Lifespan: Tenbun 17 (1548) to 2/23 of Tenshō 11 (1583)
Other Names: Genjūrō (childhood), Ashida Nobushige
Title: Assistant Governor of Hitachi, Assistant Captain of Outer Palace Guards of the Right Division
Clan: Yoda (Ashida)
Lord: Takeda Shingen → Takeda Katsuyori → Tokugawa Ieyasu
Father: Ashida Nobumori
Siblings: Nobushige, Nobuyuki, Ashida Shigekata, Nobuharu, Nobuyoshi, sister (wife of Matsui Munenao)
Wife: Daughter of Atobe Katsusuke
Children: Yasukuni, Yasukatsu (Katō Yasuhiro)
Yoda Nobushige served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. He was a retainer of the Kai-Takeda and, later, the Tokugawa clan.
Service to the Kai-Takeda clan
Nobushige was born as the son of Ashida Nobumori, a retainer of Suwa Yorishige (a sengoku daimyō) and the Ōi clan serving as the deputy military governors of Shinano Province. In 1542, Yorishige was compelled by Takeda Harunobu (later known as Shingen) to kill himself. Thereafter, Nobumori served the Kai-Takeda clan and was active as one of the retainers of the Kai-Takeda based in Shinano. After the death of Shingen, Nobumori served Takeda Katsuyori.
In the twelfth month of 1568, Nobushige served among those forces who raided Sunpu during an invasion by the Takeda clan of Suruga Province. In 1573, he participated in the Battle of Mikatagahara, and, on 5/21 of Tenshō 3 (1575), at the time of the Battle of Nagashino, Nobushige and his siblings joined his father, Nobumori, to defend Futamata Castle in Tōtōmi Province. This occurred several years after an event known as the Siege of Futamata Castle.
At the Battle of Nagashino, the Takeda army incurred a major defeat and, and after the Tokugawa army led by Tokugawa Ieyasu attacked Futamata, Nobushige firmly held his position with a small force. In the course of these events, Nobumori died of illness. Nobushige then led those defending the castle and, together with his younger brother, Yoda Nobuyuki, continued to resist. The Tokugawa forces grew weary of the assault, and, instead, constructed several forts around the castle to prepare to wait out the defenders while their provisions dwindled. After a siege persisting for one-half year, the Tokugawa concluded that the castle could not be taken by force, so proposed that if Katsuyori (who had been defeated at Nagashino) order the defenders to vacate the castle and return to Kai, their lives would be spared, whereupon Nobushige withdrew to Takatenjin Castle located in the Kitō District of Tōtōmi. At the planned time of the withdrawal, it was raining so Nobushige notified Ieyasu that he wanted to delay vacating the castle. As a reason, he noted that it would be pitiable to see the defeated soldiers departing the castle dressed in rain gear (straw raincoats and conical hats) so he would like to do so on a clear day. Three days later, once the sun returned, the garrison finally departed. A senior retainer of Ieyasu named Ōkubo Tadayo went to oversee the withdrawal, and after entering the castle, noted that the premises were left clean and orderly. Upon hearing this report, Ieyasu was impressed. Later, Nobushige became a chamberlain of Tanaka Castle in Suruga Province.
Battle against the Hōjō clan
In the third month of 1582, many veterans of the Takeda army were lost in the Battle of Nagashino. This resulted in a decline of the stature of Takeda Katsuyori and the rise of opponents to his rule. After the commencement of the Conquest of Kōshū (Kai) by Oda Nobunaga, Nobushige was attacked at Tanaka Castle by Tokugawa Ieyasu who was acting in concert with Nobunaga. Owing to stiff defenses prepare by Nobushige, the castle showed no indications of falling. Without a prospect for taking the castle by force, Ieyasu assigned Naruse Masakazu to convince the defenders to vacate the castle, but Nobushige rejected these entreaties. While Nobushige continued to hold out, Takeda Katsuyori incurred an attack by the Oda army and took his own life. After receiving a letter from a retainer of the Kai-Takeda named Anayama Nobutada urging him to vacate the castle, Nobushige finally transferred the premises to Ōkubo Tadayo. After departing from Tanaka Castle, Nobushige received a request to serve in the Tokugawa army, but he politely declined noting that he was unable to oblige as long as he did not know the status of his lord, Katsuyori. Thereafter, although he returned to Kasuga Castle in his home territory, fearing a purge by the Oda, upon the recommendation of Ieyasu, he temporarily went into hiding in Tōtōmi Province.
