Chōsokabe Nobuchika

長宗我部信親

Chōsokabe Clan

Tosa Province

Chōsokabe Nobuchika

Lifespan:  Eiroku 8 (1565) to 12/12 of Tenshō 14 (1587)

Other Names:  Yasauburō (nickname)

Rank:  bushō

Clan:  Chōsokabe

Lord:  Chōsokabe Motochika

Father:  Chōsokabe Motochika

Mother:  Daughter of Ishigai Mitsumasa

Siblings:  Nobuchika, Kagawa Chikakazu, Tsuno Chikatada, Ukon-Taifu, Yasutoyo, sister (wife of Ichijō Tadamasa), sister (wife of Kira Chikazane), sister (wife of Satake Chikanao), sister (wife of Yoshimatsu Mitsuhisa)

Wife: [Formal]  Ishigai-fujin (daughter of Ishigai Yoritoki)

Children:  Daughter (later became formal wife of Chōsokabe Morichika)

Chōsokabe Nobuchika served as a bushō during the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

Early years

In 1565, Nobuchika was born as the lineal heir of Chōsokabe Motochika, the sengoku daimyō of Tosa Province.  His mother, the formal wife of Motochika, was the daughter of Ishigai Mitsumasa, a retainer of Ashikaga Yoshiteru.  She was the younger sister (of a different father) of Saitō Toshimitsu, a retainer of Akechi Mitsuhide.

From an early age, he was recognized as a bright individual and adored by his father.  In 1575, after Motochika dispatched Nakajima Bekunosuke as a messenger to Oda Nobunaga to foster friendly relations, Nobunaga was named as the honorary person providing the black-lacquered headgear to be placed on Nobuchika at the time of his coming-of-age ceremony.  Nobuchika further received one of the characters in his name from Nobunaga and adopted the name of Nobuchika.  At this time, Nobunaga presented a prized horse and sword inscribed with the name of Samoji, a renowned swordsmith from the late Kamakura period in Hakata in Kyūshū.

The alignment between Motochika’s expectations and Nobunaga’s strategic aims was achieved through Motochika’s skillful diplomacy as well as the vocal support of Akechi Mitsuhide.  According to a letter from Motochika to Ishigai Yoritoki that was discovered in the Hayashibara Museum of Art in 2013, when Nobuchika received one of the characters from the name of Nobunaga, Nobunaga was attacking Araki Murashige.  This gave rise to a theory that Nobuchika’s coming-of-age ceremony occurred in 1578, the same year of an event known as the Siege of Arioka Castle.

Thereafter, Nobuchika followed his father into many battles.  In 1585, during the Invasion of Shikoku by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Chōsokabe clan surrendered and, under the command of the Toyotomi administration, served as the daimyō family for all of Tosa Province.

Battle of Hetsugigawa

On 4/5 of Tenshō 14 (1586), Ōtomo Sōrin, the sengoku daimyō of Bungo Province, visited Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Ōsaka to appeal for reinforcements after Shimazu Yoshihisa invaded Bungo.  Hideyoshi acknowledged the request by assigning Kuroda Yoshitaka to assemble forces from the Mōri army and appointing Sengoku Hidehisa of Sanuki as the general in charge of the operation.  He then ordered a deployment to Bungo including Motochika and Nobuchika from Tosa.

After invading Bungo, Shimazu Iehisa launched an assault against Tsuruga Castle defended by the Ōtomo.  On 12/11, Sengoku Hidehisa and Nobuchika sought to come to the aid of the defenders and established an encampment on the shores of the Hetsugi River.  According to the accounts of Tosa, Hidehisa asserted at a war council that the army should cross the river and attack the Shimazu forces.  Meanwhile, Motochika argued that they should wait for reinforcements before initiating hostilities.  Hidehisa, however, refused to listen to Motochika while Sogō Masayasu, a daimyō from Sanuki Province, sided with Hidehisa.  Consequently, the soldiers traversed the river to confront the Shimazu with the battle occurring from the evening of 12/12 until 12/13.  Nobuchika criticized Hidehisa’s decision, indignantly telling the retainers, “It has been decided that Nobuchika will die in battle tomorrow.  At the war council held today, Hidehisa decided on his own discretion that, tomorrow, we will cross the river and launch into battle.  In view of the topography, crossing the river from here is the same as a fox encountering a trap.  It is the same as complete self-destruction.”

