Satomi Yoshitaka


Satomi Clan

Sengoku Daimyō

Awa Province

Lifespan:  Eishō  4 (1507) (?) to 6/1 of Tenshō 2 (1574)

Other Names:  Gonshichirō (childhood)

Rank:  bushō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Assistant Vice-Minister of Justice

Clan:  Awa-Satomi

Father:  Satomi Sanetaka

Mother:  Daughter of Sakuma Moriuji

Siblings:  Yoshitaka, sister (wife of Karasuyama Jirō), sister (wife of Mariyatsu Yoshinobu), Genshū

Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Nagano Norinari; [Second] Daughter of Toki Tameyori

Children:  Yoshihiro (Yoshikiyo), Takamoto, Takatsugu, Yoshimasa, Yoshiyori (?), Tanehime (wife of Masaki Nobushige), Toyohime

Satomi Yoshitaka served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō of Awa Province during the Sengoku period.  He was the fifth head of the Awa-Satomi clan.

In 1507, Yoshitaka was born as the son of Satomi Sanetaka.  (According to one theory, he was born in 1512.)  His mother was a daughter of Sakuma Moriuji (from the same family as Masaki Michitsuna who also used the surname of Miura from his father).

Yoshitaka combined forces with Uesugi Kenshin, Satake Yoshishige, and others to battle against the Gohōjō clan for dominance in the Kantō region, but this did not result in a clear victor.  He expanded his authority to the Bōsō Peninsula and fostered the period of peak prosperity of the Satomi clan.


On 7/27 of Tenbun 2 (1533), an internal conflict arose in the Satomi clan known as the Inamura Incident (or, alternatively, as the Tenbun Discord).  Yoshitaka’s father, Sanetaka, was murdered by his cousin, Satomi Yoshitoyo, the fourth head of the main branch of the clan, for colluding with the Gohōjō.  Yoshitaka, with the support of Hōjō Ujitsuna, combined with a senior retainer named Masaki Tokishige to raise arms from Kanaya Castle in Kazusa Province, killing Yoshitoyo and seizing control of the headship of the Satomi clan.  This event is known as the Battle of Inukake.  Formerly, the longstanding story was that the banal Yoshitoyo murdered an innocent Sanetaka so Yoshitaka killed him in revenge.  A more recent theory is that Yoshitoyo was attempting to thwart a coup d’état led by Sanetaka and Yoshitaka (father and son) after they combined forces with Yoshitoyo’s archrival, Ujitsuna.  The confusion in records is deemed owing to fabrications in later years to conceal the fact that Yoshitaka usurped the role as head of the clan from Yoshitoyo and soon thereafter betrayed the Hōjō clan.

Conflict with the Gohōjō clan

With the support of Ujitsuna, Yoshitaka succeeded in his coup d’état.  When the death of Mariyatsu Nobukiyo led to a succession struggle in the Mariyatsu clan, Yoshitaka backed Mariyatsu Nobumasa while Ujitsuna backed Mariyatsu Nobutaka causing Yoshitaka and Ujitsuna to oppose one another.  Yoshitaka knew that he could not on his own challenge Ujitsuna who had expanded his power in the Kantō so he allied with Ashikaga Yoshiaki (the Oyumi kubō) to resist Ujitsuna.  In 1537, he attacked Mariyatsu Nobutaka and forced his surrender.  In 1538, at the First Battle of Kōnodai, Yoshitaka had concerns regarding Yoshiaki’s plan to wait until the Hōjō forces crossed the Edo River before engaging them, and deftly moved his formation to avoid a direct clash with the opposing forces.  The death of Yoshiaki in the battle provided an opportunity in its aftermath for Yoshitaka to expand his authority in the central portions of the Kantō.  Yoshitaka actively advanced into Shimōsa and Kazusa where allies resided and from Kururi Castle in Kazusa fostered the period of peak prosperity for the Satomi clan.

