Kikkawa Motoharu


Kikkawa Clan

Kikkawa Motoharu

Aki Province

Lifespan:  Kyōroku 3 (1530) to 11/15 of Tenshō14 (1586)

Name Changes:  Mōri Motoharu → Kikkawa Motoharu

Other Names:  Shōyū-Jirō

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Assistant Vice Minister of Civil Affairs, Governor of Suruga

Clan:  Ōe-Mōri → Kikkawa (from the Kudō branch of the Fujiwara-Nanke)

Lord:  Mōri Motonari → Mōri Takamoto → Mōri Terumoto

Father:  Mōri Motonari

Adoptive Father:  Kikkawa Okitsune

Mother:  Myōkyū (daughter of Kikkawa Kunitsune)

Siblings:  Mōri Takamoto, Goryū-no-tsubone (wife of Shishido Takaie), Motoharu, Kobayakawa Takakage, Ninomiya Naritoki, Hoida Motokiyo, Mōri Motoaki, Izuha Mototomo, Amano Motomasa, Suetsugu Motoyasu, Mōri Hidekane

Wife: [Formal] Shinjō-no-tsubone (daughter of Kumagai Nobunao)

Children:  Motonaga, Mōri Motouji, Hiroie, Shōjumaru, daughter (wife of Masuda Motonaga), daughter (wife of Yoshimi Motoyori)

Kikkawa Motoharu served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  He was born as the second son of Mōri Motonari, a sengoku daimyō and twelfth head of the Mōri clan.  His mother was Myōkyū, the formal wife of Motonari and the daughter of Kikkawa Kunitsune.  His siblings of the same mother included Mōri Takamoto (an older brother) and Kobayakawa Takakage (a younger brother).  He had many other siblings of different mothers.

Upon the wishes of his father, Motonari, Motoharu was sent for adoption by the Kikkawa clan, a noted family in Aki having a lineage from the Fujiwara-Nanke family.  As the designated successor, Motoharu was positioned to take-over the headship of the clan.  Thereafter, as a member of the political and military organization led by his father that extended across a majority of the Sanyō and Sanin regions, together with his younger brother, Takakage, he built the foundation for the rise of the Mōri family contributing primarily as the commanding officer for the Sanin Region.


In 1530, Motoharu was born as the second son of Mōri Motonari in Yoshida-Kōriyama Castle in Aki Province.

In 1540, during the invasion by Amago Haruhisa of Izumo, Motoharu overcame the opposition of his father and deployed at the Siege of Yoshida-Kōriyama Castle even though it occurred prior to his coming-of-age ceremony.  He performed well in his first experience in battle.

On 8/30 of Tenbun 12 (1543), he received one of the characters from the name of his older brother, Mōri Takamoto, and adopted the name of Motoharu.

On 12/20 of Tenbun 13 (1544), a contract was made for his adoption by Motonari’s younger brother, Kita Narikatsu, who did not have a natural heir.  The contract provided that, after the death of Narikatsu, the landholdings would be transferred to Motoharu.

In 1547, upon his own wishes, Motoharu wed Shinjō-no-tsubone, the daughter of Kumagai Nobunao.

Succession to the Kikkawa family

In the seventh month of 1547, Motoharu was adopted by Kikkawa Okitsune, a cousin on the side of his mother.  This occurred upon the recommendation of the Kikkawa retainers and Kikkawa Tsuneyo, an uncle who did not get along well with Okitsune.  Okitsune was thereby obliged to go along with the plan.  As conditions for acceptance, Okitsune received a guarantee on his life and Okitsune’s own son, Kikkawa Senhōshi, would be adopted by Motoharu and, after growing up, would become the designated successor of Motoharu.

On 7/22 of Tenbun 16 (1547), via a written oath jointly signed and sealed in blood by Kikkawa Tsuneyo, Ichikawa Tsuneyoshi, Imada Tsunetaka, a pledge of loyalty was made to Motonari, Takamoto, and Motoharu and, on 7/25, Motonari, Takamoto, and Motoharu provided a jointly signed oath in reply.

In 1550, Motonari compelled Okitsune to retire and arranged for Motoharu to succeed him as the head of the Kikkawa family.  Upon orders of Kumagai Nobunao and others, he murdered Okitsune and Senhōshi, which is said to have been orchestrated by Motonari.  Thereafter, Motoharu entered Ogurayama Castle in Ōasa in Aki, but he constructed Hinoyama Castle in a more secure location and moved his base there.  Motoharu and his younger brother, Kobayakawa Takakage, were referred to as the “Two Rivers of the Mōri,” overseeing the military and political affairs of the Sanin Region.

