Kakitsu Disturbance


Akamatsu Clan


Ashikaga Yoshinori

The Kakitsu Disturbance (Kakitsu no ran or Kakitsu no hen) occurred on 6/24 of Kakitsu 1 (1441) during the Muromachi period.  As the opening act, Akamatsu Mitsusuke, the military governor of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces, assassinated Ashikaga Yoshinori, the sixth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  Owing to Yoshinori’s autocratic rule, the bakufu did not have a clear line of successors who could immediately take action against the perpetrators of the attack.  Nevertheless, out of the confusion arose leaders of an army intent on holding the Akamatsu clan accountable for the violent slaying of the shōgun. The conflict continued until Mitsusuke and many members of the Akamatsu clan were killed by the bakufu army.  Nearly decimated, the Akamatsu clan revived itself a generation later under the highly capable Akamatsu Masanori after receiving official commendation for recovering sacred regalia for the Imperial Court in the Chōroku Incident.


Prosperity of the Akamatsu clan

The Akamatsu clan served as land stewards of Harima Province, an appointment from the Kamakura bakufu.  In 1333, Akamatsu Norimura, based on an appeal from Emperor Godaigo, joined a rebellion against the bakufu.  Owing to his significant contributions, he was appointed the military governor of Harima.  Norimura, however, was dissatisfied with the reward.  In the ensuing conflicts that marked the Nanbokuchō period, he supported Ashikaga Takakuji, the first shōgun, serving meritoriously in the formation of the Muromachi bakufu.

In addition to Harima, the domain of the Akamatsu clan extended to Bizen and Mimasaka provinces. The clan stood as one of the four top ranking families (along with the Isshiki, Yamana, and Kyōgoku) in the bakufu in charge of security, tax collection, and assorted ministerial affairs.

In 1427, after Mitsusuke succeeded his father, Akamatsu Yoshinori, as head of the clan, Ashikaga Yoshimochi (the former shōgun) attempted to award governance of Harima to one of his trusted retainers, Akamatsu Mochisada (Mitsusuke’s second cousin), causing Mitsusuke to burn-down Mochisada’s residence in Kyōto and take him into his territory.  This infuriated Yoshimochi, who aimed to kill Mitsusuke, but senior retainers in the bakufu opposed the action.  Meanwhile, it became known that Mochisada had been in secret communication with Yoshimochi’s consort, for which Mochisada was executed.  Mitsusuke was pardoned and inherited the role as military governor of Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces.

Following the demise of Yoshimochi, his younger brother, Yoshinori, became the sixth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  Mitsusuke became chief of the samurai-dokoro, a senior organ in the bakufu administration, maintaining a relatively positive relationship with Yoshinori.

Fear for everyone

A profile of Ashikaga Yoshinori

Ashikaga Yoshimochi, the fourth shōgun, died in 1428 prior to the designation of a successor owing to the premature death of his eldest son, Ashikaga Yoshikazu, the fifth shōgun.  After deliberation, the elder retainers decided to randomly choose one of Yoshimochi’s four younger brothers who had entered the priesthood to serve as his successor.  Consequently, Gien resigned from his role as the senior priest at the Enryaku Temple on Mount Hiei, returned to secular life, changed his name to Ashikaga Yoshinobu (later known as Yoshinori), and assumed the role as the sixth shōgun.  Owing to this process of his appointment, Yoshinori became known as the lottery shōgun.
Initially, Yoshinori ruled by means of a consultative body comprised of influential shugo damiyō.  Following the death of two senior-ranking members, Mansai from the Sanpō Temple and Yamana Tokihiro, Yoshinori gradually began to exercise his leadership.  Yoshinori aimed to strengthen the authority of the shōgun, forcibly intervening in the succession plans of the Shiba, Hatakeyama, Yamana, Kyōgoku, and Togashi clans, supporting persons loyal to him to become the successors.  In 1439, during the Eikyō Disturbance, Yoshinori eliminated Ashikaga Mochiuji, the Kamakura kubō, whom he had opposed for a long period.  He also battled against the adherents of the Enryaku Temple on Mount Hiei, and although he ultimately forced them into submission, this occurred only after the monks burned down the main hall and killed themselves.
Relative to his predecessors who served as the shōgun, Yoshinori exercised authority on a level comparable to Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shōgun.  However, Yoshinori possessed a cunning disposition and became overly autocratic in his rule, wielding his authority to mercilessly remonstrate military families and nobles alike.  According to diaries from nobles at the time, numerous individuals were subject to punishment and the seizure of their holdings over minor issues.  Some were exiled to distant islands or killed.  One such account characterized his governance as “fear for everyone.”
The retirement of Akamatsu Mitsusuke
Around this time, Akamatsu Mitsusuke, who was the longest serving elder in the bakufu, became estranged from Yoshinori.  In 1437, a rumor circulated that Yoshinori planned to seize control of Harima and Mimasaka provinces.  Yoshinori paid special favor to Akamatsu Sadamura, Mochisada’s nephew and a member of a branch of the Akamatsu clan.  In the third month of 1440, Yoshinori seized the territory of Akamatsu Yoshimasa (the younger brother of Mitsusuke) in Settsu Province and awarded it to Sadamura.

