly short time (the Battle of Daimotsu).

A gulf between Motonaga and Rokuro Harumoto
The Sakaikubo group achieved the goal to eliminate their mortal enemy, Takakuni, but they had a discord inside over the policy to choose next. Rokuro (later called Harumoto) was the cause of it.

Surprisingly, under the situation where the Sakaikubo government led by Rokuro (Harumoto) would be officially approved only if it divested the incumbent Seii Taishogun, Yoshiharu, of his rank and made Yoshitsuna, whom it had been backing up, the new Seii Taishogun, Rokuro tried to push on with the plan to reconcile with Yoshiharu.

Together with Yoshitaka HATAKEYAMA (a brother-in-law of Rokuro) in Kawachi, Motonaga solidly opposed the decision of Rokuro (Harumoto) that equaled the abandonment of the Sakaikubo government they had spent a great deal of efforts to build, but instead of being accepted, Motonaga's opinion resulted in making a big gulf between him and Rokuro. His magnificent exploits so far may have worked against him; gradually Rokuro came to take precautions against him. In addition, Nagamase KIZAWA, who was targeting a promising position as a retainer of Rokuro, and Masanaga MIYOSHI, who was one of the Miyoshi clan but was hoping for the downfall of Motonaga, carried out secret maneuvers against Motonaga, and so the gulf between them became even bigger.

Soon, Motonaga was put in a difficult position because of Kizawa, so he made an ally with Yoshitaka HATAKEYAMA (the lord of Kizawa), who was also cautious of Kizawa's revolt against Yoshitaka. Under the pretext that Motonaga was supporting Yoshitaka to kill Kizawa as an offender, in September that year, they besieged Iimoriyama-jo Castle, where Kizawa resided.

It was only two months after the elimination of Takakuni that the conflict occurred inside the Sakaikubo group, but even so, once they withdrew their troops in response to Rokuro's request to protect Kizawa. However, in June of the following year, 1532, Yoshitaka HATAKEYAMA besieged the Iimoriyama-jo Castle again out of the fear for the ambition of crafty Kizawa. Motonaga joined Hatakeyama afterward. Again, his lord, Rokuro, assumed a position to protect Kizawa, but nevertheless they did not stop the siege of Iimoriyama-jo Castle, and so Kizawa nearly went to his fate.

Unnatural death in indignation
It was on July 27, when it was thought to be a matter of time before Kizawa was killed. The situation completely changed and the besieging army fell into a crisis. All of a sudden, it was attacked in the rear by the troops of Ikko-ikki (an uprising raised by believers of the Ikkoshu sect [a sect of Buddhism]).

The besieging army was routed in no time and Motonaga barely escaped with his life and went back to Kenpon-ji Temple in Sakai. Meanwhile, on July 29, Yoshitaka HATAKEYAMA, who may have resigned his fate in persistent pursuit by the Ikko-ikki troops, killed himself.

Rokuro and Kizawa had concluded that it would be impossible to defeat the besieging army on their own, and decided to use the religious confrontation between the Ikkoshu sect and the Hokkeshu sect. Having gained approval from Yamashina Hongan-ji Temple (Priest Shonyo), they had asked the Ikko-ikki troops to support them.

At the time, the more important object for the Ikko-ikki troops was rather to subjugate the enemy of Buddhist for the Ikkoshu sect, than to dispel the besieging army surrounding Iimoriyama-jo Castle. Namely, it was the subjugation of Motonaga, who was a patron of the Hokkeshu sect, which was the enemy of the Ikkoshu sect. Yoshitaka HATAKEYAMA was, so to speak, merely entangled in the situation.

By the time the Ikko-ikki troops besieged Kenpon-ji Temple on August 1, the number of the troops had increased even more (it is said that it was 100 thousands in total), and so all Motonaga could do was to let Yoshitsuna ASHIKAGA escape. Forsaken and disgraced by his lord to suffer a huge defeat which would have been a victory otherwise, Motonaga killed himself. He died at the age of 32.

After his death
Although Motonaga died in mortification, his sons, Nagayoshi MIYOSHI, Yoshikata MIYOSHI, Kazumasa SOGO and Fuyuyasu ATAGI, were all great commanders, and they led the Miyoshi clan to thrive greatly after his death. In its heyday, the Miyoshi clan was so strong as to control political power.

Twenty years after his death, Nanshu-ji Temple was built in Sakai by Nagayoshi to pray to Buddha for the repose of Motonaga's soul.

[Original Japanese]