Sengoku Hidehisa (仙石秀久)

Hidehisa SENGOKU was a busho (Japanese military commander) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) from the Sengoku period (period of warring states) to the early Edo period. He was the first lord of Komoro Domain in Shinano Province. He was the first family head of the Sengoku family of Izushi Domain.

He was one of the oldest vassals of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and had been a vassal since Hideyoshi served Nobunaga ODA. He was the first to be promoted to being daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) among Hideyoshi's vassals.

He was notorious for being totally defeated by Shimazu's army in the Battle of Hetsugi-gawa River because of his arbitrary decision and execution.

He recovered from the fiasco in the Battle of Hetsugi-gawa River by succeeding at the conquest and siege of Odawara. He was one of the few busho (Japanese military commander) that was able to take up his old position as daimyo.

He is said to have seized Goemon ISHIKAWA.

Period in Mino

On March 1, 1552, he was born in Mino to be the fourth son of Hisamori SENGOKU, a Gozoku (local ruling family) of Mino. The Sengoku clan claimed themselves to be a branch family of the Toki clan, Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan), but it is not clear if this is true.

He was adopted into Kunimaro Iyonokami HAGIWARA, a Gozoku of Echizen-no-Kuni. However, he was returned and took over as head of the family of the Sengoku clan, when his brothers died one after another. He served the Saito clan of Mino, but later became a vassal of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI who was gaining power under Nobunaga when the Sengoku clan was defeated by Nobunaga.

Road to Daimyo

He killed Shinpei YAMAZAKI, a busho on the Azai clan's side in the Battle of Anegawa in 1570 and was granted 1,000 koku of rice from Yasu County, Omi Province by Hideyoshi in 1574.
(Whether he killed a person of the busho class or not is not clear because historical material only indicates 'soldiers of the Azai clan.')
He was further awarded an increase of 4000 koku in 1578.

Before long, when Hideyoshi was ordered by Nobunaga to conquer the Chugoku Province, Hidehisa took part in the war and provided distinguished service. In 1579, Hideyoshi entrusted him with the management of Chausuyama-jo Castle in order to guard Harima-do Road that crossed over Akasaka-toge Mountain pass. In this period, he was also appointed Yuyama buggy (magistrate) by Hideyoshi to manage Yuyama-kaido Highway and Arima-Onsen Hot Spring where Hideyoshi passed through many times. In addition, in 1581, he went to Awaji-shima Island with Yoshitaka KURODA to conquer Iwaya-jo Castle and Yura-jo Castle. In June 1582, as soon as Nobunaga died in the Honnoji Incident, Hideyoshi's Chugoku Ogaeshi (the term refers to the reaction to Honnoji Incident by Hideyoshi Hashiba, in which he rushed back to Bicchu even though he was in a battle with Mitsuhide Akechi in Yamazaki which was near the boundary between Settsu Province and Yamashiro Province when he learnt the news) and the Battle of Yamazaki started. Taking the responsibility of defeating Gozoku (local ruling families) in Awaji that took the side of Mitsuhide Akechi, Hidehisa contributed to suppressing Awaji. Hideyoshi later confronted Katsuie SHIBATA, Hitto karo (the head of chief retainers) of the Oda clan in the Battle of Shizugatake. Hidehisa planned to take part in the war as the head of the twelfth battalion with Hidekatsu HASHIBA. However, hearing that Sumoto-jo Castle was seized by Michinaga KAN in alliance with Motochika CHOSOKABE, Hideyoshi ordered Hidehisa to hastily move from Omi to Awaji Province in order to suppress the ruling families of Shikoku. This is why Hidehisa confronted Motochika CHOSOKABE in Shikoku who came in on Shibata's side.

Hidehisa who entered Awaji defeated Michinaga KAN and recovered the Sumoto-jo Castle. Later he occupied Shodo-shima Island and went over Shikoku to help Masayasu SOGO. At first he attacked the Kioka-jo Castle guarded by Yorisato TAKAMATSU but unsuccessful in capturing it and retreated. Then he landed in Hiketa, Sanuki Province and entering Hiketa-jo Castle. On June 11,1583, Hidehisa fought to repel an attack by troops led by Nobukage KAGAWA of the Motochika CHOSOKABE's side, consequently besting them in battle. However, he was gradually forced to pull back because Kagawa's troops gained an advantage in numbers and pulled themselves together. Subsequently, he was attacked by troops that rushed to reinforce the Motochika CHOSOKABE's side, and he withdrew to the Hiketa Castle. On June 12, the Hiketa Castle fell in an all-out attack by Motochika CHOSOKABE's side, forcing Hidehisa to flee.
(A version of the story has it that the Sengoku troop committed a blunder when their flag was taken during the fight.)
He strengthened the defenses of Awaji and Shodo-shima Island to maintain control Setouchi sea.

