Lifespan: Tenbun 8 (1539) to 5/20 of Keichō 7 (1602)
Rank: bushō, daimyō
Title: Chief Priest of Bureau of Popular Affairs
Domain: Lord of Tanba-Kameyama
Lord: Oda Nobunaga → Oda Nobutada → Oda Nobukatsu → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori
Father: Maeda Motoaki
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Murai Sadakatsu
Children: Hidemochi, daughter (formal wife of Sanjōnishi Saneeda), Chōshōin, daughter (second wife of Ishikawa Tadafusa), daughter (wife of Isse Jinzaemon), Masakatsu, Shigekatsu, daughter (successor wife of Inaba Sadamichi)
Maeda Gen’i served as a bushō, daimyō, and priest during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. Gen’i initially served the Oda clan, and, after the death of Oda Nobunaga, served the Toyotomi, becoming one of the Five Commissioners (along with Asano Nagamasa, Ishida Mitsunari, Mashita Nagamori, and Natsuka Masaie) to govern affairs during the latter part of the Toyotomi administration.
In 1539, Gen’i was born in Mino Province. The Maeda clan, including the Maeda who were the lords of the Kaga domain, were members of the Sugawara family, but Suemoto (from a branch of the Saitō descended from Fujiwara no Toshihito who resided in Maeda in the Anpachi District of Mino Province) adopted the surname of Maeda.
In his youth, Gen’i entered the priesthood in Mino and either became a Zen priest or monk on Mount Hiei. Alternatively, he may have been the abbot at the Komatsu Temple in Owari Province.
Later, Gen’i was invited by Oda Nobunaga to serve the clan, and, upon orders of Nobunaga, became a retainer of Nobunaga’s eldest son and designated heir, Oda Nobutada. On 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), on the day of the coup d’état against Oda Nobunaga known as the Honno Temple Incident, Gen’i was located, together with Nobutada, at the Nijō palace in Kyōto. Upon orders of Nobutada, Gen’i fled with Nobutada’s infant son, Sanpōshi (later known as Oda Hidenobu), going from Gifu Castle in Mino to Kiyosu Castle in Owari.
From 1583, Gen’i served Nobunaga’s second son, Oda Nobukatsu, and was appointed to serve as the Kyōto shoshidai, or official in charge of the Board of Retainers, an office in the Muromachi bakufu to guard the shōgun and give judgment on criminals in Kyōto. This role had been performed by Murai Sadakatsu, a highly capable retainer of Oda Nobunaga who was killed along with his sons in the course of the Honnō Temple Incident.
In 1584, after the authority of Hashiba Hideyoshi extended to the capital, Gen’i became a retainer of Hideyoshi. In 1595, Gen’i received a fief of 50,000 koku from Hideyoshi, becoming the lord of Tanba-Kameyama Castle.
In the Toyotomi administration, while serving as the shoshidai in Kyōto, Gen’i engaged in negotiations with the Imperial Court and, in 1588, served as a magistrate during a visit by Emperor Goyōzei to Hideyoshi’s palace in Kyōto known as the jurakutei. Gen’i was also given responsibility to manage the shrines and temples and civil affairs in and around Kyōto. He suppressed Christian activities, but, in later years, showed an understanding of Christianity and adopted conciliatory policies. In 1598, upon orders of Hideyoshi, Gen’i was appointed to serve as one of the Five Commissioners in the Toyotomi administration.
When Gamō Ujisato was ill, Hideyoshi ordered nine individuals to provide medical care on a rotating basis. This practice was implemented at Gen’i’s residence and Gen’i was assigned to oversee the operation, providing detailed updates to Hideyoshi regarding the progress of care given to Ujisato.
After the demise of Hideyoshi in the eighth month of 1598, Gen’i aimed to contain internal conflicts among members of the Toyotomi administration and opposed the Conquest of Aizu by Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1600, after Ishida Mitsunari launched a rebellion from Ōsaka, Gen’i joined the Western Army and signed a statement for the impeachment and elimination of Ieyasu at the same time that he notified Ieyasu of the rebellion by Mitsunari, engaging in acts of collusion. Offering to serve as the guardian of Toyotomi Hideyori, he remained in Ōsaka and, for reasons of illness, did not ultimately deploy.
Owing to these actions, after the Battle of Sekigahara in the ninth month of 1600, Gen’i’s rights to his territory at Tanba-Kameyama Castle were recognized and he became the first lord of the domain.
Less than two years later, Gen’i died on 5/20 of Keichō 7 (1602). His eldest son, Maeda Hidemochi, died early the previous year, so his third son, Maeda Shigekatsu, succeeded him.
Among those under the command of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Gen’i was regarded as one of a limited number of individuals with connections among the nobles, temples, and shrines in Kyōto, and this background was one of the reasons for his appointment to the role of shoshidai, or official in charge of the Board of Retainers.
Having formerly served as a monk, Gen’i initially suppressed Christians, but, in his later years, he showed an understanding of their beliefs. In 1593, after Hideyoshi issued the Order to Expel Padres, he secretly protected Christians in Kyōto. Through his relationships with the Christians, Gen’i engaged in negotiations with the Portuguese Governor-General in India. His two sons became Christians. Owing to his origins as a monk, he often targeted improprieties by Buddhist priests and severely criticized them.