Yamada Munemasa


Yamada Clan


Hyūga Province

Lifespan:  Tenbun 13 (1544) to 6/3 of Genna 6 (1620)

Other Names:  Jirō-saburō, Todsa-nyūdō, 京得

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Sado-no-kami (Governor of Sado)

Clan:  Yamada

Lord:  Itō Yoshisuke → Saeki Koresada → Itō Suketake → Itō Sukenori

Bakufu: Edo

Domain:  Hyūga-Obi

Father:  Yamada Munetsugu

Siblings:  Munemasa, Munenobu, Shichirōbei

Children:  Munetsune

Yamada Munemasa served as a bushō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  He was a retainer of the Hyūga-Itō clan and served as the lord of Sakatani Castle in Hyūga Province.

In 1544, Munemasa was born as the son of Yamada Munetsugu, a retainer of the Itō and lord of Shinyama Castle in Hyūga.

In 1558, Munemasa marked his first experience in battle in a conflict against the Hongō and Shimazu clans in regard to Obi.  In combat against an enemy bushō named Kamezawa Buzen-no-kami, Munemasa killed him.  Buzen-no-kami was a well-known bushō among the Shimazu.  By killing him during his first experience in battle, Munemasa was feared by the enemy.  In 1568, during the Ninth Campaign of Obi, Munemasa killed Wada Minbu-no-shō, the lord of Katsuoka Castle aligned with the Hongō clan.  Earlier, in 1567, the Minbu-no-shō was responsible for killing Munemasa’s father, Munetsugu, in battle so this amounted to a revenge killing.  In 1567,  Munemasa particpated in a dog show by the Itō clan.

In 1577, owing to an invasion by the Shimazu clan of Satsuma Province, Itō Yoshisuke experienced a set-back and temporarily withdrew to the protection of Ōtomo Sōrin (a sengoku daimyō and the twenty-first head of the Ōtomo clan) of Bungo Province.  In 1578, Sōrin, under the pretext of assisting the Itō, deployed to Hyūga.  After having followed Yoshisuke to Bungo the next spring, Munemasa preceded the Ōtomo in returning to Hyūga, and, in the sixth month, joined with Nagakura Sukemasa to rebuild Niiro-Ishino Castle and, together with members of the Itō band of retainers, prepared for an attack by the Shimazu army.

Siege of Ishino Castle

The Siege of Ishino Castle occurred when the Shimazu army attempted one two occasions to capture Niiro-Ishino Castle.  First, in the seventh month of 1578, prior to engaging in battle against the Ōtomo, Shimazu Tadanaga led a contingent of over 7,000 troops in an assault against the castle.  Defended by a garrison of 600 members of the Itō band of retainers, Niiro-Ishino Castle was a stronghold protected by fast-flowing rivers on three sides and a steep hill behind.  The defenders took advantage of these natural features to defend their position.  Valiant fighting by the garrison, led by Munemasa and Nagakura Sukemasa, resulted in the death of Kawakami Norihisa, a vice-general in the Shimazu army, while Tadanaga himself incurred serious injuries after his left thigh was pierced by an arrow.  After sustaining over 500 casualties, the Shimazu army was forced to withdraw.  As recognition for their success in repelling the Shimazu army, the Itō retainers led by Munemasa and Sukemasa received written commendations from Ōtomo Yoshimune.

Next, in the ninth month, the Shimazu launched a second assault during which the defenders engaged in a tough battle and Munemasa fought against Ijūin Hisanobu with his spear, but their efforts were not sufficient.  In the course of a battle extending over ten days, the provisions in the castle ran low, forcing the garrison to vacate the castle.  At the subsequent Battle of Mimikawa, the Ōtomo suffered a bitter defeat so Munemasa and the Itō band of retainers temporarily withdrew to Bungo Province.

Thereafter, Yoshisuke retreated to Iyo Province while Munemasa sought refuge with Saeki Koresada, the lord of Togamure Castle who remained in Bungo to serve as a rear guard.  Munemasa then entered the priesthood and adopted the monk’s name of 匡得.

