Lifespan: Genki 2 (1571) to 11/13 of Meireki 2 (1656)
Other Names: Katō Hōmatsumaru → Kuroda Hōmatsumaru→ Kazushige → Suiō; [Common] Seibei, Sansaemon
Title: Governor of Mimasaka
Clan: Kuroda (originally from the Katō)
Domain: Fukuoka – retainer
Lord: Kuroda Yoshitaka → Kuroda Nagamasa → Kuroda Tadayuki
Father: Katō Shigenori
Adoptive Father: Kuroda Yoshitaka
Mother: Daughter of Itami Chikayasu
Siblings: Yoshishige, Kazushige, Yoshimatsu, sister (wife of Kuroda Kurōdo), sister (wife of Yabu Tadatsuna)
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Kuriyama Toshiyasu
Children: Daughter (wife of Kuno Shigetoki)
Adopted Children: Kuroda Kazutō (grandchild from his daughter married to Kuno Shigetoki)
Kuroda Kazushige served as a bushō during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods. As a retainer of the Kuroda clan, he was included among a group of retainers called the Twenty-Four Elite of the Kuroda and, within this group, the Eight Tigers of the Kuroda. Kazushige was the first head of the Minagi-Kuroda family.
In 1571, Kazushige was born as the second son of Katō Shigenori, a retainer of Araki Murashige, in Itami in Settsu Province.
During the Ishiyama War, Kodera Yoshitaka (later known as Kuroda Yoshitaka) headed toward Arioka Castle to meet with Murashige in a bid to persuade him not to oppose Nobunaga but was apprehended and incarcerated. At this time, Shigenori provided various assistance to Yoshitaka so, to return the favor, after Murashige was defeated at the Siege of Arioka Castle, Yoshitaka adopted Kazushige. Thereafter, Kazushige was raised like the younger brother of Yoshitaka’s son, Kuroda Nagamasa.
Kazushige had his first experience in battle in 1584 during the Battle of Kishiwada to quell an uprising by the Negoro Group and the Saika Group in Izumi Province. Later, he deployed for the Conquest of Shikoku in 1585 and the Pacification of Kyūshū in 1586 to 1587. At the Battle of Nejirozaka, he captured two enemy heads. After a transfer to Buzen Province, he received a stipend of 80 koku, but in 1590, this was increased to 2,488 koku. An award of an additional 2,000 koku brought his total income to 4,488 koku. While fleeing in defeat after an attack by the Kii clan, Kazushige aspired to serve as a body double for Kuroda Nagamasa to enable his escape.
During the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign on the Korean Peninsula, Kazushige served in the vanguard division of Nagamasa. Kazushige served in the first line at Gimhae, and also participated in the Siege of Jinju, in battles at Seosaengpo and Paechon, as well as the Battle of Jiksan.
In 1600, Kazushige served meritoriously at the Battle of Sekigahara. During the Battle of Kisogawa-Gōtogawa in the weeks preceding the main battle, Kazushige captured enemy heads and, at the main Battle of Sekigahara, took the head of Gamō Shōgen (Andō Naoshige), a senior retainer of Ishida Mitsunari. Owing to the achievements of the Kuroda division, Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded Nagamasa 523,000 koku in Chikuzen Province (the Fukuoka domain) as a top contributor.
After entering Chikuzen, Kazushige was granted 12,000 koku in the Geza District. He kept a residence in the village of Minagi and, later, had landholdings of 16,205 koku. Thereafter, Kazushige’s lineage was called the Minagi-Kuroda family. For a battle standard, he used a wooden wand for Shintō rituals with white streamers.
In 1614, during the Winter Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, Kazushige followed Kuroda Tadayuki on deployment. He assisted in filling in the outer moat of Ōsaka Castle and returned to Chikuzen. In 1637, at the Shimabara Rebellion, Kazushige participated in a war council with Matsudaira Nobutsuna, the commander-in-chief of the Edo bakufu army. The retainers ignored the instructions of Kuroda Tadayuki and obeyed Kazushige instead. In 1643, he retired at the age of seventy-three and adopted the monk’s name of Suiō.
