Kuroda Nagamasa (黒田長政)

Nagamasa KURODA was a busho (Japanese military commander) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) from the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the early part of the Edo period. He was the first lord of the Fukuoka Domain of Chikuzen Province.

He was the eldest son of Yoshitaka (Kanbee, Josui) KURODA, who was legendary strategist for Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. In exchange for performing the greatest military exploits in the Battle of Sekigahara, he was granted the Fukuoka Domain of Chikuzen Province, which yielded 523,000 koku in rice, and became its first lord. Like his father, Yoshitaka, he was a Christian.

Period of the Oda family's vassals

He was born on December 31, 1568, at the Himeji-jo Castle in Harima Province, as the legitimate son of Yoshitaka KURODA. Since 1577, he lived in the Nagahama-jo Castle of Omi Province, the residential castle of Hideyoshi HASHIBA (later Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI), a vassal of the Oda family, as a hostage of Nobunaga ODA. In 1578, when Murashige ARAKI, who once surrendered to Nobunaga, led a rebellion against Nobunaga (the Battle of Arioka-jo Castle), the father, Yoshitaka, entered Itami-jo Castle in order to persuade Murashige but was instead confined. When Yoshitaka did not return for a long time, Nobunaga thought he had defected to Murashige's side and therefore tried to execute Nagamasa, but he escaped death thanks to the wit of Shigeharu TAKENAKA. In 1582, he fought against the Mori clan from the Chugoku region (the Battle of Bicchu Takamatsu-jo Castle), following Hideyoshi's attack on Takamatsu-jo Castle (Bicchu Province).

Period of the Hashiba (Toyotomi) family's vassals

In June (old lunar calendar) 1582, when Nobunaga died in the Honnoji Incident, he became a vassal of Hideyoshi, along with his father.

He rendered distinguished service in the Battle of Shizukatake in 1583, and was granted 450 koku in Kawachi Province. In the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute in 1584, he served as a caretaker of Osaka-jo Castle along with his father. He was granted 2,000 koku for this achievement.

In the Kyushu Conquest of 1587, Nagamasa rendered distinguished service in the Siege of Takarabe-jo Castle, in Hyuga Province. After the war, the father and son were granted 125,000 koku in Nakatsu City, Buzen Province for their achievements. In 1589, he took over as head of the family when his father retired, and at the same time he was conferred as Jugoi (Junior Fifth Rank) and Kai no kami (Governor of Kai Province).

He also took the voyage in the Bunroku-Keicho War, which was a dispatch of troops to Korea started in 1592 by Hideyoshi. Nagamasa was assigned an army of 5,000 troops, and led the third squad as captain and spearheaded an attack, diverging from Yukinaga KONISHI's first squad and Kiyomasa KATO's second squad. After landing in Busan, they invaded Gimhae, Changwon, Yongsan, Changning, Gempu, Mokeitsu, Xingzhou, Jinshan, Chupungryeong, Jincheon, Mongi, Cheongju, Zhu Shan, and arrived Seoul Special City on June 16. The third squad, which was assigned to Hwanghae Province at the Hancheng (Seoul) meeting in mid-June, chased Sonjo, the King of the Yi Dynasty (Korea), with the first squad assigned to Pyeongan Province, subsequently conquered Kaesong and reached Pyongyang. In mid-July, they returned to conquer Hwanghae Province, and on August 14 they conquered Haeju. At the Hancheng (Seoul) meeting of early September, the decision was made to reduce the battle line and secure the main roads in order to look out for reinforcements by Ming Dynasty; Nagamasa KURODA attacked Enan-jo Castle, which was guarded by Ri Teian, but he failed to conquer it, whereupon he guarded the Shirakawa-jo and Koin-jo castles along the main roads in order to respond to attacks from the north instead of conquering the vast area of Hwanghae Province. Yoshimune OTOMO, who was also assigned to the third squad, was based in Hozan-jo Castle and Koshu-jo Castle. On February 2, 1593, a large Ming army, dispatched by the central government and led by Li Ru-song, raided Pyeongyang Castle, which was being guarded by Yukinaga KONISHI and others, and Konishi's troops, who had retreated from the castle on the verge of fall, were sheltered by Nagamasa in Shirakawa-jo Castle. The Japanese army, later gathered in Hancheng as a precaution against attacks by Ming Dynasty, defeated the Ming army in the Battle of Hekitenkai (ByeogJe Gwan), and amid the stagnation of the battle between the Ming army (which had lost its will to fight) and the Japanese army (which suffered a shortage of supplies), Nagamasa took part in the Battle of Henju-Sanson (the Battle of Haengju) as well.

