Sagara Clan

Sagara Clan

The Sagara Clan (相良氏 Sagara-shi?) was a samurai clan of medieval Japan in Higo Province.

Sagara Clan History

The Sagara family was, during the Edo period, a tozama daimyō clan that ruled the Hitoyoshi han in Higo province for about 700 years. The domain boasted a kokudaka of 22,000 koku.

The Sagara originally descended from the Fujiwara clan and are believed to have taken their name from the manor (shoen) they held at Sagara in the Haibara district of Tōtōmi province during the Kamakura period. In 1198, the year before his death, Minamoto no Yoritomo granted the territory of Hitoyoshi (Kyūshū) to the Sagara family.

Hitoyoshi is surrounded by mountains in all directions, making it fairly easily defensible and allowing the Sagara to survive attacks from neighboring clans during the Sengoku period. Together with the Itō, Hishikari, Shibuya and other smaller clans, it put up a strenuous resistance to the expansionism of the Shimazu clan, which around 1585 had almost conquered the entire Kyūshū.

Sagara Yorifusa initially fought alongside the Western army (against Tokugawa Ieyasu) in the Battle of Sekigahara, but secretly sent an envoy to Ieyasu declaring his loyalty. When Ieyasu's troops besieged Ōgaki Castle in Nagoya, he opened the gates to the attacking forces, thus gaining a pardon after the Tokugawa victory. After taking part during the siege of Osaka in the Tokugawa coalition, he gained an excellent reputation for his clan.

Important members of the Sagara Clan

  • Sagara Nagayori (相良 長頼; 1177 - 1254) left Sagara village in Tōtōmi province in the year 1198 on the instruction of Minamoto Yoritomo, settled in Hitoyoshi and became administrator of the area (地頭, jitō). In the Muromachi period he was able to extend his territory in the direction of the provinces of Satsuma and Hyūga.
  • Sagara Nagatsugu (相良 長続; 1411 - 1468) united all branches of the Sagara family under his leadership.
  • Sagara Tametsugu (相良 為続; 1447 - 1500) son of Nagatsugu.
  • Sagara Nagatsune (相良 長毎; 1469 - 1518) son of Tametsugu.
  • Sagara Yoshishige (相良 義滋; 1489 - 1546) son of Nagatsune, allied with Kikuchi Yoshitake to fight the Ōtomo clan and worked to strengthen Sagara rule by increasing silver production and suppressing rebellious servants.
  • Sagara Haruhiro (相良 晴広; 1513 - 1555) son of Yoshishige, increased trade with China from the port of Yatsushiro. He wrote the "Shikimoku 21 jyou", the 21 rules of the household. Upon his death the Shimazu clan began to expand into the Sagara lands.
  • Sagara Yoshiharu (相良 義陽; 1544 - 1581) also known as Yoshihi or Yoshiaki, was the son of Haruhiro and lord of Hitoyoshi Castle. He tried to stop the expansion of the Shimazu along with the Itō clan but was defeated and had to submit. He died in battle against the Aso clan. With his death the clan was close to extinction.
  • Sagara Yorifusa (相良 頼房; 1574 - 1636) also known as Nagatsune (長毎), was the second son of Yoshiharu, servant of the Shimazu and faced the Ōtomo. When Toyotom Hideyoshi began his conquest of Kyūshū, an important servant of Yorifusa, Fukami Nagatomo, secretly bargained with Hideyoshi who spared the Sagara and left them the lands. At the time of the local lords' rebellion against Hideyoshi in 1587, the Sagara clan remained neutral and avoided punishment. Two years after Hideyoshi's death in 1598 the Sekigahara campaign began. Initially siding with Ishida Mitsunari, the Sagara clan remained to protect the castle of Ōgaki. Yorifusa made secret contact with Tokugawa Ieyasu and, together with the Akizuki and Takahashi clans, killed the commander of the castle and opened the door to the Eastern coalition. After the Tokugawa victory, the Sagara retained their fiefdom. His descendants remained in the Hitoyoshi han until the Meiji Restoration.