Lifespan: Tenbun 22 (1553) to 9/10 of Bunroku 1 (1592)
Title: Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Master of the Office of Palace Repairs
Lord: Uesugi Kenshin → Uesugi Kagekatsu
Father: Irobe Katsunaga
Siblings: Akinaga, Nagazane
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Shibata Tsunasada
Children: Mitsunaga, daughter
Irobe Nagazane served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. He was a retainer of the Uesugi clan. Nagazane served as the lord of Hirabayashi Castle in Kanō in the Koizumi manor in the Iwafune District of Echigo Province.
In 1553, Nagazane was born as the son of Irobe Katsunaga, a senior retainer of the Echigo-Nagao (Uesugi) clan. After the death of his father, Nagazane’s older brother, Irobe Akinaga, inherited the headship of the clan, but he was of frail health, so, in 1576, he retired and headship of the clan was transferred to Nagazane who became the head of the clan and served Uesugi Kenshin.
In 1578, at the Otate Conflict that arose in the wake of the death of Kenshin, Nagazane supported Uesugi Kagekatsu and fought against those on the side of Uesugi Kagetora (the seventh son of Hōjō Ujiyasu later adopted by Uesugi Kenshin). Later, he served as a retainer of Kagekatsu and, in 1581, upon the outbreak of a rebellion by Shibata Shigeie, Nagazane, along with Honjō Shigenaga, was delegated responsibility for devising countermeasures against Shigeie. Shigeie’s younger sister was married to Nagazane so that Shigeie was his older brother-in-law. In 1588, Nagazane accompanied Kagekatsu on travel to Kyōto and, together with Naoe Kanetsugu and Suda Mitsuchika, was conferred the Toyotomi surname from Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
In 1590, during the Senboku Uprising, upon orders of Hideyoshi, Nagazane resided at Ōmori Castle in the Hiraka District of Dewa Province. Along with Ōtani Yoshitsugu, Nagazane contributed to suppressing the uprising. In 1592, after Hideyoshi ordered deployments for the Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula, Nagazane followed Kagekatsu and headed toward Nagoya Castle in Hizen Province, but, en route, he fell ill and was permitted to return home. Thereafter, he convalesced near the capital in Fushimi but, after realizing that there was no prospect of recovery, on 8/17, he left a will addressed to Ōishi Tsunamoto and Kido Gensai requesting that, after his death, the Irobe family be entrusted to Naoe Kanetsugu, that Kanetsugu’s second daughter be married to his son, Ryūmatsumaru (Mitsunaga), and that his own daughter be adopted by Kanetsugu. On 9/10, he died of his illness at the age of forty. His son, Irobe Mitsunaga, inherited the headship of the clan.
In his written will, Nagazane referred to Naoe Kanetsugu as danna, or master. At the time, Kanetsugu was in his early thirties, but wielded considerable authority within the Uesugi family. It can be seen from this will that Nagazane emphasized the importance of Kanetsugu as a guardian of Mitsunaga in his role as Nagazane’s successor.
Character and Anecdotes
Toyotomi Hideyoshi praised Nagazane as a rarity among bushō in the Hokkoku.
As a disciple of Ogasawara Sadanori, Nagazane acquired knowledge in a broad range of subjects, receiving certifications in the military arts, manners, and equestrian arts, and even learning the manufacturing processes for medicines.
After the rebellion by Shibata Shigeie, Nagazane buried his older brother-in-law at the Chōshō Temple which was the family temple of the Irobe clan and conducted a proper memorial service. He then engaged the services of Shigeie’s younger brother, Shibata Moriyoshi, and senior retainers of Shigeie such as Takahashi Kamon-no-suke (Ikehata Kamo-no-suke) and Saruhashi Izumi-no-kami. At this time, Moriyoshi adopted the surname of Shinpo from his mother’s side of the family and his descendants in the Shinpo clan served the Yonezawa domain.
In the aftermath of the Senboku Uprising, he adamantly released the wives and children (of the bushi supporting Shigeie) taken hostage during the event, and, in so doing, earned the trust of the local townspeople. Upon returning to Echigo, he brought to Hirabayashi spiritual objects known as the horoha-gongen and built a hall at the Sengan Temple (the family temple) to house them.
Following the Senboku Uprising, when headed toward Dewa Province, after losing his way he survived by capturing green pheasants. Thereafter, green pheasants were always cared for by the Irobe family. The Sengan Temple keeps to this day a picture of green pheasants donated by the Irobe family. And, in the Kubota Ward of Yonezawa that was in the fief of the Irobe, some of the families adopted a custom not to eat green pheasants.