Lifespan: Unknown to 9/17 of Daiei 1 (1521)
Rank: bushō; shugo daimyō; sengoku daimyō
Title: Assistant Vice-Minister of the Military
Bakufu: Muromachi – Military Governor of Harima, Bizen and Mimasaka provinces
Clan: Shichijō → Akamatsu
Father: Akamatsu Masasuke
Adoptive Father: Akamatsu Masanori
Adoptive Mother: Tōshōin
Wife: [Formal] Komeshi (daughter of Akamatsu Masanori and Tōshō-in)
Children: Harumasa (also known as Masamura, Masasuke), Masamoto, Takashima Masazumi, Masamichi
Akamatsu Yoshimura served as a shugo daimyō and sengoku daimyō in Harima Province in the early Sengoku period. Yoshimura was the tenth head of the Akamatsu clan from the fourth month of Meiō 4 (1496) to the eleventh month of Eishō 17 (1520).
As a sengoku daimyō, Yoshimura governed Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces. He was the son-in-law of Akamatsu Masanori, the ninth head of the clan. Yoshimura descended from the Shichijō branch of the family led by Akamatsu Norisuke, the fifth head of the Akamatsu clan from 1350 to 1351. Yoshimura was the sixth-generational grandson of Norisuke. Members of the Shichijō branch served as the heads of the main branch of the Akamatsu until its demise toward the end of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
From the time of Masanori, Yoshimura endeavored to enhance the position of the Akamatsu clan as sengoku daimyō by strengthening the authority of the daimyō. Uragami Muramune, the shugodai, or deputy military governor, opposed Yoshimura’s efforts, giving rise to internal conflict in the Akamatsu domain. After losing in this struggle with Muramune, Yoshimura assigned his role to his eldest son, Saimatsumaru (later known as Akamatsu Harumasa) and was forced into retirement. On 9/17 of 1521, Yoshimura was assassinated following a second confrontation with Muramune, the deputy military governor of Bizen Province. Harumasa temporarily joined with Muramune to oppose an invasion by the Yamana, but after this threat subsided, the Akamatsu and Uragami clans fought again, causing Harumasa to be driven from his base at Okishio Castle and flee to Shinjōyama Castle in Mimasaka Province.
Yoshimura’s birth date is uncertain, although most likely it occurred after the Bunmei era (1469 to 1486). His childhood name was Saematsumaru, which was used as the childhood name assigned to generations of lords of the Akamatsu clan. Yoshimura’s adoptive father, Masanori, rejuvenated the clan after its temporary collapse in the wake of the Kakitsu Incident (Kakitsu no ran). In 1441, Akamatsu Mitsusuke, the shugo daimyō of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka, assassinated the sixth shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshinori, triggering an attack by the bakufu army led by Yamana Mochitoyo that decimated the Akamatsu clan in Harima and caused many of the kokujin, or local families who formerly served as their retainers, to flee. Masanori did not have any sons, so, in 1489, he adopted Yoshimura, his son-in-law. In 1496, Masanori died suddenly, upon which Yoshimura became the head of the clan. However, owing to his sudden death, Yoshimura’s succession may not have been a result of the wishes of Masanori as much as those of senior retainers who wielded power in the Akamatsu clan at the time, including Uragami Norimune, Bessho Noriharu, Kodera Norimoto, Yakushiji Takayo, and Akamatsu Norisada.
While Yoshimura was young at the time of his succession, his wife, Komeshi, was eighteen when Yoshimura was adopted by Masanori, and Yoshimura is believed to have been a similar age. Accordingly, Yoshimura would likely have been an adult when he deployed to Nara three months after Masanori’s death. Masanori’s sudden death in 1496 led to confusion within the clan, resulting in an internal conflict over the issue of succession known as the Banshū Disturbance (Banshū no sakuran) or Katsunori’s coup d’état. Banshū was another name for Harima Province. During this event, Uragami Norimune, a clan elder and a shugodai, or deputy military governor, supported Yoshimura, while Uragami Murakuni backed Akamatsu Katsunori. Finally, Masanori’s widow (Tōshōin) and adoptive mother of Yoshimura, supported Bessho Noriharu.
