Chōsokabe Morichika


Chōsokabe Clan

Tosa Province

Chōsokabe Morichika

Lifespan:  Tenshō 3 (1575) to 5/15 of Keichō 20 (1615)

Other Names:  Senyūmaru (childhood), Uemontarō (common)

Rank:  bushō, daimyō

Title:  Assistant Vice Minister of the Sovereign’s Household

Clan:  Chōsokabe

Lord:  Chōsokabe Motochika → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori

Father:  Chōsokabe Motochika

Mother:  Motochika-fujin (younger sister of Saitō Toshimitsu)

Siblings:  Nobuchika, Kagawa Chikakazu, Tsuno Chikatada, Morichika, Ukon-taifu, Yasutoyo, sister

Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Chōsokabe Nobuchika (Morichika-fujin, his real niece)

Children:  Moritsune, Moritaka, Morinobu, Morisada, son, daughter (wife of Ueno Hiradai)

Banners for the Battle of Sekigahara

Banners for the Siege of Ōsaka

Chōsokabe Morichika served as a bushō and daimyō during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods.  He was the twenty-second head of the Chōsokabe clan based in Tosa Province in Shikoku.  Morichika was the final head of the clan in its role as a sengoku daimyō family.

Succession to the clan

In 1575, Morichika was born as the fourth son of Chōsokabe Motochika.  His childhood name was Senyūmaru.

In 1586, after the death of his older brother, Chōsokabe Nobuchika, at the Battle of Hetsugigawa, Morichika engaged in a succession dispute against factions supporting his surviving older brothers, Kagawa Chikakazu and Tsuno Chikatada.  With the support of his father, however, in 1588, he became the designated heir.  Many members of the clan, including Kira Chikazane, were opposed to Morichika’s nomination.  This owed in part to the fact that, among his siblings, Morichika was an unpopular figure owing to his arrogant and short-tempered nature and held in contempt by them.  Nevertheless, Motochika designated Senyūmaru while in his youth to be the successor because Chikakazu and Chikatada had already inherited other clans.  Meanwhile, there was too much of a difference in age for either of these two to wed the cherished daughter of Nobuchika who was orphaned by the loss of her father.   Rather than a member of the Toyotomi clan, he had Mashita Nagamori serve in the honorary role to place an eboshi, or black-lacquered cap, on his head at his coming-of-age ceremony.  He received one of the characters from the name of Nagamori, adopting the name of Morichika.  This suggests that the Chōsokabe family was of lower rank under the Toyotomi administration.

After a decision was made on succession to the headship of the Chōsokabe family, Morichika served along with his father, Motochika, to jointly govern the clan.  Morichika served in conflicts for the Toyotomi including the Conquest of Odawara in 1590 and the Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula from 1592.  In 1594, he transferred to Morichika the authority to allocate fiefs, but other powers as a daimyō and head of the clan were jointly administered.  On 3/24 of Keichō 2 (1597), Morichika joined his father to enact and promulgate the 100 Precepts of Chōsokabe Motochika.  Meanwhile, perhaps owing to irregularities with respect to the succession, there is a view that Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Toyotomi administration did not ever recognize Morichika as the head of the Chōsokabe clan.

Placing an emphasis on the rank of military families, the Toyotomi administration conferred uniform ranks on daimyō and their successors, but there is no record of Morichika receiving a rank, and, in formal communications, he was referred to by his common name of Uemontarō while Tosa-no-kami (Govenor of Tosa) was used as an informal title.  As a daimyō and head of a clan, this was unusual.  After the death of his father, Motochika, in the fifth month of 1599, Morichika inherited the family and became the kunishu, or lord, of Tosa.  There is no record, however, of recognition by the Toyotomi administration of his succession to the headship of the family or the role of kunishu.  This unusual situation continued at the time of the Battle of Sekigahara in the following year.  From another perspective, there is a theory that he received recognition at the next head of the clan when he met Toyotomi Hideyoshi during a visit on his own in 1597.

The Battle of Sekigahara occurred on 9/15 of Keichō 5 (1600).  It appears that Morichika joined the Western Army owing to prior relationships between his father, Motochika, and Mashita Nagamori and Kakimi Kazunao.  Morichika participated out of a desire for recognition by the Toyotomi administration.  Originally, Morichika decided to ally with the Eastern Army, dispatching Tōchi Shinzaemon and Machi Saburōemon to Tokugawa Ieyasu, but the road to Mizuguchi in Ōmi Province was blocked by members of the Western Army so he decided to ally with the Western Army instead.  The authenticity of this story, however, is questioned.

