Konoe Sakihisa (近衛前久)

Sakihisa KONOE (1536 - June 7, 1612) was a court noble who lived during the Sengoku period (period of warring states) (Japan) and the Azuchi-Momoyama period,
He was the family head of the Konoe family and assumed the position o f Kanpaku Sadaijin (the chief adviser to the Emperor and Minister of the Left) and Daijo-daijin (Grand Minister of State). His original name was Harutsugu, which he later changed to Sakitsugu.

He reached the top of official ranks.

He was born as the first son of Taneie KONOE in Kyoto in 1536. His mother was Keiko KOGA, the adopted daughter of Michinobu KOGA.

In 1540, he had his coming of age ceremony and received one character from the name of Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA, the 12th Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, taking the name Harutsugu.

He was given the rank of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) in 1541 and raised to the nobility. In 1547, he assumed the position of Naidaijin (Minister of the Center), Udaijin (Minister of the Right) in 1553, then Kanpaku Sadaijin in 1554. He also became the Toshichoja (representative of the Fujiwara clan). On February 14, 1555, he was promoted to the rank of Juichii (Junior First Rank) and changed his name to Sakitsugu.

In 1559, when Kagetora NAGAO (later Kenshin UESUGI) of Echigo Province went to Kyoto, he became close to Sakihisa and they made a pact by exchanging vows written in blood. Although Sakihisa was Kanpaku, like most nobles of the Sengoku period he moved around a lot, going to Echigo in 1560, then Kozuke Province and Koga Palace in Shimosa Province to help Kagetora control Kanto region. In 1561, he changed his name to Sakihisa. In September 1562, he came back to Kyoto. It is considered that he planned to encourage Kagetora to come to Kyoto after subjugating Kanto.

Flight from the Imperial Court

In 1565, Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA was killed by Hisahide MATSUNAGA and three retainers of the Miyoshi clan who, fearing being charged with the Shogun's murder, turned to Sakihisa. Although Sakihisa was a cousin of Yoshiteru, he decided to make Yoshihide ASHIKAGA, who was recommended by them, Shogun since he appreciated Yoshihide for protecting his older sister, a legal wife of Yoshiteru. However, in 1568 Nobunaga ODA successfully went to Kyoto on Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA's orders. Due to Sakihisa's behavior after the Eiroku Incident, and also because Haruyoshi NIJO, who aspired to the position of Kanpaku, blamed Sakihisa, Yoshiaki suspected him of involvement in his older brother's death. Sakihisa, sensing danger, asked Kennyo, the 11th head of the Hongan-ji Temple in Kyoto for help and entered the Ishiyama-Hongan-ji Temple in Osaka, then he was dismissed as Kanpaku. At this time, he adopted Kyonyo, the first son of Kennyo. Later, when 'the coalition against Nobunaga' was built, Sakihisa joined at the request of the three Miyoshi retainers and encouraged Kennyo to rise in revolt. However, Sakihisa felt no hostility toward Nobunaga; his purpose was to eliminate Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA and Haruyoshi NIJO who had become Shogun and Kanpaku under Nobunaga.
Therefore, when Nobunaga expelled Yoshiaki from Kyoto in 1573 and Haruyoshi gradually fell out of favor due to his lack of political capacity, Sakihisa switched to Naomasa AKAI in Tamba Province and left 'the coalition against Nobunaga.'
In 1575, he was allowed to return to Kyoto following Nobunaga's report to the Emperor.

Friendship with Nobunaga

Later on, he developed a deep friendship with Nobunaga; in particular, they shared a common interest in falconry and often boasted of the results to each other. In October, at the request of Nobunaga, he went down to Kyushu region to settle disputes among the Otomo, the Ito, the Sagara and the Shimazu clans. In 1577, he returned to Kyoto and was given the title of Jusangu (title given to nobles and Imperial families) in 1578. After that, he tried to mediate between Nobunaga and Hongan-ji Temple, and in 1580, Kennyo left Ishiyama-hongan-ji Temple.
Nobunaga particularly appreciated Sakihisa for forcing the surrender of Ishiyama-hongan-ji Temple, which had withstood a 10-year siege, and according to Sakihisa's letter to his son, Nobutada KONOE, Nobunaga promised to 'give a province to the Konoe family after the domination of the whole country.'
In March 1582, he assumed the position of Daijo-daijin, but resigned in June. It is said that this was because Sakihisa intended to transfer the position to Nobunaga to help solve the problem of the position of Nobunaga, who at that time did not have any position and had been recommended to assume one of the following three positions; Daijo-daijin, Kanpaku or Shogun. In April, he accompanied Nobunaga on the Koshu Expedition.

Honnoji Incident

However, Nobunaga died an unnatural death in the Honnoji Incident on July 1, and Sakihisa's destiny was out of his own hands. Disappointed, Sakihisa took the tonsure, calling himself Ryuzan.
However, he was grilled by Nobutaka ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI due to the false charge that 'the army of Mitsuhide AKECHI fired shots at Honno-ji Temple from the residence of Sakihisa.'
Therefore, he turned to Ieyasu TOKUGAWA this time and moved to Hamamatsu, Totomi Province.

One year later, thanks to mediation by Ieyasu, the misunderstandings with Hideyoshi were cleared up and he could return to Kyoto, but Ieyasu and Hideyoshi fought fiercely each other in the Komaki-Nagakute War in 1584, and Sakihisa's position became shaky again and hid himself in Nara. He returned to Kyoto after confirming the settlement of disputes between both parties. In his last years, he retired to the Jisho-ji Temple which he arbitrarily used as a villa.

He died on June 7, 1612. He was 77 years old. He was buried in Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto. His homyo (posthumous Buddhist name) was 東求院龍山空誉 (its pronunciation is unclear).

Personal profile and reputation

As an eldest son of one of the gosekke (five main regent families), Sakihisa showed considerable talent in waka (a 31-syllable Japanese poem) and renga (linked verse). He learned the Shorenin school of calligraphy and was familiar with the ancient customs and manners of the Imperial court and military. In addition, he displayed outstanding competence in horsemanship and falconry, writing 'Ryuzankotakahyakushu (龍山公鷹百首),' which was an anthology of waka and a technical guide for falconry. He had to leave Kyoto and travel around rural areas, but for Sakihisa, this was not just a way to escape economic hardship or war, but one way to actively participate in politics. At the same time, it is considered that he played an important role in introducing the culture of the capital into rural areas.

[Original Japanese]