Kobayakawa Takakage (小早川隆景)

Takakage KOBAYAKAWA was a busho (Japanese military commander) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) who lived from the Sengoku period (period of Warring States) to the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

He was the third son of Motonari MORI. His older maternal half-brothers were Takamoto MORI and Motoharu KIKKAWA. As a member of Mori Ryosen (military and political allies formed by Motonari MORI, literally, two rivers [kawa] of the Mori clan), he and Motoharu contributed to the prosperity of the Mori clan. He also rendered distinguished service in the Mori navy. Under Toyotomi's government, he won the confidence of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and it is commonly viewed that he was appointed a member of the Gotairo (Council of Five Elders) in the Bunroku era. Because he didn't have any biological children, he adopted Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA, who was the fifth son of Iesada KINOSHITA who had been adopted by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and transferred the head of the family.

He succeeded to the Kobayakawa clan.

He was born in 1533 as the third son of Motonari MORIand Myokyu, who was his lawful wife. His childhood name was Tokujumaru.

In 1541, Okikage KOBAYAKAWA, who was the family head of the Takehara-Kobayakawa clan, died. Because Okikage didn't have a heir, senior vassals made a suggestion to Motonari that his son, Tokujumaru, succeed to the head of the clan. Although Motonari initially frowned, Yoshitaka OUCHI, who wanted to keep allied with the Kobayakawa clan, urged him to accept the suggestion, to which he obeyed. The adoption proceeded successfully, thanks to a niece of Motonari (a daughter of Okimoto MORI) who married Okikage, and Takakage became the head of the Takehara-Kobayakawa clan in 1544.

In 1547, when Yoshitaka OUCHI attacked the Kannabe-jo Castle in Bingo Province, Takakage joined Yoshitaka's army and fought his uijin (first battle). On this occasion, Takakage and his Kobayakawa's army took control of Fort of Mt. Ryuo, which was a branch castle of the Kannabe-jo Castle, by themselves, and were highly praised by Yoshitaka for the service.

On the other hand, Shigehira KOBAYAKAWA, who was the head of the Numata-Kobayakawa clan, which was the head family of the Kobayakawa clan, was young, sickly, and blind from an eye disease. Shigehira's conditions brought a conflict between the pro-Shigehira faction and pro-Takakage faction, which supported Kagetaka to be the head of the clan, and such circumstances became a concern to Yoshitaka OUCHI, who thought it might be difficult to repel the invasion by the Amago clan. In 1550, Yoshitaka conspired with Motonari to support the pro-Kagetaka faction lead by Kageoki NOMI, held Shigehira in custody under suspicion of naitsu (engage in secret communication) with the Amago clan, and forced him to retire and enter into priesthood. He arranged a marriage for Kagetaka with a younger sister of Shigehira (later Toita no Okata), and merged the Numata- and Takehara-Kobayakawa clans by having Kagetaka took over the Numata-Kobayakawa clan as head of the family. On this occasion, many of the senior vassals who were the members of the Shigehira faction were purged, including Zenkei TASAKA.

After entering the Takayama-jo Castle, which was the headquarter of the Numata-Kobayakawa clan, Takakage built the Shintakayama-jo Castle on the other side of the Mumata-gawa River the next year (in 1552) and relocated the headquarter.

Serving under Motonari

Since then, the Kobayakawa clan was integrated into the Mori clan, and rendered distinguished service as an elite Suigun (warriors battle in the sea) under the direct control of the Mori clan. In the Battle of Itsukushima in 1555, which was a breakthrough for the success of the Mori clan, the Kobayakawa navy lead by Takakage defeated the Ouchi navy lead by Harukata SUE and established a naval blockade, thus contributing greatly to the victory of the Mori forces. On this occasion, he also rendered distinguished service in bringing over the Murakami navy into his navy via Munekatsu NOMI. Later, in 1557, he fought in another battle that conquered the Suo and Nagato Provinces and defeated the Ouchi clan.

The same year, when Motonari retired and Takamoto MORI, who was Motonari's oldest son, took over as head of the family, Takakage and Motoharu KIKKAWA, who was Takakage's older brother, continued serving as the important vassals of the Mori clan. In 1563, when Takamoto suddenly died and Terumoto MORI, who was his nephew, took over as head of the family, Takakage and Motoharu supported young Terumoto. While Motoharu managed military affairs, Takakage mainly managed government and diplomacy affairs, taking advantage of the information gathering expertise of the Suigun. In the Gassan Toda-jo no Tatakai (Battle of Gassan Toda-jo Castle) from 1562 to 1566, Takakage defeated the Amago clan, his old enemy. In 1567 that followed, he dispatched troops to the Iyo Province to support the Kono clan, took control of the Ozu-jo Castle, and compelled Toyotsuna UTSUNOMIYA to surrender. Then he conflicted with the Otomo clan and dispatched troops to Kyushu. In 1571, when Motonari died, the roles of the two in the Mori clan became greater, and they fought in different places against the remnants of the Otomo, Amago, and Ouchi clans.

