Konishi Yukinaga


Konishi Clan

Higo Province

Konishi Yukinaga

Lifespan:  Genroku 1 (1558) to 10/1 of Keichō 5 (1600)

Other Names:  Yakurō, Nyoshin

Rank:  bushō, daimyō

Title:  Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Governor of Hyūga, Governor of Settsu

Clan:  Konishi

Lord:  Ukita Naoie → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori

Father:  Konishi Ryūsa (baptismal name: Jōchin)

Mother:  Wakusa (baptismal name: Magdalena)

Siblings:  Josei (baptismal name: Bento), Yukinaga, Yukikage (baptismal name: Joan), Tonomonosuke (baptismal name: Pedro), Yoshichirō (baptismal name: Luis), sister (wife of Itamiya Munemura; baptismal name: Lucia)

Wife: [Formal] Kikuhime (baptismal name: Justa), [Consort] Tateno (baptismal name: Catalina)

Children:  Hyōgo-no-tō (title only), daughter (wife of Konishi Yazaemon), Myō (baptismal name: Maria, wife of Sō Yoshitoshi), Asayama Yazaemon

Adopted Children:  Julia Otaa (brought from Korea)

Konishi Yukinaga served as a bushō and daimyō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  He was the lord of Uto Castle in Higo Province.  Yukinaga was a Christian daimyō and received the baptismal name of St. Augustine​.  In addition to his Christian faith, Yukinaga’s life was marked by his leading role in the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign on the Korean Peninsula, a long rivalry with Katō Kiyomasa, and a loss at the Battle of Sekigahara as a general in the Western Army that resulted in his execution.

Initially, Yukinaga served the Ukita clan and later became a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  Yukinaga, together with his son-in-law, Sō Yoshitoshi (a daimyō from Tsushima Province) performed key roles for the expedition to the Korean Peninsula known as the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign.  In the early stages,  Yukinaga competed against Katō Kiyomasa as commanders of vanguard divisions in a race to be the first to occupy Hansung (Seoul).  At the Battle of Sekigahara, Yukinaga fought valiantly as a general in the Western Army, but was defeated and captured.  As a Christian daimyō, he was forbidden from taking his own life so he refused to commit seppuku and was beheaded instead.

In 1558, Yukinaga was born in Kyōto as the second son of Konishi Ryūsa, a merchant in Sakai in Izumi Province.  Yukinaga was adopted by Genroku, a clerk of Abe Yoshisada, a wealthy merchant from Fukuoka in Bizen Province.  Later, Genroku went to Shimonocho in Okayama and worked for a dry-goods dealer under the name of Sakanaya Kurōemon.  For sales purposes, he paid frequent visits to Ukita Naoie, and, owing to these interactions, Naoie discerned his abilities and selected him to become a bushi and serve as one of his retainers.  When Hashiba Hideyoshi, a retainer of the Oda clan, attacked Miki Castle, Yukinaga was sent by Naoie to serve as a messenger for Hideyoshi.  At this time, Yukinaga impressed Hideyoshi with his resourcefulness so Hideyoshi offered him to serve as one of his retainers.

Service as a retainer of Hideyoshi

While serving the Toyotomi administration, Yukinaga was appointed as a ship magistrate and commanded the naval forces.  In 1585, he was given the title of Governor of Settsu and permitted to use the Toyotomi surname.  He participated in the Conquest of Kishū as a naval commander but encountered resistance from the Saika group and withdrew in defeat.  Meanwhile, during an attack by flooding of Ōta Castle, he mobilized large vessels known as atakebune and cannons for the attack and contributed to the capture of the castle.

In 1585, he was awarded a fief of 10,000 koku on Shōdo Island.

In 1584, upon the urging of Takayama Ukon, Yukinaga was baptized as a Christian.  On Shōdo island, Yukinaga invited Gregorio de Céspedes and engaged in evangelism for the Christian church.  He actively engaged in cultivating fields on the island.  In 1587, after the order to expel the padres (Portuguese Jesuits), Ukon was removed from his position whereupon Yukinaga sheltered Ukon on the island and admonished Hideyoshi for the order.

From around the tenth month of 1586, he used the title of Settsu-no-kami, and, until his demise, retained that name except from the third to fifth months of 1587 when he used the title of Hyūga-no-kami.

