Nakajō Fujisuke


Nakajō Clan


Echigo Province

Lifespan:  Unknown to Eiroku 11 (1568)

Other Names:  Yojirō, Yajirō

Rank:  bushō

Titles (nominal):  Judicial Officer and Lieutenant of Outer Palace Guards of the Left Division, Governor of Echizen

Clan:  Echigo-Nakajō

Lord:  Uesugi Fusasada → Uesugi Fusayoshi → Uesugi Sadazane → Uesugi Kenshin

Father:  Nakajō Sadasuke

Siblings:  Fujisuke, sister (consort of Date Terumune)

Wife:  [Formal]  Daughter of Takanashi Masamori

Children:  Kagesuke, Sukeoki (Momikura-Nakajō clan), Sukeyasu

Adopted Children: Yasuda Katachika (natural son of Kawada Motochika)

Nakajō Fujisuke served as a bushō during the Sengoku period.  Fujisuke was the nineteenth head of the Nakajō clan, kokujin, or provincial landowners, in Echigo Province.

Fujisuke served as the lord of Tossaka Castle in the Okuyama manor of Nutarinokōri (the northern Kanbara District) in Echigo.  Fujisuke was a member of the Miura party of the Agakita Group and counted among the Seven Generals of the Uesugi.  As the chief retainer of Uesugi Kenshin, he served at the forefront of clan affairs until his later years.

Fujisuke was born as the son of Nakajō Sadasuke.

The Nakajō clan were a branch of the Taira-Miura, a well-known clan from Sagami Province.  The clan descended from Wada Yoshimori who served as the first head of the samurai-dokoro, or security office of the bakufu, and whose name appears among a parliamentary council of thirteen individuals from the Kamakura bakufu.  After the Battle of Wada in 1213, individuals from this lineage were direct descendants of the Miura-Wada clan.

In 1494, his father, Sadasuke, died in battle, after which Fujisuke inherited the headship of the clan and became the lord of Tossaka Castle.

Alliance with Nagao Tamekage

In the eighth month of 1507, Nagao Tamekage (the deputy military governor of Echigo) overthrew Uesugi Fusayoshi (the military governor of Echigo) who killed himself after fleeing an attack on his residence.  This was an example of the phenomenon in the Sengoku period known as gekokujō by which persons of lower rank usurped those above them.  Tamekage then backed Fusayoshi’s adopted son, Uesugi Sadazane, to serve as the next military governor.  Sadazane, however, was a puppet of Tamekage.  These events occurred in the context of a series of battles across the Kantō and Hokuriku regions during the Eishō era (1504 to 1521) known as the Eishō Conflict.

While maintaining relations with other clans from the Agakita Group in a camp opposing the Nagao, Fujisuke supported Tamekage and served Sadazane as the new military governor.  In the ninth month of 1507, Fujisuke, along with a family member named Tsukiji Tadamoto and a well-known figure of the Agakita Group named Yasuda Sanehide, attacked and toppled Honjō Castle, the base of Honjō Tokinaga (a member of the opposition camp).  Tokinaga’s eldest son, Honjō Yajirō, was killed in the attack and Tokinaga abandoned the castle.  Owing to these results, Sadazane awarded Fujisuke the Jōjō portion of the Arakawa neighborhood in the Okuyama manor.  In the fifth month of 1508, Fujisuke attacked and captured Hayashi Castle, the base of Irobe Masanaga who was also in the camp opposing the Nagao family.  Masanaga then submitted a written oath and surrendered to Tamekage.

In the eighth month of 1513, Fujisuke and Tanekage exchanged blood-sealed oaths.  That same month, through the offices of Fujisuke, Tamekage exchanged a similar oath with Yasuda Sanehide.

For a while, Fujisuke joined the rebellion led by Jōjō Sadanori, but, in the end, he returned to the service of Tamekage.

After the demise of the Tamekage in 1543, Sadazane adopted Date Sanemoto, the third son of Date Tanemune.  With the support of the Date clan, Sadazane endeavored to restore the authority of the military governor, but, owing to the Tenbun Conflict, these efforts stalled.

