Kira Yoshizane (吉良義真)

Yoshizane KIRA (date of birth unknown, 1422 – August 16, 1481) was a busho (Japanese military commander) who lived during the Muromachi Period. His original family name was MINAMOTO. Kira clan is one of the lineages of Ashikaga clan originated from MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni; since Yoshikuni was the son of Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North) and the head of Kawachi-Genji clan (a lineage of Seiwa-Genji clan) MINAMOTO no Yoshiie, Kira clan traces its roots to Seiwa-Genji clan. He was the third son of Toshiuji KIRA. He was the lord of Saijo-jo Castle. He was the fourth head of the Saijo-Kira (upper Kira) clan. His official court ranks were jyushii (Junior Fourth Rank) Sahyoe no suke (undersecretary of the left imperial bodyguards) and Jibushoyu (institution for the management of ceremonial events). His elder brothers were Yoshinao KIRA and Yoriuji KIRA. He also had a younger brother who entered Honko-in Temple and became a Zen priest. His wife was the daughter of Mochikata HOSOKAWA. His son was Yoshinobu KIRA.


Yoshizane was handed over the headship of the family from his elder brother Yoshinao KIRA during the Kyotoku Era (1452-1455) because Yoshinao had no son and his adopted son-in-law Yoshitake SHIBA died young.

He was on the side of Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, and it appears that he had a certain amount of influence mainly over the ownership issues regarding Zen temples ("Inryoken Nichiroku" [Dietary Life of Zen Priests]). Saijo-Kira clan during Yoshizane's time was called "goichirui" (lineages sharing the same origin) with the Ashikaga clan in the shogunate along with the Ishibashi and Shibukawa clans; they received special treatments in various occasions such as the ceremonial meeting held every year on the fifth day of a new year ("Records of Court Appearances from Choroku Era Third Year [1459]").

On December 17, 1459 Yoshizane presented a large amount of contribution totaling 10 kanmon in response to the donation request of Muromachi bakufu to feudal lords for performing the 33rd death anniversary Buddhist memorial service of Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA. On December, 15, two day prior to Yoshizane's contribution, the head of the Tojo-Kira clan (lower Kira) Yoshifuji KIRA had also donated 10 kanmon ("Inryoken Nichiroku").

When Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA was born on December 20, 1465, Yoshizane visited the palace of shogun to give his words of congratulations; Yoshizane also visited the residence of Sadachika ISE with Yoshifuji KIRA on the following day to express his gratitude for having his message conveyed to the shogun ("Chikamoto Nikki Diary").

When the Onin War broke out Yoshizane sided with the Eastern Camp due to the fact that the cousin of his wife was Katsumoto HOSOKAWA of the Eastern Camp, putting himself against Yoshifuji KIRA sided with the Western Camp; when Yoshifuji left Kyoto to Mikawa Province, Yoshizane appointed his son Yoshinobu KIRA in charge of protecting Kyoto, and departed to Mikawa on May 18, 1467 for tracking down Yoshifuji ("Miscellaneous Records of the Daijo Temple and Shrine").

What happened in the battles between the eastern and western Kira clans at Mikawa Province is unclear, as there is no historical material on the subject. Although there is a brief description about the event in the "Mikawa Military Diary" (published 1853), it is difficult to consider as a credible source for the fallacies of the content. Although there were several battles between them, the scale of the battle was too small to damage neither families; it is considered that the reconciliation between the Eastern and Western Camps at Kyoto (1477) also led the peace settlement between the eastern and western Kira clans. Yoshizane remained in Mikawa Province possibly because he had to contain Yoshinao ISSHIKI of the Western Camp who had continued to be active for recapturing Mikawa Province; Yoshizane finally returned to Kyoto in September, 1479 after Yoshinao ISSHIKI expressed in writing to abandon his plan of capturing Mikawa in 1478.

After returning to Kyoto, Yoshizane resumed his affiliations with noble families by visiting the Minister of the Left Masaie KONOE and others, but he soon fell to illness and died on July 21, 1481. His age of death was considered to be 60. The funeral was held on August 24, and Sadamune ISE, steward of the Bakufu Mandokoro, presented 10 kanmon ("Chikamoto Nikki Diary"). His homyo (posthumous Buddhist name) was Nengein-Dendozan-Masahiro-Daizenjomon.

[Original Japanese]