Battle of Kitashirakawa

北白川の戦い

Ashikaga Yoshiteru

Kyōto

Miyoshi Nagayoshi

Date:  6/9 of Eiroku 1 (1558)

Location:  Kitashirakawa near the Higashi mountains to the east of the Kyōto Basin in the Otagi District of Yamashiro Province

Outcome:  Ashikaga Yoshiteru and Hokokawa Harumoto launched a bid with support from Rokkaku Yoshikata to retake the capital of Kyōto, but were halted in the Higashi mountains by Miyoshi forces summoned from Shikoku in support of Miyoshi Nagayoshi.  The two sides later reconciled with Nagayoshi and his son serving as officials under Yoshiteru. 

Commanders:  Ashikaga Yoshiteru, Hosokawa Harumoto, Rokkaku Yoshikata (reinforcements)

Forces:  3,000

Casualties:  Approximately 70 forces

Commanders:  Miyoshi Nagayoshi, Miyoshi Nagayasu, Matsunaga Hisahide, Matsunaga Nagayori 

Forces:  15,000

Casualties:  Unknown

The Battle of Kitashirakawa occurred on 6/9 of Eiroku 1 (1558) in the environs of the Kitashira RIver in the Otagi District of Kyōto.  This was limited to a small-scale battle, but the ensuing settlement brought about changes to the political structure in the capital.  Around the time, other notable events included battles to recapture Nyoigatake and Shōgunyama Castle located in Higashiyama (the Higashi mountains on the east side of the Kyōto Basin).

Course of events

Departure of Ashikaga Yoshiteru from Kyōto to Ōmi Province

In 1553, Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu) and Hosokawa Harumoto departed from Kyōto and fled to the Kutsuki Valley in Ōmi Province.   Thereafter, Miyoshi Nagayoshi (a former retainer of Harumoto) began to govern Kyōto.  By launching an expedition to Ōmi and issuing written directives in lieu of the bakufu, he acted as a de facto lord of the country.  Without military forces at his disposal, Yoshiteru had no option other than to observe the developments from Kutsuki Valley.

In 1558, in a bid to reclaim Kyōto, Yoshiteru and Harumoto rose-up with the support of Rokkaku Yoshikata (a shugo daimyō of Ōmi), leading 3,000 soldiers south from Kutsuki Valley, arriving in Sakamoto on 5/3.  In Kyōto, commanders of Nagayoshi including Matsunaga Hisahide and Matsunaga Nagayori (siblings), along with Miyoshi Nagaysu (a cousin) brought 15,000 soldiers from Settsu and Tanba provinces and set-up a camp on 5/9 in the southern part of the capital.  Nagayoshi also moved from his base at Akutagawayama Castle in Settsu to the Tō Temple.  On 5/13, foot soldiers under Yoshiteru appeared on Mount Uryū in Higashiyama (the Higashi mountains) between Sakamoto and Kyōto, raising tensions.  On 5/19, the Miyoshi army showed their vigilance by conducting a march in Kyōto as a show of strength.

Battles in Kyōto

In the midst of a stalemate, the first to move was the Miyoshi army.  On 6/2, the Miyoshi army led by Iwanari Tomomichi and Ise Sadataka occupied Shōgunyama Castle on the peak of Mount Uryū and renovated the site.  Just two days later, on 6/4, Yoshiteru’s army retaliated by occupying Nyoigatake two kilometers to the southeast of Mount Uryū and engaged in a small-scale skirmish with the Miyoshi army at Shishigatani in the western foothills.  The forces went on the offensive, setting fires from the Jōdo Temple to the Kitashira River.  Moreover, based on their occupation of Nyoigatake, Yoshiteru’s army could observe actions taken at Shōgunyama Castle.  Along with the fires set in the western foothills, Yoshiteru was in a strategically stronger position than the Miyoshi.