Upon orders from Ashikaga Yoshiteru, Yoshitaka sent letters on 9/5 and on 11/7 of Tenbun 19 (1550) to the effect that he was satisfied with the intercession of Hikobe Utanokami who came from the capital to the Kantō to mediate between the Satomi and Hōjō clans.

In 1552, owing to the maneuvers of Hōjō Ujiyasu, various kokujin, or provincial landowners, under the command of the Satomi clan defected and, in 1554, Ujiyasu entered into a three-party alliance along with Imagawa Yoshimoto of Suruga and Takeda Shingen of Kai.  Beginning in the fourth month of 1553, as though on an annual basis, Ujiyasu dispatched Hōjō Tsunashige and Hōjō Ujitaka to attack the Bōsō Peninsula and captured Kaneya and Sanuki castles along the coast.  In 1555, the western portion of Kazusa was almost entirely taken by the Gohōjō clan.  Yoshitake responded by suppressing resistance from kokujin aligned with the Hōjō and, while aiming to recapture the lost territory, joined with Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo Province and acted in concert with the Ōta, the Satake, and the Utsunomiya clans to oppose Ujiyasu.

In 1556, Yoshitaka led the Satomi navy in battle against the Hōjō navy and prevailed at the Battle of Miura-Misaki.  The victory owed in part to stormy weather causing some vessels in the Hōjō navy to sink or drift away into the open seas so it was not a win the sense that the Satomi overpowered their opponents.

In 1560, after Ujiyasu invaded the territory of the Satomi, Yoshitaka resisted from his base at Kururi Castle.  Reinforcements from the Uesugi army enabled Yoshitaka to prevail and successfully mount a counteroffensive to recapture almost all of the western portion of Kazusa.  In 1562, Yoshitaka underwent the rites of tonsure, entered the priesthood, and transferred the headship of the clan to his son, Satomi Yoshihiro.  Despite retiring, Yoshitaka continued to remain the holder of real authority in the clan.

In the first month of 1564, upon collusion by Ōta Yasusuke (who had been aligned with the Hōjō), Yoshitaka, along with Yoshihiro, invaded Kōnodai in Shimōsa which was in the sphere of influence of Takagi Taneyoshi, a senior retainer of the Chiba clan (who were opposed by the Satomi) and intercepted the Hōjō army in the Second Battle of Kōnodai.  At the outbreak of hostilities, Tōyama Tsunakage and Tominaga Naokatsu of the Hōjō army were killed.  Pleased with the victory and considering that the deployment occurred early in the new year, Satomi Yoshihiro treated the soldiers to saké.  Given that the Tōyama and Tominaga scattered early, the Hōjō were able to preserve their main division and pretended to withdraw.  Then, at dawn on the eighth, they crossed the Edo River again and launched a nighttime attack against the Satomi army.  Their approach was via a detour in the southern portion of Shimōsa (in the direction of Suwada) which was a plateau of relatively gentle terrain.  Finding themselves under attack after the festivities, the Satomi army fell into disarray.  Moreover, through the devices of the Hōjō, Toki Tameyori, a mainstay of the Satomi army, betrayed Yoshihiro and left the battlefield.  Masaki Nobushige, the head of the senior retainers, was killed in action.  Likewise, a senior retainer named Anzai Sanemoto served as a substitute for Yoshihiro and just before the battle, he was rescued by Sakai Taneharu, the lord of Toke Castle in Kazusa, who was late to arrive after defecting to the Satomi clan so Yoshihiro just managed to flee the battlefield in time.

Owing to this defeat, Yoshitaka and Yoshihiro lost a majority of Kazusa and retreated to Awa Province.  The Satomi clan experienced a temporary decline of power.  Later, under the leadership of Yoshihiro in Awa, the clan regained power and gradually recovered territory in the southern portion of Kazusa.  By around the end of 1566, the Satomi recaptured Kururi and Sanuki castles.  Meanwhile, the dividing line of influence in the northern portion of Kazusa was maintained by the Gohōjō who built a fortress at Mifunedai (the Mifune plateau) in the foothills of Mifuneyama (Mount Mifune) located to the north of Sanuki Castle.

