Kanamori Nagachika


Kanamori Clan

Hida Province

Kanamori Nagachika

Lifespan:  Daiei 4 (1524) to 8/12 of Keichō 13 (1608)

Other Names:  Arichika → Nagachika → Sogen (monk’s name)

Rank:  bushō, daimyō

Title:  Senior Fourth Rank (Lower), Minister of Military Affairs, Governor of Hida

Clan:  Kanamori

Bakufu:  Edo

Domain:  lord of Hida-Takayama, lord of Mino-Kōzuchi

Lord:  Oda Nobuhide → Oda Nobunaga → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Tokugawa Ieyasu → Tokugawa Hidetada

Father:  Kanamori (Ōhata) Sadachika

Siblings:  Masachika, Nagachika, Masahide, Anrakuan Sakuden, sister (wife of Satō Hidekata)

Wife:  [Formal] Ofuku-no-kata; [Second] Kyūshōin

Children:  Naganori, Nagamitsu, Itō Haruaki, daughter (wife of Hida Tadamasa)

Adopted Children:  Arishige

Kanamori Nagachika served as a bushō and daimyō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  Nagachika was the first lord of the Hida-Takayama domain.

The Kanamori were a branch of the Mino-Genji Toki clan.  Ōhata Sadachika (later known as Kanamori Sadachika) departed Mino with his family and resided in Kanamori in the Yasu District of Ōmi Province.  Sadachika was the second son of Ōkuwa Sadayori who was, in turn, the second son of Toki Shigeyori, the military governor of Mino who fought for the Western Army during the Ōnin-Bunmei War (1467 to 1477) .  Kanamori was administered by the local temple affiliated with the Jōdo sect of Shin Buddhism.


In 1524, Nagachika was born as the second son of Kanamori Sadachika.  Nagachika was born in the village of Ōhata in the Tajimi township of the Toki District of Mino.  His younger brother, Anrakuan Sakuden, was the founder of the traditional art of rakugo, or comic storytelling, creating a compilation of stories.

In a succession dispute that broke-out among members of the Toki clan, Nagachika’s father, Sadachika, supported Toki Yoritake but Yoritake was defeated by Toki Yoriaki and he lost his position.  Perhaps as a result, Sadachika soon also departed from Mino moved his residence to Kanamori in the Yasu District of Ōmi Province.  Nagachika is said to have also resided there until 1541.

Upon turning eighteen, Nagachika departed Ōmi and entered into service of Oda Nobuhide of Owari Province, followed by Nobuhide’s son, Oda Nobunaga.  After serving meritoriously during the Conquest of Mino, Kanamori was selected to serve with the elite cavalry known as the akahoroshū, a reference to the red capes that flew behind them while riding horseback into battle for the purpose of deflecting arrows or other objects hurled at them.

In the fifth month of 1575, at the Battle of Nagashino against Takeda Katsuyori, Nagachika led a detached division of 5,000 soldiers in the Oda army together with a division of 3,000 soldiers led by Sakai Tadatsugu under the command of Tokugawa Ieyasu.  These forces pressed an offensive and toppled Tobigasuyama fortress situated behind the Takeda army.  At this time, Tadatsugu rescued Nagashino Castle and killed Katsuyori’s uncle, Kawakubo Nobuzane.  Further, he decimated support forces of the Takeda at the village of Yūmi.  Although Nagachika led a larger division, Nagachika contributions were not generally recognized in later ages.

This is deemed to be the reason why, in later ages, Nagachika is relatively unknown compared to Tadatsugu who is counted among the Four Guardian Kings of the Tokugawa.  Nevertheless, after this battle, he received one of the characters from the name of Nobunaga and adopted the name of Nagachika, evidencing his significant contributions on the battlefield.

In the eighth month of 1575, turning toward the Echizen Ikkō-ikki in Echizen Province, Oda Nobunaga sought to suppress the uprising through the application of military from multiple directions.  Nagachika led one of these divisions, marching from Oku-Mino via the Nukumi Pass to Echizen-Ōno.  His forces scattered the army of Sugiura Gennin, a priest from the Hongan Temple in the same locale, and soon pacified the area.  Owing to his contributions to suppress those fomenting the Echizen Ikkō-ikki, Nagachika was granted two-thirds of the Ōno District in Echizen (Echizen-Ōno and Ōno Castle, and the village of Itoshiro).  The town developed by Nagachika while governing the Ōno District featuring waterworks known as oshōzui served as the foundation for the commercial district of the city of Ōno.  Thereafter, Nagachika served as a lower-ranking bushi under Shibata Katsuie and participated with the Oda forces in the Hokuriku region.  In 1582, during the Conquest of Kōshū that resulted in the evisceration of the Kai-Takeda clan, Nagachika served as the commander in charge of the gateway to Hida, attaining a high level of status as a senior retainer of Nobunaga.

