Kikkawa Tsunemoto (吉川経基)

Tsunemoto KIKKAWA (1428 – January 28, 1520) was a busho (Japanese military commander) during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States [in Japan]). Local samurai in Aki Province. The first son of Yukitsune KIKKAWA. His children included Kunitsune KIKKAWA, Tsunemori KIKKAWA, Mitsutsune KIKKAWA, Tsunehisa KIKKAWA, and Tsunenori KIKKAWA. His first daughter married Tsunehisa AMAGO. His official rank was Governor of Suruga Province. Assistant Director of the House Repairs and Cleaning Office.

He became the head of the Kikkawa clan.

His childhood name was 千若. He also carried the name Mototsune. In 1477, after the death of his father Yukitsune KIKKAWA, he became the head of the Kikkawa clan (however, since he commanded the Kikkawa army as head before Yukitsune's death, it is possible that the position of head of the family had been conferred on him before this time). Tsunemoto was physically strong and was a daring and bold commander. It is said that he not only exceled in bravery, but that he also enjoyed literature and studied waka (classic Japanese poetry); he was a commander with both wisdom and courage, skilled in wielding both the sword and the pen.

In 1460, there was a power struggle between Masanaga HATAKEYAMA and a member of the same clan Yoshinari HATAKEYAMA. Tsunemoto supported Masanaga HATAKEYAMA under orders from Shogun Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA. In the following year of 1461, he departed for the front following Koretoyo YAMANA. He broke through Yoshinari HATAKEYAMA's forces in Kawachi Province to distinguish himself on the field of battle.

Onin War and "Devil Kikkawa"

In 1467, when the Onin War erupted, Tsunemoto belonged to the eastern army led by Katsumoto HOSOKAWA and was engaged in fierce and mortal combat with troops led by Sozen YAMANA of the western army inside the capital, earning great renown for his bravery across all parts of the country. He fought at a number of battles including Ichijo Takakura on September 1467 and also at the battles of Mushakoji Imadegawa, Kitakoji Takakura, and Rokuonin-guchi in October.

In the following year of 1468, he was given Fukui manor in Harima Province (one of the former territories of the Kikkawa clan) by Katsumoto HOSOKAWA as a reward. In August of that year, under Katsumoto HOSOKAWA, he engaged in mortal combat with Yoshinari HATAKEYAMA near Shokoku-ji Temple in Kyoto. Hatakeyama's group gained the advantage in the battle and fighters from Hosokawa's group began to escape one after the other. Despite this difficult situation, Tsunemoto spurred his subordinates on to defend their territory at all costs, and launched a major counterattack against Hatakeyama. As a result, Hosokawa's forces recovered their momentum and succeeded in fighting off Yoshinari HATAKEYAMA. His fighting style earned him the nicknames 'Oni (devil) Kikkawa' and 'Manaita (chopping block) Kikkawa' and he became known throughout the country.

The impact of the Onin War spread all over Japan, moving her towards ever deeper conflict in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States). In Bingo Province, samurai from the Wachi clan, the Miya clan, the Yamauchi clan and others attacked Koretoyo YAMANA of the eastern army. By Muromachi Shogun Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA's command, Tsunemoto assisted Koretoyo YAMANA in holding off these samurai in Bingo Province. For this achievement, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA fiefed land including Sama in Iwami Province and Terahara, Arima, Kitakata, Kawai in Aki Province to Tsunemoto.

The territory of the Kikkawa clan now extended to most parts of the Kawai-gawa River basin in the northeastern part of Yamagata County, leading Tsunemoto to become known as 'the great lord rejuvenating the Kikkawa clan.'

In 1482, he went to fight again in Kawachi under the bakufu's (Japanese feudal govvernment headed by a shogun) command, and at the request of Masanori AKAMATSU he led an expedition to Harima in 1487.

His Later Years

In 1509, Tsunemoto who was now 82 years old finally retired and transferred the headship of the family to his son Kunitsune KIKKAWA.

He died in 1520, at the age of 93. Posthumous name: Gyokudaiin Zuiho Keihon.

Personal Profile

Tsunemoto was a valiant and daring busho but also a person who was proficient in literature and calligraphy. In the Kikkawa clan, books such as "Kokin Wakashu" (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry), "Nenju Hihokku" and "Shui Wakashu" (Collection of Gleanings of Japanese Poems) written in Tsunemoto's own hand have been passed down. He also gained familiarity with Zen and was fond of reading "Genko Shakusho" (A history of Japanese Buddhism) compiled by Kokan (a monk) of Tofuku-ji Temple, discussing its contents with monks.

This Kikkawa family tradition which values both literary and military arts was transmitted less so through the lineage of Mototsune's eldest son than through Motoharu KIKKAWA (who transcribed "Taiheiki" [The Record of the Great Peace] by hand at the front of battles), who was a distant relative of the Kikkawa clan and a member of the Mori clan, and his descendants.