Shibata Katsuie


Shibata Clan

Owari Province

Echizen Province

Shibata Katsuie

Lifespan:  Daiei 2 to Kyōroku 3 (1522 to 1530) to 4/24 of Tenshō 11 (1583)

Other Names: [Common] Gonroku, Gonrokurō, Shuri-no-jō, Katsuhide; [Nickname] Shibata the Demon, Shibata the Charger, Shibata the Bottle Breaker; [Monk] Jōshō, Bangaku

Rank:  bushō, sengoku daimyō

Title:  Junior Sixth Rank (Lower), Senior Secretary of the Eastern Capital Office, Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Assistant Officer of Palace Repairs, Junior Third Rank (honorary – awarded in 1928)

Clan:  Shibata (members of the Shiba clan, a branch of the Ashikaga clan descended from the Seiwa-Genji)

Lord:  Oda Nobuhide → Oda Nobuyuki (Nobukatsu) → Oda Nobunaga → Oda Hidenobu

Father:  Shibata Katsuyoshi (?)

Siblings:  Sister (wife of Yoshida Jibei), sister (wife of Sakuma Moritsugu), Katsuie, sister (mother of Shibata Katsutoshi)

Wife: [Formal] Oichi-no-kata (younger sister of Oda Nobunaga)

Children:  Katsusato, Katsutada

Adopted Children:  Katsuharu, Katsumasa, Katsutoyo, Katsutoshi, Sakuma Katsuyuki (later adopted by Sassa Narimasa), daughter (wife of Takagi Tanenori)

Shibata Katsuie served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  A veteran of the Oda clan, Katsuie followed Oda Nobunaga and made contributions on the path toward the unification of Japan.

In 1522, Katsuie was born in the village of Kamiyashiro in the Aichi District of Owari Province.  According to other theories, his year of birth was 1526 or 1527, but it is uncertain.   His birthplace is unknown.  He is said to be the son of Shibata Katsuyoshi but this cannot be confirmed from authenticated sources.   He is surmised to have originated from the class of a dogō, or small-scale landowner.

From an early age, Katsuie served as a retainer of Oda Nobuhide and had landholdings in the village of Shimoyashiro in the Aichi District of Owari.  His rank is unknown, but around the time that Nobunaga succeeded to the headship of the clan, he was a mainstay of the Oda family.  In 1551, after the death of Nobuhide, he served as a chief retainer to Nobuhide’s son, Oda Nobuyuki (real name of Nobukatsu but commonly referred to as Nobuyuki).

In 1552, during battle against Oda Nobutomo, the lord of Kiyosu Castle and deputy military governor of the four lower districts of Owari, Katsuie, together with Chūjō Ietada, killed Sakai Jinsuke, a chief retainer of the opposition.  The next year, Katsuie served as the commanding general for an assault against Kiyosu Castle and killed thirty enemy soldiers.  This is known as the Battle of Kayazu.

Katsuie plotted with Hayashi Hidesada to expel Nobunaga and to have Nobuyuki become the successor to Nobuhide.  In the eighth month of 1556, Katsuie led 1,000 troops into battle, but was defeated by Nobunaga and surrendered.  This is known as the Battle of Inō.  At this time, upon the urgent pleas of Toda-gozen, the natural mother of Nobunaga and Nobuyuki, Nobuyuki was pardoned, after which Nobuyuki, Katsuie, and Tsuzuki Kurando, dressed in black robes, went to Kiyosu Castle and, together with Toda-gozen, gave thanks to Nobunaga.  Thereafter, Nobunaga’s power was acknowledged.  In the wake of the defeat at Inō, Nobuyuki relied upon Kurando as a new retainer and was dismissive of Katsuie whereupon Katsuie forsake him.  In 1557, once again, Nobuyuki plotted to expel Nobunaga and, while Nobuyuki was making the plans, Katsuie secretly informed Nobunaga.  On 11/2, Nobunaga feigned illness, luring Nobuyuki to pay a visit to him at Kiyosu Castle and then had Kawajiri Hidetaka and others murder him.  Upon orders of Nobunaga, Nobuyuki’s orphan, Tsuda Nobuzumi, was raised by Katsuie.

