Hosokawa Yusai (細川幽斎)

Yusai HOSOKAWA (Fujitaka HOSOKAWA) was a general of the Warring States Period, and a tanka poet. He was born as Mankichi, and his childhood name was Yoichiro. His court ranks were Hyobu Dayu, Jiju, and Nii Hoin. Later he took the name "Yusai Genshi". He was born the second son to Harukazu MITSUBUCHI, a member of the Shogun's personal army in the Ashikaga Shogunate administrative system, and to Chikeiin, the daughter of Nobukata KIYOHARA, a famous scholar of Confucianism and Kokugaku (national learning). He was adopted as the heir of his uncle Mototsune HOSOKAWA, a Shugo of Izumi Province. His legitimate wife, Jako, was the daughter of the lord of Kumagawa-jo Castle in Wakasa Province, Mitsukane NUMATA. Tadaoki HOSOKAWA was his son and heir.

At first he was a vassal of the 13th shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, and after his death he strove to make Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA the 15th shogun, but later he followed Nobunaga ODA and was made daimyo of a fief of 110,000 koku of rice in Miyazu, in Tango Province. After that, he was one of the major vassals under both Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, later becoming the ancestor of the major Hosokawa clan of the early modern period.

He was a man of great learning who was given the transmission of the secret traditions of the Kokinshu, known as Kokin Denju, from Saneki SANJONISHI, the Nijo school successor and instructor who followed Teika FUJIWARA's poetic style, and he also brought to a peak the poetic criticism of the early modern period. Later, he passed the secret knowledge on to its legitimate successors, Kinkuni SANJONISHI (the son of Saneki SANJONISHI) and his son Saneeda SANJONISHI.

Years as a Vassal of the Ashikaga Shogunate

He was born on April 22, 1534, in what is today Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, as the second son of Harukazu MITSUBUCHI. In 1540, when he was 7 years old, he was adopted as the heir of his father's brother Mototsune HOSOKAWA, the Shugo of Izumi Province. In 1546, the 13th shogun Yoshifuji ASHIKAGA (the future Yoshiteru) gave one of the kanji in his name to him and he renamed himself as Fujitaka. In 1552, he was promoted to Junior 5th Rank, Lower Grade, and Hyobu Dayu, and later he became the head of the Hosokawa family due to the death of his stepfather Mototsune in 1554.

At first he was in the service of the shogun Yoshiteru, and when Yoshiteru was assassinated by three major vassals of the Miyoshi clan and Hisahide MATSUNAGA,he rescued from confinement Yoshiteru's brother Kakukei ICHIJOIN (later Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA after his return to secular life), and seeking help from Yoshikata ROKKAKU in Omi Province, Yoshizumi TAKEDA in Wakasa Province, Yoshikage ASAKURA in Echizen Province and others, he exerted himself to have Yoshiaki appointed as the next shogun. Afterwards, through Mitsuhide AKECHI, who had earlier served the Asakura clan, he would ask for support from Nobunaga ODA, the lord of Owari Province.

Years Following Nobunaga ODA

In 1568, following when Nobunaga ODA entered Kyoto in support of Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, Fujitaka took back Shoryuji Castle in Yamashiro Province from Tomomichi IWANARI, one of the three major vassals of the Miyoshi clan, and fought various other battles in Yamato and Settsu Provinces.

As the conflict between Yoshiaki and Nobunaga began to surface, he worked hard to intercede with both of them, but in March 1573, after his admonitions to Yoshiaki against taking arms fell on deaf ears, he welcomed the entry of Nobunaga's army into Kyoto and signaled his allegiance to him. After Yoshiaki's ejection from Kyoto, he rendered homage and service to Nobunaga and received the whole area of Nagaoka, west of Katsura-gawa River in Yamashiro (the present Nagaokakyo City and Muko City). In August, he and Katsumasa IKEDA dealt Tomomichi IWANARI a crushing defeat at the Battle of Yodo Castle in Yamashiro, and went on to fight a number of battles in the Kinai area as a general under Nobunaga.

In the Ishiyama Hongan-ji War and the Attack on the Saika-shu Group of Kii Province, among other campaigns, he did exemplary service as an aide to Mitsuhide AKECHI, the commander-in-chief of the army responsible for the Sanin Area. In 1577, he and Mitsuhide rendered distinguished services in the taking of Shigisan-jo Castle, the residence of Hisahide MATSUNAGA, who had raised a standard of revolt against Nobunaga. In 1578, his son and heir Tadaoki married Tama, the daughter of Mitsuhide AKECHI (also known as Gracia HOSOKAWA), on the advice of Nobunaga. In 1580 he attacked Tango alone, failing due to a counterattack from the Isshiki clan, but he finally succeeded with the help of Mitsuhide, and was then given a fief of 110,000 koku in Tango by Nobunaga and made Miyazu Castle his residence there.

After the Incident at Honno-ji Temple

At the incident at Honno-ji Temple in 1582, he declined persistent requests for cooperation from Mitsuhide AKECHI, his longtime colleague and the father of his daughter-in-law, shaved his head, changed his name to Yusai Genshi, handed the headship of the Hosokawa family to his son Tadaoki, and retired.

After this incident he was still promoted to an important position by Hideyoshi HASHIBA, and in 1586 received Nishigaoka, Yamashiro, as a fief to cover traveling expenses to and from Kyoto and living expenses during his stay there, etc. He also joined the Kishu Campaign in 1585 and the Kyushu Campaign in 1587 as a general. He and a bugyo of the Toyotomi family, Mitsunari ISHIDA, carried out a cadastral survey together in Satsuma Province. In 1595, he received a fief of 3,000 koku in Osumi Province (later that fief was changed to Echizen Fuchu).

