Lifespan: 15xx to Genna 6 (1620)
Title: Governor of Awa
Clan: Sakuraba (a branch of the Sasaki clan descended from the Uda-Genji)
Lord: Nanbu Nobunao → Nanbu Toshinao
Father: Sakuraba Mitsuyasu
Mother: Daughter of Kita Munechika (younger sister of Kita Nobuchika)
Siblings: Naotsuna, Sho Saemon, Mitsutada, Naoyoshi
Wife: Daughter of Kimura Hideshige
Children: 直際, Masamune, Kinosuke, daughter (wife of Shigeichi Sandayū)
Sakuraba Naotsuna served as a bushō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods. He was a hereditary retainer of the Nanbu clan, a sengoku daimyō of Mutsu Province. Naotsuna became a mainstay of the clan, governing a fief of 2,000 koku. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period, he founded the Sakuraba clan, inheriting the role of chief retainer of the Morioka domain until its dissolution.
The Sakuraba were a branch of the Sasaki clan descended from the Uda-Genji. As a military family, the Sakuraba served as hereditary retainers of the Nanbu from before the time that Nanbu Mitsuyuki, the first head of the Nanbu, moved from Kai Province to Oushū in the late twelfth century and constructed the first base of the Nanbu at Heragasaki Castle. Together with the Mikami, the Ogasawara, and the Fukushi clans, the Sakuraba were designated as one of the Four Emperors of the Nanbu.
Naotsuna was born as the son of Sakuraba Mitsuyasu. Initially, he had the name of Sasaki Yosaburō, but, in 1582, at his coming-of-age ceremony, he received one of the characters from the name of his lord, Nanbu Nobunao, and adopted the name of Naotsuna along with receiving a long sword manufactured by Rai Kunitsugu.
In 1591, during the Revolt of Kunohe Masazane, upon the wishes of his lord, Naotsuna endeavored to garner the support of gōzoku, or wealthy families, in the territory.
In 1600, in a rebellion led by Waga Tadachika known as the Iwasaki Uprising, Naotsuna led a unit of 70 soldiers as a mounted general, fighting as the main force of the Nanbu army. In the deployment orders for this battle, Naotsuna, Kita Nobuchika, and Narayama Gozaemon Naotaka are noted as serving together. Around this time, Naotsuna is surmised to have been a key figure within the Nanbu family.
In 1601, upon orders of his lord to eliminate Asonuma Hironaga, a member of the gōzoku in the Tōno region who was allied with the Date clan, Naotsuna led a battalion of 350 troops in battle against the Asonuma army and defeated them.
In 1612, when Tokugawa Hidetada visited the residence of the Nanbu domain in Edo for the purpose of ordering the construction of the Sentō palace, Naotsuna, together with Nanbu Toshinao, Nanbu Shigenao, Hachinohe Naomasa, and Kita Naotsugu joined the meeting.
In 1614, at the Winter Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, the Nanbu army engaged in the demolition of the base of Katagiri Katsumoto at Ibaraki Castle. Perhaps owing to an incident involving Kita Nobukage holing-up at Ōsaka Castle, Naotsuna did not participate in the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka.
In 1615, Naotsuna was appointed as a chief retainer of the Nanbu clan. In his later years, he was in charge of political and financial affairs.
In 1616, Nanbu Shigenobu was born in the village of Hanawa in the Hei District. Shigenobu was designated to become the lord of the Morioka domain so Naotsuna went there to confirm the circumstances.
In 1620, Naotsuna died and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sakuraba 直際.
A stone monument to generations of the Sakuraba family stands at the Tamaōzan-Chōkan Temple (Shingon sect) which was one of the temples protected by Naotsuna’s father, Mitsuyasu. It is a designated cultural asset of the City of Miyako in Iwate Prefecture.
Ouster from the bakufu
Naotsuna was subject to questioning by the Edo bakufu in regard to the incident whereby Kita Nobukage holed-up in Ōsaka Castle. Nanbu Toshinao sent explanatory letters via Honda Masazumi and Andō Naotsugu to Tokugawa Ieyasu in Sunpu and Tokugawa Hidetada in Edo. In these letters, Naotsuna’s father is noted as Matashige Gagaku-no-jō, indicating that Naotsuna was a half-brother of Nobukage (having a different father). In this case, it is suspected the genealogy of the Sakuraba family was fabricated to avoid punishment. In later genealogies of the Sakuraba and records of the Nanbu family, the dates pertaining to Naotsuna’s father, Mitsuyasu, and the name of his wife, are different.
According to one account, Ieyasu noted that they had come from far away in Oushū to participate in battle without any indication of rebellious intent so he did not punish either the Kita or Sakuraba families.