Murakami Takeyoshi


Murakami Clan


Iyo Province

Lifespan:  Tenbun 2 (1533) to 8/22 of Keichō 9 (1604)

Other Names:  Noshima Takeyoshi, Murakami Takeyoshi (written with a different character), Murakami Kamon-no-kami Takeyoshi

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Director of the Bureau of Palace Maintenance, Governor of Yamato

Clan:  Noshima-Murakami

Lord:  Mōri Motonari → Mōri Takamoto → Mōri Terumoto → Kobayakawa Takakage → Mōri Terumoto

Father:  Murakami Yoshitada

Mother:  Daughter of Hiraoka Sakon-shōgen

Wife:  Daughter of Murakami Michiyasu; [Second] Second daughter of Murakami Michiyasu

Children:  Motoyoshi, Kagechika

Murakami Takeyoshi served as a bushō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  He was an admiral of the Noshima-Murakami navy and lord of Noshima Castle.  He was also known as Noshima Takeyoshi.


The distant ancestors of the Murakami clan were either the Seiwa-Genji or Murakami-Genji.  From around the end of the Heian period, the Murakami joined with the Kōno clan of Iyo Province to exert influence in the Setouchi region (the area of the Seto Inland Sea located in-between the Sanyō region on Honshū and Shikoku). 

In 1333, the Kamakura bakufu was toppled by Emperor Godaigo and he inaugurated the Kenmu administration.  During this turbulent period, the Murakami family operated on the side of the Tennō.  The early Murakami clan acting as a navy in the Seto Inland Sea was founded by Murakami Yoshihiro on Noshima in the mid-fourteenth century.  Noshima was located between Iyo-Ōshima and Nakatajima.  Yoshihiro exercised control as the head of the clan.  After receiving a written command from Emperor Godaigo, Yoshihiro immediately raised arms and, together with the Doi and Tokunō clans, commanded the navy to defeat the forces of Hōjō Tokinao.  After going to Kyōto, he attacked the rokuhara-tandai, or commissioner in Kyōto.  During the conflict between the Northern and Southern courts, Yoshihiro aligned with the Southern Court.  He solicited Kōno Michitaka to abandon the Northern Court and join the Southern Court.  Together, they went to Kyūshū to meet and declare their loyalty to Emperor Kaneyoshi, a prince and central figure in the Southern Court in Kyūshū.  Thereafter, as the leader of pirates in the Seto Inland Sea, he joined with the Kikuchi of Higo Province and, together with the Kōno clan, expelled elements from Iyo who were aligned with the Northern Court while expanding the influence of the Murakami navy.

During the Nanbokuchō period, Yoshihiro, while serving as the head of a band of pirates, was the leading commander among the Eighteen Families of the Kōno.  The Murakami served as a standing navy for the Kōno but, considering Yoshihiro’s movements as a supporter of the Southern Court, his navy did not act in concert with the Kōno clan in all instances. 

In 1374, after the death of Yoshihiro, Murakami Morokiyo from the Shinano-Murakami clan entered the scene.  (According to one theory, this was Kitabatake Akinari, the son of Kitabatake Akiie.  Akiie sent Akinari there in an effort to gain leverage in the southern parts by having his son join the Murakami family. This, however, cannot be confirmed in records from the Kitabatake clan.)  In any event, Morokiyo became the founder of the later Santō-Murakami clan.    

Murakami Morokiyo had a son named Murakami Yoshitane who had three sons.  Morokiyo had these grandsons sent to the islands of Noshima, Kurushima, and Innoshima.   The eldest son, Yoshiaki (Masafusa) was sent to Noshima, the second son, Akitada (Yoshifusa) was sent to Innoshima, and the third son, Akinaga (Yoshitoyo) was sent to Kurushima.  This gave birth to the Noshima-Murakami, the Innoshima-Murakami, and the Kurushima-Murakami who, together, comprised the three families of the Murakami navy.

Among the family members on these three islands, the Noshima-Murakami were regarded as the main branch of the clan and maintained a neutral status.  The Innoshima-Murakami maintained friendly relations with the Kobayakawa and Kodama clans of Aki Province.  Meanwhile, the members of the Kurushima-Murakami were close to the Kōno clan, the military governors of Iyo Province.  Consequently, each group had their own interests and relationships, and they often operated independently.