In 1583, when the Battle of Shizugatake ended, he became a daimyo (Japanese feudal lord), the lord of the Sumoto-jo Castle of Awaji Province with 50,000 koku of rice as a result of what Hidehisa had contributed. Some suggest that the Battle of Shizugatake ended in 1580, but this is highly unlikely as it is said that Nobunaga dispatched Hideyoshi to Awaji in order to suppress Awaji in 1581. He unified the Awaji Navy with the Navies led by Yukinaga KONISHI, Yojibe ISHI, and Yasuke KAJIWARA. He was successful in subjugating Kishu by defeating the Yukawa family. He also played an important role in the second subjugation of Shikoku by capturing the linchpin, or the Kioka-jo Castle, and cutting off the water source of the castle. As a result of his achievements in the Shikoku Conquest, he was awarded Takamatsu in Sanuki Province with 100,000 koku of rice in 1585 by Hideyoshi.

Kaieki (forfeit rank of Samurai and properties)

In 1586 when the Kyushu Conquest started by order of Hideyoshi, Hidehisa sailed to Kyushu as Assistant Deputy General with Masayasu SOGO, Motochika CHOSOKABE, Nobuchika CHOSOKABE to confront Shimazu's army. Hidehisa tried too hard to achieve results quickly and planned some reckless operations. Per the plan, he fought Shimazu's army in the Battle of Hetsugi-gawa River, and Toyotomi's army suffered a serous defeat, resulting in many deaths of powerful military commanders such as Nobuchika CHOSOKABE, Motochika's legitimate son, and Masayasu SOGO. As a result, many powerful military commanders such as Nobuchika CHOSOKABE, Motochika's legitimate son, and Masayasu SOGO died in the battle. In addition, Hidehisa retreated to Kokura-jo Castle, leaving other warlords behind. He then disgraced himself by fleeing to Sanuki. Becoming angry with the behavior of Hidehisa, Hideyoshi had him forfeit his territory and banished him to Mt. Koya.


In later years, with mediation by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, he joined Hideyoshi's army in the form of Jingari (temporary entry into a war without rewards) in the conquest and the siege of Odawara in 1590. It is said that Hidehisa, wearing Kasuo no kabuto (helmet (of armor, armour) with Kasuri-pattern design) and Jinbaori (sleeveless campaign jacket worn over armor) with short sleeves made of white glossy silk of Hinomaru (national flag of Japan) pattern and holding Uma-jirushi commanders' flags ahead with a white letter of "無" on a dark blue ground, went first into the fray with a party of soldiers under his command.
Furthermore he participated in the battle showing up conspicuously with bells sewn onto the whole surface of the Jinbaori
He himself fought hard brandishing a cruciform spear and did outstanding military exploits by leading the van in the Siege of Izu Yamanaka-jo Castle and occupying koguchi (one of the most important entrances of a castle or camp) in the Siege of Hayakawabuchi of the Odawara Castle.

The name of 'Sengokuhara' was given to an area of Hakone in honor of his struggle. With these achievements, he was successful in making a come back as a daimyo, gaining the Komoro-jo Castle together with 50,000 koku of rice. In 1592, when Japan's Invasion of Korea started by order of Hidesyoshi, successfully achieved constructing Nagoya-jo Castle in Hizen Province. With this he was conferred Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) and Echizen no kuni no kami (Governor of Echizen Province).

In 1594, he was granted an additional 7000 koku and became a daimyo with a total of 57,000 koku of rice because he also achieved constructing Fushimi-jo Castle which was started by order of Hideyoshi.

Edo period

In September, 1598, when Hideyoshi died, Hidehisa, who was on intimate terms with Ieyasu, soon became even more intimately related with the Tokugawa clan. In the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, he joined the war as the Tokubawa's side and was ordered by Ieyasu to suppress Northern provinces. He then took part in Hidetada TOKUGAWA's army in the Siege of Ueda-jo Castle, but Masayuki SANADA who was castle-side, fought well and forced Hidetada's army to a standstill. Hidetada arrived late in the main battle at Sekigahara. Hidehisa worked hard to apologize to Ieyasu who became angry about the late arrival of Hidetada. As a result Hidehisa was entrusted with an important job by Hidetada after Hidetada assumed Seii Taishogun/Barbarian Subduing Generalissimo. Hidehisa accompanied Hidetada in a ceremony of the imperial proclamation to become Shogun in 1609 and was seated at the beginning of Noh chant on February 6, 1611.

