Lifespan: Tenbun 6 (1537) to 2/15 of Tenshō 4 (1576)
Rank: sengoku daimyō
Titles: Governor of Dewa, Deputy Governor of Kazusa, Master of the Eastern Capital Office, Assistant Vice-Minister of the Military
Father: Akamatsu Harumasa
Siblings: Yoshisuke, Noriie, sister (wife of Akamatsu Masahide)
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Hosokawa Harumoto
Akamatsu Yoshisuke served as the twelfth head of the Akamatsu clan, lord of Okishio Castle, and sengoku daimyō of Harima Province. Yoshisuke was the eldest son of Akamatsu Harumasa. At the time of his coming-of-age ceremony, Yoshisuke received one of the characters in his name from Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, and holder of the title seiitai shōgun. This represented a new role outside of those stipulated in the ryōsei, or traditional system of governance, during this period. The term seii meant to subjugate the persons of emishi, or, from the perspective of the central authorities continuing from the Yamato Court, those living on the Japanese archipelago. The term implied the use of military force against political opponents of the government, and, in particular, those elements regarded as rebellious, criminal, or antisocial.
Succession to the clan
In 1554, Yoshisuke colluded with Miyoshi Nagayoshi and joined with Atagi Fuyuyasu to attack Hosokawa Harumoto at Akashi Castle in Harima. After becoming an adult, Yoshisuke shared governing duties with his father, Harumasa. In 1558, with the backing of Kodera Masamoto, Yoshisuke created a disturbance, banished Harumasa, and took control as the new lord of the clan. Harumasa sought help from his son-in-law, Akamatsu Masahide in Tatsuno Castle, from which to oppose Yoshisuke. Meanwhile, Yoshisuke also experienced bad relations with his son, Norifusa, causing Yoshisuke to temporarily move to Miki Castle under Bessho Yasuharu. He returned to Okishio Castle after reconciling with Norifusa. In 1564, Masahide attacked a wedding event between Uragami Kiyomune (the eldest son of Uragami Masamune) and the daughter of Kuroda Mototaka. Masamune and Kiyomune were both slayed, and chaos reigned over the Akamatsu clan.
Conflict with Masahide
In 1565, Harumasa died from illness. Masahide had been competing on behalf of Harumasa for control of the clan. Following Harumasa’s demise, Masahide chose to settle his differences with Yoshisuke. Nevertheless, Masahide endeavored to expand his territory through military force, including by attacking and capturing Rikan Castle. In 1567, Masahide started a relationship with Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the younger brother of Ashikaga Yoshiteru, who at the time was roaming on his own accord. Bessho Yasuharu, the powerful lord from eastern Harima, was also operating independently, but the Akamatsu clan under Masahide did not have the power to keep them in check.
In 1568, Ashikaga Yoshiaki assumed the title of seiitai shōgun with the backing of Oda Nobunaga. Yoshiaki thereby became the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu. Masahide attempted to have his daughter serve as an attendant to Yoshiaki. Yoshisuke viewed this as a selfish act whereby Masahide had ignored the clan and aimed to deepen ties with the shōgun on his own. Yoshisuke ordered Kodera Masamoto, lord of Gochaku Castle, to travel to Kyōto to kidnap Masahide’s daughter. He renounced Masahide as immoral and urged Uragami Munekage of Bizen to raise arms and execute a pincer attack against Masahide. Viewing the request as a good opportunity to expand his own influence, Munekage led combined forces from Bizen and Mimasaka on an attack into Masahide’s territory. In 1569, Masahide’s daughter was released and arrived in Kyōto while Munekage pressed ahead, causing Masahide to request help from Yoshiaki, the shōgun.
Yoshiaki responded to the appeal by ordering Nobunaga to support Masahide. In the autumn of 1569, Ikeda Katsumasa commanded an army from Settsu, together with soldiers under Bessho Yasuharu, to invade Yoshisuke’s territory in Harima. Meanwhile, a rebellion by Ukita Naoie compelled the Uragami to return to Bizen. Yoshisuke joined with Kodera Masamoto to oppose the Ikeda and Bessho, only to lose Shōyama and Takasago castles in Harima. With the tide turning against him, Yoshisuke fled to Okishio Castle to put up a stiff defense against continuing attacks by the Ikeda and Bessho armies. Fortunately for Yoshisuke, the Oda had not yet fully pacified the Kinai owing to resistance from the Miyoshi and other clans, so Nobunaga ordered the soldiers from Settsu to retreat to Kinai, and Bessho Yasuharu followed suit by withdrawing. Yoshisuke quickly approached the Oda to make amends, and as evidence of his allegiance to their clan, dispatched his son, Norifusa, to confront the Uragami army during their assault on Tatsuno in Masahide’s territory.
Meanwhile, in 1569, Masahide suffered a bitter defeat against Kuroda Mototaka and his son, Yoshitaka, in the Battle of Mount Ao and Mount Kawarake. Under the pretext of supporting Yoshisuke, Uragami Munekage continued attacks in Tatsuno, while Norifusa did not show the will to fight. Late in 1569, Ikeda Katsumasa, Wada Koremasa, and Itami Tadachika led forces to support Masahide, but Masahide soon surrendered Tatsuno Castle to the Uragami, and the forces returned to Kinai with minimal engagement. Masahide was imprisoned, and then assassinated the following year.
Meanwhile, Ukita Naoie finally surrendered after having earlier rebelled against the Uragami, drawing to an end a long period of conflict. Once the Uragami left Harima, Norifusa returned to join his father in Okishio Castle. In 1570, Yoshisuke appointed Norifusa as his successor and retired, dying six years later.