Ashina Moriuji


Ashina Clan

Ashina Moriuji

Mutsu Province

Lifespan:  Daiei 1 (1521) to 6/17 of Tenshō 8 (1580)

Rank:  bushō, sengoku daimyō

Titles:  Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Master of the Office of Palace Repairs

Clan:  Ashina

Father:  Ashina Morikiyo

Mother:  Daughter of Kanagami Morioki

Wife:  [Formal] Daughter of Date Tanemune

Siblings:  Ujikata, Moriuji, sister (wife of Horiuchi Chikatane)

Children: Morioki, daughter (Komine Yoshichika)

Adopted Children: Moritaka (eldest son of Nikaidō Moriyoshi who first came as a hostage)

Ashina Moriuji served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō during the middle of the Sengoku period.  Moriuji served as the sixteenth head of the Ashina clan based in Kurokawa Castle in Aizu in Mutsu Province.  Kurokawa Castle is also known as Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle or Tsuruga Castle.

Expansion of influence

In 1521, Moriuji was born as the son of Ashina Morikiyo, the fifteenth head of the Ashina clan.

In 1537, Moriuji received the daughter of Date Tanemune as his formal wife, and, in 1541, he inherited the role as head of the clan from his father.

In 1542, Moriuji eliminated the Yamauchi clan and expanded his power in Aizu.  That same year, discord in the Date clan gave rise to the Tenbun Conflict.  Initially, Moriuji sided with the head of the family, Date Tanemune, but, in 1547, after clashing with Tamura Takaaki (a supporter of Tanemune) and Nakadōri, he sided with Date Harumune instead.  As a result, Harumune achieved a definitive advantage and the Tenbun Conflict ended in his favor.

In 1546, Moriuji received a visit from Sesson, a monk and master of inkwash painting, who gave instruction to Moriuji in art appreciation.

From 1550, Moriuji proactively commenced an advance into Nakadōri (Sendō) and fought against Tamura Takaaki but was impeded by the Satake clan of Hitachi Province who supported the Tamura so did not easily make progress.  He then allied with Hōjō Ujiyasu of Sagami and Takeda Shingen of Kai to oppose the Satake.  He also made efforts on internal affairs including the development of Kanayama, and by having the Yanata clan manage commerce, aimed to strengthen control over channels of distribution.  In 1561, he suppressed a rebellion by his older (illegitimate) brother, Ashina Ujikata.  That same year, Moriuji transferred control of the clan to his eldest son, Ashina Morioki, and retired to Iwasaki Castle (also known as Mukai-Haguroyama Castle) in the Ōnuma District.  He underwent the rites of tonsure and adopted the name of 止々斎.  However, after retiring, he continued to hold the real political and military power and govern the family.

The latter years after the death of his son, Ashina Morioki

In 1563, Moriuji battled against Nikaidō Moriyoshi, the lord of Sugagawa Castle and advanced to the Iwase District.  Moriyoshi was married to Onami-hime, the eldest daughter of Harumune so the Date army attacked on several occasions in Hinohara in spport of the Nikaidō, but these attacks were repelled by Anazawa Nobutoku, the lord of Toyama Castle.

In 1566, Moriyoshi offered his eldest son, Nikaidō Moritaka, as a hostage and surrendered, so, on the condition that Morioki receive Harumune’s fourth daughter, Hikohime, as his formal wife, a settlement was reached between the Ashina and Date families.

In 1574, Moriuji joined Date Sanemoto defeated Nihonmatsu Yoshikuni and Ōuchi Yoshitsuna who were under the command of the Tamura and made Tamura Kiyoaki subordinate.  However, in the sixth month of 1574, Morioki, who had become head of the family, suddenly died at the age of twenty-nine.  Morioki did not have a son, nor did Moriuji have any other sons, so arrangements were made for the son of Nikaidō Moriyoshi, Moritaka (who was residing there as a hostage) wed Morioki’s widow and inherit the Ashina family while Moriuji served as his guardian and managed political affairs.

Thereafter, in 1575, Moriuji supported his son-in-law, Komine Yoshichika by intervening in a succession struggle in the Shirakawa-Yūki clan.  In 1578, he took advantage of chaos following the death of Uesugi Kenshin (an event known as the Otate Conflict) to actively continue on the offensive including a deployment to Echigo Province.

From 1560 to 1576, the authority of the Ashina clan was strengthened by the issuance of orders on six occasions from the Muromachi bakufu to money brokers and creditors to relieve debts of borrowers.  There orders were known as tokuseirei.  However, in Moriuji’s latter years, the Ashina clan witnessed a gradual decline from their peak years owing to dissatisfaction among senior retainers with Ashina Moritaka, the young head of the clan who originated from the Nikaidō, as well as a shortage of funds for military spending after years of conflict with the Tamura and Satake clans.

Moriuji died on 6/17 of 1580 at the age of sixty.

Character / Anecdotes

Moriuji did not have a consort, so his only son was Ashina Morioki.  This was a factor in the eventual demise of the clan.  In the Sengoku period, having consorts was an ordinary practice to ensure succession of the family.  It is not clear why Moriuji did not have consorts but is regarded as having a modern view of cleanliness.

In Moriuji’s latter years (after the death of his son, Morioki), someone left graffiti below Kurokawa Castle noting that town officials had to bring stones from the riverbed near the Tennei Temple in Aizu for master Yamato, a reference to a blind senior retainer of the Ashina named Sase Genpei (Yamato-no-kami) who, for personal interest, leaned heavily on town officials to pay taxes.  This satirical expression regarding the administrative practices of the Ashina may have reflected the initial decline of the clan in the latter years of Moriuji.

Moriuji twice issued orders to prohibit the consumption of alcohol.  The reason for the first order is uncertain, but it is believed the second order followed the sudden death of his son, Morioki, from alcohol poisoning.

Although the timing is uncertain, Takeda Shingen said the most elite bushō are the Akai of Tanba, the Azai of northern Ōmi, Moriuji of Aizu, and Ieyasu, the young general from Mikawa.

Moriuji revered the prior chief priest at the Tennei Temple (affiliated with the  Sōtō sect of Buddhism) in Aizu named Zennyo.  This was not only for reasons of faith, but because an individual supported by Moriuji who had committed a crime was pardoned through the mediation of Zennyo.

It is uncertain whether Moriuji had an interest in sexual relations with other men.  Historical records indicate it was to discover talent, but it is stated there were regularly between fifty and sixty young people assembled in the family.  During this free time, he would listen to their stories and promote promising ones to become bushō.  Among the group, there was a child near adulthood.  Many praised his intellect, but Moriuji refused to promote him.  After becoming an adult, he served as an ordinary bushi.  When Moriuji’s retainers inquired as to the reason for this outcome, Moriuji laughingly replied that if a person acts as an adult while a child, then he will act as an elder while an adult.  It is the same as if young people are spoiled, they will turn sour.

In his later years, Date Terumune proposed to Moriuji that he adopted Terumune’s second son, Date Kojirō, after he grows up, whereupon Moriuji exchanged a promise to do so.  During the succession struggle in the Ashina family in the wake of Moriuji’s death, Terumune and Terumune’s eldest son, Date Masamune, requested the Ashina to honor the promise such that Kojirō become the successor to Moriuji.  The Ashina, however refused owing to the fact that the band of retainers in the clan had since strengthened their relationship with the Satake clan.  This led to a deterioration of the relationship between the Ashina and the Date, becoming a factor in Masamune’s conflicts with the Ashina and Satake clans.