Bizen no Kuni Ju Osafune


Bizen (備前国 -no kuni) was a province of Japan on the Inland Sea side of Honshu, in what is today the southeastern part of Okayama Prefecture. Bizen borders Mimasaka, Harima, and Bitchu provinces. Osafune (長船町, Osafune-cho) was a town located in Oku District, Okayama, Japan. From an early time Bizen was one of Japan's main centers for sword smithing. The most famous of all schools of sword making is the Bizen School. The founder of this ha and its greatest smith was Mitsutada. Swords produced by Mitsutada and his succeeding students (including his son, Nagamitsu), were prized in olden times and worn by famous generals and samurai.
In the 3rd month of the 6th year of the Wado áera (713), the land of Bizen-no kuni áwas administratively separated from Mimasaka province (
美作国). In that same year, Empress Gemmei's Daijo-kan continued to organize other cadastral (a map showing the boundaries and ownership of land parcels) changes in the provincial map of the Nara period.


Akamatsu Claná In the Muromachi period, Bizen was ruled by the Akamatsu clan from Mimasaka. The Akamatsu clan (赤松氏, Akamatsu-shi) was a family of direct descent from Minamoto no Morifusa, at which they obtained a great level of power by the beginning of the Sengoku period of Feudal Japan. To justify such a claim with evidence, a certain man by the name of Akamatsu Morifusa was able to secure his respective clan power by means of defecting to the side of Ashikaga during Emperor Go-Daigo's Kemmu Restoration -- initially lasting from 1333 - 1336. As this attempt for restoration ended in 1336, the Ashikaga willingly awarded the Akamatsu governorship over Harima province, which they controlled for many years following such a successful movement. Not defecting from the expectations of the Ashikaga Shogunate throughout their control over Harima, and displaying clear traits of both loyalty and trust, the Akamatsu were generously rewarded by the succeeding Ashikaga Yoshimitsu the additional governorship over Bizen, Mimasaka, and one of four head retainer families that provided their members to the Bakufu's Board of Retainers.

As the Akamatsu ambitiously distributed some of their clansmen--such as Akamatsu Mitsusuke--to obtain control over neighboring clans such as the Yamana, Mitsusuke was seen by two consecutive shoguns as a dangerous individual, and they thus made their own respective attempts to have the former ousted from his headship over the Yamana with the favor of replacing him with a person of their liking and trust. Mitsusuke, who at first became a monk, to escape the first attempt, retaliated against the second -- even going to the extent of killing the Shogun in what Mitsusuke called the former's "victory celebration" against the Yuki family. Considering that the Yamana had obtained a new head by the time at which Mitsusuke temporarily retreated from secular life, this respective clan was able to collaborate together with the Hosokawa and Hatakeyama, effectively striking at the power of the Akamatsu with great force. The initial attack being unable to entirely wipe out the Akamatsu, the Akamatsu's power had been none the less depleted dramatically by the latter Sengoku Period, and they thus had little more opportunity then to become a retainer family under the Toyotomi, at which they followed by either being wiped away by the victorious Tokugawa in 1600, or by wisely collaborating with the former, resulting in their survival up until the Edo Period.

Urakami Clan (Descended from Ki no Kosami)By the Sengoku period the Urakami clan had become dominant and settled in Okayama city, in Bizen Province during the 16th century. One major turn of events that took place for the Urakami was through the death of Urakami Norimune following the year of 1502. This led to Matsuda Motokatsu to take the chance to lead a full scale assault on the domain of the Urakami. One major retainer of the Urakami was Ukita Yoshiie, in which he led 300 troops in the attack against the Matsuda clan (the Urakami were allied with the Ukita). The Urakami managed a somewhat balanced course throughout the Sengoku Period following this event.

Urakami Norimune á
During the Onin civil war (1468), he sided with Yamana Sozen and was defeated by the Hosokawa. He then went to Kyoto where Akamatsu Masanori, head of the Samurai-dokoro, made him Shoshidai.

Urakami Muramune (Grandson of Norimune)
Bizen warlord
d.1524áá Muramune was a son of Urakami Munesuke. He was originally a vassal of the Akamatsu but rebelled and claimed much of
Bizen Province for himself. He supported Hosokawa Takakuni in his war with Hosokawa Harumoto. He took Takamatsu Castle in 1523 and in 1524 destroyed Akamatsu Masamura. However, that same year he was killed in battle at Imamiya (Settsu).
Sons: Munekage, Masamune (Mimasaka no kami; d.1564?)

Urakami Munekage (Son of Muramune)
Bizen warlord
Munekage was the son of Urakami Muramune. He nominally held much of
Bizen Province and ruled from Tenjinyama. A rival of the Akamatsu to the west and the Amako to the north, he was compelled to rely on Ukita Naoie to maintain order in Bizen. Naoie thus grew in strength and began to find pretexts to eliminate Munekage's other retainers. Munekage was ultimately forced to flee his lands to Sanuki, at which time Ukita assumed control of Bizen. The Urakami disappears from history.


Ukita Clanáá The Urakami were supplanted by the Ukita clan, and Ukita Hideie was one of the regents Toyotomi Hideyoshi appointed for his son. The Ukita of Bizen Province were descended from Kojima Takanori, who was himself descended from the venerable Miyake family of Bizen Province. The 16th Century opened with the Ukita led by Ukita Yoshiie and vassals of the Urakami family. Yoshiie's grandson Naoie would come to usurp the Urakami and rule all of Bizen. Under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Ukita became very powerful in western Honshu but lost their domain following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.

