Battle of Aoyama-Kawarakeyama


Tatsuno-Akamatsu Clan

Harima Province

Kuroda Clan

Date:  Fifth and sixth months of Eiroku 12 (1569)

Location:  The foothills of Aoyama and Kawarakeyama in Harima Province

Outcome:  On Aoyama, Kuroda Yoshitaka led forces on a surprise attack causing the Tatsuno-Akamatsu forces to flee.  On Kawarakeyama, the Tatsuno-Akamatsu launched a successful nighttime raid against the Kuroda.  Yoshitaka responded with a surprise attack that sent the Tatsuno-Akamatsu forces fleeing.

Commanders:  Akamatsu Masahide

Forces:  3,000

Casualties:  Several hundred

Commanders:  Kuroda Mototaka, Kuroda Yoshitaka, Miki Michiaki

Forces:  300 (Kuroda), 280 (Miki)

Casualties:  287 including Ide Tomouji and the Mori clan

The Battle of Aoyama-Kawarakeyama occurred in the fifth and sixth months of Eiroku 12 (1569) in Harima Province between Akamatsu Masahide (the deputy military governor of western Harima) and the Kuroda clan who governed from Himeji Castle.


Conflict between the main branch of the Akamatsu and the Tatsuno-Akamatsu family

In 1558, Akamatsu Yoshisuke leveraged support from Uragami Masamune and others to become the successor to his father, Akamatsu Harumasa, as head of the Akamatsu clan and, in the midst of political strife, to seize control of Okishio Castle in Harima Province.  Despite Harumasa having served not only as the eleventh head of the clan, but as military governor of Harima, Bizen and Mimasaka provinces, Yoshisuke succeeded to oust him, whereupon Harumasa was given shelter by his son-in-law, Akamatsu Masahide, lord of Tatsuno Castle.  This situation led to conflict between the main branch of the Akamatsu clan governed by Yoshisuke and the Tatsuno-Akamatsu branch led by Masahide, who supported Harumasa.   After the death of Harumasa in 1565, the two branches of the clan temporarily reconciled, but Masahide then unilaterally attacked Rikan Castle without concern for the interests of the main branch of the clan.

Re-emergence of the conflict between the Akamatsu families

In the eighth month of 1567, a messenger from Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the shōgun, paid a visit to Masahide.  At the time, Yoshiaki had been expelled from the capital by Matsunaga Hisahide and his cohorts, prompting Yoshiaki to plead for support from daimyō throughout Japan.  Following the request Yoshiaki made to Masahide, they developed a friendly relationship.

In 1568, Yoshiaki was able to march upon the capital with the support of Oda Nobunaga and became the supreme commander and fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  Thereupon, Masahide sought to deepen his ties to Yoshiaki, sending his daughter to the capital to work as a servant on behalf of Yoshiaki.

Based on the close relations that Masahide cultivated with Yoshiaki, Yoshisuke feared that Masahide would attempt to usurp his role as the military governor of Harima.  Yoshisuke then ordered Kodera Masamoto, the lord of Gochaku Castle in Harima, to apprehend Masahide’s daughter while en route to the capital and, at the same time, requested Uragami Munekage of Bizen Province to attack Tatsuno, with the aim of killing Masahide in a pincer operation with the Uragami.  Munekage responded by attacking Harima based on the justification afforded by Yoshisuke’s request.  In the autumn, he led soldiers gathered from Bizen and Mimasaka into Masahide’s territory.

Intervention by the Oda clan

In the second month of 1569, Masahide’s daughter safely returned to the capital, but the assault by the Uragami continued.  Unable to bear the pressure, Masahide called upon Yoshiaki for support, whereupon Yoshiaki responded by urging Oda Nobunaga to deploy forces to Harima.  Nobunaga dispatched a division of soldiers primarily from Settsu Province including Ikeda Katsumasa, joined by forces from eastern Harima including Bessho Yasuharu, Bessho Shigemune, and Akashi Sukeyuki, who together invaded Yoshisuke’s territory.  Meanwhile, in Bizen, Ukita Naoie rebelled against Uragami Munekage, compelling soldiers from the Uragami army to hurriedly return to Bizen.

