Uragami Muramune


Uragami Clan

Sengoku Daimyō

Bizen Province

Lifespan:  14xx to 6/4 of Kyōroku 4 (1531)

Rank:  bushō; sengoku daimyō

Title:  Governor of Mimasaka

Clan:  Uragami

Bakufu: Muromachi bakufu – Deputy Military Governor of Bizen

Lord:  Akamatsu Yoshimura → Akamatsu Masamura (Masasuke)

Father:  Uragami Munesuke

Siblings: Muramune, Munehisa

Wife: Daughter of Sayō Norizumi

Children: Masamune, Munekage

Uragami Muramune served as a bushō and sengoku daimyō of Bizen, Mimasaka, and Harima provinces.

Muramune was the son of Uragami Munesuke.  Muramune served the Akamatsu clan and received one of the characters in his name from Akamatsu Yoshimura.  Later, he acted independently of Yoshimura and killed him.  Thereafter, he disputed with Yoshimura’s son, Akamatsu Harumasa. Despite a reconciliation, Muramune was attacked and killed by Harumasa at the Collapse at Daimotsu in 1531.

Background of the Uragami clan

The Uragami clan descended from Ki-no-Haseo, a man of culture and a noble from the early Heian period.  The surname originated from the Uragami neighborhood in the Ibo District of Harima Province.  At the end of the Kamakura period, Akamatsu Norimura arose from Harima while the Uragami served under his command, participating in the overthrow of the Kamakura bakufu.  In the Nanbokuchō period, the Akamatsu abandoned the new administration established by Emperor Godaigo.  By providing early support to Ashikaga Takauji, the founder and first shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, the Akamatsu flourished in the Muromachi period.

Individuals from the Uragami clan make an appearance in this period of history. Meanwhile, the Akamatsu rapidly expanded their influence under the bakufu during the early fifteenth century.  This led to interference in their territory by Ashikaga Yoshinori, the sixth shōgun, who ruled by fear.  The tensions this caused culminated in a dramatic slaying by Akamatsu Mitsusuke of Yoshinori and his companions at a dinner party, an incident known as the Kakitsu Disturbance, in 1441.  Following the attack, Mitsusuke departed Kyōto while the bakufu assembled an allied army supported by military governors.  Mitsusuke made an initial defense from Harima Province, but was later defeated and the Akamatsu clan lost its power. Nevertheless, members of the Uragami clan, along with remnants from the Akamatsu, rallied around Akamatsu Masanori, the grandson of Mitsusuke’s younger brother (Akamatsu Yoshimasa).  These individuals succeeded in planning and restoring the main family.  The Akamatsu and Uragami clans significantly expanded their influence under Uragami Norimune, a well-known retainer who performed a key role in restoring the clan.   

During the Ōnin-Bunmei War, a major conflict between the western and eastern armies that lasted for over a decade centered upon Kyōto and its environs, the Akamatsu clan joined the eastern army led by Hosokawa Katsumoto.  Norimune saw action in the territory that served as the center of influence for the Yamana clan of the western army, including Hōki and Inaba provinces near Harima, and served as commander of the Akamatsu forces in the capital of Kyōto.  As a result, after the conflict, Akamatsu Masanori was appointed as the chief of the samurai-dokoro, or security office, for the bakufu, while Norimune served as the deputy, for which he carried out his duties.  This period witnessed the height of prosperity for the Uragami clan.


Muramune likely succeeded Uragami Sukemune, the adopted heir of Norimune, as head of the clan, but it is not certain owing to a lack of historical sources on the movements of Sukemune and Muramune during the first half of the Eishō era (1504-1521), including the essential details and timing of family succession.  Moreover, the status of Muramune within the Uragami clan is also unclear.  There are family trees with Norimune, Norikage, and adoptees such as Sukemune, but none that can be substantiated.  Muramune was the grandchild of Uragami Norinaga, a lineal descendant of the clan, so if born after all of Norimune’s children and adopted children were deceased, then he could have become heir without being an adoptee of anyone.

Secret feuds with the Akamatsu family

Following the death of Akamatsu Masanori, his adopted son, Akamatsu Yoshimura, was still a young age, so Masanori’s second wife, Tōshōin, served as a guardian, and with the support of the Uragami clan, he became the military governor of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces.  Thereafter, as Yoshimura matured, he began to fear the power and influence acquired by the Uragami in their role as deputy military governors, and sought an opportunity to be independent.

In 1517, Yoshimura finally began to participate in affairs of governance, establishing a new administration comprised of two elders (Uragami Muramune and Kodera Norimoto) and three of his close associates (Kushihashi Noritaka, Shimizu Kiyozane, and Kinugasa Tomochika).   However, it became evident that the administration was formed for the purpose of curbing the despotic tendencies of the elders and strengthening the voice of Yoshimura himself so Muramune resisted Yoshimura and opposed the other elder, Norimoto.  Muramune’s position was undermined as a result of slander by Norimoto and Yoshimura’s three associates.  Yoshimura paid credence to their input, rendering a punishment by terminating Muramune’s service.

Escalation to armed conflict

Discontent with his blatant expulsion from the Akamatsu’s organs of power, Muramune, together with retainers including Ukita Yoshiie, returned to Bizen Province, holed up in Mitsuishi Castle, and rebelled against the Akamatsu clan. 

