Lifespan: 15xx to 8/28 of Eiroku 8 (1565)
Title: Governor of Sado
Clan: Satō → Kishi (originated from the Satō)
Lord: Saitō Dōsan → Saitō Yoshitatsu → Saitō Tatsuoki
Father: Satō Nobutsura
Siblings: Nobuchika, Nobusada
Children: Nobufusa, Nobukiyo, Nobutomo, Eihime (wife of Satō Hidekiyo)
Kishi Nobuchika served as a bushō during the Sengoku period. Nobuchika was the lord of Dōhora Castle in Mino Province. His common names were Magashirō and Kageyu.
Nobuchika was born as the son of Satō Nobutsura.
The Kishi were originally had the surname of Satō and split from the family of Fujiwara no Hidesato, a noble from the middle of the Heian period. Nobuchika served the Saitō clan. In 1542, Nobuchika participated in the battle when Saitō Dōsan usurped his lord, Toki Yoriaki, expelling him from Ōga Castle, a mountain fortress in Mino. In 1547, after killing a nephew of Oda Nobuhide named Oda Shinjūrō at the Battle of Kanōguchi, Nobuchika received a written commendation from his lord, Dōsan. Later that year, he joined in another attack against Toki Yoriaki. In 1556, however, at the Battle of Nagaragawa, Nobuchika backed Dōsan’s son, Saitō Yoshitatsu, to overthrow Dōsan. After the death from illness of Yoshitatsu in 1561, Nobuchika served Yoshitatsu’s successor, Saitō Tatsuoki.
Tatsuoki’s youth and inexperience shook the band of retainers so that, at once, the Saitō struggled to defend against invasions of Mino by Oda Nobunaga of neighboring Owari Province. The conflict between the Oda of Owari and Saitō of Mino is known as the Invasion of Chūnō consistent with attacks by the Oda in the central portion of Mino.
In 1565, Nagai Michitoshi (the lord of Seki Castle) devised a plan to ally with Nobuchika and Satō Tadayoshi (the lord of Kajita Castle) forging a three-way alliance. At this time, Tadayoshi’s daughter (Yaeryoku) was sent as a hostage for adoption by Nobuchika. This alliance enabled them to halt attacks by the Oda army in the central portion of Mino while the main division under Saitō Tatsuoki rushed in to sweep-up the Oda forces, going as far as to plan an invasion of Owari.
At the stronghold of Dōhora, Michitoshi and Nobuchika devised a plan to lure Nobunaga’s army to the castle and, with the Kajita forces led by Satō Tadayoshi, the Seki army led by Michitoshi, and reinforcements from the main division of Saitō Tatsuoki, destroy the Oda in an event known as the Battle of Kajita and Dōhora. The soldiers led by Nobunaga marched north, laying siege to Dōhora Castle defended by Nobuchika. Satō Tadayoshi and the Kajita forces, however, colluded with the Oda army. Upon learning of the betrayal, the Kishi skewered Tadayoshi’s daughter, Yaeryoku, who served as a hostage and exposed her on a cross on Mount Nagaomaru facing Kajita Castle. That night, a veteran of the Kajita army named Nishimura Jirōbei recovered Yaeryoku’s body under cover of darkness and buried her remains at the Ryūfuku Temple.
Reinforcements in the Seki army led by Nagai Michitoshi were blocked and repelled by the main division of the Oda army. Meanwhile, the reinforcements from Gifu Castle under Saitō Tatsuoki were a day late. As a result, Dōhora Castle was completely surrounded and a siege underway. During the battle for the castle, the Kishi family fought valorously, and, despite being outnumbered, imposed significant harm on the besieging forces before the family took their own lives within the castle. This is known as the Battle of Dōhora.
Nobuchika’s eldest son, Nobufusa, beheaded his son in front of Kanamori Nagachika who had been sent by the Oda as a messenger to demand surrender, but the nursing mother took the younger brother and escaped from the castle. She also took Nobuchika’s daughter and hid in a cave known as Ubagahora located to the east behind Dōhora in the Tochibora District of Kajita. Nobuchika’s younger brother, Nobusada, died along with Nobuchika in the Battle of Dōhora.
Although the Kishi family was decimated at Dōhora Castle, Kishi Nobukiyo (a son of Nobuchika) and Eihime (a daughter) survived. Kishi Shinemon (the son of Kishi Nobusada) later served Mori Yoshinari.
The reason given for changing his surname from Satō to Kishi is attributed to an incident occurring on 9/22 of Tenbun 16 (1547). As Nobuchika was departing from Gifu Castle to deploy for the Battle of Kanōguchi, a feather from a bird of prey fell from the sky and landed on the sleeve of his armor. When he picked it up to observe, he saw the character for “kishi” on the feather. Delighted at the discovery, he regarded it as a good omen from Marici, the Buddhist goddess of the heavens (believed to be one of the Twenty Celestials of Heaven in Taoism). He then decided to change his surname to Kishi. In the ensuing battle, he killed Oda Shinjūrō for which he received a written commendation from his lord, Saitō Dōsan.
Nobunaga indicated that he would pay a significant sum and have Nobuchika serve in an important role, but he never veered from his commitment to his lord deciding that his fate was with his lord.
At the Battle of Dōhora, Nobuchika engaged in eighteen clashes without yielding a step. Nobuchika’s wife also wielded a long sword, exhibiting valor reminiscent of Hangaku Gozen, a famous female warrior from the late Heian and early Kamakura periods.
While confronting their final moments, Nobuchika inquired with his wife the status of their son, Nobufusa, whereupon his wife said she understood that he had been defeated and killed in action. When Nobuchika began to cry, his wife attempted to console him, noting that it was commonplace for bushi to lose their lives on the battlefield. The couple then recited death poems and proceeded to end their lives by stabbing one another in a tragic finale.