Umekita Uprising

梅北一揆

Toyotomi Clan

Higo Province

Shimazu Clan

Date:  Sixth month of Bunroku 1 (1592)

Location:  Sashiki Castle in the Ashikita District of Higo Province

Synopsis:  Umekita Kunikane, a retainer of the Shimazu clan, launched a short-lived uprising against the Toyotomi that delayed deployments by the Shimazu army for the Bunroku Campaign in Korea, generating mistrust with the Toyotomi administration

The Umekita Uprising occurred in the sixth month of Bunroku 1 (1592) by retainers of the Shimazu clan.  The uprising was led by Umekita Kunikane, the lord of the Yu-no-o manor in the Hishikari District of Ōsumi Province in southern Kyūshū.

During the first invasion of Korea initiated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1592, an event known as the Bunroku Campaign, Kunikane stayed in Sashiki in the Ashikita District of Higo Province under the pretext of waiting for ships headed toward Nagoya Castle in Hizen which served as the forward operating base for the campaign.  On 6/15 of Bunroku 1 (1592), Kunikane took advantage of the absence of Katō Kiyomasa (the lord of Kumamoto Castle in Higo who governed Ashikita and was on deployment in Korea) to occupy Sashiki Castle.  His motivation for this action was said to be opposition to the deployments to Korea or more generally to the governance of Hideyoshi.

He was joined by retainers of the Shimazu including Tajiri Tajima and Tōgō Jinemon.  The rebel army was comprised of their respective troops along with local peasants and merchants totaling between seven hundred and two thousand persons.  After delegating the guarding of Sashiki Castle to Yasuda Yazaemon, Kunikane was tricked by their alleged surrender and, on 6/17, cut-down by Sakai Zenzaemon, so the uprising lasted only three days.  There is a theory, however, that the ikki forces occupied Sashiki Castle for a period of fifteen days.  In any event, the ikki forces launched a failed attack against Yatsushiro Castle to the north of Sashiki and were subdued by forces from the Katō clan and the Sagara clan (the lords of Hitoyoshi Castle in the Kuma District of Higo) while Kunikane died.  Kunikane’s head was delivered to Nagoya Castle and exposed to the elements on a beach while his body was buried in Gohonmatsu in Sashiki.  Meanwhile, his wife was taken to Nagaoya Castle and and burned to death.

The Umekita Uprising further delayed deployment by the Shimazu clan for the Bunroku Campaign which preparations had already been behind schedule.  This led to Shimazu Yoshihiro being ridiculed as the head of the slowest deployment in Japan.  This delay invited mistrust from the Toyotomi administration toward the Shimazu clan, leading to the conduct of a meticulous survey of the Shimazu-held territory overseen by Asano Nagamasa and Hosokawa Yūsai who were sent there by the Toyotomi administration.  Moreover, Shimazu Toshihisa was suspected by Hideyoshi as having been behind the uprising, so he was pursued by Yoshihisa and died.  Owing to the participation by retainers in the uprising, Aso Koremitsu, the head of the Aso clan, was executed at the age of twelve.

Owing to the Umekita Uprising, the political standing of the Shimazu clan deteriorated significantly, but land surveys and the accompanying decline of the kokujin class of society served to reinforce the authority of the Shimazu as a daimyō family.  Meanwhile, in 1597, the Keichō Campaign on the Korean Peninsula provided an opportunity for the Shimazu to make military contributions and restore their honor.  Given the severity of the punishments after this incident, along with the removal of the Ōtomo clan of Bungo Province, powerful elements in Kyūshū who did not adhere to the Toyotomi administration could be folded into the local governance of the Shimazu.

Kunikane was deified in his former territory, and the Umekita Shrine to worship Kunikane remains in Kitayama in the present-day city of Aira in Kagoshima.