Having started from a position of strength, Masahide deployed forces in an attempt to topple Himeji Castle, guarded by Kuroda Mototaka and his son, Kuroda Yoshitaka.  Himeji served as an ancillary base in support of Gochaku Castle, the base of Kodera Masamoto, a retainer of Yoshisuke.  As a result, a series of conflicts erupted between the Oda, the Bessho, the Tatsuno-Akamatsu, and the Ukita allied on one side against the main branch of the Akamatsu clan, the Uragami, and the Kodera on the other side.

Commencement of the battle

Battle of Aoyama

In the fifth month of 1569, Masahide led 3,000 soldiers to a deployment.  Kodera Masamoto had most of the Kuroda army positioned in Okishio Castle where he sheltered with Yoshisuke, so only 300 soldiers could be deployed.  Himeji Castle could not accommodate such a large contingent, so members of the Kuroda army dismissed the plan to hold-out and launched a field battle instead.

Kuroda Yoshitaka led forces to the Aoyama located to the west of Himeji to lie in wait.  When the Akamatsu army attempted to attack Himeji, the Kuroda forces launched a surprise attack that caused the attacking forces to retreat.

Battle of Kawarakeyama

In the sixth month of 1569, a contingent of 3,000 soldiers led by Akamatsu Masahide set-up a base on Komaruyama.  The Kuroda army established their opposing position on Kawarakeyama to the east of the Yumesaki River.  The clash commenced when the Akamatsu army launched a nighttime raid against the Kuroda forces in the Kawarake hills at the foot of the mountain.  After the loss of powerful bushō such as Ide Tomouji (Yoshitaka’s uncle) and Mori Shōhe-e, Yoshitaka and 150 soldiers faced dire circumstances.  At dawn, Miki Michiaki, lord of Aga Castle, led 280 soldiers from the south to attack the Akamatsu army while Kuroda Mototaka departed Himeji to attack the Akamatsu from the rear, rescuing Yoshitaka from his predicament.  Having maintained the advantage, at noon, the Akamatsu army sent forces to a formation on Komaruyama.  Although the Kuroda army suffered significant losses, Yoshitaka determined that he could not prevail if the confrontation between the armies dragged on, so he ordered another attack.  Mori Buhei (Shōhei’s son) noted that, having been wounded in seven places on his body in past battles from his youth, launching an attack would lead to his death, but Yoshitaka merely responded that may be the case.

On that same evening, with Yoshitaka commanding the vanguard and Mototaka in charge of the rear, the Kuroda army violently attacked the Akamatsu forces at Komaruyama.  Based on the outcome of the earlier battle that lasted until noon, the Akamatsu forces did not anticipate the nighttime counterattack by the Kuroda, which sent them fleeing in disarray.   Among the soldiers attempting to escape, Etō Tadaie, Shimazu Kurōdo, and four younger brothers were killed in battle at the Sasa Ridge.

Soldiers in the Kuroda army chased after the fleeing Akamatsu forces to near the town of Taishi located in-between the Yumesaki River and Tatsuno Castle, killing several hundred troops.  Meanwhile, the Kuroda lost 287 men, making for a wretched scene of carnage and causing them to cease the pursuit.  Despite serious injuries, Mori Buhei took the lead in slashing toward the Akamatsu troops.  He engaged in a valiant fight then died gloriously after being pierced with seven spears.  In the course of this battle, the Mori family lost twenty-four members, and no one remained to inherit the clan.  Owing to their meritorious deeds, Yoshitaka regretted that the Mori family would cease so he gave the Mori name to the son of Soga Kazunobu and a woman from the Mori clan, who became Mori Tomonobu (also known as Mori Tahei).

