Lifespan: Daiei 1 (1521) to 10/1 of Tenbun 24 (1555)
Title: Junior Fifth Rank (upper), Governor of Owari
Clan: Sue (a branch of the Ōuchi clan under the Tatara surname)
Lord: Ōuchi Yoshitaka → Ōuchi Yoshinaga
Father: Sue Okifusa
Mother: Daughter of Migita Hiroaki
Siblings: Okimasa, Takafusa (Harukata), Takanobu
Wife: [Formal] Ōkata (daughter of Naitō Takatoki, older sister of Naitō Takayo)
Children: Nagafusa, Sadaaki, Tsurujumaru
Sue Harukata served as a bushō during the Sengoku period. He was a retainer of the Ōuchi clan.
His original name was Takafusa, and he adopted the name of Harukata after killing his lord, Ōuchi Yoshitaka, in a rebellion in 1551 known as the Tainei Temple Incident and then, in 1552, backing Ōtomo Haruhide (later known as Ōtomo Yoshinaga who was the adopted son and nephew of Yoshitaka) as his new lord whereupon he adopted one of the characters from the name of Haruhide. However, he carried the name of Harukata only until he entered the priesthood prior to the Battle of Itsukushima in the tenth month of 1555.
Succession as head of the family
In 1521, Takafusa was born as the second son of Sue Okifusa. The Sue clan were a cadet family of the Migita clan, a branch of the Ōuchi clan, the sengoku daimyō of Suō Province. The Sue served as senior retainers of the Ōuchi. During his youth, Takafusa was known as a handsome young man, and, as a result, was favored by Yoshitaka. For generations, the Sue clan observed a custom of conferring one of the characters from the name of their lord in the Ōuchi clan to their children. Accordingly, at the time of his coming-of-age ceremony, he received one of the characters from the name of Yoshitaka and adopted the name of Takafusa. Later, his younger brother similarly adopted the name of Takanobu.
In 1537, Takafusa was invested with the title of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower). In 1539, after the death of his father, Okifusa, he inherited the headship of the clan. There is also a theory that he succeeded his father prior to his father’s death.
Service as a retainer of the Ōuchi
In 1540, when Amago Haruhisa of Izumo Province attacked Yoshida-Kōriyama Castle, Takafusa was granted authority by his lord, Yoshitaka, to serve as the commander-in-chief of an army to reinforce Mōri Motonari and, in the first month of 1541, achieved valorous results by repelling the Amago army at the First Battle of Yoshida-Kōriyama Castle.
In 1542, Takafusa invaded the Amago territory, but, in an attack on Gassantoda Castle, failed in this expedition to Izumo known as the First Battle of Gassantoda Castle. Moreover, he incurred many losses, notably including Ōuchi Harumochi, in this major defeat. Thereafter, Yoshitaka lost interest in military affairs and instead turned his attention toward cultural pursuits, giving prominence to Sagara Taketō in the field of civil administration. In this environment, proponents of military action led by Takafusa lost influence, and, as Yoshitaka further engaged Taketō, Takafusa had a falling out with his lord.
In 1545, after the birth of a natural son to Yoshitaka named Ōuchi Yoshitaka (written with a different character), Takafusa took advantage of this event to force Taketō into retirement and seize leadership in the Ōuchi family. In 1548, after Yoshitaka was conferred with the title of Junior Second Rank, Takafusa was promoted to the title of Junior Fifth Rank (Upper). Upon orders of Yoshitaka, Takafusa deployed to Bingo Province, and, together with Motonari, attacked Kannabe Castle in the Kannabe Conflict. However, that same year, after Yoshitaka restored Taketō to a senior civil position known as a member of the hyōjōshū. Takafusa was then rolled-back by the civil faction and expelled from the nucleus of the Ōuchi family. In 1550, he joined with Naitō Okimori in a plot to assassinate Taketō, but this was exposed before he could act and he was subjected to investigation by Yoshitaka. As a result, Takafusa lost his position in the Ōuchi family.
In the first month of 1551, fearing that he would also be held responsible for his conflict with Takafusa, Taketō submitted a document known as the Petition of Sagara Taketō to Yoshitaka. In this document, he alleged that Takafusa and Naitō Okimori were plotting a rebellion and that Sugi Shigenori was responsible for the conflict. This solidified the confrontation between Yoshitaka (who backed the civil faction) and Takafusa (who backed the military faction) in the family. On 8/10, Taketō fled from Suō out of concern for his personal safety, marking a break in relations between Yoshitaka and Takafusa.
