History of Akizuki clan in the Middle Ages(1203-1600)

In 1203, the Kamakura Shogunate awarded the domain of Akizuki to its first feudal lord, Tanekatsu, who founded the Akizuki clan. For 400 years the clan ruled over successive generations but this came to an end in 1587. At this time the Kyoto warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi was on a mission to unify Japan and was moving through Kyushu to unite or combat his rivals. After a number of successes he pressed on to the Akizuki area.

During the preparations for battle, Eri Nobutaka (the vassal of Akizuki Tanezane) was sent to spy on Hideyoshi’s camp. There, Nobutaka was told the Akizuki clan should surrender to Hideyoshi and forsake their alliance with the Shimazu clan. In return, the Akizuki clan would receive the provinces of Chikuzen and Chikugo. Nobutaka returned with the message for Akizuki Tanezane, along with a warning of the strength of Hideyoshi’s army. However Akizuki refused to give up his seven generation alliance with the Shimazu clan. Nobutaka was ridiculed for suggesting surrender and he and his family committed seppuku (ritual suicide) upon a rock in Akizuki, which still stands today. After Nobutaka’s advice was ignored, Toyotomi Hideyoshi swept to victory and entered Akizuki. It is said that when Kuroda Nagaoki arrived in the town, he was so impressed by Nobutaka’s loyalty that he constructed the Temple above Nobutaka’s gravestone.

After seeing his castle fall in just one day Tanezane surrendered power by presenting a famous tea bowl known as “Narashiba Katatsuki” to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The tea bowl was an symbolic relic, which has passed through the hands of many local figures, including Yoshimasa Ashikaga (famed for founding the Ginkakuji “Temple of the Silver Pavilion” in Kyoto).

Shortly after power shifted again in the area, this time for a longer period. Tokugawa Ieyasu gained control of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s legacy in the battle of Sekigahara (1600). During the conflict Tanezane's child, Tanenaga Akizuki, belonged to the West Army and defended Ōgaki castle, but when the West army lost in the main battle on September 15, the castle rebelled and the Tokugawa forces were granted victory.

As a reward for service in this battle, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted the whole of Chikuzen province (which included Fukuoka and Akizuki) to Kuroda Nagamasa. With this came the end of nearly 400 years of Akizuki rule. This ushered in a new period for Japan (Edo) but also a new era for Akizuki: the rise of the Kuroda domain.

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