Inaba Yoshimichi


Inaba Clan

Mino Province

Inaba Yoshimichi

Lifespan:  Eishō 12 (1515) to 11/19 of Tenshō 17 (1589)

Rank:  bushō

Title:  Governor of Iyo, High Priest of the Third Rank

Clan:  Inaba

Lord:  Toki Yoriaki → Saitō Dōsan → Saitō Yoshitatsu → Saitō Tatsuoki → Oda Nobunaga → Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Father:  Inaba Michinori

Mother:  Daughter of Kunieda Shōsuke or daughter of Isshiki Yoshitō

Siblings:  Michikatsu, Michifusa, Toyomichi, Michihiro, Miyoshino, Yoshimichi

Wife:  [Formal]  Daughter of Sanjōnishi Saneki  [Consort]  Daughter of the Kanō clan

Children:  Daughter (wife of Horiike Han-no-jō), daughter (wife of Kunieda Shigemoto), Shigemichi, Sadamichi, Masamichi, Naomasa, Yasu (wife of Saitō Toshimitsu), daughter (wife of Marumo Kanetoshi), daughter (wife of Yamamura Yoshikatsu)

Inaba Yoshimichi served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.  He was a retainer of the Saitō, the Oda, and the Toyotomi clans and the lord of Sone Castle in Mino Province.  Together with Andō Morinari and Ujiie Naomoto (Bokuzen), these individuals were known as the Western Mino Group of Three with Yoshimichi as the leader.  Yoshimichi is often referred to as Ittetsu, a monk’s name he adopted in 1574.  Corresponding to the time period, he is referred to below as Yoshimichi prior to 1574 and as Ittetsu after 1574.  Owing in part to religious training received early in life, in addition to serving as a valorous bushō in many conflicts, Yoshimichi acquired deep knowledge and interest in many cultural pursuits of his era, including the tea ceremony, drama, medicinal arts, and Buddhist scriptures. 

Similarities can be drawn with Hosokawa Yūsai, a contemporary of Yoshimichi who shared his combination of military prowess and knowledge of the cultural arts.  Both individuals also served a series of high-profile lords, attesting to their adaptability in the midst of turbulent change.

Yoshimichi was the maternal grandfather (and adoptive grandfather) of Kasuga-no-tsubone (also known as Saitō Fuku), an influential woman who also served as the nursemaid for Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shōgun of the Edo bakufu.

Origins and succession

Yoshimichi’s grandfather, Inaba Michisada, was a member of the influential Kōno clan of Iyo Province, but his family made its way to Mino to become dogō, or small-scale landowners.  There is a theory that this was the same as the Andō family descended from the Iga clan.

In 1515, Yoshimichi was born as the sixth son of Inaba Michinori in Hongō Castle in the Ikeda District of western Mino.  In his childhood, he became a monk at the Sōfuku Temple affiliated with the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, becoming a disciple of Kaisen Jōki.  In 1525, Yoshimichi’s father, Michinori, and five older brothers, were all killed in action against Azai Sukemasa at the Battle of Makita.  Consequently, Yoshimichi returned to secular life and, under the guardianship of his grandfather (Inaba Michisada (Enjin)) and uncle (Inaba Tadamichi), succeeded his father as head of the clan based at Sone Castle.

Service as a retainer of the Toki and Saitō clans

During the Tenbun era (1532 to 1555), Fujūan Baisetsu provided instructions to Saitō Dōsan, the sengoku daimyō of Mino Province, in regard to the arrangement of the formal tatami room for the conduct of tea ceremonies.  This was then conveyed by Dōsan to Yoshimichi, and, then, from Yoshimichi to Shino Shōha, a third-generation master of the Shino style art of appreciating incense, to continue the traditions of the tea ceremony.

Initially, Yoshimichi served Toki Yoriaki.  After the ouster of Yoriaki, he then served Saitō Toshimasa (Dōsan) and was active as the leader of the Western Mino Group of Three.  In 1556, in a dispute between Dōsan and his son, Saitō Yoshitatsu, which escalated into the Battle of Nagaragawa, Yoshimichi sided with Yoshitatsu.  Moreover, his older sister, Miyoshino, had earlier been a consort of Yoriaki, but was transferred to Dōsan and gave birth to Yoshitatsu.

