Wakizaka Yasuharu


Wakizaka Clan

Harima Province

Wakizaka Yasuharu

Lifespan:  Tenbun 23 (1554) to 8/6 of Kanei 3 (1626)

Other Names:  Jinnai

Rank:  bushō, daimyō

Title:  Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Junior Assistant Minister of Central Affairs, Governor of Awaji

Clan:  Wakizaka (descended from the Fujiwara)

Bakufu:  Edo

Domain:  Lord of Awaji-Sumoto → lord of Iyo-Ōzu

Lord:  Azai Nagamasa → Akechi Mitsuhide → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori → Tokugawa Ieyasu → Tokugawa Hidetada

Father:  Wakizaka Yasuakira

Mother:  Younger sister of Tatsuke Kageharu

Siblings:  Yasuharu, Yasukage

Wife:  [Formal]  Genshōin (daughter of Nishinotōin Tokitō)

Children: Yasutada, Yasumoto, Yasunobu, Yasushige, Yasutsune, Yasufusa, Yasunari, daughter (wife of Shimizudani Sanetō), daughter (wife of Wakizaka Kazumori), daughter (wife of Wakizaka Kazunaga), daughter (wife of Tanaka Yasuyoshi), daughter (wife of Wakizaka Yasumori), daughter (wife of Wakizaka Kagenao), daughter (wife of a member of the Zakōji family)

Wakizaka Yasuharu served as a bushō and daimyō during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods.  He was extolled as one of the bushō known as the Seven Spears of Shizugatake.  Yasuharu served as the lord of the Awaji-Sumoto domain and as the first lord of the Iyo-Ōzu domain in the Edo period.  He was the first-generation member of the Wakizaka family in the Harima-Tatsuno domain.

Early days

The Wakizaka clan resided in Wakizaka in the Higashi-Azai district of Ōmi Province and adopted their surname from the name of the location.

In 1554, Yasuharu was born as the eldest son of Wakizaka Yasuakira in the village of Wakizaka of the Azai District of Ōmi.

Initially, Yasuharu served Azai Nagamasa but, following the decimation of the Azai clan in 1573, he associated with the Oda family.  In 1579, he served valorously as a yoriki, or security officer, under Akechi Mitsuhide at the Second Siege of Kuroi CastleAkai Naomasa, an enemy commander known as the Red Demon of Tanba, praised Yasuharu’s bravery, and, at the end of the battle, is said to have presented him with a family heirloom, a spear sheath made from the pelt of a Japanese marten.  Thereafter, the skin of a Japanese marten was used as a metaphor for the Wakizaka family.  This story, however, is inconsistent with the rank of Yasuharu at the time and is deemed to have been fabricated in a later era to raise the value of the umajirushi, or battle standard, of the Wakizaka family.

Later, Yasuharu requested and became a retainer of Hashiba Hideyoshi.  He made contributions in various battles for Hideyoshi including attacks against Miki Castle in the Minō District and Kanki Castle in the Innami District of Harima Province.  In 1576, Yasuharu was awarded a fief of 150 koku, and, in 1578, during the Siege of Miki, he received from Hideyoshi an aka-horo, or red cloak used to cover the back of elite cavalry to protect against arrows during battle​, with a pattern of overlapping circles and, thereafter, adopted the design for his family crest.  In 1582, based on a letter from Hideyoshi, Yasuharu received an increase to his fief of 30 koku in the Akashi District of Harima.  This grant is not, however, noted in the genealogy of the Wakizaka family.

Activities prior to unification of the country by the Toyotomi

In 1583, at the Battle of Shizugatake, Yasuharu served along with Fukushima Masanori and Katō Kiyomasa and was counted among the elite fighters known as the Seven Spears of Shizugatake.  Owing to his valor, he was awarded a fief of 3,000 koku in Yamashiro Province.  There is a theory that, during this battle, he killed Shibata Katsumasa.

At the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute, Yasuharu in the direction of Ise and Iga provinces, Yasuharu contributed to the capture of Iga-Ueno Castle from Takigawa Katsutoshi.  In the fifth month of 1585, he was granted 10,000 koku in the Nose District of Settsu Province.  In the eighth month, he received 20,000 koku in Takatori in Yamato Province and, in the tenth month, 30,000 koku in Sumoto in Awaji Province.

Thereafter, Yasuharu served, along with Katō Yoshiakira and Kuki Yoshitaka, as an admiral in the naval forces participating in campaigns including the Conquest of Kyūshū, the Conquest of Odawara, and the deployment on the Korean Peninsula.  During the Conquest of Kyūshū, after arriving in Buzen Province, he arranged for the transport of military provisions to the territory of Ōtomo Sōrin at Usuki Castle.  Later, upon orders from Hideyoshi (based on a letter dated 2/14 of Tenshō 15 (1587), Yasuharu served under the command of Kuroda Yoshitaka.  He joined with Konishi Yukinaga to capture Hirasa Castle in Satsuma Province.  During the Conquest of Odawara, Yasuharu launched a successful seaborne attack against Shimoda Castle in Izu Province and served as the envoy of Hideyoshi to take control of Odawara Castle.

The Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula

During the Bunroku Campaign, Yasuharu was assigned to mobilize 1,500 soldiers.  Initially, he was in charge of marine transports from Kyūshū to Pusan as a member of the navy, and, later, served with the land forces.  In the sixth month of 1592, while defending Yongin in the environs of Hanseong, he incurred an attack by a Korean army of 50,000 soldiers led by Yi Gwang, a commander of the Joseon Dynasty forces from Jeolla Province.  He then launched a nighttime attack to scatter the attacking forces.  Immediately after the battle in Yongin, in the seventh month, Yasuharu was ordered to quickly join Katō Yoshiakira and Kuki Yoshitaka with the naval forces to suppress the Korean navy commanded by Yi Sun-sin.  Eager to achieve results, Yasuharu and the 1,500 naval forces under his command sailed ahead of the others and suffered a major defeat to Yi Sun-sin at the Battle of Hansan Island.  Thereafter, based on orders from Hideyoshi to change strategy, the Japanese forces adopted defensive measures at land and at sea, thwarting repeated attacks by the forces under Yi Sun-sin at the Battle of Busan and related clashes.  In the fifth month of 1593, at the Second Siege of Jinju, Yasuharu joined 900 land forces engaged in a blockade.

During the Keichō Campaign in Korea, Yasuharu served in the naval forces and commanded 1,200 soldiers.  In the seventh month of 1597, during the Battle of Chilcheollyang, Yasuharu led a counterattack against the Korean navy led by Won Gyun, a Korean general and admiral during the Joseon Dynasty, decimating the enemy forces.  Following the commencement of land operations by Japanese forces, Yasuharu advanced with the naval units, but, in the eighth month, during the Siege of Namwon, he joined the land-based forces.  After participating in the Jeonju Conference, Yasuharu resumed his role as a commander of naval forces along the Korean Peninsula and fought in the Battle of Myeongnyang.  Yasuharu also joined the First Siege of Ulsan and rescued Katō Kiyomasa.  Based on his series of contributions in Korea, Yasuharu received an increase of 3,000 koku to his fief in Awaji allocated from landholdings under the direct jurisdiction of the Toyotomi administration and became a daimyō with a fief of 33,000 koku in total.

The Battle of Sekigahara

After the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Maeda Toshiie came into conflict.  Yasuharu rushed to the Tokugawa residence.

In 1600, at the Conquest of Aizu, Yasuharu attempted to have his second son, Wakizaka Yasumoto, join the expedition but while Yasumoto was en route to the Kantō, he was stopped by Ishida Mitsunari who had raised arms against Ieyasu and was compelled to return to the capital area.  Yasumoto wrote a letter to Yamaoka Kagetomo who was accompanying Ieyasu to explain the situation and confirmed that he was a supporter of Ieyasu.  In his reply, a letter dated 8/1 of Keichō 5 (1600) addressed to Yasumoto, Ieyasu expressed his appreciation for Yasumoto’s loyalty toward him and noted that he would visit the capital in the near future.  While Yasuharu was staying in Ōsaka, Mitsunari raised arms against Ieyasu, so, he was compelled to lead approximately 1,000 soldiers on behalf of the Western Army.

On 9/15 of Keichō 5 (1600), at the main Battle of Sekigahara, Yasuharu was positioned along with Kutsuki Mototsuna, Ogawa Suketada, and Akaza Naoyasu to keep in check Kobayakawa Hideaki who was rumored to be colluding with the Eastern Army.  In the afternoon, however, after the Kobayakawa division attacked a division led by Ōtani Yoshitsugu, one of the leading commanders in the Western Army, Yasuharu and the other three commanders abandoned the Western Army and fought for the Eastern Army, decimating divisions led by Hiratsuka Tamehiro and Toda Katsunari.  Yasuharu later joined an assault against Mitsunari’s base at Sawayama Castle in Ōmi Province.  In the aftermath of the Battle of Sekigahara, Mototsuna was demoted and his landholdings reduced while Suketada and Naoyasu were removed from their positions.  The Wakizaka family was not subject to punishment and, instead, received official recognition of their landholdings.  It is surmised that owing to the presence of Yasuharu and Yasumoto in the capital at the time that Mitsunari raised arms, the Wakizaka had no option other than to initially join the Western Army and therefore avoided retribution after the war.

Later years

In the ninth month of 1609, Yasuharu was transferred to Ōzu in Iyo Province with a larger fief of 53,500 koku.  Yasuharu did not participate in the Winter Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka in 1614.  At the Summer Campaign in 1615, his second son, Wakizaka Yasumoto, served as a member of the bakufu army in charge of the Hacchōme-guchi while Yasuharu made contributions in battle in the environs of the Tennō Temple.  In 1615, Yasuharu transferred the headship of the clan to Yasumoto and retired.

Thereafter, he departed from Ōzu and resided at the Nishinotō Temple in Kyōto.  He underwent the rites of tonsure and adopted the monk’s name of Rinshōin.  He died on 8/6 of Kanei 3 (1626) in Kyōto at the age of seventy-three.

Character and anecdotes

Yasuharu was the eldest among the bushō comprising the Seven Spears of Shizugatake.

When he had the title of nakatsukasa-shōyū, or Junior Assistant Minister of Central Affairs, Yasuharu maintained a second residence on an island in a tributary of the Uji River that ran through Kyōto and Fushimi.  In connection with this title, he was called chūjō-sama while the site where he held his second residence was referred to as Chūjō Island.

The Rinkain sub-temple at the Myōshin Temple in Kyōto built by Yasuharu in honor of his father served as the family temple for four generations of the Wakizaka until Wakizaka Yasuteru in the Edo period.

At the Tatsuno Shrine, Yasuharu is worshiped as an enshrined deity and jūmonji, or cross-shaped, spear that he is said to have used at the Battle of Shizugatake is kept there.

In the Korean drama series produced from 2004 to 2005 known as the Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-sin, Yasuharu was portrayed as the highest-ranking admiral of the Japanese navy and the primary adversary of Admiral Yi.