In the fifth month, Mitsusuke stopped serving on the pretext of illness, and, around the same time, Isshiki Yoshitsura and Toki Mochiyori were executed upon orders of Yoshinori while on deployment in Yamato Province, an event known as the Yamato-Eikyō Disturbance.  Then, a rumor circulated that Mitsusuke, who was not on good terms with Yoshinori, had been purged.  Mitsusuke was branded as having gone mad and retired.

In the fourth month of 1441, Mitsusuke backed the orphans of Ashikaga Mochiuji, Ashikaga Shunōmaru and Ashikaga Yasuōmaru, and raised arms in the Kantō.  Mochiuji was an adopted child of Ashikaga Yoshimochi.  After a standoff that lasted for over one year, Yūki Ujitomo was toppled at Yūki Castle in an event known as the Battle of Yūki.  This led to the apprehension of Shunōmaru and Yasuōmaru, both of whom were decapitated at the Tarui residence in Mino Province while under escort.  Mitsusuke fled the following spring to rebel from Yamato, while Yoshinori’s younger brother, Yoshiaki from the Daikaku Temple (who had earlier been defeated and fled to Hyūga Province in Kyūshū) was killed by Shimazu Tadakuni.  Consequently, Yoshinori’s enemies at the time all disappeared.

On 6/18, Togashi Noriie absconded after enduring intervention by Yoshinori in a family succession, while his younger brother, Togashi Yasutaka, inherited the clan.  On 6/23, Kira Mochisuke also fled.

Details of the event

Assassination of the shōgun

On 6/24 of 1441, Mitsusuke’s son, Akamatsu Noriyasu, planned a traditional performance known as matsu-bayashi to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Yūki, inviting Yoshinori to the Nijō residence at the Nishi-no-tō sub-temple.  He noted in the invitation that guests could enjoy watching many ducklings in the pond.

Numerous daimyō accompanied Yoshinori to the event, including Hosokawa Mochiyuki (the deputy shōgun), Hatakeyama Mochinaga, Yamana Mochitoyo, Isshiki Norichika, Hosokawa Mochitsune, Ōuchi Mochiyo, Kyōgoku Takanori, Yamana Hirotaka, Hosokawa Mochiharu, and Akamatsu Sadamura, all of whom became heads of their respective clans through the intervention of Yoshinori.  Also attending were nobles, including Ōgimachi-sanjō Sanemasa (the father of Ōgimachi-sanjō Kinharu and brother of Yoshinori’s formal wife, Ōgimachi-sanjō Tadako).

