Mori Motonari (毛利元就)
Starting off as a kokujin lord in Aki Province, he extended his power to rule the almost entire region of Chugoku and has been described as one of the greatest commanders of the Sengoku period. He is renowned as an outstanding strategist who brought victory to his army using deliberate tactics.
He was originally of the Oe clan. His family descended from the Mori clan whose progenitor was Suemitsu MORI, the fourth son of OE no Hiromoto. The Sagae clan belonged to the same family. The elements of his family crest are composed of Ichimonji and Mitsuboshi (a straight line and three stars).
He was the second son of Hiromoto MORI who was based in Yoshida Koriyama Castle in Aki Province (present Yoshida-cho, Akitakata City, Hiroshima Prefecture).
His childhood name was Shojumaru (also known as Shonojiro).
Succession of his Family Estate
On April 25, 1497 Motonari MORI was born the second son of Hiromoto MORI, kokujin lord of Aki Province and the Fukuhara clan. As a child he was named Shojumaru. He is said to have been born in his mother's home, Suzuo (Fukuhara) Castle, wherein now lies a stone monument commemorating his birth.
Involved in a power struggle between the shogunate and the Ouchi clan, his father Hiromoto decided to retire in 1500. Relinquishing the family estate to his eldest son Okimoto MORI, he moved to Tajihisarugake Castle with Shojumaru. A year later, in 1501, Shojumaru's beloved mother died. In 1506, his father Hiromoto died of alcohol poisoning when Motomori was still only 10 years old. He continued to live in Tajihisarugake Castle. Motomori INOUE, a family retainer, took over the estate and banished him from the castle.
Due to Shojumaru's miserable condition, he was given the derogatory name 'Beggar Prince.'
It was SUGI no Okata, his foster mother, who supported him through this hardship. He came of age in 1511, taking the name Motonari MORI.
In 1516, his eldest brother Okimoto died a sudden death. His son, Komatsumaru MORI, inherited the family estate. Motonari became guardian of Komatsumaru, his young nephew. The successive sudden deaths of the two lords, Hiromoto and Okimoto MORI, brought the family, who had been left with the young lord, into confusion. Taking advantage of the confused Mori family, Motoshige TAKEDA, lord of Sato-Kanayama Castle, attacked Arita Castle in Kikkawa territory.
As Komatsumaru's surrogate, Motonari led his army to save Arita Castle which was under attack by Takeda's troops,
This was Motonari's first battle and would determine the destiny of the Mori family.
He defeated Takeda's vanguard which had been led by Motonao KUMAGAI in the Sengoku period and who was a senior vassal of the Takeda clan who had gained renown as a brave commander. Motonao KUMAGAI perished in the battle. Learning of Kumagai's death, Motoshige TAKEDA who was laying siege to Arita Castle trembled with rage. Leaving a small troop to besiege the castle, he commanded the entire army to repulse the allied force of Mori and Kikkawa. A fierce battle ensued. Outnumbering the enemy, the Takeda troops prevailed in battle. Motoshige TAKEDA was killed by an arrow while crossing the Matauchi River. His troops fell into disorder, utterly defeated. The Aki-Takeda clan retreated, having lost Lord Motoshige as well as many commanders. This 'Battle of Arita-Nakaide', also known as 'a Battle of Okehazama in Saigoku' (the western provinces of Japan), marked the watershed event of the Takeda clan's fall and the Mori clan's rise to power. Victory in that battle finally brought the name of Motonari MORI, kokujin lord of Aki Province, to fame. After the battle, Motonari took sides with the Amago clan. As Komatsumaru's guardian, he achieved military success with his ingenious tactics in the conquest of Kagamiyama Castle in Saijo, Aki Province. He gained prestige within the Mori family.
He married Kunitsune KIKKAWA's daughter (whose homyo or posthumous Buddhist name was 'Myokyu') although we do not know exactly when this occurred.
In 1523, his nephew Komatsumaru died at the tender age of nine. As a direct male descendant of the Mori family and a powerful candidate for the lord of the clan, he was recommended by senior vassals to enter Yoshida-Koriyama Castle. He succeeded to the estate of the Mori family at the age of 27. Discontented with his succession and in favor of Mototsuna AIO who was Motonari's half brother, a group of senior vassals, including the clans of Saka and Watanabe, rose in revolt, supported by Hidetsuna KAMEI who was chief retainer of the Amago clan and who was guided by Tsunehisa AMAGO. Supported by regent Hiroyoshi SHIJI and others, Motonari made many of the Mototsuna faction commit sepukku and massacred the rest. Eliminating the root of the future evil, he secured his position as the head of the family.
