Hosokawa Yūsai


Hosokawa Clan

Yamashiro Province

Hosokawa Yūsai

Lifespan:  4/22 of Tenbun 3 (1534) to 8/20 of Keichō 15 (1610)

Rank:  bushō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Junior Fifth Rank (Lower) and Vice Minister of Military Affairs, Junior Fourth Rank (Lower) and Chamberlain, High Priest of 大蔵卿, Senior Second Rank (honorary)

Clan:  Mitsubuchi → Hosokawa (Hosokawa-Keibu family) → Nagaoka → Higo-Hosokawa

Bakufu:  Muromachi, Edo

Lord:  Ashikaga Yoshiteru → Ashikaga Yoshiaki → Oda Nobunaga → Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Tokugawa Ieyasu

Father:  Mitsubuchi Harukazu

Adoptive Father:  Hosokawa Haruhiro

Mother:  Chikenin (daughter of Kiyohara Nobukata)

Siblings:  宮川尼, Mitsubuchi Fujihide, sister (wife of Sasaki Etchū-no-kami), Fujitaka (Yūsai), Gyokuhō Jōsō, Umejirushi Motooki, Nagaoka Yoshishige, sister (wife of Tsuchimikado Hisanaga) 

Wife:  Numata Jakō (Kōjuin)

Children:  Tadaoki (Sansai), Okimoto, Iya, Yukitaka, Sen, Takayuki, Kaga, Kuri

Hosokawa Yūsai served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  Having a strong interest in cultural arts, Yūsai was also known as a leading cultural figure of his era owing to his knowledge of the literary arts and the tea ceremony.  In his childhood, he was called Mankichi.  After his coming-of-age ceremony, he adopted the name of Fujitaka.  He is commonly known under his monk’s name of Yūsai Genshi.  Consistent with the time of usage, below he is first referred to as Fujitaka then, from 1582, as Yūsai after he adopted the name following the demise of his lord, Oda Nobunaga.

Similarities can be drawn with Inaba Yoshimichi, a contemporary of Yūsai who shared his combination of military prowess and knowledge of the cultural arts.  Both individuals also served a series of high-profile lords, attesting to their adaptability in the midst of turbulent change.

Fujitaka initially served Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  After Yoshiteru was assassinated in 1565 in the Eiroku Incident, Fujitaka obtained support from Oda Nobunaga to serve Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the fifteenth and final shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu following a march upon Kyōto to install Yoshiaki as the next shōgun in the ninth month of 1568.  After a falling out between Nobunaga and Yoshiaki leading to the ouster of Yoshiaki from Kyōto in 1573, Fujitaka pledged his allegiance to Nobunaga, changed his surname to Nagaoka, and became a daimyō with a fief of 110,000 koku in Miyazu in Tango Province.

Following the unexpected death of Nobunaga in a coup d’état in the sixth month of 1582, Fujitaka underwent the rites of tonsure, adopted the name of Yūsai Genshi, and transferred headship of the clan to his eldest son, Hosokawa Tadaoki.  Thereafter, he was relied upon by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, becoming the founder of the Higo-Hosokawa daimyō family.  Yūsai received a compilation of secret interpretations of waka (originally arranged upon orders of the Emperor) known as the kokin-denju from Sanjōnishi Saneki, a noble and successor to the Nijō school of waka poetry.  Owing to his knowledge of the art, Yūsai fostered the success of waka in the early modern period (from the Azuchi-Momoyama period into the Edo period).

Service as a direct retainer of the Muromachi bakufu

On 4/22 of Tenbun 3 (1534), Fujitaka was born as the second son of Mitsubuchi Harukazu in Higashiyama in Kyōto.  In 1540, at the age of seven, he was adopted by Hosokawa Mototsune, the military governor of one-half of Izumi Province.  Mototsune was the older brother of Harukazu.  However, under a recent theory, he was adopted by Hosokawa Haruhiro, a close retainer (along with Harukazu) of Ashikaga Yoshiharu (the twelfth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu).  In 1546, Fujitaka received one of the characters from the name of Ashikaga Yoshifuji (later known as Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun) and adopted the name of Fujitaka.  He served Yoshiteru as a direct retainer of the bakufu and, in 1552, was invested with the title of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower) and Vice Minister of Military Affairs.

