Lifespan: Kyōroku 3 (1530) to 8/11 of Eiroku 12 (1569)
Rank: bushō, kokujin
Title: Governor of Bingo
Father: Aki Motoyasu
Siblings: Yasuchika, Kunitora
Wife: Daughter of the Ichijō clan
Children: Senjumaru, Ietomo
Aki Kunitora served as a bushō during the Sengoku period. He was a kokujin, or provincial landowner, in Tosa Province in Shikoku.
In 1530, Kunitora was born as the son of Aki Motoyasu, a landowner in the Aki District of Tosa.
The Aki clan descended from the Soga no Akae, the head of a gōzoku, or wealthy family, dating to the Asuka period of the seventh century. Based in the Aki District, the Aki clan was one of seven gōzoku in Tosa from the latter part of the Muromachi period to the Sengoku period.
For generations, members of the Aki clan received one of the characters from the name of the head of the Hosokawa-Keichō family who served as the military governors of Tosa and the kanrei, or deputy shōgun, of the Muromachi bakufu. In accordance with the customs of the Aki clan, Kunitora received the character “kuni” from Hosokawa Takakuni, adopting the name of Kunitora.
In the early part of the Eiroku era (1558 to 1570), Kunitora came into conflict with Yoshida Shigetoshi (a retainer of Chōsokabe Motochika) in regard to the ownership rights of Yasu in the Kami District which area was guarded by Shigetoshi. In the course of this dispute, the Aki clan had their forces advance into the village of Umanoue to which the Aki asserted their right. This brought them into conflict with the Chōsokabe clan. In 1563, after Motochika led his main division to Mount Moto with an aim to attack the Motoyama clan, Kunitora received 3,000 reinforcements from Ichijō Kanesada (his older brother-in-law) and, with a combined force of 5,000 troops, attacked the base of the Chōsokabe at Okō Castle. However, owing to a valiant defense by Shigetoshi, Kunitora withdrew in defeat. Kunitora planned another deployment while Motochika himself plotted to attack Kunitora, but, through the mediation of Kanesada, in 1564, Kunitora settled with Motochika.
Early in the fourth month of 1569, Motochika dispatched a messenger inviting Kunitora to visit Okō Castle to deepen their relationship. Kunitora, however, misinterpreted the communication, turning away the messenger saying that the message was highly imprudent. Ignoring the appeals of a senior retainer named Kuroiwa Echizen, Kunitora breached the settlement and, together with Kanesada, attempted to subdue Motochika. By this time, Motochika had already conquered the Motoyama clan and increased his military strength. In the seventh month, Motochika led a contingent of 7,000 (comprised of 3,000 regular troops and 4,000 jizamurai, or local fighters) to invade the territory of the Aki clan, establishing a position in Wajiki. Kunitora responded by leading 5,000 troops to reinforce their defenses at Aki, Shinshō, and Ananai castles and making a camp at Yanagare.
At the Battle of Yanagare, Kunitora was defeated and, before long, the castles were toppled. Kunitora then holed-up in Aki Castle, but many of his hereditary retainers, including Odani Sakonemon, colluded with Motochika so he was no longer able to mount a defense. After resisting for twenty-four days, the provisions ran low, from 2,000 to 3,000 reinforcements expected from the Ichijō clan failed to show, and other incidents, including a poisoning of the well on the castle grounds by Yokoyama Minbu, led to the imminent fall of the castle. Kunitora offered to Motochika to take his own life in exchange for sparing the lives of his retainers and civilians. After further agreeing to send his formal wife back to the Ichijō clan in western Tosa and leave behind his to-be orphan, Senjumaru, in Awa Province, on 8/11, he took his own life in the family temple known as the Jōtei Temple. He was forty years old. In the wake of his death, many of his senior retainers followed by martyring themselves.
Although the mother of his two children is uncertain, the descendants of these two children included a daughter of the Ichijō clan.
Later, Motochika subjugated the entire area encompassing the landholdings of the Aki clan and assigned his younger brother, Kōsokabe Chikayasu, to Aki Castle, having him inherit the Aki clan. After opposition from retainers of the clan, however, he was given the name of Aki-no-kami.