With the Seto Inland Sea as their domain, the activities of the three families comprising the Murakami navy included, among others, security for marine transport, security for the transport of officials, support for mishaps at sea, and towing services.  Operations on the islands were conducted autonomously, with no reliance on rice as a means to exercise authority.  Apart from their engagement in battles, the Murakami did not represent a navy but rather operated as a band of pirates controlling the sea lanes between Iyo and Aki provinces.  During this period, the three families of the Murakami had two notable dimensions, one as a navy of the Kōno clan managing marine transport and the other as a pirate band controlling the seas in the pursuit of their own interests.  


Around 1533, Takeyoshi was born as the son of Murakami Yoshitada.  His mother was the daughter of Hiraoka Sakon-no-shōgen.  Takeyoshi’s father, Yoshitada, was the second of three siblings – his older brother was Murakami Yoshimasa and younger brother was Murakami Takashige.  A compilation from the Edo period makes referenced to a succession struggle between Yoshimasa’s son, Murakami Yoshimasu, and Takeyoshi following the early demise of Yoshimasa, an event known as the Noshima Disturbance.  A later account notes that Takeyoshi’s uncle, Takashige (the lord of Kasaoka Castle), led forces during a succession struggle in lieu of a young Takeyoshi.  After Takashige defeated Yoshimasu, Takeyoshi returned from Higo Province (where he took refuge during the conflict) to Noshima Castle and became the next head of the Noshima-Murakami clan.  Yoshimasu fled in defeat to Kurushima but later died of illness.  

In 1549, Takeyoshi was invested with the title of Provisional Governor of Yamato and demonstrated his commitment in battle on behalf of Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu) and Ashikaga Yoshiaki (the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu).  He also frequently supported Ōuchi Yoshitaka of Suō Province and the Kōno clan of Iyo Province.  Takeyoshi, however, did not affiliate with either daimyō and instead established himself as an independent “daimyō of the seas.” 

Takeyoshi gained notoriety for his valor, commanding a mobile armada to conduct attacks on demand.  Barbarous piracy tactics involved attacks on vessels with threats to kill those who resisted and to rob all of their cargo.  After becoming the head of the clan, Takeyoshi adopted a policy to collect transit fees in the amount of 10% of the cargo in exchange for promises to protect the vessels from other pirates.  The revenues generated through these operations led to the period of peak prosperity for the Noshima-Murakami clan, surmised to be equivalent to a yield of 150,000 koku with a force size of 10,000 men.

The Noshima-Murakami controlled strategic locations in the Seto Inland Sea. This was enabled by members of the Noshima-Murakami including Murakami Takashige (the lord of Kasaoka Castle, a stronghold in Bitchū Province), Shima Yoshitoshi (a retainer of the family based at Motobuto Castle on Kojima in Bizen Province), and Murakami Takemitsu (located in Kaminoseki in Suō Province).

In 1551, Ōuchi Yoshitaka of Suō Province was usurped by a senior retainer, Sue Takafusa in a rebellion known as the Tainei Temple Incident.  As a result, he became the head of the Ōuchi clan, changing his name to Sue Harukata.  In 1554, Harukata utilized vessels from the Ōtomo navy of Bungo Province to transport gifts intended for the Ashikaga shōgun family.  While sailing east across the Seto Inland Sea, he refused to pay transit fees to the Noshima-Murakami family.  This prompted Takeyoshi himself to deploy, and in the waters of Kamagari, Takeyoshi attacked Harukata’s vessels from sea and from Kamagarijima.  After seizing all of the cargo, he became a sworn enemy of Harukata.

Battle of Itsukushima

Although the details are unclear, Takeyoshi is known in Sengoku lore for his exploits as the commander of the Murakami navy during the Battle of Itsukushima in 1555.  At the time, momentum gathered for a final showdown between Sue Harukata who had killed Ōuchi Yoshitaka in the course of seizing control of the Ōuchi clan based in Suō and Mōri Motonari based in Aki.  Among the three families of the Murakami, the Innoshima-Murakami quickly sided with the Mōri and the Kurushima-Murakami clan served as the navy under the direct command of the Iyo-Kōno clan.  Only Takeyoshi of the Noshima-Murakami remained as an independent figure.  Takeyoshi was already well-known as a fierce warrior so his activities garnered attention.  After marrying the eldest daughter of Kurushima-Murakami Michiyasu, the Noshima and Kurushima families reconciled and Takeyoshi was recognized as the leader of the Murakami navy.  Moreover, his family connection suggested there was a high likelihood that he would act in concert with the Kurushima-Murakami clan.  Together with his uncle, Takashige, Takeyoshi expanded the influence of the Noshima-Murakami family.

