Saitō Myōjun

斎藤妙純

Saitō Clan

Bushō

Mino Province

Lifespan:  14xx to 12/7 of Meiō 5 (1497)

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Highest ranking priest (hōin-gondaisōzu)

Clan:  Saitō

Lord:  Toki Shigeyori → Toki Masafusa

Father:  Saitō Toshinaga

Mother:  Daughter of the Akamatsu clan

Adoptive Father:  Saitō Myōchin

Siblings:  Toshifuji, Noriaki, Myōjun, Toshiyasu, Toshitsuna, sister (wife of Toki Shigeyori)

Wife:  Riteini (daughter of Noma Nyūdō and adopted daughter of Kanroji Chikanaga)

Children:  Toshichika, Matashirō, Hikoshirō, daughter (wife of Asakura Sadakage), daughter (wife of Kyōgoku Takakiyo), Toshitane

Saitō Myōjun served as a bushō during the late Muromachi and Sengoku periods.

Myōjun was born as the son of Saitō Toshinaga, the military governor of Mino.  He was adopted by his uncle, Saitō Myōchin.  His common name was Shinshirō while his real name was Toshikuni.  Myōjun was the name adopted when entering the priesthood.  He was called Uma-no-jō.  His wife, Riteini, was the daughter of Noma Nyūdō and the adopted daughter of a noble named Kanroji Chikanaga.

Succession to the Jizein lineage of the Saitō clan

During the Ōnin-Bunmei War, in the tenth month of 1473, Toshikuni deployed as the commanding general to Ise in support of the Ise-Nagano clan, and, together with Myōchin, toppled Umedo Castle which was aligned with the Eastern Army.  In the second month of 1480, after the death of Myōchin, Toshikuni inherited the Jizein lineage of the Saitō family.  In Myōchin’s last will, he requested Toki Shigeyori, the military governor, to back Toshikuni.

In the fifth month, with respect to the manor that Myōchin had seized during the Ōnin-Bunmei War, a conflict arose with Saitō Toshifuji (the older brother of a different mother) who was a deputy military governor and head of the self-governed territory of the Saitō clan.  This led, in the eighth month, to the outbreak of hostilities.  Shigeyori respected the will of Myōchin by supporting Toshikuni so, in the eleventh month, the conflict ended with Toshifuji seeking exile with the Rokkaku clan in Ōmi Province.  Toshikuni dispatched a senior retainer, Ishimaru Toshimitsu, on a mission to Ōmi to pursue Toshifuji.  Thereafter, Toshifuji received the protection of the Muromachi bakufu in Kyōto.

In the tenth month of 1481, Myōjun proposed to Asakura Ujikage of Echizen that he have Shiba Yoshitoshi (the son of Shiba Yoshikado) preside as the nominal lord of Echizen, whereupon Ujikage agreed, forging an alliance between the Saitō and Asakura clans.  In the fifth month of 1487, through mediation of the bakufu, a settlement was reached between Toki Shigeyori and Myōjun on one side and Toshifuji on the other, enabling Toshifuji to be restored as the deputy military governor of Mino.  Myōjun, however, continued to wield the real political authority in the province.

On 4/20 of Entoku 3 (1491), Myōjun’s daughter (thirteen years old) was sent to be wed to Ujikage’s son, Asakura Sadakage, in a political marriage that strengthened the bonds between the Saitō and Asakura clans.

Battle of Funada

Toki Shigeyori, the military governor of Mino, cherished his youngest son, Toki Motoyori, more than his eldest son, Toki Masafusa, so he aimed to transfer headship of the clan to Motoyori.  Shigeyori then joined forces with Toshifuji, the deputy military governor, in a bid to eliminate Masafusa and Myōjun.  Ishimaru Toshimitsu, a former retainer of Myōchin, had strong ambitions to gain power.  After learning that Toshimitsu had come into conflict with his peer, Nishio Naonori, Shigeyori permitted Toshimitsu to adopted the Saitō surname (whereupon he became Saitō Toshimitsu), and persuaded him to abandon Myōjun and combine forces with Shigeyori instead.  This chain of events triggered the Battle of Funada that enveloped Mino and surrounding provinces.

In the twelfth month of 1494, after learning of a plot by Nishio Naonori to oust him, Toshimitsu gathered troops at his base at Funada Castle and attempted to launch a surprise attack against Myōjun, but failed.  He then requested assistance from Shigeyori to reach an initial settlement with Myōjun.  Meanwhile, Myōjun reinforced his defenses at his base at Kanō Castle to prepare for future hostilities.

From the fifth to sixth months of 1495, Toshimitsu welcomed to Funada Castle Toshifuji’s youngest son (Bishadō) and grandson (Toshiharu), along with Toki Motoyori.  Owing to family ties, reinforcements arrived from Oda Tōhiro of Owari (the wife of Tōhiro’s adoptive father, Oda Toshihiro, was the adopted daughter of Myōchin).  On 7/1, the Ishimaru forces lost in a clash.  Viewing the situation as unfavorable, on 7/7, Toshimitsu set fire to Funada Castle and fled to Ōmi Province.  Perhaps out of a sense of responsibility for the defeat of the Ishimaru forces, Shigeyori secluded himself in Kidaiji Castle and transferred the headship of the clan and the role of military governor to his eldest son, Masafusa.

In the fifth month of 1496, owing to the support that Myōjun received from Oda Tōhiro during the deployment, Toshimitsu obtained support from Rokkaku Takayori of Ōmi, Oda Tōmura of Owari, and Umedo Sadazane of Ise, and, with a contingent of 4,000 troops, marched through Ise and Owari, entering Shigeyori’s location at Kidaiji Castle.  Meanwhile, reinforcements from Kyōgoku Takakiyo of Ōmi, Oda Tōhiro of Owari, and Asakura Sadakage of Echizen gathered in support of Myōjun.  Hostilities broke out on 5/27, but the Ishimaru forces were outnumbered and, on 5/29, Kidaiji Castle was surrounded.  On 5/30, Toshimitsu took his own life.  Myōjun would not pardon Motoyori so Shigeyori did not attempt to come out of the castle.  Masafusa proceeded to convince him and, on 6/16, Shigeyori departed the castle.  On 6/20, fire was set to Kidaiji Castle and Motoyori killed himself.  Soon thereafter, Toshifuji was forced into retirement.

In the eighth month of 1496, Myōjun received an honorary title of the highest ranking priest (hōin-gondaisōzu) and transferred headship of the clan to his eldest son, Saitō Toshichika.

Demise

In the ninth month, Myōjun responded to a request from Kyōgoku Takakiyo and first deployed to Ōmi to eliminate Rokkaku Takayori who had allied with the Ishimaru.  In the opening battle, he defeated Kyōgoku Masatsune.  The Rokkaku, however, obtained support from Gamō Sadahide and the Enryaku Temple, along with Kitabatake Masasato and others, while the front lines of the battle turned into a stalemate without a major clash, whereupon the opposing sides settled and he withdrew to Mino.  On 12/7 of Meiō 5 (1496), as the forces prepared to withdraw, an local uprising suddenly broke out among villagers and transporters who were frustrated with attacks over a long period of time.  Caught by surprise, the forces from Mino had their armor and swords taken away while Myōjun and over 1,000 troops under his command were killed.  Myōjun’s eldest son, Toshichika, was also killed in battle, while the Jizein lineage of the family incurred a major blow.

His grandson, Katsuchiyo (later known as Saitō Toshinaga) was still very young, so he was succeeded by his second son, Matashirō.