Siege of Shiroishi Castle
Date: 7/24 and 7/25 of Keichō 5 (1600)
Location: Shiroishi Castle in Shiroishi in the Katta District of Mutsu Province
Synopsis: In the aftermath of the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu embarked on a path to consolidate power, leading to conflict among leading members of the Toyotomi administration. After a refusal by Uesugi Kagekatsu to demonstrate his support, Ieyasu led his forces on the Conquest of Aizu with the intention of subduing Kagekatsu. To achieve this objective, Ieyasu called upon Date Masamune to attack and topple Shiroishi Castle which served as an important base for the Uesugi in Mutsu Province.
The Siege of Shiroishi Castle occurred on 7/24 and 7/25 of Keichō 5 (1600) at Shiroishi in the Katta District of Mutsu Province. The battle was waged between the armies of Date Masamune and Uesugi Kagekatsu. This is one of many battles occurring in the months leading up to the decisive Battle of Sekigahara on 9/15 of Keichō 5 (1600).
After the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi on 8/18 of Keichō 3 (1598), Tokugawa Ieyasu, the head of the gotairō, or Council of Five Elders serving the Toyotomi administration, began to aim for his next conquest. By arranging political marriages with the families of Date Masamune and Hachisuka Iemasa, he violated rules established during Hideyoshi’s reign and exerted increasing levels of influence over political affairs. This fueled opposition toward him from a faction led by Ishida Mitsunari, the head of the gobugyō, or Five Commissioners, a key administrative organ in the Toyotomi administration. Following the death of Maeda Toshiie (one of the Five Elders) on 3/3 of Keichō 4 (1599), Ieyasu’s momentum could not be stopped and, in 1600, a conflict between Ieyasu and Mitsunari became unavoidable.
Uesugi Kagekatsu based in Aizu in Mutsu Province refused to pay a visit to Ōsaka to offer new year’s greetings (as a show of deference to Ieyasu). Meanwhile, Mogami Yoshiaki and Hori Hideharu claimed that Kagekatsu was strengthening his military posture in his territory, further raising tensions between Ieyasu and Kagekatsu. Ieyasu demanded that Kagekatsu come to Ōsaka to explain his actions, but Kagekatsu and his chief retainer, Naoe Kanetsugu, rejected him so, upon orders of Ieyasu, forces were mobilized for the Conquest of Aizu with the intention of marching from Ōsaka to Aizu to subdue Kagekatsu.
Course of events
To subdue Kagakatsu in Aizu, Ieyasu ordered Date Masamune to invade from the Shinbu gateway. Attacking the Uesugi territory from this direction would mean entering the Katta District. Shiroishi Castle served as the main base to hold the Katta District. Up until the reallocation territories by Hideyoshi known as the Oushū Retribution in 1590, this territory was held by the Date clan.
Amakasu Kagetsugu served as the chamberlain of Shiroishiu Castle for the Uesugi, but upon orders of Kagakatsu, was serving duty at Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle so his nephew, Tosaka Katsuno was defending the castle on his behalf. On 7/24, Masamune initiated an attack, setting ablaze the town below the castle and to the walls and outermost areas of the castle, burning them down. Given their familiarity with their former territory, by the morning of 7/25, the Date forces controlled the entire area except for the inner citadel.
Acknowledging that defeat was imminent, Katsuno prepared to surrender, but Kanokoda Uemon, a former retainer of the Nihonmatsu-Hatakeyama clan previously decimated by Masamune, insisted on resisting to the death and would not compromise. Consequently, Katsuno murdered Uemon and surrendered. Masamune then delegated the defense of the castle to his uncle, Ishikawa Akimitsu and pulled-up to go to Kitame Castle.
Riding the momentum of victory, Masamune ordered Sakurada Motochika, the lord of Komagamine Castle, to assault and topple Kawamata Castle. Fearing isolation in the Uesugi territory, Motochika burned down the castle and withdrew, but the Uesugi clan lost two castles to Masamune in two days. In a bid to recapture Shiroshi Castle, Kagekatsu’s chief retainer, Naoe Kanetsugu, sent forces to serve as a rear guard. These forces were later defeated in a guerilla war by peasants and local bushi in the village of Obara in the Katta District allied with Masamune. This prevented the Uesugi forces from pursuing the Tokugawa army which, following a war council known as the Oyama Deliberation held in Oyama in Shimotsuke, had canceled the expedition and were heading west to confront the revolt by Ishida Mitsunari in Ōsaka.
According to one legend, in 1602, after the Siege of Shiroishi Castle, Date Masamune assigned Katakura Kagetsuna to serve as the lord of Shiroishi Castle captured from Uesugi Kagekatsu and began renovation work. Thereafter, the occupants witnessed a series of strange phenomena. At night, they saw mysterious fires, heard sounds of laughter, and encountered unknown women on the premises. An elderly woman working at the castle said there were human souls possessed with the spirits of foxes. When the Uesugi resided in the castle, the foxes were well cared for, but after the lord of the castle changed, the foxes were neglected. If the foxes are properly cared for, then peace will return. Based on this counsel, the occupants built a shrine in a location that could be observed from the castle above and then peace returned to the castle.
In Kuramoto-no-aza in Fukuoka in the city of Shiroishi, there are place names such as Kitsunedan and Kitsune-tōge that are connected to the term for fox (kitsune).