Category Archives: Sengoku Period

Mori Motonari: Sengoku Era’s Unsung King

Mori Motonari was an influential leader during the civil unrest in feudal Japan during the Sengoku Period, which lasted from the mid 16th to beginning of the 17th century. But not was he just a fighter, he was quite the lover as well.

Mori, who was a revered leader, went on to marry one of the Kikkawa Clan’s daughters. Mori with his new found wife, they successfully produced three sons; Mori Takamoto, Kikkawa Motoharo, Kobayakawa Takakage, and a daughter. However, he had six other sons and a daughter from consorts presented by the Nomi and Miyoshi clans.

But putting his family affairs aside, Motonari’s mission later in life was to consolidate his clan’s assets in Aki Province. He gathered local allies while there who included Amono, Soshido and Kumagai. The Amako continued trying to bring Motonari and the Mori clan which he led into their control but failed. As the years passed, Motonari managed to put his sons in the top clan leadership positions in Aki. Motoharu was in charge of Kikkawa while his third son Takakage led the Kobayakawa clan. This was meant to consolidate power. Motonari’s eldest son Takamoto who was the heir and father of the future Mori Terumoto stayed with his father. His two other sons became lords of their representative clans with time. In 1550 due to neglect of military matters to retainers, Sue rebelled.

Motonari did not immediately react to this but bid his time by strengthening his position through expanding his presence in Bingo Province and strengthening ties with the Murakami family. In 1554 however, Motonari and Sue battled and though Motonari had less forces, through trickery, he managed to balance forces with Sue who had many men. In the battle of Miyajama, planning by Motonari and his generals led to Sue occupying Miyajama which would give him a good attack line of the Aki coast. Sue at this point did not realize that it was a strategy by Motonari to corner him. Motonari and his sons then sailed and attacked Miyajama through sea. This led to Sue Harakuta committing suicide as he was defeated. Many of Sue’s troops followed suit. in 1557, Ouchi Yoshunaga was also forced to commit suicide making Motonari the most powerful warlord in Western Japan. He used the next years after Ouchi’s death to organize the new territory that he had gained. Motonari died at the age of 74 as one of the greatest warlords of the 16th century.

During his reign the Mori clan had expanded its territory from a few districts in Aki province to rule ten provinces of Chugoku. Motonari in his hey day was known as a master of trickery and wiles as well as a wise warlord whose scheming won his soldiers many battles in war.  He is also well remembered due to the lesson of 3 arrows. In this parable, he gave each of his sons an arrow to break, then bundled the three arrows and told them to break it. This was meant to show the importance of Unity. In addition to being a superb general, Mori Motonari was also a noted poet and a patron of the arts.

With Mori Motonari being a fan favorite among Sengoku buffs nowadays, to keep his spirit alive with you, I’ve found an interesting online site, SENGOKU JAPAN, where you can pick up various memorabilia of the one and only. Give the site a look and let me know what you think.