On 8/28, Takafusa rebelled, attacked Yamaguchi, and, on 9/1, cornered Yoshitaka at the Tainei Temple in Nagato Province, whereupon Yoshitaka took his own life in the Tainei Temple Incident. Further, he killed Yoshitaka’s eldest son, Yoshitaka. There is another theory that the young Yoshitaka was not killed but sought the backing of a new lord. Next, he ordered a retainer named Nogami Fusatada to attack Chikuzen Province after which Taketō and Sugi Okikazu were killed. After the rebellion, Shigenori was also murdered. Yoshitaka’s second son, Toida Kikakumaru, whose grandfather on his mother’s side was Naitō Okimori, was spared.
Battles against the Mōri clan
In 1552, Takafusa grasped the real power in the Ōuchi clan by backing Ōtomo Haruhide as the new head of the Ōuchi clan. Haruhide was an adopted son of Yoshitaka and the younger brother of Ōtomo Yoshishige (also known as Sōrin, the head of the Ōtomo clan in Bungo Province) and his natural mother was the daughter of Ōuchi Yoshioki so that he was also a nephew of Yoshitaka). At this time, Takafusa showed that he had received Haruhide as his new lord by following the family to receive one of the characters from the name of their lord, so he adopted the name of Harukata. Meanwhile, in 1553, Haruhide adopted the name of Ōuchi Yoshinaga and, later, Harukata’s eldest son was given the name of Nagafusa.
Thereafter, Harukata thoroughly strengthened his military posture for the purpose of governing the internal elements of the Ōuchi clan. To exercise influence of the Munakata region of northern Kyūshū, he sent Munakata Ujisada and is said to have ordered the Yamada Incident involving the slaughter of women and children associated with an opposing faction within the Munakata family. However, many landowners under his command objected to his policies. In 1554, this opposition became manifest in the form of Mōri Motonari of Aki and Yoshimi Masayori of Iwami whose formal wife was the older sister of Yoshitaka.
Harukata promptly headed to eliminate Yoshimi Masayori at the Battle of Sanbonkatsu Castle. However, while Harukata’s main forces were concentrated in Iwami Province, Motonari took advantage of their absence to topple a majority of the outlying castles in Aki that were aligned with the Ōuchi, an event known as the Separation of Suō and Aki. Harukata attempted to escape the desperate situation by sending an army to Aki under the command of Miyagawa Fusanaga, only to suffer a major defeat at the Battle of Oshikibata. Thereafter, Aki came under the control of the Mōri.
On 9/21 of Tenbun 24 (1555), Harukata himself led an army of 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers to invade Itsukushima in Aki Province and attempted to attack Miyao Castle which was on the side of the Mōri in an event known as the Battle of Itsukushima. However, owing to a surprise attack by the Mōri army on the main base of the Sue, Harukata suffered a loss. Meanwhile, the Murakami navy fighting for the Mōri defeated the Ōuchi navy, severing the route for retreat, so, while fleeing, Harukata took his own life on a mountainside in Itsukushima. He died at the age of thirty-five. After an inspection of heads at Sakurao Castle, he was buried at the Tōun Temple in Hatsuka.
Following the death of Harukata, his base at Tomita-Wakayama Castle was attacked and toppled by Sugi Shigesuke whose father, Sugi Shigenori, was earlier killed by Harukata. Harukata’s eldest son, Nagafusa, killed himself. Thereafter, the Ōuchi clan rapidly declined and, in 1557, the Ōuchi were attacked and annihilated by Mōri Motonari in the Subjugation of Bōchō. At this time, Nogami Fusatada (who had supported the remnants of the clan after the death of Harukata) killed Nagafusa’s eldest son, Tsurujumaru, and then took his own life. This brought to an end the lineage of the Sue clan.
Harukata was honorably referred to as the Samurai General without Peer in the Western Provinces. Nevertheless, he deployed forces and incurred a major defeat at the Battle of Itsukushima despite prior input from Hironaka Takakane that Motonari’s plan was to induce the Ōuchi army into the narrow space of Itsukushima and then annihilate them. This outcome called into question his military acumen.
Owing to his frank character and despotic style, there is a theory that Harukata’s personality was the cause of his conflicts with Yoshitaka. He also displayed acts of ruthlessness. When an individual named Asaeki Danjō appealed for his innocence, Harukata smiled while burning him to death. Soon thereafter, when Harukata fell from his horse in battle, his retainers noted that the spirit of Danjō aimed to thrust him down.
Mōri Motonari was said to be cautious with respect to the abilities of one of Harukata’s retainers named Era Fusahide. Meanwhile, Harukata was deeply suspicious in nature, so when a rumor circulated that Fusahide was colluding with Motonari (or plotting a rebellion), he refused to listen to other retainers who warned that it was a ploy by Motonari, and murdered Fusahide. On another note, while his army fled from the expedition to Izumo, he gave his provisions to his servants and staved off hunger with dried fish.