Lifespan: Tenshō 4 (1576) to 8/25 of Keichō 18 (1613)
Title: Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Master of the Eastern Capital Office, Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Provincial Governor of Kii, Junior Third Rank (honorary)
Han: Head of Kii-Wakayama
Clan: Asano – served the Toyotomi and Tokugawa
Lord: Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori → Tokugawa Ieyasyu → Tokugawa Hidetada
Father: Asano Nagamasa
Mother: Chōsei-in (Yaya – daughter of Sugihara Sadatoshi or Asano Nagakatsu)
Siblings: Yoshinaga, Nagaakira, sister (wife of Sugihara Nagafusa), sister (wife of Matsudaira Sadatsuna), Nagashige, adopted sister (wife of Tarao Mitsusada), adopted sister (wife of Funakoshi Nagakage)
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Ikeda Tsuneoki
Children: Daughter (wife of Matsudaira Tadamasa), Kōgen-in (Haruhime, formal wife of Tokugawa Yoshinao)
Asano Yoshinaga served as a daimyō during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the fifteenth head of the Asano clan, and first-generation head of the Kii-Wakayama han in the early Edo period.
Service under Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Yoshinaga was born in Sakamoto in the Shiga District of Ōmi Province as the eldest son of Asano Nagamasa.
Yoshinaga’s father, Nagamasa, was the son of Yasui Shigetsugu and the younger sister of Asano Nagakatsu. The eldest son of Nagakatsu died early so Nagamasa was adopted by Nagakatsu. Yoshinaga’s mother, Yaya, may have been the younger sister of Nene (Kōdai-in), the formal wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Further, Yaya may have been the adopted daughter of Nanamagari-dono, his aunt (a later wife of Nagakatsu). Alternatively, she may have been the daughter of Nagakatsu and the daughter of Higuchi Mino no kami (the first wife of Nagakatsu). As the adopted daughter of Nagakatsu, Nene was an in-law of Nagamasa, such that Yoshinaga was a nephew.
In 1589, Yoshinaga was conferred with the titles of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Master of the Eastern Capital Office. In 1590, Yoshinaga participated at the age of fifteen in his first battle alongside his father at the Conquest of Odawara, an expedition by the allied forces of the Toyotomi and Tokugawa against the Gohōjō clan in Sagami Province and across the Kantō Region. During this campaign, Yoshinaga joined Honda Tadamasa in an attack on the main entrance to Iwatsuki Castle. Hideyoshi praised their contributions and dispatched Takigawa Tadayuki to present them with ceremonial swords and short swords.
In 1592, Yoshinaga mobilized at Nagoya Castle in Hizen Province to prepare for a military campaign on the Korean Peninsula known as the Bunroku-Keichō Expedition. Prior to sailing, however, Umikita Kunikane started an uprising in Sashiki in the Ashikita District of Higo Province. This caused Hideyoshi to order Nagamasa (who had been assigned to keep watch for uprisings by kokujin in Higo) to appoint Yoshinaga to serve as the commanding general for a unit to suppress the uprising. Upon request of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hideyoshi had Honda Tadakatsu serve as deputy commander. Prior to arriving at the intended location, the uprising had already been subdued so Yoshinaga returned on the same route and sailed to Korea. Nagamasa continued as a bugyō, or commissioner, to manage affairs associated with the uprisings.
Yoshinaga led a contingent of three thousand men into Korea. Date Masamune had been summoned but not yet ordered to deploy. Masamune had a close relationship with Nagamasa, so he petitioned and Hideyoshi allowed him to join Yoshinaga as his guardian on the deployment. Yoshinaga and Masamune converged with other commanders in Pusan and stayed at a Japanese fortress built in Seosaengpo. The forces then joined with a unit commanded by Katō Kiyomasa in assorted battles across the peninsula.
In 1593, Hideyoshi called upon Nagamasa, one of his gobugyō, or Five Commissioners. Owing to the death in battle of Katō Mitsuyasu in Korea, Hideyoshi granted a fief of 225,000 koku in Fuchū in Kai Province to Nagamasa and Yoshinaga, ordering them to move to Kai from Wakasa Province. The fief was to be allocated on the basis of 160,000 koku to Yoshinaga, 55,000 koku to Nagamasa, and 10,000 koku as a storehouse for taxes. Further, Yoshinaga was appointed as lord of Fuchū Castle in Kai, although he remained on deployment at the time.
