Akita Sanesue


Akita Clan

Akita Sanesue

Dewa Province

Lifespan:  Tenshō 4 (1576) to 11/29 of Manji 2 (1660)

Rank:  bushō, daimyō

Title:  Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Provincial Governor of Akita

Clan:  Akita

Bakufu:  Edo

Lord:  Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori → Tokugawa Ieyasu → Tokugawa Hidetada → Tokugawa Iemitsu

Domain:  Hitachi-Shishido

Father:  Andō Chikasue

Mother:  Daughter of Hatakeyama Kiyonobu

Siblings:  Narisue, Akita-no-tsubone, Sanesue, Hidesue, Suekatsu, sister (formal wife of Namioka Akimura)

Wife:  [Formal] Enkōin (daughter of Hosokawa Akimoto); Zuihōin (daughter of Araki Takakane)

Children:  Toshisue, Suetsugu, Suenobu, Suenaga, Suenori, daughter (wife of Araki Takatsuna), daughter (formal wife of Tsugaru Nobutake)

Akita Sanesue served as a daimyō during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods.

In 1576, Sanesue was born as the second son of Andō Chikasue, the eighth head of the Hiyama-Andō family and a sengoku daimyō of Dewa Province.


Originally, Sanesue was based in the northern portion of Dewa Province controlling territory in three districts including the Akita District.  He received recognition from Toyotomi Hideyoshi of his rights to his landholdings.  After formation of the Edo bakufu, Sanesue was enfeoffed with the Ibaraki District in Hitachi Province, becoming the first lord of the Hitachi-Shishido domain in the early Edo period.  In his later years, he endured the misfortune of decades of exile in Ise Province.

The Andō were a well-known clan in the north descended from Abe Sadatō, a bushō from the middle Heian period.  During the Kamakura period, the clan was based at Tosaminato in Tsugaru and expanded their power.  For managing trade on the Sea of Japan and affairs in Ezo (Hokkaidō), the family was known as the deputy shōgun of Ezo.  In the Nanboku period, the family was even called, internally and externally, the Hinomoto shōgun.  In the latter part of the Kamakura period, one faction moved south and settled in the Akita District downstream the Omono and Babame rivers.  This was called the Kamikuni family based at Minato Castle in Dewa Province.  Meanwhile, the family that stayed in Tsugaru was under the authority of the Nanbu clan based in Nukanobu in the Sannohe District.

In the Muromachi period, the clan temporarily fled to the Ezo territories and, later, moved to the area near the mouth of the Yoneshiro River.  This was called the Shimokuni family.  In this manner, during the Sengoku period, the Andō clan was divided between the Kamikuni family based at Minato Castle at the mouth of the Omono River and known as the Minato-Andō family and the Shimokuni family based at Hiyama Castle at the mouth of the Yoneshiro River and known as the Hiyama-Andō family.  Andō Chikasue, the eighth head of the Hiyama-Andō, succeeded in unifying the two families and, after moving his base to Wakimoto Castle overlooking the Sea of Japan from the base of the Oga Peninsula, ushered in the era of peak prosperity for the Andō clan.  From around this time, however, tensions with the Nanbu clan intensified.

Minato Disturbance

In 1587, Sanesue’s father, Chikasue, died of illness while on deployment along the Yodo River in Senboku in a conflict against Tozawa Moriyasu, the lord of Kakunodate Castle.  This caused a loss of equilibrium among the competing powers in the region.  Sanesue inherited the family when he was only twelve years old.  A cousin named Andō Michisue (Toshima Michisue) who was twelve years older than Sanesue, opposed the succession.

After Sanesue succeeded his father, Chikasue, Andō Michisue, the lord of Toshima Castle in the Kawabe District, advocated for the restoration of the Minato-Andō clan.  He then joined with the Onodera and the Tozawa clans from the interior who sought to secure coastal areas along the Sea of Japan, and the Nanbu clan from northern Mutsu Province, and, in the second month of 1589, launched a rebellion against Sanesue known as the Third Minato Disturbance.  According to some sources, this occurred in 1588.

The Toshima forces backing Michisue temporarily captured Minato Castle and then brought together kokujin such as the Yatsuyanagi and Nagai clans from across the Akita District and threatened Sanesue, forcing him to hole-up in Hiyama Castle.  Michisue’s army greatly outnumbered Sanesue and his garrison defending the castle with a stockpile of only 300 arquebuses.  Sanesue’s main force was comprised of members of the Hiyama group from the Hiyama District, members of the Hinai group including the Yoshinari clan from the Ani River Basin and the Asari clan from the Yoneshiro River Basin, and members of the Minato group who had moved from Minato to Hiyama.  The siege of the castle extended over five months, but, owing to an invasion by the Nanbu clan of the Hinai District in northern Dewa, the opponents reached a provisional settlement.  Taking advantage of this pause, members of the Twelve Heads of Yuri including the Akōzu and Hanegawa clans joined the contest on the side of Sanesue by attacking Minato Castle.  Caught in a pincer attack, the Toshima forces were decimated while Minato Castle fell again to Sanesue.  Surviving elements of the Toshima forces prevailed in the Battle of Terauchi but, despite striking back, later dispersed after Michisue fled in defeat.

