Miyoshi Yoshitsugu


Miyoshi Clan

Miyoshi Yoshitsugu

Kawachi Province

Lifespan:  Tenbun 18 (1549) to 11/16 of Tenshō 1 (1573)

Rank:  bushō, daimyō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Master of the Eastern Capital Office

Clan:  Sogō → Miyoshi

Bakufu:  Muromachi

Lord:  Ashikaga Yoshiteru → Ashikaga Yoshihide → Oda Nobunaga → Ashikaga Yoshiaki

Father:  Sogō Kazumasa

Adoptive Father:  Miyoshi Nagayoshi

Mother:  Daughter of Kujō Tanemichi

Siblings:  Yoshitsugu, Matsura Magohachirō (Nobuteru), Sogō Masayuki

Wife:  [Formal]  Daughter of Ashikaga Yoshiharu

Children:  Senchiyo, daughter (wife of Kaji Hizen), Yoshikado, Yoshishige, Nagamoto (?)

Miyoshi Yoshitsugu served as a bushō, daimyō, and sengoku daimyō of Kawachi Province during the Sengoku period.  He was the last head of the main branch of the Miyoshi clan.

In 1549, Yoshitsugu was born as the son of Sogō Kazumasa (the younger brother of Miyoshi Nagayoshi – the sengoku daimyō of the Kinai and Awa Province).  Initially, he was named Sogō Shigemasa.  This was followed by a series of names, including Sogō Shigeyoshi, Miyoshi Yoshimasa, Miyoshi Yoshishige, and, finally, Miyoshi Yoshitsugu.  For purposes of this profile, his final name of Yoshitsugu is used throughout all sections.

Succession to the clan

In the fourth month of 1561, his father, Kazumasa, suddenly died while Yoshitsugu was still in his youth.  In the wake of Kazumasu’s demise, Miyoshi Nagayoshi promised, on 5/1 with the elders of the Sogō family, and, on 7/20 with the nursing mother, that he would raise him.  In the eighth month of 1563, Miyoshi Yoshioki, an elder cousin of Yoshitsugu and designated heir of Yoshinaga, died early, so Yoshinaga adopted Yoshitsugu and Yoshitsugu changed his surname from Sogō to Miyoshi.

At the time, other candidates as Yoshinaga’s successor included his second son, Atagi Fuyuyasu and his son, Atagi Nobuyasu, in addition to the three sons of Yoshinaga’s next younger brother, Miyoshi Jikkyū.  Owing to the fact that Nagayoshi adopted the only son of Kazumasu rather than one of Jikkyū’s sons who carried the Miyoshi surname, the Sogō family had to adopt Jikkyū’s second son, Masayasu.  The reason why Yoshitsugu was chosen as the successor to Nagayasu based on these adoptive relationships for purposes of succession owed to the relationship of the Miyoshi with the Kujō family.  The Kujō family was in conflict with the Konoe family who had tendered the formal wives to two generations of the shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu (to Ashikaga Yoshiharu and Ashikaga Yoshiteru).  Nagayasu countered this by having an adopted daughter wed Kazumasa.  The close relationship between the Kujō and Miyoshi families was the reason that he pushed Yoshitsugu as the successor.

On 6/22 of 1564, Miyoshi Nagayasu and Matsunaga Hisamichi led 4,000 soldiers on a march to Kyōto.  Together with Hirohashi Kunimitsu (the Chief Councilor of State), Kiyohara Edakata (the Minister of the Sovereign’s Household), and Takeuchi Sueharu (of the Third Rank), and, on 6/23, met with Yoshiteru to receive permission for the family succession.  Thereafter, Nagayoshi became seriously ill, so quickly departed from Kyōto and returned to Iimoriyama Castle in Kawachi.  After the death of Nagayoshi in the seventh month, Yoshitsugu succeeded his adoptive father as the head of the clan with the support of the Miyoshi Group of Three (Miyoshi Sōi, Miyoshi Nagayasu, and Iwanari Tomomichi) as guardians and became the head of the Miyoshi family in name and in fact.

Conspiracy and enmity involving Matsunaga Hisahide and the Miyoshi Group of Three

At the time of succession, Matsunaga Hisahide (a senior retainer) and the Miyoshi Group of Three served as the mainstays of the Miyoshi family.  In the midst of instability following the early death of the eldest son of Nagayoshi, Miyoshi Yoshioki, in addition to the purging of Atagi Fuyuyasu, the power base of the youthful Yoshitsugu was weak when he took over as head of the family.

