Lifespan: Daiei 1 (1521) (?) to 10/3 of Tenbun 24 (1555)
Title: Secretary of the Bureau of Central Affairs, Governor of Mikawa
Lord: Ōuchi clan
Father: Hironaka Okikatsu (Okikane)
Siblings: Takakane, Kataaki
Children: Takasuke, other
Hironaka Takakane served as a bushō during the Sengoku period. He was a retainer of the Ōuchi clan, the sengoku daimyō of Suō Province.
Takakane was born as the eldest son of Hironaka Okikatsu (Okikane), a retainer of Ōuchi Yoshioki and member of a senior consultative organ known as the hyōjōshū. His formal name was Takakane, and after receiving one of the characters from the name of his father, adopted a name with that character and the same pronunciation. Takakane’s year of birth is uncertain. With respect to exploits prior to 1540, many historical accounts mix the achievements of his father, Okikatsu (who also used the same name of Mikawa-no-kami) with those of Takakane.
The Hironaka clan descended from the Seiwa-Genji. After the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185, the Hironaka served for generations as the landlords of Iwakuni in Suō Province. From the Muromachi period, the Hironaka supported the core of the Ōuchi family, the daimyō of Suō Province. The Hironaka served as hereditary retainers in key roles as members of the military and as magistrates. Until the era of Takakane, the Hironaka family also served as the high priests of the Shirasaki-Hachiman Shrine in Iwakuni. Takakane served Ōuchi Yoshitaka. Known as a smart and courageous bushō, a young Takakane was widely recognized for meritorious service in battle.
Service in Aki Province
Owing to these achievements, Takakane was appointed as the daikan, or representative of the bakufu in Iwakuni and Higashi-Saijō in Aki Province. Thereafter, conflict between the Ōuchi and Amago intensified in Aki. In the sixth month of 1523, Kagamiyama Castle (aligned with the Ōuchi) fell. Hiraga Hiroyasu, the head of the Hiraga clan, was concerned with respect to the defense of his base at Shirayama Castle, so he built Kashirazaki Castle on nearby Mount Kashirazaki. His lineal heir, Hiraga Okisada, became the lord of the castle. Okisada, however, ignored the wishes of his father and affiliated with the Amago clan. This led to conflict between Okisada on one side and his father (who supported the Ōuchi) and grandsons, Hiraga Takamune and Hiraga Hirosuke. In 1529, Takakane, together with Mōri Motonari, toppled Matsuo Castle. Nevertheless, the defection by Okisada and resulting affiliation of Kashirazaki Castle with the Amago had negative repercussions for Takakane. Namely, around 1538, Sugi Takanobu (later known as Sugi Motosuke) was appointed to replace Takekane as the representative for Higashi-Saijō.
In 1541, after the Siege of Yoshida-Kōriyama Castle, Ōuchi Yoshitaka became the military governor of Aki. At the same time, Takakane was appointed as the deputy military governor of Aki. He was also referred to as the military governor of Saijō. In 1543, Takakane became the lord of Tsuchiyama Castle, serving as a pillar of the Ōuchi in Aki. He was further responsible for the governance of Bingo Province.
In 1542, Takakane served in the Siege of Gassantoda Castle (an expedition by the Ōuchi clan) but was unable to topple the castle while the Ōuchi army fled in defeat. He then endeavored to prevent the defection by kokujin, or provincial landowners, in Aki and Bingo provinces who were susceptible to shifting their allegiance in the midst of the tumult. Beginning in 1543, over a period of several years, Takakane joined with the Mōri army to capture Kannabe Castle (the base of Yamana Tadaoki) in an event known as the Kannabe Conflict. In the seventh month of 1548, upon orders of Yoshitaka, he engaged in a large-scale operation to cut-down the crops in the area surrounding Kannabe Castle. This was a siege tactic to deny the enemy access to provisions.
During this period, Takakane deepened his relations with Mōri Motonari, but outwardly as well as on a personal level. During the Siege of Gassantoda Castle by the Ōuchi army, the two men were so close that they gave shared proposals to Yoshitaka. Takakane was also on friendly terms with two of Motonari’s sons, Mōri Takamoto (with whom he developed a friendship while Takamoto served as a hostage to the Ōuchi in Yamaguchi for three years) and Kikkawa Motoharu. Takakane, along with Era Fusahide (another retainer of the Ōuchi) is surmised to have been well aware of the capabilities of Motonari.
