Uragami Norimune


Uragami Clan


Harima Province

Lifespan:  Eikyō 1 (1429) to 6/11 of Bunki 2 (1502)

Rank:  bushō

Title: Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Governor of Mimasaka

Bakufu: Muromachi bakufu – Deputy Chief of the Office of Security and Military Affairs, Deputy Military Governor of Yamashiro

Clan:  Uragami

Lord:  Akamatsu Masanori

Father:  Uragami Kamon

Siblings:  Norinaga, Norimune

Children: Norikage, Norikuni (may have been younger brother), Sukemune (adopted from Yasutomi Motoie)

Uragami Norimune served as a bushō and retainer of the Akamatsu clan during the Muromachi and Sengoku periods.

From obscurity to revival of the family

The Uragami served the Akamatsu, military governors of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces.  Following the Kakitsu Disturbance in 1441, a raid by the Akamatsu that resulted in the slaying of Ashikaga Yoshinori (the sixth shōgun) and his associates, the Akamatsu clan was decimated by the bakufu army.  Norimune served Akamatsu Masanori, the ninth head of the Akamatsu and a sengoku daimyō, working for a revival of the clan.  Norimune received one of the characters in his name from Masanori.

After the attacks against the Akamatsu clan in the wake of the Kakitsu Disturbance, Norimune’s older brother, Uragami Norinaga, fled to Shinano Province to avoid execution, so Norimune inherited the clan.  During the Ōnin-Bunmei War, a multi-faceted conflict that occurred in Kyōto and the surrounding provinces from 1467 to 1477, Norimune joined the Eastern army in an effort to reclaim territory from Yamana Sōzen.  Norimune performed an important role enabling the Akamatsu to reclaim their former territory and to become appointed as the military governors of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces. 

Upon entering the Bunmei era (1469-1487), Norimune took over from Ise Sadachika the conduct of operations involving Asakura Takakage, who supported the Western Army.  In 1471, Norimune succeeded in persuading Takakage to switch his allegiance.  When Masanori appointed the chief of the samurai-dokoro, or office of security and military affairs, Norimune became the deputy chief of the office and Uragami Motokage elevated to deputy military governor for Bizen Province.

Following the Ōnin-Bunmei War, Norimune was assigned to protect the capital while Masanori visited Harima, whereupon Norimune delegated provincial affairs to members of the family while he stayed in Kyōto.  In 1481, Masanori was appointed the military governor of Yamashiro Province while Norimune became the deputy military governor.  In his capacity as the deputy chief of the samurai-dokoro and deputy military governor of Yamashiro, Norimune made efforts to maintain peace in the capital, and strengthened his authority in the process.

Conflict with the Yamana and internal dissension

Matsuda Motonari, an influential servant of the Akamatsu clan, served as lord of Kanagawa Castle in the western portion of Bizen Province.  Late in 1483, Motonari colluded with Yamana Masatoyo who sought to reclaim land that had earlier been seized by the Akamatsu.  Together, Motonari and Masatoyo launched a surprise attack against generals allied with the Akamatsu, including Kogamo Yamato-no-kami and Kushihashi Norikore, who were sheltered in Fukuoka Castle, the residence of the military governor for Bizen.  At this time, Norimune was in Kyōto, while his son, Uragami Norikuni, was with the others in Fukuoka Castle.  Outnumbered, the defenders appealed to Akamatsu Masanori for reinforcements. 

Masanori responded by assembling troops for Uragami Norikage and Uno Masahide to initiate a counterattack in Bizen in support of the defenders.  Masanori himself deployed to Tajima Province to engage the Yamana.  However, after Norikage and Masahide advanced to Katakami, news spread that Masanori had been defeated by the Yamana at the Ikuno Ridge and fled to Himeji.  Norikage and Masahide then ceased the advance toward Fukuoka Castle and returned with their men to protect Harima.  By the time that Norikage’s army returned to Harima, the Akamatsu army had already been routed.  Early in 1484, Fukuoka Castle was captured by the allied forces of the Matsuda and Yamana.  Moreover, the Yamana forces in Tajima took advantage of their defeat of Masanori to storm Harima.

