Masuda Motonaga

益田元祥

Masuda Clan

Masuda Motonaga

Aki Province

Lifespan:  Eiroku 1 (1558) to 9/22 of Kanei 17 (1640)

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Assistant Captain of Outer Palace Guards of the Right Division, Chief Diplomat, Senior Fifth Rank (posthumous)

Clan:  Masuda

Bakufu:  Edo

Lord:  Mōri Motonari → Mōri Terumoto → Mōri Hidenari

Father:  Masuda Fujikane

Mother:  Daughter of Ishizu Tsuneyori

Siblings:  Motonaga, sister (wife of Shinji Masayoshi)

Wife:  [Formal] Daughter of Kikkawa Motoharu

Children:  Hirokane, Kageyoshi, Iezumi, Nariyuki, Narikage

Masuda Motonaga served as a bushō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  He was the twentieth head of the Masuda clan – kokujin, or provincial landowners, and lord of Nanao Castle in Iwami Province.  Motonaga served as a senior retainer of the Mōri clan.  Motonaga served in a majority of the primary battles waged by the Mōri clan.  In addition to his military contributions, Motonaga was also known for his administrative capabilities. 

Service to the Mōri clan

In 1558, Motonaga was born as the son of Masuda Fujikane after Fujikane had joined the Mōri clan.  He had the childhood name of Jirō and common name of Matabei.  In 1568, Motonaga attended his coming-of-age ceremony while Mōri Motonari served in a ceremonial role to place an eboshi, or black-lacquered headgear, on Motonaga. 

In 1578, at the Siege of Kōzuki Castle, Motonaga participated along with Kikkawa Motoharu and Kikkawa Motonaga (father and son).  In 1580, he attacked Nanjō Mototsugu, the lord of Ueshi Castle in Hōki Province, to subdue a rebellion, and was awarded the landholdings.  In 1582, at the Siege of Bitchū-Takamatsu Castle, Motonaga served along with Motoharu and, that same year, his father transferred the headship of the Masuda clan to him.

After his lord, Mōri Terumoto, submitted to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Motonaga followed the Mōri clan in battles to unify the country under the Toyotomi.  In 1585, Motonaga participated in the Invasion of Shikoku, fighting valiantly in an assault against Takao Castle in Iyo Province.  In 1586, Motonaga joined in the Conquest of Kyūshū and made contributions in attacks on Urutsu Castle in Buzen Province.  In 1596, he was conferred the Toyotomi surname.  In 1590, at the Conquest of Odawara, Motonaga led the Mōri navy and, together with Mizawa Tametora, Kumagai Motonao, and Yoshimi Hiroyori, he toppled Shimoda Castle in Izu Province.  During the Bunroku Campaign, Motonaga followed Kikkawa Hiroie on deployment and demonstrated his military abilities by repelling an attack by forces from the Ming dynasty at the Battle of Byeokjegwan.  For the Keichō Campaign, he crossed to the Korean Peninsula and, together with Kikkawa Hiroie, repelled the enemy forces at the Siege of Ulsan Castle.  During this time, Mōri Terumoto granted to Motonaga’s wife a fief of 370 koku in the Mino District and 50 koku in Nagayasu in the Naka District of Iwami Province.

Transfer to Nagato Province

After the demise of Hideyoshi in the eighth month of 1598, Motonaga, along with Kikkawa Hiroie, Kumagai Motonao, and Shinji Mototsugu, aimed to approach Tokugawa Ieyasu who was anticipated to become the next supreme leader.  However, in 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Mōri Terumoto allied with the Western Army, and Motonaga served Hiroie, joining a contingent of 30,000 soldiers led by Mōri Hidemoto and Chōsokabe Morichika to lay siege to Ise-Anotsu Castle.  The castle was defended by Tomita Nobutaka along with reinforcements led by Wakebe Mitsuyoshi totaling 1,300 soldiers.  During the battle, a majority of the structures on the castle grounds burned down and, owing to the imbalance in numbers, the defenders were compelled to vacate the site after mediation by a priest named Mokujiki Ōgo.