Battle against Nobunaga ODA

In 1574, the power of Nobunaga ODA almost reached the Mori clan's sphere of influence. The same year, Munekage URAGAMI from Harima, who was supported by the Oda clan, fought against the Mori clan, and in 1575, Motochika MIMURA sold out to the Oda side. Takakage punished and destroyed the Mimura clan, and then lead his Suigun and fought against the forces of Yoshishige OTOMO from the Bungo Province, who had allied with Nobunaga and invaded Takakage's territory.

Partially because the clan was urged by the Shogun Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, who had fled to Tomo, the Mori clan broke diplomatic relations with the Oda clan in 1576. Motoharu and Kagetaka participated in the siege around Nobunaga to fight against the Oda army in the Sanin (mountain provinces behind the Sanyo or Inland Sea provinces) and the Sanyo (Inland Sea provinces), respectively. In the first battle of Kizukawaguchi, the aim of which was to relieve the Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple, which played the pivotal role in the siege around Nobunaga, the Mori navy defeated the Kuki suigun navy on the Oda side with its main forces comprising the Kobayakawa navy and the Murakami navy. However, two years later, in the second battle of Kizugawaguchi in 1578, the Mori navy was defeated by the Kuki navy, which deployed armored warships, and lost the marine control. The same year, Kenshin UESUGI, who was said to have planned to go to the capital of Kyoto, died suddenly, and in 1580, the Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple put up the sword with Nobunaga and left Osaka, resulting in the collapse of the siege around Nobunaga.

Both the hard and soft tactics conducted by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, who was the commander of the Oda army in charge of the Chugoku region, grew more intense over time, driving the Mori clan into a weakened condition. In 1579, Naoie UKITA of Bizen Province defected to the Oda army. In 1580, the Miki-jo Castle, which had been holding out against the Oda army (the Battle of Miki), fell, and Nagaharu BESSHO committed suicide. In 1581, the Tottori-jo Castle fell after a siege during which defenders starved, and Tsuneie KIKKAWA, who was the lord of the castle, committed suicide.

In 1582, when the Bichu Takamatsu-jo Castle defended by Muneharu SHIMIZU was besieged, Takakage lead the main force of the Mori clan with 30,000 soldiers and set off to rescue him with Terumoto and Motoharu (the Battle of Bichu Takamatsu-jo Castle). But by that time the force was already equal to the Hideyoshi's army of 30,000, and the main force of Nobunaga which had defeated the Takeda clan in April was preparing for departure to the Chugoku region. Takakage, who might have thought the chance for the Mori clan to win the battle against the Oda clan was slim, secretly proceeded with the reconciliatory negotiation with Hideyoshi via Ekei ANKOKUJI. When Nobunaga ODA was killed in the Honnoji Incident in July, Hideyoshi kept the incident secret, quickly made peace with the Mori clan, and returned to the Kinai region to search out and destroy Mitsuhide AKECHI (Chugoku Ogaeshi [a quick return from the Chugoku region]).

While Motoharu KIKKAWA and his son Motonaga KIKKAWA, who received the news of Nobunaga's death, insisted on searching out and destroying Hideyoshi, Takakage insisted that 'it is immoral to pursue someone while the blood on the written oath is still wet, and it is a misconduct to take advantage of Nobunaga's death,' and the Mori army reserved the pursuit of the Hashiba army. Another theory has it that when Hideyoshi collapsed the bank around the Takamatsu-jo Castle on his way to the Kinai region, it created a slough between the two armies, depriving the Mori army of the chance to pursue Hideyoshi.

In 1582, Takakage relocated his castle from the Niitakayama-jo Castle to the Mihara-jo Castle on the Inland Sea coast.

Under Toyotomi's government

After standing neutral during the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583, in which Hideyoshi HASHIBA defeated Katsuie SHIBATA, the Mori clan turned its wait and see attitude and obeyed Hideyoshi. On this occasion, Takakage sent Motofusa MORI (Hidekane KOBAYAKAWA), who was one of Takakage's adopted children, to Hideyoshi as a hostage.

