Hojo Soun (北条早雲)

Soun HOJO (also known as Moritoki ISE) was a military commander during the mid to late Muromachi Period, and the patriarch of the Gohojo clan (or Late Hojo), a powerful warrior clan of the Warring States Period. He was also called Sozui ISE.

Soun HOJO was a leading figure among the warring lords, and his achievements are historically significant in that they triggered the Warring States Period in the eastern provinces.

His real name was long said to be Nagauji but today, Moritoki is the commonly accepted name (see section on Origins). His childhood name was Shinkuro. His posthumous Buddhist name was Sounan Sozui. Although it has long been believed that he was born in 1432, recent theories have suggested the year 1456.

The Ise family name was changed to Hojo by Moritoki's son, Ujitsuna, and Soun HOJO, rather than Moritoki ISE, is the name commonly used. However, Moritoki never used the name Soun HOJO during his lifetime.


Soun has long been seen as a classic example of a ronin (masterless samurai) climbing up the ladder to become a daimyo. However, it is also believed that he was a member of the Ise clan that held public office in the Muromachi Shogunate. Since the Fujii Theory was published in the 1950s, the most popular theory states that Soun was born in the village of Ebara (modern day Ihara City) into a branch of the Ise clan residing in the Province of Bitchu, and the study of other documents has basically determined that he was a feudal lord owning half of Bitchu Ebara (worth 300 kan, a unit of rice weight used before the koku system). Documents left by the civil servants of the Muromachi Shogunate and documents related to the Province of Suruga both mention a certain 'Shinkuro Moritoki ISE,' which supports the above theory. Theories differed depending on how documents were interpreted but since the majority of them note that Soun was from the Ise clan of Bitchu, this has become an accepted fact.

Recent studies have shown that Soun's father, Morisada ISE, and Sadachika ISE held important positions in the Muromachi Shogunate, fulfilling the duty of announcing the arrival of visitors to the 8th Shogun, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA. Soun was born between Morisada ISE and the daughter of Sadakuni ISE, the head of Ise clan in Kyoto who held an upper-ranking post in the government. Therefore, he was not a lowly ronin.

Soun was born in the Bitchu Ebara area, owned by Morisada, and is thought to have been raised there as a young boy. In Ebara, there remain prohibition laws signed by Moritoki TAIRA dated 1471 (The Kao Code signature is different to ones found later). The Daidoji, Naito and Kasahara clans that served the Gohojo clan also originated in Bitchu.

Civil Servant and Military Posts in the Muromachi Shogunate

In 1467, the Onin War broke out, and Yoshitada IMAGAWA, the Shugo (Governor) of Suruga, came to Kyoto to join the eastern army. Yoshitada had often visited Sadachika ISE, and it was Soun's father, Morisada, who had received and announced his arrival. It was these meetings that led to the marriage of Yoshitada and Soun's sister, Kitagawa-dono. When Soun was thought to be a ronin, Kitagawa-dono was said to be Yoshitada's mistress; however, the Ise and Imagawa clans were of equivalent rank and so recently, the theory has been revised to state that Kitagawa-dono was Yoshitada's legal wife, not his mistress. In 1473, Kitagawa-dono gave birth to a son, Tatsuomaru (who later took the name Ujichika IMAGAWA).

In Kyoto, Soun is said to have served Yoshimi ASHIKAGA, the younger brother of Shogun Yoshimasa, although if Soun had been born in 1456, as the most popular recent theories contend, he would have been only 10 years old during the period Yoshimi was in line to be the next shogun (1464-1467), and Yoshimi had changed sides to the western army after 1467. Considering this fact, some view this date as questionable.

The name Shinkuro Moritoki ISE appears in documents from 1481 onwards. In 1483, Soun was appointed civil servant to Shogun Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA. He was appointed to a military post in 1487.

While Soun was working for the bakufu government in Kyoto, he studied Zen at Kennin-ji Temple and Daitoku-ji Temple.

Return to the Province of Suruga

In 1476, at the Battle of Shiouri-zaka in Totomi Province, Yoshitada IMAGAWA was attacked and killed by the western army's Yokichi and Katsumata clans, who served the Governor of Totomi, Yoshikado SHIBA. However, the political situation in Totomi Province was complicated and recent studies have shown that these clans were in fact under the command of Yoshinaga SHIBA of the eastern army, which means that Yoshitada was fighting the eastern, not the western, army.