Extension of Power
The issue of the family succession gradually made Motonari antagonistic towards Tsunehisa AMAGO. Finally, in 1525, he made it clear that he would part company with the Amago clan to become a retainer of Yoshioki OUCHI. In 1529, he eliminated the Takahashi family, including Okimitsu TAKAHASHI who had dominated the Mori family as Komatsumaru MORI's maternal relative and who had schemed to empower Mototsuna AIO, conspiring with the Amago clan. He obtained the Takahashi clan's vast territory stretching from Aki to Iwami. While trying to subdue the Takahashi clan, his daughter, who had been held hostage, was murdered. At the same time, Motonari made an effort to restore his relationship with the Shishido clan who had long been his archenemy. He built a friendly relationship with them by offering his daughter in marriage to Takaie SHISHIDO. He also became friendly with the Amano clan who had a hard time after rebelling against the Ouchi clan as well as the Kumagai clan whose relationship with the Aki-Takeda clan had deteriorated. He thereby secured his position as the leader of the kokujin lords of Aki Province.
"Oyudono no Ue no Nikki" (The Imperial Court Journal) dated October 21, 1534, mentions that Yoshitaka OUCHI asked Emperor Gonara to grant an official court rank to 'A Mr. Oe,' following a precedent in the Oei era. This meant that the emperor was requested to appoint Motonari MORI (OE) to a post similar to that of his ancestor Mitsufusa MORI, following the precedent in which Emperor Shoko appointed Mitsufusa as Uma no Kami (Captain of the Right Division of the Bureau of Horses) to the rank of the Junior Fifth, Lower Grade. It was decided that Motonari would present 4,000 hiki (a monetary unit) to the court via Yoshitaka. His investiture was thus realized. He thereby strengthened his ties with Yoshitaka Ouchi who had recommended him. Through his investiture which had already become nominal by then, he nevertheless demonstrated to the other lords in Aki Province that he had the backing of both the imperial court and the Ouchi clan. Such were the effects of his investiture. Around that time Okitsune KIKKAWA who was one of the powerful kokujin lords in the Province suggested to Motonari that he could help Motonari make peace with the Amago clan. The Amago clan however refused.
In 1539, the Ouchi clan, to whom Motonari belonged, brought to ruin their archenemy, the Shoni clan of Kitakyushu. They made peace with the Otomo clan. So they attacked Sato-Kanayama Castle where the Aki-Takeda clan resided. Although receiving reinforcements from the Amago clan, Nobuzane TAKEDA, lord of the castle temporarily fled to Wakasa Province. Later, he relied on the Amago clan of Izumo.
In 1540, Motonari's bastion, Yoshida-Koriyama Castle was assailed by an army of 30,000 men led by Haruhisa AMAGO (who was the heir of Tsunehisa) in what is known as the Battle of Yoshida-Koriyama Castle. Besieged with only his small army of 3,000 men to defend, Motonari managed to defeat the Amago force. He won this battle, supported by his retainers such as those from the Fukuhara clan as well as his allies, the Shishido clan and Harutaka SUE, who, having arrived belatedly to the castle, displayed his military prowess in commanding reinforcements from Yoshitaka OUCHI. He became a prominent leader in Aki Province.
That same year, Sato-Kanayama Castle, presided over by Nobuzane TAKEDA, lord of the Aki-Takeda clan, which was supported by both the Ouchi and Amago clans, fell to enemy attack. Nobuzane fled to Izumo. The Aki-Takeda clan went to ruin. Motonari organized the Kawachi Keigoshu (a pirate organization) owned by the Aki-Takeda clan. He laid the foundation for Mori's future pirate fleet.
From 1542 to 1543, he took a part in the First Battle of Gassan Toda Castle under the general command of Yoshitaka OUCHI. Yet, he was betrayed by Okitsune KIKKAWA. When the Ouchi force advanced too far into the territory of the Amago clan, their lines of supply and defence were cut off. In May, Motonari assailed the Shionoya gate of the castle but was utterly defeated. The Ouchi forces were routed. During the rout, Motonari faced the crisis, prepared to die. Kayo WATANABE and others fought in his stead and perished in the battle. Managing to escape, he returned to Aki in one piece. Witnessing the decline of the Ouchi and the Amago clan in Aki Province, he began to re-evaluate his position as a minor lord who was entrusted with watching out for more powerful daimyo.