Service to Oda Nobunaga

After the death of Nobuyuki, Katsuie was pardoned for his crimes and became a retainer of Nobunaga.  Perhaps because he had previously joined forces with Nobuyuki in opposition to Nobunaga, he did not participate in the battles to unify Owari, the Battle of Okehazama against the Imagawa, or in attacks against the Saitō clan of Mino Province.  Katsuie, together with Niwa Nagahide and Sassa 主知 (a family member of Narimasa), jointly signed a document that appears to be dated 7/15 of Eiroku 8 (1565) addressed to the Jakkō Temple in Owari to officially recognize their rights to their landholdings, indicating that around this time he served as a magistrate for Nobunaga.

In 1568, during the battle to march upon Kyōto, Nobunaga relied upon Katsuie again and, during battles to pacify the Kinai region, Katsuie was always a member of four bushō serving in the vanguard.  In conflicts such as the Siege of Shōryūji Castle, he contributed as one of Nobunaga’s elite soldiers.  By the eleventh month, the four bushō in the vanguard were responsible for managing military affairs in Kyōto but delegated these duties to members of the hōkōshū, or military organ under the direct jurisdiction of the Muromachi bakufu, and he pulled-up to go to Gifu.  In the first month of 1569, for the Battle of Honkoku Temple against the Miyoshi Group of Three, Katsuie and Nobunaga returned again to Kyōto and, by the beginning of the fourth month, he was assigned as one of five senior retainers to administer affairs in Kyōto and the Kinai.  In the eighth month, Katsuie joined a battle against the Kitabatake clan who governed five districts in southern Ise.

After Azai Nagamasa rebelled against Nobunaga in the fourth month of 1570, in the following month, Rokkaku Yoshikata advanced with his forces to the southern shore of Lake Biwa and severed the road to Gifu.  To secure the southern shore of the lake, Nobunaga assigned six bushō to each castle and, initially, four men to Kōnan.  Katsuie was positioned at the Chōkōji Castle.  At the end of the same month, he fought against the Rokkaku forces but together with Sakuma Nobumori, Mori Yoshinari, and Nakagawa Shigemasa, was repelled.  In the sixth month, Katsuie served in the Battle of Anegawa against the allied forces of the Azai and Asakura.

From the eighth to ninth months of 1570, during the Siege of Noda and Fukushima Castles, the Miyoshi Group of Three came from Shikoku to attack and, while the Oda confronted them with their entire army, the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple suddenly went on the offensive against the Oda, resulting in a melee.  In the latter half of the battle, a contingent of 30,000 forces from the allied army of the Asakura and Azai burned down Yamashina and Daigo while marching toward the palace of the shōgun in Kyōto.  Katsuie and Akechi Mitsuhide returned to defend the capital, but viewing the situation as critical, Katsuie advised Nobunaga and, on 9/23, withdrew all of his forces from Noda and Fukushima, having them return on a forced march to Kyōto late at night that same day.  This became the Siege of Shiga.  In the twelfth month, Nobunaga requested Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, to offer a settlement with the Azai and Asakura through mediation by the Imperial Court.

In the fifth month of 1571, Katsuie head-out to subdue the Nagashima Ikkō-ikki  who acted in concert with the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple.  During the withdrawal, Katsuie’s division served in the rear guard, but ikki forces launched attacks from locations between large rivers and mountains that were optimal for targeting their enemy.  After sustaining injuries, he even lost his small war flag attached to the back of his armor during battle.  Ujiie Naomoto (Bokuzen) soon took his place but with a small force could not ward-off the attacks so Ujiie and many others were killed in action.  In the ninth month, Katsuie participated in the slaughter of members of the Hongan Temple known as the Burning of Mount Hiei.