When Yoshitada died, his son, Tatsuomaru, was still young (other theories exist), so retainers such as the Miura and Asahina clans backed Norimitsu OSHIKA (Yoshitada's cousin), dividing the Imagawa clan in two. Horigoe Kubo and the Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clan intervened and dispatched forces led by their higher-ranking officers, Masanori UESUGI and Dokan OTA, to the Province of Suruga. Norimitsu and Masanori UESUGI were related by blood, and Dokan OTA is also recorded as having supported Norimitsu. Tatsuomaru's supporters was at the disadvantage.

Being Kitagawa-dono's brother, Soun went to Suruga to mediate between the two forces and worked it out so that Norimitsu would reign over the family on Tatsuomaru's behalf until Tatsuomaru came of age. At this time, he had Masanori UESUGI and Dokan OTA's forces withdraw (there is a story that Soun met with Dokan.
The conventional theory holds that Soun and Dokan were of the same age.)
The two sides exchanged vows of peace by drinking sacred water at Asama-jinja Shrine. Norimitsu, acting as the head of the clan, went to live in Sumpu Castle and Tatsuomaru and his mother, Kitagawa-dono, went to the residence (present-day Kogawa-jo Castle in Yaizu City) of Hoei Choja (also known as Masanobu HASEGAWA) of Kogawa.

The success of Soun's arbitration due to his exceptional resourcefulness has been said to be the first step of his social climb; however, prevailing theory holds that he was ordered by Sadachika and Morisada to go to Suruga to intervene in the Imagawa clan's inheritance dispute.

After the contest for family rule was settled, Soun returned to Kyoto and served Shogun Yoshinao, being appointed to a military post.

Regarding his journey to Suruga and mediation over the family succession, Motoki KURODA's new theory states that at the time Soun was estimated to be 20 years old and his name does not appear in the "Kamakura Ozoshi (Document on battles during the Muromachi Period)," undermining the credibility of the episode.

The following episodes is known about Soun's travel to Suruga.

It is stated in the "Hojoki" that Soun drank sake with Shigetoki DAIDOJI, Hyogo ARAKI, Gonbee TAME, Saishiro YAMANAKA, Matajiro ARAKAWA and Hyoe ARITAKE in Ise and that they vowed that should one of them become a feudal lord, the others would become his retainers, which is similar to the story of Toen-no-chikai in "Sangokushi."

It is stated in the "Kuboryoshoki" that, on his way to the Province of Mutsu, he was robbed of all his possessions by bandits at the Satta Pass in Suruga, and when the Governor's wife's traveling group found him, they gave him clothes to wear. This was his 'aunt', Kitagawa-Dono.
Because of this, he served Imagawa clan
This episode is also noted in Ryotaro SHIBA's "Hakone no Saka" (Hakone Hill Road)

Although all of these episodes seen to suggest that he had been a poor samurai with great ambition, they are most likely fiction.

In 1479, the former Shogun, Yoshimasa, sent a Naisho, or confidential letter, approving Tatsuomaru's inheritance of the family headship. However, Norimitsu would not return the family rule to Tatsuomaru even after Tatsuomaru became an adult at the age of 15.

In 1487, Soun went to Suruga once again to assist Tatsuomaru, at the same time gathering allies at Ishiwaki-jo Castle.
In November of the same year, Soun formed an army, attacked Suruga House and killed Norimitsu and his younger brother, Magogoro OSHIKA
Tatsuomaru moved into Suruga House, 2 years later celebrated coming of age and became the head of the Imagawa family, taking the name Ujichika.

Soun was granted Kokuji-jo Castle and some land (present-day Numazu City near the border of the Province of Izu). Soun, who remained in Suruga to serve the Imagawa clan, issued a 'Uchiwatashi' Letter, a letter written by the Shugodai local magistrate, which suggests that he may have been in the position of Shugodai at the time.

At about this time Soun married Nanyoin-dono, a daughter of Masakiyo OGASAWARA, a Taira clan branch family with the same social rank as the Ise family, and had a son, Ujitsuna.

Raid on Izu

Soun's attack on and overthrow of Chachamaru ASHIKAGA to take control over Izu is said to have triggered other attacks on those in power and the opening of the Warring Period. Soun had been depicted as a samurai who had abandoned the corrupt government in Kyoto for the Kanto area; however, a recent study by Junji IENAGA reveals that he acted in collaboration with the central government.

