Mori Yoshinari


Mori Clan

Mino Province

Mori Yoshinari

Lifespan:  Daiei 3 (1523) to 9/19 of Genki 1 (1570)

Rank:  bushō

Clan:  Mori (from the lineage of Minamoto no Yoshitaka of the Seiwa-Genji)

Lord:  Toki clan → Oda Nobunaga

Father:  Mori Yoshiyuki

Mother:  Daughter of Aoki Hidemitsu (or the daughter of Ōhashi Shigetoshi)

Siblings:  Yoshinari, Yoshimasa

Wife:  Myōkōni (known as Ei, daughter of Hayashi Michiyasu)

Children:  Yoshitaka, Nagayoshi, Naritoshi (Ranmaru), Nagataka, Nagauji, Tadamasa, Hekishōin (wife of Seki Narimasa), daughter (wife of Mashita Nagamori), daughter (wife of Aoki Hideshige), Ume (wife of Kinoshita Katsutoshi)

Mori Yoshinari served as a bushō during the Sengoku period.  He was a retainer of the Toki clan and, later, the Oda clan.  Yoshinari served as the lord of Kaneyama Castle in Mino Province.  He had the common name of Sanzaemon-no-jō.

Originating from the Minamoto clan, the Mori descended from Minamoto no Yoshitaka (also known as Mutsu-Shichirō) of the Seiwa-Genji who was the seventh son of Minamoto no Yoshiie, the shōgun of the Chinju military administration and head of the Kawachi-Genji in the late Heian period.  The Mori clan was founded by Mori Yorisada, the second son of Minamoto no Yoritaka (also known as Wakatsuki Yoritaka – the third son of Yoshitaka).  Another family member named Mōri Hiromori was also associated with the Oda family.  Yoshinari’s lineage was from Mori Sadauji, the second son of Yorisada, who served the Toki clan in Mino for generations.

In 1523, Yoshinari was born as the son of Mori Yoshiyuki in Rendai in the Haguri District of Owari Province.  He served the Toki clan, the shugo daimyō of Mino Province.  In 1554, after the Toki clan was eliminated by Saitō Dōsan, Yoshinari served Oda Nobunaga in Owari.  According to one theory, he served Nobunaga after first serving Nagai Michitoshi, a retainer of the Saitō clan.

Yoshinari supported Nobunaga’s succession as the head of the Oda clan and the unification of Owari.  In 1555, Yoshinari contributed in an attack by Nobunaga on Kiyosu Castle by killing Oda Nobutomo (also known as Hironobu).  In 1156, after a political change in Mino, Yoshinari assisted Saitō Dōsan who was Nobunaga’s father-in-law.  Yoshinari participated in the Battle of Inō which occurred during the succession struggle between Nobunaga and his younger brother, Oda Nobuyuki.  Yoshinari also joined, in 1558, the Battle of Ukino, and, in 1560, the Battle of Okehazama that led to the death of Imagawa Yoshimoto, the sengoku daimyō of neighboring Suruga Province.

Yoshinari further contributed during the invasion of Mino, fighting against Saitō forces as well as against Takeda forces who invaded eastern Mino from Shinano Province.  In 1565, he was awarded Kaneyama Castle.  In 1568, when Nobunaga marched upon the capital of Kyōto, Yoshinari served, along with Shibata Katsuie, in the vanguard including at the Siege of Shōryūji Castle.  After Nobunaga took over Kyōto, Yoshinari was granted Ōmi-Usayama Castle.  In the sixth month of 1570, Yoshinari served in the Battle of Anegawa won by the allied forces of the Oda and Tokugawa over the allied forces of the Azai and Asakura.  During this battle, Yoshinari helped thwart an offensive by a division led by Isono Kazumasa who cut their way close to the main base of Nobunaga.

In the ninth month of the same year, while at Usayama Castle, Yoshinari received news of an offensive by allied forces under Azai Nagamasa and Asakura Yoshikage.  To intercept them, Yoshinari departed Usayama and established an encampment at Sakamoto to block the road of the approaching forces.  On 9/16, upon the outbreak of hostilities, Yoshinari, with a battalion of 1,000 soldiers, repelled 30,000 Azai and Asakura forces.  Upon request of Kennyo, the high priest of the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple, monk warriors from the Enryaku Temple joined the allied army.  On 9/20, during an assault by the swelling forces of the allied army, Yoshinari fought strenuously, pushing back Asakura Kageakira in the vanguard.  Yoshinari was then attacked on the flanks by Azai forces bolstered by Asakura battalions and the main division of Azai Nagamasa, resulting in his death in battle along with other commanders including Oda Nobuharu and Aochi Shigetsuna (a kokujin from Ōmi) in an event known as the Siege of Usayama Castle.