After the war he was approved of his landownership, becoming the first lord of Komoro Domain in Shinano Province. He committed a blunder when he over worked farmers under his rule, causing all farmers within his country to abandon their fields and flee to the cities or other districts in order to evade onerous taxes. However Hidehisa did achieve establishing Kasatori-toge Mountain pass, Komoro-jo Castle and its castle towns. He also left a wide variety of political achievements such as Tenma-sei (transportation system) of streets and improved inn towns. In 1614, when he returned from Edo to Komoro, he became ill and died on July 13 at Konosu, Bushu. He died at the age of 63. His third son Tadamasa succeeded him.


The Sengoku clan later changed the territory from the Komoro Domain to Shinano Ueda Domain and further to the domain of Izushi Domain in the Province of Tajima. In the late Edo period, when family troubles, known as the Sengoku Disturbance occurred, there was great fear as to whether the family would survive or not. However, the family was only punished, and deprived of social status and part of their territory, and continued to exist until Meiji Era.

The office of the Sengoku clan in the Edo-jo Castle in its early stage is said to have been Teikan-no-ma Room as a Fudai joshu daimyo (a daimyo who owns a castle and was a hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family). The office was later relocated to the Willow Room, Komi no seki (place for those in humble positions) for tozama (outsider) on and after the rule of the fourth family head, Masatoshi SENGOKU. Since then the Sengoku family continued to own it for generations.

Personal Profile and Anecdotes

It is said that, when Hidehisa first became a vassal of the Oda clan, Nobunaga ODA liked Hidehisa's brave looks and gave him a sum of gold.

When Hidehisa took part in the Siege of Negoro-ji Temple to conquer Kishu, he picked up the bell 'the Legend of Anchin and Kiyohime' that had a shady history and had been left in a forest on a mountain as if it were spoils of war. He tried to bring it to Kyoto to use it for Jingane (a bell which was used as many kinds of signs at warfronts). However, it is said that he was forced to bury the bell in the earth because the dolly to carry the bell was too heavy to be carried up a hill before the troops reached the capital of Kyoto, or that he brought the bell back to Kyoto and relied on Hokke-kyo Sutra (the Lotus Sutra) believed to be the most powerful of Sutras and a Nichiren prayer and made an offering of the bell to Myoman-ji Temple for Anchin and Kiyohime to be liberated from a grudge.

Hidehisa, who had the greatest responsibility in the Battle of Hetsugi-gawa River but was the first to flee back to Shikoku, was picked apart in 'Hosatsu gunki' (the war chronicle of Bungo Province and Satsuma Province) and described as 'being the most cowardly man of Sangokuichi (best military commander of the world)' because Sengoku fled for Shikoku.'

Luis FROIS described the Sengoku's situation in his "History of Japan."
It says, 'The worst pirates and robbers rampant in the Province of Bungo must be retainers or soldiers of Sengoku.'
It also sharply criticized, 'They are the men who have no humane feelings such as shame or mercy and have no interest in anything other than stealing (looting) as much as possible.'

Rushing to the battle in the conquest and siege of Odawara with bells sawn onto the whole surface of Jinbaori earned him the nickname 'bell-ringing-samurai.'
It is said that he was praised by Hideyoshi for his loyalty and bravery at that time and given a gold fan that Hideyoshi had used.

There is a legend that says he captured Goemon ISHIKAWA at the Fushimi-jo Castle.
(The person who officially captured him was Geni MAEDA, Kyoto shoshidai (The Kyoto deputy) but 'Isshiki Gunki' describes that Hidehisa SENGOKU captured him.)
This is why Hidehisa SENGOKU appears as an extraordinary person having unrivaled physical strength in the field of kodan storytelling.

In Sekigahara, he followed Hidetada TOKUGAWA and took part in the Siege of Ueda-jo Castle. In that occasion he made the following suggestion to Hidetada who had hard fight against the father and son of Sanada. Please send me as a hostage to advance the troops. The victory of Eastern Camp would satisfy me even if I die.
Hidetada was greatly pleased but this was not put into practice, saying 'Masayuki SANADA would not agree to it because Hidehisa is not a fudai no sho(busho (Japanese military commander) that is a hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family).'