In the second month of 1573, Ashikaga Yoshiaki raised arms against Nobunaga and went to Ōmi Province to rally support from local clans to oppose Nobunaga, positioning soldiers at fortresses in Ishiyama and Imakatata.  Nobunaga responded by dispatching Katsuie, together with Akechi Mitsuhide, Niwa Nagahide, and Hachiya Yoritaka to lead 30,000 soldiers to attack and topple the castles.  This event is known as the Siege of Ishiyama and Imakatata Castles.  Owing to the value that Nobunaga placed on the role of the shōgun, he proceeded with peace negotiations but just before an agreement was reached, the negotiations broke down on account of interference by Matsunaga Hisahide.  As a result, in the fourth month, Nobunaga himself deployed and, to threaten Yoshiaki, he set fires in Kamigyō.  Katsuie joined in these actions.  At this time, Nobunaga also demanded contributions to military funding from those in Shimogyō.  The donation list prepared by those in Shimogyō notes 250 pieces of silver to be given to Nobunaga in addition to 190 pieces to Katsuie and those under his command.  That same month, written pledges were exchanged between Nobunaga and Yoshiaki in connection with a temporary settlement.  As senior retainers of the Oda family, joint signatories included Katsuie, Hayashi Hidesada, Sakuma Nobumori, Takigawa Kazumasu, and the Mino Group of Three, reflecting Katsuie’s role as a senior figure in the clan.  In the seventh month, Yoshiaki holed-up in Makishima Castle while his close associate, Mitsubuchi Fujihide, followed suit in Nijō Castle in the capital.  Katsuie, however, persuaded Fujihide to vacate Nijō Castle.  On 7/1, Nobunaga gave an exemption from the demand for donations earlier made in the fourth month from those in Shimogyō.  Katsuie then issued a supplemental order dated 7/4 to guarantee the exemption to those in Shimogyō.

Thereafter, Katsuie led an all-out assault with 70,000 troops against Yoshiaki at Makishima Castle and forced him to surrender.  Yoshiaki was subsequently expelled from Kyōto, marking the de facto end of the Muromachi bakufu.  Under the protection of the Mōri clan, Yoshiaki led opposition to Nobunaga in a movement known as the Nobunaga Encirclement Campaign.  During this period, Katsuie served as a senior commander in the Oda army in numerous battles including in Ōmi and Settsu provinces.

In the eighth month of 1573, during the Siege of Ichijōdani Castle, following a general mobilization of the Oda army, the Asakura clan was vanquished.  Afterwards, Katsuie participated in the Siege of Odani Castle in northern Ōmi, but Hashiba Hideyoshi led the vanguard forces.  In the ninth month, Katsuie participated in a second attack on Nagashima including on enemy castles to the west of Nagashima, toppling Nishibeppu and Sakai castles in Kuwana.  He could not secure a sufficient number of vessels in Ōminato so withdrew.  In the same location where Katsuie sustained injuries two years earlier, the battalion led by Hayashi Michimasa in the rear guard was attacked by ikki forces and lost many soldiers.  From 3/9 of Tenshō 2 (1574), Katsuie replaced Hosokawa Fujitaka as the guard of Tamonyama Castle in Yamato Province.  In the seventh month, he served in the third and final assault of Nagashima and, with a massive contingent of 70,000 soldiers.  After cutting the source of provisions, promised to spare the lives of defenders but after the defenders vacated the castle annihilated them instead.  Katsuie joined Sakuma Nobumori and Inaba Sadamichi to command troops from the right wing at the Katori gateway.

In 1575, Katsuie served in the Siege of Takaya Castle and the Battle of Nagashino.

After the elimination of the Asakura clan, Nobunaga appointed Maeba Yoshitsugu (a former retainer of the Asakura) to serve as the military governor of Echizen Province.  Toda Nagashige, another former retainer of the Asakura opposed the appointment and, after fostering a local uprising, killed Yoshitsugu.  Owing to Nagashige’s attitude, however, the ikki forces cut ties with him and solicited Shichiri Yorichika, a priest from the Hongan Temple and lead of the Ikkō-ikki in Kaga.  These forces started another uprising and raided Nagashige.  Amidst the chaos, Nagashige was shot to death by his retainers so Echizen fell under the control of the ikki forces.  Nobunaga responded by leading his whole army on a deployment and, after a battle to annihilate the Ikkō-ikki, pacified the province.  In the ninth month, Nobunaga a set of nine laws for Echizen and granted to Katsuie eight districts comprising 490,000 koku and Kita-no-shō Castle.  At the same time, the governance of Kaga Province was awarded to Yanada Hiromasa.  After Nobunaga returned to his base, the ikki forces stirred another uprising that Hiromasa was unable to quell so Nobunaga gave-up on him and had him return to Owari.