Service as the lord of Uto Castle

For his contributions in the Pacification of Kyūshū in 1587 and in subduing the Higo Kokujin Ikki (an uprising by provincial landowners in Higo Province) in 1588, Yukinaga was awarded a fief of 20,000 koku comprised of three districts (Uto, Mashikinokōri, and Yatsushiro) in the southern half of Higo.

In 1589, he newly constructed Uto Castle to the east of the old Uto Castle and made it his base.  He established a modern castle with the main citadel atop a small hill and, to the west, the outer citadel along with moats and a stone wall for the outermost perimeter surrounding the castle grounds.  When viewed in combination with the old Uto Castle that was built by the Uto clan toward the end of the Kamakura period, it resembled the spread wings of a crane so was also referred to as Tsuru Castle.

Yukinaga clashed with clans from the Amakura archipelago (including the Amakusa, the Shiki, the Ōyano, the Sumoto, and the Kōtsuura clans) who did not support the construction of Uto Castle in an event known as the Amakusa Kokujin Ikki (an uprising by the provincial landowners of Amakusa).  Together with Katō Kiyomasa, he subdued this uprising of the group known as the Five Clans of Amakusa and took possession of the territory of Amakusa of over 10,000 koku.  After Hideyoshi turned his attention toward the campaign on the Korean Peninsula, Yukinaga was transferred to Higo to serve as a commander of naval forces.

Around this time, Amakusa was the home to 23,000 Christians out of a population of 30,000, along with more than 60 priests and 30 churches.  Upon the demand of missionaries, Giovanni Niccolò, an Italian painter and friar (a non-ordained member of the Jesuit religious order) was sent to Shiki which was governed by the Shiki clan, and a seminary was run under his direction.  Instruction was given in oil painting, watercolor painting, and copperplate engraving, including the production of religious-themed paintings and icons.  Pipe organs and clocks were also produced.  In 1594, the school was merged with the seminary in Hachirao on the Arima Peninsula, creating a larger-scale operation.  Yukinaga supported and protected the activities of the Jesuit order.

As constructed by Yukinaga, Uto Castle was known to have superior water-filled moats.  Upon the wishes of Hideyoshi, Mugishima Castle was built in Yatsushiro (Tokubuchi Harbor) located at the nucleus of overseas trade from the time when the Sagara clan governed this area, serving to strengthen control over sea routes and he appointed a senior retainer named Konishi Yukishige to serve as the chamberlain.  Yukinaga removed Furufumoto Castle from atop a mountain and built Mugishima Castle on an island at the mouth of the Kuma River facing the Yatsushiro Sea separating the island of Kyūshū from the Amakusa archipelago.  This was designed as a floating fortress with moats that drew water from external sources so boats could come and go directly to the castle.  Outlying castles included Kumanoshō, Kiyama, Yabe, and Aitōji.  He appointed his younger brother, Konishi Tomonosuke to Kumanoshō and a senior retainer named Yūki Yaheiji to Aitōji, to serve as chamberlains.  He also tapped as retainers many Christians who formerly served as retainers of Takayama Ukon.

Yukinaga, however, gradually came into conflict with Kiyomasa who controlled the northern half of Higo Province.

Bunroku-Keichō Campaign (the Imjin War)

For the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign that commenced in 1592, Yukinaga and Katō Kiyomasa desired for some years to serve in the vanguard.  Hideyoshi appointed Yukinaga to serve in the vanguard while Kiyomasa was in the second position.  During the deployment, he received a splendid black horse from Hideyoshi.  Hostilities began with an attack on Busan.  This was followed by a string of victories against the Korean army (the Siege of Busan, the Siege of Dongnae, the Battle of Sangju, and the Battle of Chungju) whereupon Yukinaga occupied Hansung (Seoul) prior to Kiyomasa.  He then continued to march north to attack Pyongyang in the Battle of Taedong River.  During these events, Yukinaga frequently sought negotiations with the Korean side to resolve the conflicts, but in each case the Korean side refused or was silent.  Thereafter, his forces repelled an attack by the Ming army led by Zhu Chengxun, a Chinese general, who aimed to retake Pyongyang.  In the battles in Pyongyang, among others, his younger brother (Konishi Yoshichirō), his cousin (Konishi Antonio), and a family member named Hibiya Augusto were killed in action but no renowned individuals died.  Yukinaga called upon the Ming army for peace, and, after a fifty-day armistice and peace negotiations, the two sides finally agreed to a settlement.  The Korean army then attacked Pyongyang, but this was also repelled.

