Hirajima Kubō


Ashikaga Clan

Hirajima Kubō

Awa Province

The Hirajima kubō, also known as the Awa kubō, drew its lineage from Ashikaga Yoshitsuna (later known as Yoshifuyu), the second son of Ashikaga Yoshizumi, the eleventh shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  In terms of status, the Hirajima kubō was a branch of the Ashikaga shōgun family, successor to Yoshitsuna, who followed Ashikaga Yoshitane and, prior to Yoshitane, Ashikaga Yoshimi (the son of Ashikaga Yoshinori, the sixth shōgun).

The Hirajima kubō resided for generations in the Hirajima manor in Furutsu in Awa Province.  Although referred to as kubō, in this Hirajima lineage, only Ashikaga Yoshihide, the fourteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu served in the role of shōgun.  With the exception of Yoshihide, the others were branch members of the shōgun family.

Overview during the Sengoku period – from a palanquin to the Sakai kubō

In 1493, Hosokawa Masamoto, the deputy shōgun, orchestrated the ouster of Ashikaga Yoshiki (later known as Yoshitane), the tenth shōgun, replacing him with Ashikaga Yoshitō (later known as Yoshitsuna) in an event known as the Meiō Political Incident.  The killing of Masamoto at the hands of his retainers in 1507 led to a succession struggle within the Hosokawa-Keichō family along with a competition in the Ashikaga family for the role of shōgun known as the Eishō Disturbance that persisted for over two decades until 1531 throughout the Kinai Region.

The conflict between Ashikaga Yoshitane (the son of Ashikaga Yoshimi) and Ashikaga Yoshizumi (the son of Ashikaga Masatomo) drew in powerful shugo daimyō in Kinai to both sides, further complicating the situation.  Finally, Ashikaga Yoshiharu (the son of Yoshizumi) prevailed in this struggle and became the twelfth shōgun, but conflict continued between Hosokawa Takakuni and Hosokawa Harumoto over the role of deputy shōgun.  Yoshiharu then designated the current deputy shōgun (Hosokawa Takakuni and his supporters) to serve as the officially sanctioned army, which, as a consequence, made Hosokawa Harumoto’s faction the rebel army.

In 1523, Ashikaga Yoshitane, the prior shōgun, died in Awa Province.  This made critical the role of Ashikaga Yoshitsuna (the natural son of Yoshizumi and adopted son of Yoshitane).  The fact that Yoshitsuna was an adopted son of Yoshitane provided the indisputable authority needed for firm opposition against Yoshiharu as shōgun, an appealing prospect that could not be overlooked by the supporters of Hosokawa Harumoto.  Meanwhile, if all went well, this offered a path for Yoshitsuna to succeed Yoshiharu as well as achieve retribution on behalf of his deceased, adoptive father, Yoshitane.  In 1527, Takakuni was defeated at the Battle of Katsurakawara, fleeing with his benefactor, Yoshiharu, to Sakamoto in Ōmi Province.  Having turned the tables against their rivals in power, Yoshitsuna and Harumoto formed the basis for a new administration in Izumi Province known as the Sakai kubō.

Elimination of the Sakai kubō

Harumoto attacked and defeated Takakuni in Settsu Province, causing Takakuni to take his own life and end Takakuni’s campaign to reclaim his position as the deputy shōgun. Thereafter, however, Harumoto gradually changed his position.  After claiming the vacated seat of the deputy shōgun, he suddenly removed Yoshitsuna from power and joined the faction who supported Yoshiharu as the shōgun.  Moreover, in his new role as the deputy shōgun, Harumoto focused intently on self-preservation by plotting to weaken the Miyoshi clan, the most capable family who had, until then, served as the nucleus of his army.  He had adherents of the opposition Ikkō-ikki sect attack the Miyoshi who were based at the Kenpon Temple in Izumi Province.  Miyoshi Motonaga, the head of the Miyoshi clan based at the Kenpon Temple, took his own life after assisting Yoshitsuna to flee to Awa Province.  This led to the end of the Sakai kubō, along with Yoshitsuna’s dream to become the next shōgun.   Yoshitsuna was blocked from leaving Hirajima in Awa, where he received a stipend of 3,000 kan mon.  This became the origin of the term Hirajima kubō in reference to to the lineage of Yoshitsuna.

From Yoshitsuna to Yoshihide

Many years later, a surviving son of Motonaga named Miyoshi Nagayoshi acquired influence beyond that of his deceased father, ultimately deposing Harumoto and becoming a member of the assistants to the shōgun known as the shōbanshū.  In essence, he had attained a central role in the Muromachi bakufu.  During this period, the blood relatives of the Hirajima kubō received protection from the Miyoshi clan; however, despite having support to serve a role at a critical moment, the opportunity to reclaim the position of shōgun slipped away.

