Lifespan: 2/5 of Bunmei 5 (1473) to 3/25 of Eishō 9 (1512)
Rank: sengoku daimyō; head of the Asakura clan
Father: Asakura Ujikage
Mother: Daughter of Oda Magosaemon of Owari Province
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Saitō Toshikuni
Sadakage became head of the Asakura clan following the death of his father in 1486. Having inherited this role at the youthful age of thirteen, Sadakage could not properly govern the actions of his retainers. Soon after becoming lord, in 1487, Sadakage received orders from Ashikaga Yoshihisa, the shōgun, to attack Rokkaku Takayori in Ōmi Province. In the aftermath of the Ōnin-Bunmei War, a prolonged conflict in Kyōto, Takayori spearheaded an effort by the Rokkaku clan to gain power and become a sengoku daimyō by consolidating control of the kuge, or nobles of the Muromachi bakufu, and the priests of the temples and shrines, seizing their lands along with those of the hōkōshū (the military officials serving the bakufu). He then apportioned these holdings among the kokujinshū, or landowners, under his command. The ensuing conflict between forces under Sadakage and those of Takayori is known as the Chōkyō-Entoku Expedition.
While en route to Ōmi, the main battalion led by Sadakage lodged in the town of Tsuruga, but only Asakura Kagefuyu, the gunji, or governor, for the Tsuruga District, joined in the vanguard and proceeded to Sakamoto in Ōmi. This owed to a complex relationship between the Asakura and Shiba clans. In 1471, the Asakura displaced the Shiba as the military governors of Echizen, causing the Shiba to re-settle in Owari Province. Meanwhile, Shiba Yoshihiro, the head of the Shiba clan, became obsessed with restoring the Shiba to their former role in Echizen.
To counter the Rokkaku in Ōmi, Ashikaga Yoshihisa had also deployed on behalf of the bakufu a contingent of 8,000 men led by Oda Toshisada and Oda Tōhiro. Yoshihiro joined these forces as a deputy shōgun, and felt indignation at the prospect of allying with the Asakura under Sadakage, as the Asakura were former hikan, or lower-level officials of the bakufu, prior to usurping the Shiba. Yoshihiro appealed to Yoshihisa, the shōgun, to restore the Shiba clan to the role of military governor of Echizen Province. This is known as the Chōkyō no soshō, or the Chōkyō Appeal, with Chōkyō being a very short era lasting from 1487 to 1489. In this incident, the Shiba and the Asakura both insisted, without compromise, on their right to govern Echizen. Seeking to avoid prolonging the dispute while in the course of a military campaign against the Rokkaku, Yoshihisa declared the Asakura to be his direct retainers, securing their role as military governors of Echizen.
In 1491, Ashikaga Yoshiki, the successor to Yoshihisa, ordered a second attack against Rokkaku Takayori in Ōmi. Yoshihiro again deployed for this expedition, while Sadakage waited out the campaign. Continuing with his persistence, Yoshihiro appealed to the new shōgun for the restoration of his role as shugo of Echizen. Yoshitane initially issued a gonaisho, or personal written order, to overthrow Sadakage, and rumors circulated that Yoshiki himself would march to Echizen. This initiative against the Asakura finally dissipated owing to the imposing strength of the Asakura army – a force of 12,000 soldiers organized in six battalions, each of 2,000 men.
In 1493, Sadakage cooperated with Hosokawa Masamoto to arrest Yoshiki in an event known as the Meiō Political Incident. In the summer of 1493, Yoshiki traveled to Hōjōzu Castle in the Imizu District of Etchū Province. Jinbō Naganobu, shugodai for Echizen, served as lord of the castle. Yoshiki proceeded to join a newly formed political administration known as Etchū kubō. In autumn of the next year, Sadakage responded to Yoshiki’s formation of an army to march upon Kyōto, prevailing in a clash in the Ōno and Sakai districts against an army comprised of warrior monks from the Ikkō sect in Kaga and soldiers from the Kai clan.
In 1494, Sadakage deployed to Yanagase in Ōmi on behalf of the Saitō at the Battle of Funada in Mino Province. The Asakura army achieved an overwhelming victory in a final showdown the following year.
In 1498, Yoshitada (having changed his name from Yoshiki to Yoshitada in 1498) traveled from Etchū to Ichijōdani, the home base of the Asakura in Echizen, to solicit support for a march to Kyōto. This is referred to as the Echizen kubō. Sadakage hosted Yoshitada in Ichijōdani, but refused to lead a contingent to Kyōto. In 1499, Yoshitada proceeded to Kyōto without the support of Sadakage, but lost in battle against the Rokkaku, and turned to the Ōuchi clan in Suō Province for protection. This led to confrontation with Hosokawa Masamoto and the monks from Kaga associated with the Hongan Temple.
In 1503, a rebellion arose within the Asakura clan, and with the aid of Asakura Norikage, Sadakage eliminated Asakura Kagetoyo. In 1504, Sadakage warded-off an invasion by Asakura Motokage from Kaga, securing his grip on the clan. In 1506, Sadakage prevailed against an invasion of Echizen by adherents of the Ikkō sect hailing from Kaga, Etchū, and Noto provinces at the Battle of Kuzuryūgawa. This enabled Sadakage to attain the status of a sengoku daimyō and solidify control of political and military affairs in Echizen under the Asakura clan. For the next sixty years, there was no significant military event in Echizen until the era of his grandchild, Asakura Yoshikage, when subject to a rebellion by a retainer named Horie Kagetada.
In the spring of 1512, Sadakage died suddenly while on a falconry excursion, and his eldest son, Asakura Takakage, inherited his role as lord of the clan. Prior to his demise, Sadakage funded the construction of a hall at the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyōto, reconstruction of the priest’s chambers at the Nanyō Temple in Ichijōdani, and a sutra library in Abaka. Despite inheriting leadership of the Asakura while still a youth, Sadakage prevailed over repeated bids by the Shiba to restore their position, managed through a period of turmoil in the Ashikaga bakufu, and established the conditions for relative calm in Echizen Province for the next three generations.