During the Kyotoku War, Shigeuji ASHIKAGA, a Kanto Kubo, disobeyed the Bakufu administration, and the Imagawa clan was ordered by the Shogun to attack and capture Kamakura City. Shigeuji escaped to Koga-jo Castle, joining the opposition to the Bakufu administration, called the Koga Kubo, and fought fiercely against the Uesugi clan, the Bakufu force in Kanto. Shogun Yoshimasa sent his brother Masatomo ASHIKAGA to replace Shigeuji; however, Shigeuji's army was strong, hindering Masatomo's advances on Kamakura, which left him stuck at Hojo fort in Izu and subsequently he became known as Horigoe Kubo. In 1483, peace was established between the Koga Kubo, Shigeuji, and the Kanto Kanrei (Shogun's deputy), Uesugi. This peace made Horigoe Kubo's position uncertain and he was left in control of only the Province of Izu.

Masatomo's eldest son was Chachamaru, and he also had Jundoji and Seiko with his wife, Enmanin. According to the 1487 diary of Jinson DAIJOIN, although Seiko was in Kyoto to join the priesthood, there was a rumor that Masatomo, together with Tomiko HINO and Masamoto HOSOKAWA, was planning to make Seiko Shogun in order to recover his power. A researcher of medieval history, Haruhisa SHIMOYAMA, states that Soun and Ujichika were involved in this plan.

In 1491, after the death of Masatomo, Chachamaru killed Enmanin and her child Jundoji and forced his way to power.

Soun's name appears until June of 1491 as Shinkuro ISE, but in a 1494 document, he appears under his priesthood name, Sounan Sozui, suggesting that he entered the priesthood between these years. When samurai entered the priesthood during this age, there was often political meaning behind it, and researcher Junji IENAGA states that Soun joined the priesthood because of the unnatural death of Seiko's mother, Enmanin.

In April 1493, Masatomo HOSOKAWA organized the Meio Coup and exiled Shogun Yoshitane ASHIKAGA. He attempted to place Seiko in the position of Muromachi-dono, which in reality was equivalent to Shogun. Seiko returned to secular life under the name Yoshito ASHIKAGA (Later changed to Yoshizumi). Placed in power, Yoshito vowed revenge for his mother and brother's death, and ordered Soun, an official in the Bakufu with a castle near Chachamaru's residence, to carry out the attack. Soun attacked the Imperial palace of Izu-Horigoe in the summer or fall of the same year. This incident is called the Izu Raid, and considered the opening the Warring States Period of the East.

It is stated in the war chronicles that in preparation for the Izu Raid, Soun went to Shuzen-ji Temple, claiming to be going for a hot spring cure, and spied on Izu himself. It is also stated that 'the raid took place when many samurai from Izu were away fighting for the Yamanouchi-Uesugi Clan in the Province of Kozuke, leaving Izu with a small number of samurai. A force of 500, made up of 200 of Soun's warriors and 300 borrowed from Ujichika, boarded 10 ships and left Shimizu Harbor. After crossing Suruga Bay and landing on the beach at West Izu, all the local people thought they were pirates and fled into the mountains with their belongings.
Soun's force made a sweeping attack of Horigoe Palace and Chachamaru was forced into the mountains where he then committed suicide.'
It is not known how much of this is fact.

Another document states that 'Soun began ruling the Province of Izu from Nirayama-jo Castle (currently Izunokuni City). He proclaimed to all that if they set up a Kosatsu (a notice board) and became allies, their lands would be secured; if not, he would destroy their crops and houses. He prohibited violent acts by his armed forces and established laws protecting and nursing the ill, which resulted in all samurai and residents who had suffered from the misgovernment of Chachamaru to follow his leadership. He exhibited his power by attacking Yoshinobu SEKIDO, who resisted Soun, took over Fukane-jo Castle (Shimoda City) and killed all his followers.
He abolished the complicated and heavy tax system and replaced it with the Shiko-Rokumin system (which allowed farmers to keep 60% of their crop) which pleased the residents and brought peace to the Province of Izu in 30 days.'

