Sōma Moritane (15th lord)

相馬盛胤 (十五代当主)

Sōma Clan

Mutsu Province

Sōma Moritane (15th lord)

Lifespan:  Kyōroku 2 (1529) to 10/16 of Keichō 6 (1601)

Other Names:  Magojirō (common)

Rank:  bushō, daimyō

Title:  Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Senior Assistant for Police and Security

Clan:  Sōma

Father:  Sōma Akitane

Mother:  Yakata-gozen (eldest daughter of Date Tanemune)

Siblings:  Moritane, Okita (formal wife of Tamura Kiyoaki)

Wife:  [Formal] Kakeda-gozen (daughter of Kakeda Yoshimune), [Later wife] Daughter of the Takeishi clan

Children:  Yoshitane, Takatane, Satotane, Shinnyoin (formal wife of Watari Shigemune)

Sōma Moritane served as a bushō and daimyō during the Sengoku period.  He served as the fifteenth head of the Sōma clan and as the lord of Odaka Castle in the Namekata District of Mutsu Province.

His grandfather was also named Sōma Moritane (written with the same characters) and served as the thirteenth head of the Sōma.

In 1529, Moritane was born as the lineal heir of Sōma Akitane, the fourteenth head of the Sōma.

Moritane’s mother was Yakata-gozen, the eldest daughter of Date Tanemune, the fourteenth head of the Date and military governor of Mutsu.  Moritane’s wife was the daughter of Kakeda Yoshimune, the lord of Kakeda Castle in the Date District of Mutsu.  The Sōma had close blood relations with the Date, but Tanemune came into conflict with his eldest son, Date Harumune triggering the Tenbun Conflict – a series of clashes continuing from Tenbun 11 to Tenbun 17 (1542 to 1548) between supporters of Tanemune and those of Harumune.  Moritane’s father, Akitane, joined Tanemune’s faction to fight against Harumune so Moritane also supported Tanemune.  The Ashina took advantage of the discord in the Date clan to become independent.  The Sōma confronted two major powers in the Date and the Ashina, in addition to tensions among rival clans in the area including the Tamura, the Iwaki, and the Satake of Hitachi Province.  As a kokujin, or provincial landowner, the Sōma were compelled to make a choice.  After Tanemune retired to Marumori Castle in the Igu District, conflict intensified between the Sōma and the Date in regard to Marumori Castle and territory around the Igu District marked by intermittent clashes for over one-half century from the 1540’s to the 1590’s.

In 1547, discord arose between landowners with adjacent territories including Ashina Morikiyo (the lord of Kurokawa Castle), Nikaidō Teruyuki (the lord of Sugakawa Castle), and Tamura Yoshiaki (the lord of Miharu Castle).  The Ashina switched sides to Harumune’s faction, joined with Iwaki Shigetaka (the lord of Iinotaira Castle and father-in-law of Harumune), and deployed to the gateway to Asaka to fight against the Tamura clan backing Tanemune.  The formal wife of Horiuchi Chikatane (the younger brother of Sōma Akitane) was the daughter of Ashina Morikiyo.  Through political alliances, the Sōma, based in the northern part of the Hamadōri area along the eastern coast of the province, by coordinating with the Nikaidō of the central area known as Nakadōri and the Ashina of Aizu, could launch a pincer attack against the Tamura clan in Miharu Castle.  That same year, Harumune’s eldest son, Chikataka, was sent for adoption by the Iwaki clan.

In 1548, Iwaki Shigetaka (from the Tamura who were the original family of Moritane’s grandmother), riding the momentum of Harumune’s faction and the Ashina clan, backed by the authority of Yūki Harutsuna, the lord of Shirakawa Castle, invaded the territory of the Sōma.  This caused the Sōma to become vigilant of the Iwaki clan.  The Tamura clan arbitrated between Tanemune and Harumune.  With Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun, acting as mediator, the Tenbun Conflict finally came to an end when two sides settled on terms by which Tanemune retired to Marumori Castle located on the side of the Abukuma River occupied by the Sōma, the Kakeda, and the Watari and transferred headship of the clan to Harumune (whose territory was located on the other side of the river).  Meanwhile, in the Kantō, beginning with the Gohōjō clan, assorted daimyō expanded their power, at times usurping their superiors in a phenomenon known as gekokujō, while the authority of the Ashikaga shōgun family waned.  Thereafter, the daimyō and kokujin in southern Mutsu bet their fate in competition for hegemony in the Ouu and Kantō regions.  That same year, Moritane’s lineal heir, Sōma Yoshitane, was born.

