Sase Motoyoshi


Sase Clan


Suō Province

Lifespan:  Tenbun 15 (1546) to 7/9 of Genna 6 (1620)

Other Names:  Yozaemon (common), Nyūdō-sōfu (monk’s name)

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Governor of Iwami, Governor of Nagato

Clan:  Sase (descended from the Sasaki branch of the Uda-Genji)

Bakufu:  Edo

Domain:  Chōshū

Lord:  Amago Haruhisa → Amago Yoshihisa → Mōri Motonari → Mōri Terumoto → Mōri Hidenari

Father:  Sase Kiyomune

Siblings:  Masakatsu, Motoyoshi, Daijirō

Wife:  Daughter of Takita Akishige (Shōtetsu)

Children:  元量, daughter (wife of Iida Motoari), daughter (wife of Shishido Motozane), daughter (wife of Kodama Mototsugu), daughter (wife of Nashiwa Kagemune), daughter (wife of Asonuma Narisato), daughter (wife of a member of the Kodama clan), daughter (wife of Masuda Narikata ), daughter (wife of Nomura Mototsugu), daughter (wife of Nomi Shigenobu)

Sase Motoyoshi served as a bushō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  Motoyoshi was a retainer of the Amago and Mōri clans and, in the Edo period, of the Chōshū domain.  He was the first-generation member of the Sase to serve in the Chōshū domain.

In 1546, Motoyoshi was born as the second son of Sase Kiyomune.  He had one son and, notably, nine daughters.

Initially, Motoyoshi, together with his father and older brother, served the Amago clan – Amago Haruhisa and Amago Yoshihisa.  In 1566, at the Siege of Gassantoda Castle by Mōri Motonari, he surrendered and became a retainer of the Mōri.  At this time, his younger brother, Daijirō, remained behind in the castle and was murdered by members of the Amago.  While serving the Mōri clan, despite being a former retainer of the Amago, he had important duties without distinction from hereditary retainers of the Mōri.

Motonari’s grandson, Mōri Terumoto, had for a long time desired to be with a woman named Kanehime, the daughter of a retainer of the Mōri named Kodama Motoyoshi.  Motoyoshi, however, arranged for Kanehime to wed Sugi Motonobu.  In 1586, during the Conquest of Kyūshū, Motonobu deployed to Chikuzen Province under the command of Kobayakawa Takakage.  At this time, although Kanehime was already married, Terumoto did not give-up on her and, instead ordered retainers including Motoyoshi, along with Sugiyama Motozumi (Tosa-no-kami), Sugiyama Narizumi (Seibei) (father and son), to snatch her as his consort.

During the Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula commencing in 1592, while his lord, Terumoto, was stationed at Nagoya Castle in Hizen Province, Motoyoshi managed affairs of governance in the Mōri territory.  From the eighth month of 1593 after Terumoto returned from Korea, the central administration of the Mōri clan was managed by five representatives of Terumoto including, in addition to Motoyoshi, Ninomiya Naritoki, Enomoto Motoyoshi, Katada Motoyoshi, and Chō Motoyoshi.  These individuals came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, indicating that Terumoto aimed to appoint representatives based on his assessment of their abilities rather than the pedigree of their families.  On 9/10 of Bunroku 3 (1594), Motoyoshi was conferred by Terumoto the honorary title of Iwami-no-kami, or Governor of Iwami.

In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Motoyoshi was assigned to protect Hiroshima Castle.  In the wake of the defeat of the Western Army, the territory held by the Mōri was reduced to Suō and Nagato provinces.  After the transfer of the Mōri to their new base, Motoyoshi worked on a resolution to issues regarding the repayment of rice taxes in six provinces formerly under the control of the Mōri.  Motoyoshi was the first to hold a significant role in the Chōshū domain.  Until the enactment of a policy by the Edo bakufu permitting only one castle per province, Motoyoshi served as the commander in charge of Kōnomine Castle in Yamaguchi in Suō Province.

Gradually, however, Terumoto turned to Kodama Motokane (the uncle of Terumoto’s lineal heir, Mōri Hidenari), Fukubara Hirotoshi (a hereditary head of retainers), and Masuda Motonaga (a leading kokujin, or provincial landowner).  These three individuals frequently traveled to the Kyōto area to engage in negotiations with the Edo bakufu.  Motoyoshi remained in the home provinces so did not establish close ties with members of the bakufu.  Moreover, he had a key role in the Deployment of the Mōri to Iyo which was a factor in the reduction of the Mori’s territory in the early years of the Edo bakufu.  His weak ties to the bakufu thereby imposed limits on his authority.  As a result, in 1608, Motoyoshi resigned from his positions and, in 1609, wrote his memoirs.

On 7/2 of Keichō 6 (1601), his older brother, Masakatsu, died without an heir so Motoyoshi’s lineal heir, 元量, inherited the headship of the Sase clan and a fief of 300 koku from Masakatsu.  On 12/29 of Keichō 8 (1603), he was conferred the honorary title of Nagato-no-kami, or Governor of Nagato, from Teurmoto and, on 7/23 of Keichō 18 (1613), was granted a fief of 2,633 koku.

Upon his retirement, Motoyoshi transferred a fief of 2,000 koku to his son, Sase 元量.  On 7/9 of Genna 6 (1620), he died at the age of seventy-five.


Maebara Issei, an opposition figure and ringleader of the Hagi Rebellion in Yamaguchi against the Meiji government in 1876, was a descendant of Motoyoshi.