Battles against the Ōuchi and the Amago clans

In 1555, at the Battle of Itsukushima, Motoharu led the Kikkawa army in cooperation with the Kobayakawa army and eliminated the Ōuchi army led by Sue Harukata.  From 1556, he made an expedition to Iwami Province, but, after numerous clashes with Amago Haruhisa, including the Collapse at Oshibara and the Battle of Gōrozaka, was repelled.  In 1557, after the retirement of his father, Motoharu joined Takakage to serve as the mainstays of the Mōri family.

In 1562, Motoharu became ill with cramps accompanied by severe pain in his lungs and stomach.  Motonari arranged for numerous individuals to attend to Motoharu including Yanai Takemori (who was not a full-time physician), persons from the Shōrin Temple, and medical practitioners from within his territory.  He also had Yamato Harumoto, a physician from Kyōto, come to Shinshō-Hinoyama Castle to treat Motoharu.

In 1565, Motoharu participated as the main division at the Second Siege of Gassantoda Castle and, in 1566, forced the surrender of Amago Yoshihisa.

From 1569, however, Motoharu engaged in battle against the Amago revival army led by Yamanaka Yukimori, a former retainer of the Amago with aspirations to bring about its revival in the western provinces.  In 1570, at the Battle of Fubeyama, Motoharu defeated the Amago revival army.  Later that year, however, Ōuchi Teruhiro, a member of the Ōuchi family subsisting under Ōtomo Sōrin who was opposed to the Mōri family, invaded Suō Province.  Empowered to engage in military action, Motoharu responded before a sufficient number of reinforcements from the Ōtomo clan could assemble and cornered Teruhiro, compelling him to take his own life.  This event is known as the Revolt of Ōuchi Teruhiro.

In 1571, he used deception to launch an attack against Amago Katsuhisa who was holed-up at Sueishi Castle.  Yamanaka Yukimori was captured while Katsuhisa fled in defeat.  Yukimori later escaped his captors.

Battles against Oda Nobunaga

In 1571, after the death of his father, Motonari, Motoharu joined his younger brother, Takakage, to support his successor, Mōri Terumoto (the eldest son of Takamoto and nephew of Motoharu).

After losing to Motoharu, Amago Katsuhisa turned to Oda Nobunaga who was expanding his power among the central authorities.  With the support of the Oda, Katsuhisa continued his resistance against the Mōri.  In 1576, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the fifteenth and final shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, relied upon the Mōri to go from the capital to Tomo in Bingo Province.  This resulted in a definitive confrontation with Nobunaga.  Beginning in 1577, upon orders of Nobunaga, Hashiba Hideyoshi led an expedition army to the western provinces and invaded Harima.  Motoharu intercepted the army, and, in 1578, attacked Kōzuki Castle where Katsuhisa and Yamanaka Yukimori were holed-up in an event known as the Siege of Kōzuki Castle.  Katsuhisa surrendered and killed himself, while Motoharu’s rival, Yukimori, was killed by a retainer of the Mōri while en route to Yoshida-Kōriyama.  This marked the end of the campaign by the Amago revival army.

Thereafter, Motoharu continued fighting against the Oda army in assorted locations.  In 1580, Miki Castle fell, and its lord, Bessho Nagaharu, killed himself.  Ukita Naoie of Bizen Province and Nanjō Mototsugu of Hōki Province aligned with the Oda, while Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) of Bungo Province in northern Kyūshū acted in concert with Oda Nobunaga by invading the Mōri territory.  The Mōri family began to experience a gradual decline in power including, in 1581, when Kikkawa Tsunie took his own life at Tottori Castle in Inaba Province.

In 1582, Hashiba Hideyoshi attacked Bitchū-Takamatsu Castle where Shimizu Muneharu and others were holed-up.  Motoharu, along with Terumoto and Takakage, headed toward them as reinforcements in an event known as the Siege of Bitchū-Takamatsu Castle.  An attack by flooding, however, limited the movements of the reinforcements.  Meanwhile, Hideyoshi was concerned that, if he attempted to intercept the reinforcements, his army would incur further losses, so the battle lines turned into a stalemate.