On 5/1 of Eiroku 8 (1565), Yoshitsugu received one of the characters from the name of Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the shōgun), adopting the name of Yoshishige.  Based on a petition by Yoshiteru to Emperor Ōgimachi, Yoshitsugu was conferred the title of Master of the Eastern Capital Office.  On the evening of 5/18, however, Yoshitsugu arrived to Kyōto accompanied by an army of nearly 10,000 soldiers.  On the next day, the Miyoshi Group of Three and Matsunaga Hisamichi (Hisahide’s son) launched a surprise attack against the nijō-gosho, or the palace of the shōgun, killing him in an event known as the Eiroku Incident.  Thereafter, they ousted the Christian missionaries from the capital.

At the time of the army’s arrival, the atmosphere in Kyōto was not tense, while Yoshiteru was not alarmed at their presence as the forces marched through the capital.  This suggests that the killing of Yoshiteru may have occurred spontaneously.  In later eras, Matsunaga Hisahide was portrayed as the architect of the killing, but at the time of the event, Hisahide was not in the capital with Yoshitsugu and the others, but rather in Yamato Province, so did not participate in the attack.  Yoshitsugu, Miyoshi Nagayasu, and Hisamichi directed the army, so that Yoshitsugu can be viewed as one of the ringleaders of the killing of Yoshiteru.

Immediately after the assassination, he changed his first name from Yoshishige to Yoshitsugu.  Under one theory, the choice of the characters in the name of Yoshitsugu had a suggestive meaning.  Specifically, the character for “tsugu” means next, so by having that after the character for “yoshi” (which was the character used in the first names of a line of members of the Ashikaga shōgun family who stood at the highest rank in the order of military families), it is surmised that Yoshitsugu regarded himself as the head of a new political order in which the Ashikaga shōgun family was no longer necessary.

Before long, a falling out occurred between Matsunaga Hisahide and the Miyoshi Group of Three.  As the leaders of the Miyoshi family, the Group of Three backed Yoshitsugu and, on 11/16, forced their way into Iimoriyama Castle and murdered magistrates of Yoshitsugu including Nagasenoki Atsuyo and Kanayama Naganobu.  The Group of Three then transferred Yoshitsugu from Iimoriyama Castle to Takaya Castle in Kawachi, whereupon Yoshitsugu joined them in battle against Hisahide.  From beginning to end, the Group of Three enjoyed an advantage over the Matsunaga and, finally, after the Group of Three called upon Ashikaga Yoshihide (the younger cousin of Yoshiteru from Awa Province), as the leaders of the Miyoshi administration, the Group of Three and Shinohara Nagafusa pledged their allegiance to Yoshihide as the next shōgun, leaving Yoshitsugu disrespected.  This outcome bred dissatisfaction among the close associates of Yoshitsugu, whereupon a servant of Yoshitsugu named Kanayama Nobusada encouraged Yoshitsugu to cut ties with the Group of Three and Nagafusa and instead to conspire with Hisahide.  Once having agreed, on 2/16 of Eiroku 10 (1567), while pretending to deploy with Miyoshi Yasunaga and Yasumi Munefusa, Yoshitsugu took a small number of servants and fled from Takaya Castle, heading toward Sakai in Izumi Province to join forces with Hisahide.

Owing to Yoshitsugu’s youth and inexperience, the real power of the clan was wielded by Shinohara Nagafusa along with the Miyoshi Group of Three.  Meanwhile, although Ashikaga Yoshihide was the shōgun and commander-in-chief in name only, he treated Yoshitsugu coldly while Nagafusa, Yasunaga, and the Group of Three all served Yoshihide.  Dissatisfied with the situation, Kanayama Suruga-no-kami (Nobusada) encouraged Yoshitsugu to turn against them.  Suruga-no-kami was the son of the nursing mother of Yoshitsugu.  A letter from Shinohara Nagafusa to Kanayama Suruga-no-kami delivered just before Yoshitsugu fled touches upon a discussion that Yoshitsugu had with Nagafusa concerning his dissatisfaction with the Group of Three.  A letter from Yoshitsugu to Tsubai Masasada, a kokujin, or provincial landowner, in southern Yamashiro written after he fled noted the Group of Three were treacherous and he could not overlook the deep loyalty of Matsunaga Hisahide so he went against the Group of Three.