Following his decision to engage the Sue clan in battle at Itsukushima, Motonari dispatched Ura Hyōbu (Nomi Munekatsu), an admiral of the Kobayakawa navy, as a messenger to Takeyoshi.  During his meeting with Hyōbu, Takeyoshi was impressed by the meticulous strategy and zeal of the Mōri clan so he informed Hyōbu of his desire to ally with them.  Having succeeded in his efforts to ally with Takeyoshi, Motonari promptly met Takeyoshi and, on the eve of victory, promised the island of Yashiro (Yashirojima) of Suō Province to him as a reward for his contributions.

On 10/1 of Tenbun 24 (1555), the Battle of Itsukushima commenced with an attack by the Mōri in the midst of a storm on the seas.  Caught off guard by the storm, the Sue sought to flee in front of the attack by the Mōri army, and Sue Harukata, along with many other prominent bushō, were killed in action as the Sue suffered a major defeat. 

As noted, in this battle, there is an absence of details regarding the operations performed by the Noshima-Murakami navy led by Takeyoshi.  The participation by Murakami Yoshimitsu of the Innoshima-Murakami family is the only authenticated account whereas the Mōri navy is surmised to have had the primary role at sea.

Subsequent movements

After the Battle of Itsukushima, Takeyoshi supported the campaign of Motonari known as the Subjugation of Bōchō (Suō and Nagato provinces), demonstrating his military prowess on land and at sea.  Further, Takeyoshi implemented a naval blockade in the Kanmon Straits to prevent Ōuchi Yoshinaga from fleeing to his original home with the Ōtomo clan of Bungo Province, compelling Yoshinaga to take his own life.  

Establishing relations with other groups including in the Shiwaku archipelago, the Murakami navy under Takeyoshi became the strongest naval power in the Seto Inland Sea.

In 1568, Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) solicited the Murakami families by offering concessions to the southern trade with foreign vessels from the harbor town of Hakata.  In deference to Kobayakawa Takakage, the Innoshima-Murakami and Kurushima-Murakami did not oblige but, after the death of Mōri Motonari in 1571, Takeyoshi abandoned the Mōri and aligned with the Ōtomo.  When Takakage attacked Noshima Castle, the Innoshima-Murakami and Kurushima-Murakami obeyed the Kobayakawa family.  Isolated, and with swift currents making it difficult to come ashore at Noshima, Takeyoshi holed-up in Noshima Castle.  He then appealed for provisions from the Atagi navy (supporting the Miyoshi family) and the Shiwaku navy.

After the Kobayakawa occupied the Shiwaku archipelago, Takeyoshi could no longer receive provisions and, by 1572, Noshima Castle was encircled and a naval blockade imposed.  Takeyoshi then consented to a demand to surrender from Nomi Munekatsu (a senior retainer of the Takakage).  He was folded into the band of retainers of the Mōri and served with the Mōri navy.

Once Mōri Terumoto came into conflict with Oda Nobunaga, the Murakami navy, the Kojima navy, and the Nomi navy, among others, transported provisions to the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple under attack from the Oda army.  On 7/13 of Tenshō 4 (1576), the First Battle of Kizugawaguchi occurred at the mouth of the Kizu River in Ōsaka Bay.  Hurling earthenware pots filled with gunpowder and blanketing the opposing forces with flaming arrows, the Mōri navy achieved a resolute victory over the Oda.

At this time, bushō from all three of the Murakami family deployed.  This included Murakami Motoyoshi (the lineal heir of Takeyoshi), Murakami Kagehiro (the cousin of Takeyoshi), and Murakami Takemitsu from the Noshima-Murakami family; Murakami Yoshimitsu, the head of the Innoshima-Murakami family; and Murakami Yoshitsugu (chief retainer and magistrate to the Kōno family) and Murakami Motoyoshi (the lineal heir of Yoshitsugu) from the Kurushima-Murakami family.  Takeyoshi, however, did not participate.  In the Oda navy led by Kuki Yoshitaka, among those killed were Manabe Shime-no-hyōe, Numano Dennai, Numano Iga, Numano Ōsumi-no-kami, Miyazaki Kamadaibu, Miyazaki Kanome-no-suke, a member of the Obata clan of Amagasaki, and of the Noguchi clan of Hanakuma.

