Takesaki Suenaga (竹崎季長)

Suenaga TAKESAKI (1246 - around 1314) was a gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate) of the Kyushu region who lived during the middle of the Kamakura Period. His common name was Goro. He held the office of Hyoe no jo (a lieutenant of the Middle Palace Guards). Suenaga is well known for his own picture scroll, "Moko Shurai Ekotoba" (picture scrolls on the Mongol invasion attempts against Japan) which he ordered to be drawn of his own distinguished war service.

Biography

Suenaga was born in Takesaki-go, Higo Province (present-day Matsubase-machi, Uki City, Kumamoto Prefecture). Although he was a member of the Kikuchi clan, a territorial conflict among the family members brought him to ruin. Therefore, the territory Suenaga owned is said to have been very small. His older sister was a wife of Sukenaga MITSUI, a retainer of Yukitada NIKAIDO who headed Mandokoro (the Administrative Board) of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

In 1274 during the Bunei War (the first attempted invasion by the Yuan Dynasty [Mongol]) of Genko (Mongol invasion attempt against Japan, consisting of two different wars) Suenaga joined the army of Kagesuke SHONI of Hakozaki, Hakata (present-day Fukuoka Prefecture), and had his corps based in Okinohama. In the War, Suenaga went down to Akasaka with five other retainers with a permission from Kagesuke. In Akasaka, Takefusa KIKUCHI already had beaten Mongolian soldiers. However, as Takefusa was not working under the command of the Shoni clan, Suenaga was able to become the first soldier to attack the Mongolian soldiers among the Shoni corps though suffering war wounds.

The Bunei War ended overnight when the Mongolian army retreated from the Hakata bay due to a strong rain or its own strategic failure. It is believed that the battle did not earn Suenaga any rewards for his service, either because what he had done in the War was not regarded as a distinguished war service (rather, it was considered that he merely received an injury in the war), or because his achievement was not reported to the feudal government due to a mishandling of an administrative procedure. Being dissatisfied with the decision, Suenaga went to Kamakura by selling his horses to make money for the trip and filed a complaint directly to the feudal government in June 1275. He was finally allowed to meet with Yasumori ADACHI, a bugyo (magistrate), in August the same year, and appointed as Jito (the lord of a manor) of Kaito-go, Higo Province.

In 1281 after the Koan War (the second Mongolian attempt to invade Japan), Suenaga was awarded a massive amount of compensations by cutting his way into enemy vessels in a naval battle in the Shikanoshima Island and Iki Province under the direction of Morimune ADACHI (a son of Yasumori).

After the war, Suenaga ordered "Moko Shurai Ekotoba" aka. "Takesaki Suenaga Ekotoba" to be drawn, in which his achievements and his trip to Kamakura were depicted, and he offered the picture scroll to Kosa-jinja Shrine. It is also said that the picture scroll was drawn in order to pray for the repose of the souls of Yasumori ADACHI and Kagesuke SHONI who had helped Suenaga to receive rewards but were killed in the Shimotsuki Incident (a coup to destroy Gokenin [immediate vassals of the shogunate] by Miuchibito [private vassals of the tokuso]) in 1285.

In 1293, Suenaga erected his family temple and entered into priesthood. In 1314, Suenaga died. Died at the age of 69. Suenaga was buried in Tofuku-ji Temple, Uki City, Kumamoto Prefecture.