Dōsan’s son-in-law, Oda Nobunaga, unified Owari Province and, in the fifth month of 1560, killed Imagawa Yoshimoto, the sengoku daimyō of Suruga Province, in the Battle of Okehazama.  Nobunaga then sought an opportunity to attack Mino.  After Yoshitatsu died of illness and was succeeded by his son, Saitō Tatsuoki, Nobunaga commenced an invasion of Mino.  Yoshimichi was active in 1561 at the Battle of Moribe and, in 1562, at the Battle of Karumi.  In 1563, Yoshimichi, along with Andō Morinari and Ujiie Naomoto (the two other members of the Western Mino Group of Three), admonished Tatsuoki, but Tatsuoki refused to listen.  This contributed in part to the occupation by Morinari of Inabayama Castle the following year.  Although Yoshimichi and the others initially reconciled with Tatsuoki, on 8/1 of Eiroku 10 (1567), the group eventually departed from the Saitō and joined forces with Oda Nobunaga.

Service as a retainer of the Oda clan

In 1568, Yoshimichi participated in the battles accompanying the march by Nobunaga upon Kyōto to install Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the fifteenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  Commencing on 8/27 of Eiroku 12 (1569), Yoshimichi joined in a siege of Ōkawachi Castle defended by Kitabatake Tomonori and Kitabatake Tomofusa (father and son) by guarding the southern approach to the castle.

In the fifth month of 1570, he provided a security escort on the Eishū road through Ōmi.  On 9/8 of Genki 1 (1570), during an attack by Miyoshi Nagayasu, he defended the Rō-no-kishi fortress in Ōsaka and, on 5/12 of Genki 2 (1571), he participated in the subjugation of the Nagashima Ikkō-ikki.  In the fourth month of the same year, supported Yasumi Shinshichirō at his base at Katano Castle in Kawachi Province.  In the seventh month of 1573, he joined his eldest son, Inaba Sadamichi, and lineal grandson, Inaba Norimichi, at the Siege of Makishima Castle.

In 1574, he entered the priesthood and adopted the name of Ittetsu.  This is confirmed after this time in a letter addressed to the office of the Daitoku Temple in Kyōto.

Ittetsu contributed valorously in 1575 at the Battle of Nagashino, the attacks on the Echizen Ikkō-ikki, and attacks on Iwamura Castle in Mino; in 1576 at the Battle of Tennōji; in 1577 at the Conquest of Kishū, attacks on the Kaga Ikkō-ikki and on Kanki Castle in Harima Province; and, in 1578, at the Siege of Arioka Castle against a rebellious retainer of Nobunaga named Araki Muratsugu.  After this siege evolved into a war of attrition by cutting supply lines to the castle, Ittetsu served a as a lieutenant general to Oda Nobutaka to defend Azuchi Castle while Nobutaka was absent.

In 1579, Ittetsu assigned the headship of the clan and Sone Castle to his eldest son, Inaba Sadamichi, and moved to Shimizu Castle in Mino.  In 1582, after Nobunaga returned triumphantly from his victory over the Takeda clan, he held a celebratory banquet for Nobunaga while Nobunaga was passing-through the village of Roku in Yoshimichi’s territory.

Honnō Temple Incident

On 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), Akechi Mitsuhide served as the ringleader of a coup d’état resulting in the unexpected death of his lord, Oda Nobunaga, in an event known as the Honnō Temple Incident.  Ittetsu called upon kokujin, or provincial landowners, in Mino to back his nephew, Saitō Toshitaka (the fourth son of Saitō Dōsan), located in Gifu Castle, and to maintain their independence from Mitsuhide.  Having once been ousted by Nobunaga and residing in the territory of the Inaba, the family of Andō Morinari aimed to restore their position by joining forces with Mitsuhide.  The Andō recaptured Kitagata Castle in their former territory, and, after attacking Honda Castle, clashed with Ittetsu.  Ittetsu’s forces prevailed against the Andō, killing Morinari among others.

Within weeks of the coup, Mitsuhide was killed at the Battle of Yamazaki, but, owing to the death of Nobunaga, Mino experienced a loss of governance leading to frequent clashes among rival clans.  Ittetsu prevailed in battle against Horiike Han-no-jō, Ittetsu’s son-in-law and the lord of Ibi Castle in the Ibi District of Mino, and took control of the territory.  He brought Kasuga-no-tsubone, his grandchild from a daughter married into another family​, into the Inaba family and, until adulthood, she resided at Shimizu Castle in Mino.

