Mori Yoshinari (森可成)

Yoshinari MORI was a military commander during Japan's Sengoku (Warring States) Period. He served as vassal to the Toki clan daimyo and then to the Oda clan daimyo.

Family genealogy
His original family name was Minamoto. His genealogy can be traced back to the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan) and he was a descendant of MINAMOTO no Yoshitaka, the seventh son of the Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North) MINAMOTO no Yoshiie, the head of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan). The Mori clan was founded by Yorisada MORI, who was the second son of MINAMOTO no Yoritaka, himself the third son of Yoshitaka (for more detailed biographies of Mori family members, please consult the page on the Mori clan). Similarly, among the vassals of the Oda clan was a certain Hiromori MORI, who belonged to the same family as Yorisada.

Quite a few members of the Mori lineage, notably the descendants of Yorisada's second son Sadauji MORI, moved to Mino province and lived there for generations, serving the Toki clan. He had a younger brother Yoshimasa MORI, the eldest son Yoshitaka MORI, a second son Nagayoshi MORI, a third son Naritoshi MORI (Ranmaru), a fourth son Bomaru MORI (Nagataka), a fifth son Rikimaru MORI (Nagauji), a sixth son Tadamasa MORI, a daughter (Katsutoshi KINOSHITA Shitsu), etc.

Family tree

Those of the Mori clan who held the rank of hogandai (administrative official serving the retired emperor) were: Yorisada, Jiro Sadauji MORI, Yoriuji, Mitsuuji, Ujiharu, and Yoritoshi; those of the Mori clan who held the position of sakyo no suke were: Yorimoro, Yorinaga, and Shichiro MORI; those holding the position of Uemon no jo (an official of the third rank in the Right Division of the Outer Palace Guards) were: Yoritsugi and Yoshimitsu; those of the Mori clan who held the position of Echigo no kami (Provincial Governor of Echigo province) were: Yoshifusa, Yoshihide, and Yoshiyuki; one member of the Mori clan, Yoshinari, held the position of Sanzaemon; one member, Nagayoshi, held the position of Musashi no kami (Provincial Governor of Musashi province); and one member, Tadamasa, held the position of Sakone no chujo (Middle Captain of the Left Division of the Inner Palace Guards).

Biography

In 1523, Yoshinari MORI was born as a child of Yoshiyuki MORI in Hasudai, Haguri District, Owari Province (present-day Kasamatsu-cho, Hashima Province, Gifu Prefecture). He served the Toki clan, whose leader was the overlord of Mino Province, but in 1554, fter the Toki clan was annihilated by Dosan SAITO, he began serving Nobunaga ODA in Owari province (one theory holds that he may have first served Michitoshi NAGAI, a vassal of the Saito clan, before becoming an officer of Nobunaga.

He worked tirelessly to ensure that Nobunaga would succeed to headship over the Oda clan, as well as to unify Owari province, and in 1555 earned special distinction by striking down Nobutomo ODA during Nobunaga's assault on Kiyosu-jo Castle. After a coup erupted in Mino in 1556, he assisted Dosan, the father-in-law of Nobunaga, and participated in the Battle of Inou between Nobunaga and his younger brother Nobuyuki ODA over the succession of the family.

He also participated in the Battle of Ukino in 1558. He also fought in the 1560 Battle of Okehazama in Suruga Province against the Imagawa clan.

In 1565, he was awarded Kaneyama-jo Castle in Mino province; during Nobunaga's advance on Kyoto, he and Katsuie SHIBATA served as leaders of Nobunaga's vanguard (fighting in the Battle of Shoryuji-jo Castle, among others), and so after Nobunaga's successful march on Kyoto he was given Usayama-jo Castle in Omi province.

He also participated in the Battle of Anegawa in July and August 1570. He was noted for stopping an attack by Kazumasa ISONO's forces which had gained momentum.

