Satake Yoshishige


Satake Clan

Sengoku Daimyō

Hitachi Province

Lifespan:  2/16 of Tenbun 16 (1547) to 4/19 of Keichō 17 (1612)

Other Names:  Tokujumaru (childhood), Jirō (common), [Nicknames] Oni-Yoshishige, Bandō-Tarō, Kitashiro-sama 

Rank:  bushō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Deputy of Hitachi

Clan:  Satake

Lord:  Toyotomi Hideyoshi → Toyotomi Hideyori

Father:  Satake Yoshiaki

Mother:  Daughter of Iwaki Shigetaka

Siblings:  Yoshishige, Nasu Sukeie, Yoshihisa, Oba Yoshimune (Yoshiie), Nanryoin (wife of Utsunomiya Hirotsuna), Keijuin (wife of Iwaki Chikataka)

Wife:  [Formal] Hōjuin (daughter of Date Harumune), [Consort] Daughter of the Hosoya clan

Children:  Yoshinobu, Ashina Yoshihiro, daughter (wife of Edo Sanemichi and later wife of Takakura Nagayoshi), Iwaki Sadataka, Iwaki Nobutaka, Yoshinao 

Adopted Children:  Daughter (wife of Iwaki Tsunetaka)

Satake Yoshishige served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō in Hitachi Province from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  Yoshishige was the eighteenth head of the Satake clan.  In his latter years, he resided in Dewa Province following a transfer and demotion of the Satake clan as an outcome of the Battle of Sekigahara.


In 1547, Yoshishige was born as the eldest son and lineal heir of Satake Yoshiaki, the seventeenth head of the Satake clan and a sengoku daimyō in Hitachi.

Yoshishige’s mother was the daughter of Iwaki Shigetaka.  Yoshishige received one of the characters in his name from Shigetaka who appeared to have a close relationship with Yoshishige as a grandson.

In 1562, his father, Yoshiaki, retired, so Yoshishige inherited the headship of the clan although his father continued to maintain a grip on power.

In 1564, he joined Uesugi Kenshin at the Siege of Oda Castle to defeat Oda Ujiharu, the lord of Oda Castle.  In 1565, following the death of Yoshiaki, efforts to unify Hitachi slipped away while opposition elements began to stir in the province.

Expansion of power

Yoshishige reinforced the alliance established by his father with Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo Province.  In 1566, he attacked Oda Ujiharu and seized a majority of the territory of the Oda.  Next, he attacked the Mumo clan in the Nasu District of Shimotsuke, compelling them to submit.  In 1567, he attacked and garnered a major victory against Shirakawa Yoshichika (Komine Yoshichika).  In 1569, at the Battle of Tebaizaka, he routed Oda Ujiharu, capturing Oda Castle.

Meanwhile, in the Kantō, Hōjō Ujimasa of Sagami Province steadily gained power, and, as a result, came into conflict with numerous clans including the Satake.  In 1571, Ujimasa entered into an alliance with Ashina Moriuji and Yūki Harutomo, after which they attacked Tagaya Masatsune who was affiliated with the Satake.  Yoshishige sent reinforcements to repel the Hōjō forces.

In 1572, he placed the Shirakawa-Yūki clan under his command.  Around this time, he brought the Iwaki clan under his de facto control based on a political alliance through marriage and he also reconciled with the Nasu clan.  In 1573, after Oda Ujiharu switched sides to the Hōjō, Yoshishige fought against him again and annexed a majority of his territory in the course of rapidly expanding his power.  In 1575, he captured Shirakawa Castle.

His rapid advances, however, triggered a sense of crisis among regional daimyō.  Confronting Hōjō Ujimasa on one front and Ashina Moriuji on another, Yoshishige faced a precarious situation.  To counter Ujimasa, he entered into political alliances with the Yūki and Utsunomiya sealed through marriage while cultivating friendly relations with Hashiba Hideyoshi in the Kinai.  He placed an emphasis on these alliances to increase his allies.  In 1580, Moriuji died and was succeeded by Ashina Moritaka who steered the Ashina clan in a new direction.  In 1581, after Yoshishige defeated Tamura Kiyoaki (who was opposed to the Ashina clan) at the Battle of Miyoda, in the tenth month, Yoshishige visited Moritaka at Kurokawa Castle which resulted in an alliance between the Satake and the Ashina.  As a result, the daimyō located south of the territory of the Date clan (Aizu, Sendō, Kaidō) fell under the de facto command of the Satake.  This was the first time since the middle of the Muromachi period for these districts to be unified under a single power.  Regional daimyō praised Yoshishige for unifying Oushū (Mutsu) while Yoshishige himself was proud of his achievements.