Around this time, Nagachika adopted Nagaya Kizō (later known as Kanamori Arishige), the natural son of Nagaya Kageshige, the lord of Itadori-Taguchi Castle in the Mugi District of Mino.  The Nagaya were a branch of the Ema clan.  He then received as his wife Muromachi-dono, the daughter of Endō Yoshitaka, the lord of Gujō-Hachiman Castle in Hida.  This resulted in an alliance spanning territories in three provinces Ōno in Echizen, Gujō-Hachiman in Hida, and Itadori in Mino.

In the second month of 1582, Nagachika was invested with the titles of Junior Fourth Rank (Lower) and Vice Minister of Military Affairs.  Thereafter, he was conferred the title of Senior Fourth Rank (Lower) and Minister of Military Affairs.  In the sixth month, during a coup d’état resulting in the death of Oda Nobunaga (an event known as the Honnō Temple Incident), Nagachika’s eldest son and designated heir, Kanamori Naganori, died along with Oda Nobutada in fighting at the Nijō Castle.  As a result, Nagachika underwent the rites of tonsure and adopted the monk’s name of Sogen and the title of high priest of the Minister of Military Affairs.  To mourn for his son who was martyred on behalf of Nobunaga, he built the Ryōgen Temple as a sub-temple at the Daitoku Temple affiliated with the Rinzai sect of Buddhism in the mountains.

In the wake of the Kiyosu Conference to decide upon a successor to Oda Nobunaga, after Shibata Katsuie and Hashiba Hideyoshi came into conflict, Nagachika joined as a lower ranking  bushi on the side of the Shibata who also held territory in Echizen.  In the fourth month of 1583, at the Battle of Shizugatake to decide the fate of the Shibata and the Hashiba, Nagachika initially sided with the Shibata in opposition to Hideyoshi.  After Maeda Toshiie switched sides to Hideyoshi’s camp, Nagachika followed in kind and withdrew without fighting.  Shibata Katsuie was destroyed while Toshiie and Nagachika came under the command of Hideyoshi.

Thereafter, Nagachika served under the command of Hideyoshi in the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute and other conflicts.

In 1585, Hideyoshi decided to subjugate Sassa Narimasa of Etchū in an event known as the Toyama Campaign but was concerned about interference by the Anekōji clan of neighboring Hida.  Consequently, Hideyoshi aimed to take control of Hida at the same time and assigned the task to Nagachika.  Nagachika served with the Hashiba forces sent to subjugate Narimasa, and, in the eighth month, participated in a series of skirmishes across the province.  Later that month, he launched an invasion of Hida from Etchū.  Since the death of Nobunaga in the sixth month of 1582, the Anekōji took advantage of the chaos in Hida to expand their power and had nearly unified the province.  In the course of this expansion, others including members of the Ushimaru clan, Hirose Munenao, and Ema Tokimasa had lost their territories and fled for protection under Nagachika.  With these local figures serving as guides, the Kanamori forces invaded from two directions: the main division under Nagachika from Etchū in the north and a detached division led by Arishige from the south.

The Anekōji clan, along with their ally, Uchigashima Ujimasa, resisted the Kanamori army, but did so without the prospect of reinforcements from Sassa Narimasa who himself confronted a large army in Etchū.  The Kanamori forces lured away a retainer of Uchigashima Ujiamasa named Onoue Ujitsuna and, while the Uchigashima forces were on deployment, seized control of Mukaimakido Castle.  The Kanamori pacified the startled subjects of the Uchigashima while the commanders occupied the main base of the Uchigashima at Kaerigumo Castle.  As a result, the Uchigashima surrendered.  In front of the Kanamori forces, leaders of the Anekōji clan were either killed in action or took their own lives.  After the Kanamori assaulted the main base of the Anekōji at Takadō Castle, the Anekōji surrendered.  The head of the clan, Anekōji Yoritsuna, was spared and taken to the capital.

In short order, the Kanamori forces overcame the chaos, sweeping-up the opposition and unifying Hida Province.  Owing to these results, Nagachika was awarded control of Hida with a fief of 38,700 koku.  The Uchigashima clan was also rescued and served as lower-ranking bushi for the Kanamori.  After becoming the lord of Hida, Nagachika established his base at Takayama.  After entering Hida, he initially resided at Nabeyama Castle, but, in 1590, commenced construction of a new castle at the site of castle ruins on Mount Tenjin.  Later, this became the administrative headquarters of the domain and became the first lord of the Takayama domain.  The construction of Takayama Castle was completed around 1605.  At the same time, a town arose below the castle which became the foundation of a well-known tourist destination known as Hida-Takayama in present-day Gifu Prefecture.