Ittetsu was the father-in-law and former lord of Saitō Toshimitsu (the father of Kasuga-no-tsubone), but, in 1570, Toshimitsu began to serve Mitsuhide and became a senior retainer.  In 1582, after Nawa Naoharu was lured away by Toshimitsu, the Inaba family raised a formal claim.  There is an anecdotal story that Nobunaga ordered that he be returned, but Mitsuhide did not accept the order so he was grabbed by the topknot and thrown out.  The verdict to return Naoharu and have Toshimitsu commit seppuku was given four days before the coup, on 5/27 of Tenshō 10 (1582).

Service as a retainer of the Toyotomi clan

On 6/27 of Tenshō 10 (1582), the Kiyosu Conference was held by senior retainers of Oda Nobunaga to decide upon his successor.  As a result, Oda Nobutaka inherited Gifu Castle and Mino Province was intended to come under his command, but Ittetsu aligned with Hashiba Hideyoshi whose conflict with Nobutaka deepened.  In 1583, at the Battle of Shizugatake, Nobutaka’s forces burned the area below Ittetsu’s castle.  Ittetsu attacked Nishinoho Castle held by the Fuwa clan on the side of Shibata Katsuie.

Ittetsu had a border dispute with Ikeda Tsuneoki, the new lord of Gifu Castle, dating to the time that Tsuneoki was the lord of Ōgaki Castle.  After mediation by Hideyoshi, Ittetsu received official recognition of his rights to territory with a value of 40,000 kan.  In 1584, he made contributions at the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute.  In the preliminary Battle of Komaki, he defended a fort on Mount Iwasaki.  In records that he came to the battlefield toward the end he did not appear on the front lines.

In 1585, after Hideyoshi became the kanpaku, or Chief Advisor to the Emperor, Yoshimichi was invested with the highest rank among priests and was known as the High Priest of the Third Rank.   In 1587, after Hideyoshi triumphantly returned from the offensive against the Shimazu clan, Ittetsu went to meet him in Nishinomiya and was invited to a tea house in the Yamazato citadel of Ōsaka Castle.  On 11/19 of Tenshō 16 (1588), he died in Shimizu Castle in Mino at the age of seventy-four.

Anecdotes and character

Yoshimichi enjoyed the tea ceremony, and, in 1555, he received fine incense from Shino Sōon who was the second-generation master of the Shino style of the art of appreciating incense and versed in the tea ceremony as well.  In 1558, Yoshimichi received an index from Shino Shōha, the third-generation master.

At the Battle of Anegawa in the sixth month of 1570, Yoshimichi led 1,000 soldiers in the vanguard division.  Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, Oda Nobunaga told Tokugawa Ieyasu in a friendly manner to take along some of his soldiers.  Ieyasu initially refused, but when asked again by Nobunaga, he selected only Yoshimichi.  As this was heard among the Oda family, everyone envied him.  The Tokugawa forces suppressed the Asakura forces but the Oda forces were losing to the Azai forces, so Yoshimichi rushed over and broke through the right flank of the Azai to rescue the Oda from a precarious situation.

After the Battle of Anegawa, Nobunaga desired to award Yoshimichi as the most valorous fighter, ordering that he receive one of the characters from Nobunaga’s name, thereby having the name of Nagamichi, but Yoshimichi insisted that Ieyasu was most valorous so he refused conferral of the name.

In 1573, in battle against the Nagashima Ikkō-ikki, a dangerous situation occurred during which Hayashi Michimasa was killed in the rear guard while under pursuit by ikki forces, Yoshimichi contributed with ambush tactics called sutekamari meaning to thwart the will of scouts.

In 1574, an individual spoke ill of Ittetsu to Nobunaga.  Believing what he was told, Nobunaga invited Ittetsu to a tea ceremony with the intention of slaying him.  When confronted by Nobunaga, Ittetsu was reading Buddhist scriptures laid on the floor, during which he declared his innocence.  Nobunaga was so impressed at his knowledge that he concluded Ittetsu was innocent of wrongdoing.  In another account, there is a similar story to this well-known anecdote except Ittetsu was reading a poem from a Chinese scholar of the Tang dynasty named Kan Yu written on a hanging scroll.  In one account, Nobunaga told Ittetsu that he was so astonished at Ittetsu’s learning that, seeking to tell the truth, he admitted his plan to have Ittetsu assassinated that day and those accompanying brought hidden daggers.  From that point forward, he promised not to harm Ittetsu, asking that Ittetsu follow and share with him details of any acts of deception.  Ittetsu thanked him for sparing his life and that he believed he would be killed and planned to take at least one of the assailants down with him so he also had a dagger with him.  After showing the dagger, Nobunaga was even more impressed.  This illustrated how Ittetsu was not only a brave warrior, but also excelled in literary pursuits and strategy.

