Amago Tsunehisa (尼子経久)

Tsunehisa AMAGO is a Japanese military commander and a daimyo during the Sengoku Period. He served as shugodai (deputy military governor) of Izumo Province.

During his boyhood

Tsunehisa was born on January 3, 1459 as the eldest legitimate son to Kiyosada AMAGO. His childhood name is Matashiro.

Tsunehisa was ordered by and sent to his lord, Masatsune KYOGOKU, as a hostage in 1474. As a hostage, Matashiro stayed in Kyoto for five years. Upon reaching the manhood during the stay, Matashiro was given one kanji character '経' from Masatsune (政経) and renamed Tsunehisa (経久). He ended his stay in Kyoto in the fifth year and returned to his native province, Izumo.

Succession of the family reigns
Tsunehisa succeeded the reigns of the family from his father in or before 1478. During this period, he illegally took over Jisha-ryo (territory of temples and shrines) of Masatsune KYOGOKU, who served as Izumo shugo (provincial constable of Izumo Province) and was one of four major feudal lords that worked for Muromachi bakufu, and continued refusing to collect taxes appropriated for public funds of Mihonosekicho Town by ignoring orders of the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). It is believed that this behavior caused a backlash from Muromachi bakufu, shugo and local lords of Izumo Province, and they besieged Tsunehisa's castle in 1484 and expelled him from Izumo Province after dismissing him from the post of shugodai, but further details are unknown. The influential local lords of Izumo Province who joined the expulsion effort of Tsunehisa included the Misawa clan, the Mitoya clan, the Enya clan and the Sakurai clan. While most of the participants were comparatively highly independent local lords, the Enya clan, especially, was an upper-rank, former Izumi shugo with a big influence over eastern Izumo Province and a privilege to ban shugo from entering its territory, which prevented the Kyogoku clan from putting the Enya clan under its complete control.

From war chronicles: during the period of Tsunehisa in hiding

Following are the details of Tsunehisa while in hiding described in war chronicles.

Tsunehisa, who expelled by the bakufu and his master, went into hiding. He is said to have hided himself in Gakuen-ji Shrine in western Izumo Province, or in a peasant's house, or in Maki Castle in his mother's native province. His younger brother, Magoshiro (later, Hisayuki AMAGO), was put under the custody of the Aki-Takeda clan, shugo of Aki Province. After a long period of hiding, Tsunehisa rallied his old retainers including the Yamanaka clan, the Kamei clan, the Maki clan and the Kawazoe clan in November, the next year. Also, he pleaded for help from the Gama-to party of Hachiyashu (a performance group) and got them on his side. As a result, the size of his army ballooned to about one hundred soldiers, and Tsunehisa waited for the right time to recapture Gassantoda Castle.

Seventy members of the Gama-to party led by Yanosaburo HACHIYA were invited to a traditional festival to perform a dance to celebrate a new year and longevity on the new year's day of 1486. Tsunehisa intruded to the back of the Castle on the new year's eve, while the defense of soldiers of Gassantoda Castle was down, and broke into the castle with the Gama-to party as a guide, after firing guns to stun people inside. The castle commander, Kamonnosuke ENYA, finally suicided himself after killing his wife and children, which brought Tsunehisa back to power as the lord of Gassantoda Castle and let him win the independence from the Kyogoku clan. However, it is not clear whether these episodes are true, because there are not many records left to ensure the moves of Tsunehisa during this period, except war chronicles written in the Edo Period. Also, considering that his eldest legitimate son, Masahisa (政久) AMAGO, was given one kanji character from his former lord, Masatsune KYOGOKU, it is rational to think that Tsunehisa was forgiven for his tax embezzlement charges and later handed over the post of shugo from Masatsune. Therefore, it is safe to say that Tsunehisa obtained the post of shugo in a relatively moderate manner, not in the Gekokujo (a revolt of vassals against their lord) fashion as imagined from those stories.

Although the Amago clan made the Misawa clan, a local lord of Izumo Province, surrender once in 1488, the two clans faced each other several times in later years, as the Amago clan failed to completely suppress the Misawa clan.