Later, following the Battle of Minenoyama against the allied armies of the Tozawa and Onodera, the two sides settled and Sanesue placed the Akita District and surroundings under his firm command.  Michisue fled to the protection of the Nanbu clan and became one of their retainers.  This conflict was regarded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a violation of the order for daimyō not to engage in conflicts with one another over issues of territory or succession.  Nevertheless, through the offices of Ishida Mitsunari, Sanesue was permitted to maintain his position and receive official recognition of his rights to his landholdings of 52,000 koku in the Akita District of Dewa.  Among the territory seized, 25,000 koku was transferred to the direct jurisdiction of the Toyotomi while Sanesue served as their representative.  Meanwhile, in exchange for joining the Conquest of Odawara, Michisue, accompanied by Nanbu Nobunao, requested the revival of his family name, but his service was declined by Mashita Nagamori.

This conflict enveloped a separate dispute between Nanbu Nobunao who sought to advance in the direction of the Hiraka and Hinai districts in the interior part of northern Dewa and Ōura Tamenobu, a member of the Nanbu family aiming for independence in the Tsugaru region.  This caused violent political reverberations in the northern Ouu (Tōhoku) region.  Sanesue fought against Onodera Yoshimichi who was based in the Hiraka and Ogachi districts, and he also engaged in violent clashes against Nobunao who took advantage of the opening to invade from the east.

In the seventh month of 1589, by establishing ties with the Okōzu clan from the Yuri District and Ōura Tamenobu from Tsugaru, Sanesue succeeded in defeating Michisue who had joined with the Tozawa and Nanbu clans.

In 1590, Sanesue recovered Ōdate in the Hinai District  from the Nanbu.  Ōura Tamenobu supported the operation while Asari Yorihira, through the offices of Tamenobu, returned to his  lands in Hinai.

Path to become a daimyō in northern Dewa

In 1590, Sanesue complied with orders from Toyotomi Hideyoshi to participate in the Conquest of Odawara.  Later that year, the Toyotomi administration carried out the Oushū Retribution and, in 1591, official land surveys.  The Third Minato Disturbance was regarded by Hideyoshi as a violation of the order to daimyō not to engage in conflicts with one another over territory or rights of succession.  Although this was a problem for a while, Sanesue was able to make maneuvers with the central authorities to obtain official recognition of his rights to approximately 52,440 koku from original landholdings of 78,500 koku in Dewa Province.  In fact, however, the actual landholdings amount to as much as 150,000 koku.  One-third of his former territory amounting to approximately 26,000 koku was requisitioned and came under the direct jurisdiction of the Toyotomi, while Sanesue was appointed to serve as their representative with respect to these lands.

Importantly, after being contested for many years, the ownership rights of the Asari and Yoshinari clans who were based in Hinai were denied when control of the district was determined.  In addition to the districts of Akita, Hiyama, and Hinai held by the Akita, possession of the Toshima District solidified their standing as a daimyō family.

With respect to the reasons for designating certain lands to be under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities, even more so than income from the transport of stored rice or its conversion into funds, the authorities sought taxes based on the lumber from cedar trees in Akita.  In 1593, this began with taxes on the materials used for warships known as atakebune constructed by Maeda Toshiie.  These taxes were subsequently applied to river boats called yodobune, lumber for bridges, and, from 1597, lumber for projects in Fushimi on behalf of the Toyotomi.

Within his territory, he developed two harbors at Tsuchizaki and Noshiro as a foundation for the local economy and, at these harbors in addition to Tsuruga in Echizen, rice and lumber were sold.

After the Oushū Retribution, constructed Minato Castle on flatlands with moats at Tsuchizaki-Minato near the mouth of the Omono River and moved there to serve as his base.  Sanesue changed his surname from Andō to Akita, and adopted the name of Akita Jōnosuke.  He then placed family members at Ōdate Castle, Wakimoto Castle, Babame Castle, and other strategic locations, building the foundation for a relatively stable territory.

In 1591, Sanesue served in the Toyotomi army led by Toyotomi Hidetsugu to subjugate Kunohe Masazane in an event known as the Revolt of Kunohe Masazane.  From 1591, he also served in the deployment to the Korean Peninsula for the Bunroku Campaign.  In 1593, he was assigned 134 soldiers to cross the sea to Korea.

There are indications that, during the Bunroku era (1593 to 1596), he conducted a survey on a portion of his territory.  According to records from 1594, the fief of the Akita clan was estimated to be 98,500 koku in addition to lands with a value of 29,000 koku directly owned by the Toyotomi but under the management of the Akita.

From 1593 to 1594, small skirmishes occurred between the Akita and the Asari clan of Hinai.   According to sources, villages in the southwestern portion of Hinai were burned by the Akita.  Chief retainers of the Asari clan including Katayama Yaden (Hinai-Nakano), Asari Shichibei (Jūnisō), and Asari Naizen (Yagihashi) used this as an opportunity directly to obey Sanesue.