In 1576, Katsuie was appointed to serve as the commanding officer for the army in the Hokuriku region.  Maeda Toshiie, Sassa Narimasa, and Fuwa Mitsuharu were assigned as yoriki, or security officers with the mission to pacify Kaga which had experienced uprisings for ninety years.  His former territory in the Gamō District of Ōmi and base at Chōkōji Castle were appropriated while Gamō Katahide and Nagata Kagehiro were removed from the ranks of security officers.

In the seventh month of 1577, Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo Province advanced to Kaga Province.  At this time, Katsuie and Hashiba Hideyoshi clashed with one another during a war council, causing discord between the two of them.  Without permission from Nobunaga, Hideyoshi departed from the front lines, negatively impacting the pace of the battle.  Katsuie headed toward Nanao Castle in support but did not arrive before it fell so, after setting fire to key points in the area, retreated.  On 9/23, during the retreat, he was subject to a lightening attack by the Uesugi army at the Tedori River.  This is known as the Battle of Tedorigawa.  A letter from Kenshin notes that over 1,000 soldiers under Katsuie were taken, but this is not cited in other sources and the conflict appeared to be limited in scale so the number of casualties is uncertain.  In 1578, after the death of Kenshin, Saitō Toshiharu, a general in the army of Oda Nobutada, expelled the Uesugi army from the central portion of Etchū Province.

In the third month of 1580, as soon as Nobunaga and the Hongan Temple entered into a settlement, the Hokuriku region became active.  Katsuie attacked and demolished the Kanazawa-midō, a hall serving as the headquarters for the Ikkō-ikki and then advanced to northern Kaga on the border with Etchū Province.  After subduing the Ikkō-ikki, in the eleventh month of 1580, he finally pacified Kaga.  His forces rode this momentum to proceed into Noto and Etchū provinces.  Owing to the demotion of Sakuma Nobumori, Katsuie became the head of chief retainers of the Oda family both in name and in substance.

On 2/28 of Tenshō 9 (1581), during Nobunaga’s Kyōto Mounted Horse Parade, Katsuie went to the capital and led the Echizen group including yoriki, or security officers, such as Maeda Toshiie in the event.  From around this time, perhaps owing to policies to oppose the Uesugi clan, Katsuie engaged in active communication with Endō Motonobu, a retainer of the Date clan, and led diplomatic policies with the Date.

From the third month of 1582, Katsuie laid siege to Uozu and Matsukura castles (aligned with the Uesugi clan) in Etchū Province.  At early dawn on 6/2, Nobunaga unexpectedly died in a coup d’ètat in the capital known as the Honnō Temple Incident.  Prior to receiving this news, on 6/3, Katsuie captured Uozu Castle in an event known as the Siege of Uozu Castle.  From the evening of 6/6 when he heard the news, Katsuie quickly withdrew his forces and returned to Kita-no-shō Castle.  In a letter dated 6/10 to Mizoguchi Hanzaemon, Katsuie noted that Mitsuhide was stationed in Ōmi (in fact, on 6/8, Mitsuhide departed Azuchi in Ōmi and, on 6/9, was in Kyōto in Yamashiro Province), and communicated a plan to join with Niwa Nagahide who was in Ōsaka to kill Mitsuhide.  After learning of the coup, the Uesugi incited the kunishū, or provincial landowners, in Etchū and Noto provinces so Katsuie’s army could not move.  Finally, on 6/18, his army mobilized in Ōmi but Hideyoshi had already led the Great March to Chūgoku and with his army had eliminated Mitsuhide.

Kiyosu Conference

In the wake of the coup d’état known as the Honnō Temple Incident that resulted in the death of Nobunaga, the Kiyosu Conference was held to determine his successor and the allocation of his vast territories.  Katsuie opposed Hideyoshi becoming the successor to the Oda clan and recommended Nobunaga’s third son, Oda Nobutaka.  Having killed Akechi Mitsuhide (the ringleader of the coup), Hideyoshi had a strong voice among the group and backed Sanpōshi, the three-year-old lineal grandson of Nobunaga who was later known as Oda Hidenobu.  Hideyoshi prevailed and Sanpōshi was chosen to inherit the headship of the clan.  Under an alternate theory, the story that Katsuie opposed the selection of Sanpōshi as the successor is regarded as a fabrication in the accounts of the Taikō (HIdeyoshi) and, in fact, there was no disagreement on this point and the conference was held on the premise that Sanpōshi would be chosen as the successor of Nobunaga.