In the winter of 1519, Yoshimura saw the rebellion as an opportunity to further strengthen his own authority, so he mobilized an army for an expedition to lay siege to Mitsuishi Castle. Muramune, however, had devised countermeasures, including a secret alliance with Matsuda Motomichi, the most powerful kokujin in Bizen who regarded the Akamatsu as an enemy. News that Mototaka was going to appear in support of Muramune yielded results, and the defenders succeeded in repelling Yoshimura who found an attack on the well-protected castle to be untenable.  

In 1520, Muramune was attacked again by an army dispatched by Yoshimura under the command of Kodera Norimoto.  Rather than attacking the home base of the Uragami clan, this army concentrated on the castles of supporters of the Uragami, such as Nakamura Norihisa, the deputy military governor of Mimasaka who had switched loyalties in favor of the Uragami.  These actions were intended to weaken support for the Uragami.

Initially, the Akamatsu forces enjoyed an advantage in suppressing allies of the Uragami in Mimasaka, however, upon orders of Muramune, Ukita Yoshiie led guerilla attacks that frequently disrupted the Akamatsu forces.  Moreover, Nakamura Norihisa was situated in the impregnable fortress of Iwaya Castle, with enough supplies stored to hold-out against a siege for over two hundred days without losing the castle.  Unable to deliver a decisive blow, the Akamatsu forces in Mimasaka found themselves subject to full-throttled attacks by Muramune and Matsuda Motomichi against their rear guard.  Moreover, Muramune succeeded in winning over Akamatsu Murakage and others from the Akamatsu army to have them join the rebellion.  The Akamatsu army that initially had invaded Mimasaka to attack the Uragami instead was weakened and, after the loss of over two hundred men including their lead commander, Kodera Norimoto, headed toward decimation.  This defeat contributed significantly to Yoshimura’s loss of prestige.  Despite coming from a subordinate position in terms of military power, Muramune came out on top, counterattacking in Harima.  Following a build-up of military pressure, Yoshimura was forced to turn over his heir, Akamatsu Saimatsumaru, and himself, to retire.  Saimatsumaru, who was eight years old at the time, changed his name to Akamatsu Masamura (later known as Akamatsu Harumasa) and was made to inherit the clan under the guardianship of Muramune.

Early in 1521, Muramune repelled another attack by Yoshimura who pledged support for Ashikaga Kameōmaru (later known as Yoshiharu), the twelfth shōgun.  To protect Kameōmaru, Muramune feigned an offer to engage in settlement negotiations and instead had Yoshimura apprehended at the meeting place and confined at Murotsu on the coastline of Harima.  Muramune then issued a more severe verdict by dispatching an assassin to murder Yoshimura at his place of confinement. As a result, in both form and substance, Muramune usurped control of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka on the path to becoming a sengoku daimyō.        

Around this time, Kameōmaru arrived in Kyōto at the invitation of Hosokawa Takakuni, the deputy shōgun, and became the supreme shōgun under the name of Ashikaga Yoshiharu.  However, while the Uragami had expanded their influence, their power was primarily derived from the Akamatsu as the Uragami had not fully usurped their former masters, a phenomenon known as gekokujō. Ultimately, Muramune appointed a nominal head of the Akamatsu and exercised authority from behind the scenes, without being able to justify his governance.  Muramune formed a united front with the Akamatsu to defend against an attack in Harima by Yamana Nobutoyo of Tajima Province. After the threat subsided, Muramune argued with Masamura and other powerful members of the family such as Uragami Murakuni who aligned Masamura against Muramune’s increasingly despotic tendencies.  Muramune expelled Masamura from Okishio Castle and chased him away to Mimasaka.   

The final years

Hosokawa Takakuni, the deputy shōgun, lost in a dispute with Hosokawa Harumoto (the eldest son of Hosokawa Sumimoto), and was forced to flee the capital of Kyōto.  Acknowledging the power acquired by Muramune, Takakuni asked him to join the battle against Harumoto.  Muramune reached a temporary settlement with his lord, Akamatsu Harumasa (also known as Masamura and Masasuke), and then raised an army to advance upon Kyōto, thereby entering the long-running succession struggle between rival factions of the Hosokawa.  Muramune may have calculated that by supporting and enabling Takakuni to return to Kyōto, he could build a governance structure without influence by the Akamatsu and assume the position of military governor of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces.   

Initially, Muramune defeated Bessho Nariharu, an opponent in eastern Harima, and occupied Miki Castle.  He then may have had an assassin kill Yanagimoto Kataharu, a senior retainer of Harumoto dispatched to suppress resistance in Harima.  Muramune continued on to attack Ikeda Castle in Settsu Province, gaining the advantage and providing a boost to Takakuni’s plan to re-capture the capital.  In 1531, however, an expedition against Harumoto and the Sakai kubō who formed the nucleus of opposition to Takakuni bogged down Muramune’s forces and turned into a stalemate.  In the summer of 1531, Muramune was killed in a surprise pincer attack led by Harumoto and Miyoshi Motonaga known as the Daimotsu kuzure while Takakuni was forced to take his life days later after his capture in nearby Amagasaki.  

The outcome of this event owed to a betrayal by Akamatsu Harumasa, who arrived under the pretext of providing reinforcements to Takakuni, only to then attack from behind.  The oft-cited reasons for Harumasa’s actions include as a means to dispel the regret that he felt for the past killing of his father or to restore his authority as a military governor. Following Muramune’s demise, his eldest son, Uragami Masamune, succeeded him as head of the clan.  Thereafter, the Uragami and Akamatsu continued a cycle of opposition and reconciliation between the clans.