From 1599 to 1600, Sanesue conducted major renovations to his base at Minato Castle.  Historical records demonstrate that many were involved in the project, including carpenters, blacksmiths, wood cutters, craftsmen for thatched roofs and plastering, among others.

Transfer to Shishido and confinement in Ise

In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Sanesue aligned with the Eastern Army.  During the Conquest of Aizu, a peace accord between Mogami Yoshiaki (the lord of Yamagata Castle) and Uesugi Kagekatsu fell apart after the Uesugi detected a secret pact between the Akita and Mogami clans.  At the Battle of Keichō Dewa, Onodera Yoshimichi attacked Ōmori Castle in the Hiraka District.  However, owing to a fear that the Akita clan would increase their power, the Shishido clan adopted a posture of war-weariness.  Moreover, after failed negotiations between the Mogami and Uesugi on the front lines, along with the Akita clan contributing to the isolation of the Mogami, after the war, Mogami Yoshiaki slandered Sanesue by asserting to Tokugawa Ieyasu that Sanesue was colluding with the Onodera behind the scenes and therefore not really a member of the Eastern Army.  In the plans for the Conquest of Aizu, assorted daimyō from Dewa including the Nanbu and Akita clans were intended to assault Yonezawa Castle under the direction of Mogami Yoshiaki as the commander-in-chief.  After Ishida Mitsunari launched a rebellion and the expedition was halted, Yoshiaki continued to regard himself as vested with military authority while the other daimyō in the region including Sanesue regarded Ieyasu as the lead commander and that, as of the end of the expedition, the powers conveyed to Yoshiaki were extinguished, meaning that each daimyō would seek permission from Ieyasu with respect to the conduct of military operations.  Based on this difference in perspectives, Yoshiaki sent a letter to Date Masamune stating his view that Sanesue, the Tozawa clan, and other daimyō were violating military orders by not obeying him.

Sanesue sought to vindicate himself and succeeded in calming Ieyasu’s suspicions, but, in 1602, upon orders of Ieyasu, he was transferred to Shishido in Hitachi Province.  This accompanied the entry by the Satake clan, daimyō of Hitachi, into Akita and Senboku.  Meanwhile, the lands under the direct jurisdiction of the Toyotomi were seized so Sanesue was subject to a de facto reduction in his fief.  At this time, he changed his surname from Akita to Ikoma (later reverting to Akita).  However, it is surmised that Sanesue resented the seizure by Ieyasu of the landholdings of the Toyotomi within the former territory of the Akita.  On 1/15 of Keichō 16 (1611), he was formerly conferred the title of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower) and Provincial Governor of Akita (meaning an official exercising exclusive powers of governance from Akita Castle in Dewa).

As the lord of the Shishido domain, in 1614, at the Winter Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, Sanesue engaged in violent clashes against vanguard forces of the Toyotomi but incurred major losses in the course of a defeat.

Unlike the Winter Campaign that was centered upon Ōsaka Castle, after the army of the Edo bakufu filled-in the surrounding moats, the Toyotomi defenders were forced into a field battle for the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka in 1615.   The subsequent defeat of the Toyotomi brought to an end approximately 150 years of armed conflict across the country dating back to the Ōnin-Bunmei War that devasted much of Kyōto and its environs from 1467 to 1477.  Soon after the victory, in the seventh month of 1615, the Edo bakufu requested the Imperial Court to sanction a change in the name of the era from Keichō to Genna.  The term Genna enbu represents the armistice that was achieved after this conflict.  Notwithstanding the change in times, Sanesue invited the scorn of the Edo bakufu by continuing to act like a sengoku daimyō whereupon, in 1630, he was suddenly ordered to be confined to Asama in Ise Province. 

There are other theories that he had a falling out with his eldest son and designated heir, Akita Toshisue, or that he came into conflict with retainers from the Hiyama and Minato lines of the Andō family, but the details are uncertain.  Owing to a pledge of loyalty by Toshisue to the bakufu, in addition to the fact that Toshisue’s mother was a cousin of Sūgen-in, the formal wife of the influential Tokugawa Hidetada, Toshisue was permitted to inherit the headship of the Akita clan and became the second lord of the Hitachi-Shishido domain.  In 1645, after his transfer to Miharu Castle in the Tamura District of Mutsu Province with a fief of 55,000 koku, the Akita family continued to serve the Edo bakufu until the end of the Edo period.

From 1630, for an approximately 30-year period, Sanesue was forced to live in confinement in a thatched hut at the Eishō Temple in Ise-Asama.  In 1660, he died in the same location at the age of eighty-five.  To the present day, food utensils and other daily sundries used by Sanesue remain in the possession of the Asama-Eishō Temple.


Sanesue was known as a cultured individual who was knowledgeable of waka, or classic Japanese poetry, the literary arts, and the tea ceremony.

There is a story that, during his confinement in Ise-Asama, he produced herbal medicine taken as a pill known as mankintan.

There is a statue of Sanesue as a monk at the Haga Temple in Obama in Wakasa Province as a devout follower of the faith, designated a cultural asset of Fukui Prefecture.  In Miharu in Fukushima Prefecture, there is a wooden statue of him in old ceremonial court dress.