Lifespan: Eiroku 2 (1559) to 4/8 of Kanei 20 (1643)
Other Names: Hikojirō (childhood), Sasuke, Tōkurō, Toan (monk’s name)
Lord: Kuroda Yoshitaka → Kuroda Nagamasa → Kuroda Tadayuki
Wife: Daughter of Soga Kazunobu (younger sister of Mori Tomonobu)
Children: Kazuyoshi, Maneimon
Noguchi Kazushige served as a bushō during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods. As a retainer of the Kuroda clan, he was included among a group of retainers called the Twenty-Four Elite of the Kuroda. He was a retainer of the Fukuoka domain in Chikuzen Province.
In 1559, Kazushige was born as the son of Jōkin, a monk at the Kyōshin Temple in Noguchi in the Kako District of Harima Province. Jōkin was a friend of Kuroda Yoshitaka and played igo (a board game) with him. In 1575, he attended his coming-of-age ceremony and became a retainer of the Kuroda clan. As a retainer of the Kuroda under the command of the Oda clan, during an assault on Takakurayama Castle in 1577, he killed Kanki Kodenji.
Kazushige served valorously at the Siege of Miki in 1580 and an assault on Takarabe Castle in 1587. In 1588, after the transfer of the Kuroda family to Buzen Province, Kii Shigefusa (the former landlord) was assassinated. During this event, Kazushige slayed seven of Shigefusa’s retainers. Owing to his contributions, he was presented with a short sword from Kuroda Nagamasa and received a fief of 630 koku.
Kazushige participated in the Conquest of Odawara, the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign, the Battle of Kisogawa and Gōtogawa, and the Battle of Sekigahara. At Sekigahara, he fought valiantly despite incurring injuries on the left side of his body. Later, he changed his common name to Sasuke (“sa” being the character for left).
In 1601, after the Kuroda clan entered Chikuzen, Kazushige was appointed as the head of a unit of arquebusiers and granted a fief of 2,500 koku. Together with Masuda Masachika, Kazushige served as a magistrate for the construction of stone walls at Fukuoka Castle. In 1606, during the construction of Edo Castle under orders of the Edo bakufu, he joined with Mori Tomonobu to oversee the building of stone walls for the castle keep.
In 1623, after Nagamasa died and was succeeded by Kuroda Tadayuki, Kazushige’s fief was increased to 3,000 koku. In 1630, he was assigned as the commander of the southern citadel of Fukuoka Castle. In 1637, during the Shimabara Rebellion, he was called upon by Tadayuki and remained nearby. During the campaign, his second son, Manemon, was killed in action. Later, he transferred headship of the clan to his grandson, Kazunami (the son of Kazushige’s eldest son, Kazuyoshi), retired, and adopted the monk’s name of Toan.
Kazushige died on 4/8 of Kanei 20 (1643). He was eighty-five years old.
When engaging in a bout against a swordsman, Kazushige rose his left arm to stop a blow from his opponent’s wooden sword. After toppling the opponent with a wooden sword in his right hand, the opponent laughed wryly, saying “there is no style of swordmanship by which blows are stopped with your arm” whereupon Kazushige opened his chest of armor and showed him his gauntlets riddled with marks on them from stopping strikes with long swords. This story aligns with the record of Kazushige fighting valiantly in battle despite incurring injuries on his left side, providing a glimpse of Kazushige’s approach to combat.