Akazawa Sōden

赤沢宗伝

Akazawa Clan

Akazawa Sōden

Awa Province

Lifespan:  15xx to Tenshō 10 (1582)

Rank:  bushō, lord of Banzai Castle

Title:  Governor of Shinano

Clan:  Akazawa

Lord:  Miyoshi Jikkyū → Miyoshi Nagaharu

Wife:  Daughter of Miyoshi Jikkyū

Children:  Shika-no-jō

Akazawa Sōden served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  He was a retainer of the Miyoshi clan and the lord of Banzai Castle in the Itano District of Awa Province in Shikoku.

The Akazawa were a branch family of the Ogasawara clan based in Shinano Province.  In 1491, a predecessor in the family named Akazawa Tomotsune served as a tonosama, or outside lord, for Hosokawa Masamoto, the kanrei, or deputy shōgun, of the Muromachi bakufu.  Meanwhile, his adopted son, Akazawa Nagatsune, served Hosokawa Sumimoto of the Awa-Hosokawa family.  Although not certain, Sōden was either the descendant of Nagatsune or inherited the family name.  In 1555, Akazawa Tsunetomo from the main branch of the Akazawa family and his sons, Akazawa Nagakatsu and Akazawa Sadatsune, were expelled from Shinano by the Kai-Takeda clan.  Together with Ogasawara Nagatoku (the military governor of Shinano), they depended upon Miyoshi Nagayoshi (from a branch of the Ogasawara) to go to Kyōto.

Sōden served Miyoshi Jikkyū, the younger brother of Miyoshi Nagayoshi and lord of the Miyoshi clan serving as the deputy military governor of Awa.  Sōden wed Jikkyū’s niece.  He then positioned in the area twelve commanders known as the Group of Twelve of the Akazawa Family, including his eldest son, Shika-no-jō, Akazawa Dewa-no-kami (from the Group of Three from Banzai Castle), Sakagami Bizen-no-kami, Aki Hida-no-kami, Abe Uneme-no-kami (Shimo manor), Bandō Kii-no-kami (Shiigamoto manor), Ōderamatsu Dayū (Ōdera manor), Akazawa Mino-no-kami (Kami manor), Shingai Ukon (Nishibun manor), Inubuse Sakon (Inubuse manor), Shichijō Magoshirō (Shichijō manor), and Takawa Kōnai (Takawa manor).

In the third month of 1562, after Jikkyū was killed at the Battle of Kumeda, Sōden, together with Shinohara Nagafusa (the lord of Uezakura Castle) and Shinohara Jiton (the lord of Kizu Castle), entered the priesthood and, thereafter, served as senior retainers for Jikkyū’s son, Miyoshi Nagaharu.

In the fifth month of 1573, Nagafusa took his own life after being attacked by his lord, Miyoshi Nagaharu, Sogō Masayasu (Nagaharu’s natural younger brother adopted by the Sogō clan of neighboring Sanuki Province), and Hosokawa Saneyuki (the military governor of Awa and the half-older brother of Nagaharu).  This event is known as the Siege of Uezakura Castle.  At this time, owing to his close relationship with Nagafusa, Sōden was also attacked at his base at Banzai Castle.  Thereafter, Sōden lamented that the killing of Nagafusa was beyond reason and that the elimination of a loyal bushi showed the end was near for the Miyoshi clan, whereupon he abandoned Banzai Castle and lived a secluded life on Mount Kōya for three years.  In 1576, Miyoshi Nagaharu died in battle owing to a dispute with Hosokawa Saneyuki and Nagaharu was succeeded by Sogō Masayasu.

In the ninth month of 1582, after Chōsokabe Motochika attacked Sogō Masayasu at the Shōzui Temple, Sōden led a group of retainers of the Miyoshi family and fought valiantly at the Battle of Nakatomigawa, but died.  Along the pilgrimage route of the eighty-eight temples in Shikoku, at the number three temple that issues amulets, there is a shrine for him in the Aizen sub-temple at the back of the Kōsen Temple.

Anecdotes

(The story of the straw sandals of Akazawa Shinano-no-kami)

Long ago, there was a bushō named Akazawa Shinano-no-kami who served as the lord of Banzai Castle in the town of Itano in Awa.

When Chōsokabe Motochika of Tosa Province attacked Shōzui Castle, a big battle broke-out along the Nakatomi River near the castle.  In one of the most ferocious battles in Awa, the lord of the province and the Miyoshi clan were decimated.  As a retainer of the Miyoshi, Shinano-no-kami joined the fighting along the river, but was killed in action.  Shinano-no-kami wrestled down an imposing samurai from the enemy army, and tried to stab him through the armor, but the laces on the straw sandals that he was wearing broke, whereupon his opponent jumped-up and stabbed him instead, killing Shinano-no-kami.

Owing to this story, many straw sandals are hanging on the wayside shrine at the Amida Temple in Matsusaka in the town of Itano as a tribute to Shinano-no-kami.  His wife was said to have weak legs from nerve pain and unable to flee.  Thereafter, worshipers often came to pray for relief for leg pain or weakness.  The straw sandals are said to be a symbol of thanks for the recovery from illness.