Battle of Nejirozaka
Date: 4/17 of Tenshō 15 (1587)
Location: Negorizaka in Hyūga Province in Kyūshū (Negorizaka was a hill to the south of Taka Castle in southern Hyūga)
Synopsis: Struggling to turn the tide against the Toyoyomi during the Conquest of Kyūshū, Shimazu Yoshihisa gathered his forces and aimed to break a siege by the army of Toyotomi Hidenaga of Taka Castle defended by Yamada Arinobu with a small garrison. In advance of the siege, the Toyotomi built a fortress on Nejirozaka to block expected reinforcements from the Shimazu, and by means of a successful pincer attack, sent the Shimazu army fleeing in defeat.
The Battle of Nejirozaka occurred on 4/17 of Tenshō 15 (1587) at Nejirozaka in Hyūga Province in Kyūshū. The conflict was waged between the armies of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Shimazu Yoshihisa, the sengoku daimyō from Satsuma Province.
As Shimazu Yoshihisa pursued a hegemony in Kyūshū, in 1586, Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched an invasion. In the twelfth month, at the Battle of Hetsugigawa, Yoshihisa defeated the combined forces of the Toyotomi and Ōtomo clans. Ōtomo Yoshimune temporarily retreated to Buzen Province while the western and central portions of Bungo Province fell almost entirely under the control of the Shimazu clan.
Meanwhile, after causing Tokugawa Ieyasu to submit to him, in the first month of 1587, Hideyoshi issued a mobilization order for the Conquest of Kyūshū, dispatching armies led by daimyō from the Kinai, the western provinces of the Chūgoku Region, and Shikoku. In the third month, forces led by Hideyoshi’s younger brother, Hideyoshi Hidenaga, converged in Kokura in Buzen with forces from Chūgoku including Mōri Terumoto who arrived earlier in addition to Ukita Hideie and Miyabe Keijun. The Toyotomi army totaled 100,000 troops. Shiga Chikatsugu of Oka Castle (who withstood the earlier invasion of Bungo by the Toyotomi and a subsequent invasion by the Shimazu army), along with Saeki Koresada of Togamure Castle and Yoshioka Myōrin-ni (the widow of Yoshioka Shizuoki) of Tsurusaki Castle, gathered strength, while dogō, or small-scale landowners, of Buzen and Bungo, in addition to Ryūzōji Masaie and Nabeshima Naoshige of Hizen Province, returned to the service of the Toyotomi.
Concluding there was too much of an imbalance in force strength, Shimazu Yoshihisa aimed to reduce the front lines of the battle. Yoshihisa had his younger brother, Shimazu Iehisa, abandon Funai which was occupied after the Battle of Hetsugigawa. Iehisa retreated to Matsuo Castle in Bungo, while Iehisa’s older brother, Shimazu Yoshihiro, entered Funai to reinforce defenses. Hideyoshi then dispatched Mokuji Ōgo (a monk and diplomat from Mount Kōya) and Isshiki Akihide to propose a settlement, but Yoshihiro did not oblige, electing instead to resist. Next, a counterattack by the Ōtomo army led by Saeki Koresada toppled Asahidake Castle located near the provincial border with Hyūga on the route home. With the tide against them, on the evening of 3/15, Yoshihiro’s forces fled from Funai Castle and converged with Iehisa from Matsuo Castle in Bungo leading to a withdrawal of the Shimazu army from Bungo.
On 3/16, the withdrawing forces were pursued by Ōtomo forces led by Shiga Chikatsugu at Mitsuume Pass and, on 3/17, by forces led by Saeki Koresada at the Azusa Pass. Despite incurring significant losses, the Shimazu army managed to retreat to Hyūga Province. At the end of the third month, the eastern Kyūshū army led by Toyotomi Hidenaga departed from Bungo and proceeded to invade Hyūga. On 3/29, the stronghold of Matsuo Castle in northern Hyūga was toppled. Next, Hidenaga’s army surrounded Taka Castle in southern Hyūga. Taka was defended by Yamada Arinobu with a small garrison of only 300 soldiers. However, it was a stronghold, so Hidenaga’s army did not attempt to take the castle by force, instead opting to sever their supply lines by encircling the site. In addition, the forces constructed Nejirozaka fortress on a route that the Shimazu army would have to pass by if coming to support the defenders. The fortress defenses were reinforced and a strategy adopted to intercept the Shimazu army.
Meanwhile, the main divisions of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s army (the armies for northern and western Kyūshū) departed from Ōsaka on 3/1, and, on 3/29, arrived at Kokura in Buzen. On 4/1, Hideyoshi’s forces toppled Ganjaku Castle, an outlying castle defended by Akizuki Tanezane of Chikuzen who was aligned with the Shimazu clan. Fearing the loss of all of his bases, Tanezane destroyed Masutomi Castle and holed-up with his entire army in Koshosan Castle. Owing to the construction capabilities of the Toyotomi, Masutomi was rebuilt and then used as a base by the army to launch attacks against Koshosan Castle. Tanezane lost his zeal to fight and, on 4/3, surrendered to Hideyoshi. Thereafter, on 4/10, Hideyoshi invaded Chikugo Province, and, on 4/16, Kumamoto in Higo Province. On 4/17, the army advanced to Uto. During this time, numerous dogō surrendered in the face of Hideyoshi’s powerful army.