On 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), Oda Nobunaga died in a coup d’état known as the Honnō Temple Incident. Following the coup, from 6/16 to 6/19, a senior retainer of Nobunaga named Takigawa Kazumasu fought against Hōjō Ujinao and Hōjō Ujikuni at the Battle of Kannagawa in the Kami District of Musashi Province. This is considered one of the battles comprising the Tenshō Jingo Conflict. After suffering a defeat in this battle, on 6/20, Kazumasu entered Komoro Castle defended by Dōke Masahide. On 6/22, Nobushige met with Kazumasu. To ensure Kazumasu that he could return to his base at Ise-Nagashima without incident, Nobushige gathered hostages from the Saku and Chiisagata districts and transferred them to Kazumasu. The hostages included Nobushige’s eldest son and designated heir, Yoda Yasukuni, and the mother of Sanada Masayuki, Kyōunin. On 6/27, Kazumasu turned Komoro Castle over to Nobushige and departed. On 6/28, Kazumasu traveled from Suwa to Kisodani, and, as promised, entrusted the hostages to Kiso Yoshimasa. On 7/1, he returned to Ise-Nagashima. On 9/17, the hostages were transferred from Yoshimasa to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
On 7/12, after soldiers led by Hōjō Ujinao traversed the Usui Pass, Nobushige sought to oppose them so he abandoned Komoro Castle and retreated to the Ashida koya to mount a defense. In one account, this is another name for the Misawa koya, but in other accounts, this was a separate fort from Misawa. Misawa may have been an auxiliary site to Ashida. There is a theory that the Ashida koya was named after Nobushige holed up in this location (given that his original surname was Ashida). The Ashida koya is also surmised to have referred to Kasuga Castle while the Misawa koya was located in the mountain recesses near Mount Tateshina. There are other theories that it referred to locations upstream the Kakuma River including 大小屋 Castle or an area called Misawa near Shiroishi.
At this same location, Nobushige pursued a guerilla war, severing the supply lines of the Hōjō army advancing to Wakamiko in Kai Province. Nobushige maintained close communications with Tokugawa Ieyasu while reinforcements comprised primarily of forces from Kai arrived at the Misawa koya on 7/14 (Shibata Yasutada, Tsuji Yabei) and, on 9/25 (Okabe Masatsuna, Imafuku Motosuke, Mitsui Jūemon, Kawakubo Nobutoshi). On 9/28, Nobushige lured Sanada Masayuki away from the Hōjō and, on 10/26, recaptured Kasuga Castle in the Ina District of Shinano. In addition, owing to a defeat by the Hōjō army to the Tokugawa army in the Gunnai Region, despite being in a militarily inferior position, on 10/29, the Tokugawa were able to forge a settlement with the Gohōjō on favorable conditions.
Owing to these contributions, after the withdrawal of Daidōji Masashige (who was aligned with the Hōjō), Nobushige was awarded Komoro Castle while forces in the area steadily amassed behind him. Meanwhile, those powers who did not align with Nobushige gathered under the Ōi clan serving as the lord of Iwao Castle in the Saku District of Shinano under the control of the Hōjō clan.
On 2/21 of Tenshō 11 (1583), Nobushige attempted an assault against Ōi Yukiyoshi at Iwao Castle, but, contrary to his expectations that the castle would quickly fall, Nobushige struggled in the face of stiff resistance by the defenders. On 2/22, Nobushige and his younger brother, Yoda Nobuyuki, incurred enemy fire from arquebuses and Nobuyuki was killed that same day while Nobushige died on 2/23. He was thirty-six years old. Later, his eldest son, Matsudaira (Yoda) Yasukuni built a grave for him at the Banshō Temple. A Buddhist mortuary tablet for Nobushige and stone memorial to Nobushige and his wife remain at this location.
Although his period of service under Ieyasu was relatively short, Nobushige was praised by Ieyasu. When his orphan, Yoda Yasukuni, succeeded to the headship of the clan, Yasukuni was awarded the Matsudaira surname and Komoro Castle. Yasukuni was further permitted to inherit a territory of 60,000 koku, surmised to rank at the highest level among retainers of Ieyasu.
Based on the genealogy of Yoda Yasukatsu, numerous chief retainers came from the Ashida-Shinano family serving the Fukui domain during the Edo period.