Regarding the allocation of Nobunaga’s territories, Hideyoshi received Kawachi, Tanba, and Yamashiro provinces.  Katsuie received three districts in northern Ōmi and Nagahama Castle, representing a reversal of their standing.  As a result of the Kiyosu Conference, Oda Nobukatsu and Oda Nobutaka were to serve as guardians for their nephew, the three-year-old Sanpōshi.  Nobukatsu was to govern Owari, Iga, and southern Ise while Nobutaka would control Mino.  They would be supported by four senior retainers including Hashiba Hideyoshi, Shibata Katsuie, Niwa Nagahide, and Ikeda Tsuneoki.

At this conference, Katsuie received consent from several generals to wed the younger sister of Nobunaga (and former wife of Azai Nagamasa), Oichi-no-kata.  Traditionally, this would have been through the offices of Nobutaka, but in a letter dated 10/6 of Tenshō 10 (1582) from Katsuie to Hori Hidemasa, he noted: “I had an understanding with Hideyoshi to obtain everyone’s consent to wed a relative of our lord.”  It can be surmised that this was an act by Hideyoshi to placate Katsuie owing to his dissatisfaction with respect to the outcome of the conference.

After the Kiyosu Conference, a power struggle emerged among the senior retainers of the Oda family who acquired more influence such as Hideyoshi and Katsuie.  Katsuie joined forces with Takigawa Kazumasu and Oda Nobutaka in opposition to Hideyoshi.  Meanwhile, after applying pressure, Hideyoshi won over Shibata Katsutoyo (Katsuie’s adopted son) at Nagahama Castle.  Next, he surrounded Oda Nobutaka in Gifu and forced him to submit.  In the first month of 1583, Hideyoshi led an army of 70,000 troops to attack Takigawa Kazumasu in northern Ise, but Kazumasu stood against him until the third month.

Demise at Kita-no-shō

On 3/12 of Tenshō 11 (1583), Katsuie deployed to northern Ōmi and, at the Battle of Shizugatake, confronted Hideyoshi who returned from northern Ise.  Katsuie explained the situation in advance to Ashikaga Yoshiaki who was under the protection of the Mōri and, via the Mōri, sent a letter urging to deploy with the Mōri army.  He attempted an attack from the rear but it did not go well and Yoshiaki’s prospects for a role in the new era faded.  On 4/16, after earlier surrendering to Hideyoshi, Oda Nobutaka joined forces with Takigawa Kazumasu to raise arms again.  Hideyoshi headed toward Gifu while Katsuie launched an attack on the Ōiwayama fortress at Shizugatake in Ōmi but was defeated by Hideyoshi who led his forces back to Mino.  On 4/24, at Kita-no-shō Castle, Katsuie, along with his wife, Oichi, took his life.  This event is known as the Siege of Kita-no-shō Castle.  Katsuie was sixty-two years old.

Included in records of the Mōri family, in a letter dated 5/15 of Tenshō 11 (1583) from Hideyoshi to Kobayakawa Takakage, the final event of Katsuie’s life is described as follows:

At 4:00 AM on 4/24, we approached the main castle and, at noon, rode in and decapitated enemy forces.  Over 200 men under Katsuie were holed-up in the castle tower.  The passages were narrow and an all-out assault would yield many casualties so we had a select group of soldiers cut their way into the tower with swords and spears.  Despite seven rounds of fighting, Katsuie was unable to ward-off the attack.  He climbed to the top of the tower and shouted to all of the soldiers to watch and learn from how he would end his life whereupon those samurai with an empathetic heart wept deeply and, amidst the silence, Katsuie stabbed his wife and children and then, along with 80 others, committed seppuku.  This occurred at 5:00 PM.

Katsuie cut himself in the form of a cross, deploying the most formal method of seppuku.  According to customary practice, he called upon a retainer named Nakamura Bunkasai to decapitate him during the process.  Over 80 persons martyred themselves.  Bunkasai set fire to gunpowder that had been prepared in advance so, along with Katsuie, all of his relatives in the tower also perished.

