Atobe Katsusuke


Atobe Clan

Atobe Katsusuke

Kai Province

Lifespan: 15xx to 3/11 of Tenshō 10 (1582)

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Assistant Director of the Bureau of Palace Kitchens, Governor of Owari

Clan:  Atobe

Lord: Takeda Harunobu → Takeda Katsuyori

Father:  Atobe Nobuaki

Siblings:  Katsusuke, Yoshiyasu, two sisters

Children:  Wada Nobunari, Masakatsu, daughter (wife of Asahina Nobuyoshi), daughter (wife of Yoda Nobushige)

Atobe Katsusuke served as a retainer for the Kai-Takeda clan of Kai Province.  He was the son of Atobe Nobuaki.

The Atobe were a branch of the Ogasawara clan, shugo of Shinano Province, originating from the village of Atobe in Shinano.  In 1416, Takeda Nobumitsu, the military governor of Kai Province, was eliminated in a Uesugi-Zenshū Conflict.  The Muromachi bakufu assigned Takeda Nobumoto and, thereafter, Takeda Nobushige (who had entered the priesthood on Mount Kōya), to become the next military governor of Kai.  The bakufu further ordered Ogasawara Masayasu, the military governor of Shinano, to support the return of the Takeda to Kai.  Masayasu then dispatched the Atobe to serve as deputy military govenors to the Takeda, causing the Atobe to settle in Kai.  In 1465, Takeda Nobumasa eliminated Atobe Kageie, and expelled the Atobe from Kai.

During the era of Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) and his son, Takeda Katsuyori, Atobe Katsutada and Atobe Masatada served as hereditary chief retainers of the Takeda clan.  Katsusuke and his father, Nobuaki, may have their origins in the Atobe who earlier served as deputy military governors of Kai.  The expansion of territory controlled by the Takeda under Harunobu and Katsuyori resulted in a shortage of retainers stationed near the home base, so the sons and younger brothers of elder retainers served as attendants to their lord.  Katsusuke, along with Yamagata Masakage, Tsuchiya Masatsugu, and Hara Masatane served as close associates of Harunobu and appear as signatories on official tax exemptions. Katsusuke commanded 300 soldiers, one of the most powerful forces in the clan on a par with Yamagata Masakage and Kasuga Toratsuna.

In 1549, the Takeda subjugated kokujin, or provincial landowners, in the Saku District of Shinano, including the Mochizuki, the Ōi, and the Tomono.  Katsusuke and Komai Kōhakusai were sent as messengers to serve as representatives of the Ōi clan on behalf of Ōi Nobutsune.  From 1566, Katsusuke served as intermediary with landowners in other territories.  He acted as the magistrate for written oaths that Shingen had his retainers submit in the aftermath of a rebellion by his son known as Yoshinobu Incident.

While serving under Takeda Katsuyori, Katsusuke negotiated alliances with the Uesugi clan of Echigo Province and the Satake clan of Hitachi Province, often collaborating with Takeda Nobutoyo.  In 1582, Katsusuke and Katsuyori perished in battle against the allied forces of the Oda and Tokugawa.

According to some accounts, Katsusuke, together with another senior retainer of Katsuyori named Nagasaka Mitsukata, contributed to the fall of the Takeda clan.  This owes to the confrontation between Katsusuke, as chief diplomat, and the chief retainers, who comprised the military faction.  In 1575, at the Battle of Nagashino, Katsusuke and Mitsukata advocated for battle, inviting the loss.  In 1578, during a succession struggle in the Uesugi family known as the Otate Conflict, Katsusuke and Mitsukata accepted a bribe of gold from Uesugi Kagekatsu.  In 1582, he abandoned Katsuyori and fled at the time that the Takeda clan faced its demise. 

During the early years of Harunobu’s role as head of the clan, the seals of Katsusuke, together with Komai Kōhakusai, appear on many documents relating to diplomatic as well as provincial affairs, evidencing their roles as senior retainers in the clan.

Under Harunobu and Katsuyori, the domain governed by the Takeda extended into surrounding provinces.  Intermediaries such as Katsusuke performed a vital role in the midst of a fluid environment, representing the interests of the clan in diplomacy with landowners from other provinces who were in their domain.

Meanwhile, capable retainers were assigned as chamberlains to protect castles throughout the expanding territory of the Takeda.  Katsusuke served as a shuttōnin, or a chief diplomat, for the clan based in Kōfu. Others serving in this capacity and whose seals appear on official documents included Tsuchiya Masatsugu and  Hara Masatane.  To an extent, these retainers formed an oligopoly in the arena of diplomatic affairs.