Later, Masatsune KYOGOKU, the lord of Tsunehisa, lost an internal conflict in Omi Province, and retreated to Izumo Province. Masatsune ended his life at the age of 50 at Ankoku-ji Temple of Izumo Province with leaving his letter asking to take care of his son, Magodojimaru. Tsunehisa was officially appointed as Izumo shugo in 1508, upon the death of his lord, Masatsune KYOGOKU. It is believed that after appointed as shugo, Tsunehisa received an order from the bakufu to subjugate the Miyoshi clan and began fighting against the clan in Kyoto in response to the order.

For about thirty years from 1488, Tsunehisa had focused on unifying the nation rather than conquering other provinces.

Expanded power of the Amago clan

In 1511, Yoshioki OUCHI, the family head of the Ouchi clan and Daidaimyo (a feudal lord having a greater stipend) of the Chugoku region, went up to Kyoto. It is believed that Tsunehisa accompanied the travel to the capital and joined the Battle of Funaokayama in Kyoto, but further details are unknown.

Tsunehisa supported a rebellion by Tamenobu KOSHI, the lord of Obayama Castle and a local lord of Bingo Province, against the Ouchi clan in 1512. Around the same period, his second son, Kunihisa AMAGO, was renamed after Takakuni HOSOKAWA and his third son, Okihisa ENYA, was renamed after Yoshioki OUCHI, indicating that Tsunehisa tried to have a closer relationship with these two clans.

In 1517, Tsunehisa partnered with the former Iwami shugo, the Yamana clan, who was not satisfied with the appointment of Yoshioki OUCHI as Iwami shugo, and the two clans attacked a castle of the Iwami-Ouchi clan. Tsunehisa was also aligned with the Niimi clan which had a big influence over northern Bicchu Province to attack the Mimura clan.

In 1518, Tsunehisa ordered his younger brother, Hisayuki, to attack Munekatsu NANJO of Hoki Province, while sending his eldest son, Masahisa AMAGO, to Togishi Castle where Soteki SAKURAI, who defected from the Amago clan, locked himself. However, Masahisa was killed by a falling arrow during the mission.

The Amago clan invaded Iwami Province in or after 1521. The clan also moved forces up to Aki Province and attacked Kagamiyama Castle, a governing base of the Ouchi clan, and also had Motonari MORI and Komatsumaru MORI on the Amago side to join the attack through the order of Hidetsuna KAMEI, a senior vassal of the Amago clan. Due to a brilliant tactic of Motonari, Naonobu KURATA, an uncle of the castle lord (Fusanobu KURATA), switched to the Amago clan, and Fusanobu KURATA, the castle lord, committed suicide before Kagamiyama Castle fell to Tsunehisa. Naonobu was killed for some reasons in later years. In the same year, however, the Aki-Takeda clan and Tomoda clan on the Amago side lost to the Ouchi clan, and in 1525, Motonari MORI switched sides to the Ouchi clan by ruining a favorable relationship with the Amago clan, after an internal conflict with his younger brother, Mototsuna AIO. Although the Amago clan had a stronger power then other lords, this incident changed a power balance among influential clans in Aki Province. It is said that the defection of the Mori clan was caused mainly by the involvement of Hidetsuna KAMEI, a vassal of the Amago clan, in the succession race of the Mori clan, but it seems that Tsunehisa's strong ulterior motive also played a part.

In 1524, Tsunehisa, who led his troops to invade western Hoki Province, beat Munekatsu NANJO and made shugo, Sumiyuki YAMANA, flee the province. Most samurais of Hoki Province who lost in the battle fled to Inaba Province and Tajima Province, while Munekatsu NANJO resorted to the Yamana clan (Taiei no Satsuki kuzure).

After the Yamana clan, which held the post of Hoki and Bingo shugo, expressed its stance as anti-Amago clan in 1526, the Amago clan found itself in a tight spot as being encompassed by the Ouchi clan and Yamana clan. In 1527, Tsunehisa led his force to Bingo Province but was defeated by Okifusa SUE, which encouraged most local lords of Bingo Province to defect from the Amago clan to the Ouchi clan.

Rebellion of Okihisa ENYA

In 1528, Tsunehisa led his forces again up to Bingo Province and made Shitomiyama Castle of the Tagayama clan surrender, while the Takahashi clan on the Iwami-Amago side fell to the Mori and Wachi clans.