In 1595, Yoshinaga returned to Japan following a settlement with the Ming dynasty. Soon thereafter, Toyotomi Hidetsugu, the heir-apparent to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, committed suicide after being removed from his role and confined to the Seigan Temple on Mount Kōya. Owing to Yoshinaga’s role as a brother-in-law and advocate of Hidetsugu, Hideyoshi implicated him in the incident and had him banished to Tsumugi in Noto Province; however, he was soon pardoned through the intervention of Maeda Toshiie and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
The Keichō War and military faction
In 1597, Yoshinaga sailed again to Pusan on the Korean Peninsula for the Bunroku-Keichō Expedition. The army from Japan invaded Jeolla and Chungcheong provinces in the southwest portion of the peninsula. These were two of the historical Eight Provinces of Korea during the Kingdom of Joseon. The army lost against the combined Chinese and Korean forces, retreating to the southern portion of the peninsula. The soldiers set about constructing numerous fortresses, but Hideyoshi viewed this as procrastination and demanded them to attack again, whereupon Yoshinaga together with Mōri Motonari and Kuroda Nagamasa, led forces north a second time. The unit proceeded to the Onyang District to establish an outpost. Katō Kiyomasa began construction of the Ulsan fortress approximately forty kilometers away. Months later, the Chinese forces launched a surprise nighttime assault against scouts for the Asano.
The following day, Yoshinaga attempted a counterattack, but was defeated in a bitter clash by Chinese forces numbering several tens of thousands. Yoshinaga himself sustained injuries and lost his horse. One of his retainers, Kameda Takatsuna, cut-down an enemy commander and, in the midst of the chaos, retreated with Yoshinaga to Ulsan fortress. Kiyomasa was not present at the time, but others including Katō Naomasa attempted to defend the castle. The Chinese and Korean forces broke through the outer walls, compelling the defenders to break-up in an effort to defend the enclosed areas. Yoshinaga joined Ōta Kazuyoshi and Shishido Mototsugu to defend the core areas of the fortress. Li Jobai, commander of the Chinese forces, took-up positions near the main entrance, while both Chinese and Korean forces surrounded the fortress from all sides. Upon hearing of the urgent situation, Kiyomasa led five hundred mounted soldiers back from Gijang. This news boosted the morale of the defenders who had almost no rations as the fortress was still under construction. Once supplies ran out, defenders would slip-out of the castle at night to search for dead bodies to eat. Upon arrival of the reinforcements, some of the Chinese forces decided to retreat to Gyeongju, after which the defenders broke out to attack the remaining forces laying siege to the fortress.
After the war, Yoshinaga returned to Seosaengpo, returning to Japan two months after the death of Hideyoshi. That winter, Yoshinaga strongly disagreed with Ishida Mitsunari, the head of the Five Commissioners and advocate of diplomacy. Yoshinaga, together with Hosokawa Tadaoki, Katō Kiyomasa, Fukushima Masanori, Katō Yoshiaki, Kuroda Nagamasa, and Hachisuka Yoshishige comprised the Seven Generals of the military faction, and supported Tokugawa Ieyasu, the head of the Five Commissioners.
In 1599, during the struggle between Mitsunari and Ieyasu, Yoshinaga managed security for Ieyasu’s Fushimi residence in Kyōto. After the death of Maeda Toshiie, a rumor circulated that the Seven Generals had attacked Mitsunari at his residence in Ōsaka, whereupon Mitsunari hid in the residence of Ukita Hideie, while Maeda Geni, one of the Five Commissioners aligned with Mitsunari, fled to Fushimi Castle. The Seven Generals pressed toward Fushimi, and sought permission from Ieyasu to expel Mitsunari. Ieyasu, however, disagreed, and ordered them to stand down. Instead, Ieyasu had Yūki Hideyasu accompany Mitsunari to Sawayama Castle to be confined. Several days later, Ieyasu entered Fushimi Castle, causing onlookers to rumor that he had succeeded Hideyoshi as the supreme leader.
