Lifespan: Kyōtoku 3 (1454) to 6/20 of Eishō 7 (1510)
Rank: bushō, shugo daimyō
Bakufu: Muromachi, deputy shōgun of the Kantō, military governor of Kōzuke, Musashi,and Izu provinces
Father: Uesugi Fusasada
Adoptive Father: Uesugi Fusaaki
Siblings: Sadamasa, Akisada, sister (formal wife of Ashina Moritaka), sister (wife of Hatakeyama Yoshimoto) (?)
Wife: [Formal] Daughter of Uesugi Norizane (?)
Children: Daughter (formal wife of Takayama Shigezumi), Jōjō Sadanori (?)
Adopted Children: Akizane (Ashikaga Yoshitsuna), Norifusa
Uesugi Akisada served as a bushō and shugo daimyō from the latter part of the Muromachi period to the Sengoku period. He was the eleventh head of the Yamauchi-Uesugi family. Originating from the Echigo-Uesugi family, Akisada inherited the Yamauchi-Uesugi family, serving as the deputy shōgun of the Kantō during a period of more than forty years of conflict in the Kantō.
Succession to the Yamauchi-Uesugi clan
In 1454, Akisada was born as the son of Uesugi Fusasada. In the second month of 1466, Uesugi Fusaaki died in battle at Irako in Musashi Province at the age of thirty-two and without an heir. Based on the last will of Nagao Kagenaka, Nagao Kagenobu (the kasai, or head of house affairs for the Yamauchi-Uesugi) proposed that the son of Uesugi Fusasada (the military governor of Echigo who was a cousin of Fusaaki and mainstay of the Uesugi family) succeed Fusaaki as the deputy shōgun of Kantō, but Fusasada refused. Consequently, in the tenth month of the same year, Ashikaga Yoshimasa (the eighth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu) ordered Fusasada to have his son succeed Fusaaki whereupon Fusasada’s second son, Uesugi Tatsuwaka (later known as Uesugi Akisada) inherited the headship of the Yamauchi-Uesugi family.
At the height of the Kyōtoku War, Akisada fought against Ashikaga Shigeuji (the Koga kubō) in the Irako War for control of the Kantō. In 1471, Akisada prevailed over Shigeuji and occupied the Koga palace. However, in 1476, a powerful retainer named Nagao Kageharu combined forces with the Koga kubō and rebelled (in an event known as the Revolt of Nagao Kageharu), placing Akisada in a precarious situation. In the first month of 1477, Akisada was forced out of his base at Irako. In the background, tensions that turned into a power-struggle within the Yamauchi-Uesugi predated Akisada’s succession to the role as head of the clan.
Shigeuji’s army carried forward the momentum of the rebellion, invading Kōzuke and pushing Akisada and Uesugi Sadamasa of the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi family to the environs of Shiroi. In the first month of 1478, Shigeuji then settled with the Koga kubō on the condition that peace held between the bakufu and Shigeuji. Thereafter, Kageharu’s rebellion was suppressed through the actions of Ōta Dōkan, the head of house affairs of the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi family. Dōkan’s achievements contributed to a rise in the prominence of the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi family.
In 1482, through the mediation of Akisada’s father, Uesugi Fusasada, the bakufu and Koga kubō reconciled and the Kyōtoku War that had persisted for thirty years finally came to an end. Akisada then came into conflict with Sadamasa. The assassination in 1486 of Ōta Dōkan orchestrated by Sadamasa triggered the Chōkyō Conflict in 1487. In 1488, the conflict between the two enemies deepened. In Sanemakihara, Sugatani, and Takamihara (known as the Three Battles of the Kantō), Akisada was overpowered by Sadamasa, while the real power of the Yamauchi-Uesugi (serving as the deputy shōgun of the Kantō) vis-à-vis the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi (a cadet family) diverged so that, through time, Akisada gradually gained the upper hand.
In 1493, Ise Sōzui (later known as Hōjō Sōun) raided Izu Province which had originally been territory of the Yamauchi family assigned to the Horigoe kubō. In 1494, after the conflict between the two branches of the Uesugi flared again, Sadamasa invited Sōzui’s army to enter Sagami and Musashi provinces. Together with Sōzui, Sadamasa deployed to Takamihara in Musashi to confront Akisada’s forces across the Ara River, but suddenly died of illness so the Ise army withdrew. (Under another theory, Sadamasa died after falling from his horse while attempting to cross the Ara River.) In the early phases of the Chōkyō Conflict, the Koga kubō dropped its support for the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi in favor of the Yamauchi-Uesugi family.