En route to Sekigahara, Morichika participated in toppling Fushimi Castle and Anotsu Castle which were aligned with the Eastern Army.  Together with Mōri Hidemoto, Kikkawa Hiroie, Ankokuji Ekei, and Natsuka Masaie, he established a position on Mount Nangū behind the main camp of Ieyasu.  On 9/15, during the main Battle of Sekigahara, owing to collusion by Hiroie with Ieyasu, the Mōri division did not move while the Natsuka and Chōsokabe divisions positioned behind the Mōri did not understand the intentions of the Mōri and could not move themselves.  Ultimately, without these divisions participating in the battle, the Western Army was defeated.

Thereafter, Morichika learned of the destruction of the Western Army based on a notification from Shimazu Yoshihiro as well as reconnaissance​ by Yoshida Shigetoshi.  Morichika was pursued by armies led by Ikeda Terumasa and Asano Yukinaga, whereupon he fled to Mount Tarao.  He then went from Iga to Izumi, and after being chased by Koide Yoshichika, pulled-up in Tenma in Ōsaka and returned to Tosa Province in Shikoku.

Removal from his position and confinement

Morichika attempted through Ii Naomasa, a senior retainer of the Tokugawa with whom he was on friendly terms, to apologize to Ieyasu but, according to historical accounts of Tosa, Morichika was removed from his position for murdering his older brother, Tsuno Chikatada, based on slander from a retainer named Hisatake Chikanao.  This act angered Ieyasu who, in turn, removed Morichika from his position and seized his territory.

Based on a letter from Naomasa, rather than have Tosa seized, Morichika planned to receive substitute territory as a form of forbearance and he ostensibly went to the capital for this reason.  At the time of the seizure, however, retainers of Morichika who protested the prospect of a substitute province along with surviving retainers of the Kira and Tsuno clans launched the Urado Uprising, opposing transfer of the territory and main base of the Chōsokabe at Urado Castle.  It can be surmised that he became answerable for the situation, for which the provision of a forbearance was scrapped and he was removed from his position.  The consequences of the murder of Tsuno Chikatada do not appear to have been raised as a reason for his removal.  As of this event, the status of the Chōsokabe as a daimyō family came to an end.  The band of retainers dispersed, with some entering into service for other daimyō, some becoming rōnin, or wandering samurai, and some returning to peasant life.

After becoming a rōnin, in 1601, Morichika moved his residence from Ōsaka to Fushimi, endeavoring until around 1605 to reclaim his status as a daimyō.  In 1610, he underwent the rites of tonsure, called himself Daigan Yūmu, and lived on remittances from former retainers.  There is also a record of him acting as a terakoya, or an academic instructor of disciples at a temple, although not authenticated in primary sources.  Around 1612, he resided in Yanagi-ga-zushi in Kamidachuri in Kyōto.  He had friendly relations with Kiyohara Hidekata.  In any event, he was placed under surveillance by Itakura Katsushige, an administrative officer in Kyōto, for being viewed as a dangerous person who could oppose the Edo bakufu.

Siege of Ōsaka

In exchange for receiving back his home territory of Tosa from the Toyotomi, Morichika and his former retainers received an offer to enter Ōsaka Castle, but the supporters of the Toyotomi in Ōsaka were not on good terms with the Tokugawa.  In the ninth month of 1614, Itakura Katsushige questioned Morichika as to the reasons to enter Ōsaka Castle.  At this time, Morichika expressed his desire to ally with the Kantō faction, contribute on the battlefield, and receive a small stipend.  He also responded that he had earlier made a promise to Asano Nagaakira.  After causing Katsushige to let-down his guard, Morichika fled the capital with six of his subordinates and, on 10/6, entered Ōsaka Castle.  Former retainers led by Nakauchi Sōemon desiring to revive the Chōsokabe clan and Morichika’s younger brother, Chōsokabe Yasutoyo, also entered the castle.  In total, a contingent of 1,000 former retainers and family members assembled in Ōsaka Castle on behalf of Morichika.  This became the main division along with those led by Sanada Nobushige, Gotō Mototsugu, Mōri Katsunaga, and Akashi Takenori, comprising the Groups of the Five.

In this way, the Siege of Ōsaka began.  At the Winter Campaign which was a castle siege, Morichika joined senior retainers of the Toyotomi, Kimura Shigenari and Gotō Mototsugu to establish positions at the Hatchōme and Tanimachi entrances.  Morichika was responsible for a small castle (known as Sanadamaru) built by Sanada Nobushige to the south of the Hirano entrance to Ōsaka Castle.  On 12/4, after the outbreak of the Siege of Sanadamaru, divisions led by Ii Naotaka and Matsudaira Tadanao charged forward after misinterpreting an accident involving an explosion in the storage area for gunpowder in the castle as a signal of betrayal from Nanjō Mototada.  Morichika fought back, imposing losses and repelling the attacking forces.  This, however, did not escalate in a large-scale conflict.  After entering into a stalemate, those defending Ōsaka Castle and the forces from the Edo bakufu reached a settlement.