Based on the collusion of Yoshitsugu and Hisahide, the conflict between Hisahide and the Group of Three became slightly favorable to Hisahide, but the situation on the battlefield remained deadlocked and without the prospect of a decisive outcome.  In Yamato, Yoshitsugu fought against the Group of Three who combined with Tsutsui Junkei.  On 10/10, at the Battle at the Great Buddha of the Tōdai Temple, Matsunaga forces prevailed, providing an opportunity for Hisahide to recover his power.

Battles against Oda Nobunaga

In the ninth month of 1568, Oda Nobunaga marched upon the capital of Kyōto to install Ashikaga Yoshiaki (Yoshiteru’s younger brother) as the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  Matsunaga Hisahide and Yoshitsugu cooperated with Nobunaga during this event.  It is observed that Hisahide and Yoshitsugu created the conditions for Nobunaga to march upon the capital, but in view of their fate, this appears to have been an erroneous judgment on their part.

Following the surrender of Yoshitsugu, along with Hisahide, he received recognition of his rights to territory comprised of the northern half of Kawachi Province and Wakae Castle.  Meanwhile, owing to their resistance toward Nobunaga, the Miyoshi Group of Three lost their base and were forced to flee to Awa Province.  Ashikaga Yoshihide suddenly died before he could attempt a return to Kyōto.  In the first month of 1569, after the Miyoshi Group of Three traveled from Awa to the Kinai to attack Yoshiaki, Yoshitsugu joined with elements supporting Nobunaga in the Kinai to repel them.  This event is known as the Battle of Honkoku Temple.  In the third month of the same year, Yoshitsugu wed the younger sister of Yoshiaki through the intermediation of Nobunaga.

For a while thereafter, Yoshitsugu fought as a retainer of Nobunaga against his opponents such as the Miyoshi Group of Three in the Kinai, including at the Battle of Noda and Fukushima Castles.  From around 1571, Yoshitsugu joined with Hisahide in a revolt against Nobunaga, and joined a part of the Encirclement Campaign against Nobunaga.  In 1572, he prevailed in battle against allies of Nobunaga including Hatakeyama Akitaka and Hosokawa Akimoto (both married to younger sisters of Nobunaga) in Kawachi and Settsu provinces.

In the fourth month of 1573, however, the death by illness of Nobunaga’s most powerful rival, Takeda Shingen of Kai Province, was followed by counterattacks against the Oda army.  In the seventh month, Yoshiaki (Yoshitsugu’s older brother-in-law) was ousted from Kyōto by Nobunaga and the Muromachi bakufu collapsed.


After the ouster of Ashikaga Yoshiaki, Yoshitsugu provided him sanctuary in Wakae, angering Nobunaga.  In the eleventh month of 1573, acting upon orders of Nobunaga, Sakuma Nobumori led the Oda army to attack Wakae Castle.  Just prior to the attack, Yoshiaki had fled to Sakai.  Owing in part to betrayal of senior retainers known as the Wakae Group of Three, the castle fell, whereupon Yoshitsugu, together with his wife and child (Senchiyo), killed themselves.  Afterwards, his head was taken to Nobunaga.  This event is known as the Siege of Wakae Castle.  At the time of his demise, Yoshitsugu was twenty-five years old.  This marked the end of the sengoku daimyō lineage of the Miyoshi family.

In the authenticated biography of Oda Nobunaga known as the Shinchō-kōki, after stabbing his wife, he rushed out of the castle and, after felling numerous enemy soldiers, committed seppuku.  The author of the Shinchō-kōki, Ōta Gyūichi, praised Yoshitsugu for demonstrating unparalleled valor in the midst of a sorrowful scene.  Meanwhile, the Miyoshi Group of Three were defeated by the Oda and collapsed.  Hisahide surrendered so was saved, but later rebelled against Nobunaga and ultimately killed himself along with his son, Hisamichi, in a dramatic ending at the Siege of Shigisan Castle.


There is a genealogy of the Miyoshi clan kept in Iburijima of Kagawa Prefecture includes Yoshikado (the eldest son) and Yoshishige (the second son) of Yoshitsugu and their descendants.  According to this record, Yoshishige adopted the name of Ōkawa Ichitarō, and received support from Sogō Masayasu to flee to Iburijima.  His older brother, Yoshikado, fled to Awa Province and grew-up there, but, after Masayasu died in the Battle of Hetsugigawa, Yoshikado, accompanied by several tens of mounted soldiers, moved to Iburijima.  This led to a power-struggle against the Gōta clan, a local gōzoku, or wealthy landowner, in Iburijima.  In 1588, Yoshikado was shot by an arquebus, incurring serious injuries, after which he took his own life.  The son of Yoshikado’s grandson named Yoshikiyo (the son of Yoshikado’s eldest son named Masatsugu) received certification as the mandokoro, or official in charge of the administration of territories and general affairs, from the Ikoma clan, the lord of Sanuki Province.  He adopted the name of Sakuemon which was used for generations thereafter.  Yoshikado and his retainers frequented the Iburi-Hachiman Shrine on Iburijima where there is kept a votive picture tablet of him offering a written oath to the shrine.  He also had a third son named Miyoshi Nagamoto.

