Chōsokabe Motochika

Chōsokabe Motochika

Chōsokabe Motochika (長宗我部 元親; 1538 - July 11, 1599) was a Japanese daimyō of the Sengoku period.

Chōsokabe Motochika Biography

Early years

Motochika was born in Okō Castle of the Nagaoka district of Tosa province, the eldest son of Chōsokabe Kunichika. Motochika was a quiet young man, and his father was said to be concerned about the boy's gentle nature (he was apparently nicknamed Himewako, translated "Little Princess," by his father's vassals);

however, Kunichika's worries evaporated when Motochika proved to be a skilled and brave warrior during his first battle against the Motoyama clan in 1560, at the Battle of Tonomoto.

By the time Motochika came of age, his father had already begun to distance himself from the Ichijō clan. After defeating the Motoyama at Tonomoto and forming alliances with local families, Motochika was able to build his power base on the Kōchi Plain.

While being careful to remain ostensibly loyal to the Ichijō, Motochika's power grew until he was strong enough to march on the Aki clan, rivals of the Chōsokabe in the eastern part of the province:

7000 men strong he defeated them in 1569 during the Battle of Yanagare. At this point Motochika could concentrate on the Ichijō. During the rule of the Hata district of Tosa, Ichijō Kanesada was a very unpopular leader and had already suffered the defection of a number of important supporters.

Seizing the opportunity, Motochika wasted no time in marching on the Ichijō headquarters in Nakamura, and in 1573 Kanesada fled to Bungo.

The Ōtomo clan later provided Kanesada with a fleet, who returned leading an expedition that the Chōsokabe defeated at the Battle of Shimantogawa. At this point Kanesada submitted to the Chōsokabe, who probably had him assassinated in 1585.

Motochika became at this point the sole ruler of Tosa. One of the problems that the Chōsokabe had to face was the territory they owned. It was poor and it was difficult for Motochika to reward his generals. This problem, combined with his own ambitions, pushed him to look to neighboring provinces.

The unification of Shikoku

After the conquest of Tosa, Motochika turned north and prepared for an invasion of Iyo province. The ruler of that province was Kōno Michinao, a daimyō who had been driven from his domain by the Utsunomiya clan, returning only with the help of the powerful Mōri clan.

It was unlikely that the Kōno could count on that kind of help again, as the Mōri were involved in a war with Oda Nobunaga. But the campaign in the Iyo province was not easy.

In 1579 a Chōsokabe army of 7000 men, led by Hisatake Chikanobu, attacked the strongest fortress in southern Iyo, Okamoto Castle, held by Doi Kiyoyoshi. During the ensuing siege of Okamoto Castle, Chikanobu was shot and killed by an arquebus and his army defeated.

The following year Motochika returned with about 30,000 men to Iyo and forced Michinao to flee to Bungo province.

With the Mōri and Ōtomo engaged on other fronts, Motochika was free to continue his conquest of the island, and in 1582 he intensified his raids on Awa province and defeated the Sogo clan. In 1583 Motochika then had control of the entire island.

Around 1579 Motochika entered into communication with Nobunaga, whom he imagined an ally. For his part, Nobunaga seems to have praised Motochika, although in private he referred to him as a bat on a birdless island and had planned to conquer Shikoku in the future, planning to give it to his son Nobutaka.

This was prevented by Nobunaga's death in 1582. Involved in the subsequent dispute between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu the following year, he promised the latter his support, although he made no direct moves to that end. Hideyoshi, to be sure, sent Sengoku Hidehisa to block any interference from Motochika.

The Komaki campaign between Hideyoshi and Ieyasu ended in a peace treaty, and in May 1584 Hideyoshi ordered a full-scale invasion of Shikoku, initiated by 30,000 troops from the Môri clan and another 60,000 under Hashiba Hidenaga.

Evidently the late Nobunaga's assessment of the Chōsokabe was quite accurate, as the invaders found a small army with available equipment in poor condition. After desultory resistance, Motochika was forced to negotiate. Hideyoshi's terms were generous, however, and Motochika was able to retain control of the Tosa province.


In 1587 Motochika was called up for Hideyoshi's invasion of Kyūshū, joining an advance force along with, ironically, Sengoku Hidehisa. Their mission was to raise the siege of the Ōtomo clan of Bungo, whose request for assistance had provided Hideyoshi with the pretext for the invasion.

Despite Motochika's wise counsel, Generals Ōtomo and Sengoku ignored their orders to adopt a defensive posture and attacked the forces of the Shimazu clan at the Battle of Hetsugigawa.

The allied troops were soundly defeated, and in the process, Motochika suffered the death of his beloved son and heir, Nobuchika. Hideyoshi praised Motochika's sober thinking and offered him Ōsumi as compensation for his loss, which Motochika respectfully declined.

In 1590 Motochika led a naval contingent in support of the siege of Odawara, and in 1592 he commanded 3,000 soldiers in the invasion of Korea, again being praised for his leadership. Upon his return from Korea he retired to Fushimi and became a monk. He died on July 11, 1599.

Chōsokabe Motochika Leadership

In addition to his leadership, Motochika is also remembered for his 100-article Code of Chōsokabe and his tenacity in establishing an economically strong castle town, moving during his lifetime from Oko to Otazaka and then to Urado.

However, the problems caused by his appointment of Morichika as heir caused the future undoing of the clan. After Nobuchika's death in battle, Hideyoshi suggested that Motochika's second son, Chikakazu, be appointed heir.

Motochika resigned and imposed Morichika, his fourth son, as his heir. Deeply embittered Chikakazu retired from public life and died of illness in 1587. In fact, Motochika was concerned that Chikakazu was physically unable to assume leadership of the family.

Motochika's third son, Chikatada also openly complained about the choice. A samurai from Morichika, Hisatake Chikanao, moved against him and in 1599 Chikatada was confined to a temple guard.

The following year Chikatada was accused of colluding with the Tokugawa and put to death. This gave Tokugawa Ieyasu in the future another pretext to strip the Chōsokabe of their rule.

The Chōsokabe were served by the Kosokabe, Kira (both led in Motochika's time by his brothers), Yoshida, Kumu, Kagawa (from whom Motochika adopted a son, Chikakazu), Yumioka and other families.

Chōsokabe Motochika Family

  • Grandfather: Chōsokabe Kanetsugu (died 1508)
  • Father: Chōsokabe Kunichika (1504-1560)
  • Wife: Nana (also called Lady Motochika)
  • Chōsokabe Nobuchika (1565-1587)
  • Chōsokabe Chikakazu (1567?-1587)
  • Chōsokabe Chikatada (1572-1600)
  • Chōsokabe Morichika (1575-1615)
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