The military circumstances of other clans

The Uragami and the Ukita

Ukita Naoie expelled the representative of the Uragami from his territory, making clear his confrontational posture.  Nevertheless, he did not opt to fight against the Uragami army on his own.  Instead, observing that the Mōri were pinned down on the front lines in a battle against Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) in Kyūshū, he took advantage of an opportunity to send retainers to Katsuyama Castle in Mimasaka Province, defended by Kagawa Hirokage.  He then joined forces with Miura Sadahiro who aspired to recover Katsuyama Castle in his former domain and had them attack.  The Ukita forces, however, suffered low morale in their contests against enemy forces from the Uragami located in Bizen, causing them to soon cease the attack and retreat.  Moreover, the Uragami could not attack the Ukita without ascertaining the movements of the Oda, the Bessho, and the Tatsuno-Akamatsu forces.

This resulted in a temporary stand-off between the opposing armies.  Uragami Munekage knew from the Battle of Aoyama-Kawarakeyama that Akamatsu Masahide had fled in defeat and the Oda and Bessho forces withdrew, so he focused on the Ukita.  This upheaval was triggered when he invaded the territory of the Tatsuno-Akamatsu clan who sought to kill Akamatsu Masahide.  After discerning that there was no chance of winning following the prior loss and retreat of the Oda, Masahide surrendered in the eleventh month of 1569 while the Uragami captured Tatsuno Castle.  Around this same time, Ukita Naoie surrendered to the Uragami and displayed a sense of remorse, so Munekage pardoned him.  According to a letter sent by Yoshihiro Akimasa, a retainer of the Ōtomo, to Nomi Munekatsu, the lord of Tachibanayama Castle, the pardon was agreed after a discussion between Munekage and Amago Katsuhisa.

The Akamatsu, the Oda, and the Bessho

In support of Masahide, forces led by Ikeda Katsumasa and Bessho Yasuharu captured a series of castles in Yoshisuke’s territory, including Ōshio, Shōyama, and Takasago.  From Shōyama Castle, the invading forces proceeded to threaten Okishio and Gochaku castles, but upon learning the planned deployment of Shinohara Nagafusa under the command of Miyoshi Yoshitsugu, Yoshisuke opted to hold-out in the castle.  To the good fortune of Yoshisuke, Nobunaga concluded that the Miyoshi could hold their own so he ordered the return from Harima of Katsumasa and other forces hailing from Settsu to support ongoing efforts to stabilize the Kinai.  Yasuharu also complied and withdrew with his men.  Soon after the withdrawal of forces, Yoshisuke expressed his gratitude toward Nobunaga.  As a demonstration of his allegiance, he had his son, Akamatsu Norifusa, confront Uragami Munekage during the siege of Tatsuno Castle.  The Uragami’s attack on Tatsuno, however, had been justified on the basis of support for Yoshisuke, so the forces did not attack Norifusa.  Moreover, although Yoshisuke had aligned with the Oda, from Norifusa’s perspective there was no benefit in coming to the aid of the defenders at Tatsuno, so he merely observed the action.  In the eleventh month, Nobunaga sent Ikeda Katsumasa, Wada Koremasa, and Itami Tadachika to support Tatsuno, but Masahide then surrendered to the Uragami, so the forces returned to the Kinai without seeing action.  Once Norifusa confirmed these developments, he returned to Okishio Castle.

Aftermath of the battle

Owing to these events, the Tatsuno-Akamatsu surrendered to Uragami Munekage, and based on the favorable terms of the settlement, Munekage acquired a portion of the Tatsuno-Akamatsu territory, thereby expanding his own domain.  In 1570, Akamatsu Masahide was assassinated by members of the Uragami family.  As earlier noted, the main branch of the Akamatsu clan had pledged their allegiance to the Oda.  Meanwhile, witnessing the power of the Oda army, Munekage also soon aligned with the Oda.  Having for a long period been at odds with the Mōri, Munekage actively served as an opposition daimyō to them in the Chūgoku region.