Matsura Takanobu


Matsura Clan

Hizen Province

Matsura Takanobu

Lifespan:  Kyōroku 2 (1529) to 3/6 of Keichō 4 (1599)

Name Changes:  Takanobu → 道可

Other Names:  Genzaburō (common), Inzan, Ikkokusai (monk’s name)

Rank:  sengoku daimyō

Title:  Governor of Hizen

Lord:  Ōuchi Yoshitaka → Ōtomo Yoshishige (Sōrin) → Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Clan:  Hizen-Matsura

Father:  Matsura Okinobu

Children:  Shigenobu, Gotō Koreaki, Chikashi (known as Kurō, adopted by Matsura Chikashi (Munekane)), Nobuzane, daughter (wife of Shisa Sumimoto)

Matsura Takanobu served as a sengoku daimyō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  He was the twenty-fifth head of the Matsura clan based in Hizen Province.

The Matsura descended from the Saga-Genji.  Takanobu was born to the Hirado-Matsura, a cadet family of the Matsura clan.  The Matsura Group was an alliance of bands of retainers from families under the Matsura clan organized in the territory of the Matsura in Hizen.  This group did not have a leader which led to conflict between the Hatano of the Upper Matsura Group and the Matsura of the Lower Matsura Group (the Hirado-Matsura and the Aikōnoura-Matsura).

In the era of Takanobu’s father, Matsura Okinobu, strong ties to the Ōuchi clan enabled the Hirado-Matsura to solidify a superior position, but on 8/13 of Tenbun 10 (1541), Okinobu suddenly died.  At this time, Takanobu was only thirteen years old and had not yet attended his coming-of-age ceremony so was not ready to succeed his father.  This led to a period of instability in the family, but with the support of Koteda Yasumasa along with Hata Sakō and Hata 武, in 1543, he finally inherited the headship of the clan.  He received one of the characters from the name of Ōuchi Yoshitaka, adopted the name of Takano, and was appointed as the Governor of Hizen.

Takanobu studied under the Zen priests at the Fumon Temple and learned the military arts from Shida Nobusada of the Kashima-Shintō school of swordsmanship and Fujiwara Sōboku, in addition to etiquette from Ise Sadanobu.  He was skilled in playing the flute and enjoyed falconry.

Hirado bustled with many Chinese merchants and Chinese pirates, or wakō, to protect the merchants residing there.  Upon invitation of Takanobu in 1542, Ō Choku, who was called Gohō as the head of the pirates, resided on Mount Katsuo.  According to legend, he guided at sea a Portuguese galleon to Hirado.  Takanobu informed Ōtomo Yoshishige (who was his superior among the circle of lords in northern Kyūshū) and obtained permission to engage in the foreign trade which began by trading with the Portuguese.

In 1550, a Catholic priest from Spain named Francisco de Xavier departed from Kagoshima after evangelical activities were banned and moved to Hirado.  Takanobu permitted evangelical activities by missionaries in the same location so, from 1553 to 1561, Portuguese galleons came every year and Hirado flourished as a center of trade.  Takanobu prioritized the acquisition of weapons including arquebuses and cannons.  Although he treated the missionaries cordially, as an ardent follower of the Sōtō sect of Buddhism, he did not grow accustomed to Christianity so the proliferation of converts in the area caused friction.  In 1558, Takanobu ordered a Catholic priest in the Society of Jesus named Gaspar Vilela to leave Hirado.  In connection with his departure, local Buddhists burned down a Christian church. 

In 1561, a commercial dispute with Japanese merchants escalated into a clash with local bushi that resulted in the deaths of a group of Portuguese traders.  This is known as the Miyanomae Incident.  Thereafter, upon the invitation of a Christian daimyō named Ōmura Sumitada, the Portuguese moved their port of trade to Yokoseura.  Attacks with fire also occurred in Yokoseura so, in 1564, Takanobu earnestly sought the Portuguese galleons to come back to port and rebuilt the church.  In the next year, however, through mediation by Luís Fróis among others, the Portuguese galleons sailed to Fukudaura in the territory of Sumitada.  Once Nagasaki opened as a port of trade, commerce with the Portuguese in Hirado came to an end.