In 1544, he made a change by allowing his third son Takakage KOBAYAKAWA to be adopted by the Kobayakawa clan who led a powerful pirate force. That same year, he dispatched Naritada KODAMA and Sadatoshi FUKUHARA to repulse the force of Haruhisa AMAGO who were on an expedition to attack the Miyoshi clan of Bingo Province. He was, however, defeated.
(The Funo Defeat)
In 1547 he plotted the take over the family of his wife Myokyu, the Kikkawa family. At that time, the Mori clan, including Tsuneyo KIKKAWA, and their vassals stood in fierce opposition to the new retainers. The lord lost control of the family. Motonari had his second son, Motoharu KIKKAWA, (who was Kunitsune KIKKAWA's grandson) adopted into the Kikkawa family. He forced Okitsune KIKKAWA, lord of the Kikkawa family, to retire. In 1550, following Okitsune's retirement, he had him and his family murdered to eradicate a future threat. Meanwhile, he intervened in the problem of succession of the Kobayakawa clan caused by the loss of Lord Masahira KOBAYAKAWA in the Battle of Gassan-Toda Castle.
He caused a schism in the family by manipulating Shigehira KOBAYAKAWA, the young and blind lord of the Kobayakawa family,
He plotted to kill Zenkei TASAKA, Shigehira's vassal and overseer. He then forced Shigehira to enter into the priesthood. He made his own son Takakage KOBAYAKAWA (lord of the Takehara-Kobayakawa branch of the clan) successor to their estate. He thereby obtained control of the clan's pirate organization.
He also established 'the Mori-Ryosen system.'
This would help his clan to expand its power.
He thus incorporated the powers of the two clans: the Kikkawa clan who held sway in the Provinces of Aki and Iwami and the Kobayakawa clan who were influential in the provinces of Aki, and Bingo and the Seto Inland Sea. He acquired dominion over most of Aki Province.
On September 4, 1550 he murdered Motokane INOUE and his family who had lorded over the Mori family. Soon after that he made a group of his retainers sign a sworn oath of loyalty to the family. This strengthened his leadership among the cohort of pirates.
The Battle of Itsukushima
In 1551 Yoshitaka OUCHI, the great daimyo of Suo and Nagato Provinces was murdered by his retainer Harukata SUE who rose in revolt. The revolt of Daineiji occurred. Initially, Motonari took the castles at Sato-Kanayama and Sakurao, siding with Takafusa. He gained dominion over the region.
Takafusa found it impossible to control the Ouchi territory without Motonari's support. He therefore gave Motonari authority to lead the kokujin lords in the Provinces of Aki and Bingo. From there, he attacked the kokujin lords who supported Yoshitaka OUCHI in Aki Province, gradually extending his power. He took control of Aki-Kashirazaki Castle where Takayasu HIRAGA took refuge. He forced Takayasu to commit suicide. He ensured Hirosuke HIRAGA succeeded to the Hiraga family estate. He forced the Hiraga clan to submit to the Mori clan. In 1553, along with Ouchi's retainer Fusahide ERA, he managed to repel the forces of Haruhisa AMAGO who had attempted to invade Aki.
There was some trouble in handling the situation following the battle. Alarmed by the Mori clan's increasing influence, Takafusa SUE attempted to usurp their dominion. The antagonism between them grew deeper and deeper. Masayori YOSHIMI of Iwami Province then rebelled against Takafusa. Motonari initially decided to join the Takafusa force at the request of Takafusa. However, he was opposed by some retainers of the family who put no trust in Takafusa. He was not able to lead his troops. Takafusa then sent an envoy to the kokujin lords in Aki Province to urging them to send their troops to the front. Motonari's heir Takamoto and senior vassals who heard of this from Hirosuke HIRAGA pressed Motonari to break off with Sue since the partnership between Mori and Sue had ended as the Sue's request broke the agreement he had made to Motonari granting him authority to lead the kokujin lords in the provinces of Aki and Bingo). Motonari then resolved to confront Takafusa.