In the seventh month of 1575, after a stay in Kyōto and while returning to Gifu, Nobunaga visited Ittetsu.  Welcoming the presence of Nobunaga, Ittetsu had his grandchildren perform a drama for his lord.  Nobunaga responded by giving his short sword to Ittetsu’s grandson, Inaba Norimichi (the eldest son of Inaba Sadamichi).

Ittetsu possessed deep knowledge of drama.  The Kakei Temple on the ruins of Sone Castle has among its artifacts a mask cherished by Ittetsu which has been designated a cultural asset of the City of Ōgaki.

In the fifth month of 1576, after the Battle of Tennōji, Ittetsu experienced significant swelling on the big toe of his left foot, but was able to cure it with internal medicine.  With respect to the results, he defined three categories of practical applications, writing down the cases along with the effects of the medicine.  On 11/16 of Tenshō 4 (1576), he prepared a combination of medicines for one of his children who was seriously ill with smallpox, enabling the child to recover.

After assigning headship of the clan to his eldest son, undergoing the rites of tonsure and adopting the name of Ittetsu, he was criticized by Nobunaga as being impertinent for entering the priesthood without prior consultation.  He was then subject to confinement for a period, but, after greeting Nobunaga while Nobunaga was training horses nearby, the two reconciled.

Ittetsu was also knowledgeable of the tea ceremony.  A document of traditional secrets to the art was given by Fujūan Baisetsu to Saitō Dōsan and then inherited by Ittetsu from Dōsan.

Ittetsu’s strong interest in the medical arts is noted in a memorandum.

Ittetsu’s inherited prescriptions for traditional medicine from the noble family of Sanjōnishi Kineda (the original home of Ittetsu’s formal wife).

At the Battle of Nagashino against the Takeda forces who excelled in military strategy, Ittetsu, dressed in his suit of armor with spear, inspired his allies and, without undue hesitation, after joining Oda Nobukatsu on Mount Midō, fought valiantly.  Nobunaga praised him for his courage.

Known for being stubborn, upon entering the priesthood he received the name of Ittetsu, which means one iron (metal) and has the same pronunciation as a term written with a different character than means stubborn.

When Nobunaga attacked the Takeda of Kai Province, the invading forces came across Toki Yoriaki, Ittetsu’s former lord from Mino who had since gone blind and, after wandering, was staying temporarily in the Takeda territory.  Through the efforts of Ittetsu, he was returned to Mino where he lived for the last one-half year of his life.

During the era of the Western Mino Group of Three while Nobunaga was alive and thereafter, Ittetsu had a vert strong sense of independence.  After the Kiyosu Conference to decide upon Nobunaga’s successor, when his territory in Mino came under Oda Nobutaka, and, after the death of Nobutaka, when the territory was assigned to Ikeda Tsuneoki, Ittetsu continued to maintain his position as an independent power and did not accept a subservient role to them.

On one occasion, an enemy spy was captured and dragged out.  Ittetsu’s retainers insisted that he be executed, but Ittetsu noticed he was young so felt pity on him.  The spy appeared to be malnourished so Ittetsu had him released from his bonds and invited him to a room for a meal.  After the meal, the spy explained how he and other bushō in Mino were struggling to protect their territories and family names, whereupon Ittetsu showed him around the base, gave him some money, and set him free.  Later, to return the debt of gratitude, the spy became a member of the umamawari, or mounted cavalry, for the Inaba family.  He fought valiantly at the Battle of Anegawa but was killed in action.

During the Conquest of Kishū, Nobunaga sought to convince the Saika brothers to surrender.  Initially, however, the subordinate who he sent out did not return.  Next, after sending Ittetsu, the brothers surrendered.  When Nobunaga inquired as to what happened, they replied that the first messenger was haughty and arrogant so we killed him, but Ittetsu was formal and dignified, having a clear sense of duty and the admirable presence of a bushi, so we went with him.

When Ittetsu went outside, he always carried a pouch on his waistband with coins to give to itinerant monks or religious disciples who he encountered.  When his retainers inquired about this practice, he responded that his grandfather, Inaba Michisada (Enjin) had gone on a pilgrimage while starving, and that the coins would help others as well as save himself.  At one time, a spy pretended to be a monk, but Ittetsu gave him a coin anyway.  The spy then told his lord that Ittetsu was a genuine man of virtue.