In 1496, Akisada’s forces invaded Sagami and, in the seventh month, compelled Ise Yajirō (Sōzui’s younger brother) to abandon Odawara Castle. This battle led to a sudden change of circumstances in the western portion of Sagami. Thereafter, the forces advanced to the eastern districts and surrounded the stronghold of Mita held by the Ueda clan and, in response to the deployment by Uesugi Tomoyoshi (the successor to Sadamasa), advanced further to Kawagoe. In 1497, Akisada established a front-line position at Uwado in Musashi from which to oppose Kawagoe Castle and called upon Ashikaga Masauji. After several months of deployment, Masauji returned to Koga but Uwado continued to serve as a base for the Yamauchi-Uesugi family for seven years thereafter.
In 1504, Akisada, together with Masauji, fought against Uesugi Tomoyoshi backed by reinforcements from Imagawa Ujichika (the military governor of Suruga) and Ise Sōzui in an event known as the Battle of Tachikawa-no-hara. Akisada incurred a major defeat including the loss of over 2,000 soldiers. However, after receiving reinforcements from the Echigo-Uesugi (Akisada’s original family), his forces counterattacked and, in the following year, attacked and forced the surrender of Tomoyoshi at Kawagoe Castle. The two sides settled on the condition that Tomoyoshi retire to Edo. This amounted to a declaration of victory in the Chōkyō Conflict.
Relationship to the Koga kubō and the Eishō Disturbance
After joining forces with the Koga kubō from 1494, Akisada aimed to rebuild the structure of the kubō and deputy shōgun in the eastern provinces. In particular, he sought to improve relations with Ashikaga Masauji in terms of formalized security. To cultivate a closer relationship, Akisada also adopted Masauji’s younger brother, Ashikaga Yoshitsuna, giving him the name of Akizane. Akisada then replaced Norifusa (who had earlier been adopted by Akisada) and became the formal heir to the Yamauchi-Uesugi family. Later, Akisada lamented a falling out between Masauji and Masauji’s son, Ashikaga Takauji (known as Takamoto) whereupon Akisada entered the priesthood, adopted the name of Kajun, and served as an intermediary for the two sides.
Immediately after settlement of the internal rebellion in the family of the Koga kubō, in the seventh month of 1509, Akisada, along with his adopted son, Norifusa, invaded Echigo and expelled Nagao Tamekage (the deputy military governor of Echigo and father of Nagao Torachiyo – later known as Uesugi Kenshin) and Uesugi Sadazane to Etchū Province. This invasion may be viewed as retribution for the event in 1507 when Sadazane’s army backed by Tamekage’s troops serving as the main force ousted Uesugi Fusayoshi (Akisada’s younger brother and the military governor of Echigo) who then took his own life.
Katagiri Akihiko joined him with the aim of reclaiming the position of the main branch of the Uesugi family from the Echigo-Uesugi family of the military governor. Owing to indications that Akisada was seeking a path to reconciliation between the Irobe clan (who supported Fusayoshi) and Tamekage, along with a letter to the Date clan stating that he harbored no resentment toward Sadazane, as of 1508, Akisada and Tamekage were not in decisive conflict with one another. Therefore, the direct trigger may have been when forces from Shinano allied with Tamekage attacked the Tsumari-no-shō manor in Echigo held by the Yamauchi-Uesugi family.
In any event, Akisada’s army invaded Echigo under the pretext of seeking revenge for Fusayoshi, garnering control of Funai. Nevertheless, Akisada’s severe form of governance in Echigo was not well-received, triggering opposition by kokujin, or provincial landowners. In the following year, he encountered counterattacks by Nagao Tamekage and others. That year, upon orders of Ashikaga Yoshitane, he imposed a settlement on a dispute between Tomono Sadayoshi and Ōi Yukimitsu of the Saku District in Shinano Province. On 6/20 of Eishō 7 (1510), at the Battle of Nagamorihara, Akisada was defeated by Takanashi Masamori who joined as a reinforcement to the enemy forces. Outnumbered, Akisada killed himself. He was fifty-seven years old.
Uesugi Akizane succeeded Akisada as the deputy shōgun of the Kantō, but, after returning from Echigo, Uesugi Norifusa clashed with him, triggering an internal rebellion that led to a deterioration of the Yamauchi-Uesugi family.