In 1549, following the death of his father, Moritane inherited the headship of the clan.  Honoring an earlier promise, he had his younger sister wed Tamura Kiyoaki.  As a dowry, he transferred four villages in the Shineha District to the Tamura, including Minami-tsushima, Katsurao, Iwaizawa, and Kodō.  Around this time, Kakeda Toshimune (the lord of Kakeda Castle and original home of Moritane’s wife) rejected the conditions of settlement proposed by Harumune which included evacuating Kakeda Castle, so continued resistance but, in 1553, was finally eliminated.

In 1557, Moritane fought against Date Harumune at the Zaru River in the Natori District.

In 1559, Date Tanemune visited Odaka Castle and recommended that his daughter wed Yoshitane.  In 1560, Tanemune’s youngest daughter, Kozugō-gozen, was welcomed as the formal wife of Yoshitane.

On 8/15 of Eiroku 5 (1562), from his base of deployment at Sōma-Nakamura Castle in Mutsu, Moritane attacked the base of Satake Yoshiaki at Ōta Castle in Hitachi Province.  Moritane intercepted Yoshiaki’s forces at Magosawa.  Later, Moritane and Yoshiaki settled.  A cenotaph was built in Shimomago as a memorial to the members of the Sōma army lost in battle,

In 1563, retainers of the Sōma named Aota Akiharu and Aota Taneharu (father and son), along with Kusano Naokiyo, abandoned the Sōma and, after they brought in others from the Watari District, the situation escalated into clashes.  Moritane sent Yoshitane on his first deployment and suppressed the revolt.  During this battle, Satō Yoshinobu made significant contributions.  This is known as the Battle of Kaigarazaka and Ishizumizaka.  That same year, Watari Motomune had a falling out with Kitame Koreyoshi and requested additional forces from the Sōma.  Moritane dispatched a righteous army and toppled Kitame Castle.

In 1564, Moritane and Yoshitane deployed to Kitame in the Natori District in support of Watari Motomune to subdue Awano Daizen (Munekuni).  Daizen was the lord of Kitame Castle and held sway as the head of thirty-three townships in the northern part of the Natori District.  He was opposed by others in the area including Rusu Akimune and Kokubun Munemasa.  At this time, Date Tanemune had retired to nearby Marumori Castle but remained active.  In a bid to strengthen the authority of the military family of Tanemune, it appears the Sōma and Watari clans cooperated in an attack on Kitame.  Meanwhile, Tanemune transferred the headship of the clan to his lineal heir, Date Terumune, and retired.  In the new era, the conflict between Tanemune’s faction and Harumune’s faction evolved into a conflict between Terumune’s faction and Harumune’s faction.  Fearing Terumune’s forces, Motomune proposed combining with the Sōma to invade the Igu District.  That same year, the Tade clan at Kakuda Castle rebelled against Terumune.

In 1565, Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, died, along with Date Terumune and Satake Yoshiaki.  In connection with Terumune’s will, a territorial dispute arose between the Sōma and the Date.  Caught in-between the powerful Date and Satake clans from the north and south respectively, the Sōma and Iwaki in the coastal area known as Hamadōri confronted the time for a change in their policies.  Around this time, within the Sōma family, Yoshitane separated from his formal wife, Koshikawa-gozen (a daughter of Date Tanemune), and she returned to the Date.  Soon after separating, Koshikawa-gozen died.  While maintaining an armistice with the Tamura clan, Moritane quareled with Terumune in regard to Marumori Castle in the Igu District.

