Imagawa Ujichika (今川氏親)

Ujichika IMAGAWA was a warlord, Shugo Daimyo (Provincial Daimyo), and Sengoku Daimyo (Daimyo in Sengoku period) in the Sengoku period. His real family name was Minamoto. He was the Imagawa clan, a branch family of the Kira clan which was a cadet family of the Ashikaga clan whose ancestor was MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni, a son of MINAMOTO no Yoshiie who was Chinju-fu Shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North) and the head of the Kawachi-Genji clan (Minamoto clan), a branch family of the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan). He was the seventh head of the Imagawa clan in Suruga Province. He served as Shugo (military governor) for Suruga Province. His court rank was Jushii Shuri no Daibu (Junior Fourth Rank, Master of the Office of Palace Repairs). His father was Yoshitada IMAGAWA.

Birth
His father Yoshitada, Shugo of Suruga Province, is believed to have married his mother, Kitagawa-dono, when he joined forces with the Eastern Army in Kyoto during the Onin War. Kitagawa-dono was the older sister of Shinkuro Moritoki ISE (also known as Soun HOJO). She was considered a concubine when Shinkuro ISE was thought to have been a mere masterless samurai, but recent studies have almost confirmed that he was from the Ise clan, a distinguished family who was the head of the Muromachi shogunate's Administrative Board, and thus she has come to be considered a lawful wife. Ujichika was born the son of Kitagawa-dono in 1473 (1471 according to another theory). His childhood name was Tatsuo-maru. Ujichika's life was greatly influenced by the fact that Kitagawa-dono's younger brother (older brother according to another theory) would later become Soun HOJO.

Succession Dispute
In 1476, his father Yoshitada was attacked and killed during riots in Totomi Province. Since Tatsuo-maru was very young then, vassals from the Miura clan and Asahina clan supported relative Norimitsu OSHIKA (cousin of Yoshitada) as successor, and this led to a succession dispute involving several battles between the Tatsuo-maru faction and the Norimitsu faction.

Masanori UESUGI, who was the head of Horikoshi Kubo (also called Horigoe Kubo, shogunal deputy based in Horigoe, Izu Province) and Dokan OTA, the chief retainer of the Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clan, intervened in the succession dispute by leading forces into Suruga Province. His uncle Shinkuro ISE arbitrated the dispute and they agreed that Norimitsu would act as guardian to Tatsuo-maru and head the family on his behalf. When Shinkuro ISE was thought to have been a mere masterless samurai, his actions were conveyed as the first step in a mastermind plan to succeed as the future Soun HOJO, but recent studies have almost confirmed that he was Moritoki ISE, a member of the distinguished Ise clan and a retainer of the Muromachi shogunate, and that he had in fact gone to Suruga Province to arbitrate the Imagawa family dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Muromachi shogunate.

Norimitsu, who held the family headship on behalf of Tatsuo-maru, moved into the Imagawa residence, and Tatsuo-maru stayed with his mother, Kitagawa-dono, in Kogawa-jo Castle (in Suruga Province, now Yaizu City), which was the residence of Kogawa no Hoei Choja (Millionaire Hoei of Kogawa, Masanobu HASEGAWA). In 1479, at the request of Moritoki ISE, the shogunate handed a confidential letter directly to Moritoki, granted permission for Tatsuo-maru's succession to the family headship, in the name of the former Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA.

However, rather than returning the family headship to Tatsuo-maru, Norimitsu suppressed him with the intention of seizing the headship, even after Tatsuo-maru had passed the age of 15 and become an adult. In 1487, Kitagawa-dono and Tatsuo-maru asked Shinkuro Moritoki ISE, who was then serving Shogun Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA in Kyoto, for help. Moritoki went to Suruga Province again. In November of the same year, Moritoki organized an army based at Ishiwaki-jo Castle (in Yaizu City), attacking the Suruga residence and killing Norimitsu. Tatsuo-maru entered the Suruga residence and took the name Ujichika after celebrating his coming-of-age, thereby becoming the head of the Imagawa family. Moritoki ISE was awarded Kokokuji-jo Castle.

Prior to this, in October of the same year, Tatsuo-maru became the first daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) to use a stamp seal to issue a document (though this did not last and he later used the normal written seal).

The Head of the Imagawa Family
An internal conflict occurred in Horikoshi Kubo, and Moritoki ISE (hereinafter referred to as Soun), on the order of Shogun Yoshizumi ASHIKAGA, destroyed Chachamaru ASHIKAGA and conquered Izu Province in 1493. Ujichika also supported Soun by lending him his soldiers. Their actions were in response to the Meio Coup led by Shogunal Deputy Masamoto HOSOKAWA. From then onwards, Ujichika and Soun cooperated closely with each other to expand their territories.

