Lifespan: 15xx to 12/26 of Keichō 19 (1615)
Rank: bushō, daimyō
Title: Governor of Echigo
Lord: Mōri Terumoto → Chōsokabe Motochika → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori → Tōdō Takatora
Father: Kan Tōtōmi-no-kami
Children: Saburōbei (Kazumi), Nagamasa, Masakage, Gon-no-suke (Uemonpachi), Hanbei義
Kan Michinaga served as a bushō and daimyō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods. His common name was Heiemon. Michinaga was counted as one of the Awaji Group of Ten. From Awaji Island, he commanded a navy in the eastern portion of the Seto Inland Sea. There are assorted theories regarding the location of his base in Shichi, Kamaguchi, Iwaya, or Sumoto.
Although authenticated sources are scarce, the Kan clan is surmised to have originated from the Higashibōjō family, drawing the character in the surname from the Sugawara clan founded by Sugawara no Michizane in the ninth century. The clan was likely a dogō, or small-scale landowner, in Awaji Province. Michinaga’s origins are uncertain.
Upon entering the Tenshō era (1573 to 1593), the Mōri of the Chūgoku Region came into conflict with Oda Nobunaga who held sway in the Kinai. Awaji Island was in a narrow space where these two major powers clashed so the kunishū, or landowners, of Awaji faced the predicament of choosing sides. Only Michinaga aligned with the Mōri. Later, Atagi Nobuyasu joined the Oda, while other kunishū (such as Funakoshi Kagenao) could not decide. Amid these circumstances, in 1576, forces led by Mōri Terumoto (who backed Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu) toppled Nobuyasu’s base of Iwaya Castle in the Tsuna District of Awaji. Thereafter, Michinaga replaced him as the lord of Iwaya. During the Ishiyama War waged by members of the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple with the support of the Mōri against Oda Nobunaga from 1570 to 1580, Michinaga supported the Mōri. In the eleventh month of 1581, Hashiba Hideyoshi joined Ikeda Motosuke to attack Awaji in a bid to gain a foothold for an invasion by the Oda forces of Shikoku. Owing to this attack, Iwaya Castle fell in one day, while the invading forces wiped-out most of the kunishū on Awaji. Michinaga fled and went into hiding.
On 6/3 of Tenshō 10 (1582), on the day after the coup d’état against Oda Nobunaga known as the Honnō Temple Incident, Michinaga sided with the ringleader of the coup, Akechi Mitsuhide. He proceeded to capture Sumoto Castle on Awaji which, at the time, was held by Sengoku Hidehisa. Nevertheless, it was soon recaptured by Hirota Kura-no-jō. Michinaga went to Shikoku and became a security officer for Kōsokabe Chikayasu, the younger brother of Chōsokabe Motochika, the sengoku daimyō of Tosa Province. In 1584, at the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute, Michinaga joined forces with the Saika Group, and, on 3/18, attacked Kishiwada but withdrew in defeat.
Owing to the Invasion of Shikoku by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in 1585, Michinaga followed the lead of his lords, the Chōsokabe clan, and surrendered. The Toyotomi administration recognized the rights to his landholdings whereupon he governed a fief of between 10,000 and 15,000 koku. At some point, he was transferred from Awaji to Iyo Province. Thereafter, he commanded a navy on behalf of Hideyoshi, participating in the Conquest of Kyūshū, the Conquest of Odawara, and the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign. During the deployment for the Korean Peninsula, he commanded 250 troops as a naval officer. He primarily served as an escort for transport ships, serving valorously in the Naval Battle of Shissenryō. Following the death of Hideyoshi in the eighth month of 1598, he was presented with a precious Nagamitsu long sword as a keepsake. Nagamitsu was a manufacturer of swords in Bizen Province during the late Kamakura period.
In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Michinaga together with another well-known naval commander, Kuki Yoshitaka, joined the Western Army. Owing to the subsequent loss by the Western Army, after the war, his landholdings were seized. Thereafter, he received a fief of 5,000 koku in Iyo Province where he served as a general under Tōdō Takatora. At the Siege of Ōsaka, Michinaga was in charge of a portion of the construction to fill-in the exterior moats of Ōsaka Castle, but he refused and, as Takatora came by for inspection, got into a verbal argument. Takatora became upset whereupon he ordered Michinaga to commit seppuku. On 12/26 of Keichō 19 (1614), Michinaga took his own life.
The naval tactics conceived by Michinaga known as kanryū were conveyed to his third son, Gon-no-suke, and preserved in written materials.