Lifespan: Tenbun 14 (1545) to 10/22 of Keichō 17 (1612)
Title: Chief of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards
Clan: Rokkaku branch of the Udagenji-Sasaki clan
Father: Rokkaku Yoshikata
Mother: Daughter of Hatakeyama Yoshifusa
Siblings: Yoshiharu, Yoshisada, sister (formal wife of Hatakeyama Yoshitsuna)
Children: Daughter (wife of Ōhara Takakata), daughter (wife of Rokkaku Sadaharu)
Rokkaku Yoshiharu served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō of southern Ōmi Province from the Sengoku to early Edo periods. Yoshiharu was the sixteenth head of the Rokkaku clan. He was also known as Rokkaku Yoshisuke.
In 1545, Yoshiharu was born as the eldest son of Rokkaku Yoshikata. His mother was the daughter of Hatakeyama Yoshifusa, a sengoku daimyō from Noto Province. Yoshikata had originally received the daughter of Yoshifusa as his formal wife, but she died early, so he then received her younger sister as a second wife. Yoshiharu was born to this second wife, who then also died early in 1547. Yoshiharu received one of the characters in his name from Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the thirteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.
In 1559, Yoshiharu became head of the Rokkaku clan following Yoshikata’s retirement. Nevertheless, Yoshikata continued to maintain a grip on power from behind the scenes. In 1560, Yoshiharu sought to oppose the Azai clan who had separated from the Rokkaku by promoting a marital alliance with the Saitō clan of Mino Province. This plan, however, upset Yoshikata, who reprimanded clan elders including Hirai Sadatake, Gamō Sadahide, Gotō Katatoyo, Fuse Kimio, and Fuse Komasada. Yoshiharu himself went to Mount Hankō and temporarily lived under reduced circumstances. In 1561, Yoshiharu created a common front with Hatakeyama Takamasa from Kawachi Province to attack the Miyoshi clan, and, under Yoshikata, joined his younger brother, Rokkaku Yoshisada, to deploy to the capital.
On 10/1 of 1563, a particularly popular senior retainer of the Rokkaku clan, Gotō Katatoyo, and his son, Gotō Iki-no-kami were murdered inside of Kannonji Castle upon orders of Yoshiharu in an event known as the Kannonji Disturbance. This event shook the family so that some individuals even switched their allegiance to a rival of the Rokkaku – Azai Nagamasa. A band of retainers who were discontent with the killings temporarily ousted Yoshiharu and his father, Yoshikata, from Kannonji Castle. Through the mediation of senior retainers named Gamō Sadahide and Gamō Katahide (father and son), Yoshiharu and Yoshikata were able to return to Kannonji. This series of events highlighted the significant influence of the Gotō clan as well as vulnerability in the base of authority of the Rokkaku clan. The transition of the Rokkaku clan from the status of shugo daimyō to sengoku daimyō stalled. There is also a theory that, in the context of the confrontational relationship between Yoshikata and Yoshiharu, Yoshiharu and his close associates purged the Gotō (who were close to Yoshikata) as a means to reduce the influence of Yoshikata on clan affairs.
In 1565, the Miyoshi Group of Three murdered Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun) in Kyōto in an event known as the Eiroku Incident. After this event, Yoshiharu offered sanctuary to Yoshiteru’s younger brother, Ichijōin Kakukei (later known as Ashikaga Yoshiaki) who came in exile, but, after the Miyoshi Group of Three solicited Yoshiharu on the condition of the role of deputy shōgun, Yoshiharu accepted by expelling Kakukei.
On 4/28 of 1567, Yoshiharu was compelled to jointly sign the Code of the Rokkaku Clan, a set of provincial laws to constrain the authority of the lord. In addition, Yoshiharu had to transfer the headship of the clan to his younger brother, Rokkaku Yoshisada.
Period of decline
In 1568, Yoshiharu formed a united front with his rival, the Miyoshi clan, to resist an invasion by Oda Nobunaga. With the support of Iwanari Tomomichi and others from the Miyoshi Group of Three, Yoshiharu aimed to make a stiff resistance. Although the invading forces at once turned back, the following year, Nobunaga took advantage of weakness in the defense structure of the Rokkaku to attack again. After violent clashes, during the Battle of Kannonji Castle, Mitsukuri Castle in which Yoshiharu and Yoshikata had holed up was toppled.
The Rokkaku forces moved their base to Ishibe Castle in the Kōga District. Thereafter, the Rokkaku acted in tandem with the allied forces of the Azai and Asakura to cause ongoing problems for the Oda army such as, in the autumn of 1570, at the Battle of Noda and Fukushima Castles. Upon request of Nobunaga, the Imperial court intervened and a settlement was reached between the Oda on one side and the Rokkaku, Azai, and Asakura on the other. However, after reorganizing his forces, Nobunaga unilaterally rejected the settlement and then proceeded to destroy the Asakura and the Azai, after which Yoshiharu reconciled again with the Oda.
Thereafter, from their base in Ishibe Castle, Yoshiharu and Yoshikata set the stage with Ashikaga Yoshiaki (the Ashikaga shōgun family), the Uesugi clan, and the Kai-Takeda clan to continue the resistance against Nobunaga, but, in the course of unification of the country, their presence gradually recedes from historical accounts.
After the demise of Nobunaga, during the era of the Toyotomi administration, Yoshiharu attended as an instructor of archery and horsemanship at a military training exercise known as inuōmono in which mounted archers engaged in dog-shooting, typically with blunted arrows. The event was sponsored by Toyotomi Hidetsugu, the kanpaku, or Chief Advisor to the Emperor. Yoshiharu served along with Ashikaga Yoshiaki and Shina Yoshikane as a group of close associates to engage in conversation, known as the otogishū. After the death of Hideyoshi, Yoshiharu served as an archery instructor to Toyotomi Hideyori. He may also have entered the priesthood.
Yoshiharu died on 10/22 of Keichō 17 (1612) at the age of sixty-eight.