Glossary: Otate no Ran

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Otate no Ran (御館の乱)

Lit.: "War of the Castle". The Otate no Ran was the name given to the intra-clan war fought between Uesugi Kagekatsu and Uesugi Kagetora, both adopted sons of Uesugi Kenshin, for succession to the position of head of the Uesugi Clan after Kenshin died. The war bifurcated the Uesugi commanders and in the end significantly weakened Uesugi's power. The "Otate", or "Castle/Mansion" refers to the residence Uesugi Kenshin built for the Kantou Kanrei, Uesugi Norimasa, near Kasugayama Castle. He used it as a government office after Norimasa passed on the title to him and the lands around Kasugayama Castle were developed.

On March 9th in the 6th year of Tenshou (April 15th, 1578), Uesugi Kenshin collapsed at Kasugayama Castle's privy from an "unforeseen nervous weakness" (some speculate poison or assassination) and died on the 13th (April 19th, 1578) without ever regaining consciousness.

Traditionally, it is held that he died without ever deciding on an heir. Some point to evidence such as Uesugi Kagetora accompanying him on shrine visits at the New Year and not being forced to perform military service (though proof of the latter is sketchy), to support theories that Kenshin favored Kagetora. It is evident that Kagetora, who was adopted from the mighty Houjou Clan, ruler of the Kantou, had unshakeable standing within the Uesugi Clan even after the Echigo-Sagami Alliance fell apart in 1571.

On the other hand, Kenshin had conferred the highest military powers within the Uesugi family on Kagekatsu, and the Uesugi retainers used similar titles for Kenshin and Kagekatsu.

Pointing to some of the above reasons, many historians argue that Kenshin had intended to pass the title of Kantou Kanrei and position of clan head of the Sannai-Uesugi Clan to Kagetora while making Kagekatsu the master of Echigo and the head of the Echigo-Uesugi Clan. There is no way of telling based on current evidence which would have been the sole heir.

In any case, a dispute over the rightful heir to Kenshin arose between Kagekatsu and Kagetora immediately. Kagekatsu moved first. On the day following Kenshin's death, Kakizaki Haruie, viewed as being in the Kagetora faction, was assassinated (there is another theory that Haruie was killed before the Otate no Ran, when his father was accused of treason). Also, according to one primary historical record, Kagekatsu moved quickly to occupy the inner citadel, treasury, and armory of Kasugayama Castle, though the exact date is unknown. Kagekatsu proclaimed himself the rightful heir in a letter dated March 24th (April 30th) and began attacking Kagetora, barricaded in the Third Wing.

Kagekatsu and Kagetora's forces fought in what is now Jouetsu City on May 5th (June 10th, 1578), and until Kagetora evacuated in the middle of the month, hostilities continued within Kasugayama Castle. During that time, both Kagekatsu and Kagetora tried to win the various Echigo generals to their side.

Commanders committed to Kagekatsu:
- Amakasu Kagemochi: Oumi no Kami
- Higuchi Kanetoyo, Naoe Kanetsugu, Ookuni Saneyori
- Honjou Shigenaga: Echizen no Kami
- Irobe Nagazane: Son of Irobe Katsunaga, master of Hirabayashi Castle
- Joujou Masashige: one of Kenshin's adopted sons, Kagekatsu's brother-in-law, head of the Joujou-Uesugi family
- Kakizaki Noriie: Noto no Kami
- Kanou Hideharu
- Kawada Nagachika: Buzen no Kami
- Murakami Kunikiyo: head of the Yamaura-Uesugi family
- Naoe Nobutsuna: Yamato no Kami, master of Yoita Castle
- Ooishi Tsunamoto: Harima no Kami
- Saitou Tomonobu: Shimotsuke no Kami, master of Akada Castle
- Shibata Nagaatsu, Shibata Shigeie, Ijimino Nobumune
- Suda Mitsuchika
- Yamayoshi Kagenaga: head of the Yamayoshi Clan, master of Koba Castle
- Yasuda Akimoto: head of the Echigo-Yasuda Clan, master of Iiyama Castle
- Yasuda Nagahide: master of Yasuda Castle
- Yoshie Munenobu, Yoshie Kagesuke, Nakajou Kageyasu

Commanders committed to Kagetora:
- Ashina Moritaka: head of the Ashina Clan
- Ayukawa Morinaga: master of Oobasawa Castle
- Daihouji Yoshiuji: head of the Dewa Daihouji Clan
- Horie Munechika (who later betrayed him): Suruga no Kami, master of Samegao Castle
- Honjou Hidetsuna: master of Numata Castle
- Honjou Saneyori
- Houjou Ujimasa, Houjou Ujiteru, Houjou Ujikuni: Kagetora's elder brothers, head and generals of the Houjou Clan
- Kaji Hidetsuna: nephew of Uesugi Kenshin, master of Kaji Castle
- Kanamari Chikatsuna: master of Sanjou Castle
- Kawada Shigechika: Houki no Kami
- Kitajou Takahiro, Kitajou Kagehiro
- Kurokawa Kiyozane: master of Kurokawa Castle
- Nagao Kagenao
- Sanbonji Sadanaga: head of the Sanbonji-Uesugi Clan, master of Fudouzan Castle, Iyo no Kami
- Shimodaira Shurinosuke: master of Jouhukuji Castle
- Takeda Katsuyori (who was later bribed by Kagekatsu and entered into an alliance with him): head of the Takeda Clan
- Uesugi Norimasa: Kenshin's adopted father, former Kantou Kanrei
- Uesugi Kagenobu: originally Nagao, head of the Koshin-Nagao family
- Uesugi Norishige: son of Uesugi Norimasa