Kojima Takanori
Son of Norinaga
When Go-Daigo had to flee before the army of the Hojo (1331), Takanori levied troops and fought for the cause of the southern dynasty. He served afterwards under the orders of Nitta Yoshisada and fought in Harima against Akamatsu Norimura. He is often spoken of by the name of Bingo Saburo. The best known incident of his life is that of his writing on a tree a Chinese poem to console and encourage Go-Daigo on his way to exile.

Ukita Muneie

Ukita Hisaie (Son of Muneie)

Ukita Yoshiie (Son of Hisaie)
Bizen warlord
Izumi no kami, Heizaemon no
Yoshiie was vassal of Urakami Muramune, daimyo of Mimasaka. In 1502 Urakami Norimune died of illness and Matsuda Motokatsu attempted to take advantage of his passing through attacks on the Urakami domain. That winter Yoshiie was part of an Urakami army that crossed the
Yoshii River and inflicted a reverse on the Matsuda, returning again the following year. The Urakami and Ukita entered Bizen Province's Uemichi District while the Matsuda advanced to the Ono District and established themselves at Kasaiyama. The two sides confronted one another across a dry river bed (Asahi River). Urakami Muramune began the fighting by sending his troops across the river bed, compelling Matsuda to commit the bulk of his forces from Kasaiyama. Seeing that the Urakami were now outnumbered, Yoshiie led his 300 mounted troops out in support and a general melee ensued. The result was a victory for the Urakami and Ukita, with the Matsuda retreating from the field. He continued to clash with the Matsuda until he retired in 1524 in favor of his son Okiie.
Sons: Shir˘ (d.1523), Okiie

Ukita Okiie
Urakami retainer
Okiie was the eldest son of Ukita Yoshiie and succeeded his father in 1524. Lord of Toishi Castle in
Bizen Province, he served the Urakami family. According to the Bizen Gunki, Okiie was not a highly competent leader and accomplished little during his tenure as daimy˘.
Sons: Naoie, Haruie (Kwatchi no kami), Tadaie

Ukita Naoie
Lord of Bizen
Izumi no kami
Naoie was the son of Ukita Okiie. He began his career in 1543 when, around the age of 14, he became a vassal of Urakami Munekage. Naoie's father had displeased Munekage and was executed. Son Naoie was spared and in 1545 received a small fort with a 30-man garrison. The Ukita began an unlikely but inexorable climb to local power. Naoie expanded his lands through both conquest and alliance, all the while careful to maintain a cover of loyalty to the Urakami. By 1568 Naoie had destroyed the Matsuda and now turned on the Urakami. Naoie was the most powerful of the Urakami's vassals, many of whom were becoming openly rebellious or simply apathetic. In 1573 Naoie ordered Okayama rebuilt and made into his capital, from which he plotted the final downfall of the Urakami. When an internal dispute broke out at Tenjinyama, the Ukita attacked and removed the Urakami from power, bringing all of Bizen under his banner. Naoie went on to struggle with the Akamatsu of Harima and the Miyoshi of Shikoku while expanding his authority into Mimasaka and Bitchu. He entered into an alliance with M˘ri Terumoto and as a result was able to add half of Bitchű to his holdings. By this point he was the most powerful lord in Bizen and had openly defied the Urakami in 1575, fighting a string of engagements with their retainers that year. By 1577 he was powerful enough to bring down the seat of the Urakami's power - Tenjinyama. Soon after, he clashed with Oda forces in Harima (1579) before signing a treaty with Hashiba (Toyotomi) Hideyoshi. Naoie sent his son Hideie as a hostage to Hideyoshi and in return was confirmed as lord of Bizen, as well as a fair amount of Mimasaka.
Naoieĺs senior retainers included the following men: Ukita Tadaie (Naoieĺs brother), Hanabusa Masayuki (Sukebei), Osafune Kii no Kami Sadachika, Togawa Higo no Kami Hideyasu, and Oka Echizen no Kami Toshikatsu.
Son: Hideie

Ukita Haruie (Son of Okiie)

Ukita Tadaie (Son of Okiie)
(Sakazaki Tadaie)
Ukita retainer
Dewa no kami
Tadaie was a younger brother of Ukita Naoie and assisted his elder brother in all his campaigns. He was active in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's campaign in
Bitchű Province (1582) and assisted in the taking of Kanmuriyama and Takamatsu Castles.
Son: Narimasa (d.1616)

Ukita Hideie
Lord of Bizen
Chűnagon, Sangi
Hideie was a son of Ukita Naoie and was largely raised by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as something of a protegÚ. His position as lord of the Ukita had earlier been confirmed by Oda Nobunaga. He received the title of Chűnagon in 1594 and acted as a chief field commander in the 2nd Korean Campaign. He served as one of the five regents (Go-tairo) following Hideyoshi's death in 1598 and from
Okayama Castle ruled over Bizen, Mimasaka, and part of Bitchű Provinces (yielding an income of around 575,000 koku). He sided with Ishida Mitsunari in 1600 and commanded 17,000 troops at the Battle of Sekigahara (the largest loyal and active western contingent present). The Ukita troops fought very well in the battle but were overwhelmed when attacked by the turncoat Kobayakawa Hideaki. Following the general defeat of Mitsunari's army, Hideie went into hiding, seeking refuge with the Shimazu. In 1603 he was revealed by Shimazu Iehisa and Tokugawa Ieyasu at first ordered his execution. That sentence was reduced to exile to the island of Hachijojima (Izu). Hideie died at the age of 90 on Hachij˘ Island - possibly the last of the Toyotomi-era daimy˘ to die.
Son: Hidetaka.


áAfter Kobayakawa Hideaki helped Tokugawa Ieyasu to win the Battle of Sekigahara over Ukita and others, he was granted Ukita's domains in Bizen and Mimasaka.

Bizen passed through a variety of hands during the Edo period before being incorporated into the modern prefecture system.


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