Chachamaru committed suicide according to the war chronicles, but other historical document claim that he had escaped from Horigoe Palace and resisted Soun for a period of several years followed by the Takeda, Sekido, Kano and Dohi clans. While gathering allies from Izu, Soun slowly drove Chachamaru into a corner, and five years later in 1497, he took over Fukane-jo Castle in South Izu, finally bringing peace to the land.

While working for peace in Izu, Soun was active as a war lord for the Imagawa clan, commanding the Imagawa forces during the invasion of Totomi and conquering land as far as the Chuen area. Thereafter, Soun and Ujichika allied themselves and continued expanding their territories.

Capture of Odawara-jo Castle

Two large cedar trees are eaten at the root by a rat, and the rat turns into a tiger. The "Hojoki" records that Soun dreamt such a strange dream. The two cedar trees signified Yamauchi-Uesugi and Ogigayatsu-Uesugi, government officials in Kanto. The rat was Soun, who was born in the Year of the Rat.

In 1494, a battle took place between the Yamauchi-Uesugi and Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clans, and Sadamasa UESUGI requested reinforcement from Soun. Sadamasa and Soun fought Akisada UESUGI's troops at the Ara-kawa River (Kanto) but when Sadamasa fell off his horse and died, Soun returned with his troops.

The Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clan had allied itself with the Miura and Omori clans of Sagami but in the same year, misfortune struck when the heads of the three clans, Sadamasa OGIGAYATSU-UESUGI, Tokitaka MIURA and Ujiyori OMORI all passed away.

Using the search for Chachamaru as cover, Soun attacked the Province of Kai and fought against the governor, Nobutsuna TAKEDA. In September of the same year, he defeated Fujiyori OMORI at Odawara City in the Province of Sugami, and captured Odawara-jo Castle.

According to the "Hojoki," Soun sent gifts to Fujiyori OMORI from time to time and Fujiyori, who was at first on guard, became cordial and held friendly talks with him. One day, Soun requested to bring in beaters to Fujiyori's land for deer hunting at Mt. Hakone, which Fujiyori graciously agreed to. Soun brought his strongest troops to Mt. Hakone and dispatched them as beaters. That night, Soun's troops, who had dressed as beaters and hidden on Mt. Hakone, attached torches to the horns of 1,000 cows and, as they neared Odawara-jo Castle, they let out a battle cry and set fire to the castle. Thinking that an army of tens of thousands of soldiers was attacking, the castle was thrown into chaos, Fujiyori barely escaped with his life and Soun easily captured it. This is typical of the stories told about capturing castles, and similar stories exist about Nobuhide ODA's capture of Nagoya-jo Castle and Tsunehisa AMAGO's capture of Gassantoda-jo Castle, although how much is true remains unknown.

The capture of Odawara-jo Castle is commonly thought to have taken place in September of 1495, but the date differs according to different historical documents. Historian Motoki KURODA questions the date on account of Akisada YAMAUCHI-UESUGI's letter, in which it is written that the Yamauchi-Uesugi clan attacked a stronghold thought to be Odawara-jo Castle in 1496, and listed among the forces with the Ogigayatsu-Uesugi were Fujiyori OMORI and Soun's younger brother Yajiro ISE; therefore, Soun's capture of Odawara-jo Castle must have occurred thereafter. There is also a document stating that on April 25, 1501, Soun exchanged one of the villages he ruled for the land on which Izusan-jinja Shrine stood and which was under the jurisdiction of Odawara-jo Castle, meaning that Soun was already ruling over Odawara-jo Castle at that time.

Odawara-jo Castle later became the Go-Hojo clan's main castle but Soun lived in Nirayama-jo Castle in Izu throughout his life.

Soun's actions, including the capture of Odawara-jo Castle, were taken not only to defeat Chachamaru, but also to expand his own power. In recent studies, it has become clear that they were part of military maneuvering between the two sides involved in the Meio Coup. The capture of Odawara-jo Castle, too, was thought to be the result of Fujiyori selling out to the Yamauchi-Uesugi clan, who were backing Yoshitane. Finally, in 1498, Soun succeeded in capturing and killing Chachamaru in the Province of Kai. Another popular theory is that Soun killed Chachamaru at Fukane-jo Castle in Izu.