However, Takafusa SUE was able to mobilize the Ouchi force of which numbered over 30,000 men in terms of military power. In contrast, the maximum number of soldiers that the Mori clan could mobilize was between 4,000 and 5,000. They would have had no chance of defeating the enemy had they squarely confronted them. Pressed by the Ouchi and the Sue clan, the kokujin lords in Aki Province who sympathized with the Mori clan were overturned. They adamantly refused to switch sides. Resorting to his favourite stratagem, Motonari contrived to divide and weaken the Ouchi clan.
In 1554, Kunihisa AMAGO and Sanehisa AMAGO, both of whom belonged to the Shinguto faction of the Amago clan, were murdered by Haruhisa AMAGO. This was an internal conflict among the clan.
While the Amago clan were massacring the Shinguto faction, Motonari spread the rumor that Fusahide ERA, who was a resourceful retainer of Harukata (Takafusa's new name) SUE and who had fought many wars with him, 'was planning to rebel.'
Counterfeiting Era's handwriting, he even forged a letter in which Era promised to secretly work for him. He made Harutaka personally assassinate Fusahide ERA.
(Another explanation is that Fusahide ERA had been secretly working for the Mori clan.)
(This fact was intentionally revealed by Motonari to Harukata).
In the same year Motonari eliminated the future opposition just as he said, 'first plot and then let it brew.'
He rebelled against Harutaka SUE who was slow to defeat the Yoshimi clan who rose up against him. Enraged, Harutaka immediately sent an army of 3,000 soldiers to his senior vassal, Fusanaga MIYAGAWA. Leaving Yamaguchi, the Miyagawa force arrived at Mt. Oshikibata in Aki Province and drew a line of battle. Motonari took the initiative, raiding the Miyagawa force. The Miyagawa force ran into great difficulty was utterly destroyed and Fusanaga MIYAGAWA perished (in the Battle of Oshikibata). Initially, Motonari was victorious.
Once again infuriated, Harutaka SUE personally led a large host of 20,000 men leaving Yamaguchi in 1555. Despite the objection of Takakane HIROKAWA, his senior vassal, he stopped by Itsukushima Island to pillage the Mori clan's Miyao Castle which was built on the island located at the confluence of commerce and economy. He fell right into Motonari's hands. Motonari made a surprise attack on Sue's troops, who were too numerous to be able to move quickly, destroying them at once. Harutaka SUE committed suicide. That caused the Ouchi clan's power to diminish greatly. This is the famous Battle of Itsukushima, counted among the three big surprise attacks in Japan.
In 1556, Yamabuki Castle, which supported the Ouchi clan, was assailed by a host of 25,000 men led by Haruhisa AMAGO who had quickly withdrew his forces from Bizen and by Nagataka OGASAWARA who had joined forces with Amago. The Mori clan, who fought to repulse them, was defeated in Oshihara and had to surrender the Iwami silver mine to the Amago clan.
(The Oshibara Defeat)
In 1557, Motonari exploited the Ouchi clan's infighting as an opportunity. He killed Yoshinaga OUCHI whom Harutaka had set up as the puppet lord of the Ouchi clan. He thus brought the Ouchi clan to ruin. He successfully took hold of most of the former territory of the Ouchi clan except Kyushu in the Conquest of Bocho.
That same year, he transferred the responsibility of his family estate to his heir Takamoto. He, however, continued to maintain control.
In 1558, he and Motoharu KIKKAWA attacked Kawamoto-Nukuyu Castle, where Nagataka OGASAWARA had taken refuge, in order to recapture the Iwami silver mine. Haruhisa AMAGO led his army to defend the silver mine. The battle stalled with both armies glaring at each other across Gono-gawa River. A year later, in 1559, Motonari conquered Nukuyu Castle. He lay seige to Yamabuki Castle although he did not quite manage to take it. Upon withdrawing his troops, he met with a surprise attack by Tsunemitsu HONJO, the lord of the castle. Struck by Haruhisa's main force that had converged with the castle's troops, he suffered a crushing defeat. (The Battle of Gorozaka).
Battle with the Amago and Otomo Clans
Motonari lost the control over Iwami Silver Mine in 1556 when Yamabuki Castle was taken by Haruhisa AMAGO, lord of the Amago clan. Haruhisa AMAGO died in 1560. His sudden death caused confusion within his clan. His heir Yoshihisa AMAGO sought a reconciliation with Motonari through Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA. Motonari, however, refused it unilaterally. In 1562, he started advancing into Izumo (The Second Battle of Gassan Toda Castle).