On May 13th (June 18th), with the lines between the commanders drawn, Kagetora finally retreated from the Third Wing to the Otate and requested aid from his brother Houjou Ujimasa while ordering his troops to set fire to the lands around Kasugayama Castle. He attacked Kasugayama Castle with around 6000 troops on May 17th (June 22nd), but was repelled.

He regrouped and attacked again on the 22nd (June 27th) with the same result. Around this time, hostilities between Kagekatsu and Kagetora's forces also began within the broader region. In Kouzuke, Kitajou Takahiro and Kitajou Kagehiro (father and son) sent forth troops with their aim on Kunohe Castle. Kagekatsu had no troops to spare at this point, and Kagetora's side easily took several castles in Miyano and Ogawa. Kagetora's side had completed organization for drawing Houjou troops into Echigo at this point, but since the distance was great, the Houjou requested assistance from their ally Takeda Katsuyori. Katsuyori sent an advance guard of 20,000 under the command of Takeda Nobutoyo, which arrived at the Echigo-Shinshuu border on May 29th (July 4th).

Aside from the Houjou and Takeda, Kagetora also received assistance from Ashina Moritaka. However, Moritaka met dogged resistance from Kagekatsu's forces and was stopped in his tracks. Still, Kagetora held the advantage at this point. The only problem: Ujimasa had little interest in moving to the offensive.

Kagekatsu, at a disadvantage now that he was being attacked from three directions, took a big gamble. He sent an advance guard to Katsuyori's camp offering a large amount of money and Kouzuke's rice fields in exchange for a Kagekatsu-Takeda alliance. How Kagekatsu knew that Katsuyori was painfully short on funds after his ignominious defeat at the Battle of Nagashino to Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu is unknown. Katsuyori arrived at Kaidu Castle and conferred with Nobutoyo. He entered into an alliance with Kagekatsu on June 12th (July 16th).

Now that Kagekatsu's side had successfully bought Takeda, they no longer needed to watch their backs. On the day the alliance was made Kagekatsu took Noumine Castle, allowing him to communicate with Sakato Castle from Kasugayama Castle. On the following day, Kagetora's side lost Uesugi Kagenobu, and their situation worsened day by day. Kagekatsu pressed towards various castles held by Kagetora's forces in Ecchuu. Katsuyori continued peace negotiations with Kagekatsu at full tilt; they were concluded on June 29th (August 2nd), and he withdrew his troops on August 28th (September 29th).

In the following month, Ujimasa finally began moving in earnest. Houjou Ujiteru and Houjou Ujikuni set out for Echigo by Ujimasa's command. They crossed Mikuni Pass and took Kabasawa Castle, within striking distance of Sakato Castle. However, the castle was well-guarded by Kagekatsu's forces, and with the onset of winter the Houjou forces could not advance to Kasugayama.

Finally, with Ujikuni and Takahiro left behind to guard Kabasawa Castle and Kagehiro acting as rear guard, they retreated. The Takeda forces, withdrawing from the lands around Kasugayama Castle, loitered between Kasugayama/Otate and Sakato Castle, in the end acting as a deterrent against Kagetora and Houjou forces. At the end of the year (January in the Gregorian calendar) Kagekatsu married Katsuyori's younger sister.

Having skillfully removed external threats and gathered support within the clan, Kagekatsu decided that the internal war would be resolved before the snow thawed. On the other hand, Kagetora was losing both supporters and castles. On February 2nd (February 27, 1579) Kagekatsu ordered a general offensive against Kagetora at Otate. Kagehiro was killed.

Kagekatsu recaptured Kabasawa Castle from the Houjou. Kagetora escaped from Otate and, with no hope of relief from the Houjou, who were blocked off by snow, sent his eldest son along with Kenshin's adopted father Uesugi Norimasa to negotiate for peace. On the way to Kagekatsu's camp, they were surrounded by Kagekatsu's troops and killed (there are accounts that the order actually came from Kasugayama Castle). On his flight from Otate towards the Kantou, Kagetora stopped at Samegao Castle. There he was betrayed by its master, Horie Munechika, and committed suicide along with his family on March 24th (April 19th, 1579).

Though Kagekatsu won the internal war, he would continue to face resistance from Honjou Hidetsuna, Kanamari Chikatsuna and others, and would not have total control of the clan until a year later.

The Otate no Ran would become one of the underlying reasons for the destruction of the Takeda Clan and the drastic decline of the Uesugi Clan's power.

<small>Note: Japanese dates given in this entry are based on the lunar calendar; Gregorian Calendar dates in () were calculated using <a href="">NengoCalc</a>.</small>