Wakae Group of Three

若江三人衆

Ikeda Norimasa

Tarao Tsunatomo

Noma Nagamae

Kawachi Province

The Wakae Group of Three refers to three chief retainers of Miyoshi Yoshitsugu when he served as the lord of Wakae Castle in the Wakae District of Kawachi Province.  These individuals included Ikeda Tango-no-kami Norimasa, Tarao Ukon (Tsunatomo), and Noma Sakitsubei Nagamae.  This group included one who was a Christian daimyō (Ikeda Tango-no-kami Norimasa) and another who persecuted and was reviled by Christians (Tarao Tsunatomo).

The group was led by Ikeda Tango-no-kami Norimasa.  Initially, he was affiliated with the Miyoshi clan, but, later, joined Matsunaga Hisahide and, after Hisahide surrendered to Oda Nobunaga, followed suit. 

In the fourth month of 1573, Miyoshi Yoshitsugu offered sanctuary to Ashikaga Yoshiaki (the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu) after Yoshiaki had been driven out of Kyōto.  The Wakae Group of Three feared Nobunaga and sought to generate goodwill with the Oda by encouraging Yoshitsugu to submit.  Yoshitsugu refused, instead distancing himself from the elders by turning to another retainer, Kanayama Suruga-no-kami Takeharu, for support.  Norimasa then led the forces of Sakuma Nobumori to Wakae Castle and played a role in the defeat and killing of his former lord, Yoshitsugu, at the Battle of Wakae Castle

After the demise of Yoshitsugu, the Wakae Group of Three governed the northern half of Kawachi Province, serving as yoriki, or security officials, for Sakuma Nobumori as the commanding general of Oda forces in battle against followers of the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple.  Owing to their service to Nobumori, who held an interest in the tea ceremony, the members of the Wakae Group of Three appear frequently in the accounts of a tea master known as Tsuda Sōkyū, suggesting they took part in many tea ceremonies and acquired deep knowledge of this cultural practice.

Ikeda Tango-no-kami Norimasa

Norimasa is deemed to have been a member of the Ikeda clan of Settsu Province, but the genealogy is not certain. In the fourteenth century, there was an individual in the Settsu-Ikeda clan named Ikeda Norimasa, the son of Kusunoki Masatsura.  Given that his descendants were the Settsu-Ikeda, there is a theory that he did not adopt the same name as the founder of the clan in a later era because he was from a collateral line that was not associated with the head of the clan.  There is also a theory that the “Nori” character in his name was received from Yusa Kawachi-no-kami Naganori and, as a result of adopting the “Nori” character in front of the “Masa” character from the Settsu-Ikeda clan, he ended up with the same characters in his name as the founder of the clan.  Consequently, he was distinguished from the founder by using the name Ikeda Tango-no-kami Masanori.  Moreover, as a Christian daimyō, he was a notable individual in that period.  In historical accounts associated with the Christian church, a name resembling Ikeda Tango-no-kami appears written in katakana which may have been how the missionaries heard the name spoken.

The name of Ikeda Tango-no-kami also appears as one of the assailants in the assassination of Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu).  Based on the history of Norimasa, Ikeda Tango-no-kami is surmised to be the same individual as Norimasa.

After the Honnō Temple Incident, a coup d’état on 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582) that led to the unexpected death of Oda Nobunaga, Norimasa served Ikeda Tsuneoki and also participated in the vanguard of the Ikeda forces at the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute.  After the battle that resulted in the death of Norimasa’s father and older brother, Ikeda Terumasa inherited the family and Norimasa followed him upon a transfer to Mino Province.  Later, he served Toyotomi Hidetsugu and, in 1593, was appointed as the Kiyosu magistrate in Owari Province and the forestry magistrate for Kiso.  In 1595, upon orders of Hideyoshi, Norimasa was executed in connection with the Hidetsugu Incident, but the details of this final chapter of his life are unknown.

Tarao Tsunatomo

His common name was Ukon Daifu, later changing to Hitachi-no-suke.  Although his surname was the same as the Tarao clan of the Kōka District of Ōmi Province, there are many uncertainties in the genealogy and his own history is also unclear.  Initially, he served as a servant of Hosokawa Ujitsuna, and, after Ujitsuna and Miyoshi Nagayoshi marched upon Kyōto, served Ujitsuna along with Imamura Yoshimitsu who had formerly served under Hosokawa Kuniyoshi of the family of Hosokawa Ueno Genba.

Tsunatomo served as a deputy military governor of Kawachi.  In 1566, based at Yodo Castle in Yamashiro Province, he joined Yoshitsugu and Matsunaga Hisshide in battle against the Miyoshi Group of Three (Miyoshi Nagayasu, Miyoshi Sōi, and Iwanari Tomomichi) but was forced to retreat.  Tsunatomo frequently persecuted Christians and was known by missionaries as their chief enemy.  He frequently complained to Nobunaga about discord with Sanga Raishō, a Christian daimyō and the lord of Sanga Castle in Kawachi, and confronted crises, but was saved through the protection of Sakuma Nobumori, his guardian. 

According to the diaries of the tea master, Tsuda Sōgyū, at a tea ceremony held on 5/13 of Tenshō 8 (1580), Tsunatomo used the Kotenmyō-hiragumo kettle, a precious piece from the fifteenth century owned by Matsunaga Hisahide and coveted by Nobunaga.  This was reconstructed from fragments of the original kettle collected by Tarao Genba (Mitsunobu) from Hisahide’s base at Shigisan Castle after its capture during the Siege of Shigisan Castle.  In a final act of defiance, Hisahide was said to have smashed the kettle during the fall of the castle in the tenth month of 1577.  Tsunatomo also displayed an invaluable Masamune short sword from Sogō Kazumasa, the natural father of his former lord, Yoshitsugu.  Tsunatomo’s children included Miyoshi Ikegachi (his mother was the younger sister of Miyoshi Yoshitsugu) and Tarao Mitsunobu.  After serving Oda Nobunaga amd Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Ikegachi became a retainer of Kuroda Nagamasa.  Ikegachi’s descendants served as retainers of the Hiroshima domain.

Noma Nagamae

With respect to the Noma clan, the Noma were were members of the Nose clan, powerful kokujin, or provincial landowners, in Settsu Province, are well-known, but Nagamae’s relationship to this clan is uncertain.  Nagamae wed the younger sister of Ikeda Norimasa and served Miyoshi Nagayoshi and Miyoshi Yoshitsugu.  He also served for a while as a yoriki for Matsunaga Hisahide.  Prior to this time, there is a theory that he served as a retainer of Yusa Naganori, the deputy military governor of Kawachi.  Based on this theory, Nagamae received one of the characters in his name from Naganori, thereafter adopting the name of Nagamae.  Meanwhile, the name of a presumed predecessor, Noma Nagahisa, appears as a servant of Miyoshi Nagayoshi.  His original name is understood to be Yasuhisa, but there is no record of the name of Noma Yasuhisa.

There are many documents jointly signed in the names of Sakuma Nobumori and Shibata Katsuie.  Although they served as retainers of Oda Nobunaga, they held positions of high status themselves.  As one of six bushō permitted by Nobunaga to hold tea ceremonies, Nagamae had a status on a par with senior retainers of the Oda family.  The other five individuals included Oda Nobutada, Akechi Mitsuhide, Hashiba Hideyoshi, Sakuma Nobuhide, and Murai Sadakatsu.  Nagamae was said to be the cousin of Ikeda Norimasa.