Defeating Haruhisa, Yoshihisa AMAGO took refuge in Gassan Tomita Castle (in present Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture) which had the reputation of being unassailable. He repulsed the Mori force with his defense network known as "Amago jikki" (ten branch castles of the Amago clan). In 1563, however, Motonari took Shiraga Castle, one of the clan's branch castles. He finally lay siege to Gassan Toda Castle, hoping to starve the enemy out. Based on his previous experience in the Battle of Gassan Toda Castle, which he had lost following the leadership of the Ouchi clan, he used strategy rather than attacking by sheer force. First, he did not give mercy to the soldiers who surrendered. He executed all who surrendered, thus setting an example to others. In this way, he schemed to exhaust the food inside the castle as soon as possible. In parallel with this stratagem, he plotted to bring about the internal collapse of the Amago family. Trapped in Motonari's expert plot, Yoshihisa felt wrapped in a web of suspicion and ended up killing his senior vassal Hisakane UYAMA. This caused internal conflict within the Amago force. At this point, Motonari had porridge cooked in hopes of inciting the soldiers inside the castle to surrender. Many surrendered one after another. In December 1566, Yoshihisa was obliged to surrender.
Thus, in his lifetime Motonari rose to become a great daimyo who ruled over the eight provinces in the Chugoku region.
He defeated the Amago clan of Izumo Province. Yet the remnants of the Amago force led by Yukimori YAMANAKA in the service of Katsuhisa AMAGO (son of Sanehisa AMAGO) invaded Motonari's territory from Sanin, aided by Nobunaga ODA. They revolted against the Mori clan. In addition, Yoshishige OTOMO of Bungo Province sought to conquer the entire Buzen Province. In 1568, he fought with Motonari over the dominion of Kitakyushu. As a diversionary tactic, he provided Teruhiro OUCHI, a member of the Ouchi clan, with soldiers and ordered him to invade Yamaguchi. Motonari was plagued by the enemies and the remnants of resistance from the Amago clan. It was a critical moment for the Mori clan. Assisted by his good sons Motoharu and Takakage, Motonari made peace with the Otomo clan and successfully eliminated Amago's restored force from Izumo and Hoki. However, his reconciliation with Otomo led him to give up the control over Hakata which was the Ouchi family's source of wealth.
The Last Days of an Outstanding Strategist
Motonari had been often sick since the early 1560s. Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA sent the great physician Dosan MANASE to treat Motonari. That apparently did him some good as Motonari's health recovered for a while. In 1567,his last son Hidekane MORI was born.
In 1570, the year following Yoshiteru's unnatural death, Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, the 15th shogun, broke away from Nobunaga ODA. The Mori clan was asked by Yoshiaki to oppose Nobunaga ODA by joining the anti-Nobunaga network. Recognizing Nobunaga ODA's competence, he maintained his friendly relationship with him and refused to ever join the network.
On June 14, 1571 he died in Yoshida-Koriyama Castle. He most likely died of either old age or esophageal cancer. He was 75 years old. After his death, Nobunaga ODA sent an envoy expressing his condolences. (See page 168 of the volume on Motonari MORI of the series "Rekishi Gunzo" (Historical Figures).
Summary and Details
The political system Motonari built was a typical collective leadership system that attempted to balance the coexistence of the kokujin lords and local powers within the territory. He shared many characteristics with other warring daimyo lords of his age. His government was not just about organizational or structural reform. He also made a psychological reform of his retainers and people through the use of "Sanshi Kyokunjo" (Moral Principles for Motonari's Three Sons) and the slogan "Hyakuman Isshin" (Everything is possible if the people are united). In this respect, he calls to mind Shingen TAKEDA. One of the political characteristics of the Mori clan was the highly independent nature of their local lords. It was far from the despotic style of rule of the daimyo (lord of the Mori clan). As in the case of the Kai-Takeda clan, its details are too complex and elaborate to comprehend. Motonari established a bugyo administrative system to efficiently handle affairs of state. It is certain that he was successful in stabilizing his power by avoiding the concentration of power on himself. It is certain that he was successful in stabilizing his own power by avoiding power being focused on himself.