Oda Nobunaga then ordered Kuki Yoshitaka and Takigawa Kazumasu to construct six steel-plated warships.  In the eleventh month of 1578, at the Second Battle of Kizugawaguchi, the Oda navy fired large cannons from atop these ships to decimate the Mōri navy commanded by Takeyoshi.  During the subsequent Invasion of Chūgoku led by Hashiba Hideyoshi, members of the Kurushima-Murakami family including Kurushima Michifusa, Murakami Michimasa, and Tokui Michiyuki defected to the Oda.  Takeyoshi captured Kurushima fortress so Michifusa fled for the protection of Hideyoshi and submitted to him. 

Around 1582, Takeyoshi transferred the headship of the Noshima-Murakami family to his son, Murakami Motoyoshi.  Soon thereafter, Nobunaga unexpectedly died in a coup d’état led by Akechi Mitsuhide, an event known as the Honnō Temple Incident.

After Hashiba Hideyoshi and Mōri Terumoto reconciled, Hideyoshi relied upon Michifusa and demanded the return of Kurushima.  Owing to his failure to participate in the Invasion of Chūgoku, Takeyoshi was attacked by Kobayakawa Takakage who had already submitted to Hideyoshi.  In this way, Takeyoshi was ousted from his base at Noshima and forcibly moved to the territory of the Kobayakawa family at Takehara where he built Chinkaiyama Castle.

[Alternate version:  In 1582, upon solicitation from Hideyoshi, Takeyoshi defected to the Oda, triggering an attack by the combined forces of the Mōri and Kōno clans.  This forced him to flee his base and seek protection from Hideyoshi.  His older brother, Tokui Michiyuki, continued to resist from Kashima Castle.  After the Hashiba and Mōri reconciled, Michifusa, who had sided with the Hashiba, acquired his former territory.]

After the Invasion of Kyūshū by the Toyotomi army, in 1586, Kobayakawa Takakage received a fief of 370,000 koku in Chikuzen Province.  Takeyoshi followed him.  In 1588, Takeyoshi was accused of violating an edict from Hideyoshi banning piracy.  His son, Motoyoshi, traveled to Kyōto to provide an explanation.  In the view of Hideyoshi, collecting transit fees from passing vessels under the pretext of providing security constituted acts of piracy. 

During the Bunroku Campaign beginning in 1592, Takeyoshi was transferred to Suō Province along the Sea of Japan.  His son, Motoyoshi, served as a member of the Mōri navy but suffered a major defeat to the Korean navy.  Following the retirement of Kobayakawa Takakage, Takeyoshi moved to Nagato Province served as a retainer of Takakage’s successor, Kobayakawa Hideaki. 

In 1598, just before the death of Hideyoshi, Takeyoshi was conferred the surname of Toyotomi and, upon orders of Mōri Terumoto, returned again to Chinkaiyama Castle in Takehara and received a fief of 4,700 koku.

In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, the Mōri joined the Western Army led by Ishida Mitsunari.  Takeyoshi’s son, Motoyoshi, and younger brother, Murakami Kagechika, served with the Mōri forces to launch attacks along the coasts of Ise Bay, Kii, Awa, and Tokushima.  After an assault against Iyo-Matsumae Castle defended by Katō Yoshiakira, were subject to a nighttime attack led by Tsukuda Kazunari and, on 9/18 of Keichō 5 (1600), Motoyoshi was killed.  This is known as the Nighttime Attack at Mitsuhama.  The headship of the Noshima-Murakami family was inherited by Motoyoshi’s lineal heir, Murakami Mototake, under the guardianship of Takeyoshi.

Following the loss of the Western Army at the Battle of Sekigahara, the territory of the Mōri was significantly reduced to the provinces of Suō and Nagato, whereupon the Noshima-Murakami family departed from Takehara again and the Murakami navy was extinguished.  Takeyoshi went to Suō-Ōshima and, in 1601, was resided in Wada.  On 8/22 of Keichō 9 (1604), Takeyoshi died at the age of seventy-two.


Luís Fróis, a Jesuit missionary from Portugal residing in Japan during this period, referred to Murakami Takeyoshi as the “Greatest Pirate in Japan.” 

In the town of Ōshima in Suō in the Ōshima District of Yamaguchi Prefecture, there are the vestiges of his residence and a grave in the name of Murakami Takeyoshi.  There is also a statue of Murakami Takeyoshi at the Murakami Navy Musuem in Ōshima in Ehime Prefecture.