Uesugi Kagetora


Uesugi Clan


Echigo Province

Lifespan:  Tenbun 23 (1554) to 3/24 of Tenshō 7 (1579)

Other Names:  Hōjō Seidōmaru or Takeōmaru (childhood), Saburō, Shusseidō (monk’s name)

Rank:  bushō

Clan:  Gohōjō → Uesugi

Lord:  Uesugi Kenshin

Father:  Hōjō Ujiyasu

Adoptive Father:  Uesugi Kenshin

Mother:  Younger sister of Tōyama Yasumitsu

Siblings:  Hōjō Shinkurō, Hōjō Ujimasa, Hōjō Ujiteru, Hōjō Ujikuni, Hōjō Ujinori, Hōjō Ujitada, Kagetora, Hōjō Ujimitsu, Hōjō-fujin (Keirinin-den, second wife of Takeda Katsuyori), Hayakawa-dono (Zōshunin-den, wife of Imagawa Ujizane), others

In-laws:  Kagekatsu, Jōjō Yoshiharu, Yamaura Kunikiyo 

Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Hōjō Genan, [Second] Seienin (daughter of Nagao Masakage), [Consort] Myōtokuin (younger sister-in-law of Tōyama Yasumitsu)

Children:  Dōmanmaru, son, daughter, daughter

Uesugi Kagetora served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.

In 1554, Kagetora was born as the seventh son of Hōjō Ujiyasu.  His mother was the younger sister of Tōyama Yasumitsu.  His original name is surmised to be Hōjō Saburō.  Later, he was adopted by Uesugi Kenshin and adopted the name of Uesugi Kagetora.

Early days

During his childhood, he was sent to the Sōun Temple in Hakone and adopted the name of Shusseidō.  As a monk, he announced the serving of meals at the monastery.  In 1554, a three-way alliance, or sankoku-dōmei, was forged between the Gohōjō of Sagami, the Takeda of Kai, and the Imagawa of Suruga.  This alliance was made possible in part by a two-way alliance between the Takeda and Hōjō, validated in 1554 by the marriage of the daughter of Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) to Hōjō Ujimasa, the lineal heir of Hōjō Ujiyasu.

In 1569, the two-way alliance was temporarily broken and then reestablished in 1571.  According to one account, as a condition of the alliance, Kagetora became a hostage of the Takeda clan, but this cannot be confirmed from other authenticated sources and remains a question.  His year of birth is also uncertain.

In 1569, Kagetora was adopted by his great-grandfather, Hōjō Genan (Nagatsuna), and wed Genan’s daughter.  He managed a band of retainers of the Gohōjō known as the Kozukue group and developed close ties with the Musashi-Tōyama clan of Edo Castle.  There is a possibility that traces of Kagetora during the Hōjō era are in reference to Hōjō Ujihide.

From Saburō to Kagetora

In the sixth month of 1569, accompanying the Invasion of Suruga into the territory of the Imagawa by the Takeda clan, the Hōjō cut ties with the Takeda and, instead, entered into an alliance with the Uesugi clan of Echigo.  The Hōjō and Uesugi clans had previously been rivals for a long time.  As a condition of this alliance, the second son of Hōjō Ujimasa, Kunimasumaru (later known as Ōta Gengorō), was sent to Uesugi Kenshin for adoption.

Upon entering into the alliance, Ujimasa was reluctant to turn-over Kunimasumaru so, prior to the tenth month, the Uesugi family requested that he tender another hostage instead.  Saburō appears to have been adopted by Hōjō Genan in the twelfth month, but, in the third month of 1570, a decision was made for his adoption by Kenshin.  Upon this event, a promise was made for Kenshin’s niece, Seienin (the older sister of Uesugi Kagekatsu), to wed Saburō.

On 4/11 of Eiroku 13 (1570), Saburō met Kenshin at Numata in Kōzuke Province and accompanied him to Echigo.  On 4/25, a wedding ceremony with Kenshin’s niece was held at Kasugayama Castle and he was formally adopted by Kenshin.  He was then given the name of Kagetora which was also the initial name of Kenshin.  On this occasion, Kagetora was provided a residence in the outermost quarters of Kasugayama Castle.