In 1585, in the wake of a violent counterattack by the advancing Hōjō army, Yoshishige lost Naganuma Castle and was forced into a settlement on unfavorable terms.  This event is known as the Battle of Numajiri.

Disputes with Date Masamune

In Oushū (Mutsu), after the death of Ashina Moriuji in 1580, his successors died early one after another, so the power of the clan declined.  In relation to these succession issues, Yoshishige supported the young Ashina Kameōmaru as the next head of the Ashina, but was blocked by Date Terumune who attempted to send his second son, Date Kojirō, to become the next head as a means to expand the influence of the Date in the affairs of the Ashina.  Terumune was succeeded by Date Masamune who was the son-in-law of Tamura Kiyoaki – earlier defeated by Yoshishige at the Battle of Miyoda.  Owing to his support for the Tamura as well as concerns with respect to the northward advance by the Satake, Masamune gradually came into conflict with Yoshishige.

In 1584, Ashina Moritaka (adopted form the Nikaidō clan) to serve as the successor to Moriuji, was killed by an attendant named Oba Sanzaemon.  Moritaka was succeeded by his orphan, Kameōmaru, who was still an infant.

In 1585, on the pretext of supporting the Nihonmatsu clan who opposed the Date, Yoshishige forged an allied army with the Ashina, deployed to Oushū (Mutsu), and engaged in the Battle of Hitotoribashi.  In a superior position in terms of military power and the number of troops, Yoshishige initially had the upper hand, but then learned of suspicious movements by the Edo clan in Hitachi so he withdrew and the allied forces separated.  Years later, when Masamune was invited as a guest for a reception hosted by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shōgun of the Edo bakufu, at Edo Castle, Masamune said that Hitotoribashi was the greatest battle of his life.

In 1586, Nihonmatsu Castle was vacated when the Nihonmatsu clan was extinguished.  This provided an opportunity for the Date to settle with the Satake and Ashina clans.  Meanwhile, Kameōmaru died at the age of three.  He was succeeded by Yoshishige’s second son, Ashina Yoshihiro, as an adopted heir.  This served as a means for Yoshishige to counter Masamune, who objected to the plan and, in accordance with the last wishes of his father, had sought to send his younger brother, Kojirō.

In 1588, Yoshishige joined with assorted daimyō in Mutsu to reengage Masamune in battle.  Despite having overwhelming numerical superiority, the army comprised of forces from multiple clans yielded competing interests that bred conflict among them so that the army could not function.  Unable to defeat Masamune, Yoshishige was compelled, via mediation by Iwaki Tsunetaka, to settle.  This is known as the Kōriyama Conflict.

In 1589, Ashina Yoshihiro suffered a major defeat against the Date at the Battle of Suriagehara.  This led numerous daimyō in southern Mutsu including the Shirakawa-Yūki and the Ishikawa to switch their allegiance to the Date clan.  As a result, the Satake were caught in-between two major powers with Date Masamune to the north and Hōjō Ujinao to the south. This situation posed a threat to the continued existence of the clan.  That same year, Yoshishige transferred headship of the clan to his eldest son, Satake Yoshinobu, and retired but continued to hold on to the real authority in the clan.

Serving the Toyotomi administration

In 1590, after the commencement of the Conquest of Odawara by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (with whom he had friendly relations), Yoshishige and Yoshinobu deployed to Odawara and joined in an assault against Ishida Mitsunari at Oshi Castle.  Thereafter, based on his support for the Oushū Retribution, Yoshishige received recognition from Hideyoshi of his rights to a fief of 540,000 koku in Hitachi.  He thereby succeeded at once in turning around his situation.