In 1499, Murakuni led a ferocious attack to defeat Norimune at the East-West Conflict (Tōzai-toriai kassen). Norimune narrowly escaped owing to a valiant defense by Ukita Yoshiie, taking Yoshimura to Shioya Castle held by Uno Masahide. While providing shelter to Norimune, Masahide backed Yoshimura as the successor. Masahide then directed Tōji Sakyō-no-suke to attack Murakuni, while Masahide himself went to Kyōto to request mediation by Hosokawa Masamoto, the deputy shōgun, and an Imperial edict for a cessation of hostilities from Ashikaga Yoshizumi, the eleventh shōgun. The family members eventually reconciled, with Yoshimura becoming the successor. On 6/11 of 1502, Norimune died in Mitsuishi Castle in Bizen Province, while Tōshōin continued to serve an influential role in the clan alongside Yoshimura.
Political strife and assassinations with the bakufu
In 1507, following the assassination of Hosokawa Masamoto that gave rise to a succession conflict in the Hosokawa clan known as the Eishō Disturbance (Eishō no sakuran), Yoshimura (who at the time adopted the name of Jirō) underwent his coming-of-age ceremony between 1507 and 1509. This occurred during a power-struggle between the tenth shōgun (Ashikaga Yoshiki – later known as Yoshitane) and the eleventh shōgun (Ashikaga Yoshizumi) with Yoshiki returning to the role of shōgun in 1508. The Akamatsu initially allied with Yoshizumi owing to the close ties maintained with the Awa-Hosokawa family (the family of Hosokawa Sumimoto) from the era of Masanori, but, after Yoshizumi was defeated at the Battle of Funaokayama in 1511, the Akamatsu reconciled with Yoshiki once it was certain that he would be reinstated in his former role as shōgun. This was evidenced, in the eleventh month of 1512, by Yoshimura receiving one of the characters in his name from Yoshiki (in place of his former name of Jirō) and an official title as Assistant Vice-Minister of the Military. Yoshimura also undertook responsibility to raise Yoshizumi’s child, Kameōmaru, who later became Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the twelfth shōgun, maintaining the influence of the Akamatsu clan on the central authorities in Kyōto.
Owing to his relations with the bakufu, Yoshimura served in the capacity of a direct imperial ruler, and with the support of senior retainers such as Uragami Muramune and Kodera Norimoto, introduced a system of commissioners aimed at reinforcing the authority of the daimyō. Muramune, however, opposed restraints on his own authority, and, in 1518, retreated to this base at Mitsuishi Castle in Bizen. This upset Yoshimura, who, in 1519, together with Norimoto, led an army to attack the Uragami domain in Bizen and Mimasaka provinces. While the invading forces began on the offensive, resistance from kokujin who supported the Uragami along with contributions by forces under the highly capable Ukita Yoshiie led to a series of defeats. The Akamatsu lost their control, suffering counterattacks into Harima. Hosokawa Sumimoto and his retainers fled to Awa Province in Shikoku, after which, in the twelfth month of 1518, Ashikaga Yoshitane (formerly Yoshiki, then Yoshitada) ordered their punishment. However, after Sumimoto continued resistance, the following year Yoshitane ordered Hosokawa Takakuni to ally with them. Differences with Muramune prevented progress in this regard. In the eleventh month of 1520, upon request of Muramune, Yoshimura transferred his eldest son, Saimatsumaru, to Muramune and was forced to retire. Afterwards, Yoshimura attempted several times to regain his power without success. In the first month of 1521, Yoshimura pledged support to Ashikaga Kameōmaru and raised arms, but lost to Muramune. Later, Yoshimura responded to a proposal from Muramune to reconcile, but was deceived and, instead, arrested at the purported meeting for reconciliation, and confined to Murotsu Castle. Yoshimura was then killed by assassins dispatched by Muramune on 9/17 of 1521.
Yoshimura was succeeded by his son, Saimatsumaru (later known as Masamura, Masasuke, and Harumasa), and allowed on a nominal basis to maintain the clan’s status as the military governor of Harima, but the Akamatsu experienced decline from this time onward.