Kannonji Disturbance


Rokkaku Clan

Rokkaku Yoshikata

Ōmi Province

The Kannonji Disturbance occurred in the tenth month of Eiroku 6 (1563).  It was a conflict within the Rokkaku clan, the sengoku daimyō of southern Ōmi Province, that involved the killing of senior retainers of the Rokkaku upon orders of their young leader, Rokkaku Yoshiharu (the eldest son of Rokkaku Yoshikata).

Outline of events

During the period that Rokkaku Sadayori served as head of the clan, the Rokkaku witnessed the peak of their prosperity.  Sadayori was based in Mitsukuri Castle in the south-central part of Ōmi.  The Azai clan, who were the sengoku daimyō of northern Ōmi, served under their de facto command, while the Muromachi bakufu granted the Rokkaku the status of vice-deputy shōgun.  After the death of Sadayori, he was succeeded by Rokkaku Yoshikata.  Yoshikata resisted Miyoshi Nagayoshi who was establishing a single political administration across the Kinai Region.  Yoshikata endeavored to expand his power with a centralized political model, but failed.  To the contrary, the influence of the Rokkaku clan in the Kinai waned.  Therefore, after the demise of Sadayori, the Azai clan began to demonstrate their autonomy.

In the middle of the eighth month of 1560, Yoshikata led a large army with the aim of eliminating the Azai clan, but, at the Battle of Norada, he lost to Azai Nagamasa.  In addition to internal conflicts besetting the Sasaki clan of Ōmi (the Rokkaku were a branch of the Udagenji-Sasaki clan), Yoshikata’s authority in the province declined.  Having transferred headship of the clan to his son, Rokkaku Yoshiharu, in the preceding year, Yoshikata used this defeat as a reason to enter the priesthood.  In addition, from around this time, the relationship between Yoshikata and Yoshiharu deteriorated owing to, among others, Yoshiharu’s marital issues.

On 10/1 of 1563, Yoshiharu ordered Tanemura Michinari (Mikawa-no-kami) and Takebe Hyūga-no-kami to murder powerful retainers of the Rokkaku, namely, Gotō Katatoyo and Gotō Iki-no-kami (father and son) inside of Kannonji Castle.  There are assorted theories as to the reason for this action.  From the era of Sadayori, Katatoyo was very popular within the Rokkaku family as a meritorious retainer, and he was well-trusted by the retired Yoshikata.  Moreover, Shindō Sadaharu (who was ill at the time of the killing) was as much a veteran within the family. Together, the Gotō and the Shindō were referred to as the “Two Tō of the Rokkaku.”  Sadaharu, in his role as a magistrate, had authority to conduct affairs of governance as a representative of the head of the Rokkaku clan.  After a power-struggle based on Katatoyo’s authority (with Yoshikata’s authority in the background) and the youthful Yoshiharu, Yoshiharu may have ordered the killings to solidify his leadership as head of the clan.  Katatoyo had earlier received one of the characters in his name from Yoshikata, symbolizing the closeness of their long relationship.

Aftermath of the events

The disturbance at Kannonji Castle was a shock to the band of retainers of the Rokkaku clan.  Kazutoyo had been a leader among senior retainers, and, owing to his popularity among the retainers, this event (based on the pretext given by Yoshiharu for the killing as insubordination) was connected to the succession issues in the Sasaki-Rokkaku clan, causing distrust among the retainers toward Yoshiharu.  Moreover, as the Azai clan made maneuvers suggesting an attack against the Rokkaku, certain individuals began to side with the Azai.  On 10/7, Yoshiharu and his father were temporarily ousted from the castle by some of the retainers who were discontent about the killings, including the Nagata, the Mikami, the Ikeda, the Shindō, and the Hirai.

Thereafter, through the mediation of Gamō Sadahide and Gamō Katahide (father and son) and Mikumo Sadatoki, on 10/21, Yoshikata and Yoshiharu (father and son) were allowed to return to Kannonji Castle.  However, their return was subject to the condition that Yoshiharu transfer the headship of the clan to Rokkaku Yoshisada (Yoshiharu’s younger brother) and, further, that Yoshikata and Yoshiharu agree to a reduction in the authority of the head of the clan in the Code of the Rokkaku Clan jointly signed on 4/28 of 1567.  Finally, owing to the intentional murder of Kazutoyo and his eldest son, Iki-no-kami, the Gotō family would be inherited by the second son, Gotō Takaharu.

Causes and consequences of the disturbance

One of the proposed reasons for the event was the fact that the Rokkaku clan had not completely made the transition from the status of a shugo daimyō to a modern sengoku daimyō.  Many of the retainers of the clan were kokujin landowners, and although they served on behalf of the family, continued to exercise a high degree of autonomy.  While the retainers followed Sadayori, who was viewed as a wise ruler during his lifetime, in the era of Yoshikata and Yoshiharu, after a series of failed policies with respect to Miyoshi Nagayoshi and Azai Nagamasa, the Rokkaku lost control over powerful kokujin such as the Gotō clan.  The disturbance can be defined as an event in the midst of a transition by the clan to the rank of sengoku daimyō.

Under an alternative theory, Yoshikata and Yoshiharu were not members of the main branch of the Rokkaku.  Above the Mitsukuri branch to which Sadayori, Yoshikata, and Yoshiharu belonged, the lineage of the main branch included Ujitsuna, Yoshisane, Yoshihide, and Yoshisato.  Ujitsuna was Sadayori’s older brother.  The confrontational relationship between the main branch and the Mitsukuri branch of the Rokkaku was believed to have been very dangerous.

There is a compelling theory that the disturbance arose not only from the tense relationship with the main branch of the family, but a decline in power resulting from the solidarity among the kokujin of southern Ōmi.  Meanwhile, even during the crisis spawned by the disturbance, powerful retainers such as the Gamō and Mikumo continued to support the Rokkaku.  The Code of the Rokkaku Clan was regarding within the family as provincial law.  Rather than restrain the authority of the head of the clan, the retainers and kokujin may have sought to unify in a bid to restore the old order centered upon the Rokkaku clan.

However, in 1568, Oda Nobunaga invaded southern Ōmi, which was on the route to the capital of Kyōto, and surrounded Kannonji Castle.  Yoshikata received support from the Miyoshi Group of Three who regarded Nobunaga as a common enemy, but the ancillary castles of Mitsukuri and Wadayama were toppled, while the area surrounding their base was lost at the Battle of Kannonji Castle.  After the defeat, Yoshikata and Yoshiharu moved their base to Ishibe Castle in the Kōga District, while Gamō Sadahide and Gamō Katahide (father and son), along with some of the kokujin, switched their allegiance to the Oda.  The disturbance was a trigger for the downfall of the Rokkaku clan.  Meanwhile, Nobunaga achieved his objective to secure the route from his base in Gifu to the capital upon favorable conditions.