The position of shugo of Suruga's neighboring province, Totomi, which had originally been handed down in the Imagawa family, was later taken over by the Shiba clan. The Imagawa family wanted desperately to regain Totomi Province and Ujichika's father, Yoshitada, died there in battle. Having become the head of the family, Ujichika also made aggressive attempts at invading Totomi Province.

It was, however, Soun who led an army into Totomi Province from around 1494, gaining control of up to the midsection of the province. Although Ujichika had not yet become shugo of Totomi Province, he carried out his own independent land surveys, undermining the Shiba clan's authority as shugo. This is said to have essentially signified a break away by the Imagawa family from the control of the Muromachi shogunate and a change in their position from Shugo Daimyo (Provincial Daimyo) to Sengoku Daimyo (Daimyo in Sengoku period). Ujichika also carried out land surveys in his home of Suruga Province and promoted an integrated administration of his territory. In addition, he developed Abe Gold Mine, which increased his financial power.

Soun advanced his army further, attacking the Matsudaira clan at Iwatsu-jo Castle in Mikawa Province during the Bunki era (1501 - 1504) and sending an army to Tsuru County in Kai Province where they fought against the Oyamada clan, feudal lord of Gunnai, and the Takeda clan who was shugo there.

Meanwhile, Ujichika supported Soun's advance to the Kanto region, intervening in the Chokyo Rebellion and siding with the Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clan in battle against the Yamanouchi-Uesugi family. In 1504, he fought in the battle of Tachikawanohara in Musashi Province together with Soun, and defeated Shogunal Deputy for Kanto Region, Akisada UESUGI.

Around 1505, Nobutane NAKAMIKADO's daughter (the future Jukei-ni) became his lawful wife.

From 1506 to 1508, the Imagawa army, led by Soun, invaded Mikawa Province again and fought against Nagachika MATSUDAIRA.

After 1509, Soun no longer worked as military commander of the Imagawa family. Soun had apparently become independent of the Imagawa family and, from this time onwards, he shifted his advance to the Kanto region into full swing.

In 1508, the shogunate granted Ujichika's request, officially appointing him shugo of Totomi Province, and thereby giving him a legitimate reason to rule the province. In 1511, when Owari Province Shugo, Yoshitatsu SHIBA, attacked Osakabe-jo Castle, owned by the Imagawa family (in Hamamatsu City), Ujichiki mobilized his army and fought off the attack. Yoshitatsu SHIBA continued the attack, which led to fierce battles with the Shiba clan in Totomi Province.

In 1516, Sadatsuna OKOCHI of Hikuma-jo Castle (Hamamatsu City) betrayed the Imagawa family, and Yoshitatsu SHIBA joined him. Ujichika led his army and surrounded Hikuma-jo Castle. He had the miners of Abe Gold Mine dig a tunnel, cutting off the water supply and forcing the enemies to surrender. Sadatsuna OKOCHI was killed in this battle, and Yoshitatsu SHIBA, who surrendered by entering into the priesthood, was sent back to Owari Province. Thus Totomi Province was conquered.

Meanwhile, in 1515, he joined forces with Nobusato Oi, local lord of Nishigori in Kai Province, in battle against Shugo Nobutora TAKEDA, temporarily occupying Katsuyama-jo Castle (in Kai Province) located along Nakamichi Okan Road in 1515. In 1517, Ujichika concluded a peace agreement with Nobutora and withdrew his army, while Nobusato OI surrendered to Nobutora. Confrontation with the Takeda clan continued after that, and Ujichika often invaded Kai Province until an alliance between Suruga Province and Kai Province was concluded in his later years.

His marriage to Jukei-ni, the daughter of a court noble, is said to have strengthened his connection with Kyoto and led to Kyoto's culture being adopted in Sunpu (the capital of Suruga Province). Ujichika especially liked waka (traditional Japanese poetry consisting of thirty-one syllables) and renga (collaborative poetry). He was confined to bed in his later years due to a stroke, and Jukei-ni assisted him with political matters. In April 1526, two months before his death, he established the "Imagawa Kana Mokuroku" (Imagawa House Laws), typical provincial laws that warlords enforced in their territories in the Sengoku period. This was aimed at preventing a dispute between vassals, because his heir Ujiteru had not yet come of age.

On June 23, 1526, he died at the Imagawa residence in Sunpu. The funeral ceremony for Ujichika was held at Zozen-ji Temple. According to the 'Sogiki' (Funeral Records), it was an exceptionally grand funeral in the history of warlord funerals, held in the supreme ceremonial style of the Sotoshu sect, with 7,000 priests participating, his oldest son Ujiteru reading prayers as the host, a son Yoshimoto of Zentoku-ji Temple holding the rope of the coffin and a son Ryoshin from Hanakura holding the Buddhist mortuary tablet.