Rokkaku Yoshikata


Rokkaku Clan

Ōmi Province

Rokkaku Yoshikata

Lifespan:  Daiei 1 (1521) to 3/14 of Keichō 3 (1548)

Name Changes:  Yoshikata → Jōtei

Other Names:  Shirō (common)

Rank:  bushō, shugo daimyōsengoku daimyō

Title:  Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Master of the Eastern Capital Office

Clan:  Rokkaku (descended from the Udagenji-Sasaki family)

Bakufu:  Muromachi – military governor of Ōmi

Lord:  Ashikaga Yoshiharu → Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Father:  Rokkaku Sadayori

Mother:  Gofuku-mae

Siblings:  Sister (second wife of Hosokawa Harumoto), Yoshikata, Yoshiyori, sister (formal wife of Toki Yoriaki), Kita-no-kata, sister (wife of Takeda Nobutoyo)

Wife:  Daughter of Hatakeyama Yoshifusa

Children:  Yoshiharu, Yoshisada, daughter (formal wife of Hatakeyama Yoshitsuna)

Rokkaku Yoshikata served as a bushō and shugo daimyō in southern Ōmi province during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  Yoshikata was the military governor of Ōmi, a sengoku daimyō of southern Ōmi, and the fifteenth head of the Rokkaku clan.  He was also the lord of Kannonji Castle and held the court titles of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower) and Master of the Eastern Capital Office.  As noted below, Yoshikata adopted the monk’s name of Jōtei in 1557 after transferring headship of the clan to his son, Rokkaku Yoshiharu, but continued leading the clan for a period of years with his son.

Clan succession

In 1521, Yoshikata was born as the son of Rokkaku Sadayori.  Yoshikata received one of the characters in his name from Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the twelfth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.

In the latter years of Sadayori, Yoshikata jointly governed with his father.  Together, Sadayori and Yoshikata supported Hosokawa Harumoto (the husband of Yoshikata’s elder sister) and fought against Miyoshi Nagayoshi at the Battle of Eguchi in the sixth month of 1549.  In 1552, after the death of Sadayori, Yoshikata succeeded him as the head of the clan.  The Rokkaku family was the military governor of Ōmi including the Kōka District.  In addition, the Rokkaku indirectly governed three of four districts in Iga Province.

In 1557, Yoshikata transferred headship of the clan to his eldest son, Rokkaku Yoshiharu, and retired.  He underwent the rites of tonsure and adopted the name of Jōtei, but continued to hold his grip on power until an event known as the Eiroku Collapse in 1568.

Conflicts with the Miyoshi and Azai clans

After the demise of Sadayori, Yoshikata continued support for Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun) and Hosokawa Harumoto by battling against Miyoshi Nagayoshi, but endured successive losses to the Miyoshi who had the upper hand in terms of military capabilities.  In 1558, after the Battle of Kitashirakawa, by mediating between Yoshiteru and Nagayoshi, Yoshiteru returned to Kyōto and saved face.  Azai Hisamasa of northern Ōmi exploited this opportunity by commencing an invasion of the Rokkaku territory but was repelled and the Azai clan came under the command of the Rokkaku.  As a means of reinforcing the subordinate relationship, Hisamasa’s eldest son received one of the characters of his name from Yoshikata, changing his name to Katamasa (later known as Nagamasa), and he received as his formal wife the daughter of Hirai Sadatake, a senior retainer of the Rokkaku.

In 1560, Azai Nagamasa began resistance against the Rokkaku clan.  In a bid to eliminate him, Yoshikata himself led a contingent of 25,000 forces to confront an army of 11,000 soldiers led by Nagamasa.  Despite their numerical superiority, the Rokkaku suffered a defeat at the ensuing Battle of Norada, losing 920 men in the conflict compared to 400 by the Azai.

Owing to this defeat, Yoshikata entered into an alliance with Saitō Yoshitatsu whom he formerly viewed as an enemy.  The Rokkaku engaged in repeated clashes with the Azai, but the situation on the battlefield was not promising.  The alliance with Tatsuoki appears to have been led by Yoshiharu (Yoshikata’s eldest son to whom he transferred headship of the clan).