In 1565, Yoshiteru was killed by the Miyoshi Group of Three in the Eiroku Incident.  After his younger brother, Ichijōin Kakukei (later known as Ashikaga Yoshiaki) was incarcerated at the Kōfuku Temple, Fujitaka joined with his older brother, Mitsubuchi Fujihide, along with Isshiki Fujinaga, Wada Koremasa, Niki Yoshimasa, and Komeda Motomasa, to rescue Kakukei.  Fujitaka worked assiduously to gain backing for Yoshiaki from Rokkaku Yoshikata of Ōmi, Takeda Yoshimune of Wakasa, and Asakura Yoshikage of Echizen.  At this time, he was impoverished, unable to afford even the oil for his lantern, and, out of necessity, depended on a shrine to supply oil for his light.

Later, Fujitaka coordinated through Akechi Mitsuhide to request support from Oda Nobunaga of Owari.  In the ninth month of 1568, when Nobunaga backed Yoshiaki and marched upon Kyōto to install him as the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, Fujitaka followed him.  Fujitaka recaptured Shōryūji Castle in Yamashiro Province from Iwanari Tomomichi – one of the members of the Miyoshi Group of Three responsible for eliminating Yoshiteru, and, thereafter, engaged in battles in Yamato and Settsu provinces.

Service as a retainer of Oda Nobunaga

After the conflict between Yoshiaki and Nobunaga broke out, in the third month of 1573, as Nobunaga led his forces to Kyōto, Fujitaka came to meet him and express his desire to support Nobunaga.  Based on letters from Nobunaga, Fujitaka secretly informed Nobunaga that Yoshiaki was intent on betraying Nobunaga.  Following the ouster of Yoshiaki in the seventh month, Fujitaka was granted as his fief the area of Nagaoka (Nishioka) in Yamashiro Province to the west of the Katsura River whereupon he adopted the name of Nagaoka Fujitaka.

In the eighth month, Fujitaka, along with Ikeda Katsumasa and Mitsubuchi Fujihide, joined the besieging army of Kinoshita Hideyoshi and contributed to the defeat of Iwanari Tomomichi at the Second Siege of Yodoko Castle after  Tomomichi responded to calls from Ashikaga Yoshiaki to oppose Nobunaga.  Thereafter, as a bushō under Nobunaga, Fujitaka engaged in battles across the Kinai.

Fujitaka was active in the Siege of Takaya Castle, the subjugation of the Echizen Ikkō-ikki, the Battle of Ishiyama, and the Conquest of Kishū, along with serving as a yoriki, or security officer, for Akechi Mitsuhide, the commander-in-chief for operations in the Sanin Region, including at the Siege of Kuroi Castle.  In 1577, Fujitaka joined Mitsuhide in defeating Matsunaga Hisahide, a rebellious retainer of Oda Nobunaga, at the Siege of Shigisan Castle in Yamato Province.

In 1578, upon the recommendation of Nobunaga, Fujitaka’s eldest son, Hosokawa Tadaoki, wed (as his formal wife) Mitsuhide’s third daughter named Tama.  After converting to Christianity, she adopted the name of Gracia.  As yoriki of Mitsuhide, in 1580, the Nagaoka family singularly invaded Tango Province, but was subject to counterattack by the Isshiki clan (the military governors of Tango) and defeated.  Later, with the addition of forces from Mitsuhide, the Nagaoka finally pacified the southern portion of Tango.  After Nobunaga recognized Fujitaka’s rights to the southern half of the province comprised of the Kasa and Yosa districts, he established a base at Miyazu Castle.  The northern half of the province, comprised of the Naka, the Takeno, and the Kumano districts was recognized by Nobunaga as territory belonging to Isshiki Mitsunobu (Yoshisada) of the former military governor family of Tango.  Fujitaka joined Mitsunobu for the Conquest of Kōshū.

As an indication of Nobunaga’s goodwill toward Fujitaka, in a sealed letter dated 1/12 of Tenshō 8 (1580), Nobunaga indicated that he would share with Fujitaka as his retainer a portion of the meat from a whale caught near the Chita Peninsula of Owari which was going to be presented to the Imperial Court.

