Nabeshima Naoshige


Nabeshima Clan

Hizen Province

Nabeshima Naoshige

Lifespan:  3/13 of Tenbun 7 (1538) to 6/3 of Genna 4 (1618)

Name Changes:  Hikohōshimaru (childhood) → Nobuzane → Nobumasa → Nobuo → Naoshige

Other Names:  Magoshirō (common), Saemon-no-taifu, Deva Gate of the Ryūzōji, Rōko (nickname meaning old tiger)

Rank:  bushō, daimyō

Title:  Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Governor of Hida, Governor of Kaga

Clan:  Nabeshima

Bakufu:  Edo

Domain:  Hizen-Saga

Lord:  Ryūzōji Iekane → Ryūzōji Takanobu → Ryūzōji Masaie → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Tokugawa Ieyasu

Father:  Nabeshima Kiyofusa

Adoptive Father:  Chiba Tanetsura

Mother:  Kakei (daughter of Ryūzōji Iesumi)

Step-Mother:  Keigin-ni

Siblings:  Nobufusa, Naoshige, Ogawa Nobutoshi, Ryūzōji Yasufusa, Ryūzōji Takanobu (brother-in-law)

Wife: [Formal] Keien (daughter of Takagi Tanehide), [Second wife] Hikotsuru (daughter of Ishii Tsunenobu), [Consort] Younger sister of Ideguchi Kozaemon

Children:  Katsushige, Tadashige, Iseryū (wife of Nabeshima Shigesato), Chizuru (wife of Taku Yasunobu), Hikokiku (second wife of Isahaya Naonori)

Adopted Children:  Nabeshima Shigesato, Ryūzōji Takafusa, daughter (wife of Ōta Shigetsura)

Nabeshima Naoshige served as a bushō and daimyō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  He was a chief retainer and younger brother-in-law of Ryūzōji Takanobu, the sengoku daimyō of Hizen Province.  In the Edo period, Naoshige was the founder of the Hizen-Saga domain.

He changed his name several times – for ease of understanding his later name of Naoshige is used throughout this profile.

Period of service to Ryūzōji Takanobu

In 1538, Naoshige was born as the second son of Nabeshima Kiyofusa, a retainer of the Ryūzōji clan.  His mother, Kakei, was the daughter of Ryūzōji Iesumi.  In 1541, upon orders of his lord, Ryūzōji Iekane, he was adopted by Chiba Tanetsura of the Nishi-Chiba clan in the Ogi District.

In 1545, Iesumi and others were murdered by the Shōni clan.  After Iekane fled and the Ryūzōji and Shōni clans came into conflict, his natural father, Kiyofusa, dissolved the familial relationship formed through the adoption of Naoshige and he was returned to his original home.

After the death of Iekane, over several years, Takanobu inherited the Ryūzōji clan while Takanobu’s mother, Keigin-ni, became the second wife of Kiyofusa, so Naoshige became Takanobu’s younger cousin (Naoshige’s mother and Takanobu’s father were siblings) and, at the same time, a younger brother-in-law.  He was deeply trusted by Takanobu.  With contributions from Naoshige, in 1559, the Ryūzōji decimated and expelled their archenemy in the Shōni clan.

In 1569, during an invasion by Ōtomo Sōrin, Naoshige advised Takanobu to hole-up in the castle, and, in parallel, appealed to the Aki-Mōri clan to invade the territory of the Ōtomo in Bungo Province.  In 1570, at the Battle of Imayama, while the family leaned toward remaining in the castle, he recommended a nighttime attack and led a battalion to destroy Ōtomo Chikasada.  Thereafter, his presence within the Ryūzōji family rose significantly.  To mark the victory, the Nabeshima changed from a flower-shaped family crest to the symmetrical apricot leaves in the family crest of the Ōtomo.

In 1575, he eliminated all remnants of the Shōni clan and, in 1578, forced the submission of the Arima and Ōmura clans of southern Hizen.  After Takanobu retired and was succeeded by his lineal heir, Ryūzōji Masaie, Takanobu appointed Naoshige as Masaie’s guardian.

