Lifespan: 15xx to 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582)
Title: Junior Sixth Rank (Lower), Assistant Vice Minister of Popular Affairs, Secretary of the Bureau of Popular Affairs, Govenor of Nagato
Lord: Oda Nobunaga
Siblings: Sadakatsu, Munenobu
Children: Sadanari, Seiji, Jikōin (wife of Sassa Narimasa), daughter (wife of Maeda Gen’i), daughter (wife of Fukushima Takaharu)
Adoptive Children: Murai Shigekatsu
Murai Sadakatsu served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. He was a retainer of the Oda clan, serving as the Kyōto shoshidai. His common name was Kichibei. Upon entering the priesthood, he adopted the monk’s name of Shunchōken drawn from the name of a temple constructed by Sadakatsu on the grounds of the residence of Sanjō Kyōgoku in Kyōto in 1574.
Sadakatsu originated from Ōmi Province. The year of his birth is uncertain but believed to be around 1520. Sadakatsu excelled in governance, earning the deep trust of Oda Nobunaga who relied heavily upon Sadakatsu from early on.
In 1556, when Nobunaga’s younger brother, Oda Nobukatsu, rebelled against Nobunaga in a bid for control of the clan, Sadakatsu was already serving Nobunaga. Upon request of Nobunaga’s mother, Dota Gozen, Sadakatsu joined Shimada Hidemitsu to lead settlement negotiations between Nobukatsu and Shibata Katsuie. In 1568, when Nobunaga marched upon the capital to install Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, Sadakatsu accompanied him. Along with other bushō including Myōin Ryōsei, Sakuma Nobumori, Kinoshita Hideyoshi, and Niwa Nagahide, Sadakatsu remained in Kyōto to manage political affairs for the Oda administration. During the surrender of the Western Mino Group of Three, Sadakatsu took custody of hostages, he provided protection for Ashikaga Yoshiaki, managed construction of the Nijō Castle, and handled mediation with the shrines and temples in and around Kyōto. Together with Asayama Nichijō, he led the renovation of the Kyōto palace.
Service as the Kyōto shoshidai
After Nobunaga ousted Ashikaga Yoshiaki from his position as the shōgun and seized control of the capital, in the seventh month of 1573, Sadakatsu was appointed by Nobunaga to serve as the Kyōto shoshidai, or official in charge of the Board of Retainers, an office in the Muromachi bakufu to guard the shōgun and give judgment on criminals in Kyōto. Together with other key members of the Oda administration including Matsui Yūkan, Takei Sekian, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Ban Naomasa, Sadakatsu managed a broad range of responsibilities in the capital including public security, negotiations with the Imperial Court and nobles, relations with the shrines and temples, palace restoration, the hosting of messengers, and event planning including for the Kyōto Mounted Horse Parade.
In the fourth month of 1575, to assist nobles who were facing dire circumstances, Nobunaga issued the tokuseirei, an order to eliminate debts owed to money brokers and lenders and the return of former territories to the nobles. Together with Niwa Nagahide, Sadakatsu was responsible for the survey of lands, examination of documents, and settlement of disputes. In the seventh month, an Imperial decree was issued to promote Nobunaga. Nobunaga, however, declined and, instead, requested a decree for the conferral of official titles upon members of his band of retainers. On 7/23 of Tenshō 3 (1575), owing to his connections to the Imperial Court, Sadakatsu was invested with the titles of Senior Sixth Rank (Lower) and Governor of Nagato. On 10/19, Sadakatsu hosted a messenger from Date Terumune.
In the fourth month of 1576, Nobunaga decided to build a new Nijō Castle separate from the one used by the ousted shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki. Sadakatsu was ordered to oversee the construction.
In the beginning of the third month of 1578, renovation of the palace had been completed so Sadakatsu ordered residents of the capital to assist in restoring the earthen walls with roofs surrounding the palace, dividing the laborers into groups to compete against one another for completion of the work. Events with singing and dancing by local residents were conducted on top of the walls, drawing a large number of onlookers and bringing life to the surroundings. The activity drew the attendance of Emperor Ōgimachi and members of the Imperial family. In the midst of these festivities, the laborers competing against one another quickly completed the restoration work.
On 2/26 of Tenshō 8 (1580), after Nobunaga decided to move his residence to the Honnō Temple in Kyōto, he ordered Sadakatsu to manage the construction.
In 1581, Sadakatsu entered the priesthood and adopted the monk’s name of Murai Shunchōken, whereupon he transferred headship of the clan to his son, Murai Sadanari.
In the fifth month of 1582, Sadakatsu was informed by the Imperial Court of an intention to appoint Nobunaga as either the Grand Minister (daijō-daijin), the Chief Advisor to the Emperor (kanpaku), or Supreme Shōgun (seiitai-shōgun). There is also a theory that this was communicated by Sadakatsu.
On 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), during the coup d’état against Oda Nobunaga known as the Honnō Temple Incident, Sadkatsu was located in his residence across from the Honnō Temple, but rushed to Myōkoku Temple where Nobunaga’s eldest son and designated heir, Oda Nobutada, was lodging. Sadakatsu advised Nobutada to move to the newly constructed Nijō palace and, together with other retainers of the Oda who rushed to join, holed-up in the Nijō palace to resist the Akechi forces. Sadakatsu, along with Nobutada, died in the battle. Sadakatsu’s sons, Murai Sadanari and Murai Seiji, were also killed in action.
At the Daiun Temple in Kyōto, there is a portrait of Sadakatsu as an elder with a rounded head. His daughters wed Sassa Narimasa, Maeda Gen’i, and Fukushima Takaharu.
Luís Fróis a Jesuit missionary from Portugal residing in Japan during this period, called Sadakatsu the Governor-General of the Capital and a respected elder of a different religion wielding extraordinary authority.