Baba Yorichika

馬場頼周

Baba Clan

Bushō

Hizen Province

Lifespan:  Unknown to 4/2 of Tenbun 15 (1546)

Rank:  bushō, lord of Ayabe Castle

Clan:  Baba

Lord:  Shōni Sukemoto → Shōni Fuyuhisa

Father:  Baba Yorikazu

Wife:  Daughter of Tsukushi Mitsukado

Children:  Masakazu, son

Baba Yorichika served as a bushō during the Sengoku period.  Yorichika was a retainer of the Shōni clan and served as the lord of Ayabe Castle in Hizen Province.  Yorichika was born as the son of Baba Yorikazu.

The Baba clan were members of the Shōni clan founded by Shōni Yoritsune, the younger brother of Shōni Noriyori.  Owing to pressure from the Ōuchi clan of Suō Province, the Shōni experienced a loss of influence and moved their base to Hizen.  The Shōni captured Ayabe Castle in Hizen from the Shibukawa clan who had served as the local commissioners for the Muromachi bakufu in Kyūshū.  To solidify their governance, the Shōni placed the Baba clan as the lords of the castle.

Yorichika served the Shōni during the declining years of the clan.  Yorichika was not averse to taking cold-blooded measures, such as, in 1524, when he murdered Tsukushi Mitsukado, his father-in-law who was associated with his archenemy – the Ōuchi clan.  In 1530, at the Battle of Tadenawate, Yorichika helped repel an attack led by Sugi Okikazu of the Ōuchi army against the base of Shōni Sukemasa at Seifukuji Castle in the Kanzaki District of Hizen.  Thereafter, the Ryūzōji clan gained prominence, surpassing their lords.  Ryūzōji Iekane betrayed the Shōni by colluding with Ōuchi Yoshitaka and, in 1535, he tacitly permitted others to have Shōni Sukemoto kill himself.

Iekane reconciled with Sukemoto’s orphan, Shōni Fuyuhisa.  Although Fuyuhisa was allowed to serve as a senior retainer along with family members such as Iekane’s son, Ryūzōji Iekado, Yorichika felt righteous indignation toward Iekane for the past betrayal as well as his assertive rule.  In 1545, Yorichika executed a scheme that resulted in the killing of a majority of the Ryūzoji family.  Yorichika took delight in the massacre of the family, disrespectfully stomping on the heads of six of the individuals killed in the operation.

Thereafter, Yorichika and his son ousted Iekane who fled for the protection of Kamachi Akimori in Chikugo Province.  Yorichika then built a castle on Mount Gion and attempted to rule from this location, but, in 1546, Iekane, along with Chiba Tanetsura, launched a revolt.  When the remnants of the Ryūzōji began an uprising, Giongaku Castle was still under construction, so Yorichika could not defend the site and attempted to return to Ayabe Castle.  However, in the ensuing pursuit by Chiba forces, his son, Baba Masakazu, was killed by Noda Ietoshi, while Yorichika ran inside the residence of a Shintō priest.  He hid inside a hole for a potato kettle, but was dragged out by Kamo Danjō and killed.  In Tsubokami, on the way toward Mount Gion, Iekane inspected the heads of Yorichika and Masakazu.  Masakazu’s wife was the granddaughter of Iekane, so Iekane exercised care in burying their heads.

After the death of Yorichika, a grandson named Baba Akichika inherited the family, and, later, was allowed to serve the Ryūzōji family again.  However, in 1569, during an attack by the Ōtomo clan, Akichika betrayed the Ryūzōji, marking a continuation of the resistance. 

Notwithstanding his acts of treachery, one account regarded Yorichika as erudite and quick-witted, a deeply loyal and humble individual.  Moreover, the killing of the Ryūzōji family was justified from the perspective of the Shōni.