Lifespan: Tenbun 23 (1554) to Tenshō 7 (1579) or Tenshō 9 (1581)
Lord: Shimazu Yoshihiro
Father: Hongō Tokihisa
Siblings: Sister (wife of Shimazu Mochihisa), Sukehisa, Tadatora, sister (Hishijma Yoshitomo), Mitsuhisa, Hisamura, Tadayori, 久栄
Hongō Sukehisa served as a bushō during the Sengoku period.
In 1554, Sukehisa was born as the lineal heir of Hongō Tokihisa, the tenth head of the Hongō clan of Hyūga Province. He was the older brother of a different father and the same mother as Hongō Tadatora, the eleventh head of the clan. The Hongō were powerful supporters of the Shimazu clan.
In 1573, Sukehisa obeyed his father to fight against the Kimotsuki clan of Ōsumi Province. In 1578, he served meritoriously in the Battle of Mimikawa. Sukehisa wed the daughter of Shimazu Yoshihiro (named Oyaji) and was viewed as the next head of the Hongō clan.
In 1581, Sukehisa had a falling out with his father, Tokihisa. He was removed from the line of succession and forced to commit seppuku in Yasunaga-Kaneishi Castle. Under another theory, this incident occurred in 1579.
The reasons for the discord are unknown, but, according to records of the Miyakonojō-Shimazu clan, Sukehisa scorned retainers who displayed cowardice on the battlefield, stirring resentment and raising fears among the retainers that if he became the next head of the clan, their situation would deteriorate. Sukehisa was then defamed by retainers alleging that he intended to rebel against Tokihisa. Having believed these allegations, Tokihisa surrounded Sukehisa’s base at Yasunaga-Kaneishi Castle. Although Sukehisa was innocent of the charges, he could not fight back against his father so he took his own life instead. At the time of his memorial service, his wet nurse from the Otomori clan cut-off her breasts and martyred herself. His grave is in Miyakonojō.
Prior to the siege of Yasunaga-Kaneishi Castle, his wife, Oyaji, escaped and was taken to the home of her father, Shimazu Yoshihiro. Later, she remarried with Shimazu Tomohisa of the Hōshū-Shimazu family.
After Tokihisa learned of Sukehisa’s innocence, he built a Wakamiya-Hachiman Shrine to pray for Sukehisa’s soul. In 1608, the shrine changed its name to 霊 Hachiman; in 1655, to Kenki Myōjin; and, in 1682, to Kenki Daimyōjin of the First Rank. Thereafter, to the present day, it is known as the Kenki Shrine.
In 1595, Sukehisa’s younger brother, Hongō Mitsuhisa, was transferred from Miyakonojō to Hirasa and founded a cadet family serving as the landlords of Hirasa. After the Shōnai Rebellion in 1599 (during which the Ijūin clan (senior retainers) rebelled against the Shimazu), Mitsuhisa conducted a ceremonial transfer of the divided tutelary (protective) deity at the Wakamiya-Hachiman Shrine in Miyakonojō to a new location in his territory to worship Sukehisa’s soul and built a Wakamiya-Hachiman Shrine for him there (allowing for the worship of Sukemisa’s soul at both locations). This shrine was to worship the souls of Sukehisa, Tokihisa, and ancestors of the Hongō family who served as landlords in Hirasa.
In 1854, the shrine was revived by Hongō Hisanobu and, in 1984, renovated by joint owners. The shrine features ornate sculpture which, along with the structures, reflect the skills of the artisans who built the shrine. Ceremonies are held there on 9/30 every year. Until around 1919, the ceremonies were followed by exhibitions featuring archery on horseback held at stables across from the shrine.