Ouchi Yoshioki (大内義興)

Yoshioki OUCHI was the daimyo (feudal lord) of Suo Province who lived from the end of the Muromachi period to the Sengoku period. He was the thirtieth family head of the Ouchi clan.

Brief Personal History

His father was the Shugo (provincial constable) of Suo and the twenty ninth clan head, Masahiro OUCHI. His younger brother was Takahito (written both 隆弘 and 高弘 in Japanese) OUCHI. His legal wife was the daughter of the Shugodai (the acting Military Governor) of Nagato, Hironori NAITO. His children were Yoshitaka OUCHI and daughter (the wife of Toshiaki OTOMO and, later, mother of Yoshinaga OUCHI).

His childhood name was Kidomaru. As the kanreidai (representative of a shogunal deputy) and protector of the shogun, and the Shugo of the seven provinces of Suo, Nagato, Iwami, Aki, Chikuzen, Buzen, and Yamashiro, he was one of the great men of the early the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) prior to the appearance of Nobunaga ODA.


He was born in 1477, the son of Masahiro Ouchi, the twenty ninth family head of the Ouchi clan.

In 1492 he took part in the battle to punish the Rokkaku clan. When his father retired due to illness in 1494, he inherited the family estate and became the thirtieth family head of the Ouchi clan. When his father died in 1495, Takemori SUE (Okifusa SUE's older brother) falsely charged the Nagato Shugodai, Hironori NAITO, of supporting Yoshioki's younger brother, Takahito OUCHI, leading Yoshioki to have Hironori and his son, Takahito NAITO, executed. However, upon learning the charges against the NAITOs were false, he executed their accuser, Takemori, and took the daughter of Hironori as his legal wife to restore the Naito clan.

The Expansion of Power

While engaging in battles with the Otomo and Shoni clans in northern Kyushu, he added title of Shugoshiki (military governor) of Aki and Iwami to his father's estate of Suo, Nagato, Buzen and Chikuzen, and expanded his power to a part of Higo Province as well. He intervened in the internal conflict of the Otomo clan in 1496 to execute Masachika OTOMO, but his attempt to assign Daishoinsoshin OTOMO, whom he supported, as the Otomo clan successor failed in the face of resistance from Chikaharu OTOMO.

He attacked Masasuke and his son, Takatsune SHONI, in February 1497, leading to their suicides in April, and expanded his power in northern Kyushu. However, Masasuke's third son, Sukemoto SHONI, raised an army in 1501, which allied with Chikaharu OTOMO in 1506, and showed signs of attacking the Ouchi estate. However, Yoshioki was in Yamaguchi in 1500 protecting former Shogun Yoshitane ASHIKAGA, who had fled Kyoto after the Meio no seihen (Meio Coup), so Yoshioki, with the help of Yoshitane, reconciled with Sukemoto SHONI in 1507, enabling him to maintain power in northern Kyushu.

Invasion of Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto)

In July 1507, Masamoto HOSOKAWA, who had gained control of the shogunate government by helping Yoshizumi ASHIKAGA become the Eleventh Shogun, was assassinated. Yoshioki saw the resulting internal conflict within the Hosokawa clan as a good opportunity to invade Kinai region and, after ordering the mobilization of daimyo from Kyushu and Chugoku regions, departed Yamaguchi in December and had advanced into Bingo Province by January of the following year. In response, at the HOSOKAWAs, Masamoto's adopted son, Takakuni HOSOKAWA, allied with Yoshioki to oppose and resist Sumimoto HOSOKAWA, who escaped to Omi Province with Yoshizumi ASHIKAGA in March 1508. Yoshioki reached Kyoto in June, handed back the shogunship to Yoshitane in July though, as Sakyo no daibu (Master of the Eastern Capital Offices) and Kanreidai, he, along with Takakuni, controlled the government.

