The shingūtō were an elite military organization that served as the vanguard and protectors of the Amago clan, sengoku daimyō of Izumo Province. Based in the foothills to the north of Gassantoda Castle in an area known as Shingūdani, or the Shingū Valley, the shingūtō derived their name from this location.
The de facto leader of the group was Amago Hisayuki, the younger brother of Amago Tsunehisa (the shugodai of Izumo). The shingūtō name was adopted in the era of Amago Kunihisa, the second son of Tsunehisa. In addition to serving as the guardians of the clan, the shingūtō contributed to an expansion of the clan’s influence in neighboring provinces including Aki and Bingo. Members of the shingūtō engaged in assorted battles in Izumo as well as Aki, Bingo, and other locations. In 1540, Hisayuki died in the Battle of Yoshida-Kōriyama in Aki Province against combined forces of the Ōuchi and Mōri clans.
The era of Amago Kunihisa
Following the loss of Hisayuki, Kunihisa succeeded him as head of the shingūtō, continuing in their role as protectors of the clan. The organization wielded considerable power in Izumo, controlling the eastern portions of the province held by the Yoshida clan as well as western portions held by the Enya clan after a failed rebellion by his younger brother, Enya Okihisa. Tsunehisa had earlier arranged for the adoption of Kunihisa by the Yoshida and his younger brother, Okihisa, by the Enya to strengthen relationships with powerful kokujin in Izumo through familial ties. Along with control of this territory, the shingūtō exercised authority independent of the main clan led by Amago Haruhisa, the nephew of Kunihisa and grandson of Tsunehisa. After the death of Tsunehisa, the shingūtō frequently interfered with orders rendered by Haruhisa. Despite their contributions, the arrogant behavior of Kunihisa and his eldest son, Amago Sanehisa, stirred dissatisfaction among other members of the group and the clan at large. The fearsome unit served as both a protector and a threat, leading to internal discord between them and Haruhisa. Conflicting orders from Haruhisa on one hand, and the leaders of the shingūtō on the other, left retainers confused on direction.
In late 1554, following the death of Haruhisa’s formal wife, who was the daughter of Kunihisa, Haruhisa purged the leaders of the shingūtō, including Kunihisa and his son, Sanehisa, to reimpose control over the clan. Kunihisa was assassinated while departing the castle, while Sanehisa killed himself in the shingūtō quarters. Remaining members either killed themselves or fled, marking the end of the elite force. By eliminating Kunihisa and his role as an intermediary for western Izumo, Haruhisa could intervene more directly in the affairs of the Kizuki no Ōyashiro, which had sought to have direct control over their own economic and military matters. This enabled Haruhisa to nearly complete his goal to govern the entire province of Izumo.
Kunihisa’s wife came from the Tako clan. His daughters were wed to the Shinji clan and the Ōkawara clan of Mimasaka Province. Others became the first and second formal wives of Haruhisa, lord of the main clan. Sanehisa’s wife came from the Taga clan. Nevertheless, the martial relationships could not definitively bind the Amago and their allies. At the First Battle of Gassantoda, the Shinji and Taga clans separated from the Amago. There were vulnerabilities within the shingūtō as well. Amago Akiyuki, the eldest son of Hisayuki, challenged Kunihisa for leadership of the group and disputed over territory. Sanehisa frequently argued with his brother, Amago Takahisa. Meanwhile, Sanehisa’s eldest son, Amago Ujihisa, had a falling out with Takahisa over matters of succession. The destructive relationships contributed significantly to the ultimate demise of the Amago at the hands of rival clans.
Members of the shingūtō (from oldest to youngest) and outcome
- Amago Hisayuki – brother of Amago Tsunehisa (shugodai of Izumo) – died in 1551 at the Battle of Yoshida-Kōriyama against Sue Takafusa (allies of the Ōuchi clan)
- Amago Kunihisa – son of Tsunehisa – killed during the purge in 1554 while exiting the castle
- Amago Sanehisa – first son of Kunihisa – killed during the purge in the shingūtō quarters
- Amago Toyohisa – second son of Kunihisa – died in 1546 at the Battle of Hashizugawa against Takeda Kuninobu
- Amago Takahisa – third son of Kunihisa – killed himself the day after the purge
- Amago Ujihisa – first son of Sanehisa – rescued during purge and sent to Hachisuka Masakatsu to be raised
- Amago Yoshihisa – second son of Sanehisa – killed during the purge in the shingūtō quarters
- Amago Suehisa – third son of Sanehisa – details during and after purge uncertain
- Amago Tsunehisa – fourth son of Sanehisa – killed during the purge in the shingūtō quarters
- Amago Katsuhisa – fifth son of Sanehisa – killed himself after loss to Mōri at Kōzuki Castle in 1578
- Amago Michihisa – sixth son of Sanehisa – fled Izumo after the purge