Lifespan: Tenbun 16 (1547) to 5/29 of Tenshō 9 (1581)
Rank: bushō, daimyō
Title: Vice Minister of Popular Affairs
Lord: Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) → Ryūzōji Takanobu
Father: Kamachi Akimori
Mother: Daughter of Tajiri Chikatane (乙鶴姫)
Siblings: Shigehisa, Shigenami, Muneyasu, Muneharu
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Akahoshi Muneie; Tamatsuruhime (daughter of Ryūzōji Takanobu)
Children: Noriko (wife of Kutami Shigefusa), Hisashige, Tsunenobu, Sudō Akitsugu, daughter (wife of Ishii Magobei)
Kamachi Shigenami served as a bushō and daimyō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.
Shigenami was the lead daimyō of a group known as the Fifteen Castles of Chikugo comprised of fifteen high-ranking kokujin, or provincial landowners, based in Chikugo Province under the command of the Ōtomo clan of neighboring Bungo Province during the Sengoku period.
Along with his brother, Kamachi Shigehisa, Shigenami received one of the characters from the name of Ōtomo Yoshishige and adopted the name of Shigenami. Shigenami served as the seventeenth head of the Kamachi clan.
In 1547, Shigenami was born as the second of four sons of Kamachi Akimori, a bushō and sengoku daimyō of the southern portion of Chikugo. Shigenami’s older brother, Shigehisa, was an illegitimate child so Shigenami became the lineal heir and inherited the headship of the Kamachi clan of Yanagawa while Shigehisa supported him as a chief retainer.
In 1578, at the Battle of Mimikawa, Akimori (who was in retirement) and Shigenami’s younger brother, Kamachi Muneyasu, led 3,000 soldiers to deploy on behalf of the Ōtomo clan. Unlike his father who was deeply loyal to the Ōtomo, Shigenami aspired to become independent of the Ōtomo so he feigned illness and, on that pretext, he took 2,000 of the men under his command and returned to Yanagawa. Meanwhile, his father, Akimori, and younger brother, Muneyasu, died in the course of a major defeat for the Ōtomo clan.
Discord with Ryūzōji Takanobu
Shigenami agreed to come under the command of Ryūzōji Takanobu and offered full cooperation in an offensive in Chikugo. After a while, however, he came into conflict with Takanobu. In 1581, Takanobu led 20,000 soldiers to surround Yanagawa Castle but the besieging forces were unable to topple the stronghold, even giving rise to a comic song called “Three Years in Yanagawa.” After a long siege, the members of the castle garrison grew weary and their provisions ran out so Shigenami relied upon his uncle, Tajiri Akitane, to mediate a settlement with Takanobu. Takanobu promised to have his daughter, Tamatsuruhime, wed Shigenami. Under another theory, Takanobu made this promise after being ousted from Hizen Province and coming under the protection of the Kamachi of southern Chikugo.
The control of Yanagawa was essential to enable the Ryūzōji army to advance into the central portions of Kyūshū, but Shigenami sought to form an association with the Shimazu clan of Satsuma Province. Fearing that the Kamachi would fall under the command of the Shimazu, Takanobu conspired with a retainer named Nabeshima Naoshige, Tajiri Akitane, and others to murder Shigenami. He then sent a messenger to Yanagawa and, as a sign of reconciliation between the Ryūzōji and Kamachi clans, invited Shigenami to a banquet to enjoy a form of traditional theater known as sarugaku.
Demise and the Battle of Yanagawa
Despite stubborn resistance from Shigenami, Takanobu’s messenger persisted to politely persuade him and his senior retainers to attend the event. Ultimately, Shigenami agreed and, beginning with his older brother, Shigehisa, chose 200 capable retainers to accompany him and then departed Yanagawa. Shigenami’s cousin and a chief retainer, Ōki Munemitsu, who stayed behind advised them not to travel to Hizen, but he could not convince Shigenami to cancel the trip.
After traversing the Chikugo River and entering Hizen, Shigenami was welcomed by Takanobu’s eldest son, Ryūzōji Masaie, at Saga Castle. The next day, a Ryūzōji battalion launched an unexpected attack against him near the Yoka Shrine. The 200 elite forces accompanying Shigenami fought valiantly, but, being outnumbered, Shigenami took his own life while Shigehisa and the rest of the party were all killed in action.
Upon assuring himself of the death of Shigenami, Takanobu promptly ordered the killing of Shigenami’s family. With the encouragement of Nabeshima Naoshige, Tajiri Akitane led soldiers to Yanagawa and triggered the Battle of Yanagawa. These events surprised many bushō, including close associates of Takanobu. Hyakutake Tomokane, one of the Four Guardian Kings of the Ryūzōji, told his wife who prodded him to deploy: “I expect the punishment of Shigenami will destroy this family” and tearfully refused to join the operation. The Ryūzōji family was resolutely opposed to allowing Kamachi Shigenami to fall under the command of the Shimazu clan, but eviscerating his family was met by strong opposition and the abandonment of Takanobu by influential kokujin in Chikugo.
After Shigenami’s wife, Tamatsuruhime, learned of the killing of her beloved husband by Takanobu (her father), she did not return to her original home with the Ryūzōji and, instead, sought to follow Shigenami into the afterlife by killing herself at Shiotsuka, an auxiliary castle of the Kamachi clan. At this site, there currently stands a stone memorial to Kamachi Shigenami and his wife along with 108 martyrs.