Asakura Takakage


Asakura Clan


Echizen Province

Lifespan:  11/22 of Meiō 2 (1493) to 3/22 of Tenbun 17 (1548)

Rank:  daimyō

Title:  Judicial Inspector of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards

Clan:  Asakura

Bakufu: Military Governor of Echizen Province

Father:  Asakura Sadakage

Mother:  Daughter of Saitō Toshikuni (Myōjun)

Siblings:  Takakage, Kagetaka, 景郡、Kagetoshi, Hatano 道郷 (to the Hatano clan), Kagenobu, 大成明玉 (monk)

Children:  Yoshikage

Asakura Takakage served as a daimyō of Echizen Province and the tenth lineal head of the Asakura clan.  He was the son of Asakura Sadakage and father of Asakura Yoshikage.  His mother was the daughter of Saitō Toshikuni, a shugodai, or deputy military governor, of Mino Province.  His younger sister married Toki Yoritake, and gave birth to Toki Yorizumi.  Takakage shared the same name as his ancestral seventh-generation uncle, who spearheaded the construction of the Asakura Castle and village in Ichijōdani.

Takakage lived during the peak years for the Asakaura clan.  During this period, the Asakura clan maintained relative peace in Echizen, investing their resources in building a castle complex in a valley surrounded by residences for relatives and retainers, shops for merchants and artisans, and temples for worship.  Wealthy merchants possessed rare tea utensils, while retainers obtained various published works from Kyōto.  The town provided a welcome retreat for nobles, artisans, and officials from the bakufu in Kyōto. Takakage himself was known for excelling in matters of governance as well as taking an avid interest in cultural affairs.  Takakage enjoyed poetry and music, studied the military arts, philosophy and medicine, and invited experts in their fields for visits to Ichijōdani.

Takakage does not appear in records as leading military expeditions,  Instead, he called upon his chief of staff, Asakura Norikage (Sōteki), to serve as the lead commander. Takakage ordered troops to invade the surrounding provinces of Kaga, Mino, Ōmi, and Wakasa. These excursions typically occurred at the request of the Muromachi bakufu, or shogunate, in Kyōto rather than as efforts to expand the territorial holdings of the clan. The clan displayed its military superiority and political influence to the military governors and power-brokers in each province, having them reconcile with the members of the Ikkō sect from Kaga following generations of conflict with the local families.  Takakage was burdened with unceasing challenges originating from the bakufu as well as the surrounding provinces, but, in the end, managed to expand the influence of the Asakura clan, deepen ties with the bakufu and the chōtei, or Imperial Court, and foster peace and prosperity in Echizen.

Takakage succeeded his father, Sadakage, as head of the Asakura clan in 1512.  In 1517, acting upon orders from the bakufu, he dispatched troops under the command of Sōteki to Wakasa and Tango provinces, supporting Takeda Motonobu, the military governor of Wakasa.  The army suppressed rebellions by the Hemi clan in Wakasa and the Nobunaga clan, the deputy military governor of Tango.   In 1519, Takakage’s younger brother, Asakura Kagetaka, led a battalion of 3,000 men into Mino.  Kagetaka prevailed in the Battle of Masaki and the Battle of Ikenobe, enabling Saitō Toshinaga and Toki Yoritake to return to Mino.  Yoritake was in a struggle with his younger brother, Toki Yoriaki, to become the military governor of Mino.

In 1525, Takakage had Sōteki lead an army to Odani Castle in Ōmi.  The Asakura cooperated with the Rokkaku to restrain the Azai clan from interfering in an internal rebellion in Mino.  Thereafter, Takakage brokered a peace between Rokkaku Sadayori and Azai Sukemasa.  Asakura Kagemoto, a retainer, led an army into Mino and advanced to Inabayama.  

In 1527, Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the shōgun, temporarily resided in Ōmi after having been chased out of Kyōto.  He was accompanied by Hosokawa Takakuni, the kanrei, or deputy shōgun, and Takeda Motomitsu, head of the Takeda clan in Wakasa. Upon Yoshiharu’s request, Takakage ordered Sōteki, along with Asakura Kagetoshi (Takakage’s younger brother), and members of the Maeba clan to lead an army of 10,000 men on a march to Kyōto.  En route, the troops converged with forces under the command of Takakuni.  The combined army confronted Miyoshi Motonaga and supporting forces across the Katsura River, and won the ensuing battle.  Thereafter, the combined Asakura and Hosokawa forces took control of Kyōto and re-installed Yoshiharu as the shōgun.

Later the same year, Awaya Mototaka rebelled against Takeda Motomitsu, the military governor of Wakasa.  The Takeda clan leaned toward support of the Asakura, so Takeda Nobutaka forged a plan with retainers of the Asakura to invade Wakasa and the Asakura army maneuvered in time.  In 1528, Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the shōgun, appointed Takakage as a member of the otomoshū, an honorary role accompanying the shōgun on excursions reserved for his closest advisors.  Meanwhile, the Asakura army withdrew from Kyōto owing to tensions with Hosokawa Takakuni, who ventured to Ichijōdani to request Takakage to dispatch additional forces to Kyōto, but Takakage refused the entreaty.

In 1531, internal conflict arose among followers of the Ikkō sect in Kaga, an event known as the Kyōroku no sakuran, or the Kyōroku Disturbance.  Takakage ordered Sōteki to attack the Ikkō monks, with the troops advancing to near the Tedori River. Sōteki assigned the role of administrator for the Tsuruga District to his son-in-law, Asakura Kagetoshi.  In 1532, the Asakura entered into a secret pact with the Rokkaku and reconciled with the Ikkō sect of Kaga.  In 1536, Takakage supported Toki Yoritake in a dispute with his younger brother, Toki Yoshiaki, to become the military governor of Mino.  Asakura Kagetaka  attacked Anama Castle in the Ōno District. In 1538, Takakage earned the role of a shōbanshū, or vice-deputy of the shōgun, a senior role reserved for members of the kanrei family or shugo daimyō.  He donated 10,000 疋 to Emperor Gonara at the ceremony marking the accession to the throne.

In 1540, Kagetaka marched to Kyōto and launched a failed plan to garner support from influential officials of the bakufu including kuge, or nobles, to oppose Takakage. Takakage donated 100 kan mon to the Imperial Court and 50 kan mon to the shōgun, and then requested the bakufu to banish Kagetaka.  The following month, Kagetaka was banished from Kyōto in an event known as the Yōkyūkai-jiken and received protection from Takeda Nobutoyo, the head of the Takeda clan in Wakasa Province.  Thereafter, Kagetaka continued to oppose Takakage, enlisting support from followers of the Hongan Temple, the Ikkō sect, the Takeda clan of Wakasa, and the Shiba clan from Owari Province.  In 1543, the Hongan Temple refused negotiations to form an alliance, after which he departed Wakasa to the harbor town of Sakai in Izumi Province, and then passed away in the western region. 

In 1544, Takakage joined Oda Nobuhide from Owari to support a bid by Toki Yorizumi (the eldest son of Toki Yoritake) who had earlier fled to Echizen to become the military governor of Mino.  In the Battle of Kanōguchi, the combined forces attacked Saitō Dōsan and Toki Yoriaki in Mino, and burned the area below Inokuchi (Inabayama) Castle.  The attackers, however, had the disadvantage of being far from their home province, incurring over 10,000 casualties after a nighttime attack by the Saitō, and causing the surviving forces to retreat.

Takakage suddenly died while returning home from a temple visit in 1548.