Gamo Ujisato (蒲生氏郷)

Ujisato GAMO was a military commander in Japan from the Sengoku period (warring state period) through to the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

At first he was lord of Hino Castle in Omi Province, subsequently lord of Matsuzaka Castle in Ise Province and finally lord of Kurokawa Castle in Mutsu Province. He was the eldest son of Katahide GAMO, the lord of Hino Castle in Omi Province. He was initially called "Masuhide" as well as "Norihide." Furthermore, as a Christian Daimyo (feudal lord), he took the Christian name "Leon" (or possibly "Leo"). As a child Hideyuki GAMO was a "Jiju" (Chamberlain). There was another elder son, Ujisato GAMO but he was disinherited.


Ujisato was reputedly a member of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, FUJIWARA no Hidesato line, who had been a leading family since the Kamakura period. He was born at Hino, Gamo District in Omi Province and was given the childhood name of "Tsuruchiyo." As a result of the lords of the Rokkaku clan being overthrown by Nobunaga ODA in 1568, his father, Katahide, became a vassal of Oda. Ujisato was then sent as a hostage to Nobunaga who was in Gifu City.

Period as an Oda vassal

Nobunaga saw through the ability of Ujisato and had him marry his eldest daughter Fuyu-hime (Princess Fuyu). He celebrated his coming of age at Gifu Castle and assumed the name "Chuzaburo Masuhide," a name which, according to one account, borrows a single kanji character from one of Nobunaga's official roles, 'Danjochu' (judge). (For consistency, the name "Ujisato" is used in all but one part of this description) Now a member of the Oda family, he was received warmly.

He was exceedingly brave, earned his first battle stripes in engagements against Tomonori KITABATAKE and Tomofusa KITABATAKE, and campaigned with success in attacks on Okawachi Castle in Ise Province in 1569, the Battle of Anegawa in 1570, Asakura attacks and Siege of Odani Castle in 1573, the Ise-Nagashima attacks in 1574, and the Battle of Nagashino in 1575 etc. In 1582, when Nobunaga was killed in the Honnoji Incident, he protected Nobunaga's wife and children in Azuchi Castle and retreated with his father to Hino Castle (Nakano Castle) where he was the lord, thereby indicating his opposition to Mitsuhide AKECHI. Mitsuhide captured a number of castles with Mitsuharu AKECHI, Motoaki TAKEDA, Takatsugu KYOGOKU and others including Nagahama Castle at Omi (Omi Province), Sawayama Castle and Azuchi Castle, but was defeated and killed just as he was about to lay siege to Hino.

Period as a vassal of Toyotomi

Subsequently he served Hideyoshi HASHIBA (Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI). Hideyoshi granted Ujisato the Ise-Matsugashima Castle which had a yield of 12,000 koku. He was prominent in the Kiyosu Conference and followed instructions from Hideyoshi who had assumed power and was continuing Nobunaga's unification efforts; he fought in the Komaki and Nagakute battles of 1584, the Ki no kuni (Ki Province) attacks of 1585, the Kyushu Campaign of 1587 and the Odawara Campaign of 1590 etc. Meanwhile, in 1588 he measured up a site for a new castle at Yoihonomori Yagawasho in Iitaka County, and built Matsuzaka Castle. Merchants and samurai warriors around Matsugashima were forced to shift homes and a castle town was built. Following the success of a series of unifying activities and the Oshu-shioki (repression of the Oshu District) in 1590 he was granted land with yield of 420,000 koku a year (and subsequently land with a yield of 920,000 koku) between Ise and Aizu, Mutsu Province. Circa 1585 he was told to change his name back from Masuhide to Ujisato by Hideyoshi HASHIBA, the strongman at that time, who felt disrespected in the first character "hide" of his own name (Hide-yoshi) being the second character in Masu-hide.
In July 1587 Hideyoshi then honored him by bestowing on him the family name 'HASHIBA.'

In Aizu, the town of Kurokawa had its name changed to 'Wakamatsu' and a castle was measured out built in the Koshu style. Note that, the name 'Wakamatsu' (literally 'young pine') comes from 'Wakamatsu-no-mori' (literally 'young pine grove') which was in the vicinity of the approach to Umamiokawatamuki-jinja Shrine (the Gamo clan's family shrine near present day Murai, Hino-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga Prefecture) and close to Matsuhide's birthplace, Hinode Castle (Nakano Castle), also the 'Matsu' of 'Matsuzaka' is also the kanji character for pine and is said to have the same roots. The castle had a 7-story tower (the existing 5-story tower is based on one built in the Kanei era (1624 - 1644)) and was named after Ujisato's childhood name as "Tsuraga Castle" (literally Crane Castle). A castle town was built at the same time. Merchants of the former domains of Hino and Matsuzaka were welcomed to the town, regular scheduled markets were organized, free markets and free guilds were introduced and handicrafts were encouraged etc, all of which laid the foundations for development in the Aizu domain in the Edo period.

