Shiratori Nagahisa

白鳥長久

Shiratori Clan

Bushō

Dewa Province

Lifespan:  15xx to 6/7 of Tenshō 12 (1584)

Other Names:  Yoshikuni, Takenori, Taketō, Jūrō (common)

Rank:  bushō

Clan:  Shiratori

Father:  Yoshihisa

Wife:  Daughter of Yoshikawa Masatoki

Children:  Hirosato, Hiyoshihime (formal wife of Mogami Yoshiyasu (?)), Eigenin (consort of Tsugaru Tamenobu)

Shiratori Nagahisa served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  He was the lord of Shiratori Castle, and, later Yachi Castle in the Murayama District of Dewa Province.

Nagahisa’s origins are uncertain but he may have been the son (or nephew) of Shiratori Yoshihisa.  He was a kokujin, or provincial landowner, residing on the left bank of the Mogami River in the Murayama District of Dewa.

Nagahisa was known for his knowledge of literature as well as his skill in the military arts.  To create a political alliance with the Sagae clan, his uncle, Shiratori Nagakuni, had his first daughter wed Sagae Kanehiro and his second daughter wed a member of the Mizonobe who were members of the Sagae clan.  Meanwhile, his father (or uncle) Yoshihisa, had his daughter wed Tendō Yorisada to forge an alliance with the Tendō clan.

From 1542 to 1548, the Date family serving as the military governors of Dewa Province were beset by a struggle between Date Terumune (a sengoku daimyō and the fourteenth head of the Date clan) and his son, Date Harumune.  This is known as the Tenbun Conflict, during which Nagahisa supported Tanemune as a member of the reinforcements dispatched by Mogami Yoshimori.

From 1558 to 1573, he advanced in the direction of Yachi and inherited the well-known Nakajō clan from Nakajō Nagamasa, which clan served as magistrates for the Muromachi bakufu.

Mogami Yoshimori, a sengoku daimyō, served as the ushū tandai, or commissioner of the Muromachi bakufu for Dewa.  Along with Date Harumune, the oushū tandai, or commissioner for Mutsu, they were charged with administering the governance of the bakufu in the entire Ouu region or northern Japan.  In 1574, Yoshimori came into conflict with his eldest son and heir, Mogami Yoshiaki, over matters of succession, triggering an event known as the Tenshō Mogami Conflict.  Initially, he participated in an attack against the Sagae clan, supporters of Yoshimori, at Sagae Castle.  However, as Yoshiaki prevailed in a series of local conflicts, Yoshimori sent a letter to Date Masamune, requesting him to mediate a settlement with Yoshiaki.  Nagahisa was then appointed as a mediator of the conflict, acquiring the reputation of an influential person in the Murayama District.

Nagahisa actively engaged in diplomacy.  In 1577, he sent a messenger to deliver a fine white horse as a gift to Oda Nobunaga to foster friendly relations and in an effort to receive the title of Governor of Dewa.  Aware of these activities by Nagahisa, Yoshiaki dispatched a retainer named Shimura Akiyasu to Nobunaga’s territory to share the Mogami genealogy.  He also gave ten spears forged by the Gassan school of sword-making in Dewa from the Kamakura to Muromachi periods.  Nobunaga sent a reply addressed to Mogami Dewa-no-kami dono, meaning that he awarded the title to the Mogami instead of the Shiratori.  By establishing relations with Nobunaga, Nagahisa aimed to expand his authority and stabilize the situation in his territory, but these actions caused concern for Yoshiaki who, as the head of the Mogami clan, aimed to unify Dewa under his control.  Thereafter, Yoshiaki was determined, through any means necessary, to bury Nagahisa.

In 1584, Nagahisa was slayed while heading toward Yamagata Castle upon invitation of Yoshiaki who said he was suffering from serious illness and wanted to request support with affairs after his death.  After the loss of Nagahisa, the Shiratori clan fell into chaos and, together with reinforcements from the Sagae, fought against Yoshiaki, but were decimated.

In 1616, in accordance with Buddhist traditions, a ceremony was held in observance of the thirty-second anniversary of Nagahisa’s death.  The service was led by Kōgaku, the sixteenth high priest of the Enpuku Temple, and a grave was built for Nagahisa.  In 1804, the memorial tower was rebuilt by Daien Junkyō, the twenty-eighth head of the Tōrin Temple along with notable individuals from Yachi.  The memorial remains to the present day.

Anecdotes

Mogami Yoshiaki proposed receiving Nagahisa’s daughter (or adopted daughter, Hiyoshihime) as the wife of Mogami Yoshiyasu, his eldest son and designated heir.  He then ordered Kurazō Chikakage (Daizen-no-jō) to construct a road from Kurazō to Yachi known as the Mukasari Road.  After the marriage discussions broke down, Yoshiaki invited Nagahisa to Yamagata Castle and had him killed and then followed the Mukasari Road to topple Yachi Castle.  According to one theory, Nagahisa overrode the opinions of retainers who opposed the offer to visit Yoshiaki, and, after being led into Yoshiaki’s territory, he was cut-down while attempting to receive a letter from Yoshiaki.

A cherry tree said to have been soaked in the blood of Nagahisa remained on the grounds of Yamagata Castle until the early Shōwa period, along with a grave for his head which still remains.  Despite various anecdotes and stories concerning Nagahisa, there is a lack of authenticated accounts so the facts cannot be determined.

There is a theory that Nagahisa’s father, Yoshihisa, was an illegitimate son of Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the twelfth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.

Descendants

During the Meiji and Taishō periods, his descendants served in roles including as prefectural assembly members and as the mayor of the village of Arakawa in the Higashi-Tsugaru District of Aomori Prefecture.

Many members of the Shiratori who are said to be descendants of Nagahisa reside in the Arakawa area.  Notable individuals include Shiratori Kōshō, a politician known for rare contributions in the field of forestry management during the Meiji period and his father, Shiratori Yoshikazu, who served in the national government as a member of the Lower House of the Diet.