Even after the end of the armistice period, Yukinaga continued to wait for a response from the Ming representatives in regard to the peace negotiations.  Meanwhile, during this time, in China, the commander-in-chief of the Ming army named Li Rusong (from Tieling, Liaodong) assembled an army of over 40,000 troops to march toward Pyongyang.  In the first month of 1593, after an attack by the Ming army on Pyongyang, Yukinaga’s forces could hold-out and retreated to Hansung.  In the fifth month of the same year, after Shimazu Tadatoki (the seventh and last head of the Shimazu-Sasshū family) feigned illness, refused deployment, and was removed from his position, Yukinaga took him into custody and incarcerated him.

With momentum gained by recapturing Pyongyang, Li Rusong led a Ming army of approximately 20,000 troops on a southward advance with the aim of capturing Hansung, but were intercepted by 20,000 Japanese forces under the command of Kobayakawa Takakage.  In the environs of Hansung, the Japanese forces defeated the Ming army at the Battle of Byeokjegwan.  During this event, Yukinaga’s forces were stationed in Hansung.  Having lost their zeal to fight and running short on provisions, the Ming army entered into peace negotiations with the Japanese army.  Yukinaga, along with Ishida Mitsunari, engaged in the negotiations with the Ming, colluding with the lead negotiator for the Ming, Shen Wei Jing, with the intention of misrepresenting to Hideyoshi that the Ming surrendered while the Ming army would misrepresent to their leaders that Hideyoshi surrendered, and, on that basis, reached a settlement.  At this time, a retainer of Yukinaga named Naitō Joan traveled as an emissary of the Japanese to the capital of the Ming dynasty in Peking.

As a result, the representative of the Ming dynasty visited Japan and carrying a golden seal and letter stating that Hideyoshi would be enfeoffed as the sovereign of Japan.  The bestowing of peerage by imperial edict of the Ming dynasty earlier occurred with Altan Khan of the Tümed, whose given name was Anda, the leader of the Tümed Mongols and de facto ruler of the Right Wing, or western tribes, of the Mongols.  By this means, the Ming emperor was presenting Hideyoshi with a designated title of king of Japan and seal.  In addition to the enfeoffment of Hideyoshi, generals from the peace faction including Ukita Hideie, Konishi Yukinaga, Mashita Nagamori, Ishida Mitsunari, and Ōtani Yoshitsugu were recognized as major governor-generals, while Maeda Toshiie, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Uesugi Kagakatsu were recognized as governor-generals.  This implied service under the Ming dynasty and no reference was made to the conditions of settlement requested by Hideyoshi.  At the time this was reported to Hideyoshi, Yukinaga requested the monk charged with conveying the contents of the letter, Saishō Shōda, to misstate the intent, but, instead, Jōtai gave an accurate account to Hideyoshi.  This resulted in an end to the settlement while Hideyoshi became very upset with Yukinaga who had served as the chief negotiator and ordered that he be killed.  Through the intermediation of Shōda, Maeda Toshiie, and Yodo-dono, Yukinaga’s life was spared.

In 1597, Hideyoshi ordered Yukinaga to deploy a second time to the Korean Peninsula for the Keichō Campaign under strict orders to make contributions in battle, in particular, to make amends for the breach of loyalty shown in the previous peace negotiations.  At the Naval Battle of Shissenryō, he decimated the Korean navy.  After participating in an attack on Namwon known as the Battle of Namwon Castle, his forces occupied Jeonju and took control of the area in the direction of Jeolla, one of the historical Eight Provinces of Korea during the Kingdom of Joseon in southwestern Korea.  He then established a base at the Suncheon Japanese Castle.  This was followed by the Battle of Suncheon Japanese Castle from the end of the ninth month to the beginning of the tenth month in Keichō 3 (1598).  Prior to the battle, a general of the Ming army named Liu Tei proposed a settlement.  Yukinaga responded to the offer by departing from the castle, but this was a ploy by the Ming in a bid to capture Yukinaga.  Owing to a lack of coordination on the side of the Ming, Yukinaga was able to narrowly escape by returning to the castle to hole-up against the enemy forces.  This led to the commencement of attacks by land and sea from the Ming and Korean armies, but Yukinaga’s forces were able to repel them.  Thereafter, following the death of Hideyoshi, orders were given to return to Japan, so he negotiated with the Ming army and obtained their consent to enable him to depart Korea.  However, owing to opposition by Admiral Yi Sunsin, a Korean admiral and military general famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the period of the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign, a naval blockade ensued that prevented Yukinaga from returning to Japan until he was aided by Shimazu Yoshihiro.