Even then, it was inevitable that their political power was subject to volatility under a new lord. Under the reign of Terumoto, who was Motonari's grandson and heir, they had a difficult time battling against the extremely powerful Oda clan which caused the kokujin lords to revolt. In the Battle of Sekigahara, which took place after the death of "Ryosen" (Motoharu and Takakage), they became even more unstable, also due to Terumoto's indecisiveness. Split into eastern and the western camps, they were unable to take coherent action. Yoshimoto became the humiliated leader of a defeated army. This was one of the consequences of the weakness of a collective leadership that had difficulty in taking decisive action (or was too slow to respond) due to its decentralized power structure.
And yet, the Mori clan survived as daimyo. This was because Motonari's political ideas and extraordinary will to keep the family name alive persisted in the family long after his death (as illustrated by Hiroie KIKKAWA's tact). Motonari established the Mori-Ryosen system which will be described below. He then established a collective leadership system utilizing bugyo (magistrates) led by the Mori-Ryosen system. He also coined the phrase "Do not compete for the world." These were decisions Motonari made in anticipating his family's decline (i.e., his successors' lack of competence) under the new leadership (i.e., after his death). His politics and insight as a warring lord are endlessly deep.
The Mori-Ryosen System
When Motonari conquered Bocho in 1557, he retired and let his eldest son Takamoto MORI take over the family estate. Yet he continued to hold power as Takamoto refused to accept the responsibility of political leadership. He thus solidified the Mori-Ryosen system that combined the leadership of Motoharu KIKKAWA and Takakage KOBAYAKAWA. Upon retiring December 25, 1557, he prepared instructions for his descendants which comprised 14 articles (known as 'Sanshi Kyokunjo'), asking the family to unite. The instructions appear to have provided the basis for 'The Tale of Three Arrows' (see below).
On January 1, 1558, 12 lords in Aki Province including Motonari allied themselves by signing the famous 'Karakasa Renpanjo' (Round-robin Treaty). This demonstrated that there was no hierarchical relationship between them but rather they were all on an equal footing.
On the other hand, the Mori clan had just taken control of his own retainers since the elimination of the Inoue family. At that time, he was still just the leader of the allied dogo (village chiefs) in Aki Province. He did not even maintain a hierarchical relationship with either of the Kikkawa and the Kobayakawa families who were headed by his own sons. It was not until around 1560 when Takamoto was appointed as "Shugo" (Military Governor) of Aki Province (emerging from his position as the leader of the allied dogo) that the Mori clan truly united the province by reorganizing the kokujin lords, who were still little more than village chiefs, making them their retainers.
Even at that time, the kokujin lords were in the process of forming a master-servant relationship with the Mori clan. They were allowed certain, albeit limited, independence. Such a double master-servant relationship with the clan's direct retainers on the one hand and with the subjugated dogo (kokujin lords) on the other was long maintained up until the transfer of their territory to Choshu after the Battle of Sekigahara. The Mori government maintained without collapse. This owed much to the strong leadership of Lord Mori and the assistance of the Ryosen rulers.
The Mori Clan's Relationship with the Imperial Court and the Shogunate
The Mori clan who had been a minor provincial rulers had an alliance with the Ouchi clan who in turn had close ties with the Imperial Court. They appeared therefore to have a political connection with the central government even before Motonari became lord of the family. After the collapse of the Ouchi clan, they lent a large sum of money to Emperor Ogimachi who acceded to the throne in 1557. Financing his enthronement ceremony, they had since strengthened their relationship with the court.
(Motonari's appointment as Mutsu no Kami [Governor of Mutsu] and that of Takamoto as Aki no Kami [Governor of Aki Province] were made possible by their appeal to the central government around this time.)
(These political manoeuvres were financed by resources from the Iwami Silver Mine).
In the subsequent battles with the Amago and the Otomo clans, the Mori clan took advantage of the shogunal mediation which gave them the edge. They fought a fierce battle with the Amago clan over the Iwami Silver Mine. Utilizing the Shogun's peace initiative, they turned peace with the Amago clan to their advantage. By creating a situation which blocked the Amago clan from control of the Iwami Silver Mine, they were able to take control of it. In their battle with the Otomo clan, they were requested by the shogunate to make peace with them. Motonari ignored the request for a time. He displayed the tactic of waiting to respond until the conditions were more favorable. He refused to follow orders unless they would in some way benefit him. He would utilize the orders if they were of benefit to him. His response to the shogun showed what a tactful politician he was.