As an Imagawa clan commander, Soun continued advancing as far as the Province of Mikawa between the years 1501 and 1504. According to the "Ryuei Hikan" (Historical record of the Edo Bakufu), in October 1501, he was defeated by Nagachika MATSUDAIRA near Iwadu-jo Castle and his attempt to invade Mikawa ended in failure. Matsudaira's successful defense was due to the support of the Sakai, Honda and Okubo clans. However, according to the historical records of the Tokugawa, the incident took place on September 17, 1506.

Subjugation of Sagami

Thereafter, Soun changed his direction and headed toward Sagami, aiming for control of the South Kanto area but struggled in his campaigns because he had lost his pretext of subjugating Chachamaru, his military actions involved much hardship. Moreover, Akisada YAMAUCHI-UESUGI, who had lost his land of Izu and West Sagami, schemed to cut Ujichika and Soun's ties with Yoshizumi and Masamoto. He was therefore in a politically weak position.

In spite of this, Soun, with support from the Imagawa clan, aligned himself with the Yoshitane-Ouchi faction, and slowly expanded his power in Sagami. The event that triggered his movement to the Kanto area was the Battle of Tachigawara in the Province of Musashi in September of 1504, in which Soun, on the side of Tomoyoshi UESUGI, fought with Ujichika IMAGAWA and defeated Akisada YAMAUCHI-UESUGI.

After the defeat, Akisada, with support from the Echigo-Uesugi clan, launched a counterattack. He invaded Sagami and captured several of the Ougigayatsu-Uesugi clan's castle. In 1502, Tomoyoshi UESUGI was driven to Kawagoe-jo Castle, where he announced his surrender. With this, Soun became the enemy of both the Yamauchi-Uesugi and Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clans.

From 1509 onwards, Soun's activity as an Imagawa commander quietened down, and he concentrated on his move into Sagami. In 1506, he carried out the first survey of Sagami, aiming to strengthen his authority.

In 1505, Kanrei Masamoto HOSOKAWA was assassinated. In the same year, Akisada's younger brother, Fusayoshi UESUGI, who was the Shugo of Echigo, was killed by the deputy Shugo, Tamekage NAGAO (the father of Kenshin UESUGI). Together Soun and Tamekage restrained Akisada.

In July of 1509, Akisada led a huge force into battle in the Province of Echigo. In August of the same year, while Akisada was in Echigo, Soun attacked Tomoyoshi OGIGAYATSU-UESUGI's base, Edo-jo Castle. Tomoyoshi, who had been fighting in the Province of Ueno, returned and counterattacked, fighting against Soun in Sagami until 1510. Soun cut off Masamori UEDA, at Gongenyama-jo Castle, from the Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clan and attacked the castle but in August of the same year, the forces of the Yamauchi and Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clans captured Gongenyama-jo Castle. Yoshiatsu (Dosan) MIURA captured Sumiyoshi fortress (Hiratsuka City) and advanced on Odawara-jo Castle. Soun experienced a severe defeat, getting out of this ordeal by making peace with the Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clan. In July of the same year, Akisada, who had been in the Province of Echigo, was attacked and killed by Tamekage NAGAO.

The Miura clan had been a powerful family in Sagami, fighting for MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and becoming extremely powerful retainers of the early Kamukura Shogunate but the direct line had been overthrown by the Hojo clan in the Battle of Hoji. However, the indirect line maintained its power in Sagami (Sagami-Miura clan).

At about this time, the Miura clan belonged to the Ogigayatsu-Uesugi group, with Yoshiatsu (Dosan) MIURA based at Okazaki-jo Castle in central Sagami, and Yoshioki MIURA, the son of Yoshiatsu, based at Misaki-jo Castle (also called Arai-jo Castle in the war chronicles) in present-day Miura City. In order to control Sagami, Soun had to destroy the Miura clan.

After his defeat, Soun regrouped his forces and captured Okazaki-jo Castle in September 1512, driving Yoshiatsu MIURA to Sumiyoshi-jo Castle (Zushi City). Taking advantage of this momentum, Soun also captured Sumiyoshi-jo Castle, and Yoshiatsu escaped to Misaki-jo Castle, where Yoshioki resided. Soun entered Kamakura and seized control of virtually all of Sagami. Tomooki UESUGI led a relief force from Edo-jo Castle but was crushed by Soun. In order to subjugate the Miura clan, Soun built Tamanawa-jo Castle in Kamakura in November of the same year.

Yoshiatsu led several unsuccessful attacks against Soun and was gradually pushed back until finally contained within the boundaries of the Miura Peninsula. The Ogigayatsu-Uesugi clan also sent relief forces, which returned in defeat.