On 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), Nobunaga died in a coup d’état led by a senior retainer, Akechi Mitsuhide, in an event known as the Honnō Temple Incident.  While concealing this news from the Mōri, he informed Ankokuji Ekei, the monk-diplomat for the Mōri, that most of the bushō in the Mōri family had been lured away.  This caused doubts among the Mōri commanders who were compelled to settle.  As a result, Bitchū-Takamatsu Castle was vacated while Shimizu Muneharu committed seppuku.  The Oda army then withdrew from Bitchū Province.  The Mōri did not learn about the Honnō Temple Incident until the day after the withdrawal of Hideyoshi’s army.  This information was from the Saika Group of Kii Province, as confirmed in a memorandum from Kikkawa Hiroie.

Based on this information, Motoharu asserted that the Mōri forces should chase the Oda army, but he was restrained by Takakage.  According to another account, Motoharu and Takakage shared similar concerns that a pursuit would be reckless and if they failed, the Mōri clan itself could be crushed.  As a result, an opportunity was missed to attack Hideyoshi on his return to the Kinai to confront Mitsuhide.


At the end of 1582, Motoharu transferred headship of the clan to his eldest son, Motonaga, and retired.  This is because he despised the prospect of serving under Hideyoshi.  He then received land governed by the Ishi clan who were members of the Kikkawa family and commenced the building of a residence for his retirement.  This home was later called the Kikkawa Motoharu Residence, but it was not completed during his lifetime.

Later, the Mōri clan cooperated with Hideyoshi’s quest to conquer the country.  In 1585, Takakage actively participated in the Conquest of Shikoku, but the Kikkawa army, with Motonaga serving as the commander-in-chief, remained in place and Motoharu did not deploy.

In 1586, upon strong demands from Hideyoshi in pursuit of his goal to become the supreme leader of the country, along with persuasion by his younger brother, Takakage, and his nephew, Terumoto, Motoharu participated in the Pacification of Kyūshū despite having retired.  Around this time, however, his health declined owing to an inflammatory illness which may been cancer.

As a result, on 11/15 of Tenshō 14 (1586), Motoharu died in the outer citadel at Buzen-Kokura Castle (the destination for his deployment) in Kyūshū.  He was fifty-seven years old.


Motoharu married, as his formal wife, the daughter of Kumagai Nobunao named Shinjō-no-tsubone.  Throughout his life, he did not have a consort and she bore four sons and two daughters.

There is a story that his wife, Shinjō-no-tsubone, was not attractive.  When Kodama Naritada engaged in marriage talks with Motoharu, he was surprised when Motoharu showed interest in the daughter of Kumagai Nobunao who had the reputation of not being attractive.  After confirming the situation, he noted that Nobunao’s daughter was unsightly and no one would marry her so if Motoharu wed her then Nobunao would be delighted and make his utmost efforts on behalf of Motoharu.  According to one view, this was in fact a political marriage to attract Nobunao as an ally who was known as an intrepid bushō.  Meanwhile, it could also have been a means to prevent Motoharu from becoming enamored in love.  Nevertheless, the couple got along well and she bore, among others, Kikkawa Motonaga, Mōri Motouji, and Kikkawa Hiroie.  Many letters admonishing Hiroie were jointly signed by both of them.  It appears that Shinjō-no-tsubone was a good wife and capable mother in the Kikkawa household.

Nobunao’s younger sister, who was married to Takeda Mitsukazu, was noted to be beautiful, raising questions as to why there would be such a difference between an aunt and her niece, so it is uncertain whether Shinjō-no-tsubone was homely.  In a chronicle written during the lifetime of Kikkawa Hiroie, there is no such reference.  This appears in a later account from the early Edo period.  According to one theory, her face was scarred owing to smallpox, and, for this reason, Nobunao initially rejected the offer for her to wed Motoharu, but Motoharu did not want to break the promise for this reason and went ahead.  There are similar stories, such as for Akechi Mitsuhide and Takahashi Jōun, who proceeded with marriage despite appearances, although details remain uncertain.

The Kikkawa Motoharu Residence was located in the southwest foothills of Mount Hino, constructed on a gentle slope on the shores of the Shijihara River.  The river served as a natural moat and the family temple, known as the Kaiō Temple, was situated on a mountain to the west.  Stone walls, mounds, structural elements of the residence, traces of a garden, and other artifacts have been confirmed at this site.

On 8/28 of Shōwa 61 (1986), Ogurayama Castle, Surugamaru Castle, and Hinoyama Castle were designated as national heritage sites as former residences of the Kikkawa clan, including partial restorations of the residences and gardens.