Ouchi Masahiro (大内政弘)

Masahiro OUCHI was the twenty-ninth head of the Ouchi clan, Shugo (Military Governor) Daimyo during the Muromachi period. At the height of his power he possessed the Provinces of Suo, Nagato, Buzen, Chikuzen and a part of the Provinces of Aki and Iwami, priding himself of great power. He was one of the leaders of the Western Forces in the Onin War. He was also well-versed in cultural matters, and laid the foundation of what in latter years has been called Yamaguchi's Western Kyoto.

The Dispute with the Hosokawa family

In 1465 he became head of the family following the death of his father, Norihiro OUCHI. Just like his father, he fought with the Kanrei (shogunal deputy), Katsumoto HOSOKAWA, over the Japan-Ming trade (the so-called tally trade) and supported the Kono clan of Iyo Province, which was the enemy of the Hosokawa clan. In response, the Hosokawa family gave a Shogunal order to hunt down the Ouchi family. These feuds were one factor why he joined the anti-Hosokawa side during the Onin War.

The Onin War

During the Onin War, he joined the forces of Mochitoyo (Sozen) YAMANA, reaching Kyoto in July 1467 and, for the next ten years, fighting in the regions surrounding Kyoto. In the midst of this campaign, his uncle Noriyuki OUCHI, at the instigation of the Shoni and Hosokawa clans, raised a rebellion in Shimonoseki and Masahiro sent Hiromori SUE back to put it down. In 1472, partly due to Hiromori's activities, he drove Noriyuki into committing suicide, and brought the war under control.

Territorial Expansion

With the end of the Onin War in 1477, he returned home. In addition to the Provinces of Suo and Nagato, which were gained after the war, he added a part of Aki and Iwami Provinces, and gained Buzen and Chikuzen Provinces following the conflict with the Shoni clan. He made powerful families and local bushi of Aki and Iwami serve as vassals, and concentrated his energies on establishing his supremacy in the Western region, bringing under his control the maritime forces of northern Kyushu and the Seto Inland Sea.

The Ruler of 6 Provinces

In 1480 he became a shobanshu (officials who accompany the Shogun). In 1487 he made Hiroomi MADA, a vassal, participate on his behalf in the the 9th Shogun, Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA's subjugation of the Rokkaku clan of Omi Province. In 1491 he went to Kyoto, and fought in the tenth Shogun, Yoshitane ASHIKAGA's campaign to subjugate the Rokkaku clan. The next year, 1492, he let his son, Yoshioki OUCHI, participate in the campaign. In 1494, due to his palsy becoming worse, he retired, passing the family headship onto Yoshioki, and died the following year, 1495. He died at the age of 51.

Trade, Domestic Affairs

In cooperation with merchants from Hakata, he sent ships to Ming China, competing with the Hosokawa family, which had ties with Sakai merchants. Furthermore, after the Onin War, he also focused on trade with Korea. The immense profits gained by these trading activities were used for war funds.

Moreover, after the Onin War, he also thought carefully about the management of his territory and tried to establish social order. It is said that most of the wall writing, the laws individual sengoku-daimyo enforced in their own domain, of the Ouchi clan, known as Bunkokuho', were made during this period.


He liked waka and linked verse, and encouraged his family to take an interest in them, too. He interacted with many waka and linked-verse poets like Kanera ICHIJO, Seiko, Sogi, Sanetaka SANJO. He invited court nobles, priests, and artists like Sesshu from devastated Kyoto to Yamaguchi, and devoted himself to the promotion of culture. In 1480 he invited the artist, Sogi, and held linked verse gatherings. Furthermore, he edited a private waka collection, the "Shujin Waka-shu", and not only left 1100 of his own poems but also supported "Shinsen Tsukuba-shu", a quasi imperial anthology of waka poetry, for which many of his own poems were selected.

Moreover, he was highly interested in Noh, which in those days was just becoming known, and there are written records that Hosei of the Sarugaku Troupe gave performances and taught at the Ouchi manor.

The Ouchi family collected, published and transcribed many Japanese classics. One example is the so-called Ouchi Printing, in which Masahiro published the Lotus Sutra in 28 volumes and a Chinese verse dictionary "Ruibun inryaku".

The following persons were granted the right to use a Chinese character from his name for their names.

Hiromori SUE
Hirotsune KIKKAWA
Hiromoto MORI

[Original Japanese]