The battles and developments comprising the Bunroku Campaign are detailed in the diary of Tenkei, a monk who participated in the conflict.

Battle of Sekigahara

After the death of Hideyoshi in the eighth month of 1598, Yukinaga returned in the twelfth month.  Thereafter, he served along with Terazawa Hirotaka as an intermediary for Tokugawa Ieyasu.  Despite becoming closer to Ieyasu, for the Conquest of Aizu in 1600, Ieyasu ordered him to remain behind in the Kyōto area.  At the Battle of Sekigahara, he joined as a commander of the Western Army led by Ishida Mitsunari in opposition to Ieyasu as the leader of the Eastern Army.

On 9/15 of Keichō 5 (1600), at the Battle of Sekigahara, Yukinaga fought valiantly against a battalion led by Tanaka Yoshimasa and Tsutsui Sadatsugu of the Eastern Army, but a betrayal by Kobayakawa Hideaki led to a collapse of the battalion led by Ōtani Yoshitsugu, followed by the Konishi and Ukita battalions whereupon Yukinaga fled to Mount Ibuki.  On 9/19, Yukinaga was given shelter by a village headman known as Rin Zōsu.  Yukinaga suggested to Zōsu that he could receive a reward for capturing him, but Zōsu refused.  After discussing the situation with Itō Genzaemon and Yamada Mokunojō (retainers of Takenaka Shigekado), together they escorted Yukinaga to the encampment of Murakoshi Naoyoshi of Kusatsu.

On 10/1, after parading Yukinaga through the town, he was executed along with Ishida MItsunari and Ankokuji Ekei at an execution site on the Kamo River known as Rokujōgawara.  At this time, Yukinaga was a Christian so he refused a sutra placed on top of his head by a monk of the Jōdo sect.  He held up icons of Christ and Maria received from the Queen of Portugal and, after these were raised three times above his head, he was beheaded.  Following his execution, his head was put on public display by supporters of Ieyasu on the Sanjō Bridge.

When confronting his death, Yukinaga requested from another Christian, Kuroda Nagamasa, a confessional sacrament, but given Ieyasu;s orders, this was denied.  On the day of the execution, a priest attempted to conduct a sacrament, but he was not allowed near Yukinaga.  According to historical accounts of the Jesuits, after Yukinaga’s body was taken to a church, a sacrament was held again and he was given a Christian burial, but the location of the burial is unknown.  Upon learning the news, Pope Clemens VIII in Rome was said to have regretted the death of Yukinaga.  In 1607, seven years after the death of Yukinaga, a musical drama was conducted in Genova Italy portraying Yukinaga as the main character.

Conflicts with Katō Kiyomasa

The territories governed by Yukinaga and Kiyomasa were adjacent to one another so they frequently disputed over border issues.

Kiyomasa was an ardent devotee of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, while Yukinaga was a passionate Christian, contributing to conflicts between them.   In 1589, upon a rebellion by the Five Clans of Amakusa which were comprised of many followers of the Christian faith, Yukinaga sought to amicably resolve the situation, while Kiyomasa responded with a deployment and intervention that inevitably led to a military conquest.

Yukinaga was regarded by Kiyomasa as a member of the civil faction and scorned as the little bastard of a medicine dealer.  During deployment to the Korean Peninsula, Yukinaga responded by marking the paper bags for holding medicine with his battle standard of crimson circles.

In the Bunroku Campaign, during the assault on Hansung (Seoul), the two competed to be the first to arrive and Yukinaga was said to have prevailed over Kiyomasa by one day.

In a bid to have Kiyomasa killed, Yukinaga dispatched a retainer named Yōji Ra (Kakehashi Shichidayū) to secretly inform the Yi (Joseon) Dynasty (Korea, 1392-1910) when Kiyomasa’s army would make a landing.  The Yi Dynasty ordered Admiral Yi Sunsin (a Korean admiral and military general famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign) to attack, but Admiral Yi suspected this was a trap so he hesitated to attack and the plot failed.

Through the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign, Yukinaga came into conflict with Kiyomasa over matters of military strategy and peace-making, serving as a factor in his later conflict with the military faction.

A peace document presented to the Ming Dynasty was marked with the name of Toyotomi Yukinaga as the general from Settsu.  There is a theory this is a fabrication, but a seal with the name of Toyotomi Yukinaga exists in historical records so the Toyotomi surname may have been conferred upon Yukinaga.