Lifespan: Eishō 6 (1509) to 2/10 of Tenbun 22 (1553)
Rank: sengoku daimyō
Title: Lieutenant of Outer Palace Guards of the Left Division (honorary)
Bakufu: Muromachi – Deputy Military Governor of Echigo
Lord: Uesugi Sadazane
Father: Nagao Tamekage
Adoptive Father: Uesugi Sadazane
Mother: Daughter of the Jōjō clan
Siblings: Harukage, sister (formal wife of Kaji Harutsuna), Sentō-in (formal wife of Nagao Masakage), Kageyasu, Kagefusa, sister (wife of Jōjō Yorifusa), Kagetora (Uesugi Kenshin)
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Uesugi Sadazane
Children: Saruchiyo, Kagetora (adopted – younger brother)
Nagao Harukage served as a sengoku daimyō during the Sengoku period.
Harukage was born as the son of Nagao Tamekage, the deputy military governor of Echigo Province. His mother came from the Jōjō clan. He was a nephew treated like a son of Uesugi Sadazane, the military governor of Echigo. Harukage wed the daughter of Sadazane and received one of the characters in his name from Sadazane, adopting the name of Sadakage. Later, after receiving one of the characters in his name from Ashikaga Yoshiharu (the twelfth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu), he adopted the name of Harukage.
Succession to the clan
After the retirement of his father, Tamekage, on 8/3 of 1540, headship of the clan transferred to Harukage. Harukage was appointed the lord of Kasugayama Castle and the deputy military governor of Echigo.
Unlike his father, Tamekage, Harukage adopted peaceful policies and aimed to maintain harmony with the kokujin, or provincial families of influence, within his territory. He achieved limited success in suppressing conflicts in Echigo. Nevertheless, Uesugi Sadazane did not have a natural heir, so he considered a proposal to adopt the young son (named Tokimunemaru) of Date Tanemune, a sengoku daimyō and head of the Date clan of Mutsu Province. The controversy surrounding this proposal led to the Tenbun Conflict causing upheaval in Echigo and Harukage could not contain the Nakajō clan. Aided by internal conflict in the Date clan, Harukage blocked the Echigo-Uesugi from restoring their authority, but Kuroda Hidetada launched a rebellion that further destabilized Echigo.
Rise of Nagao Kagetora
In the midst of these circumstances, his younger brother, Torachiyo (who had earlier entered a temple below the castle), returned to secular life and became the lord of Tochio Castle. Torachiyo was the childhood name of Kagetora who later became known as Uesugi Kenshin. After quelling a rebellion and achieving notoriety within the family, some of the retainers desired to back Kagetora (Harukage’s lineal son, Saruchiyo, died early), causing a rupture of the Nagao family.
In the twelfth month of 1548, via the mediation of Sadazane, Harukage transferred headship of the clan to Kagetora and retired.
In the second month of 1550, Sadazane died without an heir so Kagetora was recognized by Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu) as the sovereign of Echigo Province.
On 2/10 of 1553, he died at the age of forty-two.
According to documents from Kenshin and other historical records, Harukage was known to have been frail of health and more interested in the arts than battle. Moreover, according to some later accounts, Kagetora killed Harukage and forcibly took over the clan, but this differs from many other accounts and is regarded as a falsehood.