With respect to the alliance between the Uesugi and the Hōjō, the Takeda reconciled with the Uesugi through the offices of Ashikaga Yoshiaki and Oda Nobunaga in addition to ingratiating themselves with powerful clans in the Kantō such as the Satake to contain the Hōjō.  Within the Hōjō clan, lines of conflict were drawn between Ujiyasu and Ujimasa as to whether to maintain the alliance with the Uesugi or to restore the alliance with the Takeda.

In 1571, upon the death of Ujiyasu, Kagetora was serving in Odawara but soon returned to Echigo.  In the twelfth month, after inheriting the headship of the clan, Kagetora’s older brother, Hōjō Ujiyasu, restored the alliance with the Takeda while cutting ties with the Uesugi.  Nevertheless, Kagetora remained in Echigo.

Succession struggle

Following the death from illness of Kenshin on 3/13 of Tenshō 6 (1578), a succession struggle erupted between Kagetora and his brother-in-law, Uesugi Kagekatsu.  This is known as the Otate Conflict.

By garnering support from figures such as Uesugi Kagenobu, Honjō Hidetsuna, and Kitajō Takahiro, along with the backing of his original family (the Gohōjō) and the Kai-Takeda as an ally, Kagetora stood in a superior position relative to Kagekatsu.  Supporters of Kagekatsu, however, quickly seized the main citadel and treasure house at Kasugayama Castle.  On 5/13, Kagetora took his wife (Seienin), his wife’s mother (Sentōin), and children to flee the castle, holing-up at the Otate, a residence below the castle built for Uesugi Norimasa (the prior Kantō-kanrei, or deputy shōgun of the Kantō) which was also used by Kenshin for the conduct of political affairs.  The main division of the Hōjō was in the midst of confronting the allied forces of the Satake and the Utsunomiya, so, based on the alliance with the Kai-Takeda, inquired with Takeda Katsuyori whether he could send reinforcements to Kagetora.  In the fifth month of the same year, Katsuyori deployed to the border of Shinano and Echigo provinces.

In the sixth month, Kagekatsu initiated peace negotiations with Katsuyori.  A settlement was reached upon the condition that the Uesugi cede territory held in northern Shinano.  This resulted in an alliance between the Kai-Takeda and Uesugi clans.  During the sixth month, after Katsuyori arrived at Etsufu, mediation began between Kagekatsu and Kagetora.  In the eighth month, the two sides tentatively settled, but, later that month, after the Tokugawa clan of Mikawa Province invaded territory held by the Takeda in Suruga, Katsuyori retreated from Echigo and the settlement between Kagekatsu and Kagetora collapsed.  Meanwhile, Hōjō Ujiteru and Hōjō Ujikuni traversed the Mikuni Pass to invade Echigo.  After toppling Arato Castle, the forces captured Kabanosawa Castle very near Kagekatsu’s main base at Sakado Castle and then established their base in this location.  The Hōjō forces at Kabanosawa Castle did not, however, advance further.  After leaving Hōjō Takahiro, Hōjō Kagehiro and Ujikuni’s forces behind at Kabato Castle, the remaining forces withdrew via the Mikuni Pass prior to the onset of the winter season.

Without missing the opportunity, Kagekatsu strengthened his offensive and, in 1579, prior to the melting of snow on Mikuni Pass, toppled the Otate residence.  Kagetora’s formal wife, Seienin, rejected the warning to surrender from her younger brother, Kagekatsu, and took her own life.  She was twenty-four years old.  Her eldest son, Dōmanmaru, was taken away by Uesugi Norimasa.  While en route to the camp of Kagekatsu, Dōmanmaru was murdered by Norimasa and others.  He was nine years old.  Isolated and without support, Kagetora attempted to flee to Odawara Castle through the assistance of the Hōjō (his original family).  On the way, he encountered a rebellion by Horie Munechika, the lord of Same-ga-o Castle, and took his own life.  Kagetora was twenty-six years old.

