Lifespan: Eishō 13 (1516) to 7/21 of Tenbun 11 (1542)
Rank: bushō; sengoku daimyō
Titles: Senior Assistant Minister of Justice; Senior Assistant Minister of the Left Division
Father: Suwa Yoritaka
Siblings: Yoritoshi, Yorishige, Yoritaka
Wife: [Formal] Nene-goryōnin (third daughter of Takeda Nobutora); [Consort] Kesōin (daughter of the Omi clan)
Children: Toraō (Chōkyū), Suwa-goryōnin (consort of Takeda Shingen)
Suwa Yorishige served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō during the Sengoku period. Yorishige was the nineteenth head of the main branch of the Suwa clan and lord of Uehara Castle. Yorishige was also the Ōhōri (chief priest) of the Suwa Grand Shrine, a largely ceremonial role assisted by five priests headed by the Jinchōkan of the Moriya clan. Yorishige was a maternal grandfather of Takeda Katsuyori. In the era of Yorishige, the Suwa, along with the Murakami, the Ogasawara, and the Kisodani clans, maintained close ties with the Muromachi bakufu and were known as the Four Generals of Shinano.
In 1516, Yorishige was born as the eldest son of Suwa Yoritaka. During his youth, he worked at the Suwa Grand Shrine, later transferring this role to his younger brother, Suwa Yoritaka.
On 9/17 of 1535, Takeda Nobutora (a shugo daimyō and sengoku daimyō of Kai Province and the eighteenth head of the Takeda clan) met Suwa Yorimitsu (the head of the Suwa – a sengoku daimyō family in Shinano) at the Sakai River on the border of Kai and Shinano provinces and entered into an alliance, marked by ringing the bell at the upper site of the Suwa Grand Shrine. This brought to a temporary end conflict between the Suwa and Takeda clans.
On 12/9 of 1539, his father, Yoritaka, died. Yorishige was appointed by his grandfather, Suwa Yorimitsu, to become the successor to the clan.
In the eleventh month of 1540, Yorishige wed Nobutora’s third daughter, establishing through marriage a political alliance with the Takeda clan. On 5/13 of 1541, Yorishige joined with Nobutora and Murakami Yoshikiyo to invade the Chiisagata District to fight against the Unno clan. On 5/23, the invading forces defeated Unno Munetsuna at the Battle of Unnotaira and expelled him to Kōzuke Province.
In the sixth month of 1541, Nobutora was exiled to Suruga while his eldest son, Takeda Harunobu, became the lord of Kai Province. Harunobu committed to the invasion of Shinano by attacking the Suwa District. In the sixth month of 1542, Harunobu joined with others opposed to the Suwa, including Takatō Yoritsugu of the Ina District who had designs on the Suwa territory, and Yajima Mitsukiyo (an official from the upper site of the Suwa Grand Shrine with the title of Neigi-dayū) to invade the Suwa District. On 7/2 of 1542, the invading forces attacked Suwa Yorishige at his main base at Uehara Castle. With the assistance of Suwa Mitsuchika (Yorishige’s uncle), Yorishige fled to Kuwabara Castle, but surrendered on 7/4 in an event known as the Battle of Kuwabara Castle. Yorishige and his younger brother, Yoritaka were taken to the main base of the Takeda in Kōfu, and, after being incarcerated at the Tōkō Temple, on 7/21, killed themselves. This marked the end of the main branch of the Suwa family.
For the governance of Shinano, the Takeda clan had assorted families in Shinano inherit the Takeda surname as a component of their pacification policy. Takeda Katsuyori was born to Suwa Goryōnin, a consort of Takeda Shingen (as his fourth son). He retained the Suwa surname and inherited the clan, which is regarded as being for nominal reasons and not counted for purposes of generational lineage. The role of the Ōhōri at the upper site of the Suwa Grand Shrine was carried on by Yorishige’s uncle, Suwa Mitsuchika and his descendants revived the clan to become daimyō in later periods.