Yamanaka Yukimori (山中幸盛)

Yukimori YAMANAKA was a busho (a military commander) during the Sengoku period (Period of Warring States), who resided in the San-in region. He was born in Nogi-gun in Izumo Province (Hirose-cho, Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture, as it is known today). He was a retainer of the Amago clan, which was a daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku period. His original surname was Minamoto. His family was a branch of the Sasaki clan (also known as the Kyogoku clan) which was descended from the Uda-Genji lineage (descendents of Emperor Uda who had been given the surname Minamoto) and belonged to the Amago clan. Though his real name was Yukimori, he usually went by the name Shikanosuke. The name Shikanosuke was meant to be written with the two characters "鹿介," but was written by the three characters "鹿之助" in historical tales and the like, which resulted in his becoming known by the written name "山中鹿之介," using the wrong characters. His childhood name was Jinjiro.
He earned the nickname 'Kirinji (child prodigy) of San-in.'


Whereas the years referred to below follow the Julian calendar, all the months and dates (except when following a year from the Julian calendar) follow the Japanese calendar (more specifically, the choreki (a document that retroactively specifies ancient dates/months/years according to a certain calendar) based on the Senmyo Calendar (a variation of the lunar calendar that was created in ancient China)).

The Yamanaka family was a branch of the Amago clan that was founded by Yukihisa YAMANAKA. Yukimori was in the service of the Amago clan from his youth. According to historical tales and the like, he served as one of the Ten Brave Warriors of the Amago Clan during the strife occurring when Yoshihisa AMAGO was beseiged by Motonari MORI, gradually losing his power.

Regardless of whether or not the foregoing is true, the only activities of Yukimori's that have been made clear to posterity are those which took place after the downfall of the daimyo in the Sengoku period, Amago clan as the result of that capitulation of Yoshihisa AMAGO to the Mori clan in 1566.
There is a well known anecdote passed down through tales and the like recounting that when the Amago clan was on the decline, Shikanosuke prayed to the moon for the restoration of their former status, saying, 'I would rather sustain all kinds of troubles myself than see the clan of my lord fall into ruin.'

The campaign to restore the status of the Amago clan conducted by Shikanosuke YAMANAKA can be roughly divided into three stages.

First Stage of the Restoration of the Amago Clan

Duration: from 1568 until August 21, 1571 (from the age of 24 through 27 years old)

In 1568, he had Katsuhisa AMAGO, a grandson of Kunihisa AMAGO's who was a Buddhist priest in Kyoto, leave the priesthood so that Shikanosuke could install him as the head of the Amago clan as part of his efforts to restore the Amago clan to its former status. The Amago Remnant Corps (a group of retainers set adrift by the downfall of the Amago clan), including Hisatsuna TACHIHARA, Masamitsu YOKOJI, USHIO Danjo no jo ("danjo no jo" derives from a judicial post called, "jo," the equivalent of a judge, in the "Danjo," the Ministry of Justice), Kurodo MITOYA (三刀屋蔵人), and Jinkuro ENDO, relied on KAKIYA Harima no kami (the foregoing "Harima no kami" refers to the Governor of Harima Province), who was the chief retainer of Toyosuke YAMANA, to make their passage through Tajima Province, and then took refuge in Oki with the aid of Yamatonosuke NASA. In 1569, the Amago Remnant Corps occupied Chuyama, Izumo Province, located on the coast (Sea of Japan), with the cooperation of Tamekiyo OKI, a powerful family in Oki Province. The Amago Remnant Corps then absorbed the former Amago retainers who were then residing in Izumo, and captured Niyama-jo Castle to use as its headquarters. The Amago Remnant Corps extended its power to the extent that it was on the verge of gaining possession of the entirety of Izumo Province, with the exception of Gassan Toda-jo Castle, which was the base of the Mori clan.

However, its followers committed depredations, plundering Inaba and other places (according to 'Inaba Mindanki' (a geographical description of Inaba)), which, combined with other factors, rendered the Amago Remnant Corps unable to maintain its control over the area. Then, Tamekiyo OKI defected from the Amago Remnant Corps, and they suffered defeat in the Battle of Fubeyama, which resulted in a remarkable decline in their power, bringing about the fall of Niyama-jo Castle, their last foothold, in August 1571. In this battle, Shikanosuke was captured by Motoharu KIKKAWA, the second son of Motonari MORI. It is said, however, that while in custody, Shikanosuke went to the toilet many times, feigning a stomachache, and escaped through the toilet with his body covered in excrement, eluding the less than vigilant guard, and fleeing to Kyoto together with Katsuhisa.