His family temples include the Saikō Temple in the city of Fukui in Fukui Prefecture and the Bangaku Temple in the city of Takashima in Shiga Prefecture.  Buddhist mortuary tablets for Katsuie exist at these locations to the present day.  Bangaku was the monk’s name of Katsuie.

On 11/10 of Shōwa 3 (1928), Katsuie was invested with the honorary title of Third Rank (Lower) by the Ministry of the Imperial Household.


Luís Fróis, a Jesuit missionary from Portugal who resided in Japan during the Sengoku period, described Katsuie in his diaries as follows:

Katsuie was one of the two most important retainers of Nobunaga.  He was an extraordinarily ferocious bushō who spent his entire life on military matters and was one of the most resolute warriors of the era of Nobunaga in Japan.  Katsuie observed Zen Buddhism but did not detest other religions.  With respect to the evangelical activities of Fróis and other Christian missionaries in Echizen, he did not impede them but nor did he assist them.  He said that whether their teachings spread depended upon the abilities of the missionaries.

Fróis further noted in a report that, after the defeat at Shizugatake, while at Kita-no-shō Castle, Katsuie did not begrudge retainers who had rebelled and permitted those retainers who had stayed with him to the end to live and was rather pleased.  He regretted that he did not have a means at the time to reward the affection shown in the past by his retainers.  A similar story is noted in a memorandum from Murai Shigeyori, a retainer of the Maeda family.


On one occasion, Nobunaga attempted to appoint Katsuie as a standing general of the vanguard forces, but Katsuie refused.  Nobunaga then forced him to take the position.  Later, after a hatamoto, or retainer, of Nobunaga collided with the formation of Katsuie’s division below Azuchi Castle, Katsuie killed the hatamoto for his insolence.  This upset Nobunaga, to whom Katsuie said: “That is why I declined this position.  If you do not give the general of the vanguard that much authority, then he cannot fulfill his duties.”  Unable to deny the logic of Katsuie’s comment, Nobunaga did not respond.

Brusque in nature and exhibiting exceptional military prowess, Katsuie was called Oni-Shibata or Shibata the Demon.  An account written in the middle Edo period, referred to Katsuie as Kakare Shibata, noting that Katsuie, along with Hideyoshi, had the foremost ability to charge the enemy on the battlefield.

There is a legend that, at the height of battle, Katsuie used the handle of a spear to intentionally break a water jug to rally the spirits of the castle garrison for a counterattack, whereupon the troops rushed out of the castle, overwhelmed the enemy, and survived in the midst of death.  For this act, he was referred to as Shibata the Jug Breaker.

In another legend for which he is known as the Shibata the Wise One, Katsuie seized swords from civilian uprisings and had these melted down to manufacture chains.  He used these chains to connect boats and fabricate a pontoon bridge across the Kuzuryū River.  This served as the initiative for a policy under Hideyoshi known as katana-gari requiring civilians and monks to relinquish their swords and other weapons.

In one account, there is a story that Katsuie said to Maeda Toshiie, “I heard that, in the vicinity of Kyōto, people such as Akechi Mitsuhide and Sugaya Nagayori have moved up in the ranks and are meddling in various matters, but I have served Nobunaga until now in perhaps twenty-four battles so I am troubled to consider these people have moved up.”

In an entry to a diary dated 2/15 of Tenshō 9 (1581), it can be confirmed that, upon a direct appeal from Katsuie, he received from Nobunaga a precious tea kettle with a narrow stem that Nobunaga inherited from his father, Oda Nobuhide.  In addition, he is said to have received a teacup known as the Shibata Ido or Shibata Water Well that was handed down through the generations.  As such, there is a possibility that Katsuie did receive utensils from Nobunaga but it cannot be confirmed that he was permitted to use precious utensils for tea ceremonies known as the ochanoyu.

After his defeat at the Battle of Shizugatake, Katsuie met with Maeda Toshiie at Fuchū Castle (the base of Maeda Toshinaga).  Not only did he refrain from criticizing Toshiie for retreating before him but apologized for the troubles over several years.  He said: “I have a good relationship with Hideyoshi so you should definitely surrender.  Don’t choose the wrong path again on account of me.”  This, however, is not cited in other sources of research of Toshiie as a historical fact while the withdrawal was an act of prior collusion with Hideyoshi raising questions as to the authenticity of the story.