As a man of culture like SEN no Rikyu, Yusai was one of those who enjoyed Hideyoshi's special favor. Tadaoki (by another name, Sansai) also had a profound knowledge of the tea ceremony, and became one of Rikyu's leading pupils. On the other hand, he also had a good relationship with Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and became closer to him after Hideyoshi's death in 1598.

In June 1600, Tadaoki led his forces to join Ieyasu's Campaign in Aizu against Kagekatsu UESUGI, leaving Yusai with less than 500 men to protect Tango Tanabe Castle. In July, Mitsunari ISHIDA and other vassals under Hideyoshi raised an army against Ieyasu, and surrounded by this army in Osaka, Tadaoki's wife Gracia set their residence on fire and took her own life. Although Tango Tanabe Castle was surrounded by an army of 15000 solders led by Shigekatsu ONOGI and Shigekatsu MAEDA, the resistance of the besieged army led by Yusai was severe, and there were many of Yusai's poetry students among the besiegers who were reluctant to fight, so the battle became a prolonged struggle. One of his students in poetry, Prince Hachijonomiya Toshihito, tried twice to make peace proposals (in July and August), but Yusai declined them and kept his army locked up in the castle. He gave the Kokinshu Shomeijo as a gift to Prince Hachijonomiya and presented the Genjisho and Nijuichidai Wakashu to the Imperial Court by way of a messenger. In the end, due to Prince Hachijonomiya's request to his brother Emperor Goyozei, Michikatsu NAKANOIN, Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU, and Saneki SANJONISHI were sent to Tango Tanabe Castle as Imperial messengers and on September 13th, just two days before the Battle of Sekigahara, a peace was made by Imperial order. Yusai, ending a 2 month siege, handed over his castle and was taken to Tanba Kameyama Castle, the residence of his enemy Shigekatsu MAEDA.

At the Battle of Sekigahara, Tadaoki, his son and heir, fought in the front line against Mitsunari Ishida's army, and got a large fief of 399,000 koku in Kokura in Buzen Province, but Yusai spent the rest of his life in dignified retirement in Yoshida, Kyoto. He died in his residence at Sanjo Kurumaya-cho in Kyoto, on August 20, 1610. He was 77.

Yusai's 6,000 koku of land was divided up after his death, and half of it ended up leaving the Hosokawa family to be inherited by Kyumu NAGAOKA (also known as Tadataka HOSOKAWA), grandson of Yusai and disinherited by his father Tadaoki, to support his retirement in Kyoto.

Place of Burial

His grave is at Tenjuan Temple, a Tacchu temple of Zuiryuzan Taihei Kokoku Nanzen-ji Temple in Nanzenji Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto.
There is also a mausoleum to him where the Taisho-ji Temple once stood in the Tatsuta Nature Park in Kurokami, Kumamoto City, where his descendants after Tadatoshi HOSOKAWA, Tadaoki's son, ruled as feudal lords of the 540,000-koku Kumamoto fief in Higo Province

His Character and Anecdotes

It is said that he was an illegitimate son of the 12th shogun Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA. If that were true, it would make him an illegitimate brother of Yoshiteru and Yoshiaki Ashikaga.

There is a story that while he was living a roaming life with Yoshiaki after the Eiroku Incident, they were so desperately poor that they found it hard even to get lantern oil, and were forced to pilfer oil from Shinto shrines.

When he followed Nobunaga ODA as his vassal, he received Nagaoka in Yamashiro, and for a time he called himself Nagaoka. He reverted to his former family name of Hosokawa after the Battle of Sekigahara, and from that time, the surname Nagaoka was given to some family members and chief vassals as another important name for the Hosokawa clan.

Yusai was one of the greatest men of culture of his time, who mastered many martial and cultural arts such as swordsmanship, waka poetry, and the tea ceremony. He showed a natural aptitude for the martial arts, for example, learning swordsmanship from Bokuden TSUKAHARA, getting a license of Japanese archery from Sadahiro HAHAKABE/Sadahiro HOKABE and from the Heki-ryu of the Sekka-ha school, and being given the transmission of Kyuba Kojitsu rule (of the Takeda School of Horseback Archery) from Nobutoyo TAKEDA, a lord of the Wakasa Takeda clan. He also possessed amazing strength, and there is a story that he once grabbed and threw down a bull rushing down a road in Kyoto.

He received the transmission of the Kokin Denju from Saneki SANJONISHI, and temporarily succeeded the orthodox Nijo-school style until he passed it back to Kinkuni SANJONISHI. He was the only successor of the Kokin Denju at that time, and it is said that Emperor Goyozei was afraid the Kokin Denju might be lost at the Battle of Sekigahara, and that this was why he helped Yusai with the Imperial order.

His pupils included Emperor Goyozei's brother Prince Hachijonomiya Toshihito, and court nobles like Michikatsu NAKANOIN and Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU; Teitoku MATSUNAGA and Choshoshi KINOSHITA also received instruction from Yusai. Yoshihisa SHIMAZU, who had known Yusai since the days of his service to Yoshiaki, was one of those who tried to receive the Kokin Denju from Yusai in person.

In the Taisho Period, the Kokin Denju-no-ma House where Prince Hachijonomiya received the Kokin Denju from Yusai was moved to the Suizenji Jojuen Garden built by Tadatoshi Hosokawa, a grandson of Yusai who became lord of Kumamoto domain.

He was said to love his wife very much, and kept no concubines. Mitsuhide AKECHI, a close friend of his, also had only one wife and no concubines.

Major Works

Eika Taigaisho
Kokin Wakashu Kikigaki
Hyakunin Isshu Sho
Kyushu Michi-no-ki
Togoku Jindo-no-ki


Masayoshi SATO, Yusai Genshi. Bungeishunju.

[Original Japanese]