Second Stage of the Restoration of the Amago Clan

Duration: from August 1572 until May 4, 1576 (from the age of 28 through 32 years old)

It is said that, upon returning to Kyoto, Shikanosuke and company had an audience with Nobunaga ODA, during which they swore an oath to lead the charge in the attack on the Chugoku region. The Amago Remnant Corps joined forces with the Yamana clan, intent on restoring the Amago clan to their former status, and fought against Takanobu TAKEDA, who had rebelled against the Yamana clan and was holed up in Tottori-jo Castle; after that, they fought on successive fronts in Inaba Province, wining a decisive victory in the battle at Koshikiyama-jo Castle. Nevertheless, the Amago Remnant Corps was deprived of Tottori-jo Castle by the Mori clan, who had subsequently sided with the Takeda clan.

During this peroid, the distribution of power shifted frequently, in part due to the fact that the Yamana clan was at the mercy of the two major powers of the Mori clan and the Oda clan. Through secret communications with the Oda clan, the Amago Remnant Corps managed to sever its ties with the Yamana clan, which had been siding with the Mori at the time. Around 1574, the Amago Remnant Corps captured castles in Inaba Province, and secured Wakasa Oniga-jo Castle and Ichiba-jo Castle with the aid of Munekage URAGMI, who was on Oda's side. The Amago Remnant Corps had thereby temporarily succeeded in restoring the Amago clan to its former status.

In September 1575, however, Mori forces captured Kisaichi-jo Castle, which resulted in the surender of the Yokoji brothers, Hisayori MORIWAKI, Oinosuke USHIO, and other members of the Amago Remnant Corps who had long been in the service of the Amago clan, to the Mori clan. Moreover, Nobunaga ODA told Motoharu KIKKAWA in 1576 that he would not shelter Shikanosuke, probably because of the changed circumstances. The Amago Remnant Corps was thereby simultaneously deprived of prominent retainers of the Amago clan and a patron, which made it impossible for the corps to hold Wakasa Oniga-jo Castle, and resulted in the remaining members fleeing toward Tanba. It seems that the Oda clan took the foregoing actions with the political objective of temporarily alleviating friction with the Mori clan, under circumstances in which they were engaged in ongoing conflicts on several fronts, such as that of Hongan-ji Temple. The Amago Remnant Corps then rejoined armed forces heading toward the Chugoku district.

Third Stage of the Restoration of the Amago Clan

Duration: from September 27, 1577 until 1578 (from the age of 33 through 34 years old)

In 1577, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI embarked on an expedition to the Chugoku region, under orders from Nobunaga. The Amago Remnant Corps was thereupon dispatched to Harima Province to spearhead the attack, aiming to hold Kozuki-jo Castle and restore the Amago clan to their former status. When Kozuki-jo Castle was attacked by the Mori forces, however, the Oda forces withdrew from Harima to make preparations to launch offensives against the Kenshin UESUGI, who resided in the north, and against the Ishiyama Hongan-ji force. This caused Kozuki-jo Castle to become isolated, and put under siege by the Mori force, which was eager to 'Rout the Amago'; as a result, the leader and retainers of the Amago clan were unable to hold the castle, and surrendered (The Battle of Kozuki Castle).
(The Battle of Kozuki Castle)

At that point, Katsuhisa AMAGO, the head of the Amago clan, committed suicide, whereas Shikanosuke did not commit suicide, but submitted to the Mori clan. Nevertheless, Shikanosuke was murdered at the ferry of Ai (阿井の渡し), located at Ainowatashi (合の渡) in Bitchu Province (Takahashi City in Okayama Prefecture, as it is known today), while being taken to the whereabouts of Terumoto MORI under guard. The commonly held view is that Shikanosuke was murdered by Motoharu KIKKAWA as a preemptive measure because he deemed it too risky to let him live, believing that Shikanosuke was determined to survive and committed to again attempting to restore the Amago clan. After the death of Shikanosuke, efforts toward restoring the Amago clan to their former status ceased completely.

The tomb of Shikanosuke was erected at the scene of his murder, which faces Route 313 near the area where the Takahashi-gawa and Nariwa-gawa Rivers converge in Takahashi City, as it is known today; however, his torso was interred in a burial mound at Kansen-ji Temple by Sangyu (珊牛), the retired chief priest of that temple, and the burial mound remains even to this day in the graveyard of the temple. Shikanosuke's decapitated head was identified by Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, the then 15th shogun of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), who was staying at Tomonoura in Bingo Province, and Terumoto MORI, after which it was interred by the local residents, with all due respect, in a burial mound located in front of the gate of Seikan-ji Temple, remains in the temple grounds to this day.