On the day of the Battle of Hetsugigawa, the vanguard Sengoku battalion was routed in the beginning stages, leaving the Chōsokabe division of 3,000 forces to fight against 5,000 soldiers led by Niiro Daizen-no-suke.  Amidst the chaos, Motochika and Nobuchika became separated.  Motochika was able to safely escape.  Nobuchika pulled-up in Nakatsuru-kawahara but was killed by Suzuki Daizen.  He was twenty-two years old.  Nobuchika was urged by Kuwana Tarōzaemon to retreat, but, instead, he wielded a long sword (approximately 130 cm), cutting down eight enemy forces.  As the opponents continued to approach, he dropped the long sword and then used another one to slash six more soldiers.  Nobuchika was killed by Yagi Masanobu, a retainer of the Shimazu.  A total of 700 men under Nobuchika were also killed in action, along with Sogō Masayasu, while Tsuruga Castle fell to the Shimazu army.

After the battle, Motochika grieved the loss of Nobuchika and dispatched a retainer named Tani Tadazumi to the Shimazu camp to request Niiro Tadamoto to return the remains of Nobuchika.  Tadamoto treated Tadazumi cordially and wept while apologizing for Nobuchika’s death in battle.  Tadamoto then had Nobuchika’s remains cremated and dispatched a monk to accompany Tadazumi on the trip to return the remains to the base of the Chōsokabe at Okō Castle in Tosa.  Later, Motochika had the remains interred at a temple on Mount Kōya in the environs of Kyōto.  Later, a portion of his remains were interred at the Tenbo Temple in Nagahama in the city of Kōchi.

Character and anecdotes

Nobuchika excelled in the military and literary arts and was of honorable character.  Motochika had great expectations of his son in the future while Nobuchika was also trusted by the retainers of the Chōsokabe and citizens of Tosa Province.  Motochika invited leading scholars and masters of the military arts from distant locations in the Kinai area to provide an elite education to Nobuchika, entrusting Nobuchika to further cement the supremacy of the Chōsokabe in Tosa.  After Nobuchika developed into a promising young bushō, Motochika expressed his hopes by proudly stating that Nobuchika was second-to-none even when compared to a famed retainer of the former Han dynasty of ancient China known as Fán Kuài.  There is an anecdote that, when Oda Nobunaga heard rumors of Nobuchika, he said he wanted to adopt him.

Nobuchika stood 184 cm in height and was handsome, with white skin and gentle features.  He was said to be brief in words, well-mannered, and not severe in temperament – a bushō having the qualities of wisdom and courage.  He could run and jump approximately four meters while drawing his sword in flight.  According to the chronicles of Luís Fróis, a Jesuit missionary from Portugal residing in Japan during the Sengoku period, Nobuchika considered converting to Christianity.

Owing to the high expectations, Motochika was devastated by the loss of his son, and, after returning to Okō, Motochika’s life changed dramatically.  After having raised Nobuchika to be his heir, Motochika felt deep anguish and wept as he was unable to see Nobuchika return home.  Moreover, not only Nobuchika, but many other promising young men who carried the Chōsokabe family died in the battle.  In the wake of these losses, disputes erupted among the surviving band of retainers regarding how to rebuild.  This was compounded by a succession struggle causing a deterioration of the clan.  Motochika’s affection for Nobuchika was without parallel.  Motochika arranged for Nobuchika’s only child, a young daughter, to become the formal wife of his successor, Chōsokabe Morichika.  In terms of family relationships, she would have been Morichika’s niece.  He did this so that Nobuchika’s bloodline would continue with the head of the Chōsokabe clan.