Ouchi Yoshinaga (大内義長)

Yoshinaga OUCHI was Sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period) in the provinces of Suo and Nagato. The last head of the Suo Ouchi clan.


He was born as the second son of Toshiaki OTOMO, the 20th head of the Otomo clan of Bungo Province. In 1544 he was adopted by his uncle Yoshitaka OUCHI, who had no son of his own, and he was named Haruhide, receiving one Chinese character from the name of the 12th Shogun of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA.

However, in 1545, his adoptive relationship was severed and he returned home after Yoshitaka had fathered a son, Yoshitaka OUCHI. However, when the chief vassal Takafusa SUE (Harukata SUE) plotted treachery against Yoshitaka, he stated that he would welcome Haruhide as the new head of the OUCHI clan in May 1551. Yoshishige OTOMO was opposed in the beginning, as he suspected that if Takafusa SUE only supported Haruhide as his puppet, his own government would not survive and he would likely be disinherited, but as Haruhide himself wanted to become the head of the Ouchi clan and claimed that "it is worse for me to be slandered by rejecting this request and I don't care for my life," Yoshishige accepted. In October, they executed their plot and Yoshitaka was killed in the Daineiji Coup, and Haruhide was put forward as the new head of the Ouchi clan (at that point, Takafusa received one character from Haruhide's name and took on the new name Harukata, in order to show everybody that he was respecting Haruhide as the new ruler).

In 1553 he received one character from the name of the 13th shogun of the Muromachi bakufu Yoshifuji ASHIKAGA and took on the new name Yoshinaga. However, although he was the head of the Ouchi clan, in fact he was a puppet of Harukata. In 1556 he called for the reopening of the tally trade between Japan and the Ming dynasty and sent envoys to the Ming dynasty, but they refused to accept him as the rightful head of the Ouchi clan.

In 1555 after Harukata SUE died in the battle of Itsukushima with Motonari MORI, the appeal of Yoshinaga was low because although he was related by blood he was an adopted son whose adoption had been severed once, and the vassals were collapsing because they had been weakened by Harukata SUE's plot and internal strife, and the Ouchi clan subsequently fell into a rapid decline. In April 1557 Mori's troops invaded Yamaguchi City as part of Motonari MORI's conquest of Suo and Nagato Provinces. Yoshinaga defended well with mercenaries, but in the end he gave up Konomine-jo Castle and fled to the Nagato Katsuyama-jo Castle of his chief vassal Takayo NAITO. However the Katsuyama-jo Castle was encircled by soldiers led by Sadatoshi FUKUBARA of Mori's army, and Takayo opened the castle on condition that the life of Yoshinaga would be spared and then he committed suicide. However Yoshinaga himself was encircled by the Mori army after he had entered the Chofuku-in Temple (the present Kozan-ji Temple) and was forced to commit suicide and died on May 11. Died at the age of 26. At the time, Motonari, who was in possession of the hyotan (gourd) tea container which was a family treasure of the Ouchi clan, proposed to Yoshishige OTOMO to spare the life of Yoshinaga, but Yoshishige coldly ignored the order of his younger brother as he wanted the tea container and subsequently gained possession of it.

The death haiku of Yoshinaga OUCHI
"Even if I die like this, I have no regrets, even if no storm blows, when the time comes the blossoms fall."

The Ouchi clan, which was a notable clan in the Western provinces, collapsed after the death of Yoshinaga however the Yamaguchi clan which was a branch of the clan that separated at an early time, continued to exist until the Edo period.

[Original Japanese]