Peace talks moved forward, and in May, the Japanese army abandoned Hancheng and created a formation in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. In June and July, they conquered Jinju Castle, the stronghold in southern Korea (the Second Siege of Jinju), and Matabee GOTO played an active role in the fight for the vanguard under Nagamasa's command. In the remaining years during which Nagamasa took up the position in the south guarded Kicho-jo Castle.

In October and November of 1596, peace talks between Ming Dynasty and Japan were in the final stages, but when fraud by diplomats on both sides was revealed during the Minshi ekken (audience with an envoy from the Ming Dynasty) by Hideyoshi, and the negotiations failed, Hideyoshi once again ordered the warlords to dispatch troops. In August and September of 1597, there was an attack by the Korean army led by Won Gyun; the Japanese army responded it by devastating the Korean army in the naval Battle of Chilcheollyang, and beginning to attack mainly the area between Jeolla-do and Chungchong-do from September. Nagamasa was again assigned the army of 5,000 troops, joined the right army and conquered Hwangsoksan Castle, joined with the left army at Chonju in September and October, and decided the path of each army in accordance with the Chonju conference. Nagamasa formed the right army with Kiyomasa KATO, Hidemoto MORI, and others and invaded Tian An in Chungchong-do. In response to the sudden invasion by the Japanese army, the Ming army was prepared to abandon the capital in Hancheng, but the Ming army accountant Yang Hao decided to resist, and the troops of Ming's commander Kaisei, and the troops of Nagamasa engaged in an encounter battle (the Battle of Shokuzan) in Shokuzan of Chungchong-do. Nagamasa had a bitter fight, but was able to secure the battlefield with reinforcements from Hidemoto. Both Japan and Ming Dynasty claimed victory for the Battle of Shokuzan.

Then, Nagamasa held a meeting with Hidemoto and Kiyomasa in Chinshu to advance through Zhu Shan, Sangju, Gyeongsan and Miryan, and to construct and guard Ryosanwa-jo Castle.

The Ming army headed by the accountant Yang Hao and admiral Ma Gui attacked the nearly complete Ulsan Japanese Castle in early February 1598 (the First Battle of Ulsan) against the Japanese army, which was expanding its domain and building winter quarters, and when Kiyomasa KATO struggled against the Ming army the Japanese army based in the west formed reinforcements for Ulsan and defeated the Ming army. Nagamasa dispatched 600 troops to the reinforcements but was later reprimanded by Hideyoshi for that sluggish response. In response to the attack by the Ming Dynasty, the warlords approached Hideyoshi with a proposal to abandon three castles (the westernmost Ulsan Japanese Castle, the easternmost Suncheon Waeseong and the inland Ryosanwa-jo Castle) narrowing down the battle line--but it was rejected. Eventually, Hideyoshi only allowed to abandon Nagamasa's Ryosanwa-jo Castle and transferred Nagamasa to Kupowein to remain until the order to retreat was given. In October 1598, there was an attack by a large army led by a Ming commander Ma Gui, but due to lessons from the previous year, the Ming army was sluggish and it ended up as a limited engagement (the Second Battle of Ulsan) that led to retreat.

As described, Nagamasa had many military exploits in Korea, while being in conflict with executive officers such as Mitsunari ISHIDA and Yukinaga KONISHI in Japan.


In September 1598, upon the death of Hideyoshi, he followed his opposition policy against the Bunchi faction including Mitsunari and approached Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, one of Council of Five Elders, and married the adopted daughter of Ieyasu (daughter of Masanao HOSHINA).

In leap March (old lunar calendar) 1599, upon the death of Toshiie MAEDA, he attacked Mitsunari ISHIDA with Budan-ha (a political faction that is willing to resort to military means to achieve its aim) members such as Masanori FUKUSHIMA and Kiyomasa KATO.

In 1600, when Ieyasu raised an army for the subjugation of Kagekatsu UESUGI, he departed for the front along with Ieyasu; in the meantime, when Mitsunari raised the western squad in Osaka, he fought in the Battle of Sekigahara as the military commander of the eastern squad. The performance of the Kuroda troops in this battle was extraordinary, due to resentment toward Mitsunari. In terms of strategy, Nagamasa negotiated with warlords of the western squad such as Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA and Hiroie KIKKAWA in order to have them switch sides; and due to such achievements, he was granted 523,000 koku in Chikuzen Najima (Fukuoka) by Ieyasu after the war as having rendered the most distinguished service.