Yoshitsugu’s younger sister wed Tarao Tsunatomo, a member of the Wakae Group of Three who betrayed Yoshitsugu during the Siege of Wakae Castle.  Her son, Magokurō, was raised by Miyoshi Sōi.  He adopted the name of Miyoshi Ikegachi, served Oda Nobunaga, inherited the Miyoshi surname, and was granted a fief of 5,490 koku in Kawachi Province.  Owing to his contributions in battle against the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple, Nobunage awarded him a certificate of commendation, armor and helmet, a haori (jacket) for deployments, and a short sword manufactured by Aoe Yoshitsugu.  Later, he served Toyotomi Hideyoshi and was assigned to Hideyoshi’s formal wife referred to as Kitamandokoro.  During the time of the Battle of Sekigahara, he served under Toyotomi Hideyori in Ōsaka, but, after the war, owing to the defeat of the Toyotomi, he became a rōnin, or wandering samurai, and then became a retainer of Kuroda Nagamasa with whom he had earlier exchanges and received a fief of 2,000 koku.  At the Siege of Ōsaka, he served as a guide in Kawachi Province for the vanguard forces of the Kuroda army.  In 1621, Ikegachi left his son, Seitaka, behind, departed from the Kuroda family, and lived in seclusion at the Tenryū Temple in Saga in Kyōto.  However, an acquaintance named Asano Nagaakira that he made around the time that he served Kitamandokoro invited him to join the Hiroshima domain, and his descendants became retainers of the Hiroshima domain, serving important roles.  Miyoshi Fusataka, the seventh generation member of the Miyoshi family serving the Hiroshima domain, was the son of Asano Nagakata who inherited the Miyoshi family and served as a clan elder, indicating that the Miyoshi family achieved a high level of status within the Hiroshima domain.


After the demise of Yoshitsugu, the chef for the Miyoshi family was captured by Oda Nobunaga and became a servant of the Oda family.  According to one account, an individual with the surname of Tsubouchi who earlier served as a chef for Miyoshi Nagayoshi was captured by Nobunaga and recommended for a position by Nobunaga’s retainers.  Nobunaga then complained that Tsubouchi’s cooking was watery.  The next day, Tsubouchi made another meal that was acceptable to Nobunaga so he became a servant to the Oda.  At this time, however, Tsubouchi said that the meal served the day before had been prepared according to the tastes of the Miyoshi family.  He further defended the customs of the Miyoshi family, noting that, for five generations since the era of Miyoshi Yukinaga, the Miyoshi had served the Ashikaga shōgun family, handling the arrangements for each festival and with utmost humility preparing delicately flavored cuisine.

Based on this anecdote, it can be concluded that the Miyoshi family had prepared food for the upper class of society in Kyōto.  However, the source materials was written over one hundred years after the Sengoku period so it is of questionable authenticity.

Later assessments

One scholar notes that Yoshitsugu did not possess the skills of Nagayoshi, and he was burdened by  the conflict with Matsunaga Hisahide and the Miyoshi Group of Three, leading to a loss of support for the Miyoshi administration in the Kinai.  Consequently, it was rumored that this was the beginning of the end of the clan.  Another suggests many of the modern assessments casting Yoshitsugu in a negative light are incorrect, and a reevaluation of his life continues.  It is further noted that he was unable to transcend the role of a figurehead, and could not establish his own presence.  Finally, he is praised for having a noble ending as a bushi and as the last head of the Miyoshi family prior to its demise.  In the Shinchō-kōki, he is praised for his unparalleled fighting spirit, similar to the praise awarded to a famous general of the Takeda clan, Baba Nobuharu, who was killed in action at the Battle of Nagashino.

Another scholar observes that, based on Yoshitsugu’s leading of the memorial service for Nagayoshi, the preexisting order based on the Ashikaga bakufu had disintegrated, and he aimed for a new order led by the Miyoshi family.  Under this view, Yoshitsugu was an individual who endeavored to conquer the Ashikaga family.  Alternatively, there is an opinion that Yoshitsugu did not possess the actual abilities to achieve his aspirations.