Amidst these dire circumstances, early in 1484, Norimune returned to Harima, solicited kokujin, or provincial landowners, who had lost faith in Masanori, and reassembled an army. Masanori took refuge in the city of Sakai in Izumi Province.  Having eliminated Masanori, and taken over control of the Akamatsu clan, Norimune then consulted with Kodera Norimoto to have the son of Arima Norihide, Keijumaru, become successor to the clan.  He further planned to have this recognized by the bakufu, but the petition was rejected.  These events triggered divisions among the kokujin who were governed by the Akamatsu.  Norikage fought as a commander in the Uragami army, killing Matsuda Motonari in the course of a victory for the allied Akamatsu and Uragami forces.  In the end, however, the kokujin could not reconcile their differences, and posed no match for the combined Yamana and Matsuda forces, so Norikage and others were ousted from their territory.

Thereafter, Arima Ukyō-no-suke switched sides to the Yamana, while retainers of the Akamatsu including the Arita and Hirooka families devised plans to support a new leader for the Akamatsu, leading to a disintegration of the kunishū, or local families, who formerly supported the Akamatsu in Harima.  Akamatsu forces under Norimune succeeded in killing Matsuda Motonari.  In the end, however, the kokujin could not reconcile their differences, and posed no match for the combined Yamana and Matsuda forces, so the Uragami and others were ousted from their territory. 

After fleeing to Kyōto, Norimune concluded that if he could not settle internal differences, then he would be unable to prevail against the allied Yamana and Matsuda armies.  Through the mediation of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth shōgun, a settlement was reached with Masanori on the basis that Keijimaru would not become successor to the Akamatsu clan.  The army was reconstituted with the aim of recapturing Harima.  Through their support for Masanori, the Akamatsu and Uragami armies overcame the internal differences within the clan, and stood in a superior position vis-à-vis the Yamana and Matsuda forces.  In the summer of 1485, the allied Akamatsu and Uragami forces incurred a major defeat in Katashima in Harima, losing Norikage and Norikuni in the battle.  Nevertheless, Norimune gained control of eastern Harima and deployed to western Harima to confront the Yamana army.  The contest extended into the summer of 1488, when Uragami Munesuke entered Fukuoka Castle while Yamana Masatoyo retreated to Tajima.

Owing to the loss of his son after this series of battles, Norimune adopted Sukemune from Yasutomi Motoie to become his designated heir. 

The final years

In 1491, Norimune joined his lord, Masanori, to deploy for the Entoku Conflict, a campaign led by the bakufu army against Rokkaku Takayori, the military governor of Ōmi Province.  Late in the same year, Norimune allied with Oda Toshisada to strike down Yamauchi Masatsuna, and, in the spring of 1492, Norimune and the Hemi clan defeated Takayori, causing Takayori to flee to Kōka. 

In 1496, Masanori died, upon which Norimune supported his adopted heir, Akamatsu Yoshimura, as the tenth head of the clan, while Norimune’s authority transcended the family of his lord. Nevertheless, Norimune generated deep differences with certain members of the Akamatsu by engaging in despotic behaviors, such as by scheming to forcibly remove Nakamura Norihisa from his role as deputy military governor of Mimasaka Province and replacing him with Uragami Motokage.

In 1499, Uragami Murakuni, lord of Nakayama Castle and a member of a branch of the Uragami, raised arms to overthrow Norimune.  Norimune responded by assembling his own forces, leading to a clash near the border of Harima and Bizen provinces.  Norimune’s men were slaughtered in the field battle, leaving Norimune in a desperate situation.  Norimune was chased down to Shirohata Castle, but, through the aid of Ukita Yoshiie, able to avoid Murakuni’s soldiers.  The battle drew down owing to injuries on both sides.  This clash, however, marked the beginning of disagreements between Murakuni and the main branch of the Uragami lasting more than twenty years after the death of Norimune.

Norimune died in 1502, after which his adopted son, Uragami Sukemune, inherited the clan.