In August of 1516, Tomooki OGIGAYATSU-UESUGI attacked Tamanawa-jo Castle in support of the Miura clan but Soun crushed the assault and attacked Misaki-jo Castle, where Yoshiatsu and Yoshioki were hiding. Both father and son, Yoshiatsu and Yoshioki, died fighting in the fierce battle. With the fall of the powerful Miura clan, Soun controlled all of Sagami.

Thereafter, Soun supported the Oyumi Kubo, Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, of the Province of Kazusa and the Takeda clan, fighting on the Boso Peninsula until 1517.

In 1518, Soun retired, putting his son Ujitsuna at the head of the family, and he died in 1519. He was either 64 or 88 years old at the time of his death.

Soun was one of the first feudal lords who actively strengthened the rule of regional territories and ruled over Izu, although he was never officially appointed to serve as the Muromachi Shogunate's representative.. From this perspective, he is also known as the first Sengoku daimyo (as opposed to a Shugo daimyo). Soun established a family code known as the "Sounjidono Nijuichikaijo," which became the foundation for regional law. In 1506, Soun ordered an inspection of the land around Odawara in order to determine its size and to decide land taxes paid by peasants, considered to be the first such inspection performed by a Sengoku daimyo.

About a year before his death, he started using Inbanjo (name stamps) instead of Kao (signatures).

Ujitsuna, who inherited Soun's land, used the name Hojo (Gohojo) and expanded his rule to the Province of Musashi. Thereafter, under the leadership of Ujiyasu HOJO, Ujimasa HOJO and Ujinao HOJO, the Hojo clan increased its power, dominating the Kanto area for five generations.

Debate over the date and place of Soun's birth

Historical novels often include the story of Soun HOJO as a masterless samurai in his later life, who went to Suruga seeking help from his younger sister, the governor's mistress, and rose to become the ruler of the Kanto area.

Apparently, until the beginning of the Edo Period, the Gohojo clan was thought to have originated from the Ise clan but from the mid-Edo Period, influenced by the "Taikoki," a biography of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, the view of Soun as a lowly samurai in the Warring States Period, who came to power through his achievements in the so called 'Gekokujo Period' caught the public's imagination, becoming well-established in the Meiji Period and prevailing until the end of WWII. With stories told about lowly samurai, such as Soun HOJO, Dosan SAITO and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, climbing up the social ladder, it became common opinion that Soun was a low-born ronin.

Debate over place of birth

Soun's place of birth remained unknown for a long time and some of the most accepted theories were that he came from Ariwara in Yamato Province, Uji in Yamashiro Province, Ise, Kyoto or Bitchu.

Ariwara in Yamato Province and Uji in Yamashiro Province were two candidates introduced as divergent views in the "Hojo Godaiki" (History of 5 generations of the Hojo clan) but did not become prevailing theories. The Ise theory, based on a letter Soun sent to Sadamoto OGASAWARA, Governor of Shinano Province, stating 'I belong to the same family as the Seki Clan of Ise,' that appears in the "Hojoki" and the "Soshu Heiranki," was advocated in 1901 by the scholar, Tsugihei FUJII, and supported by the historian, Yoshinari TANAKA. On the other hand, another historian, Yosuke WATANABE, asserted that Soun originated from the Kyoto-Ise clan, was a steward for the Bakufu government as stated in the "Kansei Choshushokafu," and that Soun was either the same person as Sadafuji ISE, Sadachika ISE's younger brother, or his son.
Generally, Soun is mostly known as the 'masterless samurai from Ise.'
Still other researchers considered the Kyoto theory the most reliable.

The Bitchu theory comes from the "Imagawa-ki "and "Taikoki," when Shun FUJII, who had researched the old documents at Hosen-ji Temple in Ihara City, published a paper in 1956 stating that Soun had been the Shinkuro Moritoki ISE who was an attendant to Shogun Yoshinao ASHIKAGA. Some time around 1980, Takahiro OKUNO, Akira IMATANI and Tetsuo OWADA, after examining historical archives, published a paper stating that Shinkuro Moritoki ISE later became Soun HOJO. No counterargument was proposed, and because this was also supported by a study published by Junji IENAGA, it has become the accepted theory.
In the version of the "Imagawa-ki" produced in the early Edo period, it is called the 'Honkegaeri,' literally 'returning to the main family.'
With this, Soun is now considered not a masterless samurai but one from a distinguished family that served directly under the Shogun.

