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Kuroda Kanbei


Kuroda Yoshitaka (黒田 孝高; December 22, 1546 - April 19, 1604) was a Japanese daimyō of the Sengoku period belonging to the Kuroda clan.

Also known as Kuroda Kanbei (黒田 官兵衛), he is remembered as a man of great ambition, and was among Toyotomi Hideyoshi's chief strategists and advisors.

Kuroda became a Christian when he was 38 years old and received Simeon Josui as his baptismal name. His witty, courageous, and loyal spirit was highly respected by his samurai.

Kuroda Kanbei Early Years

Kuroda Yoshitaka was born in Himeji on December 22, 1546, the son of Kuroda Mototaka. The Kuroda clan is thought to have originated in the province of Ōmi. Yoshitaka's grandfather, Shigetaka, brought his family from Himeji and took up residence at Gochaku Castle (御着城), east of Himeji Castle.

Shigetaka was a senior servant of Kodera Masamoto, lord of Himeji, and was so highly praised that Shigetaka's son Mototaka was allowed to marry Masamoto's adopted daughter and use the surname Kodera. When his father Mototaka died, Yoshitaka became the head of the Kuroda family at the age of 21.

Kuroda Kanbei Military career

Yoshitaka succeeded his father in 1567, the same year he participated in the siege of Inabayama, when Oda Nobunaga defeated the Saitō clan of Mino province.

A few years later, together with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he led the vanguard of the Oda clan during the invasion of the Chūgoku region and swore allegiance to the Oda. Yoshitaka, along with the weak Takenaka Hanbei, served as Hideyoshi's strategist and assistant during the campaign against the Mōri clan.

Kuroda Kanbei Captivity

In 1577, the lord of Arioka/Itami Castle and vassal of Oda Nobunaga, Araki Murashige, allied himself with the Mōri and revolted against the Oda clan in Settsu province. Another ally, Kodera Masamoto, also plotted against the Oda secretly with the Araki.

At that point Yoshitaka went to Arioka Castle to intercede with the Araki not to become a deserter against the Oda, it was 1578, but he was taken prisoner. However, the Araki revolt ended with the siege of Itami (1579) and Yoshitaka's release.

However, the long imprisonment, with little room to sleep and sit, weakened Yoshitaka a lot that created a problem in his leg and lost the sight in one eye.

Kuroda Kanbei Servant of Hideyoshi

In 1585 he followed Hideyoshi in the Shikoku campaign. Shortly before 1587 Hideyoshi ordered Yoshitaka to lead an invasion into the island of Kyūshū. He was joined by the Christian daimyō Takayama Ukon.

After seeing the thriving Christian population of Kyūshū under Ukon's influence, Yoshitaka was baptized with the name Don Simeon (ドン-シメオン Don Shimeon).

After a visit to the Jesuit-controlled port of Nagasaki Hideyoshi became frightened of the powerful influence exerted by the Jesuits and Christian daimyō and in 1587 made his famous edict expelling foreign missionaries and ordering all Christian samurai under his rule to abandon their faith.

While Ukon resisted the edict and lost his status, Yoshitaka renounced his new religion and became a monk calling himself Josui (如水). Like Naitō Joan (who took his name from the Portuguese Joāo), Yoshitaka is believed to have chosen his new name from the Portuguese "Josué."

His most important act during his brief time as a Christian was his agreement to save a Jesuit mission in Bungo province when the Christian daimyō of that province, Ōtomo Sōrin, was under attack by the Shimazu clan.

Kuroda Kanbei Personality

As described in historical writings and contemporary television, Yoshitaka is thought to have been simultaneously feared by Hideyoshi, despite his attempts to underestimate his intelligence and influence.

Hideyoshi's fear is presumed to be due to his overwhelming debt to Yoshitaka that helped him reign over the entire country as shadow strategist. Given such power Hideyoshi might have feared being overthrown by Yoshitaka.

In addition, Yoshitaka had a strong friendship with Sen no Rikyū, known as the founder of the Japanese "wabi-cha" tea ceremony, who was later put to death by Hideyoshi himself.

Kuroda was a frugal person and sold military equipment and personal items to his vassals. He saved enough money to pay mercenaries in the Battle of Sekigahara because of his frugal mind.

His last words were, "Do not try to curry favor with others and do not covet wealth." During Hideyoshi's reign, he was also involved in the project for the construction of important castles: Himeji Castle, Nagoya Castle, Osaka Castle, and Hiroshima Castle.

Kuroda Kanbei Last years

After Hideyoshi's death in 1598 he moved closer to Tokugawa Ieyasu as his contrasts with Ishida Mitsunari were strong. During the Korean campaign of 1597-98 progress was marginal prompting Hideyoshi to send Ishida Mitsunari to inspect the expeditionary forces.

Ishida had accused Kobayakawa Hideaki of incompetence, an accusation that forced Hideaki to return home and indirectly besmirched Yoshitaka's honor. In addition, Mitsunari had left some derogatory comments about both Yoshitaka and his son Nagamasa.

In 1600, therefore, the Kuroda sided with the Tokugawa; Nagamasa went to serve in Ieyasu's army while Yoshitaka led a force to fight on the island of Kyūshū during the Battle of Ishigakibara.

Yoshitaka was able to unite with Katō Kiyomasa (who held considerable power in Higo) and together they conquered several castles affiliated with the "western" forces in the provinces of Bungo and Chikuzen. They were preparing to invade the lands of the Shimazu clan when the war ended.

After the victory at Sekigahara, Yoshitaka retired, although he later used his political influence to save the life of Ōtomo Yoshimune and helped the Shimazu maintain their rule.

Yoshitaka died on April 19, 1604, and was succeeded by his son Nagamasa. His tomb is located at the Namazuta area in Iizuka, near the original site of Namazuta Castle.

The eight tigers of Kuroda

The eight tigers of Kuroda (黒田八虎, Kuroda Hakko) were eight important generals who served Yoshitaka.

  • Inoue Yukifusa(井上之房, 1554-1634)
  • Kuriyama Toshiyasu (栗山利安, 1550-1631)
  • Kuroda Kazushige (黒田一成, 1571-1656)
  • Kuroda Toshitaka (黒田利高, 1554-1596)
  • Kuroda Toshinori (黒田利則, 1561-1612)
  • Kuroda Naoyuki (黒田直之, 1564-1609)
  • Gotō Mototsugu (後藤基次, 1565-1615)
  • Mori Tomonobu (母里友信, 1556-1615)