While all of the attendees were enjoying a traditional form of drama known as sarugaku, horses were suddenly set loose, the gates to the residence closed, and a startling sound erupted.  The irascible Yoshinori questioned what happened, while Ōgimachi-sanjō Sanemasa said it may have been thunder.  At once, bushō dressed in full battle armor threw open the sliding doors and rushed into the banquet room.  Asaka Yukihide, the fiercest of warriors from the Akamatsu clan, pulled out a sword forged in the Chikusa ironworks in Harima, and decapitated Yoshinori, turning the room into a sea of blood.  A chaotic scene ensued, with the guests scrambling around rather than seeking to avenge the killing of the shōgun.  Yamana Hirotaka attempted to resist, only to be cut down.   Kyōgoku Takanori and Ōuchi Mochiyo incurred grave injuries, dying the next day.  The noble, Ōgimachi-sanjō Sanemasa, attempted to wield a gold ornamental long sword earlier presented by the Akamatsu clan to Yoshinori, but swooned after being cut. As Yoshinori’s security detail located in the outside garden clashed with the assailants, remaining daimyō attempted to climb the walls to escape while the residence devolved into the scene of a massacre.  The attack finally subsided after the Akamatsu clansmen declared their aim was to kill the shōgun, and not to harm the others, whereupon the survivors gathered the wounded and departed.  According to one account, Yoshinori made plans to eliminate the Akamatsu that became known before he took action, triggering an attack that was his own doing.  The murder of a shōgun in such vain was without precedent.

Response after the assassination

Hosokawa Mochiyuki (the deputy shōgun) and other daimyō fled back to the residence, closed the gates, and sought refuge inside.  In reviewing the situation, the guests concluded other daimyō must certainly have been involved for the Akamatsu to commit such a momentous act.  In fact, the assassination of Yoshinori was a criminal act committed solely by the Akamatsu.  Mitsusuke and other members of the clan expected that the bakufu army would soon pursue them so planned to honorably kill themselves in the residence.  However, even after nightfall, the bakufu army failed to appear, so the men decided to return to their domain and resist.  The men then set fire to the residence, hung Yoshinori’s head from the end of a spear, formed a column, and returned triumphantly to the capital.  None of the daimyō attempted to stop them.

In the absence of a shōgun, and owing to weakness in the leadership abilities of Hosokawa Mochiyuki (the deputy shōgun), the bakufu ceased to function.  On 6/25, Mochiyuki held a consultation where it was determined that Yoshinori’s eldest son, Senyachamaru (later known as Ashikaga Yoshikatsu) would become his successor.  On 6/26, Yoshikatsu moved from the residence of Ise Sadakuni, the secretary of the samurai-dokoro to the shōgun’s palace known as the hana-no-gosho.  However, the response of the bakufu was disorganized, and forces could not easily be summoned to attack the Akamatsu.  This may have owed to Yoshinori’s patriarchal form of governance.  The shogun had consolidated his powers, so, in the event of an emergency, retainers of the bakufu below the deputy shōgun did not have the opportunity to exercise leadership.  If Akamatsu Mitsusuke were removed from the bakufu administration, the result would nearly have been direct Imperial rule.

When Yoshinori was assassinated, Mochiyuki was ridiculed for showing cowardice by immediately fleeing without attempting to fight despite his role as the deputy shōgun.  A rumor circulated that Mochiyuki had conspired with Mitsusuke.  Under one perspective, delays in the response of the bakufu showed the clear intention of Mochiyuki to resolve the situation in favor of the Akamatsu.  After returning to his home at Sakamato Castle in Harima, Mitsusuke located Ashikaga Yoshitaka, the grandson of Ashikaga Tadafuyu (the illegitimate son of Ashikaga Takauji and adopted son of Ashikaga Tadayoshi), and backed him as justification to solidify the defense of his territory and resist the bakufu.

On 7/1, Kikei Shinzui, a monk from the Rinzai sect based at the Shōkoku Temple, visited Sakamoto to request the return of Yoshinori’s head.  Mitsusuke gladly returned the head, whereupon Shinzui returned to Kyōto and, on 7/6, held a funeral service at the Tōji Temple.

Subjugation of the Akamatsu clan

Thereafter, a large-scale army was formed to invade Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka provinces with forces led by Hosokawa Mochitsune, Akamatsu Sadamura and Akamatsu Mitsumasa from Settsu Province and members of the Yamana clan led by Yamana Mochitoyo from Tajima and Hōki provinces.  Although the army departed on 7/11, Yamana Mochitoyo, the chief of the samurai-dokoro and commanding general of the army, did not leave Kyōto.  Raising the banner of funding for battle, soldiers under the command of Mochitoyo raided brokers and pawnshops in the capital, robbing them of their possessions.  This displeased Hosokawa Mochiyuki, the deputy shōgun, and several days later Mochitoyo finally apologized for the incident.

