Ukita Yoshiie


Ukita Clan

Ukita Yoshiie

Bizen Province

Lifespan:  14xx to Eiroku 4 (1531) or 6/30 of Tenbun 3 (1534)

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Governor of Izumi

Clan:  Ukita

Lord:  Uragami Norimune → Uragami Muramune

Father:  Ukita Hisaie

Siblings:  Yoshiie, Sōin, Ukita Kunisada

Children:  Okiie, Shirō, Togawa Hideyasu (?), daughter (wife of Akashi Masakaze)

Ukita Yoshiie served as a bushō and retainer of the Uragami clan during the Sengoku period.  He further served as the lord of Toishi Castle in Toyohara-no-shō of Bizen Province.

Yoshiie was the son of Ukita Hisaie, a bushō in Bizen.  Yoshiie served Uragami Norimune and, following a succession struggle within the Uragami, he then served Uragami Muramune, the deputy military governor of Bizen.  Based at Toishi Castle, Yoshiie was regarded as intelligent and brave, earning the trust of Norimune.

Toward the end of the fifteenth century, the Uragami were the most powerful clan in Bizen.  In title, the Akamatsu were the shugo, or military governors,  while the Uragami were the shugodai, or deputy military governors, of Bizen.  Nevertheless, the Uragami had eclipsed the Akamatsu owing to losses by the Akamatsu of their leadership at the hands of the bakufu army as retribution for a surprise attack known as the Kakitsu Disturbance in which the Akamatsu assassinated the sixth shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshinori.    

Around this time, the Ukita clan appear as hikan, or officials of the military governors.  From 1467 to 1477, the Ōnin-Bunmei War engulfed the capital of Kyōto and the surrounding provinces, including Bizen, in a multi-faceted war.  In 1483, the Battle of Fukuoka erupted.  This conflict was initiated by the Matsuda clan, a kokujin, or family of local influence, who had been appointed as military governors of Bizen in the early Muromachi period.  The Matsuda sought to dispossess the Akamatsu and Uragami of their role as the military governors of Bizen.

Consequently, the Uragami and Matsuda clans battled for influence in Bizen.  Letters to subordinates dating from 1496 are in the name of Yoshiie’s father, Ukita Hisaie, as representative of the Ukita clan.  From 1499, Yoshiie appears as the representative of the Ukita, so he likely succeeded his father during this period.

In 1499, the Uragami clan experienced a succession conflict that escalated into a battle between Uragami Norimune and Uragami Murakuni.  Norimune lost and took refuge in the mountain fortress of Shirohata Castle.  However, just before it was captured following an encirclement by Murakuni, Norimune abandoned his family and attempted to flee.  Yoshiie encouraged the defenders left behind to display valor  by committing to an earnest fight.  Their efforts ultimately led Murakuni to withdraw his forces. 

In the winter of 1502, Yoshiie served as the lead commander of the Uragami army and headed into battle against the Matsuda.  After crossing the Yoshii River near the village of Shijikai, Yoshiie himself fought furiously, killing an enemy commander named Arimatsu Ukyō-no-jō.

In 1503, Yoshiie crossed the Yoshii River with the Uragami forces and advanced to the Jōtō District for a final showdown with the Matsuda army.  Matsuda Motofuji led troops to Mount Kasai in the Mino District to establish a base.  Once the opposing armies began to clash at Makiishi in the dry bed of the Asahi River, the Matsuda rushed troops down the mountain to surround the Uragami.  Yoshiie responded by leading the Ukita army across the Asahi River in support of the Uragami.  Despite being shot in the helmet with an arrow and stabbed with a spear, Yoshiie fought ferociously, took control of the battle, and routed the Matsuda forces.

After Muramune succeeded Norimune, he had a falling out with Akamatsu Yoshimura (the tenth head of the clan) and made plans to gain independence from the Akamatsu.  In 1518, he departed from his base at Mitsuishi Castle.  Viewing Muramune’s absence as an opportunity to expand his domain, Yoshimura led forces on an attack against the castle.  This action shook members of the Uragami clan in the castle who regarded Yoshimura as their main source of support, causing many to flee.  However, based on the actions of Yoshiie and the trust that commanders and soldiers placed in him, the defenders withstood the onslaught, finally defeating the Akamatsu at the Battle of Funasaka Ridge.

In 1520, Yoshimura raised arms once again, dispatching Kodera Norimoto with the intention of attacking Uragami Murakuni at Mitsuishi Castle as well as the eastern portions of Mimasaka Province.  The Akamatsu forces overwhelmed the Uragami in eastern Mimasaka, but Yoshiie led a small unit of soldiers who stayed behind on early-morning attacks, organized disparate troops, and confronted the Akamatsu.  Moreover, Muramune succeeded in having retainers of the Kodera clan betray the Akamatsu in favor of the Uragami, enabling the defeat of the Akamatsu army in eastern Mimasaka.  This series of defeats led to a loss of authority by Yoshimura, while Muramune expanded his power.  Thereafter, Muramune invaded Harima, subjugated the western portions of the province, compelled Yoshimura to retire, and confined him.  In 1521, he had Yoshimura killed while in confinement by an assassin, demonstrating the phenomenon of gekokujō whereby the Uragami usurped the role of their former lords, the Akamatsu.

In 1523, Uragami Muramune deployed to Harima for the purpose of eliminating Uragami Murakuni and Kodera Norimoto owing to their support for Yoshimura’s son, Akamatsu Harumasa.  In this battle, Yoshiie’s second son, Ukita Shirō, served in the vanguard, but died after falling into a trap set by Murakuni.  Upon hearing the news, Yoshiie sought to sacrifice his own life for the battle.  He charged the enemy forces and, as a result, brought victory to the Uragami army. Impressed by his gallantry, Hosokawa Takakuni, the kanrei, or deputy shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, presented him with a prized horse and kettle.

In 1524, Yoshiie assigned his role as head of the Ukita to his son, Ukita Okiie, and entered the priesthood.  In 1531, Takakuni and Muramune died in a surprise attack by the allied forces of Hosokawa Harumoto and Miyoshi Motonaga at the Daimotsu kuzure, or the Collapse at Daimotsu. Yoshiie used this as an opportunity to retire to Toishi Castle.  According to certain sources, he retired in 1524 in the same year he assigned his role to his son.

Yoshiie had bad relations with another retainer of the Uragami named Shimamura Morizane, lord of Takatori Castle in the Naganuma manor on a ridge.  In 1534, Morizane launched a surprise attack against Yoshiie at Toishi Castle, causing Yoshiie to kill himself.  Thereafter, the castle came under the control of Ukita Kunisada.  Okiie inherited the clan, but was known as feeble-minded, and during the fall of Toishi Castle, fled for safety together with Ukita Naoie, a small child. Years later, Naoie endeavored to revive the clan.

In 1524, a monk at the Nanzen Temple in Kyōto named Kyūhō Munenari painted a portrait of Ukita Yoshiie designated an important cultural asset.