Yoshinari’s demise is noted in one account as follows: Impetuous fighting by large armies led by Azai Nagamasa and Asakura Yoshikage triggered fierce combat against Mori Yoshinari and Oda Kurō, becoming their final battle under heaven and earth.  As the Azai and Asakura replenished their line with fresh troops, Oda Kurō and Mori Yoshinari were killed in Shimo-sakamoto by Seto Ariie.

Although Yoshinari was killed in action, for a period of several days, he impeded the advance of the allied forces of the Azai and Asakura in Sakamoto, pinning them down in Ōmi.  This prevented the enemy forces from attacking Nobunaga from behind.  Meanwhile, at Usayama Castle, retainers such as Kagami Motomasa and Hida Tadamasa fought valiantly, preventing its fall.  Later, Motomasa and Tadamasa were commended by Nobunaga.  Yoshinari was forty-eight years old.


An expert at the spear, Yoshinari was a master of the jūmonji spear made by Izumi-no-kami Kanesada in Seki in Mino Province, known as the father of Ōmandokoro, the mother of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  Yoshinari was praised for his military prowess.

In the Oda family, Yoshinari served Nobunaga for many years from a time preceding Shibata Katsuie.  Along with Sakai Masahisa and Hachiya Yoritaka, he participated as a member of the Mino group.  Nobunaga was deeply saddened by the death of Yoshinari.  Yoshinari’s demise was one of the factors by which Nobunaga launched an attack against the Enryaku Temple on Mount Hiei, burning down their facilities as retribution for their cooperation with the Azai and Asakura forces.  During this attack, few of the surviving children of the Mori family participated, but Minamoto no Yoshitaka, an ancestor of the Mori family, had been felled by an arrow shot by warrior monks from this temple.  While the temple was not primarily responsible for Yoshinari’s death, it was connected to factors accumulating over the years.

Owing to the loss of a finger in battle, Yoshinari was also mockingly called jūkyū, or nineteen, in reference to his remaining digits.

During the attack against the Enryaku Temple on Mount Hiei, the temple facilities and town of Sakamoto burned down, while monks were massacred, but the grave of Yoshinari at the Shōju-Raikō Temple was not disturbed.

Yoshinari is portrayed as a courageous warrior in many heroic sagas, but, after Nobunaga took control of the capital, he issued many directives to shrines and temples in Kyōto and its environs, the administrative body of Sakai known as the egōshū, among others.  As a senior retainer of the Oda family, he is surmised to have performed an important role in affairs of governance.

Yoshinari was blessed with many children with his beloved formal wife, Myōkōni (known as Ei), including six boys and three girls.  Three of his sons, Mori Naritoshi, Mori Nagataka, and Mori Nagauji, died in the coup d’état against Oda Nobunaga known as the Honnō Temple Incident on 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582).


In the fifth month of 1555, Oda Nobutomo, the deputy military governor of the four lower districts of Owari and mainstay of Oda Nobunaga murdered Shiba Yoshimune, the military governor of Owari, so Nobutomo was attacked as a traitor at Kiyosu Castle.  During this battle, Yoshinari killed Nobutomo and captured his head.

In the fourth month of 1556, during an internal conflict between Saitō Dōsan and his son, Saitō Yoshitatsu giving rise to the Battle of Nagaragawa, Yoshinari participated on behalf of Dōsan but Dōsan was defeated and killed.  During the retreat, he fought ferociously against Sengoku Mataichi of the Saitō, incurring an injury to his elbow but led the Oda forces on a safe withdrawal.  In the eighth month, chief retainers of the Oda family including Hayashi Hidesada and Shibata Katsuie obeyed Oda Nobuyuki and rebelled against Nobunaga.  At the Battle of Inō, Yoshinari fought vigorously, cutting his way into the battalion led by Hidesada.

In the seventh month of 1558, Yoshinari confronted Oda Nobuyasu, the lord of Iwakura Castle and deputy military governor of the four upper districts of Owari.  At the Battle of Ukino, he served in the vanguard.  Despite being outnumbered, after a fight to the death, Yoshinari led the Oda forces to victory.