Having generated great wealth through trade, Takanobu ordered the manufacture of arquebuses and stockpiling of gunpowder in his territory.  Efforts were made to train arquebus infantry and expand armaments.  Backed by this military power, he took control of three bases of the wakō, or pirates from Japanese, Korean, and Chinese ethnicities who raided the coastlines of China and Korea from the 13th century to the 16th century, as well as the Kita-Matsura Peninsula.  Takanobu took an aggressive position with respect to neighboring daimyō such as the Arima and Ryūzōji clans.  In the course of frequent battles, he attacked the Shisa clan and some members of the Hata clan.  Through marriage and the placement of family members for adoption, he endeavored to strengthen ties among the Matsura Group.

In 1563, Gotō Takaakira submitted to the authority of Ryūzōji Takanobu so his second son, Gotō Koreaki, who was sent for adoption by the Takeo-Gotō, was ousted from the Gotō family by Gotō Ienobu, the son of Ryūzōji Takanobu.  Matsura Takanobu then attacked Iimori Castle and finally subdued Matsura Tango-no-kami Chikashi (Sōkin), the sixteenth head of the Aikōnoura-Matsura family who had been rivals of the Hirado-Matsura for years.  As a result of the settlement, Matsura Sakō (the son of Arima Haruzumi who had earlier been adopted by the Aikōnoura-Matsura family) was sent away to the Arida clan while, from the Hirado-Matsura family, Takanobu’s son, Kurō, was adopted by Tango-no-kami Chikashi and received the name of Chikashi (Matsura Tango-no-kami Kurō Chikashi).  By having Sōkin retire, the Aikōnoura-Matsura family became subservient to the Hirado-Matsura family.

In 1568, Takanobu transferred headship of the clan to his lineal heir, Matsura Shigenobu, but continued to hold a grip on power.  In 1571, he placed Iki under his control.

In 1581, Takanobu had his daughter wed Shisa Sumimoto, the younger brother of Shisa Sumimasa, the lord of Naoya Castle.  Takanobu attacked and destroyed Sumimasa’s son, Shisa Sumiharu, and placed the Shisa clan under his command.

As the influence of the Ōtomo family waned, the power of Ryūzōji Takanobu extended not only over Hizen but also into northern Kyūshū.  In 1584, however, at the Battle of Okitanawate, he was killed in the course of a defeat against the allied forces of the Shimazu and Arima clans.  This enabled the Matsura clan to maintain their independence of the Ryūzōji.

In 1587, Takanobu served in the Pacification of Kyūshū by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and received recognition of his rights to his landholdings.  Takanobu possessed written materials and precious utensils from China so, the next year, when he went to Kyōto for the first time, Hideyoshi requested to have a tea so, together with Sen no Rikyū, he displayed each of his tea utensils.

During the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign, Takanobu did not participate but his son joined the deployment.  In 1594, Hideyoshi requested Takanobu to oversee the shipments of rice provisions from Iki and the Gotō Islands in the East China Sea to Korea.  He was later praised for his contributions.

In 1597, Takanobu was given by Ansō Shuyō the monk’s name of Inzan at the Tainei Temple in Nagato Province.

In 1599, Takanobu died at his residence on Mount Katsuo in Hirado.  He was seventy-two years old.  His received the posthumous name of Sonshōin.

Despite possessing very limited military forces, Takanobu elevated the Hirado-Matsura clan to the status of sengoku daimyō.  He was a benevolent lord who forged a path to the early modern period (from the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the end of the Edo period), establishing the foundation of the Matsura clan while his son, Shigenobu, further extended the prosperity of the clan.