As mentioned earlier, he refused to join the anti-Nobunaga network when he was requested to do so by Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA. He declined, in part because he held Nobunaga in high esteem, and partly because he believed that the Oda clan's dominion would not last long.
Personal Profile and Anecdotes
He was one of the greatest strategists in the Sengoku period, using every means, including warfare, tactical manouvering, assassination, bribery and marriage politics, to gain victory. He has been also described as 'the best warlord of West Japan' since he built a great territory in Chugoku region during his lifetime. He especially excelled in spreading false information amongst his enemy chiefs and forces and other tactics to drive a wedge between his rivals. He resorted to such strategies in his victories at the Battle of Yoshida Koriyama Castle and the Battle of Itsukushima. He also weakened the Amago clan by triggering the Shinguto Faction Incident.
(This being said, there is no evidence to substantiate his tactical involvement in the Incident.)
(Recent research has shown that he was not involved). It was one of the characteristics of his strategy that he patiently and deliberately took time before taking action. This made him inconspicuous and allowed him to steadily prepare the situation without invoking much antagonism. He thereby made sure that his enemies were properly disabled or eliminated. He was unparalleled in his ability to steadily extend his territory. He was also a first-rate politician, using political stratagems such as adopting out his sons, Motoharu and Takakage. He, Tsunehisa AMAGO of Izumo Province, and Naoie UKITA of Bizen Province have been described as the three tactful busho commanders in Chugoku region.
We of the Mori clan should wish for the preservation of our territory only, and never wish for the world. (We do not compete for domination of the world).
It has not been ascertained whether or not this was really Motonari's will. However, it is true that Motonari's will went to Motoharu and Takakage. Motonari who rose from kokujin to daimyo saw the Ouchi and the Amago clan, which he had served, lose their power and fail in their attempt to conquer the world. This is what seems to have made him leave such a will. He conquered Chugoku region when he was advanced in years. He found it difficult to further extend his territory during his lifetime. This has also been thought to have some effect. When his territory of control was large, many of the kokujin lords whom he ruled were formally allied with him on an equal footing. It seems therefore that he judged that preserving the territory as it existed was more practical than extending it further. The death of his son Takamoto, who had helped him with domestic administration, was a great loss. (The Mori family temporarily fell into serious financial difficulty). This evidently had something to do with the will. This episode in history was adapted by Film Director Akira KUROSAWA for his film 'Ran' (Revolt). Motonari's philosophy can be summarized as follows: 'No matter how rich and prosperous the family of a world-conqueror may be, it will not last forever as its branches will wither and its roots will die out. Instead of placing world under one flag to extol military might, he divided 65 kingdoms into those of 5 to maintain the prosperity of his descendants.
The Three Arrows
One day Motonari called his three sons (Takamoto, Motoharu and Takakage) to his bedside. He told them to break an arrow. They did so with ease. He then told them to break a bundle of three arrows. None of them could break it.
He demonstrated that while a single arrow may be fragile, three arrows bundled together form a bond of strength.'
He strongly urged the three brothers to band together.
Such is the famous tale of 'The Three Arrows.'
Motonari's pilgrimage to Itsukushima-jinja Shrine
Motonari MORI made his pilgrimage to Itsukushima-jinja Shrine with his retainer before undergoing his coming-of-age ceremony.
He asked his retainer, 'What did you pray for?'
The retainer answered, 'I prayed that Mr. Shojumaru would become ruler of Aki Province.
Motonari said, 'Why didn't you pray that I would become ruler of the world?'
The retainer said, 'It is pointless to pray for the impossible.'
He laughed, saying 'You might as well become ruler of the Chugoku region.'
Motonari answered as follows:
One might just be able to conquer the Chugoku region if one wishes to be a world-conqueror.'
One cannot even conquer Aki Province if that is what one wishes from the beginning.'
He held such a high ideal as this. As has been mentioned, however, it was struggle enough to preserve his family honor, let alone to conquer the world as he grew older.
A Million Hearts as One
Motonari famously insisted on the solidarity of his family and people. This also extended to the collective leadership by which his kokujin lords lived within his ideal. The Mori clan in fact governed the Chugoku region by discussing decisions with the kokujin lords.
Motonari was concerned about the incompetence of his grandson and heir Terumoto MORI long before his death. He asked Motoharu, Takakage, Sadatoshi FUKUHARA and Michiyoshi KUCHIBA to assist Terumoto.