In 1530, Okihisa ENYA, the third son of Tsunehisa, declared his stance as anti-Amago clan, triggering an internal conflict. Okihisa had Izumo Taisha Shrine, Gakuen-ji Shrine, the Misawa clan, the Taga clan and the Bingo-Yamauchi clan on his side, indicating that the internal conflict turned out to be a large-scale rebellion. Around the same time, Okihisa called for support from the Ouchi clan, while Tsunehisa also sent a letter to ask for support from the Ouchi clan. Finally, the Ouchi clan decided to take the side of Tsunehisa, although unwillingly. According to a letter written by Okifusa SUE (a vassal of the Ouchi clan) on May 28, 1530, Okihisa confronted Tsunehisa directly and beat back attacks of Tsunehisa several times. After the Ouchi clan received a call for support from the two sides, the clan ultimately decided to support Tsunehisa and was reconciled with the Amago clan.

The rebellion was suppressed in 1534, and Okihisa fled to Kotachi Castle of the Bingo-Yamauchi clan and suicided himself there after attacked by his own nephew, Akihisa AMAGO. The property of Okihisa was taken over by his second son, Kunihisa AMAGO. During the same period, Tamekiyo OKI, a local lord of Oki Province, also staged a rebellion but got suppressed immediately. In the same year, a legitimate grandchild of Tsunehisa, Akihisa AMAGO, invaded Mimasaka Province and put the province under the control of the Amago clan. The Amago clan continued its power extension to further east by invading Bizen Province. Later, Akihisa joined the anti-Ouchi alliance with the Otomo clan.

Transfer of family reigns

Tsunehisa transferred the reigns of the family to his grandson, Haruhisa AMAGO in 1537. In the same year, the Amago clan seized Iwami-ginzan Silver Mine from the Ouchi clan.

Thanks to a continued conflict between the Otomo clan and the Ouchi clan (or, a peaceful, although superficial, relationship between the Amago clan and the Ouchi clan), the Amago clan succeeded in expanding its territory to further east by winning a crushing victory against Harumasa AKAMATSU, the family head of the Akamatsu clan and shugo of Harima Province. Masahiro AKAMATSU fled to Awaji temporarily. However, as Miki Castle, where the Bessho clan held up fighting, changed sides to the Amago clan in 1539, Masahiro fled to Sakai. Although this encouraged Akihisa AMAGO to prepare for an upcoming visit to the capital, the Otomo clan reversed a peace agreement with the Amago clan after being reconciled with the Ouchi clan, and recaptured the Iwami-ginzan Silver Mine from the Amago clan. In the same year, Sato-Kanayama Castle owned by the Takeda clan on the Aki-Amago side fell to the Ouchi clan, although it was sent reinforcements from the Amago clan, and the family head, Nobuzane TAKEDA, fled to Wakasa Province temporarily. Akihisa also withdrew to Izumo Province.

This incidence destroyed the peace agreement with the Ouchi clan completely.

In 1540, Haruhisa AMAGO accepted a demand from Nobuzane TAKEDA to subjugate the Mori clan, a local lord of Aki Province on the Ouchi side, and moved his forces. The war conditions were advantageous to the Amago clan which had a force of 30,000 soldiers including reinforcements from other provinces. The Amago clan led this large force to besiege and attack Yoshida-Koriyama Castle several times but failed to make it fall, and in the following year, the reinforcements of the Ouchi clan led by Harukata SUE and 10,000 other soldiers arrived at the battle field to raid the headquarters of the Amago army, after praying at Itsukushima-jinja Shrine for victory, which produced casualties on the Amago side (the Battle of Yoshida Koriyama Castle).

On December 20, 1541, Tsunehisa ended his long and eventful life at Gassantoda Castle.



Tsunehisa is a typical example of achieving Gekokujo (an inverted social order when the lowly reigned over the elite), as is Soun HOJO, and was also nicknamed 'Bosei' (a master of tactics) or 'Bosho' (a commander of tactics) for his genuine talent in devising schemes, as were Motonari MORI and Naoie UKITA. Tsunehisa, Motonari and Naoie are referred to as the Three Great Bosho of the Chugoku region. In a drama titled 'Motonari MORI (broadcast by NHK)', Tsunehisa was depicted as a man who was an iron-hearted scheming samurai and used even his death as one of his schemes.