After the defeat of the Western Army at the main Battle of Sekigahara, Terumoto’s territory was reduced to Suō and Nagato provinces while the territory of the Masuda clan in Iwami was seized.  Nevertheless, Tokugawa Ieyasu valued Motonaga’s administrative capabilities, so, via Ōkubo Nagayasu, Motonaga received an offer to recognition of his landholdings in exchange for serving in an important role as a retainer of the Tokugawa.  Motonaga, however, refused and instead moved his residence to Susa in the Abu District of Nagato to acquire new landholdings.  He was in charge of protecting the gateway from Iwami to the north and, together with Fukubara Hirotoshi, administered the affairs of the Chōshū domain.

In 1601, Fukushima Masanori arrived as the lord of the former territories of the Mōri clan in Bingo and Aki provinces, whereupon he demanded compensation for the rice taxes collected by the Mōri clan in the prior year.  Motonaga collaborated with Fukubara Hirotoshi to resolve the situation and settled the demand by 1602.  In 1604, Motonaga led the construction of Hagi Castle, and, in 1605, was chosen for the construction of Edo Castle by the Edo bakufu.  During the construction of Hagi Castle, Motonaga quarreled with Kumagai Motonao and Amano Motonobu, escalating into a disturbance that resulted in the execution of Motonao in an event known as the Gorōta Ishi Incident.  Meanwhile, territory that was the subject of a dispute with the Yoshimi clan from the era of Motonaga’s father was granted to Terumoto, after which, in 1604, an indignant Yoshimi Hironaga absconded.

In 1620, he transferred the headship of the clan to his grandson, Masuda Mototaka and retired, but, in 1623, Terumoto entrusted Motonaga with handling the affairs of the domain and, together with Mōri Hidemoto and Shimizu Kageharu, endeavored to rebuild the finances of the domain.

Reformation of the domain

After the war, the territory of the Mōri clan was reduced to Suō and Nagato provinces.  The financial circumstances of the Chōshū domain were extremely dire.  A land survey was conducted in 1607, but this resulted in the levying of taxes at a rate of 73% of income, triggering, in 1608, the Yamashiro-Keichō Uprising.  The hardship imposed by these levies caused some peasants to flee, abandoning their fields.  In 1625, Motonaga and Hidemoto conducted another land survey and, in an effort to lessen the burden on the peasants, reduced the tax rate to 50%.  Revenues decreased from around 1607, but the valuations determined from this survey became the foundation for the Chōshū domain.  In parallel, the landholdings of retainers were subject to a major reorganization.  This led to an increase in primarily income-producing lands under the direct jurisdiction of the Chōshū domain, contributing to an expansion of their authority.

In 1628, Motonaga conducted a survey of the Yamashiro region where an uprising occurred.  He had the locals cultivate hybrid mulberry trees used to make Japanese paper and, in 1631, changed the annual tribute from rice to paper, implementing a system for the collection of paper.  This was then sold in Ōsaka to generate large profits for the Chōshū domain.  Motonaga further implemented policies aimed to protect local peasants and to restore the productivity of their lands.  He reduced the interest on loans and called upon peasants who had earlier fled to return to their fields.  Motonaga endeavored to develop newly arable lands and rebuild the finances of the Chōshū domain.  Owing to these efforts, in 1632, the Chōshū domain settled their debts and was able to achieve a financial surplus along with stockpiles of rice.  In the manner, Motonaga was successful in shoring-up the financial standing of the domain.  That same year, he resigned from administrative affairs and, on 9/22 of Kanei 17 (1640), died at the age of eighty-three.

Beginning from the contributions of Motonaga, his descendants served as chief retainers of the Mōri clan for generations throughout the Edo period.  Masuda Chikanobu, the thirty-third head of the Masuda clan, achieved notoriety for committing seppuku to take responsibility for an armed clash in 1864 in Kyōto between members of the Chōshū domain and the Edo bakufu known as the Kinmon Incident.

In 1916, Motonaga received a posthumous title of Senior Fifth Rank.