In the fifth month of 1560, at the Battle of Okehazama, Yoshinari killed Shinomiya Sakon of the Imagawa forces.  During this conflict, after Yamaguchi Noritsugu and Tobe Masanao betrayed the Oda in favor of the Imagawa.  Yoshinari struck back by circulating a rumor that the two were colluding with the Oda, whereupon both were killed by Imagawa Yoshimoto.  In the eighth month, after the Oda army invaded western Mino, Yoshinari fought against a battalion of 1,000 soldiers including Nagai Moriyasu, Maruo Hyōgo.  Yoshinari and Shibata Katsuie attacked from the side with spears, collapsing the Nagai battalion.

In the fifth month of 1561, the Oda army invaded western Mino again.  The Oda totaling 1,500 soldiers set-up a formation in Moribe in opposition to 6,000 soldiers including Nagai Moriyasu and Hibino Kagenao.  Despite inferior numbers, the Oda forces launched an all-out assault against the Nagai army who were on swamp ground that made for poor footing.  In the ensuing battle, Moriyasu and Kagenao were killed in an event known as the Battle of Moribe.  Yoshinari joined Shibata Katsuie to fight on the front lines.

In the summer of 1564, the Oda army invaded Mino, toppling the base of Kishi Nobuchika at Dōhora Castle.  He defeated an attack in pursuit by Saitō Tatsuoki and Nagai Michitoshi.  Yoshinari was recognized for his contributions with an appointment as the lord of Uhō Castle in Mino (renamed Kaneyama Castle after its renovation).

In 1567, Yoshinari facilitated an action by the Western Mino Group of Three (Andō Morinari, Inaba Yoshimichi, and Ujiie Naomoto) to abandon the Saitō in favor of the Oda.

On 5/19 of Eiroku 8 (1565), Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu was assassinated in a rebellion led by the Miyoshi Group of Three who supported Ashikaga Yoshihide, the fourteenth shōgun.  This event is known as the Eiroku Incident.  After this incident, Yoshiteru’s younger brother, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, came to Mino through the assistance of Nobunaga whereupon the Oda family pledged support for Yoshiaki.  In 1568, Yoshinari joined the march to the capital to install Yoshiaki as the fifteenth and final shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.

On 9/11 of Eiroku 11 (1568), the Oda army attacked Mitsukuri Castle in Ōmi, the base of Rokkaku Yoshikata who refused to cooperate with the supporters of Yoshiaki.  This is known as the Siege of Kannonji Castle.  Yoshinari, together with Takebe Genpachi and others served in the vanguard, subduing the Rokkaku clan and, on 9/26, arriving in the capital.  Soon thereafter, Yoshinari joined an assault against Shōryūji Castle in Yamashiro Province held by the Miyoshi Group of Three aligned with Ashikaga Yoshihide.  The besieging army forced the surrender of Iwanari Tomomichi, the lord of the castle.  The Oda forces then proceeded to topple Akutagawa, Koshimizu, and Ikeda castles in Settsu Province.

On 4/25 of Genki 1 (1570), in the course of attacking Asakura Yoshikage, Yoshinari joined an assault of Tenzutsuyama Castle in Echizen controlled by the Asakura clan.  The castle fell the following day.  Next, the Oda toppled Kanagasaki and Hikeda castles.   Thereafter, Azai Nagamasa, the younger brother-in-law of Nobunaga, abandoned Nobunaga and turned into an opponent.  The Oda army was forced to withdraw while Yoshinari relied upon the cooperation of Kutsuki Mototsuna of Kutsukidani to enable the return of members of the Oda family to Kyōto.

On 6/26, the allied forces of the Azai and Asakura clashed against the Oda and Tokugawa at the Battle of Anegawa.  Yoshinari served in the fifth division of the Oda army.

In the ninth month, at the peak of the confrontation between the Oda army and the Miyoshi Group of Three in Settsu, adherents of the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple launched a rebellion, triggering the Siege of Noda and Fukushima Castles.  While the Oda army set-out to suppress the uprising, the allied forces of the Azai and Asakura raised arms from behind.  Yoshinari was assigned to defend Usayama Castle and fought valiantly.  On 9/16, he prevailed in the opening stages of the battle and, on 9/20, repelled a division led by Asakura Kageakira.  He also clashed against other Asakura divisions including those led by Yamazaki Yoshiie and Abaga Kosaburō, an Azai division led by Azai Genba-no-jō, and retainers of Azai Nagamasa.  Yoshinari was killed in action at the height of these battles.