In 1581, Naoshige conspired with Takanobu to lure to Hizen and murder Kamachi Shigenami, the lord of Yanagawa Castle in Chikugo Province.  Despite the fact that Shigenami was married to Takanobu’s daughter, Tamatsuruhime, from the perspective of the Ryūzōji, his alleged collusion with the Shimazu justified the plot.  Upon orders of Takanobu, Tajiri Akitane attacked Yanagawa Castle and slaughtered the members of the Kamachi family, after which Naoshige entered Yanagawa Castle.  Naoshige then primarily focused on the governance of Chikugo.  His support was requested from time-to-time but his frequent criticism led the proud Takanobu to distance himself from Naoshige and assign him to Chikugo.

In 1584, at the Battle of Okitanawate, the Ryūzōji engaged in combat against the allied forces of the Shimazu and Arima clans.  The Ryūzōji army was comprised of 25,000 soldiers while the Shimazu and Arima allied forces totaled less than 10,000 men, representing a significant difference in military power.  The Ryūzōji were drawn into a narrow area that made it difficult to maneuver with a large army.  Shimazu forces led by Shimazu Yoshihisa and Shimazu Iehisa on one side and Arima forces on the other launched attacks from the flanks, decimating the Ryūzōji army.  In addition to losing many soldiers, the Ryūzōji suffered the loss of their leader, Takanobu, by a retainer of the Shimazu clan named Kawakami Tadakata.  Upon receiving news of the death of Takanobu, Naoshige attempted to take his own life, but was stopped by other retainers and withdrew to Yanagawa.  Takanobu’s head was taken by the Shimazu army and, after an inspection by Shimazu Iehisa, the Naoshige refused to accept the return of his head, reflecting the animosity between the clans, so it was buried at the Gangyō Temple in Tamana.  In an effort to restore the power of the clan, Naoshige provided counsel to Masaie including in subsequent negotiations following their bitter defeat to the Shimazu and Arima forces.

Exercise of power and the Azuchi-Momoyama period

The Ryūzōji, demonstrating a temporary period of obedience to the Shimazu, joined a siege against Tachibana Muneshige (aligned with the Ōtomo) at Tachibana Castle.  Through his connections, Naoshige then encouraged Toyotomi Hideyoshi to launch the Pacification of Kyūshū.  Once he learned that the Toyotomi army was approaching Kyūshū, he cut ties with the Shimazu and sent elite forces to rescue the mother and younger sister of Muneshige who were detained by the Shimazu army at Nankan in Higo Province.  The Ryūzōji forces, together with the Tachibana forces, served in the vanguard of an attack against the Shimazu and forced their capitulation.

Hideyoshi highly praised this series of actions and provided official recognition of the rights of Ryūzōji Masaie to seven districts in Hizen totaling 309,902 koku.  The licenses, however, were addressed to Ryūzōji Takafusa.  Out of the total, over 30,000 koku were granted to Naoshige (Naoshige and Katsushige together received 44,500 koku) and, in lieu of Masaie, Hideyoshi ordered that Naoshige govern the province.

Hideyoshi conferred the Toyotomi surname upon Masaie in 1588 and upon Naoshige and his son, Katsushige, in 1589.  From 1588, Naoshige began using a seal as though to demonstrate his governance of the territory of the Ryūzōji and solidified his personal authority.

During the deployment to the Korean Peninsula, Naoshige led a band of retainers from the Ryūzōji family and served as a bushō in the second division of the Japanese army led by Katō Kiyomasa.  After the deployment, the band of retainers of the Ryūzōji further leaned toward Naoshige.  At this time, it was rumored that there was discord between Naoshige and Masaie.  In 1596, it was even rumored that he plotted to poison Masaie so Naoshige submitted a written oath denying the intent.

During his deployment to the Korean Peninsula, Naoshige to did not return even one time to Japan until 1597 when he finally returned and sent his son, Katsushige, in his place.

