Lifespan: 15xx to 16xx
Title: Mino-no-kami (informal)
Lord: Itō Yoshisuke → Shimazu clan → Itō Suketake
Father: Mera Shigeyasu
Siblings: Shigekata, Norishige
Mera Norishige served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. He was a retainer of the Hyūga-Itō clan. Norishige was the lord of Suki Castle in the Morokata District of Hyūga Province. In certain accounts, he is referred to as Shigenori. He had the common name of Yakurō.
The Mera were originally a gōzoku, or wealthy family, from Merayama in the Kuma District of Higo Province. Later, some of the family joined the Kikuchi clan, adopting the Kikuchi surname, while others moved to Suki and Shiiba in Hyūga, becoming retainers of the Hyūga-Itō clan. The Suki-Mera were of a line of families serving as the high priests of shrines responsible for driving away the revengeful ghosts of the Hyūga-Itō.
On 10/26 of Eiroku 9 (1566) (or, according to another theory, on 10/25 of Eiroku 10 (1567)), Shimazu Yoshihisa, Shimazu Yoshihiro, and Shimazu Toshihisa (three siblings who were sons of Shimazu Takahisa – the fifteenth head of the Shimazu clan) attacked Kobayashi Castle during its construction. Norishige and his older brother, Mera Shigekata, fought valiantly in defense of the castle. With the support of reinforcements from Suki Castle, the defenders killed many Shimazu soldiers. Yoshihiro incurred serious injuries and the Shimazu were forced to retreat. While the Mera retained control of the site, in the wake of the violent clash, only the inner citadel remained.
On 5/4 of Genki 3 (1572), Norishige’s brother, Shigekata, was killed in action while serving in the rear guard for the Itō forces at the Battle of Kizakibaru. As a result, Norishige inherited his former territory including Suki, Kobayashi, and Nokubi castles in addition to landholdings in the Kaeda township. He was also appointed the steward of Suki.
The Kaeda township was within the territory governed by Norishige’s lord, Itō Yoshisuke, but after it came under the control of Itō Sukemasu, Norishige began to harbor feelings of resentment toward Yoshisuke. Once Yoshisuke learned of Norishige’s dissatisfaction, he sent a monk from the Shinkō Temple as a messenger to summon Norishige, confirm his feelings, and seek a resolution, but, instead, Norishige cut-down the monk with a sword on the road.
On 8/23 of Tenshō 4 (1576), Takahara Castle governed by Nagakura Sukemasa fell to the Shimazu. The next day, Norishige betrayed the Itō in favor of the Shimazu on the condition that he receive recognition of his rights to his landholdings. As a result, Kobayashi and Suki castles came under the control of the Shimazu. The fall of Takahara Castle followed by the betrayal by Norishige triggered a temporary setback for the Itō family.
After Norishige aligned with the Shimazu, Miyahara Kagetane was appointed as the steward of Suki. Later, however, after Kagetane became the steward of Sashiki in Higo, then Norishige was appointed as the steward of Suki.
In 1587, after Itō Suketake (the third son of Yoshisuke) recovered his former territory including Obi Castle as an early modern period daimyō (meaning daimyō from the Azuchi-Momoyama to the end of the Edo period), Norishige fled the Shimazu family without permission, then appeared before Suketake to apologize for his transgressions and offer to commit seppuku, but his crimes were forgiven and, once again, he became a retainer of the Itō clan. In the era of Itō Sukenori, the second lord of the Hyūga-Obi domain during the early Edo period, Norishige was appointed as the steward of Kiyotake, but died of illness soon thereafter.
Norishige’s eldest son and heir, Mera Kannosuke, honored Norishige’s last will and, upon the death of Sukenori, martyred himself. His grave is at the Itō family mausoleum, a designated cultural asset in Kusuhara in the city of Hyūga of Miyazaki Prefecture.