Debate over his date of birth

It has been believed from the Edo Period that Soun was born in 1432 and died at the age of 88. This would have been a very long life for a man of that period. According to the above date, he would have been 56 years old when he went to Suruga and became lord of Kokokuji-jo Castle and had his oldest son Ujitsuna, and 62 years old when he led his troops into battle at Izu. Kitagawa-dono, listed as Soun's older sister in documents from the early Edo Period, married Yoshitada IMAGAWA in 1467, when Soun would have been 36 years old, which would make her marriage too late in her life. The theory was revised to make Kitagawa-dono Soun's very young sister.

Soun is often depicted by novelists and critics as 'a person who bloomed late in life.'
However, the appearance of Soun in history near the age of 50, coming into full bloom after 60 and still leading a battle after 80 would be quite odd, which brings this theory into question..
(Haruhisa SHIMOYAMA also expressed his doubts in his book.)

Recently, Motoki KURODA has pointed out that the idea that Soun was 88 years old at the time of his death comes from a family tree created in the mid-Edo Period, and that such data does not exist in documents from the early Edo Period. If he had been born in 1432, the theories about the active period of Morisada, father of the shogunate retainer Moritoki ISE, or about his being the nephew of Sadachika ISE (Moritoki's mother's brother) would not stand. The discrepancy resulted from confusion over the date of birth of Sadafuji ISE, who was once thought to be Soun, and from war chronicles written at the beginning of Edo Period, in which Soun was described as having been born in the year of Rat. Considering the date of his sister Kitagawa-dono's marriage, he must have been 24 years younger (born 1456) than the conventional theory holds. With this age, Soun would have been 11 when Kitagawa-dono got married, 32 when he went to Suruga and 64 at the time of his death, common for the man of that time.

However, this theory is still being examined, and there are researchers who still insist that Soun died at the age of 88. Recent novels, reviews and postings on the Internet still maintain that Soun was a man who 'bloomed late in life' and died at the age of 88, and neither of the above theories have been established among the general public. (As a reference, the average life expectancy in that period was lower than today, not because the people then died at an earlier age but because of the high infant mortality rate; the average life of an adult male was not significantly shorter than that of today.
There are many famous people who lived into their 80s, such as the war lord Nobutora TAKEDA, who lived to 81.)

Current status

Some writers have long argued that only a fully mature man who had been born low and had lived a hard life would be able to win the success that Soun did. The image of Soun seen in recent studies is completely different; a young man from a noted family who served the Shogun received an order from the Bakufu to go to Suruga, ruled over Kanto in collaboration with the central government and later became a member of the Gohojo clan.

The new theories as treated in major novels and media are described below.

Ryotaro SHIBA's novel, "Hakone-no-saka" (The Slopes of Hakone) (1984), reflects the studies of time and Soun is presented not as a simple ronin of Ise, but as a samurai of the Bitchu-Ise clan, serving Yoshimi AHIKAGA while residing in the residence of Sadachika ISE, a steward of the Shogun. At the same time, to maintain the image held by the general public of Soun being a lowly samurai, Shiba presented him as the descendent of the Ise clan and a saddle maker. He kept the conventional version of the theory with Soun as 'a later bloomer' who died at the age of 88. Kitagawa-dono is depicted as a younger sister with no blood connection.

Mikio NAMBARA's "Bosho Soun Hojo" (2002) reflects the recent theory that he was born in 1456, with Kitagawa-dono depicted as his older sister.

In the documentary, "Movement of History: The Man that started the Warring States Period - Soun HOJO, Challenge from the age of 56" (NHK, Guest: Tetsuo OWADA, Professor of Shizuoka University), broadcast in 2005, Soun is described as 'a late bloomer' who became a high ranking officer in the Bakufu government and who died at the age of 88 (a generally accepted theory that was adopted after reviewing various theories).

Most novels and books for the general public published during and after the 1980s describe Soun as 'a man who bloomed late and lived a long life' and as 'a masterless samurai who had built himself up from nothing,' with Chogoro KAIONJI's historical legend being typical. Today, this image still prevails, and many writers use Soun as an example to encourage people to take on new challenges late in life.

[Original Japanese]