Jōtei’s sister was married to Toki Yoriaki, the military governor of Mino Province and, in a letter, he opposes an alliance with the dubious Saitō clan who garnered control of Mino by usurping the Toki clan.  Jōtei showed his conservative nature in supporting the desire of the Toki clan to recover Mino given their position as allies since the Muromachi period.  Meanwhile, the Saitō were in a contentious relationship with the Oda and Asakura clans so Jōtei may have had practical concerns about the implications for the Rokkaku is drawn into that conflict.

Marching upon Kyōto and the Kannonji Disturbance

In 1561, after Hosokawa Harumoto was incarcerated by Miyoshi Nagayoshi, Jōtei responded by joining with Hatakeyama Takamasa and marched to Kyōto.  He clashed with Miyoshi Yoshioki (the eldest son of Nagayoshi) and a clan elder, Matsunaga Hisahide.  Although only for a temporary period, Jōtei succeeded in ousting the Miyoshi from Kyōto at the Battle of Shōgun-Jizōyama.  On 3/5 of 1562, Takamasa achieved a major victory over Miyoshi Jikkyū (the younger brother of Nagayoshi) in Kawachi Province that resulted in Jikkyū’s death at the Battle of Kumeda.

On 3/6, Jōtei proceeded into the capital and, on 3/8, issued an order known as a tokuseirei requiring money brokers and creditors to provide debt relief, seizing control of Yamashiro Province.  However, after occupying Yamashiro, Jōtei did not move.  On 4/25, Takamasa urged him to move, but he continued to delay.  From 5/19 to 5/20, after the Hatakeyama army was destroyed at the Battle of Kyōkō Temple, Jōtei withdrew from Yamashiro and reconciled with Miyoshi Nagayoshi.

In the tenth month of 1563, Yoshiharu slaughtered Gotō Katatoyo, the most powerful and respected retainer of the Rokkaku, inside of Kannonji Castle in an event known as the Kannonji Disturbance.  Katatoyo was a close confidant of Jōtei, so there is a theory that Yoshiharu murdered Katatoyo in a bid to remove the influence of Jōtei in the clan.  This event engendered deep distrust toward the clan by many of its retainers so that Jōtei and Yoshiharu were temporarily expelled from Kannonji Castle.  Through the efforts of Gamō Sadahide and Gamō Katahide (father and son), Jōtei and Yoshiharu were able to return to the castle.

In the fifth month of 1565, after Ashikaga Yoshiteru (the thirteenth shōgun) was killed by the Miyoshi Group of Three in an attack known as the Eiroku Incident, Yoshiteru’s younger brother, Kakukei (later known as Ashikaga Yoshiaki) fled for the protection of Wada Koremasa in Ōmi.  Initially, Jōtei appeared to cooperate in plans for Kakukei to move to the capital, receiving him in the village of Yajima in the Yasu District and mediating an alliance between Oda Nobunaga and Azai Nagamasa through the political marriage of Ochi-no-kata (Nobunaga’s younger sister) to Nagamasa.  However, upon solicitation from the Miyoshi Group of Three, Jōtei supported an attack against Yoshiaki (having returned to secular life while in Yajima and changed his name from Kakukei), whereupon Yoshiaki fled for protection under Asakura Yoshikage in Echizen.  In 1566, Azai Nagamasa commenced an invasion of the Rokkaku territory while the Rokkaku were pressed simply to stop the advance.

Resistance to the march upon Kyōto by Oda Nobunaga

In the ninth month of 1568, when Nobunaga marched to Kyōto in support of Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the next shōgun, Jōtei colluded with the Miyoshi Group of Three, refused demands to join Nobunaga, and fought against the Oda army.  After suffering an overwhelming defeat at the Battle of Kannonji Castle along the Tōsan Road, he moved his main base south to the Kōka District.

After reconstituting his forces, in the sixth month of 1570, Jōtei marched north from the Kōka District to southern Ōmi and attacked Chōkōji Castle.  The castle was defended by senior retainers of Nobunaga – Sakuma Nobumori and Shibata Katsuie.  The ensuing clash is known as the Battle of Yasugawara.  In the eighth month, Jōtei and his son, Yoshiharu, allied with Asakura Yoshikage, Azai Nagamasa, and the Miyoshi Group of Three in the Battle of Noda and Fukushima Castles and pressured the Oda army in southern Ōmi.  In this battle, the allied forces were in a superior position, placing the Oda in a precarious situation, so Nobunaga took steps to break-up the alliance.  In the eleventh month, through the mediation of Ashikaga Yoshiaki, Nobunaga settled with Jōtei and Yoshiharu.

