Lifespan: Eiroku 6 (1563) to 9/13 of Keichō 5 (1600)
Title: Master of the Imperial Guards of the Left Division, Assistant Vice Minister of Central Affairs
Lord: Ōtomo Yoshimune → Tachibana Muneshige → Ōtomo Yoshimune
Father: Yoshihiro Shigenobu
Mother: Daughter of Usuki Akisumi
Siblings: Muneyuki, Takita Shizuo, Munesada, Hayashi Quinta, sister (wife of Ōtomo Chikaie), sister (wife of Bekki Munetsune), sister (wife of Hashizu Ihei)
Wife: Daughter of Shiga Chikamori
Children: Masanobu, Masahisa (Muneyoshi, Kazaemon, Chikushi Daizen, Seidayū, daughter (wife of Netami Shigenobu), daughter (second wife of Kuriyama Toshiyasu), daughter (wife of Ishikawa Denemon)
Yoshihiro Muneyuki served as a bushō during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. He was a retainer of the Ōtomo clan, the sengoku daimyō of Bungo Province.
Muneyuki was born as the son of Yoshihiro Shigenobu, a retainer of the Ōtomo and the lord of Yayama Castle. His childhood name was Matsuichi-tarō. First, he adopted the name of Tōun, and, in 1583, changed his name to Muneyuki.
In 1578, Muneyuki inherited the headship of the clan after the death in battle of his father, Shigenobu, at the Battle of Mimikawa. Thereafter, he exerted himself to foster a revival of the power of the Ōtomo clan which was in a period of decline. Similar to his father, he maintained Kakei Castle for ordinary use and, for defensive purposes, Yayama Castle. His uncle, Takahashi Jōun, followed a similar pattern, using Iwaya Castle in normal times and the stronghold of Hōman Castle in times of war, suggesting this was a familiar strategy in this region. In a letter dated in 1579 from his lord, Ōtomo Yoshimune, to Muneyuki, Yoshimune demands that, behind-the-scenes, he reinforce the defenses at Yayama Castle in anticipation of a possible rebellion by the main branch of the Tabaru family. When, in 1580, Tabaru Chikatsura rebelled, Muneyuki contributed to the capture of Sano-Kurakake Castle.
Thereafter, the Ōtomo came under the command of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1586, at the Battle of Hetsugigawa, Muneyuki served in the reserve forces but the Ōtomo suffered a loss after a failed offensive ordered by Sengoku Hidehisa from the Toyotomi army. Muneyuki assisted his lord, Yoshimune, in addition to the Chōsokabe and Sengoku forces, while under pursuit by the Shimazu army. At the Battle of Gionkawahara, he served in the rear guard, commanding a battalion of 300 troops. The troops were divided into three corps with the first armed with arquebuses, the second with bow and arrow, and the third with long spears. These forces prevented the Shimazu army from crossing the Gion River, enabling Yoshimune to flee to Takasakisan Castle and then to Ryūō Castle in Buzen Province. This delayed the invasion of Funai by the Shimazu army by one day.
In 1592, however, owing to missteps by his lord, Yoshimune, in the Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula, the Ōtomo were removed from their position as the sengoku daimyō of Bungo Province. Upon the invitation of Kuroda Josui of Nakatsu in Buzen, Muneyuki took refuge with the family of Inoue Yukifusa, a senior retainer of the Kuroda family. Later, Muneyuki resided with his uncle, Tachibana Muneshige, the lord of Yanagawa Castle, receiving a fief of 2,000 koku for his service. During the subsequent Keichō Campaign on the Korean Peninsula, Muneyuki served in the fourth division of the Tachibana army. In records from 1596 regarding the war, his name appears as Yoshihiro Kahei, 2,000 koku, 10 arquebuses.
In 1600, in the prelude to the Battle of Sekigahara, the Tachibana family declared their intent to join the Western Army. Ōtomo Yoshinori, the head of the Ōtomo, served the Tokugawa family, so Muneyuki pleaded with the Tachibana family for license to repay his debt of gratitude to the Ōtomo and headed out to support Yoshinori. While en route, he encountered the former head of the clan, Ōtomo Yoshimune, who sought to revive the family. Owing to his pledge to support Yoshinori, Muneyuki encouraged Yoshimune to join the Eastern Army, but Yoshimune refused and joined the Western Army instead so Muneyuki followed him. At this time, he was based again at Yayama Castle in his former territory.
When Yoshimune invaded Bungo with the aim of regaining control of the province, his forces attacked Kitsuki Castle defended by Matsui Yasuyuki of the Hosokawa family. Although the attacking forces penetrated to the inner citadel, reinforcements from the Kuroda army approached so Yoshimune gave-up trying to capture the castle and clashed against Josui’s forces at Ishigakibaru in Bungo in an event known as the Battle of Ishigakibaru. Muneyuki utilized a military tactic devised by the Shimazu, drawing the enemy forces forward before attacking from the flanks and the front. The infantry divisions imposed significant losses upon the vanguard forces of the Kuroda army, defeating the divisions led by Mori Yosobei and Tokieda Shigetsugu. The Ōtomo forces killed Kuno Jizaemon and Sokabe Gorōemon while Muneyuki himself garnered thirty heads including Oda Kurōzaemon and prevailed over the Kuroda forces.
It was not known, however, when the main division under Josui would arrive, causing the morale of the defenders to wane while the course of events gradually turned against the Ōtomo. Muneyuki offered his farewell to his lord, Yoshimune while the remaining 30 troops charged the Kuroda forces. At Nanatsuishi, he took his own life so that an old acquaintance, Inoue Yukifusa (a retainer of the Kuroda clan) could receive merit for contributions in battle. The death of Muneyuki marked the de facto decimation of the Ōtomo forces and Yoshimune surrendered via Mori Tomonobu to Josui.
On this occasion, when Yayama Castle was assaulted by Josui, the defending troops fought, despite their inferior numbers, to protect Muneyuki’s wife. Many were lost in the battle. After the death of Muneyuki, he was enshrined by his descendants (who became retainers of the Kumamoto domain) at the Yoshihiro Shrine in the city of Beppu in Oita Prefecture.
According to records of the Kuroda family, Yoshihiro Muneyuki was a true warrior, exceptional by the standards of all ages.
In other accounts, Muneyuki is described as a compassionate person knowledgeable in the ways of the bushi and a skilled commander.