Gamō Disturbance


Gamō Hideyuki

Gamō Clan

Mutsu Province

The Gamō Disturbance was an internal conflict in the Gamō family of Aizu-Wakamatsu occurring from Bunroku 4 (1595) to Keichō 3 (1598).  This occurred in the wake of the death of the head of the family, Gamō Ujisato.

Beginning in 1630, in the era of Gamō Tadatomo (a grandson of Ujisato), a series of conflicts erupted again among senior retainers from the Fukunishi, Seki, Oka, and Shiga clans that persisted for three years.  Only after intervention from the Edo bakufu and the ouster of numerous retainers did the conflict subside.  This is also referred to as the Gamō Disturbance, and distinguished from the first conflict by referring to it as the Gamō Disturbance in the Kanei Era, or the Gamō Matsuyama Disturbance, given that it occurred while Tadatomo was based in Matsuyama in Iyo Province.

Outbreak of hostilities

In the second month of 1595, Gamō Ujisato, the lord of Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle, died at the age of forty.  His eldest son, Gamō Hideyuki, succeeded him as head of the clan, but, at this time, he was only thirteen years old.  This meant that a deputy would be needed to administer affairs of governance for the family.  This role was then filled by Gamō Satoyasu, a retainer of Ujisato who, earlier, had served as a retainer of the Rokkaku clan of southern Ōmi Province until that clan was decimated.

Satoyasu was cherished by Ujisato, serving as the lord of Naganuma Castle with a fief of 35,000 koku in the Iwase District of Mutsu.  Meanwhile, during the era of service under Ujisato, Satoyasu maintained friendly relations with Ishida Mitsunari, the closest retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

After the Revolt of Kunohe Masazane in 1591, from around the time that Ujisato received an increase to his fief,  Satoyasu served as the leader of the magistrates to implement the policies of the Toyotomi administration in the northern provinces, making him the chief retainer in the Gamō family.  While Ujisato was away in Nagoya to support the Bunroku Campaign on the Korean Peninsula, Satoyasu invited an explosive situation vis-à-vis other senior retainers, such Gamō Satoyoshi and Gamō Satonari, in Aizu, causing conflict among many members of the family.  Following the demise of Ujisato, Satoyasu monopolized control over political affairs, leading to an all-out confrontation with Satoyoshi, Satonari, and Watari Hachiemon who served as the head of the family servants.

In 1595, after the death of Ujisato, Satoyasu called Hachiemon to Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle (or, according to another theory, the residence of the Gamō in Kyōto) and slayed him with a sword on the grounds that this was commanded by the lord.  This enraged others including hereditary retainers such as Machino Shigeyori who, seeking to assassinate Satoyasu, gathered forces, further escalating tensions between the factions.

Verdict and consequences

In 1595, Hideyoshi seriously weighed the situation and assigned a clan elder named Maeda Toshiie to mediate.  Further, he ordered Uesugi Kagekatsu to serve as the chamberlain of Tsugawa Castle, preparing for an unexpected outcome.  The situation, however, failed to improve, and, by 1598, the series of disturbances in the Gamō family confronted Hideyoshi from his base in Fushimi Castle.  Hideyoshi summoned Satoyasu to investigate, and, treating it as a minor offense, turned him over to Katō Kiyomasa.  Meanwhile, he concluded that Hideyuki was not doing a satisfactory job managing the family and ordered the transfer and demotion of the Gamō from Aizu-Wakamatsu in Mutsu Province with a fief of 920,000 koku to Utsunomiya in Shimotsuke Province with a fief of 120,000 koku.

Thereafter, Uesugi Kagekatsu came from Kasugayama in Echigo Province to Aizu with a fief of 1,200,000 koku.  At this time, the area of Higashi-kanbara in Echigo was assigned to Fujita Nobuyoshi based at Tsugawa Castle.

Rumors and facts

There is a theory that the conflicts comprising the Gamō Disturbance owed to manipulation by Ishida Mitsunari at the urging of Hideyoshi, or that Mitsunari himself was the instigator; furthermore, that Maeda Toshiie, a close associate of Mitsunari engaged in mediation of the disputes as well as Uesugi Kagekatsu had roles in the events.