Since then, Takakage actively cooperated with Hideyoshi, defeated Michinao KONO of the Iyo Province and rendered other great services in the Conquest of Shikoku in 1585, and was granted the Iyo Province by Hideyoshi after the conquest. After participating in the Conquest of Kyushu started in 1586, he was granted a total of 371,300 koku (the unit showing the annual yield of rice) including the Chikuzen Province, Chikugo Province, and a county in the Hizen Province. However, Motoharu, who was his older brother, and Motonaga KIKKAWA, who was a son of Motoharu, died successively in the Kyushu Conquest, and Takakage had to support Terumoto and protect the Mori clan by himself. In 1588, he was granted the surname of Hashiba from Hideyoshi. In 1590, he fought in the Siege of Odawara lead by Hideyoshi.

When the Bunroku-Keicho War broke out in 1592, he departed for the front in the Bunroku War despite his old age, and smashed the Ming army with Muneshige TACHIBANA (the Battle of Hekitenkai [ByeogJe Gwan]).

In 1594, he adopted Hidetoshi HASHIBA from the Toyotomi clan, and the next year (1595) he transferred the head of the family and retired, and moved to Mihara with his vassals. On this occasion, he was granted an unprecedented retirement stipend of 50,000 koku in Chikuzen by Hideyoshi. He died on July 26, 1597. He died at the age of 65. It is said that he died of apoplexy.


Date before the Meiji period according to old lunar calendar.

As of February, 1570 and after, he used the title of Saemon no suke (assistant captain of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards).
(Although the period is unknown, he used the title of Nakatsukasa no taifu [Senior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Central Affairs] before using Saemon no suke.)

On July 25, 1588, he was granted the rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). He was appointed a jiju (a chamberlain). He was granted the rank under the name of Takakage TOYOTOMI. On August 2, he was promoted to the rank of Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), and retained his position as chamberlain.
(He remained in the position of jiju until at least April 12, 1593.)

On August 6, 1595, he was promoted from the rank of Jushiinoge to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank), and was transferred from the position of Sangi (councillor) to Gon Chunagon (a provisional vice-councilor of state). He was called Bingo Chunagon. Until then, he had been called Hashiba Chikuzen Saisho (prime minister).

On May 24, 1596, he was granted the house status of the Seiga family.

On April 2, 1908, he was conferred the rank of Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) posthumously.

Personal Profile, anecdote

Because he became a member of the Kobayakawa clan before his genpuku (celebrate one's coming of age), his imina (personal name) doesn't use the letter 'moto' (元), which is a tsuji (distinctive character used in the names of all people belonging to a single clan or lineage) of the Mori clan. Instead, his name comprises exclusively of 'taka' (隆), which is a henki (a portion of the name of a person in high rank, which is given to a retainer to show the subordination), and 'kage' (景), which is a tsuji of the Takehara-Kobayakawa clan. Unlike Motoharu, who was his older brother who became a member of the Kikkawa clan, he never called himself 'Takakage MORI' in his life.

After Motonari died, he educated Terumoto MORI, who became the new family head, strictly as an uncle and parental supervisor. It is said that his education was so strict when he was alone with Terumoto, and he sometimes even disciplined him. In later years, Terumoto told that he 'left every aspect of politics to Obaiin (Takakage),' but Takakage was a foster parent for Terumoto.

Because Takakage's Kobayakawa clan and Motoharu's Kikkawa clan supported the Mori clan, which was their head family, the two clans were called Mori Ryosen. However, the system deteriorated after Takakage died, and the Mori clan without a leader who would control the clans to support the head family split into factions around the time of the Battle of Sekigahara, lost the battle by default, and the territory was diminished to two provinces of Suo and Nagato.

Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA (Hidetoshi KINOSHITA at the time), who was the heir, was raised as a successor to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, who didn't have any biological children. After a biological son, Hideyori TOYOTOMI, was born, Hideyoshi had difficulty in deciding on how to deal with Hideaki, and planned to have Hideaki adopted by Terumoto MORI who didn't have any biological children. Takakage sensed Hideyoshi's intention, and rushed to have Hidemoto MORI, who was a child of Motokiyo HOIDA, who was a younger brother of Takakage, adopted by Terumoto as the successor of the head family of the Mori clan. At the same time, he petitioned Hideyoshi to let him adopt Hideaki because he didn't have any biological children. It is said that although Hideyoshi saw into Takakage's mind, Hideyoshi accepted Takakage's adoption of Hideaki because he was moved by Takakage's loyalty to the Mori clan, or he thought that the Kobayakawa clan was still satisfactory despite its rank lower than the Mori clan. After succeeding as the head of the Kobayakawa clan, Hideaki sold out from the Western to the Eastern Camp in 1600 during the Battle of Sekigahara after Takakage died, which invited frowns of disgust. Furthermore, he died young two years later (1602) and the line of Kobayakawa clan ended. Looking back at the behavior of Hideaki and the fate of the Kobayakawa clan, and considering the fact that the Toyotomi clan was defeated by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA after Ieyasu gained full control of the nation, it can be said that the head family of the Mori clan was saved because Takakage adopted Hideaki to be a member of the Kobayakawa clan.

