Ukita Hideie (宇喜多秀家)

Hideie UKITA was a Japanese military commander as well as a feudal lord in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. He was one of the Gotairo (Council of Five Elders) under Toyotomi's government. He was commonly called 'Bizen no kuni saisho' (prime minister of Bizen Province). He was the last head of the Ukita clan while it remained a feudal lord family, and a feudal lord of Okayama-jo Castle in Bizen Province, which yielded 574,000-koku (a unit of volume of rice produced in one year; one koku equals approximately 180 liters).
(The Ukita clan still exists now.)

Succession to family headship

In 1572 he was born the second son of Naoie UKITA, who was the lord of the Okayama-jo Castle in Bizen Province (Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture). His childhood name was Hachiro. His father died of illness in 1581.

In 1582 he inherited the family estate and, at the discretion of Nobunaga ODA, was approved to run the main domain, to which the Ukita clan was then subordinate.

Nobunaga ODA's era

After Naoie's death, Nobunaga ordered the incorporation of the Ukita army into Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI's expeditionary force, and together they travelled to Chugoku district to help Hideyoshi's attack on Takamatsu-jo Castle (Bicchu Province). Since Hideie was a child, however, his uncle, Tadaie UKITA led the army on behalf of him. Furthermore, Hideie was supported by senior vassals who had served Naoie, such as Hideyasu TOGAWA and Sadachika OSAFUNE.

On June 2, Nobunaga was killed in the Honnoji Incident. Due to that reason, Hideyoshi and Terumoto MORI made peace with each other, and Hideie rose to the status of a big feudal lord possessing the territory ranging from eastern Bicchu Province to Mimasaka and Bizen Provinces, while he served keeping watch over the Mori family.

Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI's era

When he reached manhood, he took the name of Hideie, receiving the Chinese character of '秀' from Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. Gaining the favor of Hideyoshi, Hideie became his adopted son, before marrying Hideyoshi's adopted daughter, Gohime (Toshiie MAEDA's daughter) in 1586, making her his seishitu (lawful wife). For that reason he was treated as a member of the Hideyoshi family, despite being a tozama (outside feudal lord).

He participated in the Shikoku Conquest in 1585, as well as the Kyushu Conquest in 1586. He also participated in the Odawara Conquest in 1590.

In the Bunroku campaign, which started in 1592, he went to the front line as a general. In the Battle of Hekitenkai (ByeogJe Gwan), he took part in successful military exploits with Takakage KOBAYAKAWA, such as defeating the Ming army led by Ru-song LI. In recognition of the this achievement, he was promoted from Sangi (Royal Advisor) to Jusanmi Chunagon (Middle Counselor with Junior Third Rank) in 1594. As an army supervisor, he crossed the sea with Hidemoto MORI in the Keicho Campaign, which started in 1597.

In 1598, he returned to Japan and was appointed to the Gotairo (Council of Five Elders) by Hideyoshi. Then, in August, Hideyoshi died.

The feud of the Ukita family

In 1599, after Hideyoshi's death, there were internal squabbles within the Ukita family. The family troubles were caused by Hideie's problematic behavior, as well as other senior vassals' dissatisfaction with the autocratic administrative officials of the Ukita family, including Tsunanao OSAFUNE and Jirobe NAKAMURA. Moreover, many vassals in the Ukita family were believers of the Nichiren Sect of Buddhism, but because Gohime was Christian they were ordered by Hideie to convert to Christianity, which caused unrest in the family.

Hideie tried to assassinate Tatsuyasu TOGAWA, who he believe to be the main cause of the troubles, but Tatsuyasu locked himself in his home, and was protected by Naomori SAKAZAKI, who had a bad relationship with Hideie, which brought about an explosive situation between the two sides. Further internal conflict was avoided because of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's mediation, but due to the troubles many good vassals and family members who had served Naoie left the Ukita family, which resulted in the military and political decline of the Ukita family. At first, Yasumasa SAKAKIBARA, Ieyasu's vassal, undertook the mediation for the Ukita family, but because he tried to conduct the mediation with the integrity of Mikawa people, which was not in the interest of the Tokugawa family, Ieyasu deliberately provoked Yasumasa to return to the Kanto region by saying 'You probably want reward money,' and conducted the mediation himself. At that time, Ieyasu imposed less severe punishment on the vassals who tried to stand against Hideie, so Hideie's vassals came to Ieyasu's side.

The Battle of Sekigahara

After the death of Hideyoshi, Toshiie MAEDA took over his role as a guardian for Hideyori TOYOTOMI, before himself dying in 1599, and a factional struggle within the Toyotomi clan emerged between the military government group including Kiyomasa KATO and Masanori FUKUSHIMA and the civilian government group including Mitsunari ISHIDA and Yukinaga KONISHI. Ieyasu TOKUGAWA of the Gotairo (Five Elders) took advantage of the struggle to enhanced his influence in the Toyotomi family. When Mitsunari ISHIDA was attacked by seven generals in the military government group, including Kiyomasa, Mitsunari was rescued by Hideie and Yoshinobu SATAKE (Ukyo no Daifu [Master of the Western Capital Offices]).