Under threat from the south and the west, on 6/7, the Miyoshi army unilaterally burned down Shōgunyama Castle and withdrew to Kyōto.  The Ashikaga army responded by rushing out of Nyoigatake and capturing Shōgunyama Castle.  However, the departing forces left Nyoigatake inadequately protected, so, on 6/8, Nagayasu and Hisahide garnered control of the site.  Consequently, the locations occupied by each of the armies simply switched.  On 6/9, the two armies clashed at the Kitashira River with the Miyoshi army killing seventy members of the Ashikaga army on their way to victory.

Thereafter, the soldiers on the front lines of the battle entered another stalemate, whereupon Nagayoshi commenced settlement negotiations with Rokkaku Yoshikata who was backing the Ashikaga army.  Meanwhile, he called upon military forces from his base in Shikoku.  In the seventh month, Miyoshi Yasunaga (Nagayoshi’s uncle) led a vanguard, and during the eighth and ninth months, Miyoshi Jikkyū, Atagi Fuyuyasu, and Sogō Kazumasa (Nagayoshi’s younger brothers) and Miyoshi Yoshioki (Nagayoshi’s son) followed after Yasunaga, landing in Hyōgo and Sakai.  On 9/18, these members of the Miyoshi family held a meeting in Sakai and the forces from Shikoku pressured the Ashikaga army in the Higashi mountains.  This yielded results when Rokkaku Yoshikata perceived the situation on the battlefield to have turned unfavorable and proceeded toward a settlement.

Settlement

After the conduct of negotiations via messengers from Nagayoshi and Yoshikata, on 11/6, a settlement was reached between Nagayoshi and Yoshiteru as mediated by Yoshikata.  On 11/27, Yoshiteru came down from Shōgunyama Castle and was met by Nagayoshi, Ise Sadataka, and Hosokawa Ujitsuna, whereupon he entered Kyōto after an absence of five years.  In the twelfth month, Nagayoshi departed Kyōto and returned to Akutagawayama Castle while the forces from Shikoku dispersed and returned to their home province.  Harumoto, however, opposed the settlement and disappeared.  Thereafter, he continued acts of resistance against Nagayoshi.

Having reconciled with Yoshiteru, Nagayoshi turned his attention toward restoring his relationship with the Muromachi bakufu and expanding his base of power.  In the third month of 1559, Nagayoshi invited Yoshiteru to his residence for a reception, and during that same year and the next, he increased his territory by pacifying Kawachi and Yamato provinces.  Moreover, in 1560, Nagayoshi was appointed as a member of the shōbanshū, officials of the bakufu serving to host guests at the residence of the shōgun.  He also received the court title of Master of the Office of Palace Repairs while his son, Miyoshi Yoshioki, was appointed Governor of Chikuzen and further appointed as a member of the otomoshū, officials accompanying the shōgun when he ventured outside.  Consequently, both Nagayoshi and his son, Yoshioki, served Yoshiteru as direct retainers of the bakufu, changing their position from opponents to supporters of the bakufu.

Owing to his restoration of relations with the bakufu and expansion of territory, Nagayoshi’s amassed greater power.  After reconciling with Hosokawa Harumoto, Nagayoshi may have witnessed his peak in 1561 when Yoshioki was also appointed as a member of the shōbanshū and Nagayoshi hosted Yoshiteru for a reception.  Alternatively, the earlier five-year period from 1553 to 1558 could be considered Nagayoshi’s peak period given that, with the return of Yoshiteru to Kyōto, the magistrate’s office resumed the function of issuing written directives from the bakufu whereas writings from Nagayoshi disappear and, although he may have been a nominal retainer, his status vis-à-vis Yoshiteru was established and his autonomous political status removed.  In either case, after his battles against the bakufu army, Nagayoshi became the most powerful daimyō in the Kinai.  Nevertheless, after 1561, counterattacks from opposition forces beginning with Rokkaku Yoshikata and a succession of personal tragedies, he found himself in difficult circumstances.