Hidekane MORI, who was a younger brother of Takakage and was disinherited from the Kobayakawa clan, was appointed an independent daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) by Hideyoshi. He regained the surname of Mori after the Battle of Sekigahara. The name of Kobayakawa was taken over by Yoshihisa KOBAYAKAWA, who was a son of Hidekane.

As described in the Intoku Taiheiki (a military epic depicting the battles in the 16th century) as 'always avoids risky battles, and has a policy of breaking down the enemy tactically,' he took after his father and was a brilliant commander. Another record has it that 'Matashiro Takakage was very nice-looking man, and much favored by lord Yoshitaka, who was a gay,' which verifies that handsome Takakage was homosexually intimate with, and much favored by Yoshitaka OUCHI.

Historians in the Edo period praised Takakage as 'a benevolent commander who evidently protected the weak and committed to love and harmony.'

It is said that Keijun MIYABE told that 'Mori's politics will never be ruined as long as Takakage rules.'

Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI said that Japan was secure when western Japan was ruled by Takakage and eastern Japan is ruled by Ieyasu.

It is said that Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI said 'the only eligible politicians in the world are Kanetsugu NAOE and Kobayakawa.'
However, Hideyoshi is said to have continued, 'but Naoe lacks the wisdom, and Kobayakawa lacks the courage to rule over the whole nation.'

When the Honnoji Incident broke out, it is said that Hideyoshi deeply thanked Takakage for suppressing Motoharu and other members who insisted to pursue the Hashiba army. Takakage enjoyed the deep confidence of Hideyoshi, who granted an unprecedented Onsho (reward grants) to Takakage, who was a tozama (outsider) and baishin (indirect vassal). In addition, Hideyoshi exempted the territory of the Mori clan from taiko kenchi (the cadastral surveys conducted by Hideyoshi), and treated Takakage and the Mori clan preferentially under Toyotomi's government by designating Takakage and Terumoto, i.e., as many as two members of the Mori clan, as members of Gotairo.

It seems that he was on good terms with Yoshitaka (Josui) KURODA, and remarked Josui as follows. `Being very smart and a quick decision maker, you must have a lot to regret.
But I am not so smart as you are, and I don't have much to regret because I take time to think through things before I make a decision.'
On hearing the news of Takakage's death, Josui lamented and said 'the last wise man in Japan has gone.'
In addition, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI described the two and said 'if there were other persons to rule the entire nation other than myself, the persons would be Josui KURODA or Takakage KOBAYAKAWA.'
However, they were not really heart-to-heart friends, and Takakage told his close vassals 'do not let the Chikushi daimyo (Japanese feudal lord, refers to Josui here) use our resting room even if he asked to do so' right before his death. It can be said that Takakage thought Josui would not intervene in his affairs while he was around but knew obligation and friendship weren't enough to control him.

An anecdote from his childhood states that he and Motoharu, who was his older brother, had a snowball fight with four vassals on each side. Although he lost the first game under Motonari's aggressive attack, he started the second game with three members against five, pretended that the situation was against him and retreated little by little, and when the opponent came close enough the remaining two members who had been conserving energy attacked the opponent from their sides and won the game.

When he had to send a letter urgently, it is said that he told his yuhitsu (private secretary) that 'it is an urgent matter.
Calm down and take your time to write.'

Although he had no children between his lawful wife, who was a younger sister of Shigehira, he loved the wife very much and wouldn't have any concubines.

According to a description in Kikkawake Monjo (a document of the Kikkawa clan), he told Hiroie KIKKAWA, who was his nephew, that 'the Mori clan is secure under Toyotomi's government because it kept the pledge with Hashiba.'

It is said that when he was on his deathbed he asked Motokiyo HOIDA, who was his younger brother who was also ill, 'who will go first?'

[Original Japanese]