Kita Nobuchika


Kita Clan

Mutsu Province

Kita Nobuchika

Lifespan:  Daiei 3 (1523) to 8/17 of Keichō 18 (1613)

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Lieutenant of Outer Palace Guards of the Left Division, Governor of Owari

Clan:  Kita

Bakufu: Edo

Lord:  Nanbu Harumasa → Nanbu Harutsugu → Nanbu Nobunao → Nanbu Toshinao

Domain:  Mutsu-Morioka – chief retainer

Father:  Kita Munechika

Siblings:  Nobuchika, sister (wife of Sakuraba Mitsuyasu)

Wife:  Daughter of the Minami clan

Children:  Chikakazu, Hidechika, Naotsugu, Chikatomo, Taneichi Chikahisa, Nobukage

Kita Nobuchika served as a bushō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  He was a retainer of the Nanbu clan.  He had the common name of Kenyoshi-Hikotarō.

In 1523, Nobuchika was born as the eldest son and designated heir of Kita Munechika, a bushi from the Kita clan who were members of the Nanbu family residing in Mutsu Province.

Around 1540, Nobuchika’s father, Munechika, transferred the headship of the clan to him.  In 1541, after Nanbu Harumasa inherited the Nanbu family, Nobuchika continued serving him.

In 1570, a succession struggle in the Nanbu clan broke-out.  This is known as the Yaura Incident in which Harumasa was challenged by his adopted heir, Takko Nobunao (later known as Nanbu Nobunao). Nobuchika protected Nobunao and opposed Nanbu Harumasa.  In 1571, Nobuchika was attacked at Kenyoshi Castle by Harumasa, but a settlement was reach through the offices of Hachinohe Masayoshi.

After the retirement of Harumasa, Nobuchika supported his son and designated heir, Nanbu Harutsugu.  At the time of Harutsugu’s coming-of-age ceremony, Nobuchika served in an honorary role to place the black-lacquered headgear known as an eboshi upon Harutsugu.

Early in 1582, Harumasa died of illness.  Less than three weeks later, Harutsugu died of smallpox at the age of thirteen.  Under another theory, Haratsugu was assassinated while returning at night to Sannohe Castle after the funeral for his father.  In this case, the killing may have been directed by either Nanbu Nobunao or Kunohe Masazane.  In any event, this triggered a succession struggle in the clan in which Nobuchika backed Nobunao.  Thereafter, Nobuchika became a close associate of Nobunao, managing internal affairs as well as external diplomacy for the Nanbu clan. 

In 1587, Nobuchika visited Maeda Toshiie, the lord of Kanazawa Castle in Kaga Province, presented him with a falcon, and expressed his desire to serve under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1590, his lord, Nanbu Nobunao, served in the Conquest of Odawara for Hideyoshi.  As a result, during the Oushū Retribution, the Nanbu clan received recognition of the rights to their territories.

In 1591, during the Revolt of Kunohe Masazane, Nobuchika traveled to Kyōto to seek reinforcements from Hideyoshi.   The rebellion was subdued by forces under Toyotomi Hidetsugu.

In 1598, following the death of his second son, Kita Hidechika, who was serving as the chamberlain of Hanamaki Castle, Nobuchika succeeded him in this role with a fief of 8,000 koku.  There are theories, however, that question whether he in fact assumed this role as the chamberlain of Hanamaki Castle.

In 1599, in the wake of the death of Nanbu Nobunao, Nobuchika intended to retire, but Nobunao’s successor, Nanbu Toshinao, did not permit him so he continued to carry important duties as a close associate of Toshinao.  In the background, it is surmised that there was no one to oppose the Hachinohe clan but this reason is uncertain.  That same year, Nobuchika underwent the rites of tonsure and adopted the monk’s name of Shōsai.

In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Shōsai served for the Eastern Army, defending Hanamaki Castle.  Later that year witnessed the Iwasaki Uprising instigated by Date Masamune who aimed to covertly expand his territory.  Waga Tadachika led his forces in an assault against Hanamaki Castle in an event known as the Nighttime Attack on Hanamaki Castle.

At the time, the main contingent of the Nanbu army was deployed for the Battle of Keichō Dewa.  As a member of the Eastern Army, Masamune was an ally so only a small number of troops were positioned at Hanamaki Castle on the border of the Date territory.  Shōsai relied upon his resourcefulness to disrupt the Waga forces and successfully defend in the castle.  In 1613, he died at the age of ninety-one.  He did not wish for his family name to be inherited so Hanamaki Castle was requisitioned by the domain.  After his demise, the Kita clan split between the family of his eldest son, Kita Chikakazu (Sadakazu), who inherited the estate and the fifth son of a cadet family, Naotsugu (Chikatsugu), and continued until the end of the Edo period, but the family of Naotsugu carried on the religious worship for Shōsai and Hidechika.

Character and Anecdotes

An author of a military chronicle of the Ouu region extolled him as a great commander by saying that the military prowess of Kita Nyūdō Shōsai, the lord of Toyagasaki Castle, was known throughout Ouu and beyond words can describe.

Nobuchika was an ardent believer and, on the occasion of battles, drew-up his hair in a top-knot reminiscent of Kannon (Bodhisattva) and then headed-out to battle.

The present-day Hanamaki Festival is said to have its roots in the Kannon celebrations held by Nobuchika to mark his deployments.

In the year preceding his death, Shōsai wrote memoirs detailing his career and achievements known as the Notes of Kita Shōsai.