Lifespan: 5/1 of Tenbun 5 (1536) to 7/25 of Tenshō 13 (1585)
Other Names: Hatsuchiyo (childhood), Haruhisa, Yoshitoshi, [Common]: Matatarō, Saburō-tarō, Hachirō-zaemon-no-jō
Title: Satsuma-no-kami (informal)
Lord: Shimazu Takahisa → Shimazu Yoshihisa
Father: Shimazu Sanehisa
Mother: Ue-no-jō (daughter of Shimazu Narihisa)
Siblings: Sister (wife of Hishikari Shigetake), Torahime (wife of Kedōin Yoshishige), Yoshitora, Mitsuba Tadatsugu, sister (wife of Son Hōki-no-kami), sister (wife of a member of the Ogawa clan)
Wife: [Formal] Ohira (daughter of Shimazu Yoshihisa), [Consort] Daughter of the Irikiin clan
Children: Daughter (wife of Shiki Chikahiro), Tadatoki, Tadachika, Tadakiyo, Tadahisa, Tadatomi, Tadatoyo, daughter (wife of Ogawa Arisue) (?)
Shimazu Yoshitora served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. He was the sixth head of Sasshū, a cadet family of the Shimazu clan and was a landlord in Izumi in Satsuma Province.
In 1536, Yoshitora was born as the eldest son of Shimazu Sanehisa, the fifth head of the Shimazu-Sasshū family. He received one of the characters from the name of Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the twelfth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, and adopted the name of Haruhisa.
His father, Sanehisa, came into conflict with Shimazu Tadayoshi and Shimazu Takahisa (father and son) of the Izuku family (a cadet family of the Shimazu) over the position of shugo, or military governor, of Satsuma. Yoshitora, however, was obedient to Tadayoshi and Takahisa. After Sanehisa lost the power struggle and resided in seclusion in Izumi, Yoshitora wed Ohira, the eldest daugher of Shimazu Yoshihisa, and settled with them, thereafter serving as a retainer. There is a theory, however, that the conflict between Sanehisa on one side and Tadayoshi and Takahisa on the other persisted until the death of Sanehisa and, as a result, Yoshitora did not become a retainer until afterwards.
Even after the Izuka family succeeded to the main branch of the Shimazu clan and Yoshitora served them, he frequently acted independently. In 1563, he traveled to Kyōto and met with Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun. He was bestowed with one of the characters from Yoshiteru’s name and, around this time, adopted the name of Yoshitoshi. He subsequently changed his name to Yoshitora. In 1547, a dispute arose between Tōgō Shigeharu (Yamato-no-kami), the landlord of Tōgō, and a retainer of Yoshitora named Yuda Hyōgo Narishige over a matter involving the theft of Narishige’s prized dog. This escalated into a conflict between the families that wore on for approximately twenty years, marked by repeated clashes. In the third month of 1565, Yoshitora was ordered by his uncle, Shimazu Tadakane, to attack Nagashima in the Amakusa archipelago, a part of Higo Province. In the background, he had been protecting Nagashima Shizuma who, in the seventh month of 1554, had been ousted from Dōzaki Castle in Nagashima by Sagara Haruhiro. Shizuma had been replaced as the landlord of Nagashima by Amakusa Echizen-no-kami. After attacking and eliminating Echizen-no-kami, the Sasshū-Shimazu family garnered possession of Nagashima. On 7/8 of Eiroku 8 (1565), Yoshitora murdered Tadakane.
Beginning in 1567, Yoshitora protected Hatsuki Castle to defend against the Sagara clan of Higo Province. In 1569, the Sagara killed a messenger sent by the Shimazu to propose a settlement. After the Sagara combined forces with the Hishikari clan to revolt, Yoshitora departed Hatsuki Castle where he was cornered and retreated to his main territory of Izumi, stirring the anger of Yoshihisa. Thereafter, in 1578, at the Battle of Mimikawa, Yoshitora defended Izumi Castle against the Sagara who were acting in concert with the Ōtomo clan. In 1581, Yoshitora served in the vanguard forces to subdue the Sagara and finally forced their surrender.
In the third month of 1584, Yoshitora served with valor in the Battle of Okitanawate to defeat the Ryūzōji.
The fact that Yoshitora received one of the characters in his name from Ashikaga Yoshiteru indicates that, after Shimazu Yoshihisa, he held the second highest status among members of the Shimazu family. Moreover, in addition to Izumi, Yoshitora’s landholdings included Taki, Mizuhiki, and Yamano, totaling 31,905 koku.
In 1585, Yoshitora died at the age of fifty.
Among Yoshitora’s children, his third son, Tadakiyo, had one son and one daughter. This son, Tadakage, succeeded to the Niiro clan while Yoshitora’s fifth son, Shigetaka, succeeded to the Irikiin clan. Each of these clans continued as members of the Satsuma domain. Meanwhile, Tadakiyo’s daughter wed Shimazu Tadatsune and was known as 心応-fujin. She was the mother of Shimazu Mitsuhisa, the nineteenth head of the Shimazu clan, so the members of the Satsuma domain continued the bloodline of Yoshitora through her.