Yagyū Munetoshi bigraphy, stories - Samurai

Yagyū Munetoshi : biography

- May 25, 1606

Yagyū Sekishūsai Taira-no-Munetoshi (柳生石舟斎平宗厳 1529 - May 25, 1606) was a samurai in Japan’s Sengoku period famous for mastering the Shinkage-ryū school of combat, and introducing it to the Tokugawa clan.

Career as a general

Munetoshi served Matsunaga with distinction. The battle at To’unomine, for which Munetoshi received a citation of valor, was either just before his encounter with Hidetsuna or shortly after. In 1568, Oda Nobunaga entered Yamato Province with overwhelming force and subjugated the Matsunaga and Tsutsui, ending their skirmishing. It is likely that around this time Ietoshi retired, and passed on the leadership of the Yagyū to Munetoshi. Nobunaga ordered Munetoshi to go to Kyoto and attend to the new Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiaki.

With the passing of a few years, however, Yoshiaki began forming alliances to overthrow Nobunaga, among them the Yagyū’s old lord and present commander Matsunaga Hisahide and the warlord Takeda Shingen. In 1571, attempting to secure control once more over Yamato Province, Matsunaga sent the Yagyū in an attack against Tsutsui Junkei at Tatsuichi, a town in Nara. The attack was a total failure, and in the course of the battle Munetoshi’s oldest son, Toshikatsu, was shot in the hip. This compounded an earlier injury he had received in his first battle, and made him an invalid for life.

Yoshiaki’s coalition made its move against Nobunaga in 1573, but despite early success the death of Takeda Shingen weakened it. Nobunaga drove Yoshiaki out of Kyoto in August, and Matsunaga rejoined Nobunaga to fight the other members of the coalition. It is likely that Munetoshi took part in these battles. However, by 1577 Matsunaga again turned on Nobunaga, who then finally defeated his wayward vassal. It is not clear when, but around this time Munetoshi withdrew from the world of battle, and secluded himself in Yagyū Village.

Early life

Munetoshi was born Yagyū Shinsuke in 1529 in Yagyū Village (present day Yagyū, Nara) in Yamato Province. His father, Ietoshi, was a minor landed lord. When Munetoshi was 12, Ietoshi joined a general named Kisawa Nagamasa in contesting the growing power of the warlord Miyoshi Chōkei. However, Kisawa was killed in battle, and the Yagyū found themselves on the defensive. With over half of Yamato Province under his control, Miyoshi left the rest of the conquest to his lieutenant, Tsutsui Junshō.Yagyū, Toshinaga Shōden Shinkage-ryū. (1957, 1989) Kōdansha, reprinted by Shimazu Shobō, ISBN 4-88218-012-X.

The Tsutsui and the Yagyū had feuded previously, and Junshō wasted no time. In 1544 he attacked the Yagyū at Koyagyū Castle with some 10,000 men. According to the Tamon-in Nikki, a chronicle of the Kōfuku-ji temple, at first the Yagyū were caught by surprise, but Ietoshi rallied his troops for a defensive battle. Munetoshi, a young man of 15, ably led a small troop of his own. The Tsutsui troops surrounded the castle, burned the surrounding houses and villages, took control of the outer castle and cut off the water supply, but the main castle still held out. The Yagyū held out or three days, but they were greatly outnumbered, and had no choice but to capitulate, and submit to the Tsutsui.

The Yagyū served the Tsutsui for eight years. Munetoshi studied the martial and liberal arts, becoming proficient with the spear and sword, as well as studying Confucianism, Zen Buddhism, and Shingon Buddhism. Munetoshi soon gained notice as an able warrior and commander, and as many of orders were sent by Tsutsui to him, a young man in his 20s, as were sent to his father, still an active lord in his 50s.Imamura, Yoshio. Teihon Yamato Yagyū Ichizoku. (1994) Shinjimbutsu Ōraisha. ISBN 4-404-02091-0 One message sent by Junshō’s son Fujikatsu to Ietoshi singles out Munetoshi in particular for praise.

In 1559, the warlord Matsunaga Hisahide decided to attack the Tsutsui and take control of Yamato Province. He sent a message to Munetoshi promising to restore their old lands and position to the Yagyū in exchange for their service. The Tsutsui were overthrown, and the Yagyū grew prominent under Matsunaga. In particular, Matsunaga gave Munetoshi a citation for valor for his performance in a battle at To'unomine. Matsunaga’s attempt to take the mountain was repulsed, and Munetoshi fought in the rearguard as the army retreated. He was wounded, but fighting with a spear he killed several of the enemy. Munetoshi almost did not survive the battle, but a retainer named Matsuda Muneshige sacrificed his life to save Munetoshi’s. Munetoshi would later make mention of his extreme gratitude when he gave a Shinkage-ryū license to Muneshige’s son Genjirō.

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Living octopus

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