In 1566, Moritane and Yoshitane were solicited by Watari Motomune to commit to attack Kosai and Kanazu.  In the fifth month, a retainer of the Sōma named Fujihashi Taneyasu (a member of the Shineha clan) killed 八替 Shichirōbei, the chamberlain of Kosai Castle in the Igu District.  The Sōma deployed with Watari Motomune and plundered Kosai Castle and then invaded Kanazu.  Kosai was deemed the territory of the Sōma while Kanazu fell to the Watari.  Thereafter, Kaneyama had residences but no castle so Moritane befriended jizamurai in the Tsurushiin family to permit the Sōma forces to take shelter on a stormy evening.

In 1567, Bontenmaru (childhood name of Date Masamune) was born as the lineal heir of Date Terumune.

On 4/3 of Eiroku 11 (1568), Moritane fought against Date Terumune at Ojima in the Date District in territory formerly held by the Kakeda clan.

In 1569, Moritane’s formal wife, Kakeda-gozen, died.  As a memorial to her, he built the Kinshō Temple.

On 3/20 of Genki 1 (1570), Iwaki Takatoki died.  Prior to his demise, Tomioka Castle defended by a retainer of the Sōma named Murohara Ise was attacked by Iwaki Takatoki whereupon the Iwaki recaptured Tomioka and Kido castles in the Shineha District.  On 4/14, Moritane and Yoshitane toppled Marumori Castle in the Igu District.

In 1571, Moritane attacked the base of Sakamoto Takatoshi, a retainer of Watari Shigemune, at Atagoyama Castle in the Watari District.

In 1572, Sakamoto Mikawa constructed Sakamoto Castle on Mount Minokubi.

In Tenshō 1 (1573), the Muromachi bakufu came to an end, and, in the first month of Tenshō 2 (the twelfth month of 1573), Nikaidō Moriyoshi, the lord of Sukagawa Castle in the Iwase District, abandoned the Date clan.  The Tamura clan attacked the Nikaidō and, by 2/16, took control in the south of the Ganpō Temple and Ryūzaki in the territory of the Shirakawa-Yūki and, in the west, Narita, Kawada, Tomita, and Koharada in the Asaka District in territory of the Ashina.

On 9/6 of Tenshō 2 (1574), Tamura Takaaki died.

At the end of the sixth month in 1575, Moritane and Yoshitane were defeated at the Zaru River.  Moritane, together with commanders from the Kasai, the Kokubun, and the Watari, planned to attack Date Terumune, but the other commanders changed their affiliation and showed signs of coming to attack so Moritane decided to retreat.  Enemy infantry forces wreaked havoc on his encampment while earthen bridges eroded from a muddy stream as the Zaru River overflowed in a downpour.  Moritane safely arrived on the southern shore of the river but, as Yoshitane attempted to traverse the river, the sleeve of his armor became ensnared in a bamboo snare from the enemy and he could not flee.  After having already crossed the river, Kuroki Tajima dropped-off his horse, dove into the river, and saved Yoshitane.  Tajima was the son of Kuroki Danjō Masafusa who had been killed by Sōma Akitane.  During the subsequent retreat, Moritane served in the rear guard.  A pursuit by all of the enemy forces would have threatened the escape of Moritane and Yoshitane, but the enemy did not engage in a pursuit, and the fleeing army only heard the firing of arquebuses without ammunition.

In the spring of 1576, the Sōma family had Niidate Taneharu (the son of Aota Akiharu) search interior districts and then welcomed the daughter of Nagae Morikage, the lord of Ono Castle (the Sakuragamori manor) in Fukaya in the Monō District of Mutsu, as the next wife of Yoshitane.  On 4/13, Moritane had Yoshitane deploy to the territory of the Watari clan to set fire to homes and cut-down the residents.  These invading forces killed enemy soldiers, plundered their provisions, and confronted Watari Motomune.  Motomune, however, did not counterattack and Yoshitane pulled back to Shinchi.  On 5/6, Motomune received additional forces from Date Terumune and, on 5/15, advanced to a location between Shinchi and Komagamine.  These forces assaulted Komagamine Castle, but, after Yoshitane charged out of the castle, retreated to the village of Kotsutsumi in the Watari District.  Terumune sojourned here for several days, and, during this time, established an encampment at Yanome in the village of Kawako.  On 7/17, hostilities broke-out in Kosai and Kaneyama.  The Sōma routed Terumune’s forces on Mount Myōga, but the Date forces persisted to fight in a back-and-forth battle.