Hōsatsu War

In 1586, the Hōsatsu War broke-out between the Shimazu and Ōtomo clans.  During the Battle of Katata triggererd by an attack by forces sent by Shimazu Iehisa to Togamure Castle, Munemasa killed by the sword a messenger of the Shimazu army who came with a demand for surrender.  Serving as a staff officer for Saeki Koresada, the commander-in-chief who was still in his youth, Munemasa charged out of the castle and, on behalf of Koresada, commanded the Saeki army.  Owing to Munemasa’s tactics and valiant fighting by the Saeki forces repelled the Shimazu army.  In historical accounts of Kyüshü, the Saeki army dispatched over 1,000 troops in a different direction to stand guard, so only 800 troops in the Saeki army remained in Katata to prepare a defense against the Shimazu army of over 2,000 soldiers led by Tsuchimochi Chikanobu.  Munemasa, however, utilized troops in ambush and dummy soldiers to ensnare and kill many troops in the Shimazu army including a commander named Niina Chikahide en route to victory.  Thereafter, the Shimazu army ceased further invasions out of fear of the Saeki forces.  Owing to these achievements, Koresada received a written commendation fro Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  In the second month of 1587, during an assault against Asahidake Castle in Bungo, Munemasa served as a battalion commander and, in the third month, participated in operations to prusue and mop-up defeated Shimazu forces attempting to retreat from Bungo via the 梓 Pass.

In 1587, after Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched the Pacification of Kyūshū, Munemasa converged on the road to Hyūga with the army led by Toyotomi Hidenaga and served as a guide.  In the sixth month, after escaping from Hyūga and heading toward the environs of Kyōto, Itō Suketake (the third son of Itō Yoshisuke) was recognized for his contributions while serving under the command of Hideyoshi as a guide for the campaign in Kyūshū whereupon he was awarded his former territory in Obi in addition to Soi and Kiyotake.  Upon the restoration of his status as a daimyō, Munemasa ended his service under Saeki Koresada and returned to the Itō clan.  At this time, Suketake inquired whether Munemasa would serve as a chief retainer but he frimly declined the offer and, instead, became the lord of Sakatani Castle with a fief of 300 koku.

Return to service

After returning to the service of the Itō, he obeyed Suketake by serving from 1592 in the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign on the Korean Peninsula.  In the sixth month of 1600, when Suketake went to Ōsaka in tandem with the Conquest of Aizu by Tokugawa Ieyasu, Munemasa was assigned to defend the province.  During the Battle of Sekigahara in the ninth month of 1600, Munemasa participated in battle against the Shimazu army accompanying an attack on Miyazaki Castle.

According to a historical account of Hyūga, during the siege of Miyazaki Castle, a retainer of the Itō named Inazu Shigemasa borrowed a prized horse from Itō Sukenori (the lineal heir of Itō Suketake).  Nagakura Miyoshi headed-out as a messenger to demand the return of the horse, but Shigemasa cursed Miyoshi on the grounds that he intended to return the horse at a time of his own choosing when the situation settled down.  Owing to Shigemasa’s rudeness despite having come simply as a messenger of Sukenori, Miyoshi drew his short sword and slashed at Shigemasa but Shigemasa fled to an inner room while a retainer, Aman Sanpei, came running and killed Miyoshi.  After hearing this story, Munemasa held a secret meeting with Matsura Kyūbei,and Nagakura 戎祐 and reported to Sukenori’s mother, Shōjuin, whereupon Shōjuin ordered that Shigemasa be eliminated.  After learning of these developments, Shigemasa took a hostage and holed-up in Kiyotake Castle, but was attacked and killed.

Munemasa died on 6/3 of Genna 6 (1620).  He was seventy-seven years old.

Character and anecdotes

His monk’s name had its origins in the name of Ōe no Masafusa, a nobe and scholar from the Heian period whose military tactics he aspired to master.

A unique style of archery known as shihanmato in the city of Nichinan in Miyazaki Prefecture gained a following based on Munemasa’s policies to defend the provincial borders and as a form of entertainment.

After the Hōsatsu War, Munemasa was invited by Shimazu Yoshihisa to served for a stipend of 300 chō, but Munemasa declined on the grounds that he was a retainer of the Itō.  He was subsequently offered 150 chō to serve Ōtomo Sōrin, but declined again.  After hearing this story, Sōrin was moved to tears by Munemasa’s demonstration of loyalty and had a prized set of armor chosen from among ten sets of armor kept by the Ōtomo and presented it to Munemasa.

Munemasa prevailed in all of the major conflicts in which he participated.  He made contributions on the battlefield in difficult circumstances on multiple occasions including during the period of decline of the Itō clan and while serving as a guest commander of the Ōtomo.  As a result, he is popularly known on a local basis as one of the preeminent bushō of Kyūshū, a resourceful and ferocious character on a par with Tachibana Muneshige and Shiga Chikatsugu.