Akizuki Tanezane


Akizuki Clan

Sengoku Daimyō

Chikuzen Province

Lifespan:  Tenbun 17 (1548) to 9/26 of Keichō 1 (1596)

Other Names:  黒法師 (childhood)

Rank:  bushō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Lieutenant of the Left Division of the Imperial Guards, Master of the Office of Palace Repairs, Governor of Chikuzen

Clan:  Akizuki

Lord:  Mōri Takamoto → Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) → Shimazu Yoshihisa

Father:  Akizuki Fumitane

Siblings:  Harutane, Tanezane, Takahashi Tanefuyu, Nagano Tanenobu, sister (wife of Harada Chikatane)

Wife: [Formal] Eldest daughter of Tawara Chikahiro 

Children:  Tanenaga, Takahashi Mototane, 種至, Ryūko (formal wife of Kii Tomofusa and, later, Sagara Yorifusa), daughter (wife of Katō Masakata), daughter (wife of Nagano Sukemori), daughter (wife of Itaba Nagatsune), daughter (wife of Akizuki Naomasa)

Akizuki Tanezane served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō in the latter part of the Sengoku period and early part of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.  He was the sixteenth head of the Akizuki clan.

Resistance to the Ōtomo clan

Tanezane was born in 1548 as the second son to Akizuki Fumitane, the fifteenth head of the Akizuki clan, a kokujin, or provincial landowner, of Chikuzen Province in Kyūshū.

In 1557, Fumitane and Tanezane’s older brother, Akizuki Harutane, killed themselves after being subject to a fierce attack by Ōtomo Yoshishige.  Tanezane was taken by his retainers and escaped Koshosan Castle just before it fell.  He landed in Yamaguchi in Suō Province under the protection of the Mōri clan.  In 1559, a former retainer of the Akizuki named Fukae Mino-no-kami received support from the Mōri to join with Tanezane to defeat the Ōtomo and recapture Koshosan Castle.  This enabled Tanezane to recover his base and most of his domain.  Among Tanezane’s younger brothers, Akizuki Tanefuyu entered Kokura Castle in Bizen Province as an adopted child of Takahashi Akitane.  Tanenobu inherited the Nagano clan under the name of Nagano Tanenobu, becoming lord of Umagadake Castle in Bizen, while Akizuki Mototane became lord of Kawaradake Castle.  Each of the younger brothers resisted the Ōtomo.  The Akizuki clan became most prominent in historical accounts during this generation.

In 1567, Tanezane joined Takahashi Akitane in a rebellion against the Ōtomo, launching a nighttime assault that killed scores of elite troops of the Ōtomo army at the Battle of Yasumimatsu.  The family of Bekki Akitsura (later Tachibana Dōsetsu) incurred a significant blow, including the loss of his younger brother, Bekki Akikata.  This led to the start of invasions by Mōri Motonari in Kyūshū.  In 1568, Tachibana Akitoshi also rebelled against the Ōtomo, so that those opposing the Ōtomo had a temporary advantage.  In the summer of 1568, Tachibanayama Castle fell to the Ōtomo, while, in 1569, the Ōtomo defeated the Mōri at the Battle of Tatarahama, and soon thereafter Tanezane surrendered to Ōtomo Yoshishige.

The peak years of the Akizuki clan

In 1578, the Ōtomo entered a decline after a major loss at the Battle of Mimikawa. Tanezane, along with Ryūzōji Takanobu and Tsukushi Hirokado, resumed his opposition to the Ōtomo. Highlighting Yoshishige’s ten covenants regarding violence, Tanezane traveled around Chikuzen and surrounding provinces to encourage others who opposed the Ōtomo to enter into a compact under signature.  Early in 1580, his men killed 800 forces of the Ōtomo at Inohiza in Buzen Province.  Nevertheless, Tanezane’s advance was repelled by Tachibana Dōsetsu and Takahashi Jōun.  In 1584, Takanobu died at the Battle of Okitanawate.  Tanezane then joined forces with Shimazu Yoshihisa, who was an ascendant power in the region.   Prior to the dispatch of a messenger to Tachibana Dōsetsu informing him that the Shimazu planned a pincer attack against the Ryūzōji, Tanezane helped to quickly negotiate a settlement and avoid conflict between the Shimazu and Ryūzōji.  This enabled the Shimazu to focus their military efforts on attacking the Ōtomo.  In the midst of battles between the Shimazu and Ōtomo, Tanezane steadily encroached on the Ōtomo’s territory.  He ultimately garnered control of Chikuzen, Buzen, and the northern portion of Chikugo Province comprising a domain of 36,000 koku, marking a high point in the history of the Akizuki clan.  In 1585, Tanezane supported the Shimazu in an offensive against the Ōtomo at the Siege of Iwaya Castle.

Transfer to Hyūga Province

In 1587, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi advanced into Kyūshū at the beginning of the Kyūshū heitei, or Subjugation of Kyūshū, Tanzane sent a senior retainer named Eri Nobutaka as an envoy into the Toyotomi domain on a mission to understand the enemy’s perspectives. Hideyoshi informed Nobutaka that if the Akizuki surrendered, then he would grant Tanezane control of Chikuzen and Chikugo provinces, in addition to a fief of 30,000 koku to Nobutaka. Anticipating that the Toyotomi would continue to expand their domain, Eri reported his findings and strongly advocated for Tanezane to accept the offer.  Tanezane ordered Nobutaka to leave the premises, declaring that he would abide by his alliance with the Shimazu and fight against Hideyoshi.  Nobutaka tried assiduously to convince Tanezane to change his mind, but this proved to no avail, whereupon Tanezane joined forces with the Shimazu and soon fell to the Toyotomi.  The loss included his home base of Koshosan Castle as well as the auxiliary castle of Masutomi. Tanezane surrendered, underwent the rites of tonsure, and presented Hideyoshi with a precious tea bowl known as narashiba-katatsuki and a sword from a renowned swordsmith from the Kamakura period named Rai Kunitoshi.

The Akizuki clan was allowed to exist after Tanezane’s daughter, Ryūko, was tendered as a hostage.  However, upon orders of Hideyoshi, Tanezane was transferred to Takanabe in Hyūga and assigned a reduced fief of 30,000 koku.  He retired in despair, transferring his role as head of the clan to his eldest son, Akizuki Tanenaga.  He died in Takanabe in 1596.