Lifespan: Kyōtoku 2 (1453) to 6/4 of Bunmei 17 (1485)
Title: Assistant Director of the Bureau of Palace Maintenance
Bakufu: Muromachi bakufu – Deputy Military Governor of Bizen Province
Lord: Akamatsu Masanori
Father: Uragami Norimune
Siblings: Norikage, Norikuni, Sukemune (adopted from Yasutomi Motoie)
Uragami Norikage served as a bushō and retainer of the Akamatsu clan during the late Muromachi period.
Norikage was born in 1453 as the eldest son of Uragami Norimune, a senior retainer of the Akamatsu clan. Following the Ōnin-Bunmei no ran, a multi-faceted conflict waged in Kyōto and the surrounding provinces from 1467 to 1477, Norimune served as a deputy military governor and deputy head of the samurai-dokoro, or office of military and security affairs, wielding influence within the Akamatsu family. After Norimune ended his assignments in the capital, Norikage participated at a young age in governance matters in Harima Province as a close associate of Akamatsu Masanori, a sengoku daimyō and ninth head of the Akamatsu clan. With the counsel of senior retainers, Norikage exercised power in Harima as the successor to Norimune. Unlike his father, Norikage maintained relationships with nobles, and he received seafood as gifts from the Yamashina family.
Matsuda Motonari, an influential hikan of the Akamatsu clan, served as lord of Kanagawa Castle in the western portion of Bizen Province. Late in 1483, Motonari colluded with Yamana Masatoyo who sought to reclaim land that had earlier been seized by the Akamatsu. Together, Motonari and Masatoyo launched a surprise attack against generals allied with the Akamatsu, including Kogamo Yamato-no-kami and Kushihashi Norikore, who were sheltered in Fukuoka Castle, the residence of the military governor for Bizen. Outnumbered, the defenders appealed to Akamatsu Masanori for reinforcements.
Masanori responded by assembling troops for Norikage and Uno Masahide to initiate a counterattack in Bizen in support of the defenders. Masanori himself deployed to Tajima Province to engage the Yamana. However, after Norikage and Masahide advanced to Katakami, news spread that Masanori had been defeated by the Yamana at the Ikuno Ridge and fled to Himeji. Norikage and Masahide then ceased the advance toward Fukuoka Castle and returned with their men to protect Harima. By the time that Norikage’s army returned to Harima, the Akamatsu army had already been routed. Early in 1484, Fukuoka Castle was captured by the allied forces of the Matsuda and Yamana. Moreover, the Yamana forces in Tajima took advantage of their defeat of Masanori to storm Harima.
Amidst these dire circumstances, early in 1484, Norimune returned to Harima, solicited kokujin, or local landowners of influence, who had lost faith in Masanori, and reassembled an army. Masanori took refuge in the city of Sakai in Izumi Province. Having eliminated Masanori and taken over control of the Akamatsu clan, Norimune then consulted with Kodera Norimoto to have the son of Arima Norihide, Keijumaru, become successor to the clan. He further planned to have this recognized by the bakufu, but the petition was rejected. These events triggered divisions among the kokujin who were governed by the Akamatsu. Norikage fought as a commander in the Uragami army, killing Matsuda Motonari in the course of a victory for the allied Akamatsu and Uragami forces. In the end, however, the kokujin could not reconcile their differences, and posed no match for the combined Yamana and Matsuda forces, so Norikage and others were ousted from their territory.
After fleeing to Kyōto, Norimune concluded that if he could not settle internal differences, then he would be unable to prevail against the allied Yamana and Matsuda armies. Through the mediation of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth shōgun, a settlement was reached with Masanori on the basis that Keijimaru would not become successor to the Akamatsu clan. The army was reconstituted with the aim of recapturing Harima. Through their support for Masanori, the Akamatsu and Uragami armies overcame the internal differences within the clan, and stood in a superior position vis-à-vis the Yamana and Matsuda forces. In the summer of 1485, the allied Akamatsu and Uragami forces incurred a major defeat in Katashima in Harima, losing Norikage and Norikuni in the battle.