In the eighth month of 1567, the Satomi army led by Yoshihiro surrounded the base of the Hōjō army at Mifunedai.  Upon learning of these developments, Hōjō Ujiyasu dispatched his lineal heir, Hōjō Ujimasa and Ōta Ujisuke as reinforcements.  He then sent his third son, Hōjō Ujiteru and Hara Tanesada as a detached division to attack Yoshitaka at Kururi Castle.  Yoshitaka responded by hardening his defenses while Yoshihiro, together with Masaki Noritoki, departed from Sanuki Castle to attack the main division of Ujimasa assembled at Mifunedai and defeated them at the Battle of Mifuneyama.  At this time, Ōta Ujisuke serving in the rear guard for the Hōjō army was killed in action.  Assigned to secure the Uraga Channel, Hōjō Tsunashige commanded naval forces and attempted to invade Awa from the Miura gateway but clashed with the Satomi navy offshore from the Kikuna Inlet, incurring losses.  Amidst these circumstances, the Hōjō sensed the risk of a pincer attack from land and sea so withdrew the entire army from Kazusa.

Based on their victory at Mifuneyama, the Satomi achieved an advantageous position to govern Kazusa and expanded into Shimōsa.  Thereafter, the Satomi continued to sternly resist the Hōjō but, in 1574, Yoshitaka died at Kururi Castle.  He was sixty-eight years old.

After the death of Yoshitaka, around 1575, after the influence of the Uesugi and Takeda clans receded from Bōsō (Awa, Kazusa, Shimōsa), the Satomi began to incur pressure again from the Hōjō amidst ongoing invasions of their territory.  Around the seventh month of 1577, Yoshihiro and Ujimasa entered into a settlement known as the Bōsō-Ichiwa, an alliance between the Awa-Satomi and the Sagami-Hōjō.

Character and Anecdotes

In 1545, at the Tsurugaya-Hachiman Shrine in Awa, Yoshitaka offered a written prayer under the name of vice shōgun (meaning the deputy shōgun of the Kantō) while continuing to battle against the Gohōjō for dominance in the Kantō.  Hōjō Ujiyasu, through a monk named Nichiga (from the Fujimon branch of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism) who was revered by Yoshitaka, proposed negotiations for a settlement but Yoshitaka responded that was the one thing he could not do even upon request of a priest (Nichiga).

Despite the large army commanded by Hōjō Ujiyasu, Yoshitaka was able to continue battling from his home province against his rival in the Kantō based on the strength of the Satomi army.  In particular, the naval forces originating from groups of pirates in Awa and Kazusa were an important element.  Excelling in guerilla tactics, the pirates aligned with the Satomi frequently looted the territories of the Hōjō clan and terrorized the residents.  The Hōjō naval forces engaged in similar acts but the Satomi were more prolific.  The villages on the Miura Peninsula which were ostensibly under the command of the Hōjō were subject to an inordinate number of raids so the residents obtained security assurances by giving one-half of their annual rice levies to the Hōjō and one-half to the Satomi.  As a result, although Ujiyasu temporarily controlled Kazusa, he could not easily invade Awa.

The character of “taka” in the name of Yoshitaka was derived from one of the figures among three gods and five saints during a mythical period of ancient China.  He also gave a character of “kiyo” from one of the names of another figure to his son, Satomi Yoshikiyo.  Yoshitaka conducted his administration according to these virtuous legends so he was adored as the “lord for 10,000 years” by the residents of his territory.

Yoshitaka’s character and bravery were even recognized by his enemies, the Gohōjō clan, who, in reference to Yoshitaka, said “Men of virtue are always brave.”