In the first month of 1572, Jōtei deployed again from the Kōka District and, together with the Kanegamori Ikkō-ikki of Miyake Castle and the Kanegamori monk’s quarters located in the Konan area south of Lake Biwa, fought against Nobunaga.  Having incurred losses in these attacks, Nobunaga ordered two of his senior retainers, Sakuma Nobumori and Shibata Katsuie, to attack.  These forces burned down shrines and temples in the area and issued a kishōmon, or written oath to the residents of over 100 villages in the area not to ally with the Rokkaku clan, an event known as the Genki Oath.  Around this time, Matsunaga Hisahide of Yamato and Ashikaga Yoshiaki separated from Nobunaga and the frontline of the Oda was drawn in Ōmi owing to the escalation of guerilla warfare by Jōtei.

Collapse of the encirclement campaign against Nobunaga and the latter years

In the fourth month of 1573, Jōtei advanced to Kotō, the area to the east of Lake Biwa and entered Namazue Castle, the base of Namazue Sadakage.  Nobunaga established a camp at Hyakusai Temple, then Sakuma Nobumori, Shibata Katsuie, Gamō Katahide, and Niwa Nagahide surrounded Namazue Castle, but, in the eleventh month, burned down Hyakusai Temple on grounds of supporting the Rokkaku, lifted the siege, and returned to Gifu.

In the eighth month of 1573, the armies of Asakura Yoshikage and Azai Nagamasa (who were allies of Jōtei) were defeated at the Siege of Ichijōdani Castle in Echizen and the Siege of Odani Castle in northern Ōmi and killed by Nobunaga.  On 9/4 of 1573, Nobunaga went to Sawayama Castle and ordered Shibata Katsuie to attack Namazue Castle where Rokkaku Yoshiharu was holed up.  This time, the castle was toppled and the army headed back to Gifu in victory.  Later that month, Sakuma Nobumori surrounded Ishibe Castle and Bodaiji Castle in the nothern part of the Kōka District where Jōtei was holed up.  On 10/25, forces from Kōka and Iga along with monk warriors launched a surprise attack against Oda forces during their return to Gifu after an attack on the Nagashima Ikkō-ikki.  While serving in the rear guard for the Oda, Hayashi Michimasa was killed in action but Nobunaga escaped, returning to Gifu via Ōgaki.  On 4/13 of 1574, Bodaiji Castle and Ishibe Castle finally fell while Jōtei slipped away on a rainy night to Shigaraki in the southern part of the Kōka District.

Meanwhile, in the Kinai, Matsunaga Hisahide of Yamato submitted to Nobunaga in the first month of the same year.  In the eleventh month, Itami Chikaoki of Settsu lost his castle ot Araki Murashige (who was on the side of the Oda) and killed himself.  The Miyoshi Group of Three in Yamashiro and Settsu dispersed, leaving most of Kinai under the control of Nobunaga.

Jōtei is said to have summoned kokujin, or provincial families of influence, from Kōka and Iga to oppose Nobunaga, to have received assistance from the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple, or to have retired, but it is not clear which in fact occurred.  In the fourth month of 1581, after maintaining its independence for many years, Iga was subjugated by Nobunaga in the Tenshō Iga Conflict.  That same year, Jōtei underwent a Christian baptism.

Thereafter, Jōtei became a member of the otogishū (a group of close associates who engaged in conversation with the shōgun or daimyō) under Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  Jōtei died on 3/14 of 1598 prior to the death of Hideyoshi.  He was seventy-eight years old.  His eldest son, Yoshiharu, died in 1612, while his second son, Yoshisada, died in 1620.  Yoshiharu’s descendants were samurai of the Kaga domain while Yoshisada’s descendants served as hatamoto on behalf of the Edo bakufu.


Jōtei was known as an expert mounted archer, having learned the Hekiryū (Yoshida-ryū) or Heki style of archery from Yoshida Shigemasa.  He was the only one to receive the equivalent of a dharma transmission from his instructor.  He also learned the Ōtsubo style of equestrian arts and is among those known as a creator of the Sasaki style.  His eldest son, Yoshiharu, was known in his later years as an archery instructor of Toyotomi Hideyori.