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The Sengoku period daimyo Matsunaga Hisahide has been historically portrayed as a nefarious schemer, an aged and devious character, wreaking havoc on lives and property—an archetypal villain. Despite these depictions prevalent in modern plays, TV dramas, movies, and traditional woodblock prints, he was, in reality, a tall, handsome man of education and a patron of the arts when he died at the age of 68.

Born in 1508 in what is now Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City, Hisahide served as a retainer to Miyoshi Nagayoshi, also known as Chokei, the Lord of Awa and Settsu, and one of the most influential figures of his era. Hisahide enjoyed the trust of the Miyoshi clan and held roles as a clan representative and later as governor at the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Between 1561 and 1564, three of Chokei’s brothers and his son and heir Yoshioki died under mysterious circumstances, paving the way for Hisahide to claim power and domains in 1564, though his involvement in these deaths remains speculative.

The Miyoshi clan wielded significant influence over the shogunate, manipulating the Ashikaga Shoguns, but tensions escalated, leading to the death of Shogun Yoshiteru. Matsunaga Hidehisa, under the Miyoshi’s influence, played a role in this event, resulting in the installation of the infant Yoshihide as the new shogun.

Hisahide later aligned with warlord Oda Nobunaga as he expanded his influence in Kyoto, offering him a renowned tea implement. Despite his initial loyalty, Hisahide conspired against Nobunaga in 1573 alongside the Miyoshi. However, the alliance with Miyoshi Yoshitsugu fell apart, leading Hisahide back to Nobunaga's side. He participated in the siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji but eventually abandoned his post and returned to his lands in Yamato and Shigisan Castle.

Accused of treachery, Nobunaga demanded Hisahide's head and the prized tea container "Hiragumo." Facing Oda troops, Hisahide smashed the tea implement and committed seppuku in Shigisan Castle's tower keep. The castle was subsequently destroyed by Oda forces.

While Hisahide faced character assassination for alleged acts such as undermining his former masters and the rumored burning of Todai-ji, it's crucial to consider the biases of the victors and foreign missionaries at the time, who vilified him. His unassuming grave can be found in Daruma-ji Temple, Oji-cho, Nara.


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