At the Summer Campaign, which was a field battle, Morichika and Kimura Shigenari led a contingent of 5,000 soldiers in a bid to penetrate the main encampment of Tokugawa Ieyasu, violently clashing against the division led by Tōdō Takatora.  This is known as the Battle of Yao and Wakae.

At dawn on 5/6 of Keichō 20 (1615), after advancing to Yao, Yoshida Shigechika, a member of the vanguard forces in the Chōsokabe division encountered Tōdō Takatora.  At this time, the vanguard forces of the Chōsokabe were lightly armed, so they quickly attempted to converge with the main division but were also scouted by the Tōdō division.  A hail of arquebus fire decimated these forces, and, after sending a communication to the main division, Shigechika died in battle.  Riding the momentum of this tactical victory, the Tōdō division strengthened their offensive in a bid to decimate the main division of the Chōsokabe.  Morichika, however, set-up ambushes along the banks of the river and, after drawing in the Tōdō forces, had his troops attack with spears, mounting an unexpected counterattack that crushed the advance guard of the Tōdō division.  Meanwhile, Morichika pressed the attack, causing the Tōdō division to fall into disarray.  Commanders and senior retainers on the front lines, including Takatora’s nephew, Tōdō Takanori, were killed in action.  After losing control of the division, Takatora himself was forced to flee for his own safety.

However, in parallel with Morichika’s division, Kimura Shigenari from a detached division who advanced to Wakae, was destroyed in battle against forces led by Ii Naotaka and, before long, the Ii division rushed ahead to reinforce the Tōdō division.  Upon receiving this news, Morichika had become isolated among enemy troops, forcing him to retreat to Ōsaka Castle.

Either at the Battle of Yao or while withdrawing, Morichika’s division incurred significant losses and was likely decimated.  In fact, at the Battle of Tennōji and Okayama on the next day, Morichika stayed in Ōsaka Castle and did not participate in the battle.

On 5/11, while Morichika was hiding in the reeds near Hashimoto in the environs of Yawata in Kyōto, he was discovered and captured by a retainer of Hachisuka Yoshishige named Nagasaka Saburōzaemon whereupon he was taken to Fushimi.  Later, after being paraded as a criminal around the main avenues of Kyōto, on 5/15, he was taken to an execution site known as Rokujō-gawara along the Kamo River and beheaded.  Morichika was forty-one years old.  This marked the annihilation of the Chōsokabe clan.  A monk from the Renkō Temple in Kyōto pleaded to Itakura Katsushige for permission to take his remains for burial at the temple.


His eldest son, Chōsokabe Moritsune was beheaded in Fushimi.  His second son (Chōsokabe Moritaka) and third son (Chōsokabe Morinobu) fled to Tosa but were executed by the Yamauchi clan.  His fourth son (Chōsokabe Morisada) and fifth son (name unknown) fled to Yawata in Kyōto but were also captured and killed.

According to one theory, Marubashi Chūya, the right-hand man of Yui Shōsetsu who plotted to overthrow the Tokugawa bakufu, was in fact Chōsokabe Morizumi, the second son of a consort of Morichika.

In 2015, for a Buddhist memorial marking the 400th anniversary of the death of Morichika, an individual from the bloodline of Morichika’s second son, Moritaka, brought a stirrup said to have been owned by Morichika to the Renkō Temple located in the Shimogyō Ward of Kyōto.  Until that time, the temple only kept the other stirrup, and, based on their form and color, the two stirrups matched one another so, for the first time in one-hundred years, the pair were matched.  The grandfather of the descendant who brought the stirrup had received it from the temple on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the death of Morichika.  If this is true, then, after the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, some persons from the direct lineage of Morichika escaped the bands searching for them on behalf of the Tokugawa.

Character and anecdotes

Morichika’s grave and a portrait are at the Renkō Temple.  Similar to his father and older brother, he appears resolute.

After a defeat at the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, when Morichika was apprehended by the Tokugawa and taken to Hakushū, he was disdained by the soldiers for being captured without taking his own life.  Morichika said that he held dear his life, and if he only had his life and his right hand, he could put Ieyasu and Hidetada in a similar state.  While pleading for his life, he even said he would enter the priesthood.  Ieyasu, however, knew Morichika’s real intentions and did not listen to him, imposing the penalty of death instead.  As part of the same story, when a close associate of Hidetada asked Morichika why he did not take his own life, he responded that one should not casually kill a general in the same manner as a common soldier and, given the chance, he would raise arms again to absolve himself of his humiliation.