Kōno Michinao (Iyo-no-kami)

河野通直(伊予守)

Kōno Clan

Sengoku Daimyō

Iyo Province

Lifespan:  Eiroku 7 (1564) to 7/14 of Tenshō 15 (1587)

Other Names:  Ushifukumaru (childhood)

Rank:  bushō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Governor of Iyo

Bakufu:  Muromachi

Clan:  Kōno

Father:  Murakami Michiyasu (or Kōno Michiyoshi)

Adoptive Father:  Kōno Michinobu (son of Kōno Michinao (Danjō-shōhitsu))

Mother:  Tenyū Eiju (daughter of Shishido Takaie)

Adopted Children:  Michinori

Kōno Michinao (Iyo-no-kami) served as the last head of the Kōno clan who held the status of sengoku daimyō in Iyo Province in Shikoku.  He also carried the title of Governor of Iyo.  Kōno Michinao (Iyo-no-kami) who is the subject of this profile is a different individual from Kōno Michinao (Danjō-shōhitsu) who was the father of Iyo-no-kami’s adoptive father, Kōno Michinobu.

Michinao (Iyo-no-kami) may have been the son of Kōno Michiyoshi; however, under an alternate theory, he was born as the son of Murakami Michiyasu, a retainer of the Kōno and commander of the infamous Murakami navy who patrolled the Seto Inland Sea.  His mother was Tenyū Eiju (the daughter of Shishido Takaie and grandchild of Mōri Motonari) who later re-married to Kōno Michinobu, the former head of the Kōno clan.  This enabled Michinao to become the legitimate successor to the family.  Under this theory,  Michinao would have been a great-grandchild of Mōri Motonari.  Based on this blood relationship, prior to the Invasion of Shikoku, the Kōno family under Michinao benefited from the strong influence of the Mōri and Kobayakawa clans.

Kōno Michinobu (Governor of Iyo and Master of the Eastern Capital Office), did not have a natural heir, so he adopted Michinao and, in 1568, Michinao took over as the head of the family.  Owing to Michinao’s youth, his natural father, Michiyoshi, governed the clan until Michinao attained adulthood.  By this time, the Kōno clan was already in decline and contending with a rebellion by Ōno Naoyuki who had colluded with rival clans including the Ōtomo of Bungo Province in Kyūshū, as well as the Ichijō and Chōsokabe clans of neighboring Tosa Province in Shikoku.  Support from the Mōri clan of the western region of Honshū enabled the Kōno to maintain their autonomy.

While Michinao became a bushō in his youth, he possessed notable personal virtues that yielded moving tales.  Despite rebelling on repeated occasions, Ōno Naoyuki finally surrendered and pledged his support out of respect for Michinao’s character. After Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched the Invasion of Shikoku, leaders of the Kōno clan deliberated in Yuzuki Castle in Matsuyama whether to confront the attacking forces or retreat.  Upon the counsel of Kobayakawa Takakage, the Kōno surrendered to Kobayakawa forces about one month later.  On this occasion, upon hearing pleas for help from forty-five children in the castle, Michinao took the lead to meet with Takakage.  This anecdotal story is carved into a monument at the former site of Yuzuki Castle.

Although Michinao’s life was spared, the landholdings of the clan were seized and the era of the Kōno clan serving as a daimyō family in Iyo came to an end.  In 1587, Michinao died of illness at the base of Takakage in Takehara where his grave once worshiped by Takakage remains.  Michinao was succeeded by Kōno Michinori, adopted from Shishido Motohide.

Details of his demise

Previously, based on accounts that Michinao had a weak constitution, he is surmised to have naturally died of illness.  However, according to records of the Kōno family, on 7/9 of Tenshō 15 (1587), after departing from Iyo Province, he passed by the Arima hot springs and Mount Kōya on the way to Takehara but then died six days after his departure from Iyo.  Given the means of travel at the time, it would have been impossible to pass by the Arima hot springs and Mount Kōya (in the environs of Kyōto) and return to Takehara in six days.  Even more so for an individual who is in ill health.  Moreover, Kobayakawa Takakage had already been ordered to transfer to Kyūshū and would have been en route to his new territory without returning to Takehara, so Takehara would not have been a suitable choice for a daimyō to live in confinement after his landholdings had been seized.

Early in the seventh month, Toyotomi Hideyoshi would have traveled through the territories held by the Mōri and the Kobayakawa during the return from his deployment to Kyūshū.  Historical accounts from the Edo period pose a theory that Michinao was compelled by Hideyoshi and Mōri Terumoto to take his own life after being separated from his guardian, Takakage.  Around this same time, a sengoku daimyō in the Uwa District of Iyo named Saionji Kinhiro was slayed by the new recipient of his territory, Toda Katsutaka, a daimyō who served as the lord of Iyo-Ōzu Castle.  As such, the fate of Michinao may have been the result of the policies of the Toyotomi administration to sweep-up the former lords of Iyo as a means to eliminate any lingering resistance to their rule.