After the Honnō Temple Incident

After the Honnō Temple Incident in which Oda Nobunaga died in a coup d’état launched by Akechi Mitsuhide, Fujitaka refused repeated requests from Mitsuhide, his superior and a relative, and proceeded to undergo the rites of tonsure, adopt the monk’s name of Yūsai Genshi, retire to Tanabe Castle, and transfer headship of the clan to his eldest son, Tadaoki.  Similarly, Tsutsui Junkei, who also had close relations with Mitsuhide, refused to participate in battle.  At a military disadvantage vis-à-vis his opponents, Mitsuhide was defeated and killed at the Battle of Yamazaki.  Under one theory, Mitsuhide was originally a retainer of Yūsai, and based on this original hierarchy, it was against Yūsai’s conscience to come under the command of Mitsuhide.  Meanwhile, the Isshiki clan in control of northern Tango joined with the Akechi.  Upon orders of Hideyoshi, in the ninth month of 1582, the Hosokawa clan killed Isshiki Yoshisada and annexed the territory of the Isshiki including Yuminoki Castle.  Yoshisada was Yūsai’s son-in-law owing to his marriage to Yūsai’s daughter, Iya.

Thereafter, he was heavily relied upon by Hashiba Hideyoshi (later known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi) and, in 1586, was granted a fief of 3,000 koku in Nishigaoka in Yamashiro to cover living expenses in Kyōto.  Yūsai participated as a bushō in the Conquest of Kishū in 1585 and the Pacification of Kyūshū in 1587.  In the sixth month of 1592, at the Umekita Uprising (an uprising by retainers of the Shimazu clan in the Hishikari District of Ōsumi Province in southern Kyūshū), Yūsai headed toward neighboring Satsuma Province as an emissary for Hideyoshi and conducted a reformation of the landholdings under the direct control of the Shimazu family in event known as the Satsuma Retribution.  Owing to these contributions, in 1595, he received an increase to his fief of 3,000 koku in Ōsumi Province.  Later, transferred to Fuchū in Echizen Province.

Yūsai, together with Sen-no-rikyū and Mokujiki Ōgo, were recognized cultural figures treated cordially as close associates of Hideyoshi.  Yūsai’s eldest son, Tadaoki (later known as Sansai Sōritsu), also cultivated deep knowledge of the tea ceremony, becoming a top disciple of Sen-no-rikyū and founding the Sansai style of the tea ceremony.  Meanwhile, Yūsai maintained friendly relations with Tokugawa Ieyasu, and, after the death of Hideyoshi in the eighth month of 1598, he drew closer to Ieyasu.

In the sixth month of 1600, Tadaoki participated in the Conquest of Aizu led by Ieyasu, taking most of his forces with him, leaving Tanabe Castle to be defended by his father, (Yūsai), his younger brother (Hosokawa Yukitaka), and his cousin (Mitsubuchi Mitsuyuki – Yūsai’s nephew) commanding a garrison of only 500 soldiers.  In the seventh month, Ishida Mitsunari raised arms as the leader of the Western Army in a bid to eliminate Ieyasu.  In Ōsaka, after being surrounded, Tadaoki’s wife (Gracia) set fire to her residence, taking her own life.  Meanwhile, an army of 15,000 soldiers led by Onogi Shigekatsu and Maeda Shigekatsu laid siege to Tanabe Castle, an event known as the Siege of Tanabe Castle.  Under the command of Yūsai, the garrison managed a stiff defense, but the imbalance in forces became more attenuated, while there was no prospect for the arrival of reinforcements.  In fighting that began from 7/19, the castle was on the brink of falling by the end of the same month.

Among the besieging army, however, were numerous disciples of Yūsai in the literary arts and tea ceremony.  These men revered Yūsai as a master and preeminent authority in cultural arts of his era, dampening their enthusiasm to attack.  Yūsai had inherited from Sanjōnishi Saneeda the kokin-denju, a collection of interpretations ofwaka, or classical Japanese poetry, that were secretly communicated for generations by masters to their disciples to convey the essence of these writings.  Disciples of Yūsai including Hachijōnomiya Toshihito-shinnō, in addition to his older brother, Emperor Goyōzei, feared the potential killing of Yūsai and loss of the kokin-denju.  On two occasions, in the seventh and eighth months, Hachijōnomiya sent a messenger to advise the defenders to vacate the castle but Yūsai refused, informed the messenger of his will to fight to the end, and continued to defend the castle.  He gave a certificate evidencing the kokin compilation to Hachijōnomiya and a collection of twenty-one waka to the Imperial Court.

Finally, the emperor dispatched as imperial messengers high-ranking nobles (who were also disciples of Yūsai in the cultural arts) including Sanjōnishi Saneeda (the Chief Councilor of State), Nakanoin Michikatsu (Vice Councilor of State), and Karasumaru Mitsuhiro (Lieutenant General), to visit both the Eastern and Western armies at Tanabe Castle and order a settlement.  As an imperial order, Yūsai and Yukitaka were obliged to comply and, on 9/18, vacated Tanabe Castle and were taken to the base of the enemy commander (Maeda Shigekatsu) at Kameyama Castle in Tanba Province.