However, Sumimoto HOSOKAWA frequently launched counter attacks (the Battle of Nyoigatake) to try and regain Kyoto. Yoshioki invaded Omi with Takakuni in February 1510 but was defeated by contraries. Seeing this, Yoshizumi decided to declare war and invaded Settsu in August 1511. Yoshioki and Takakuni attacked but were defeated at both Settsu and Izumi Province and they escaped to Tanba Province. However, luck was on their side when Yoshizumi died suddenly in September 16, then they defeated Sumimoto's army in a decisive battle at Funaokayama Castle on September 25, and retook Kyoto (the Battle of Funaokayama). Yoshioki's achievements of this period must have been considerable for he was promoted to the third rank at court, on a par with the Kugyo (nobles) in March 1512.

However, with his relationships with Shogun Yoshizumi and Takakuni HOSOKAWA gradually worsening, and Tsunehisa AMAGO of Izumo province invading his estates of Iwami province and Aki province, he retired from the post of Kanrei-dai and returned to Yamaguchi.

The Battle with the Amago Clan

Tsunehisa, who had increased his power during Yoshioki's absence, was not weakened by Yoshioki's return and, in 1523, captured Hashiura in Iwami, and the Mori clan of Aki, who were subordinates of the Ouchi family, switched sides to the Amago clan. Using Motonari MORI, the guardian of the head of the Mori clan, Komatsumaru MORI, Tsunehisa was able to capture Kagamiyama-jo Castle in Aki-Saijyo, the center of Ouchi clan control in Aki.

As a result, in 1521, Yoshioki sent his army to Aki and Iwami but, although fighting the Amago clan for several years, he failed to achieve any favorable results. However, in 1524, he advanced to Aki Itsukushima and annihilated the Amago army at the battle for Sato Kanayama-jo Castle, and in 1525, with the return of Motonari MORI, he recovered somewhat power in Aki. Since the Amago clan had fought the Yamana clan at San-in district, Yoshioki took back control of Iwami as well. He also gained favorable results in his battle with Sukemoto SHONI of northern Kyushu.

He fell ill during an attack on Aki Kadoyama-jo Castle in 1528 and died immediately after returning to Yamaguchi. He died at the age of 52. He was succeded by his heir, Yoshitaka OUCHI.

Personal Profile and Anecdotes

Yoshioki was said to be a person like a court noble. However, this did not mean he was a weak person, as he was a hero who spent his life on the battlefield. Instead, by acting like a court noble and making connections with the Imperial court by inviting court nobles who had escaped war in Kyoto to Yamaguchi, Kyoto culture flourished in Yamaguchi, leading to the establishment of Yamaguchi culture (Ouchi culture). His estate eventually came to be called the 'Little Kyoto of the West,' and the Ouchi clan had its heyday under his leadership.

Despite controlling Kyoto, he was unable to use it to form a strong base in Kinai region as Nobunaga ODA did because his Suo estate was too far away from Kyoto and because of structural problems relating to the Ouchi clan's position as leaders of kokujin (local samurai). As a result, Yoshioki's time as the de facto ruler was limited to the length of his stay in Kinai region.

History of the Governmental Post Rank

*Dating system=old lunar calendar
Unknown date: Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), Suo no suke (Assistant Governor of Suo Province)
Unknown date: Sakyo no daibu
1495: Shugoshiki (military governor) of three Provinces; Suo, Nagato and Iwami
1496: Added title of Shugoshiki of Chikuzen Province
1507: Added title of Shugoshiki of Aki Province
June 8, 1508: Entered Kyoto in service of Yoshitane ASHIKAGA.
July 1: Assumed postion of Bakufu Kanreidai (representative of a shogunal deputy of the Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun)
August 1: Promoted to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). Continued as Sakyo no daibu. September 14: Promoted to Shoshiinojo (Senior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade). Continued as Sakyo no daibu.

1509: Added title of Shugoshiki of Buzen Province
March 26, 1512: Promoted to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank). Continued as Sakyo no daibu.

1514: Resigns as Sakyo no daibu.

1516: Added title of Shugoshiki of Yamashiro Province

People who received Henki (the custom of awarding one character from one's name to a subordinate in recognition of their service) from Yoshioki

Okitsune KIKKAWA
Okifusa SUE
Okimori NAITO
Okimoto MORI

[Original Japanese]