In the early days of the seventh month, Yamana Norikiyo led an invasion from Hōki Province into Mimasaka Province.  Local families barely resisted, so that Mimasaka came under the control of the Yamana.  Meanwhile, the bakufu army led by Hosokawa Mochitsune and Akamatsu Sadamura advanced to Nishi-no-miya in Settsu.  On 7/25, Akamatsu Noriyasu attempted a nighttime assault against the bakufu army, but retreated after losses on both sides.「庫御所合戦」.  The army lost its zeal while Yamana Mochitoyo remained in place so the advance came to a halt.  On 7/28, Mochitoyo finally departed the capital and headed toward Tajima.

On 8/1, Mochiyuki petitioned Emperor Gohanazono to issue orders to apprehend and punish the Akamatsu, to which the Emperor consented.  These were provided through the offices of Ōgimachi-sanjō Sanemasa to Iino-o Tametane, kuninbugyō, or secretarial-level official in the bakufu.  Deliberations occurred among the officials.  Some sympathized with Mitsusuke, arguing that the Akamatsu were not an enemy of the Imperial Court and that it was simply a personal dispute with the family.  Meanwhile, Koga Kiyomichi of the Murakami-Genji clan, viewed this as an opportunity to recover his status as the head of the entire Genji family that was taken away in the era of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.  The bakufu was unable to respond, so Kiyomichi was appointed head of the Genji family on 11/2.

On 8/19, the bakufu army the attacked the formation of Noriyasu in Shioya, with forces under Hosokawa Mochitsune and Akamatsu Sadamura by land and Hosokawa Mochichika (the father of Hosokawa Nariharu) by sea. After Noriyasu abandoned his contingent and retreated to Kanisaka, the bakufu army finally entered Harima.  On 8/24, Noriyasu counterattacked, with the armies engaging in fierce clashes.  On 8/25, in a pouring rain, the bakufu army attacked the formation in Kanisaka.  Noriyasu’s men fought valiantly, but after hearing a false rumor that the entrance to Tajima had been breached, the forces lost their fighting spirit and retreated to Sakamoto Castle in the Battle of Hitomaruzuka.

In the middle of the eighth month, Yamana Mochitoyo led 4,500 mounted soldiers on an attack in Ikuno Ridge on the border of Tajima and Harima against which Akamatsu Yoshimasa waged a defense over a period of several days.  On 8/28, Mochitoyo breached the ridge, chasing after Yoshimasa’s men in retreat and advancing to Sakamoto Castle.  On 8/30, the armies clashed in a final showdown at Taharaguchi.  Yoshimasa’s men fought in earnest, but, exhausted, fled in defeat.

On 9/1, Mochitoyo’s forces reached Sakamoto Castle, converged with the bakufu army under Mochitsune, and surrounded the castle.  Sakamoto served as the base for the military governor, but was not an impregnable fortress.  On 9/3, Mitsusuke soon abandoned the site and moved to Shiroyama Castle in Tatsuno.  The Akamatsu family sheltered in Shiroyama, but was surrounded by a large army led by the Yamana clan.  On 9/9, Yoshimasa escaped and surrendered to the bakufu army, while many families from Harima forsake the Akamatsu and fled, whereupon, on 9/10, the bakufu army launched a full-scale assault.  Accepting his fate, Mitsusuke enabled Noriyasu and his younger brother, Norishige, to escape from the castle and then committed seppuku.

Aftermath of the battle

Restoration of the shugo daimyō

For eliminating Mitsusuke, Yamana Mochitoyo was awarded the position of military governor of Harima, while Yamana Noriyuki became the military governor of Bizen Province and Yamana Norikiyo the military governor of Mimasaka Province.  The Nakashima District in Settsu and the Akashi, Katō, and Minō districts of Harima fell under the direct jurisdiction of the bakufu.  Hosokawa Mochikata became the district governor of Nakashima, while Akamatsu Mitsumasa became the district governor of the three districts in Harima.  However, as a reward for his military contributions, Mochitoyo demanded control over all of Harima.  In the first month of 1444, Mitsumasa lost his position and Mochitoyo took over the three districts in Harima.  Mitsumasa protested by raising arms in Harima, but was killed in 1445.