Battle of Sekigahara

In 1600, for the Battle of Sekigahara, his son, Katsushige, initially joined the Western Army.  Meanwhile, Naoshige gave 500 kan of silver coins to have three retainers purchase rice.  After Ishida Mitsunari raised arms, although affiliated with the Western Army, he sent a record of rice procured from Owari to the Kantō to Tokugawa Hidetada who was in Utsunomiya.  He also communicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu that the Nabeshima were of true intentions.  Prior to the outbreak of the main battle at Sekigahara, he had Katsushige and his forces abandon the front lines.

Thereafter, to express his allegiance toward Ieyasu, Naoshige was requested to attack the bases of members of the Western Army in Kyūshū.  He captured Kurume Castle from Mōri Hidekane and then forced Tachibana Muneshige to surrender and vacate Yanagawa Castle.  Thereafter, Naoshige, together with other commanders from the Eastern Army, prepared to attack the Shimazu clan but this was halted just before the commencement of operations.

Following a series of battles in Kyūshū, Ieyasu acknowledged the contributions of the Nabeshima clan after which the clan narrowly received official recognition of their rights to the territory of the Ryūzōji family in Saga in Hizen.

In the aftermath of the war, the territory under the direct jurisdiction of Katsushige totaled 9,000 koku while Ryūzōji (Gotō) Shigetsuna who was acknowledged directly by Ieyasu for his contributions as a member of proxy forces was granted a total of 12,108 koku, reflecting the consideration shown by the Tokugawa toward members of the family who served on behalf of the Eastern Army.

Establishment of the Saga domain by the Nabeshima clan

In the Edo period, Ryūzōji Takafusa made efforts to persuade the bakufu to restore the authority of the Ryūzōji clan in the Saga domain.  The bakufu, however, recognized the smooth transference of power from the Ryūzōji clan to Naoshige and Katsushige.  Moreover, Takanobu’s younger brothers, Ryūzōji Nobukane and Ryūzōji Naganobu actively supported the transition to the Nabeshima clan.  As a result, Katsushige, with the consent of the bakufu, succeeded the Ryūzōji and took over their territory of 357,000 koku, becoming the lord of the Saga domain.  Under the guardianship of his father, Katsushige oversaw the affairs of the domain.

Resentful of Naoshige, on 3/3 of Keichō 12 (1607), Takafusa murdered his wife (Naoshige’s adopted daughter and the eldest daughter of Nabeshima Shigesato) intending next to take his own life.  He narrowly survived, but Naoshige sent a resentful letter dated 7/26 to Masaie criticizing Takafusa’s actions.  Considering that Hideyoshi and Ieyasu had delegated governance of the province to them, he wondered why Takafusa attempted suicide that would end his family lineage given despite Naoshige having paid the utmost respect to the Ryūzōji family and ensured that they were properly treated.  Who was he spiteful toward?  He further noted that after Takafusa returns to Japan, if he has questions of us (Naoshige and Katsushige), then he would directly explain.

Takafusa did not return to Saga and died on 9/6.

Thereafter, while Naoshige displayed respect toward the family members of the Ryüzōji clan, he relatively weakened their influence.  Katsushige inherited these policies, having his younger brother (Nabeshima Tadashige), his eldest son (Nabeshima Motoshige), and his fifth son (Nabeshima Naozumi) establish subsidiary domains to strengthen the governance of the primary Saga domain.  At the same time, he suppressed former retainers of the Ryūzōji resenting the new order.  He conducted a land survey to determine the yield of the Saga domain to be 357,000 koku as recognized by the bakufu.

Perhaps out of a feeling of deference toward the Ryūzōji clan, Naoshige did not assume the role as the lord of the Saga domain and, instead, Katsushige became the first lord.  Therefore, Naoshige was called the founder of the domain.

On 6/3 of Genna 4 (1618), Naoshige died at the age of eighty-one.  This was a long life for the period, but he developed a tumor in his ear, but he died in agony from the pain so it was rumored that his painful end owed to the spirit of Takafusa.  This gave rise to a story known as the Ghost Cat of the Nabeshima Disturbance.

Character and anecdotes