When in October of that same year he was informed that the allied armies of the Asai and Asakura clans had marched out, he led a sortie from Usayama-jo Castle in an effort to impede their advance, deploying his troops in Sakamoto in order to block their way forward. On October 25, in the first battle of the war, he managed to repulse the allied army. His troops--swelled in number by a group of armed monks from Enryaku-ji Temple, who responded to the call to arms issued by the monk Kennyo of Hongan-ji Temple--fought fiercely against the allied army, driving back Kageakira ASAKURA, commander of the allied vanguard, on October 29 despite the fact that the enemy army's own ranks were swelled just before the battle. But Yoshinari's forces were soon outflanked and attacked by 2000 troops from Asai Tsushima and Genba; after this flanking force was joined by the troops of Asakura Nakatsukasa, Yoshiie YAMAZAKI, and Saburo AHAKA as well as the main forces of Nagamasa ASAI, Yoshinari--and Nobuharu ODA, Nobunaga's younger brother--were eventually killed during the battle.
One contemporary account of the battle reads as follows:
The great army of Nagamasa ASAI and Yoshikage ASAKURA suddenly and impetuously pressed the attack, thereby scattering sparks all among the defending army of Yoshinari MORI and Kuro ODA; the fires of war spread throughout the land, and the battle raged for an entire day. Asai and Asakura replenished their forces, killing both Kuro ODA and Yoshinari MORI in Simosakamoto Seto Zaike. He died at the age of 48.

Even though he himself had died, Yoshinari's forces continued to keep the allied army of the Asai and Asakura clans bogged down at Sakamoto in Omi for several more days, thereby preventing them from being able to attack Nobunaga from the rear.

Personality and anecdote

He was an expert with the spear, and his preferred weapon was his Jumonji-yari (cross-shaped spear), which bore an inscription by Kanesada SEKI (a smith who is said to be Omandokoro's father). Yoshinari's bravery earned him the nickname "Seme no Sanza" (Sanza the Attacker).

Yoshinari had served Nobunaga for longer than any other vassal to the Oda family, even Katsuie SHIBATA, working alongside Masahisa SAKAI, Nagachika KANAMORI, and Yoritaka Hachiya as a Minoshu. Nobunaga deeply grieved Yoshinari's loss and immediately marched out to battle to avenge his death; indeed, Yoshinari's death is said to be one reason for his subsequent burning down of Mt. Hiei's Enryaku-ji Temple, whose monks had joined forces with the Asai and Asakura army. Since most surviving members of the Mori family were still children they did not participate in the siege and burning of Mt. Hiei (in 1571), but in fact the origins of the conflict between Mt. Hiei and the Mori clan go back to the death of the first ancestor of the Mori clan, Shichiro Yoshitaka MUTSU, who had been killed by an arrow shot by one of the warrior monks of Mt. Hiei, leading some to see the burning of the temples on Mt. Hiei as karmic retribution for Yoshinari's death. Given their long-standing association, it is fair to say that Yoshinari had a significant connection to Mt. Hiei.

Yoshinari had lost one of his fingers during battle and thus had a total of only 19 fingers and toes; as a result, it is said he was sometimes mocked with the epithet "Juku" (Nineteen).

During the attack on (and burning of) Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei, all its subtemples and the entire town of Sakamoto were burned down and its priests slaughtered; only Shoju-raigo-ji Temple, which housed the grave of Yoshinari, was spared this fate.

Chronology

In June 1554, Nobutomo ODA, the deputy governor of Owari province and a close relative of Nobunaga ODA, murdered Yoshimune SHIBA, the governor of Owari, which led to Yoshinari assaulting Nobutomo as a rebel at Kiyosu-jo Castle
During this battle, Yoshinari defeated the rebel leader, Nobutomo ODA, and decapitated him.

1,556

In May, during the internecine strife between Dosan SAITO and his son Toshitatsu, Yoshinari and Mataichi SENGOKU of the Saito faction fought a fierce battle while the Oda forces were withdrawing, and managed to ensure the Oda army's evacuation in safety.

In September, Hidesada HAYASHI and Katsuie SHIBATA, both senior retainers of the Oda clan, and others rebelled against Nobunaga and switched their allegiance to Nobuyuki ODA; during the Battle of Inou, Yoshinari was very active, leading a furious assault on Hayashi's forces.

In August 1558, he held out against the assault of Nobuyasu ODA, the deputy governor of four upper districts of Iwari and lord of Iwakura-jo Castle, and in the Battle of Ukino he led the vanguard of Nobunaga's army. Despite being outnumbered, Yoshinari and Nobunaga's other commanders led their forces through a hard-fought battle to victory.