Thus, the Yamana clan witnessed a significant revival after having suffered a decline following a failed rebellion against the Muromachi bakufu in 1391 known as the Meitoku Conflict in the era of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.  This led to a power struggle against the Hosokawa clan.

In 1441, during a period when the bakufu army was on an expedition to western provinces, the Kakitsu Uprising broke out around Kyōto and Ōmi Province.  This encompassed several tens of thousands of locals led by local samurai demanding the bakufu issue orders to the brokers and lenders to provide debt relief, to which the bakufu consented.  Owing to this and the preceding series of events, the Ashikaga family incurred a dramatic loss of authority, offset by the resurgence of a system of consultation among shugo daimyō.

Following a consultation, Mochiyuki pardoned those persons who had been punished by Yoshinori.  Hatakeyama Mochikuni, who had been replaced by Yoshinori, went to the capital.  Mochikuni’s younger brother, Hatakeyama Mochinaga, who had become head of the clan through Yoshinori’s intervention, fled and was killed.  After Mochiyuki resigned from his position as the deputy shōgun, Mochikuni was appointed as his replacement. Mochikuni endeavored to restore the rights of persons punished by Yoshinori, such as he had experienced, and confronted opposition by the Hosokawa clan, triggering a conflict among daimyō families.

Aftermath for the Akamatsu clan

After his escape, Noriyasu sought protection from his father-in-law, Okawachi Akimasa, but was refused and took his own life.  Ashikaga Yoshitaka, who had received backing from Mitsusuke, was also killed.  Mitsusuke’s younger brother, Yoshimasa, surrendered to Mitsumasa’s contingent and committed seppuku, entrusting others to raise his son, Chiyomaru (later known as Akamatsu Tokikatsu).  One other younger brother, Norishige, fled to Kyūshū, at one point crossing the ocean to the Korean Peninsula, but later, in 1448, was killed in Kawachi Province.  In 1454, Mitsusuke’s nephew, Akamatsu Norinao, invaded Harima in an attempt to revive the Akamatsu clan, but, he lost and was killed by Mochitoyo.  Arima Mochiie and his son, Arima Motoie, from a cadet family of the Akamatsu were active as senior retainers of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth shōgun, but each were forced into retirement after rebelling against Mitsumasa and Norinao.

In the ninth month of 1443, the forces of the post-Southern Court known as the gonanchō invaded the Emperor’s palace and stole a jewel that was one of the three sacred Imperial Regalia.  This event was known as the Kinketsu Incident.

The sacred regalia were comprised of the Yasakani-no-Magatama (a curve-shaped jewel), the Yata-no-Kagami (a mirror), and the Kusanagi-no-tsurugi (a sword).  These items possessed mystical significance.  According to Japanese mythology, the jewel had been used, along with the mirror, to lure the sun goddess Amaterasu from a cave.  These items had originally been handed down to Japanese Emperors by Amaterasu through her grandson Ninigi-no-mikoto.  As Imperial Regalia, the virtue of the Yasakani-no-Magatama is gentleness and yielding, and a source of compassion.  The courage of the sword and the wisdom of the mirror were tempered by the jewel’s call for compassion from the Emperor of Japan.

Remnants of the Akamatsu clan infiltrated the gonanchō forces and, in the twelfth month of 1457, secretly recovered the Yasakani-no-Magatama and killed descendants of the gonanchō in the Chōroku Incident.  Owing to these achievements, the son of Akamatsu Tokikatsu, Akamatsu Masanori, was allowed to revive the Akamatsu clan, and he was appointed as the military governor of one-half of Kaga Province.  In the Ōnin-Bunmei War, he battled against the Yamana clan for control of the three provinces formerly governed by the Akamatsu (Harima, Bizen, and Mimasaka), eventually becoming the military governor of all three.