Lifespan: Kyōroku 2 (1529) to 1/9 of Tenshō 10 (1582)
Rank: bushō; sengoku daimyō
Lord: Uragami Munekage → Mõri Terumoto → Oda Nobunaga
Father: Ukita Okiie
Mother: Daughter of Abe Zenjō
Siblings: Naoie, Haruie, Tadaie, sister (wife of Iga Hisataka), sister (wife of Maki Kuninobu)
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Nakayama Nobumasa, [Second wife] Enyūin (from the Takatori or Miura clan)
Children: Hideie, wife of Ebara Chikatsugu, wife of Uragami Munetoki, wife of Matsuda Motokata, wife of Kikkawa Hiroie (Yōkōin), wife of Gotō Katsumoto, wife of Saimura Masahiro, wife of Akashi Takenori, adopted daughter of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Motoie (adopted)
Ukita Naoie served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō of Bizen Province during the Sengoku period. Naoie initially served the Uragami clan, but rebelled against his lord twice, joining Oda Nobunaga.
Service as a retainer of the Uragami
In 1529, Naoie was the son of Ukita Okiie. According to one uncorroborated account, Naoie was born in Toishi Castle in the Toyohara manor of the Oku District of Bizen. His wife, Enyūin, was the daughter of Nakayama Nobumasa. She first married Miura Sadakatsu, and remarried Naoie following the death of Sadakatsu.
In 1531 (or in 1534), his grandfather, Ukita Yoshiie, was killed by Shimamura Moritsura when Naoie was only three (or six) years old in an attack on the Ukita base at Toishi Castle in Bizen. This event left Naoie and his father, Okiie, as wanderers. As an adult, Naoie served Uragami Munekage, lord of Tenjinyama Castle, achieving notoriety among the retainers of the Uragami.
Naoie excelled at strategy. As revenge for the killing of his father, he assassinated Shimamura Morizane, and killed Morizane’s son-in-law, Nakayama Nobumasa and Saisho Mototsune, the lord of Tatsunokuchi Castle. According to other accounts, however, Mototsune was assassinated by the Mōri when shoved off a cliff into a waterfall. Naoie served a central role in expanding the influence of the Uragami clan.
Naoie had an acquaintance with Endō Toshimichi and Endō Hidekiyo, two brothers affiliated with the Awa-Hosokawa clan who had become wanderers. In the second month of 1566, he engaged them to shoot Mimura Iechika of Bitchū Province with an arquebus after Iechika’s advance into Mimasaka Province. In the seventh month of 1567, at the Battle of Myōzenji, Naoie succeeded in expelling almost all forces from Bitchū who had entered the western portion of Bizen. Thereafter, he toppled Matsuda Mototeru, lord of Kanagawa Castle, and his son, Matsuda Motokata, who were relatives of Naoie. He then eliminated Kanamitsu Munetaka, lord of Okayama Castle, and took possession of their domains, becoming one of the most powerful figures in the Uragami family.
Rebellion against Uragami Munekage
In 1569, Naoie joined with Oda Nobunaga and Akamatsu Masahide of western Harima Province to rebel against his lord, Uragami Munekage. However, Masahide lost at the Battle of Aoyama-Kawarakeyama to Kuroda Mototaka and his son, Kuroda Yoshitaka. This was followed by the departure of senior commanders of Nobunaga, including Ikeda Katsumasa and Bessho Yasuharu, to participate in an invasion by the Oda army of Echizen Province. This provided an opportunity for Munekage’s forces to attack Tatsuno Castle, leading Masahide to surrender. As a result, Naoie was left with no allies, completely isolated, and without ability to resist, causing him to surrender, whereupon he was given a special exception to return to the service of his lord.
In 1574, Naoie endeavored once again to become independent of Munekage. First, he took note of Uragami Hisamatsumaru who was in keeping with the Kodera clan. Hisamatsumaru was the grandson of Uragami Masamune (the older brother of Munekage). Naoie inquired with Kodera Masamoto in regard to having Hisamatsumaru enter Bizen. With Masamoto’s permission, he backed Hisamatsumaru and rebelled against Munekage.