Thereafter, Ujisato continued fighting against the former lord of Aizu, Masamune DATE, and suppressed the Osaki/Kasai Ikki Uprisings in 1591 (at this point he notified Hideyoshi, accusing Masasume of being the instigator) and, suppressing the Masazane KUNOHE Rebellion. In the following year (1592) he departed for Nagoya in Bizen no kuni (Bizen Province) to take part in the Bunroku-Keicho War. However he fell sick during the campaign and, after returning to Japan, passed away in 1595 at the Gamo residence in Fushimi, Kyoto. He was 40.

Ujisato was succeeded as the head of the Gamo household by Hideyuki a legitimate child from his marriage with Ieyasu's daughter, but following inappropriate behavior by Hideyuki's wife the family had to move to Utsunomiya City at a reduced stipend of 120,000 koku (Kagekatsu UESUGI took control of Aizu).

Character & Anecdotes

He took great care of his vassals and was interested in the tea ceremony, numbering among the Rikyu shichitetsu (Rikyu's seven sages) (after SEN no Rikyu's death, he let Rikyu's son (SEN no Shoan) stay in his home), and he was very popular with a number of daimyo (feudal lords) and considered to be refined and intelligent.
He excelled at Waka (a form of traditional Japanese poetry) and en-route to the Bunroku Campaign front, at Musa in Omi no kuni (Omi Province) composed a famous traditional Japanese Waka poem recollecting his birthplace: 'Memories and people's thoughts are shaped by their hometown; which I view differently.'
He also numbered among the Christian Daimyo

It is said he liked ghost stories and talking about military matters.

He also had the habit of assigning the Gamo surname to meritorious vassals; it was best to have fewer family members with the same name, but he mass produced them, earning the rebuke of Toshiie MAEDA. For this reason, within the Gamo household there were many vassals with the surname "Gamo" (Yorisato GAMO/ Satoie GAMO, etc.). Also, because of his friendship with Ukon TAKAYAMA he became a Christian and took the Christian name "Leon." He frequently sent messages to Rome and received a message of thanks from the Pope of the day. There are also anecdotes about him campaigning in Taiwan.

During the Matsuzaka era, Ujisato brought many merchants and tradespersons from Hino to help build the town, but was transferred out of Aizu before the work was completed and the subsequently assigned Kazutada HATTORI and Shigekatsu FURUTA were left to carry on the work. Many merchants and tradespersons were bought to Aizu from Matsuzaka and Hino, and efforts were made to develop Aizu lacquerware and other goods. Takatoshi MITSUI of the Mitsui family, the founder of Mitsukoshi (a venerable department store chain in Japan) was one merchant who Ujisato called upon to shift from Hino to Matsuzaka and later to Aizu, but he resisted going to Aizu and his family remained in Matsuzaka. Strictly speaking, however, the Mitsui family cannot be said to hail from Hino.

In the "Jozankidan" it is recorded that Ujisato, on being granted land with a yield of 920,000 koku in Mutsu, said 'even with a large estate, in a rural backwater like Ou there is no way to achieve my ambitions.'
Also, 'even if the role was humble, if I were close to the capital, I could visit the court,' he is said to have loudly lamented.

He was know to have been very fond of Sanzaburo NAGOYA, one of a trio of handsome youths in the Sengoku perod (Warring States period).

After returning to the interior of Japan, Masamune DATE who was the lord of Ujisato's former fiefdom sent an young assassin reputed to have been 16 years old.
A message from Date family was found, so the story goes, when the boy passed through a checkpoint and he was imprisoned, only to be released on account of his 'admirable loyalty to Date.'

It is said that when Ujisato came to Nobunaga ODA as a hostage, Nobunaga realized his abilities at a single glance and promised his daughter Princess Fuyu's hand in marriage. In Ujisato's diary records Nobunaga as saying 'the Gamo boy is no an ordinary lad and should not be among common people.
Make him one of us.'

Details of his Sudden Death

There is a theory that Hideyoshi or one of his close associates such as Mitsunari ISHIDA, Masamune DATE, or Kanetsugu NAOE etc poisoned but this has been largely repudiated for the following reasons.

"Tenshou Era (1573 - 1592) Medical Chronicle," the clinical notes of Gensaku MANASE, the physician who saw Ujisato, there is a record of a military leader who fell ill at Nagoya castle en-route to the Bunroku Campaign and had symptoms of jaundice with swelling under the eyes. From Gensaku's notes, it can also be inferred that Ujisato was suffering from what is referred to today as rectal/pancreatic cancer.

Funeral Ode
Limits abound but even if the wind blows not, blossoms fall, life is short so blow Spring mountain winds.

There is a commentary on this poem in books by Nankai GION and Rohan KODA.
Also, in "Person's Deathbed Reference," Futaro YAMADA comments 'this is a fine example of a poem by a military commander of the Warring State period.'

Grave Site

Ujisato was buried at Obai-in Daitoku-ji Temple in Kita-ku, Kyoto City and, Kotoku-ji Temple Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture (deceased's hair). The grave in Obai-in was recently excavated, revealing a figure embracing a sword.

[Original Japanese]