In June 1560, he defeated Sakon TAMIYA, an ally of the Imagawa clan, in the Battle of Okehazama. During the battle, he spread a false rumor that named Noritsugu YAMAGUCHI and Shizaemon TOBE, who had switched their allegiance from the Oda to the Imagawa clan, as double agents still secretly communicating with the Oda forces; Yoshimoto IMAGAWA executed them, bringing success to Yoshinari's strategy of driving a wedge of distrust through the enemy forces. It was during this same battle that Yoshinari struck down Sakon SHINOMIYA.

In the summer of 1564, the Oda army invaded Mino province, attacking Michitoshi NAGAI's Donohora-jo Castle and driving the castle to surrender. The Oda forces eluded the pursuit of Tatsuoki SAITO and Michitoshi NAGAI. As a reward for his service, Yoshinari was made lord of Uho-jo Castle (which was renamed Kaneyama-jo Castle (in Mino province) after it was restored).

In 1567, after holding secret negotiations with the Nishi Mino Sannin-shu (the Three Elite Retainers of west Mino), namely Morinari ANDO, Ittetsu INABA, and Bokuzen UJIIE, Yoshinari succeeded in convincing them to switch their allegiance to the Oda family.

In 1568, Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, the younger brother of the 13th Muromachi Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA--who had been toppled in a rebellion by the Miyoshi sanninshu (the Three Chief Retainers of the Miyoshi clan) that had been led by Yoshihide ASHIKAGA of Ashikaga clan--begged Nobunaga to come visit him in Mino Province; consequently, the Oda family threw their support behind him and marched on Kyoto to install Yoshiaki as the new shogun.

On October 11, the Oda forces (in what is known as the Battle of Kannonji-jo Castle) attacked the stronghold of the Rokkaku clan, namely Mitsukuri-jo Castle in Omi province, after the Rokkaku clan refused to join forces with Yoshiaki. Yoshinari and Genpachi TAKEBE led Nobunaga's vanguard and defeated the Rokkaku clan, completing their march on Kyoto on October 26. Soon after arriving in Kyoto, Yoshinari attacked Shoryuji-jo Castle--allied with the Miyoshi faction that continued to serve Yoshihide ASHIKAGA--in Yamashiro province, forcing Tomomichi IWANARI, lord of the castle, to surrender. He also took control of Akutagawa-jo Castle, Koshimizu-jo Castle, and Ikeda-jo Castle in Settsu Province.

1570

On June 8, Yoshinari joined the assault on Tezutsuyama-jo Castle in Echizen province, which was controlled by the Asakura clan, who had been trying to encircle Nobunaga in response to a request by Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, who himself had experienced a deep rift with Nobunaga over his handling of the government. The castle surrendered the following day. Yoshinari took control of Kanegasaki-jo Castle and Hikita-jo Castle in Echizen Province. Thereafter, Nagamasa ASAI, Nobunaga's brother-in-law, betrayed Nobunaga and began moving against him. The Oda army was forced to withdraw, while in the meantime, Yoshinari asked Mototsuna KUTSUKI of Kutsukidani to lend his strength to the Oda family's forces in their planned return to Kyoto.

August 7: Battle of Anegawa. The allied forces of Oda and Tokugawa battled against the allied forces of Asai and Asakura. Yoshinari marched out to battle affiliated with Nobunaga's Fifth Army.

The uprising of Ishiyama Honganji Temple (Battles of Noda-jo Castle and Fukushima-jo Castle) occurred in October. While the Oda forces tried to suppress the uprising, the combined forces of the Asai and Asakura clans began raising an army to Nobunaga's rear. Yoshinari was ordered to protect Usayama-jo Castle. Yoshinari was victorious in the opening engagement of the war, which was fought on October 25, and in the battle that occurred on October 29 he routed the forces of Kageakira ASAKURA and continued fighting against both the forces of Yoshiie YAMAZAKI and Kosaburo AHAKA, who were allied with the Asakura clan, and against Asai clan allies like Genba ASAI and the Hatamoto (direct shogunal vassal) Nagamasa ASAI. Yoshinari was killed during the battle.