After the Battle of Sekigahara, Hidehisa was granted a honorary position of attendant of Hidetada Tokugawa. Also it is said that his wife and children were allowed to accompany Hidehisa in a tour to go up to Edo and that an envoy of the shogun was always sent from the Bakufu to meet him at Itabashi-shuku, (the first shukuba from Edo on the Nakasendo). These were extraordinary treatments for the daimyo who received Toyotomi's kind favors as a tozama daimyo (nonhereditary feudal lord), showing that he was a man who was greatly trusted by TOKUGAWA Ieyasu and Hidetada.

Hidehisa was on such intimate terms with Hidetada that Hidehisa accompanied Hidetada in sandai (a visit to the Imperial Palace) when Hidetada was given the title of Shogun. There left an episode that Shogun Hidetada visited Hidehisa SENGOKU's mansion in Edo.

During the period of the lord of Komoro Domain, he paid attention to the local industry and worked to make soba (noodles made from buckwheat) special local products. He was also said to have improved communications with people of the domain through sobakiri (noodles made from buckwheat).

He was also a man with a severe side to his character: in order to maintain his family name he disinherited and disowned his legitimate son, Hidenori who took the side of Western Camp.

In "Jozankidan" (a collection of anecdotes compiled in the Edo period), Hidehisa Gonbe SENGOKU appears as Shinobi used by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. It describes that he disguised himself as a merchant to sneak into Kyushu, where he drew pictures of all geographical features with points of attacks and sent them to Hideyoshi.

Vassals of the Sengoku clan

Mitsutoshi SHINOMIYA
The SHINOMIYA clan moved from Shinano province to Sanuki province and served the Sangawa clan as the lord of Hiketa-jo Castle. His brother Mitsutake suffered the fall of a castle when attacked by the Miyoshi clan. Mitsutoshi served Toyotomi family and became a vassal of Hidehisa SENGOKU. In Tensho era, he became the lord of Otoi-jo Castle and established Suwa-jinja Shrine.

Ogawa Ise no kami (Governor of Ogawa, Ise Province)
He served Hidehisa SENGOKU. In 1583, he went to Sanuki Province and built Hokunji-jo Castle as a bridgehead of the Conquest of Shikoku. After the Conquest of Shikoku, he was granted a total of 350 koku of rice in Sanuki Province.

He served Hidehisa SENGOKU and was successful in the Siege of Sumoto-jo Castle in Awaji Province in December 1581.

Gonbe MORI
Serving as Tono of Sengoku's army in the Battle of Hiketa, he retreated until Iza but was killed by Shinkurando INAYOSHI. He died at the age of 18. After his death, he was made a god of feet by local people.

Mototsugu GOTO
Being banished by the Kuroda family, he temporarily served Hidehisa SENGOKU. In 1583, he won the uijin (first battle) in the Siege of Takamatsu-jo Castle in Sanuki Province (Opinions are divided). Later he was forgiven by Nagamasa KURODA and returned to the Kuroda family.

He was one of three outstanding people of the Kato family. A former vassal of the Araki family, he served Hidehisa SENGOKU after the fall of the Araki family. When Hidehisa SENGOKU later suffered Kaieki (forfeit rank of Samurai and properties), he became a vassal of Kiyomasa KATO.

Sukekichi HAYUKA
He was the second son of Suketoshi HAYUKA.
In 1579, he became a hostage of the Chosokabe family in the surrender of Hayuka-jo Castle to the enemy. In 1680, he became the head of the HAYUKA Family after his father Suketoshi died. He served Hidehisa SENGOKU after the Conquest of Shikoku. In November, 1586, he was killed in the Battle of Hetsugigawa.

Kunisuke ODAIRA
He was the lord of Shishinohana-jo Castle. His mother was a daughter of Nagakiyo OSUMI, the lord of Kawanoe todoroki-jo Castle. In 1578, he was defeated by the Chosokabe family but survived the fall of the castle. He later served Hidehisa SENGOKU and became samurai daisho (a warrior who gives the order of battle and maneuvers the troops). He stayed at a house of his vassal, when Hidehisa lost his position after the defeat of the Battle of Hetsugigawa. He died on July 4, 1578 at the age of 66. Some suggest that he killed himself, grieving for his fall.

Kunitsune ODAIRA
He was the first son of Kunisuke ODAIRA. In 1586, he was killed in the Battle of Hetsugigawa.

[Original Japanese]