Siege of Sakato Castle



Echigo Province


Date:  Twelfth month of Tenbun 19 (1550) to eighth month of Tnenbun 20 (1551)

Location:  Sakato Castle in the Uonuma District of Echigo Province

Synopsis:  Nagao Harukage, the older brother of Nagao Kagetora (later known as Uesugi Kenshin), was of frail health and lacked leadership abilities.  Although Harukage inherited the role of deputy military governor of Echigo, Kagetora gained support to replace him.  Meanwhile, Nagao Masakage of the Ueda-Nagao family opposed the promotion of Kagetora and launched a rebellion from his base at Sakato Castle.  After Kagetora’s forces laid siege to the castle and threatened an all-out assault, Masakage surrendered and became a senior retainer of Kagetora.

The Siege of Sakato Castle occurred from the twelfth month of Tenbun 19 (1550) to the eighth month of Tenbun 20 (1551).  The conflict was waged between Nagao Masakage (the lord of Sakato Castle in the Uonuma District of Echigo Province) and Nagao Kagetora (later known as Uesugi Kenshin).  Sakato Castle was known for its ties to the Ueda-Nagao clan, serving as the residence of Masakage and Uesugi Kagekatsu.  Kagetora’s older sister, Sentōin, was the formal wife of Masakage and also resided at the castle. 

Echigo-Nagao clan

The Echigo-Nagao clan drew from the lineage of Nagao Kagetada, a bushi from the middle Kamakura period and fourth head of the Nagao clan.  The Echigo-Nagao clan was founded by Nagao Kagetsune (a bushō from the Nanbokuchō to early Muromachi periods) appointed to the role of deputy military governor of Echigo Province.  In the era of Kagetsune’s children, the Echigo-Nagao clan split into three families, namely, the Ueda-Nagao family based at the Ueda manor in the Uonuma District, the Koshi-Nagao family based in Suyoshi in the Koshi District, and the Sanjō-Nagao family based at Sanjō in the Kanbara District of Echigo.  The Sanjō-Nagao family served as hereditary deputy military governors of Echigo and resided in Fuchū so were also known as the Fuchū-Nagao family.


Nagao Tamekage, a sengoku daimyō and the head of the Fuchū-Nagao family, was succeeded by his lineal heir, Nagao Harukage, as the deputy military governor of Echigo.  Harukage, however, was of frail health and lacked leadership abilities.  Meanwhile, Harukage’s younger brother, Kagetora, possessed the attributes to become a leader.

The origins of this conflict date back to the second month of 1546.  Kuroda Hidetada, the lord of Kurotaki Castle, rebelled for the second time.  Kagetora, acting on behalf of his older brother, Harukage, subdued Hidetada and thereby gained prominence within the clan at the expense of the reputation of Harukage which plummeted.

At this time, a movement began to promote Kagetora as the deputy military governor backed by Kagetora’s uncle, Takanashi Masayori (lord of the Nakano mansion) in addition to Nakajō Fujisuke and the Koshi-Nagao family of his mother, Seigan-in (called Toragozen), based in Suyoshi Castle.  Harukage’s younger brother-in-law, Nagao Masakage of the Ueda-Nagao clan, sided with Harukage.  The Ueda-Nagao family maintained a degree of independence vis-à-vis the Fuchū-Nagao family of the deputy military governor.  

With the support of Kurokawa Kiyozane from Kurokawa Castle in the Okuyama manor in the Kanbara District, Masakage committed to overthrowing Kagetora but Uesugi Sadazane, the military governor of Echigo, mediated a settlement to the dispute between the two siblings (Kagetora and Harukage) so it came to an end. 

On 12/30 of Tenbun 17 (1548), Kagetora and Harukage entered into a pact and Harukage retired.  As a result, Kagetora, at the age of nineteen, became the new deputy military governor of Echigo and the lord of Kasugayama Castle.

Course of events

Masakage was not comfortable that Kagetora became the deputy military governor and inherited the headship of the clan and it is surmised that Masakage allied with Harukage to counter the growing influence of the original family of Kagetora’s mother (the Koshi-Nagao family).  Amidst these circumstances, on 2/26 of Tenbun 19 (1550), Uesugi Sadazane died.  On 2/28, Kagetora was permitted by Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun, to use an embroidered saddle cover and a white sleeve to hold a silk umbrella (status symbols used only by select bushō in formal processions).  This reflected his treatment as a daimyō and lord of a province.  On 12/28, Masakage holed-up in Sakato Castle to launch a rebellion.  Fearing that Ashina Moriuji, the lord of Kurokawa Castle in Aizu, would join forces with Masakage, Kagetora took the initiative by promptly informing Matsumoto Ukyō-no-suke, a retainer of the Ashina clan, of the rebellion by Masakage.

In the first month of 1551, Kagetora attacked Bangi Castle, the base of Hotchi Nagayoshi who sided with Masakage.  Later, Kagetora attacked a second time, but did not topple the castle.

Kagetora laid siege to the base of Masakage at Sakato Castle and decided to mount an all-out assault on 8/1 of Tenbun 20 (1551).  Upon learning of the planned assault by the besieging forces, Masakage and his father, Nagao Fusanaga, sent a written pledge and proposed a peace to Kagetora (amounting to a surrender).

Kagetora did not intend to pardon Masakage but given that he was the husband of Kagetora’s older sister coupled with urgent pleas from clan elders to spare his life, Kagetora relinquished and pardoned him.  Thereafter, Masakage served as a senior retainer of Kagetora.  Having Masakage serve as a retainer brought the conflict between the Ueda-Nagao and the Fuchū-Nagao families to an end.  At the age of twenty-two, Kagetora unified Echigo Province.