Fuchū Group of Three

府中三人衆

Fuchū Group of Three

Echizen Province

The Fuchū Group of Three was comprised of Fuwa Mitsuharu, Sassa Narimasa, and Maeda Toshie who served as yoriki, or security forces, for Shibata Katsuie in the Fuchū area of Echizen Province on behalf of the Oda administration during the Sengoku period.

Origins

In the eighth month of 1573, Oda Nobunaga invaded Echizen, eliminated Asakura Yoshikage, a sengoku daimyō and the eleventh and last head of the Asakura clan based in Ichijōdani.  After Maeba Yoshitsugu surrendered to Nobunaga, he was assigned to govern Echizen from Ichijōdani.  Similarly, after Toda Nagashige surrendered, Nobunaga assigned him to manage the affairs of Fuchū.  However, before long, Yoshitsugu and Nagashige came into conflict, and, in the first month of 1574, Nagashige destroyed Yoshitsugu and took control of the entire province.  By this means, Nagashige incited the Ikkō-ikki (adherents of the Ikkō sect affiliated with the Hongan Temple) and exacerbated tensions with the group, whereupon Nagashige was killed while Echizen evolved into a province held by the peasants similar to Kaga.  This event is known as the Echizen Ikkō-ikki.

In the eighth month of 1575, Nobunaga led a massive army to invade Echizen, evicerating the ikki forces, and regaining control of the province.  He then assigned one of his most senior commanders, Shibata Katsuie, to govern the eight districts from a base at Kita-no-shō Castle.  At this time, Fuwa Mitsuharu, Sassa Narimasa, and Maeda Toshiie were assigned to two districts covering Fuchū and its environs.  Nobunaga further tasked this group to serve as metsuke, or overseers for Katsuie.  Thereafter, while these three commanders were assigned to Fuchū, they were generally known as the Fuchū Group of Three.

According to the authoritative biography of Nobunaga known as the Shinchō Kōki, the two districts were assigned to Fuwa Naomitsu (Mitsuharu’s son) while, in the Provincial Laws of Echizen issued by Nobunaga, Fuwa Kawachi-no-kami (Mitsuharu) was assigned to serve as the overseer for Katsuie.  In accounts concerning the activities of these three individuals with respect to the governance of these districts, Naomitsu’s name appears along with Narimasa and Toshiie so it may have been the case the both Mitsuharu and his son, Naomitsu, participated together on behalf of the Fuwa clan.

Duties and stipends

With respect to the locations of the respective members of the Group of Three, Mitsuharu was based in Ryūmonji Castle, Narimasa was based in Komaru Castle, and Toshiie was based in Fuchū Castle).  Initially, the territory governed by each one of the them did not have clear boundaries, with a total of approximately 100,000 koku shared among them.  Their activities and the documents issued in these two districts appear in most cases to have been on a mutual basis.  However, during the fifth to seventh months of 1576, the landholdings were allocated such that each one of them receive a portion of the land and security forces.  After this time, documents jointly signed by the group cease to appear.  With respect to landholdings, Toshiie received the village of Ōi in the Nyū District, the village of Magara in the Imadate District, and Somayama, Takuradani, and Kōnoura in the Nanjō District, while Narimasa received the village of Ota 平等 in the Nyū District, the villages of Ōtaki and Iwamoto in the Imadate District, and Yuno in the Nanjō District, whereas the allocation to Mitsuharu is unknown.

The original assignment of the Group of Three, as enumerated in the Provincial Laws of Echizen issued by Nobunaga, was to serve as overseers for Shibata Katsuie who was responsible for a majority of Echizen Province.  However, thereafter, owing to battles against the Kaga Ikkō-ikki and Uesugi Kenshin, their service as yoriki, or security forces, for Katsuie became increasingly notable.  Nevertheless, the group did not serve solely under the command of Katsuie.  In 1578, upon the occurrence of a revolt by Araki Murashige against Nobunaga, the group rushed to join the Siege of Arioka Castle independently of Katsuie.

The end of the group

In 1580, Sassa Narimasa assisted Jinbō Nagazumi to pacify Etchū Province and, in the following year, was granted one-half of the province.  Then, Nagazumi lost his position so Narimasa became the sole governor of Etchū.  Meanwhile, after joining battles to pacify Kaga and Noto provinces, in 1581, Maeda Toshiie was assigned to govern Noto.  At this time, the landholdings in Fuchū confiscated by Nobubaga were then granted to Toshiie’s eldest son, Maeda Toshinaga.  He governed this territory until his transfer to Mattō Castle in Kaga after the Battle of Shizugatake.  Mitsuharu died in 1580, bringing to an end the activities of the Fuchū Group of Three.