However, it is also said that Tsunehisa showed his brilliant talents in many areas and excelled both academically and athletically
He had his self-portrait drawn in his later years.

Although Tsunehisa was cold hearted when devising a scheme, he was very kind and considerate to his vassals. As one anecdote to tell how kind Tsunehisa was, "Chirizuka Monogatari" (Tales of Chirizuka) describes that whenever his vassals praised his valuable belongings, Tsunehisa was so pleased that he give it to them, and therefore, his vassals stopped giving praise but just enjoyed viewing them. However, at one time, when one vassal, who thought it would be okay to praise a pine tree in a garden, complimented beautiful foliage of the tree, Tsunehisa tried to dig it out for the vassal, for which other vassals scrambled to stop. But Tsunehisa did not stop there but cut the tree down and gave it to the vassal in the shape of firewood. People said he had wasted the tree, but Tsunehisa did not care at all. While in winter, Tsunehisa sometimes gave his vassal what he wore and spend the rest of the day with only kosode (thin cotton underclothing) on. In "Chirizuka Monogatari", he is described as born unselfish and honest. As these anecdotes are not typical stories for a military commander during the Sengoku Period, they are highly likely to be true. Worldwide, Attila had a similar bilateral character; he was feared as a butcher and looter by his enemies, but so generous to his vassals that he gave gorgeous accessories he looted to them, although he wore plain clothes himself.



The Amago clan had ties with Kokyo-ji Temple of Hongan-ji Temple. In the era of Harushisa, a legitimate grandchild of Tsunehisa, the clan still had a contact with Hongan-ji Temple, and in a diary of the temple, the Amago clan sometimes appeared.

Domestic administration

As the Kokujin-shu (powerful families in a province) under the control of Tsunehisa were not direct retainers of the Amago clan, their status was unstable. Therefore, Tsunehisa tried to unite and control the Kokujin-shu of Izumo Province through making an expedition and invading other provinces. The Amago clan was run by creating a clear target for their Kokujin-shu to aim at. It was a daimyos' typical method to manage their territories, and the most famous daimyo who took this method was the Takeda clan led by Shingen TAKEDA.

In the era of Tsunehisa, as the Amago clan did not have a big influence in Izumo Province, Okihisa, the third son of Tsunehisa, was put for adoption to the Enya clan to increase the influence of the Amago clan, but the tactic finished in failure, as Okihisa rose in revolt.

Haruhisa, the legitimate grandchild, had the best period of the Amago clan as a Daidaimyo of the Chugoku region. However, as the Amago clan had grown so big in the era of Tsunehisa without achieving fundamentals, i.e. seizing a full control over Kokunin-shu, Tsunehisa left a lot of 'negative legacy' to the family head of the next generation, Haruhisa, upon his death. The management policy of Tsunehisa featured how to control Kokujin-shu through power and emotions, and also put an importance on independence of each family entangled with vested interests of a bigger group. The negative legacy triggered the purge of Shingu-to (the elite group of the Amago army) and also an ultimate fall of the Amago clan in the era of Yoshihisa AMAGO, a great-grandchild of Tsunehisa.

The Amago clan is referred to as a governor-general of eleven provinces, but in fact, the clan governed only eastern Izumo Province (western Izumo was not completely ruled by the Amago clan, as demonstrated in the Rebellion by Okihisa ENYA), Oki Province and a part of Iwami Province and western Hoki Province, but other areas had different rulers at times. The main base of the Amago clan was in Sanin (mountain provinces behind the Sanyo or Inland Sea provinces), and because the power relations of the clan contained a superficial hierarchical one between the lord and vassals and also probably Tsunehisa had some problems himself, many local lords of Izumo Province ended up in staging a rebellion against the clan. In addition, it is true that a prominent presence of the Ouchi clan in the Chugoku region, the base of the clan, eventually caused a struggle among the Amago clan in destroying the Ouchi clan, and also the Rebellion of Okihisa pushed the Amago family into a quagmire. However, it should be highly evaluated that Tsunehisa and Haruhisa built a power relationship only in two generations equal in size to the one of the Ouchi clan, Daidaimyo.

[Original Japanese]