Battle of Itsukushima
In 1551, Sue Takafusa, a senior retainer of the Ōuchi clan, launched a rebellion against his lord, Ōuchi Yoshitaka, that resulted in the death of Yoshitaka and enabled Takafusa to forcibly take over the clan. He installed Ōuchi Yoshinaga (Yoshitaka’s nephew) as the successor to Yoshitaka and to serve as the nominal head of the clan. Sue Takafusa then changed his name to Sue Harukata. This event is known as the Tainei Temple Incident. Initiallly, Takakane voice his opposition to the rebellion, but afterwards joined Harukata in supporting Yoshinaga so is deemed to have aligned with Harukata. Around this time, Tsuchiyama Castle was defended by Suda 宣真 while Takakane did not have a castle.
In the fourth month of 1553, Takakane, together with a retainer of the Sue named Mōri Fusahiro, deployed to Chikuzen Province and attacked Harada Takatane at Takaksu Castle who opposed Sue Harukata.
In 1554, Takakane served in the Siege of Sanbonmatsu Castle. To mount attacks against Kane Castle (an auxiliary site of Sanbonmatsu Castle), Takakane set-up a base nearby on Mount Chausu (Mount Hachiman).
After a break in relations between the Ōuchi and Sue on one side and the Mōri on the other, in the third month of 1555, upon orders of Harukata, Takakane slayed Era Fusahide in Iwakuni on suspicion of colluding with the Mōri. There is a theory that Harukata also suspected Takakane of collusion so ordered him to murder Fusahide as a means to prove his innocence.
In the ninth month of 1555, just before the Battle of Itsukushima, Takakane opposed a plan by Harukata to dispatch his entire army to Itsukushima to engage in a final showdown against the Mōri. Instead, he advocated a land-based attack in Aki Province. Claiming that it was a trap by Motonari, Takakane made a direct appeal to Ōuchi Yoshinaga and attempted to leverage Harukata’s wife to persuade Harukata to change course. Stirred to action by the voices of commanders including Miura Fusakiyo, the hot-blooded Harukata dismissed the remonstrations of Takakane. In the end, Takakane had his younger brother, Hironaka Kataaki remain behind in Iwakuni and, together with his lineal heir, Hironaka Takasuke, sailed to Itsukushima on the Seto Inland Sea. After learning that the Murakami navy sided with the Mōri, he anticipated the defeat of the Ōuchi army.
Crowded on to the narrow island with limited maneuverability, the Ōuchi army was routed on Itsukushima. In the midst of the chaos, Takakane was the only commander in the Ōuchi to maintain a formation. Serving as a defensive shield in the environs of Tō-no-oka (just to the north of the Itsukushima Shrine), Takakane enabled Harukata, as commander-in-chief, to escape. While many troops scattered, Takakane and his son continued to resist the Mōri forces with a battalion of 500 men. Under attack from Kikkawa Motoharu, Takakane had his forces set fires to residences located near the Daishō Temple and fled. Before long, Harukata took his own life but approximately 100 members from the Hironaka battalion holed-up on a mountain called Ryūgabanba in a steep area known as Komagabayashi (elevation of 509 meters). After three days of valiant resistance, Takakane was finally killed by the Kikkawa army.
Sorrowful for the loss of Takakane who was respected for his courage and loyalty, Motonari appointed relatives of the Hironaka to serve the Mōri and treated them with special care. Many of these relatives of the Hironaka family served as abbots in temples across Aki and Suō provinces. When Kikkawa Hiroie took over the former territory of Takakane in Iwakuni, he permitted Imaji Yoshifusa (Takakane’s grandson who adopted the surname of Imaji) to serve as the chief priest of the Shirasaki-Hachiman Shrine which lineage has continued to the present day. Subsequently, Takakane’s great-grandson was permitted to establish the Tsuzu-Sentoku Temple in the domain (the city of Iwakuni) and, in 1941, Takakane’s grave was moved inside the temple hall.
Aware of his own impending death after having sailed to Itsukushima out of loyalty to his lord, the story of Hironaka Takakane is cited as a tragic tale in the history of the western provinces.
A site identified as the vestiges of the Nakatsu residence in the city of Iwakuni are deemed to be the former residence of the Hironaka clan. The scale of the site rivals that of the Ōuchi residence. This same site was formerly identified as the vestiges of the Kayō Izumi-no-kami residence but, after the Battle of Itsukushima, Kayō Izumi-no-kami (a member of the Mōri navy) was merely stationed at the Nakatsu residence and not the owner so, in 2012, the name of the site was changed. It is surmised that, after the death of Takakane, the name of the Hironaka clan was no longer discussed in Iwakuni so the name of Kayō Izumi-no-kami remained instead.