During development of the town, Nagachika ordered a retainer named Itoshiro Hikozaemon to move the ancient Shōren Temple (affiliated with the Jōdo sect of Shin Buddhism) from Nakano in the village of Shōkawa to a site below Takayama Castle.  From around this time, Nagachika began to communicate with Kyōnyo, the twelfth high priest of the Higashi-Hongan Temple and a leading figure in the Jōdo sect, becoming close friends.

Nagachika cultivated a deep understanding of Buddhism and the tea ceremony.  Around 1594, he served as a member of Hideyoshi’s personal retinue known as the otogishū.  During the Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula, Nagachika and Arishige were stationed in Nagoya in charge of a division of 800 soldiers.

In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Nagachika joined the Eastern Army.  Together with his adopted son, Arishige, he participated in the Conquest of the Uesugi and military campaigns in the east.  Later, he and other commanders headed west, and, despite being in his late seventies, Nagachika led over 1,100 soldiers into the main battle, fighting against forces led by Ishida Mitsunari.  After the war, the Kanamori clan was rewarded for the contributions by Nagachika and Arishige including, among others, an assault against Gujō-Hachiman Castle in Mino in an event known as the Siege of Hachiman Castle.  In addition to their former territory, he was granted fiefs of 18,000 koku in Kōzuchi in the Mugi District of Mino and 3,000 koku in Kanata in Kawachi Province.

Around this time, Kyōnyo, the twelfth high priest of the Higashi-Hongan Temple, visited Tokugawa Ieyasu at his encampment in Ōtsu while Ieyasu was heading west following his victory at Sekigahara.  Based on a writing addressed to Nagachika from this location, Nagachika introduced Kyōnyo to Ieyasu.  The meeting between Kyōnyo and Ieyasu is connected to the later split of the Hongan Temple between east and west in 1608.  Consequently, by introducing these two figures, Nagachika played an indirect role in this subsequent event.

In 1605, while in his eighties, Nagachika assigned Hida Province and command of Takayama Castle to his adopted heir, Kanamori Yoshishige whereupon Nagachika entered Nataoyama Castle in Kōzuchi in the Mugi District of Mino.  Thereafter, he constructed and moved to Ogurayama Castle.  A town developed below the castle known as Udatsunoagaru-machinami which is preserved as a group of traditional buildings of historical significance.  In this year, his second son, Kanamori Gorohachi (Nagamitsu) was born.

In 1608, Nagachika died in Fushimi in the environs of Kyōto.  He was eighty-five years old.  His territory in Hida was inherited by Arishige while the land granted for his retirement in Kōzuchi was allocated to his young son, Nagamitsu.

Character and anecdotes

In 1559, when Oda Nobunaga traveled to Kyōto for the first time, Nagachika was among eighty of the persons accompanying him on the journey.  At this time, upon instructions of Saitō Yoshitatsu, assassins from Mino trailed them to target Nobunaga but, while en route, a messenger from Owari named Niwa Hyōzō saw through the plot and informed Nagachika and Hachiya Yoritaka.  Having an acquaintance with the assassins from Mino, Nagachika visited their lodge under the pretext of paying a greeting and declared that their plot had been detected.

Nagachika was skillful in kemari (a ball game played by courtiers) ​and the tea ceremony.  When Hideyoshi resided in Fushimi, Nagachika constructed a study and tea house below Fushimi Castle and frequently invited Hideyoshi to visit.

Nagachika was invited to tea ceremonies hosted by the tea master, Sen-no-rikyū, to serve as a disciple.  He also maintained friendly relations with another tea master named Furuta Oribe.  He was described as an amicable person by Ieyasu and Hidetada and trusted by them.  In 1605, Ieyasu and Hidetada visited Nagachika’s residence in Fushimi and enjoyed cultural pursuits.

After Hideyoshi ordered Sen-no-rikyū to commit seppuku, Nagachika had Sen-no-rikyū’s eldest son and heir Sen-no-dōan live in seclusion and harbored him in Takayama in Hida Province.  During this time, Sen-no-dōan provided instruction in the tea ceremony to Kanamori Shigechika and Myōryō of the Shōren Temple affiliated with the Ōtani sect of Shin Buddhism.

According to one account, when, in his latter years, Hideyoshi went to the Arima hot springs to convalesce, Nagachika (at the age of twelve or thirteen) carried Hideyoshi on his back into the hot springs.

After the Battle of Sekigahara, Nagachika and Tokugawa Ieyasu climbed the inner tower of Gifu Castle whereupon Ieyasu recognized Nagachika for his contributions during the war and shared stories of Oda Nobunaga.  At this time, when Nagachika firmly declined the conferral of honors, Ieyasu awarded him with a fief of 18,000 koku in the Kōzuchi domain of Mino Province and 3,000 koku in Kanata in Kawachi Province.  When, after the demise of Nagachika, his second son, Kanamori Nagamitsu, died at the age of six, the Kōzuchi domain was forfeit to the Edo bakufu.  The landholdings in Kanata were retained by his wife, Kyūshōin, until her demise in 1625.