In 1600, when Ieyasu dispatched troops on behalf of Kagekatsu UESUGI, Mitsunari ISHIDA took the opportunity to make Terumoto MORI a leader and they raised their armies to overthrow Ieyasu. As a vice general of the Western Camp, Hideie, together with Mitsunari ISHIDA and Yoshitsugu OTANI, issued orders to behead Ieyasu and then became the main force of the Western Camp. Joining the attack on Fushimi-jo Castle as a supreme commander, and actively taking part in the Battle of the Sekigahara as a main force (the second largest force of 17,000 soldiers after Ieyasu's main force), he fought in the fierce battle against Masanori FUKUSHIMA's force on the Eastern Camp. However, due to the betrayal of Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA, who was a member of the Toyotomi family, the Western Camp was routed and the Ukita force were destroyed.

It is said that Hideie was furious about the betrayal of Kobayakawa's force and said, 'I'll go into the Kobayakawa's camp to hack at Hideaki,' but he was stopped by his vassal Takenori (全登) AKASHI and reluctantly withdrew.


After the Battle of the Sekigahara the Ukita family's status and territory were taken as a punishment, and Hideie fled to Mt. Ibuki, before he disguised himself and escaped with the help of Yoshihiro SHIMAZU of Satsuma Province, and then was sheltered in Ushinego (present Tarumi City, Kagoshima Prefecture). Legend has it that Hideie tried to rule Ryukyu at that time.
In 1603, however, Hideie was handed over to Ieyasu by Tadatsune SHIMAZU (Yoshihiro's son) because there was a rumor going round that 'the Shimazu clan is sheltering Hideie.'
When Hideie was transferred, he ordered two vassals accompanying him to serve in the Shimazu clan. One of them changed his name to Iyo HONGO and became the first master of Japanese archery for Shigemasa TOGO, the founder of the Heki-ryu school of archery in Satsuma Province.

Thanks to pleas from Tadatsune SHIMAZU and Hideie's relative Toshinaga MAEDA, however, the punishment was reduced by one degree and he escaped the death penalty, and he was confined in Mt. Kuno in Suruga Province instead. In 1606, he was sent to Hachijo-jima Island of the Izu Island chain as the first exile in the official history of the Province. In Hachijo-jima Island, he changed his name to Hisafuku and stayed there for 50 years, supported by his wife's family, the Maeda clan; and Masanari HANAFUSA, an old vassal of the Ukita family. It is said that he was treated better than other exiles because he was a person of high rank.
Having said that, it seems living in Hachijo-jima Island was inconvenient for him, and he was the subject of anecdotes, such as 'he was given alcohol in charity by Masanori FUKUSHIMA's vassal who, by chance, had come to Hachijo-jima Island to take shelter from a storm,' and 'he was treated to rice balls by a local magistrate of Hachijo-jima Island.'

He died on December 17, 1655.
He died at the age of 83
At that time, it was already the reign of Shogun Ietsuna TOKUGAWA, the 4th seii taishogun (literally, great general who subdues the barbarians") of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

One theory has it that although he was set free under an amnesty after the Ieyasu's death, Hideie stayed in Hachijo-jima Island. The Ukita family were destroyed as feudal lords, but the blood linage was passed on to descendants of his first and second sons who were deported to Hachijo-jima Island with Hideie. The family moved to Tokyo in the Meiji period, and a family of a descendant who returned to Hachijo-jima Island still continues to take care of his grave. The stone statues of Hideie and Gohime facing the west (Bizen Province) have been erected on the Nanbara Beach in Ogago, Hachijo-jima Island where Hideie is said to have fished.

His homyo (posthumous Buddhist name) is Sonkoinden shugetsu Hisafuku Daikoji.

His lawful wife, Gohime's homyo is Jushoinden Meishitsu Juko Daizenjoni.

His grave can be found at Inaba-bochi Cemetery in Ogago, Hachijo-jima Island, Tokyo and the Tansenzan Yakuojuin Toko-ji Temple in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo

Personal profile

He lived longest among the feudal lords who fought in the Battle of the Sekigahara.

He often called himself Hashiba or Toyotomi, not Ukita, and strongly felt that he belonged to the Toyotomi family.

One theory has it that Hideie initiated the attack by the Western Camp in Sekigahara. This is based on the evidence that Hideie held the formal ceremony to go to the war in the Toyokuni-jinja Shrine (Kyoto City) on July 1, the day before Mitsunari asked Yoshitsugu OTANI for help. Kodaiin (posthumous name: One) sent her aide Higashidono (Yoshitsugu Otani's mother) to attend the ceremony on her behalf, and the view that Kodaiin supported the Eastern Camp is therefore questionable.

Unlike his father, who was a deceitful man, Hideie was honest, which led to pleas to spare his life from Maeda and Shimazu, and the mercy of Ieyasu. However due his favor with Hideyoshi he had never undergone hardship, and because of this he had a naïve side. He triggered protest among his senior vassals by trying to impose heavy tax on the people of his domain in order to rebuild finances depleted by the dispatch of troops to Korea, leading to family troubles.

His love for Gohime was true, and it is said that his order to convert religion stemmed from the ineffectiveness of prayers said by priests of the Nichiren Sect of Buddhism when she came down with illness.

Hideyoshi tried to appoint Hideie or Hideyasu HASHIBA as Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) after conquering Ming.

[Original Japanese]