Kusunoki Masatsura (楠木正行)

Masatsura KUSUNOKI was a busho (Japanese military commander) in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). The legitimate eldest son of Masashige KUSUNOKI.
While his father, Masashige, was given a honorific title of 'Dai-Nanko', he was called 'Sho-nanko.'
His former name is said to have been Masayori or Masakore.


There exists no definite historical material about the year of his birth. As he is described to have been eleven years old at the time of sakurai no wakare (Separation in Sakurai) in "Taiheiki" (The Record of the Great Peace), some surmise that he was born in 1326, but many historians doubt it. There has been another opinion for long that doubts the description in the Taiheiki and guesses the year of Masatsura's birth to have been a little earlier; however as there are not any definite historical materials, it is a mere conjecture.

He was born as the eldest son of Masashige KUSUNOKI in Kawachi Province.
His childhood name was 'Tamonmaru.'
As a child, he studied at Kawachi ojo-in Temple and others and acquired military arts. It is said that after the death of his father, Masashige, in the Battle of Minato-gawa River in 1336, when his severed head reached him, he was so shocked in spite of his previous preparation of mind as to enter into Butsuma (a room for Buddha staue) and tried to kill himself with a short sword named 'Kikusui' which was a remembrance of his father, but changed his mind by his real mother's admonishment.

Masatsura, following his deceased father's last wish, became the toryo (head of the clan) of the KUSUNOKI clan and fought as the Southern Court (Japan) side. As he was the legitimate eldest son of Masashige, he is said to have been expected much by the Southern Court. He defeated the allied armies of Tokiuji YAMANA and Akiuji HOSOKAWA of the Ashikaga Shogunate at Sumiyoshi-hama Beach, Tennoji, Settsu Province.

The Battle of Shijonawate

He fought against the brothers of KO no Moronao and KO no Moroyasu of the Ashikaga side in the Battle of Shijonawate which took place at Hojo, Kawachi Province (Shijonawate City, Osaka Prefecture, as of now) in 1348, but he was defeated and committed suicide with his younger brother, Masatoki KUSUNOKI, by stabbing each other (there are various opinions about his age of death).

Previously, when he defeated the Ashikaga side at Sumiyoshi-hama Beach, he rescued drowning soldiers fleeing in disorder from the battlefield at Watabe-bashi Bridge, Settsu Province, gave them medical treatments and clothes and sent them back to the enemy camp. It has been told that there were many who participated in this battle as the KUSUNOKI side to repay the obligation.

He had been prepared in mind for the death long since, and he declined an offer of marriage to Bennonaishi by Emperor Gomurakami. The following is the poem he composed at this time.

As I am a person who won't live long, how could I make a temporary match ?'

It is also well known that when he departed for this battle, he engraved his farewell poem (which will be mentioned later) on the gates of Nyoirin-ji Temple in Yoshino with an arrowhead. Before the decisive battle, Masatsura leading the members of his clan including his younger brother, Masatoki and Katahide NIGITA (Kenshu WADA), visited the Yoshino no Angu (temporary lodging built to accommodate an Imperial visit of Yoshino), and was given the command by Emperor Gomurakami.
I make you my right-hand man.'
You should fulfill the order discreetly.'
But it has been told that his resolution for inevitable death was so firm that after the visit to the Imperial Palace, he visited the Mausoleum of Emperor Godaigo, likening the board wall of Nyoirin-do (main hall) to kakocho (a family register of deaths), wrote on the board 143 names of the family members and retainers who had resolutions for inevitable death, with his farewell poem written in the inner part of the board wall, and dedicated his own hair.

If one loses locational advantages, chance of winning is rare. The family estate was succeeded by his third son, Masanori.

In 1876, he was conferred court rank posthumously of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) for his sincere loyalty, pure dutifulness and justice which were regarded as the model of the thought of reverence for the emperor in the Meiji Restoration. In 1889, a request to establish a shrine to enshrine the KUSUNOKI clan including Masatsura by the supporters living in the place where the clan and others had died out of loyalty was approved, and an imperial proclamation for the name of the shrine and sanction to place it as Bekkaku-Kanpeisha (a special government shrine) were given. In 1890, next year, the shrine building was completed, and Shijonawate-jinja Shrine of which shusaijin (main enshrined deities) was Masatsura was founded. Furthermore in 1897, he was conferred court rank posthumously of Junii (Junior Second Rank).

There are more than one tombs.

There is a tomb (Kubi-zuka) at Hokyo-in Temple in Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City. Moreover, Second Shogun of Ashikaga ShogunateYoshiakira ASHIKAGA who was one of his enemies left words in his will, "After my death, I want to sleep beside the tomb of Masatsura KUSUNOKI in Kanrin-ji Temple (Hokyo-in Temple, as of now) whom I have adored for a long time,' and according to his will, his tomb (Hokyoin-to) was erected next to the tomb of Masatsura KUSUNOKI (Gorin sekito).

There is also a tomb at Ojoin Rokuman-ji Temple in Higashiosaka City, Osaka Prefecture, where his body has been buried.

There is also a tomb in Shijonawate City, Osaka Prefecture, and a big camphor (kusunoki) is planted there.

[Original Japanese]