Upon learning that Hideyoshi’s army was heading from western Kyūshū south toward Satsuma Province, Shimazu Yoshihisa became flustered. To prepare for the forces led by Hidenaga, he had a majority of the troops in Satsuma and Ōsumi provinces gather at Tonokōri Castle in Hyūga. This left relatively few troops to defend western Kyūshū. Once the Toyotomi forces came, almost all of the forces who had earlier submitted to the Shimazu switched their allegiance to the Toyotomi. Forced to turn the situation around, he decided upon a showdown against the division led by Hidenaga in charge of eastern Kyūshū laying siege to Taka Castle. On the evening of 4/17, the Shimazu army launched a sudden attack against Nejirozaka. Nejirozaka was a hill to the south of Taka Castle on a route that the Shimazu army would have to travel to support the castle. Having anticipated that Shimazu forces would come in support, Hidenaga had earlier constructed a fortress on Nejirozaka and reinforced its defenses. The Shimazu clan were either lured to come to the aid of Taka Castle or compelled to do so in a bid to counter the Toyotomi.
Course of events
There are various theories concerning the number of troops on each side, which were said to be 80,000 in the Toyotomi army and 35,000 in the Shimazu army. A total of 10,000 forces centered upon Miyabe Keijun who defended the Nejirozaka fortress reinforced their position with dry moats and wooden fences. The Shimazu army could not break-through these defenses, so the battle turned into a stalemate. At this time, the main division under Hidenaga arrived as reinforcements, but, having assessed the situation, Bitō Tomonobu (a retainer of Hideyoshi serving as an overseer) determined that it would be impossible to help, and he recommended to Hidenaga that he refrain from attacking the Shimazu forces. Hidenaga’s army complied with this counsel and suspended efforts to assist. A battalion of 500 troops led by Tōdō Takatora under the command of Hidenaga and a unit led by Togawa Michiyasu under the command of Ukita Hideie headed out to assist Miyabe Keijun, antagonizing the Shimazu army. The Kobayakawa and Kuroda forces then launched a pincer attack that nearly wiped-out the Shimazu including generals (Shimazu Tadachika and Saruwatari Nobumitsu), achieving a complete victory. Hidenaga’s army attempted to pursue the defeated troops but Tomonobu cited the danger of penetrating too far so the pursuit was called off. Later, Hideyoshi praised Keijun for repelling Shimazu Iehisa and his large army near Taka Castle.
The outcome of this battle served as a key milestone of the Kyūshū Pacification by Hideyoshi, enabling a recovery in the wake of the blunders by Sengoku Hidehisa who unilaterally engaged in and was defeated by the Shimazu army at the Battle of Hetsugigawa after disregarding Hideyoshi’s orders to strengthen defenses in Bungo Province. The Battle of Nejirozaka also rescued Ōtomo Yoshishige from a precarious situation.
Owing to his passive approach in dealing with the Shimazu army, Bitō Tomonobu incurred the wrath of Hideyoshi, who seized recently awarded landholdings and ousted him. Thereafter, Tomonobu wandered across provinces and was later executed.
Having been roundly defeated, Yoshihisa and Yoshihiro, accompanied by a small unit of forces, retreated to Tonokōri Castle while Iehisa pulled back to Sadowara Castle. Toyotomi Hidetsugu attacked Tonokōri Castle and invaded as far as Iwamure Castle on the border of Mitsuyama and Nojiri. Yoshihiro holed-up in Iino Castle.
In less than ten days after the Battle of Nejirozaka, the main division of the Toyotomi army commenced from western Kyūshū an invasion of Satsuma – the home province of the Shimazu. Powerful retainers and family members including Shimazu Tadatoki and Shimazu Tadanaga surrendered. The Shimazu clan did not have the time needed to reconstitute the army that was defeated at Nejirozaka whereupon Yoshihisa lost the zeal to fight, underwent the rites of tonsure, adopted the monk’s name of Ryūhaku, and, on 5/8, surrendered to Hideyoshi. Thereafter, Ryūhaku’s convinced his siblings, Shimazu Yoshihiro and Shimazu Yoshihisa, and retainers such as Niiro Tadamoto, and, through the mediation of Ashikaga Yoshiaki and Mokuji Ōgo, the Shimazu clan surrendered at the end of the fifth month of 1587.
On 5/13, Hashiba Hideyoshi rendered eleven articles to Hashiba Hidenaga. This included (i) an order to release all hostages in Ōsumi and Hyūga provinces; (ii) a plan to convey to Chōsokabe Motochika control of Ōsumi who mourned the death in battle of his eldest son, Chōsokabe Nobuchika, at the Battle of Hetsugigawa; (iii) following the surrender of Shimazu Yoshihisa, the transfer of Mōri Terumoto, Kobayakawa Takakage, and Kikkawa Motonaga to Satsuma Province; (iv) recognition of the loyalty demonstrated by Shiga Chikayoshi by awarding him a castle in Hyūga as advised by Ōtomo Sōrin; (v) an order to destroy unnecessary castles in Bungo Province following consultation with Ōtomo Yoshimune; (vi) allocation of the fief of Ōtomo Sōrin in Hyūga based on the direction of Sōrin; (vii) an order to Ukita Hideie, Miyabe Keijun, Hachisuka Iemasa, Bitō Tomonobu, and Kuroda Yoshitaka to construct and remove castles in Hyūga, Ōsumi, and Bungo provinces; (viii) the removal of unnecessary castles in Buzen Province and the construction of a castle between Bungo and Buzen provinces; and (ix) abuses of authority would be subject to judgment. According to the records of the Ōtomo family, Hideyoshi granted Satsuma to Yoshihisa, Ōsumi to Yoshihiro, and one district in Hyūga to Yoshihiro’s son, Shimazu Hisayasu. Thereafter, Yoshihisa transferred the headship of the clan to his younger brother, Yoshihiro, and engaged in the joint governance of their territory. The Shimazu family continued to govern two provinces and one district under the Toyotomi administration as well as during the Edo bakufu until the Meiji Restoration.