The Edo period

In 1603, he was conferred upon Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade, governor of Chikuzen Province.

In the Siege of Osaka in 1614, he served as the caretaker of Edo-jo Castle, and had his heir Tadayuki KURODA leave for the front on his behalf. In the Siege of Osaka the following year, under the second seii taishogun Hidetada TOKUGAWA, he fought against the Toyotomi side.

On August 29, 1623, he went to Kyoto prior to Hidetada TOKUGAWA; before long, he developed a disease and died at Kyoto Chion-ji Temple. He died at the age 56. His eldest son Tadayuki succeeded him.


Unlike his father Yoshitaka, he was a brave and distinguished general, not a resourceful person. Yet, he wasn't entirely lacking in resourcefulness, as proved in his strategy for Sekigahara. Although he is often seen as modest since he wasn't as resourceful as his father, or since his father's resourcefulness was somewhat beyond human knowledge, he was a great commander gifted with wisdom and courage.

After the death of Hideyoshi, he faithfully served Ieyasu in a way comparable to Takatora TODO. He divorced the daughter of Masakatsu HACHISUKA and then married the adopted daughter of Ieyasu, following all the construction projects ordered by Ieyasu. Accordingly, he received favorable treatment despite the status of a non-hereditary feudal lord.

It is believed that Nagamasa resented Mitsunari, because one of the reasons for his father's downfall was conflict between his father and Mitsunari. However, a sequel to this theory is that, after the battle in Sekigahara, it was only Nagamasa and Takatora TODO who dismounted from their horses to show respect to the warlord of the enemy troops, instead of despising Mitsunari. It is said that Nagamasa covered Mitsunari with his own clothing, and bid him farewell.

He was deliberate in counsel and prompt in action, which may have seemed indecisive to his father Josui; it is said Josui warned Nagamasa by telling him something like, "I have been told by Takakage KOBAYAKAWA to be cautious, because I make decisions too quickly, but you need to be careful because you are the opposite." Clued by those words, Nagamasa later established an 'objection conference' system, where decisions were made by representatives of chief retainers and lower-ranking samurai discussing the matters at an equal level.


It has been said that, after Sekigahara, Ieyasu was so happy with Nagamasa's distinguished service that he held his hand in joy. When he told this to his father Josui, he received the serious inquiry, 'What was your left hand doing at that time?' (which is to say, 'Why didn't you grab a short sword with your left hand and stab Ieyasu at that time?').

In his later years, he was concerned about the capacity of his child Mitsutokumaru (later Tadayuki KURODA), and provided him with many family precepts (some say the gojosoku was invented in a later age). Additionally, it is said that once he considered excluding Tadayuki and instead, assigning Nagaoki KURODA as his successor. The fact that the Fukuoka Domain was formed later in the days of Tadayuki proves that Nagamasa's concerns were legitimate.

He had a jealous side: when his father Josui died, he expelled Matabei GOTO, the bravest warlord in the Kuroda retainers with many military exploits who had received daimyo-level hospitality from Josui; and furthermore, he carried out measures called hokokamae (a kind of punishment). It is said that this was due to Nagamasa's jealousy over Matabee's great achievements and the affection he had once received from Josui.

It is said that when Tadayuki had his Hakamagishiki (ceremony to fit a child with a hakama (Japanese skirt)) at age four, Tomonobu MORI said to him, 'Achieve more than your father.'
Learning this, Nagamasa became outraged and said, 'How dare you say 'achieve more than your father,'' and tried to kill Tomonobu. His life was saved by the intervention of people around them.

On his deathbed, he wrote to his chief retainers, 'Tokugawa was able to unify the country, thanks to the power of the father and son of the Kuroda family.'
As the person who rendered distinguished service behind the scenes for the victory of the eastern squad in the Battle of Sekigahara, Nagamasa was proud of this battle for the rest of his life.

When forced by Hideyoshi to convert with the edict for expelling Jesuit missionaries and his father Yoshitaka had taken the lead in giving up his Christian faith, Nagamasa also converted. Under the Tokugawa government, he changed to be the oppressor, and strictly punished the Christians in his territory.

[Original Japanese]