Lifespan: 15xx to 15xx
Title: Vice Minister of Central Affairs and Governor of Tango
Lord: Ōtomo Yoshiaki → Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) → Ryūzōji Takanobu
Father: Tajiri Chikatane
Siblings: 乙鶴姫 (formal wife of Kamachi Akimori), Akitane, Shigetane, Shigemine, sister (wife of Ōki Shigetaka)
Children: Munetane, Iekazu, Harutane
Tajiri Akitane served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. Akitane was the lord of Takao Castle in Chikugo Province.
The Tajiri were members of a group known as the Fifteen Castles of Chikugo comprised of fifteen high-ranking kokujin, or provincial landowners, based in Chikugo Province under the command of the Ōtomo clan of neighboring Bungo Province during the Sengoku period.
Initially, Akitane served the Ōtomo clan of Bungo Province and Akitane received one of the characters in his name from Ōtomo Yoshiaki, a sengoku daimyō and the twentieth head of the Ōtomo clan. Akitane carried important responsibilities, but, in the era of Yoshiaki’s son, Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin), after the defeat of the Ōtomo at the Battle of Mimikawa in 1578, Akitane separated from the clan. In 1579, he entered into service for Ryūzōji Takanobu of Hizen Province. Akitane served meritoriously in assaults against Miike Shigezane and Tsutsugatake Castle in Higo Province. In 1581, upon orders of Takanobu, Akitane participated in an attack on Yanagawa Castle held by the Kamachi clan who were his own relatives. After participating in the slaughter of the family of Kamachi Shigenami and his followers, Akitane received approximately 478 hectares of land.
Thereafter, Shimazu Yoshihiro decimated the Kamachi clan and approached Akitane (who had become the most powerful figure in Chikugo) to request that he oversee Yatsushiro in Higo. Akitane consented and thereby aligned himself with the Shimazu clan of Satsuma Province.
In the eighth month of 1582, Ryūzōji Masaie (Takanobu’s eldest son) and Nabeshima Nobuo went to Setaka-kami-no-shō to observe cormorant fishing. A rumor then arose that their outing to observe the fishing was a pretext and, in fact, they plotted to call Akitane and Kamachi Ietsune to join so they could kill them. Ietsune sought vindication, but Akitane was in fact aligned with the Shimazu clan so, without seeking vindication, in the tenth month, he launched a rebellion. After setting fires in various locations, he holed-up in his base at Takao Castle and positioned his relatives in Enoura, Hamada, Tsuru, and Horikiri castles to hole-up. In the twelfth month, Akitane requested support from the Ōtomo and Shimazu Yoshihisa of Satsuma. The Ōtomo could not prepare in time to assist but Yoshihisa responded and, in the first month of 1583, he sent over 300 soldiers led by Chōsa Munemitsu and Tajiri Tajima to Takao Castle.
Robust defenses were established at each of the castles and the Ryūzōji forces held back on a full-scale assault so none of the sites were captured. In the seventh month, through the mediation of Akizuki Tanezane, the two families commenced negotiations but, owing to the conditions proposed, the talks failed. The Ryūzōji forces attempted another assault to no avail while Ishii Tomotsugu (the brother-in-law of Nabeshima Nobuo) died in battle. This prompted Nobuo to order Hyakutake Tomokane (an acquaintance of Tajiri 了哲, the lord of Enoura Castle) to engage in settlement discussions with him. Through 了哲, Nobuo could reconcile with Akitane. In the twelfth month, the Tajiri family issued a written pledge to Ryūzōji Masaie, vacated Takao Castle, and moved to the Saga District. Upon the grant of approximately 200 hectares of land, a settlement was reached. Thereafter, the Tajiri returned to serve as retainers of the Ryūzōji.
Taking advantage of a weakening of the Ryūzōji following their defeat at the Battle of Okitanawate in 1584, the Ōtomo clan directed forces toward Chikugo. Serving in the vanguard forces of the Ryūzōji, Akitane launched an offensive in Chikugo and recaptured his former base at Takao Castle. Thereafter, he sent conciliatory letters to the Shimazu clan and showed signs of leaning toward the Shimazu. Meanwhile, leery of Akitane’s repeated betrayals, the Ryūzōji issued numerous written pledges. Once the Ryūzōji and the Shimazu reconciled, Akitane was put in a precarious position as a retainer of the Ryūzōji who also colluded with the Shimazu. Notwithstanding the earlier betrayals, Akitane evaded punishment while the Ryūzōji relied upon him to leverage his friendly relations with the Shimazu. By around the end of the campaign of Toyotomi Hideyoshi known as the Subjugation of Kyūshū, Akitane committed to full servitude to the Ryūzōji. Tachibana Muneshige, Takahashi Munemasu (later Tachibana Naotsugu), and Tsukushi Hirokado, among others, had an audience with Hideyoshi and became direct retainers. Akitane did not meet with Hideyoshi and instead came under the command of Nabeshima Naoshige. He then pledged his loyalty to Naoshige and, while accompanying him during the Bunroku Campaign, died of illness in Korea.
According to certain historical accounts of the Shimazu clan, following the foregoing settlement, Akitane led over 100 men to visit Takanobu. While en route, he was killed in an ambush by Ryūzōji forces. Moreover, his son, Kiheji, was also almost killed but then rescued by Takanobu’s mother, Keigin-ni, and became a monk. After returning to secular life, he adopted the name of Munetane and served the Ōtomo clan. Later, he absconded, became a rōnin, or wandering samurai, and then served Shimazu Yoshihiro. Nevertheless, there are several sources citing Akitane’s service in Korea so these accounts are considered to be of questionable authenticity.