On 11/3 of Meireki 2 (1656), Kazushige died at the age of eighty-six. His graves are at the Shōden hermitage at the Sōfuku Temple in the Hakata ward of the city of Fukuoka and Seigan Temple in Minagi in the city of Asakura. Kazushige’s descendants were accorded a special status, inheriting roles as high-ranking officials of the Fukuoka domain and serving as the leaders of senior retainers of the Kuroda family until the Meiji period. In the Meiji period, Kuroda Kazuyoshi became a baron among the hereditary peerage of the Empire of Japan.
Character and Anecdotes
Kazushige was a big, portly man over 180 centimeters tall and of superior strength. He is described as having a magnanimous and mild-mannered nature.
He shot a straw post for training sword strikes wielding a heavy-draw-weight bow from the powerful Kii Shigefusa that could cleave the antlers on a deer.
Kazushige wore a helmet larger than Nagamasa’s to match his size that was adorned with horns from a water buffalo. At the Battle of Sekigahara, the conspicuous helmet made him a target of snipers.
There are accounts of heads taken in battle by Kazushige, but he always stood behind his lord, Nagamasa, and did not express pride in his achievements.
During the Shimabara Rebellion, Kazushige was invited to a war council by Matsudaira Nobutsuna, the commander-in-chief, and requested his opinion. He proposed a strategy to sever their supply lines.
He composed poems, painted pictures, and authored an account of Kuroda Nagamasa.
Kazushige made efforts for the construction and rebuilding of shrines and temples in his territory including the Kasuga Shrine and the Minagi Shrine which had been damaged as a result of battles between the Shimazu clan and the Toyotomi army during the Pacification of Kyūshū.
In the Seigan Temple built in Minagi, there is a portrait of a priest named Yokodake Kōun.
Kazushige invited as a guest commander Shinmen Munetsura (Iga-no-kami) who had many disciples and under whom Shinmen Muni, the father of Miyamoto Musashi, formerly served.
In 1597, Kazushige’s younger brother, Kuroda Yoshimatsu, accompanied Kuroda Kumanosuke (the second son of Yoshitaka) who was attempting to sail to the Korean Peninsula to visit his father and his older brother, Nagamasa, who had deployed for the Keichō Campaign. During the voyage, the ship encountered a storm and sank. Yoshimatsu, along with Kumanosuke, Mori Kichidayū (the lineal heir of Mori Tomonobu), and Kiyama Jōtaku, all died. Yoshimatsu was sixteen years old.
After the fall of Araki Murashige, his father, Shigenori, and older brother, Yoshishige, served in the divisions of Ukita Hideie and Konishi Yukinaga. The defeat of the Western Army at the Battle of Sekigahara resulted in the execution, among others, of Yukinaga, while Shigenori and Yoshishige became rōnin, or wandering samurai. Kazushige was then permitted by Nagamasa to bring his father and brother to the Kuroda family. This showed recognition for the assistance given by Shigenori to enable Nagamasa’s father to escape incarceration at Arioka Castle. After joining the Kuroda, Yoshishige’s lineage served for generations as chūrō, or deputy chief retainers in the domain.
His lord, Kuroda Nagamasa, requested the creation of a folding screen picture of the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, commonly referred to as the Kuroda folding screen. This work is presently kept in the donjon of Ōsaka Castle and designated as an important cultural asset of Japan.
Kazushige granted his original surname of Katō to important retainers from the pedigree of yoriki, or security officers, allocated by Kuroda Nagamasa.
After retiring, Kazushige recruited Tsuchiya Sōshun from the Kurume domain of Chikugo Province, a master swordsman trained in the Toda school of sword-fighting as well as a tea expert knowledgeable of the Oribe school of tea ceremony founded by Furuta Oribe (Shigenari).