After Nagayoshi’s death, leadership of the Miyoshi clan transitioned to the Miyoshi Group of Three, known as the sanninshū, whose members included Miyoshi Nagayasu, Miyoshi Masakatsu, and Iwanari Tomomichi.  Under the new leaders, the clan struggled to respond to Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun who aimed to expel the Miyoshi from the Muromachi bakufu.  Without further recourse, in the summer of 1565, the clan resorted to attacking the Nijō Palace in Kyōto and killed Yoshiteru in an event known as the Eiroku Incident.  By slaying the shōgun, the Miyoshi committed a forbidden act that dwarfed a compulsory resignation, marking a dramatic step toward cementing the role of the Hirajima kubō.

In planning for the appointment of the next shōgun, a youthful Yoshitsuna, who was in his twenties at the time of the collapse of the Sakai kubō, was removed from consideration on account of illness.  Instead, the leadership chose his eldest son, Ashikaga Yoshichika (later known as Yoshihide who carried the title of Head of the Cavalry of the Left Division).  However, owing to a persistent power-struggle between the Miyoshi Group of Three and Matsunaga Hisahide, the Miyoshi were thwarted for a period from carrying out the formal appointment of Yoshihide as the next shōgun.  Finally, more than two and one-half years after the death of Yoshiteru, Yoshihide assumed the position as the fourteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu in the spring of 1568.   Moreover, during this period, Yoshihide could not even enter the capital of Kyōto, and after being declared the shōgun, continued to reside in Settsu Province.  There is a theory that his inability to move may have owed to illness as well.

Nevertheless, having lost significant time in the process of installing the shōgun, the Miyoshi administration failed to organize effectively or to produce positive results.  In the autumn of 1568, Oda Nobunaga led his army in a march upon Kyōto in support of Yoshiteru’s younger brother, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, to serve as the next shōgun.  En route to the capital, the Oda forces repelled the Rokkaku clan of Ōmi Province, leaving the Miyoshi to ponder whether continued support for Yoshihide served their interests in an inevitable showdown against the Oda.  Instead, the Miyoshi opted to withdraw to Awa Province in Shikoku Island.  Yoshihide’s ill health may also have played a role in the decision to abandon the capital.  Thereafter, the Miyoshi resisted the Oda on multiple occasions, but the military situation did not turn in their favor so that the Miyoshi lost the means to restore their authority in the Kinai.

Following the demise of Yoshihide, the family name continued under this younger brother, Ashikaga Yoshisuke.  As a kubō family without its own military forces, the Miyoshi (and after their demise, the Chōsokabe clan) did not have the capability to challenge Yoshiaki’s governance backed by the Oda army.   The Miyoshi contended with former retainers such as Ogasawara Narisuke who abandoned the clan in favor of the Chōsokabe.  The Miyoshi were eventually vanquished.

From the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the Edo period

Under the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Yoshiaki received an allotment of 10,000 koku, while under the Edo bakufu, the Kitsuregawa clan (descendants of the Kamakura kubō) were treated similar to the status of a daimyō family.  Moreover, even the children (Nishiyama Noriyuki and Oike Fujisaemon) of individuals such as Oike Yoshitatsu (said to have been a surviving child of Yoshiteru tracked down in Sanuki Province after being raised by the Kumamoto Domain) received stipends of 1,000 koku.  In contrast, during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, not to mention the Tokugawa period during which he was a guest commander of the Hachisuka clan, the Hirajima kubō received a cold reception.  Meanwhile, although an indirect retainer, the lord received as wives the daughters of high-ranking nobles families including the Minase and the Jimyōin, as well as the adopted daughter of the Nishinotoi-in, demonstrating that the nobility in Kyōto offered a certain degree of recognition toward the authority and lineage of the Hirajima kubō.

Nevertheless, the authority and lineage of the Hirajima kubō was not reflected in actual living circumstances.  Despite being treated as a guest commander by the Hachisuka clan who headed the Awa-Tokushima Domain,  and from the time of Yoshitsuna, seized a territory that yielded 3,000 kan mon, and granted a mere 100 koku to cover the fee for offerings of tea and hot water in Buddhist ceremonies.  Although it was not in the interest of the Hachisuka clan to have a privileged family with a high level of authority in their territory, they were not in a position to expel them out of their territory either.

In 1608, Ashikaga Yoshitsugu was compelled to change his surname from Ashikaga to Hirajima, assuming the name of Hirajima Matahachirō.  He received increasingly cold treatment, going from the role of a clan elder serving as an intermediary with domains led by noble families to handling ordinary visitors.

Early generations of Hirajima kubō were:

  1. Ashikaga Yoshitsuna (Yoshifuyu)
  2. Ashikaga Yoshisuke (the younger brother of Ashikaga Yoshihide)
  3. Ashikaga Yoshitane
  4. Ashikaga Yoshitsugu