In 1600, Yoshinaga joined his father, Nagamasa, in the Conquest of Aizu, a conflict led by Ieyasu aimed at Uesugi Kagekatsu, one of the Five Commissioners under the Toyotomi regime. While encamped for several days, news spread that Mitsunari had launched a rebellion in Oyama in Shimotsuke Province. During consultations, Yoshinaga renewed his alliance with Ieyasu on the grounds that he not fear his wife and children in the Kinai Region be taken hostage, whereupon he was appointed to serve in the vanguard of the deploying forces.
The contingent proceeded along the Tōkai Road, with Yoshinaga and Ikeda Terumasa charged with impeding the western army from crossing the Kiso River. Upon attack from the western army, Yoshinaga crossed the Shinkanō River to engage and defeat Kozukuri Nagamasa and other enemy forces. The next day, Yoshinaga attacked Kashiwabara Hikosaemon, a retainer of Ishida Mitsunari, at the mountain fortress of the Zuiryū Temple. The attacking forces killed Hikosaemon along with over five hundred defenders.
Several weeks later, Ieyasu arrived at Akasaka-Okayama and, together with Ikeda Terumasa, established a base near Tarui Ichirizuka as a reinforcement against the western army including Mōri Hidemoto, Ankokuji Ekei, and Natsuka Masaie from Mount Nangū. The forces maintained a stand-off that did not escalate into further conflict.
Thereafter, Yoshinaga traveled with Fukushima Masanori and Ikeda Terumasa to Kyōto to protect the Imperial residence. Edicts in various provinces displaying the Fukushima, Ikeda, and Asano seals prohibited outlaws from within or without the capital. Yoshinaga and Ii Naomasa went to Ōsaka Castle to mediate a settlement with Mōri Terumoto. As Terumoto departed, Yoshinaga entered and was received by Ieyasu. Ieyasu paid recognition to Yoshinaga for his military contributions by awarding him a large fief of 376,560 koku in Kii Province and appointed him as lord of Wakayama Castle.
In 1601, Yoshinaga was conferred the titles of Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Governor of Kii. In 1603, he was recognized as a member of the Toyotomi clan and attended the wedding ceremony of Toyotomi Hideyori and Senhime in Ōsaka Castle.
Matrimonial alliance with the Tokugawa clan
In 1608, Yoshinaga’s daughter, Haruhime (Kōgen-in) became engaged with Ieyasu’s ninth son, Tokugawa Yoshinao of Owari Province. In 1609, as many as twenty daimyō including Yoshinaga, Katō Kiyomasa, Fukushima Masanori, and Ikeda Terumasa visited Yoshinao’s home base of Nagoya Castle in connection with orders from the Edo bakufu to daimyō to oversee the reconstruction of roads and structures in the provinces. In 1612, their engagement was made public but the wedding delayed owing to Yoshinao’s illness.
In 1611, Masanori, Kiyomasa, and Yoshinaga were appointed to provide security detail for a visit by Hideyori to Nijō Castle in Kyōto, but Masanori withdrew on account of illness, so that Kiyomasa and Yoshinaga together provided the security for Hideyori to meet with Ieyasu.
In 1613, Yoshinaga died of illness in Wakayama at the age of thirty-eight. He had no sons, so he was succeeded by his next younger brother, Asano Nagaakira. In his later years, Yoshinaga is believed to have appealed to Christianity for relief from illness, and his daughter, Haruhime, was given a baptismal name.
In 1615, the Owari han dispatched Naruse Masanari and Takenokoshi Masanobu as envoys to the Asano clan and communicated that Haru-hime and Yoshinao would wed in the spring despite untruths that the marriage had been called off as a result of Yoshinaga’s death. Although this was followed by notice from Ieyasu in Sunpu that the marriage would be delayed by two months, the wedding proceeded as planned. Two thousand ryo of white silver was paid as a dowry to Ieyasu amidst the holding of a splendid ceremony. Toyotomi Hideyori offered a sword and silk clothing as wedding gifts. This event occurred just prior to the Ōsaka no jin, or Battle of Ōsaka, and there was indecision as whether to hold the ceremony prior to the conduct of hostilities or afterwards. Within less then a month after the wedding, Ōsaka Castle fell, the Toyotomi family decimated, and the Asano clan, which had pledged loyalty to the Tokugawa, prospered for generations.