How Yukimori YAMANAKA was Treated/Evaluated and What Happened after his Death

Shincho Koki (a biography of Nobunaga ODA) contains a passage referring to the fact that Hideyoshi TOYOYMI regretted that Nobunaga had, in effect, let Yukimori YAMANAKA go to his death by not providing him with aid, and expressed his feelings to Nobutada ODA, Nobunaga's eldest son, saying that the way Yukimori had died had injured Nobunaga's reputation. It can practically be said that Nobunaga's actions toward Shikanosuke and other members of the Amago Remnant Corps were ruthless from the beginning; looking back over the results of Nobunaga's deeds, it may be inferred that they were sacrificed like a piece in a game of chess. In contrast to Nobunaga, Hideyoshi was amicable and sympathetic to the Amago Remnant Corps, as indicated by his remark to Nobutada ODA referred to above. However, this could also be interpreted as an attempt by Hideyoshi to manipulate the image of Nobunaga after he assumed control of the Oda family.

The death of Shikanosuke resulted in the termination of the campaign to restore the status of the Amago clan, but did not lead to the complete dissolution of the Amago Remnant Corps. Upon the fall of Kozuki-jo Castle, the unit led by Korenori KAMEI, which was obedient to Hideyoshi, escaped danger. Some members of the Amago Remnant Corps were reorganized into the vassalage of the Kamei family, headed by Korenori KAMEI, and set forth on the path to becoming daimyo in the early modern period. Subsequently, those members of the Amago Remnant Corps fought in the Battle of Sekigahara as the advance guard of the Eastern forces, and were incorporated under the domain system deployed by the Tokugawa shogunate; their descendants maintained this status through to the final days of the Tokugawa shogunate.

In addition, Kosei-ji Temple (written with the characters "幸盛寺") was established as the family's temple by Korenori KAMEI, who had become the daimyo of Shikano, to retain the family grave of Yukimori YAMANAKA (written by the characters "山中幸盛"); thereafter, his tomb was erected in the precincts of the temple.

While Yukimori's behavior can be appreciated to demonstrate ample loyalty, from another point of view, his actions can be seen to have endangered the life of his lord in so far as Yoshihisa AMAGO, who was a direct descendant and head of the Amago family, as well as some of other members of the family, came to be kept under the surveillance of the Mori clan. In fact, the three Amago brothers were under house arrest for nearly 20 years. On the other hand, if that is to be taken into consideration, it can also be said to be true that Yukimori's pledged of loyalty was only to the 'House of Amago' in its capacity as a daimyo family, and not to the 'Amago' blood line.

In light of the historical facts, there can be little doubt that Yukimori continued fighting, rendering devoted service to the family of his lord, even after it had fallen into ruin. Such attitude moved the hearts of future generations, which constituted the foundation of embellishment through stories and the like. In the Edo period, in particular, he was depicted as a faithful warlord, which led to the creation of the image of 'Shikanosuke YAMANAKA' as an ill-fated hero. This image became wide spread, and the story of Yukimori praying to the moon in order to take on all kinds of troubles in exchange for the restoration of the Amago clan was adopted in textbooks from the Meiji period, during which Bushido (the way of the samurai) was used as a source of spiritual support for the people.

Yukimoto YAMANAKA (Shinroku KONOIKE), Yukimori's eldest son, abandoned samurai status after his father's death to enter into the sake brewing industry in Kawabe-gun in Settsu Province (Itami City in Hyogo Prefecture, as it is known today); thereafter, he moved to Osaka and founded the Konoike zaibatsu, and became a successful business magnate from the Edo period. It is said that this may be the reason why the Konoike family gave no financial support to the Mori family.

What Yukimori YAMANAKA was really like?

He is said to have been brave and good-looking; there is a well-known anecdote that depicts his slaying each of the following in single combat; Otohachi KIKUCHI (菊池音八), who is famous for having been a strong general of the Mori force; Daizen SHINAGAWA (the fight against this samurai is famous); Shogen KAWAI, a retainer of Hisahide MATSUNAGA (slain at the time of assault on Shigisan-jo Castle). Historical documents provide differing accounts of the single combat between Yukimori and Daizen SHINAGAWA. The "Intoku Taiheiki," a historical document written by an author biased toward the Mori, maintains that Yukimori defeated Shinagawa with the aid of Iorinosuke AKIAGE, though Shinagawa had battled yukimori into a corner and had the advantage; whereas, the "Unyogun Jitsuki" written by an author biased toward the Amago, maintains that Yukimori slew Shinagawa in a fair combat and in an admirable manner. Notwithstanding that the views varying depending on the historical document, it is an established fact that the "Unyogun Jitsuki" was written and had been placed on public record approximately 100 years before the appearance of the "Intoku Taiheiki."

[Original Japanese]