Connections with Uesugi Kenshin

In 1548, in lieu of Harukage (who succeeded Tamekage), Fujjisuke had designs to back Nagao Kagetora (later known as Uesugi Kenshin) as the deputy military governor.  First, he allied with Takanashi Masayori, Kagetora’s uncle and the lord of Nakano Castle in northern Shinano Province, in a bid to lure to their side kokujin, or provincial landowners, in Echigo.  Beginning with Honjō Saneyori who served as a deputy for Kagetora, Fujisuke brought together families from Kagetora’s mother’s side of the family, including Nagao Kagenobu of Suyoshi Castle, Ōkuma Tomohide of Mikaburi Castle, Naoe Sanetsuna of Yoita Castle, and Yamayoshi Yukimori of Sanjō Castle, forming a faction in support of Kagetora.  After Harukage learned of these developments, military clashes occurred between Nagao Masakage, the lord of Sakado Castle and supporter of Harukage and a family member named Kurokawa Kiyozane, the lord of Kurokawa Castle, who was in conflict with Fujisuke.  On 12/30, out of concern about the situation, Sadazane facilitated a settlement whereupon Harukage adopted Kagetora, transferred the headship of the clan, and retired.  At the time, Kagetora was nineteen years old when he took over the Nagao family serving as the deputy shōgun of Echigo.

On 2/26 of Tenbun 19 (1550), Sadazane died without a designated successor so, that same month, Kagetora, the deputy military governor, was permitted by the Muromachi bakufu to use a white umbrella and woolen saddle covers as symbols of the sovereign of Echigo.  At this time, acquiring the status of a deputy military governor was an essential element for Uesugi Kenshin (after changing his name from Nagao Kagetora) to function as a sengoku daimyō.  For Kagetora’s administration, this was the most important event.  Thereafter, Fujisuke, in his capacity as a senior retainer of Kagetora, received treatment at a level next to a family member.

Deployment to the Kantō

In the fourth month of 1559, Kagetora decided to travel to Kyōto a second time to meet Emperor Ōgimachi and Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  On this occasion, Kagetora was treated by Yoshiteru similarly to a kanrei, or deputy shōgun.  He received a personal letter from the shōgun providing formal authorization for him to assist Uesugi Norimasa, the deputy shōgun of the Kantō.  To celebrate his ambitious undertakings and safe return, a celebration was held with bushō under his command at which Kagetora was presented with a long sword.  At this time, Fujisuke was seated next after family members, indicating the special respect shown him.

Thereafter, Fujisuke continued to serve valorously in numerous battles.  After the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima, he received a written commendation from Kagetora for his contributions.  He is believed to have died at the age of seventy-seven or at over eighty years of age.

Character and Anecdotes

The Nakajō initially used the same family crest as the Miura clan displaying a circle with three lines across.  During the conflicts of the Nanboku period, however, after serving valorously for Ashikaga Takauji, the first shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, Fujisuke’s ancestor received from Takauji a creeping woodsorrel flower growing nearby as thanks for his contributions.  To commemorate this event, the family adopted a family crest shaped like creeping woodsorrel​.  Known for being a fertile plant, once planted, it is difficult to eradicate.  This symbolizes their wish for the family to persist.  The design was used among military families to serve as an omen for the good fortune of families and their descendants.

The war banner used in battle during this time displayed the character for ‘yama” meaning mountain.

A large quantity of porcelain from the Ming dynasty and pre-modern pottery from the Noto Peninsula dating to the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries has been excavated at the site of Fujisuke’s initial home known as the Egami residence as well as at the vestiges of the Haguro residence where he is believed to have regularly spent time.  There is a high likelihood that Fujisuke was a collector of such jars and vases.

In 1535, when Honjō Fusanaga, Shibata Tsunasada and others affixed their seals on a jointly signed letter addressed to Sagoshi Ujifusa, the lord of Uzen-Sagoshi Castle in the Akumi District of Dewa Province, Fujisuke’s seal does not appear.  An explanatory note in the same letter says that, owing to Fujisuke’s merriment, the format could not be followed.  It is surmised that, while engaged in discussions, Fujisuke became drunk, fell asleep, and therefore unable to perform his duties.