Kuki Yoshitaka entered the world in Shima, along the southern coast of Mie Prefecture, in 1542. Hailing from a family that once held mastery over two castles, Yoshitaka faced adversity early on. At the tender age of nine, his father's demise plunged the family into hardship, resulting in the loss of their territories and a life on the run.

When Oda Nobunaga launched an invasion into the neighboring Ise province, targeting Kitabatake Tomonori and the Kitabatake clan in 1569, Kuki pledged loyalty to Nobunaga. He played a pivotal role by providing naval support for the annexation of Mie. Kuki showcased his maritime prowess during the naval blockade of the Nagashima Ikko-Ikki uprising, aiding Nobunaga in overcoming the militant followers of the Hongan-ji Temple.

In the Battle of Kizugawaguchi in 1576, where Kuki faced superior naval forces from the Mori clan, his ships were set ablaze at sea. Enraged by the defeat, Nobunaga tasked Kuki Yoshitaka with devising a strategy to conquer the Mori fleet. In response, Yoshitaka created what is believed to be the world's first ironclad warships in 1578. Deploying six of these formidable vessels, accompanied by a fleet of smaller ships, Kuki confronted a Mori armada comprising 600 vessels.

The ensuing Second Battle of Kizugawaguchi resulted in victory for Yoshitaka, earning him additional territories and a promotion to daimyo status.

In 1582, Kuki Yoshitaka served Nobunaga's son, Nobukatsu, during the tumultuous Honno-ji Incident orchestrated by Akechi Mitsuhide. Two years later, he aligned with former Oda clan statesman Takigawa Kazumasu in the service of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, participating in the Battle of Komaki Nagakute against the Tokugawa. Remaining a loyal vassal of the Toyotomi clan, he received the Toshi-gun in the Toba region, where he constructed Toba Castle in 1585.

As the Battle of Sekigahara unfolded in 1600, Yoshitaka sided with the Toyotomi loyalists of the Western forces led by Ishida Mitsunari. However, strategically, his son Moritaka fought for the Eastern side with the Tokugawa clan. This tactical move aimed to secure the family name's preservation, ensuring a family member's presence among the victors. Following the defeat of the Western forces, Yoshitaka abandoned Toba Castle and retreated to Toshijima, the largest island off Toba's coast.

Simultaneously, his son Moritaka sought clemency for his father from Tokugawa Ieyasu, securing an amnesty. Unfortunately, news of the pardon reached Yoshitaka on Toshijima after he had already performed seppuku.

He passed away at the age of 58, in close proximity to the foundation of his cherished naval fleet. Per his wishes, his head rests atop a hill overlooking Toba Castle, while his body finds its final resting place at the hill's base.


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