With the support of Hideyoshi, Yoshishige attacked Edo Shigemichi (who held sway in the central portion of Hitachi) and expelled him from Mito Castle.  He then decimated the Daijō clan in Fuchū.  On 2/9 of Tenshō 19 (1591), Yoshishige and Yoshinobu invited kokujin, or provincial landowners, including members of the Daijō clan (such as the Kashima clan from the Kashima and Namegata districts) to Ōta Castle and had them killed.  From the middle of the second month to the third month, the Satake deployed forces to Kashima and Namegata to bring these districts under their control.  The forces attacked Nukada Castle held by Onosaki Akimichi, thrusting a warning at him from Hideyoshi to vacate, whereupon Akimichi was ousted and sought the protection of Date Masamune.  By this means, the Satake achieved the unification of Hitachi Province.

Thereafter, he transferred real authority of the clan to Yoshinobu and lived comfortably at Ōta Castle.  He was called Kitashiro-sama, or the Lord of the Northern Castle.

Battle of Sekigahara

In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, his son, Yoshinobu, attempted to join the Western Army led by Ishida Mitsunari based on prior friendly relations.  Considering the trend of the times, however, Yoshishige said that he would join the Eastern Army led by Tokugawa Ieyasu.  This triggered a conflict between Yoshishige and Yoshinobu.  In addition to Yoshishige, many members of the Satake, including Ashina Yoshihiro (Yoshinobu’s younger brother) and Satake Yoshihisa (the head of the retainers of the Satake), supported the Eastern Army.  In the wake of the victory by the Eastern Army, owing to the ambivalent attitude of Yoshinobu with respect to which side to support in the war, in the fifth month of 1602, the Satake clan was transferred from northern Hitachi Province to Kubota in Dewa Province with a reduced fief of 200,000 koku.  Despite the demotion, Yoshishige made an appeal based on his relationship with Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son, Tokugawa Hidetada, so that the Satake did not lose their status as a daimyō family.

After moving to Kubota, the Satake encountered a series of uprisings against their rule.  To respond to these incidents, Yoshishige resided apart from Yoshinobu in Rokugō Castle and developed the town of Rokugō with roads and partitions of land.  Yoshishige oversaw the southern portion of the territory (the districts of Senboku, Hiraka, and Ogachi).  On 4/19 of Keichō 17 (1612), Yoshishige fell from his horse while on a hunting expedition and died.  He was sixty-six years old.  His youngest son, Satake Yoshinao, was born after his demise.

The family temple is the Tenshin Temple in Akita.

Character and Anecdotes

Yoshishige was known for being both brave and courageous.  One time, while fighting against the Hōjō army, he is said to have cut-down seven enemy soldiers at once.  Owing to his intrepid reputation, he was known by the fearful nickname of Oni-Yoshishige (Yoshishige the Demon), or Bandō-tarō.

Yoshishige did not use a futon to sleep, preferring instead a thin mat.  After his transfer to the colder climate of Dewa Province, his son, Yoshinobu, brought him nightwear and a futon.  Yoshishige tried to use them but was not comfortable so reverted to his former practice of sleeping on a mat.

Following a breakdown of the alliance between the Takeda of Kai and the Hōjō of Sagami, Yoshishige exchanges correspondence with Takeda Shingen including discourse in regard to the lineal descendants of the Kai-Genji clan.

Yoshishige arranged for the marriage of his daughters to various daimyō such as the Ashina clan as a means to create political alliances and strategically expand his power.

Uesugi Terutora (later known as Kenshin) gave Yoshishige a prized sword as a gift that was manufactured by Saburō Kunimune, a swordsmith located in Bizen Province during the Kamakura period.  Later, he gave the sword to his son, Yoshinobu, who proceeded to cut-down the blade to fashion the piece into a short sword.  As a collector of swords, Yoshishige lamented these modifications to the sword.

His favorite sword was manufactured by Hachimonji Chōgi in the Nanbokuchō period.  In 1567, while engaged in battle with reinforcements for Tagaya Masatsune, Yoshishige cut in half the helmet and head of a cavalry soldier in the army of Hōjō Ujimasa, which portions fell to either side of his horse.  This sword is registered as an important historical artifact by the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Swords and, as of 2020, is owned by a sword collector in Taiwan.

Although unauthenticated, there is a story that, upon the transfer of the Satake clan to Dewa Province, they gathered all of the attractive girls from Hitachi to accompany them, providing the origins for those referred to as Akita-bijin, or the beauties of Akita.