In this way, Kagekatsu’s supporters took command of the Otate Conflict while the defeat for Kagetora resulted in dissolution of the alliance between the Kai-Takeda and the Hōjō.  Thereafter, the outcome of the conflict had significant consequences for the region.

According to a military chronicle of northern Echigo, Kagetora’s grave is at the Jōan Temple, but, in fact, there is no such grave there so its whereabouts are uncertain.  At the Shōfuku Temple in the city of Myōkō in Niigata Prefecture, there is a memorial tower for Kagetora.

Recent research

There is a theory that Kenshin intended to have Kagetora inherit the role of deputy shōgun of the Kantō along with head of the Yamauchi-Uesugi family (the main branch of the Uesugi) while having Kagekatsu serve as the kokushu or lord of Echigo Province, the head of the Echigo-Nagao family, and deputy to Kagetora as the head of the main branch of the Uesugi.  Alternatively, after the alliance with the Hōjō, Kenshin may have desired Kagekatsu to become his successor while reinforcing his authority, or, under another theory, Kenshin sought to allocate the power of the headship by having Kagetora serve as the deputy shōgun of the Kantō and the head of the Yamauchi-Uesugi family while Kagekatsu would become the lord of Echigo Province and head of the Nagao-Uesugi family (newly established as a cadet family).  In any event, the outcomes desired by Kenshin with regard to succession remain the subject of academic debate.

For generations, members of the Uesugi and Nagao clans who were relatives of one another engaged in serious disputes.  In particular, the Ueda-Nagao family on one side and the Koshi-Nagao and Funai-Nagao families on the other engaged in longstanding hostilities.  During the Otate Conflict, Kagetora received support from the Koshi family while he maintained in reserve the immense power of his original Hōjō family.  Others in Kagetora’s faction included Kanamari Chikatsuna (the lord of Sanjō Castle) and Kitajō Kagehiro, the commander of Maebashi Castle who had strong ties to the Hōjō family.  Those in Kagekatsu’s faction opposing them included members of the Ueda group under the command of the Ueda-Nagao family, Jōjō Masashige and Yamaura Kagekuni (adoptees of Kenshin), Naoe Nobutsuna (adoptee of Naoe Kagetsuna who supported Kenshin’s political administration) and the Yoita group under his command, the Agakita group in the lower Echigo region, and a senior retainer named Saitō Tomonobu.  Other families, including the Sanbonji-Uesugi family, the Kawada clan, and the Kakizaki clan, were beset by opposing factions between family members.  This was triggered, in part, by efforts to ascertain the prevailing parties to the conflict as a means to provide security for their families.

Despite earlier theories, Hōjō Ujihide and Uesugi Kagetora are regarded to be separate individuals.  Around the time that Kagetora headed toward Echigo, Ujihide was in Edo because it is surmised that he was the second son of Hōjō Tsunanari.  Moreover, there is no evidence in authenticated sources whereby Uesugi Kagetora adopted the name of Hōjō Ujihide.  Therefore, while a member of the Hōjō family, he is referred to as Hōjō Saburō and not Hōjō Ujihide.  There were many instances of common names ending with the character of “rō” in the Yamauchi-Uesugi family as well as in the Hōjō family.

At the Fukujūsan-Chōrin Temple in Yamakawa in the city of Ashikaga in Tochigi Prefecture and its environs, there is a story that, to avoid discord with Kagekatsu, Kagetora sought refuge with the Okami clan in Hitachi Province, entered the priesthood at the Tōrin Temple (the family temple of the Okami clan) as a member of the Sōtō sect of Buddhism and restored the temple which had been ravaged by war.  During this time, he is said to have corrected the name of a temple in a license issued by the Tokugawa family that incorrectly referred to the Chōrin Temple.  Kagetora’s story appears in documents concerning temple origins submitted in the early Meiji period but does not appear in documents from the Edo period.  Therefore, rather than having received a license from the Tokugawa family, this is regarded as a fictional story created to emphasize ties with Uesugi Kenshi and the Muromachi bakufu to protect the temple’s estate from an anti-Buddhist movement at the beginning of the Meiji era.