Battle of Awasegawa
Date: Fifth month of Eiroku 2 (1559)
Location: Kikuka in the Yamaga District of Higo Province
Synopsis: Kumabe Chikanaga and Akahoshi Dōun were kokujin, or provincial landowners, in the northern portion of Higo Province. Following the death in battle of Kino Chikamasa, the Kumabe and Akahoshi clans fought over his former landholdings. The Akahoshi set-up defenses around their castle but were defeated by the Kumabe forces comprised of arquebusiers and archers. A subsequent nighttime attack resulted in many more losses and left the Akahoshi fleeing in defeat.
The Battle of Awasegawa occurred in the fifth month of Eiroku 2 (1559) in Kikuka in the Yamaga District of Higo Province. The conflict was waged between Kumabe Chikanaga, a kokujin, or provincial landowner, in the Yamaga District of Higo and Akahoshi Dōun, a kokujin from the Kikuchi District of Higo. There are no contemporary accounts of the battle, so the description below is based on compilations from the Early Modern period.
After the Kikuchi clan was extinguished in 1504, their former territory in northern Higo was governed by former senior retainers including the Jō, the Akahoshi, and the Kumabe clans with the consent of the Ōtomo clan based in neighboring Bungo Province, enabling a degree of stability. In 1556, after Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) led a conquest to eliminate Obara Akimoto, Kino Chikamasa was killed in action. The landholdings left behind by Chikamasa led to a conflict between the Akahoshi and Kumabe clans.
In the fifth month of 1559, Akahoshi Dōun positioned 400 troops under a retainer named Hoshiko Chūmu 廉正, the lord of Yamaga-Nagasaka Castle at the main gate and 400 troops under a member of the family named Akahoshi Kurōdo at the rear gate while Dōun himself led 700 troops to set-up a position at Kiyama. Kumabe Chikanaga, commanding a smaller force, set-up an encampment at Haizuka in Ikeda, approximately 300 meters away from Kiyama across the Hatsuta River. On 5/21, the Kumabe commenced an attack with 50 arquebusiers and 100 archers. Akahoshi Kurōdo, who was encamped to the side of the Kumabe army apart from the main division of the Akahoshi, slashed his way forward in a bid to garner a prompt victory but as he rode up a hill, was shot and killed by an arquebusier in the Kumabe forces. At this time, Kurōdo died on a bundle of straw in the form of a pillow used in a rice paddy sluice called a yoke. In later eras, the site of his death was called yoko-makura, meaning next to the pillow.
On the day of this battle, the Kumabe forces prevailed but Akahoshi Dōun relied on the greater number of forces in his army to continue confronting the Kumabe. On the last day of the fifth month, amidst a downpour, the Kumabe forces launched a nighttime attack resulting in the loss of 800 soldiers in the Akahoshi army while 300 men fled in defeat to Waifu Castle.