Battle of Kawakamikyō

川上峡合戦

Ryūzōji Clan

Hizen Province

Kumashiro Clan

Date:  9/13 of Eiroku 4 (1560)

Location:  Ōaza-Kawakami in Yamato in the Saga District of Hizen Province

Synopsis:  After defeating the Shōni clan, Ryūzōji Takanobu confronted a large group of families known as the Twenty-Six Mountains of Yamauchi led by Kumashiro Katsutoshi who posed the final challenge to his goal of unifying Hizen Province.  Following an exchange of explicit messages confirming their mutual desire for a final showdown, the opposing armies faced-off against one another at Kawakami.  After violent clashes, the Ryūzōji forces prevailed, but rather than contend with the prospect of ongoing guerilla warfare, Takanobu finally reconciled with Katsutoshi and arranged for marital relations between the families.

Lord:  Ryūzōji Takanobu 

Commanders:  Ryūzōji Takanobu, Ryūzōji Naganobu, Nōmi Nobukage

Forces:  8,000

Losses:  Unknown

Lord:  Kumashiro Katsutoshi

Commanders:  Kumashiro Katsutoshi, Kumashiro Nagayoshi, Kumashiro Taneyoshi, Kumashiro Shūtoshi

Forces:  7,000

Losses:  Unknown but including Kumashiro Taneyoshi and Kumashiro Koretoshi

The Battle of Kawakamikyō occurred on 9/13 of Eiroku 4 (1561) in Ōaza-Kawakami in Yamato in the Saga District of Hizen Province.  The conflict was waged between the armies of Ryūzōji Takanobu (a sengoku daimyō of Hizen) and Kumashiro Katsutoshi, the lord of Mitsuse Castle and a retainer of the Shōni clan.

Prelude

In 1553, after making a comeback to Hizen, Ryūzōji Takanobu made progress in battles against the Shōni clan in a contest for control of Hizen.  In 1559, he toppled the Seifukuji Castle and decimated Shōni Fuyuhisa.  Nevertheless, the forces of Kumashiro Katsutoshi, a retainer of the Shōni and the head of a large group of gōzoku, or wealthy families, known as the Twenty-Six Mountains of Yamauchi, continued their resistance toward Takanobu.  This led Takanobu to embark in earnest on a plan to eliminate Katsutoshi to complete the unification of eastern Hizen.

In 1558, Takanobu directed troops toward Yamauchi to subdue Katsutoshi but, owing to Katsutoshi’s intimate knowledge of the local terrain, suffered a major defeat including the loss of senior retainers such as Ogawa Nobuyasu and Ishii Kanekiyo at the Battle of Kanashikitōge, marking a hardship for Takanobu.

Takanobu concluded that Katsutoshi needed to be drawn into a field battle to defeat him.  He then sent a messenger to thrust forward a straight message to Katsutoshi stating: “To determine the welfare of the family, I want to engage in battle.”  Katsutoshi responded: “I desired that for some time.”  On 9/13, Takanobu led forces to the area of Kawakami to meet his opponent and agree upon a final showdown.

Course of events

On 9/13 of Eiroku 4 (1561), as promised, the Ryūzōji and Kumashiro armies faced-off against one another in Kawakami.  With Mount Kanashikiji behind them, the Kumashiro army prepared to confront the Ryūzōji forces by dividing into four battalions, as follows:

  • Tower gate:  Main battalion led by Katsutoshi – 1,200 soldiers
  • Miyahara entrance:  Battalion led by Kumashiro Nagayoshi – 3,000 soldiers
  • Miya-no-mae main gate:  Battalion led by Kumashiro Taneyoshi (Katsutoshi’s second son) – 1,300 soldiers
  • Miyakobito-Kurihara:  Kumashiro Shūtoshi (Katsutoshi’s third son) – 1,500 soldiers

At the outset, the battalion led by Nagayoshi defending the Miyahara entrance violently clashed with the main division of the Ryūzōji army led by Takanobu.  The view of crowded masses clashing on the battlefield was later described as “One thousand mounted soldiers became one.”  Next, the battalion led by Taneyoshi at the Miya-no-mae main gate clashed with Ryūzōji forces led by Nōtomi Nobukage with the two sides pushing back-and-forth against one another.  After the battalion led by Shūtoshi defending Miyakobito-Kurihara entered the melee, a traitor suddenly slayed Shūtoshi and the Ryūzōji gained the upper hand.

Many of the soldiers were new to battle and a sense of fear enveloped the battalion led by Shūtoshi which was decimated.  Riding the momentum, the Ryūzōji army charged from the flank to the frontline at the Miya-no-mae main gate, decimating the battalion led by Taneyoshi and at once gaining the advantage on the battlefield.

At this point, Katsutoshi tried to move his forces to charge the Ryūzōji army, but his retainers remained in place so he gave-up and pulled his forces back to Yamauchi.  Kumashiro Nagayoshi, who became isolated during the battle, also began to withdraw and barely escaped with his life by warding-off the pursuing forces, fleeing to Yamauchi.  Amidst the chaos, Taneyoshi and Koretoshi (Katsutoshi’s fourth son) were killed by the Ryūzōji army.  While helping Nagayoshi escape, a retainer named Ebara Iwami-no-kami was captured and executed.

Aftermath

The Battle of Kawakamikyō ended in victory for Ryūzōji Takanobu.  The outcome was a crushing blow for Kumashiro Katsutoshi, enabling Takanobu to subdue the Yamauchi group, but Takanobu failed to capture Katsutoshi and his son, Nagaoyoshi.  In the aftermath, Takanobu sought to avoid the guerilla-style resistance from the Yamauchi group so rather than pursue them in the mountainous districts, he paused on plans to eliminate them and instead assigned a local governor to administer affairs.

Meanwhile, Katsutoshi determined that it would be impossible to maintain the Yamauchi group so he fled to the Matsuura District in western Hizen.  He went to Hasami and received protection from a daimyō named Ōmura Sumitada.  In the middle of the twelfth month, just three months after his defeat and through the offices of the Yamauchi group, Katsutoshi made a secret comeback, murdering the official appointed by Takanobu and soon returning as the head of the Yamauchi group.

Thereafter, Takanobu plotted to expel Katsutoshi but was unable to do so.  In 1562, he finally gave-up efforts to oust Katsutoshi and sent a messenger to propose a peace.  Owing to his bitter experience at the Battle of Kawakamikyō, Katsutoshi concluded he could not prevail against the Ryūzōji so he accepted the offer.  The following day, the two exchanged written oaths and settled on the condition that Nagayoshi’s daughter wed Takanobu’s third son, Tsurujinōmaru (later known as Gotō Ienobu) in the future, and the younger sister of Ryūzōji Tanehisa (as a younger sister-in-law of Takanobu) wed Katsutoshi.