On 8/5, Tamura Kiyoaki attempted to mediate between the Date and Sōma, but Harumune refused to reconcile.  At the end of the eighth month, the Sōma, through the operations of Yoshitane, subdued Sakamoto (Gotō) Mikawa.  On 9/13, Ashina Moriuji sent a letter to Terumune proposing a settlement with the Sōma.  On 10/9, Moritane attacked Kawamata in the Date District (originally held by the Kakeda clan).  That same day, Date Terumune attacked Kosai Castle in the Igu District (originally, the retirement location of Tanemune).  Later that month, Moriuji, Kiyoaki, and Hōjō Ujimasa sought a reconciliation between Terumune and Moritane, but Terumune rejected these efforts.  On 11/15, Masamune attended his coming-of-age ceremony.  On 12/5 of Tenshō 5 (1578), Date Harumune died.

In the first month of 1578, Moritane transferred headship of the clan to Yoshitane and retired.  Thereafter, he supported children including Satotane and Takatane who served as chamberlains at various locations and continued to take an active role in political and military activities.  Even after retiring, his relationship with the Date remained tenuous.  In the third month, he engaged in battle against the Iwaki clan.

In 1583, Yoshitane battled against Date Terumune and Date Masamune (father and son) at Kaneyama and Marumori castles in the Igu District.  However, after encountering Tamura Kiyoaki below Nakamura Castle, was persuaded to return the castles and reached a settlement with the Date.  The deaths in succession of influential daimyō, including Ashina Moritaka in 1584 and Date Terumune and Nihonmatsu Yoshitsugu in 1585, significantly changed the situation in the Ouu region.  At the Battle of Hitotoribashi, Yoshitane joined the allied forces of the Ashina and the Satake.  With the Satake serving as the commanding generals and a force more than four times larger than the Date, the allied army attacked, forcing Masamune into a precarious situation.  Valiant fighting by retainers of the Date including Oniniwa Yoshinao and Date Shigezane enabled Masamune to escape.  In 1586, Tamura Kiyoaki (the husband of Moritane’s younger sister) died.  Triggered by succession issues in the Tamura clan, relations between the Sōma and the Date ruptured and clashes intensified.  In 1588, Masamune intervened in an internal conflict in the Ōsaki family and was defeated at the Battle of Ōsaki.  Thereafter, the Sōma joined with Ashina Yoshihiro to fight against Masamune in the Kōriyama Conflict but, after five months of war, neither side could declare victory.  In 1589, the Sōma lost key bases in the Uda District including Shinchi (Minokubi) and Komagamine castles to the Date.  Following the defeat of Ashina Yoshihiro to the Date at the Battle of Suriagehara, the Date annexed territories of the Ashina in Aizu and central portions of the province known as Nakadōri while the Sōma suddenly confronted the prospect of being extinguished.

After losing his son, Takatane, and seeking to preserve the family name, Moritane proposed to Yoshitane at Odaka Castle that the Sōma yield allegiance to the Date.  Yoshitane, however, asserted that they should die fighting or else take their own lives so Moritane, as a long-cherished desire of bushi, agreed with Yoshitane and declared that he would also commit seppuku in Nakamura Castle.  In the event of an attack by Masamune, Yoshitane became even further committed to charge into his forces and die in battle.  The next day, 50 samurai and 430 subordinates drank water in tribute to myōken (a bodhisattva who is the deification of the North Star) and vowed to die in battle.  Upon hearing of this event, other samurai, in addition to townspeople, peasants, and other bushi totaling over 2,000 individuals, took the same vow.  In 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched the Conquest of Odawara so plans by the Date to invade were suspended.  The Sōma received recognition of their rights to their territory by Hideyoshi and were able to survive as an early-modern daimyō family.

In 1600, for the Battle of Sekigahara, the Sōma clan remained neutral.  In 1601, in the midst of uncertainty regarding the future direction of the Sōma clan, Moritane died and was succeeded by his lineal heir, Yoshitane, who became a sengoku daimyō.