He was supported by his family members. His legitimate wife Myokyu had passed away. Yet he was faithfully attended by his second wife, Omi no Okata, a concubine of the Miyoshi clan, and his excellent sons. He fathered a son at the late age of 71. His children were to become the pillars of support to his clan following his death.
Lyrics from the Itsukushima section of the 'Tetsudo Shoka' (The Second Collection of the Songs of Railways in Sanyo and Kyushu Regions) sing praises of Motonari.
Motonari MORI built Miyao Castle on this island. He set an example for later warrior vassals by destroying Harutake SUE, an enemy of Yoshitaka OUCHI.
Motonari taught his eldest son and heir Takamoto that 'All is war strategy and tactics.'
He left a strong impression being well remembered as a warrior. He was also a man of great learning. Many of the poems he composed while alive were included in the posthumously published "Shunkashu (A Collection of Linked Verses by Motonari MORI)" (The Book of Spring Haze).
His last verse reads as follows 'Gaining new friends, cherry blossoms look happier; today they emit a different scent from yesterday.'
This verse was composed at cherry-blossom viewing which took place three months prior to his death. This displays his perception and poetic gifts.
As legend has it, Motonari buried a stone monument engraved with 'Hyakuman Isshin" instead of a human sacrifice when he built Yoshida Koriyama Castle.
Both his father Hiromoto MORI and elder brother Takamoto MORI died a premature death due to alcoholic poisoning. Motonari, however, did not appear to be much of a drinker. There remains a letter in which he later advised his grandson Terumoto MORI to abstain from drinking. (However, he apparently liked to drink herbal liquor made from herbs and chrysanthemums).
The only misfortune in his otherwise exceptionally fortunate life was the premature death of his heir Terumoto. Hearing of Takamoto's death, he collapsed. He wept for three days and three nights.
After that he often said, 'I want to die now so that I may see Takamoto again.'
Influenced by his foster mother Sugi no Okata, he made a habit of facing the sun and saying a Buddhist prayer every morning. Luis FROIS mentions that Motonari believed in the Ikko sect of Buddhism. What he believed in differed from the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. It is certain, however, that he had strong faith in 'nenbutsu' (Buddhist invocation). According to Frois's account, he was reluctant to deal with missionaries. He apparently took little interest in Christianity.
He was a good letter-writer, leaving behind many letters. Compiled by the Mori family in 1767, their Book of Admonitions includes about 30 lessons by Motonari which originally appeared in his letters. A letter of moral precepts, written in 1557, in which he expounded on the solidarity of his three sons, including Takamoto, is 2.85 meters long. He often repeats himself with that text.
Thus, many scholars of letters in the Sengoku period such as Kenji YOSHIMOTO and Makoto TATEHANA have commented that 'Motonari's letters are long and repetitive.'
Yoshimoto described his letters as 'those of a preacher who apparently had a difficult life.'
Record of Offices and Ranks Held
* Date according to old lunar calendar (up until December 2, 1872)
On September 25, 1533 Motonari was granted the rank of the Junior Fifth, Lower Grade.
On September 28 he was appointed as Uma no Kami (Captain of the Right Division of the Bureau of Horses)
On February 15, 1560 he was promoted to the rank of Junior Fourth, Lower Grade and was transferred to the office of Mutsu no Kami (Governor of Mutsu Province).
On May 18, 1562 he was promoted to the Junior Fourth, Upper Grade as Mutsu no Kami.
He died on June 14, 1571. He was 75 years old.
In 1572 he was posthumously given the rank of the Junior Third.
On April 2, 1908 he was posthumously conferred the rank of the Senior First.
History of Primary Battles
According to official records, he participated in as many as 200 battles. This is an extraordinary record not only for the Sengoku period of Japan but also within the heroic legends of the world.
The Battle of Arita-Nakaide - the Battle of Kagamiyama Castle - the Battle of Sato-Kanayama Castle - the Battle of Yoshida Koriyama Castle - the First Battle of Gassan Toda Castle - the Defeat in Funo - the Battle of Oshikibata - the Battle of Itsukushima - the Conquest of Bocho - the Defeat in Oshibara - the Battle of Gorozaka - the Second Battle of Gassan Toda Castle - the Iyo Expedition - the Battle of Tachibana Castle - the Invasion of Yamaguchi by Teruhiro OUCHI - the Battle of Fubeyama