First, as the perpetrator of the chaos, it would be reasonable to expect that Satoyasu would have been punished.  Instead, the fact that he was hardly questioned of wrongdoing owed to Mitsunari’s defense of him to Hideyoshi.  Moreover, Satoyasu was quickly acquitted of a crime and became a retainer of Konishi Yukinaga, a daimyō and close associate of Mitsunari.  This was through the recommendation of Mitsunari.  In 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, after Satoyasu failed to arrive on time for the battle against the army of Katō Kiyomasa, he committed seppuku.

Questions remain in regard to the severe punishment of the Gamō family and ensuing transfer of Uesugi Kagekatsu to their former domain.  Given that Hideyuki was still very young, there were limits to what he could achieve even when relying upon clan elders to help lead the clan.  Despite these circumstances, the clan was demoted on the basis of a failure of leadership.  Uesugi Kagekatsu maintained friendly relations with Ishida Mitsunari through the offices of Naoe Kanetsugu, his chief retainer.  Consequently, it may be considered that there was a plot to transfer Uesugi Kagekatsu who was on friendly terms with Hideyoshi and Mitsunari to Aizu given the importance of this territory to contain the powerful Tokugawa Ieyasu based in the Kantō.  This overly severe treatment was a proximate cause for the Gamō family to join the Eastern Army in the Battle of Sekigahara (along with Fujita Nobuyoshi of the Uesugi family who resided in Tsugawa Castle).

However, there are numerous rebuttals to the theory that Mitsunari plotted the removal of the Gamō from Aizu.

  • Gamō Satonari (the father of Gamō Satoie who was a retainer of Mitsunari) was a member of the faction opposed to Satoyasu, but no one from this faction, including Satonari, were subject to punishment.  Meanwhile, Mitsunari did not provide support to either Satoyasu or Satonari.
  • Owing to the demotion, the Gamō were no longer able to support so many retainers, and, after letting many of them go, Mitsunari received more of these former retainers than anyone else (included, among them, Gamō Yorisato).  If these retainers had lost their positions owing to his plot, then so many of them would not have been likely to serve under Mitsunari or to sacrifice themselves at the Battle of Sekigahara and the Siege of Sawayama Castle.
  • Despite fearing the most punishment, when, after the Battle of Sekigahara, Hideyuki returned to his former territory, he was embraced by Oka Shigemasa (the son-in-law of Mitsunari) and received a compensation of 30,000 koku and the role of chief magistrate.  Until the end of his life, Hideyuki trusted Shigemasa and delegated administrative affairs to him.  It was not until after the demise of Hideyuki that Shigemasa came into conflict with Hideyuki’s widow, Furihime, which resulted in orders from Ieyasu for Shigemasa to commit seppuku.  If Hideyuki had concerns about Mitsunari, he would not likely have had a close relationship with Shigemasa who had familial ties to Mitsunari.

Based on this refutation, the demotion of the Gamō family owed to the fact that Hideyoshi doubted whether Hideyuki had the capacity to contain the Tokugawa and the Date and, given Hideyuki’s marriage to the daughter of Ieyasu (Furihime), was not in a position to keep Ieyasu in check.

Later conflicts

In 1630, hostilities broke out again in the Gamō family, this time in the Iyo-Matsuyama domain headed by Gamō Tadatomo.  Senior retainers involved in the dispute included those from the Fukunishi, the Seki, the Oka, and the Shiga clans.  The disturbance persisted unabated for three years, causing Tadatomo to appeal to the Edo bakufu for a proper resolution.  As a result, numerous elders were ousted or banished.  Moreover, Gamō Satoie, the younger brother of Gamō Sadanobu (who served as the chief retainer) was chosen from among many to be discharged from his duties.

In 1634, Tadatomo died suddenly at the residence of the domain in Kyōto while serving the bakufu on assignment, after which the Gamō family was removed from their position.