Lifespan: Eiroku 11 (1568) to 11/22 of Keichō 12 (1608)
Other Names: Isejūmaru (childhood), Hashiba Kunitsuna
Rank: sengoku daimyō
Title: Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Chamberlain, Governor of Shimotsuke
Father: Utsunomiya Hirotsuna
Mother: Nanryoin (daughter of Satake Yoshiaki)
Siblings: Kunitsuna, Yūki Tomokatsu, Haga Takaktake
Wife: [Formal] Koshōshō (adopted daughter of Satake Yoshishige and natural daughter of Satake Yoshihisa)
Children: Yoshitsuna, Noritsuna
Utsunomiya Kunitsuna served as a sengoku daimyō of Shimotsuke Province during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods. Kunitsuna was the last head of the Utsunomiya clan with the status of a daimyō.
On 8/7 of Tenshō 4 (1576), upon the death of his father, Utsunomiya Hirotsuna, Kunitsuna became the twenty-second head of the clan. At the time, however, Kunitsuna was in his youth so opposition elements in the province such as the Mibu and Minagawa clans took advantage of the situation to ramp-up their operations while attacks from the Gohōjō intensified. Kunitsuna resisted them by aligning with the Satake of Hitachi Province, the Yūki of Shimōsa Province, and Takeda Katsuyori of Kai Province, in addition to Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. From the fifth to eighth months of 1584, Kunitsuna participated in the Battle of Numajiri. While the outcome of the battle was indecisive, in its aftermath, the Satake clan prioritized their response to Kajiwara Masakage after his defection. As a result, the situation worsened. The Mibu and Minagawa clans formally defected, the Yura and Yokose clans submitted to the Hōjō, and the Sano family, having suffered the loss of Sano Munetsuna in battle, aligned with the Hōjō. In 1585, at the Battle of Usubagahara, Kunitsuna supported the Shionoya clan but lost to the Nasu clan, making it difficult to defend Utsunomiya Castle situated on a plain.
As a result, prior to the Conquest of Odawara, the occupants of assorted castles in the area including Kanuma, Mooka, and Mibu castles affiliated with the Mibu and Minagawa clans defected to the Hōjō. This compelled Kunitsuna to move from Utsunomiya Castle, which was situated on a plain, to the mountain stronghold of Taki Castle. At this point, his only plan was to call upon Hideyoshi for support to mount a defense.
In 1590, Kunitsuna served in the Conquest of Odawara led by Hideyoshi and in an assault on Oshi Castle commanded by Ishida Mitsunari. Thereafter, he received official recognition of his rights to landholdings of 180,000 koku in Shimotsuke.
Kunitsuna obeyed Hideyoshi, participating in the operations to suppress the opposition in an event known as the Revolt of Kunohe Masazane as well as the Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula. With the backing of Hideyoshi, he strengthened his control over the clan and, in 1594, was conferred the Toyotomi surname.
On 10/13 of Keichō 2 (1597), upon orders of Hideyoshi, Kunitsuna was suddenly removed from his position. There are several theories regarding the reasons for his removal. According to one theory, Kunitsuna did not have an heir so he attempted to adopt Asano Nagashige, the third son of Asano Nagamasa, one of the gobugyō, or Five Commissioners, of the Toyotomi administration. Kunitsuna’s younger brother, Haga Takatake, fiercely opposed the adoption and murdered Imaizumi Takamitsu, a close associate of Kunitsuna promoting the adoption. Nagamasa resented the action so, as a result of his slander, Kunitsuna was removed. This theory is corroborated by a letter from Satake Yoshinobu to his father, Satake Yoshishige, dated 10/7 of Keichō 2 (1597) noting that the Utsunomiya were yoriki daimyō, or daimyō serving as security officers, for the Satake, and given the marital relationships between the clans, the Satake were also subject to an order for removal but spared through the intercession by Ishida Mitsunari. The letter further states instructions from Mitsunari: “You should immediately go to the capital and make a courtesy visit to Hideyoshi, but the investigator for Asano Danjō (Nagamasa) is heading toward the territory of the Utsunomiya to conduct a survey so covertly go to the capital so as not to be noticed.” This further indicates that Asano Nagamasa had a role in the removal of the Utsunomiya clan from their position.
Under another theory, land surveys conducted by the Toyotomi administration determined that the Utsunomiya held a multiple of the 180,000 koku of landholdings recognized by Hideyoshi resulting in allegations of deceit with respect to the amount of the clan’s landholdings. Yet, under one more theory, efforts by Kunitsuna and his close associates including the Imaizumi to strengthen their control over the clan triggered opposition by the Haga clan who represented senior hereditary retainers who wielded power in the clan over many years. This escalated into a battle between Kunitsuna’s associates and the retainers.
Later, Kunitsuna was expelled from Utsunomiya and taken in under the watch of Ukita Hideie of Bizen Province. He was informed that Hideyoshi said that “Revival of the clan depends upon contributions in Korea.” In a bid to revive the Utsunomiya clan, Kunitsuna deployed for the Keichō Campaign, serving meritoriously at the Battle of Suncheon. Nevertheless, owing to the death of Hideyoshi in the eighth month of 1598, Kunitsuna could not realize his wish to revive the clan. After returning to Shimotsuke, he traveled to the Ise Shrine in Ise Province to submit a written wish for the revival of the clan. Soon thereafter, he responded to an offer from Tokugawa Ieyasu and served him from the western citadel at Ōsaka Castle. At the Battle of Sekigahara, Kunitsuna’s younger brother, Haga Takatake, served Ishida Mitsunari in the Western Army. In the Kantō, another younger brother, Yūki Tomokatsu, who pursued activities in opposition to the Tokugawa, also joined the Western Army so even though Kunitsuna aligned with the Eastern Army, he could not revive the clan.
Thereafter, he wandered among several provinces. In 1607, in a state of despair, he died of illness at Ishihama in Asakusa in Edo. He was forty years old.
After maturing, his son, Utsunomiya Yoshitsuna, served as a retainer of the Hitachi-Mito domain. Kunitsuna’s wife, Koshōshō, became a wet nurse for Tokugawa Masako and followed her to Kyōto.