The Western army prevailed in this battle, but 15,000 soldiers from Tanba and Tajima, including Onogi Shigekatsu and other commanders, were pinned down at Tanabe Castle for the duration of the siege.  This prevented these forces from participating in the main Battle of Sekigahara that occurred just two days after surrender of the castle, resulting in nationwide defeat for the Western Army.  At Sekigahara, Tadaoki fought on the front lines against the army of Ishida Mitsunari, and, after the war, received a large fief of 390,000 koku in the Kokura domain in Buzen Province in northern Kyūshū.  Thereafter, the Nagaoka clan reverted to the Hosokawa clan while the Nagaoka surname continued as a branch of the Hosokawa with family members serving as senior retainers of the Hosokawa.  Yūsai then enjoyed his latter years peacefully in Yoshida in Kyōto.  On 8/20 of Keichō 15 (1610), he died at his residence in the town of Kurumaya in the Sanjō area of Kyōto at the age of seventy-seven.  After his demise, Yūsai’s fief of 6,000 koku and other assets were put in order and inherited by his second son, Hosokawa Okimoto, to supplement the start of the Motegi domain in Shimotsuke with a fief of 10,000 koku and 3,000 koku to cover the retirement expenses in Kyōto from the Hosokawa family of Nagaoka Kyūmu (Hosokawa Tadataka), Yūsai’s grandson who, in 1604, was removed from the line of succession of Tadaoki.


Yūsai studied military arts including swordsmanship, and cultivated a deep knowledge of numerous cultural arts such as waka and renga (classical literature), sadō (tea ceremony) and sarugaku (theatrical drama) in addition to kemari (kickball), to igo (the board game of go), and traditional cuisine.  He was renowned as the leading cultural figure of his era.  Yūsai learned swordmanship from a master named Tsukahara Bokuden.  He received certifications from Hōkabe Sadahiro and Yoshida Sekka of the Heki school of archery, as well as from Takeda Nobutoyo of the Takeda school of archery and horsemanship, demonstrating his aptitude for military arts.  Physically strong, there is an anecdote that he grabbed by the horns and tossed down a bull that came charging on the road in Kyōto.   Along with his son, Tadaoki, Yūsai also excelled in swimming.

In the sixth month of 1574, Yūsai received the kokin-denju from Sanjōnishi Saneki on the tower of the Shōryūji Castle.  It was temporarily inherited by the Nijō poetic school until returned to Saneki’s son, Sanjōnishi Kinkoku and then to his son, Sanjōnishi Saneeda (Saneki’s grandson).  At the time, he was the only successor to the kokin-denju.  At the Battle of Sekigahara, although, upon imperial orders of Emperor Goyōzei, Yūsai was rescued, there were concerns that succession of the kokin-denju would be terminated.

Yūsai’s followers included Hachijōnomiya Toshihito-shinnō (the younger brother Emperor Goyōzei), Nakanoin Michikatsu (a noble and Vice Councilor of State), and Karasumaru Mitsuhiro (Lieutenant General).  Matsunaga Teitoku and Kinoshita Katsutoshi also received instruction from Yūsai.  Shimazu Yoshihisa, the sengoku daimyō and sixteenth head of the Shimazu clan, was one of the individuals who sought to directly receive the kokin-denju from Yūsai and had exchanges with Yūsai from the time that Yūsai served Ashikaga Yoshiaki.

The room in which Hachijōnomiya received the kokin-denju from Yūsai was, in the Edo period, moved and rebuilt as the Kaida Teahouse at the Nagaoka-Tenman Shrine on land owned by the Hachijōnomiya family.  It remained on the grounds of the Nagaoka-Tenman Shrine until bestowed by the Katsura family upon the Hosokawa family in 1871.  Later, in 1912, it was moved and rebuilt at the Suizenji-jōjuen (a daimyō garden) designed by a grandson of Yūsai named Hosokawa Tadatoshi of the Kumamoto domain.   In 2010, a ceremony was held in Kumamoto marking the 400th anniversary since the death of Yūsai and, in 2011, a bronze statue of Yūsai was installed in the garden.

After Ashikaga Yoshiaki had been ousted from his position as the fifteenth and final shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, there was no one to preside over his funeral ceremony, so, unable to just watch without taking action, Yūsai conducted the service.