Owing to Naoie’s advance planning, and with Hisamatsumaru as the figurehead, numerous clans in Munekage’s domain in Mimasaka and Bizen provinces joined the rebellion in succession. In addition, Naoie joined with the Mōri clan of Aki Province who had a bad relationship with Munekage, enabling Naoie to overcome any military disadvantage. In 1575, he supported an attack by the Mōri clan against the Mimura clan, further forging the alliance. In the ninth month of 1575, Naoie convinced trusted retainers such as Akashi Yukikatsu to collude, and, after the Siege of Tenjinyama Castle, expelled Munekage to Harima Province while expanding his domain to cover Bizen in addition to portions of Mimasaka and Bitchū provinces.
Resistance by residual members of the Uragami
Nevertheless, after the ouster of Munekage, former members of the Uragami clan remained in Bizen while Munekage and his family member, Uragami Hidemune, continued to maintain covert communications with them from Harima. This led to frequent uprisings in Bizen instigated by former members of the Uragami hiding in Bizen, posing a challenge for Naoie.
In the twelfth month of 1578, former elements of the Uragami revolted in unison, even occupying an island known as Kōjima. With Munekage and Hidemune serving as the ringleaders, these military uprisings gathered enough momentum to capture Tenjinyama Castle, and required several months to suppress. However, by this point, the former members of the Uragami secretly residing in Bizen and Harima provinces were expelled from the territory. Naoie’s forces eliminated a supporter of Munekage named Hoshiga Mitsushige, lord of Washiyama Castle in Mimasaka, shattering Munekage’s ambition to recover his territory. The Ukita family finally consolidated control within their territory.
Next, the Ukita resisted an advance by Hashiba Hideyoshi, who led a westward march upon orders of Oda Nobunaga. In the fifth month of 1579, Naoie’s forces crushed Gotō Katsumoto of eastern Mimasaka after he colluded with Nobunaga, but, in the autumn, Naoie cut ties with the Mōri clan and submitted to Nobunaga.
Thereafter, he engaged in battles across Mimasaka and Bizen against the Mōri. Toward the end of 1581, he died of illness at Okayama Castle. His death was briefly kept secret, with a public mourning occurring on 1/9 of 1582.
According to one account, Naoie ranked along with Saitō Dōsan and Matsunaga Hisahide as a bad actor, while also known, along with Amago Tsunehisa of Izumo and Mōri Motonari of Aki as one of three great strategists of the western region (chūgoku sandai bōshō). Naoie had his daughters or the daughters of cousins sent for adoption or marriage by persons whom he deemed unmanageable, such as Kanamitsu Munetaka, Matsuda Motokata, and Gotō Katsumoto, and then, at the opportune moment, had them poisoned or assassinated at night. This caused fear even among those close to him.
Meanwhile, Naoie was known to take care of his retainers, and did not admonish his relatives even when they caused him trouble. Naoie’s younger brother (Ukita Tadaie) and multi-generational elder retainers who shared difficult times with Naoie at Otogo Castle supported him until the end. While serving as lord of Otogo, Naoie joined his retainers in cultivating the fields, and, based on some anecdotes, he also fasted at times to help reserve supplies.
Naoie deployed numerous schemes, in addition to showing respect at the burial of his enemies, treating well those dispatched as assassins, and displaying a superior intellect. Naoie demonstrated his interest in matters of faith by supporting the reconstruction of the Kanayama Temple and Kibitsuhiko Shrine after these were burned down owing to a refusal by the proprietors to comply with an order from the Matsuda clan, lords of Kanagawa Castle, to have the important shrines and temples in their domain convert to their favored Nichren sect of Buddhism. Naoie was worshiped at these sites as a result.
While residing at Ishiyama Castle, Naoie called together the merchants in an effort to develop the castle town. Until then, commercial activity in Bizen was concentrated in the eastern portion around the Saidai Temple and Bizen-Fukuoka. Owing to the development of the castle town over two generations by Naoie and his son, Hideie, a commercial area flourished around Okayama Castle.