Tachibana Muneshige

Tachibana Muneshige
Tachibana Muneshige's portrait.

Tachibana Muneshige (立花 宗茂?, December 18, 1567 – November 15, 1643), known in his youth as Senkumaru (千熊丸) and alternatively called Tachibana Munetora (立花 宗虎 or 立花 統虎), was a samurai during the Azuchi–Momoyama period and a Edo Period daimyo. He was the eldest biological son of Takahashi Shigetane, a retainer of Ōtomo clan. He was adopted by Tachibana Dōsetsu, later married his daughter Tachibana Ginchiyo, succeeding the Tachibana clan.

He was skilled with tactical warfare, the traditional arts, and known for his benevolence. He was heralded as a man who braved many changes in his life.


Early life

When Muneshige was eight years old, he attended a stage show. During the act, a man was killed and the crowd panicked. Muneshige showed no signs of fear and he taunted the audience for leaving the show early. He hurried back to the scene. His interesting behavior attracted Tachibana Dōsetsu's attention and, in 1581, Dōsetsu strongly adhered to adopt him. Shigetane strongly refused the adoption, even when Dōsetsu begged him constantly with cordial visits. With time, Shigetane's insistence weakened and Dōsetsu had his request granted.

In July 1581, Muneshige attended his first battle with his adopted father. The Ōtomo were pursing the Akizuki family at the Battle of Honami. Muneshige rode on horseback and shot at the Akizuki's valiant retainer, Horie Bizen. Horie charged at Muneshige with a long sword for the kill. He was unexpectedly overpowered when he fought with Muneshige and was distracted long enough to be killed by Hagio Daigaku.

In 1584, he joined his father and adopted father in the campaign to recapture Chikugo Province. After he went to the battle front with Dōsetsu, he was entrusted to guard the Ayama Castle. When Akizuki Tanezane's 8,000 man army closed in, Muneshige defeated him with a night raid and fire attack. Either after his first battle or his victory against Tanezane, he was enumerated during the army's victory banquet. Muneshige was pleased to have fought beside his biological father and mistakenly addressed Shigetane as "Father". Shigetane responded by berating and publicly disowning him, declaring that Muneshige was always a part of the Tachibana clan.

Serving Toyotomi

In 1586, Shimazu Tadatane and Ijuin Tadamune invaded Chikuzen province with an army of 20,000, initiating the Siege of Iwaya. Muneshige, who was stationed within Ayama Castle and knew that Shigetane was at Iwaya Castle, wanted to send reinforcements to his father. He was stopped by Yoshida Sakyo, who faced death in Muneshige's stead. Shigetane and Sakyo died with the over 500 retainers at Iwaya Castle. Shimazu Yoshihisa then ordered his men to take Ayama Castle. Muneshige defended his position bravely by relying on surpsie attacks to drive the Shimazu back. At one point, he led a surprise attack on the Shimazu main camp and decapitated several enemy soldiers. The Shimazu army suffered from fatigue and withdrew. Muneshige pursued them, capturing one of the Shimazu positions and retaking two of their castles.

After the Shimazu army retreated, the Toyotomi army of 20,000 appeared in Kyūshū. Muneshige took an active role in the following campaign to suppress Kyūshū, mainly involved with negotiating peace with their opposition. When the Shimazu surrendered in 1587, Muneshige was rewarded with Yanagawa Castle, owning 132,200 koku. With his new wealth, the Tachibana declared independence from their masters, the Ōtomo clan.

When Sassa Narimasa experienced riots in Kyūshū, Muneshige volunteered to stop the insurrections and helped with the pacification efforts. He met Kobayakawa Takakage and his adopted son, Kobayakawa Motofusa. Both men served with great renown and took a liking to one another when they shared similar accomplishments. Motofusa and Muneshige became sworn brothers and they were both promoted a year later. After serving in the Siege of Odawara, Toyotomi Hideyoshi praised him further and he earned the admiration of several daimyo present. The Taikō declared, "Just as how the east has Honda Tadakatsu as the greatest warrior of the land, the west surely has Muneshige for the same right."

During the two ill-fated invasions of Korea, Muneshige was a captain to one of the six 2,500 squadrons with Kobayakawa Takakage during the first invasion. They initially planned to capture Jeolla and sail south from Chungcheong, but they were fiercely pushed back and defeated several times near Geumsan by the righteous armies led by Jo Heon and Yeong Gyu. Since neither army could gain a stronger foothold over the other, both sides were forced into a deadlock. Muneshige tried to barricade the roads in Muju County in an effort to protect his troops. However, since soldiers were still in the midst of being transported, his plan failed and he could not maintain his position in Korea.

In 1597, Muneshige continued to act as a defensive unit. Without merging with the invading army, he was sent to protect Angol-po during the Siege of Ulsan. However, since he was concerned for his Mōri allies, his original plan to head to Busan was changed to guard Goseong Castle. He presumably participated in the defense of Waeseong or Goseong. He did not participate in battle for the majority of the campaigns as he was regulated to serve as reinforcements or ordered to take defensive positions.

After Hideyoshi died, the Japanese fleet ordered a full-scale retreat. Muneshige assisted Shimazu Yoshihiro's fleet and they were able to retrieve their stranded ally from Chen Lin and Yi Sun-sin's naval forces.


Although he disliked Ishida Mitsunari, Muneshige served the Western army due to his loyalties to the departed Hideyoshi. He gave his men the choice to depart for whichever side and only a single house elder left to join the Eastern army. To this end, he swore to them that they would fight for unconditional victory and marched his armies into Ise Province.

He joined the siege to take Ōtsu Castle with a 15,000 man army. On October 13, 1600, he fought with Kyōgoku Takatsugu. His army mainly used rifle troops, in which he stationed the gunners to theoretically reload three times faster than normal. Muneshige was unable to fight at the Battle of Sekigahara due to the siege and, when news of Ieyasu's victory reached their ears, the Western army abandoned Ōtsu Castle.

After his troops withdrew, Muneshige wanted to defend Osaka Castle. Mōri Terumoto advised him to drop the idea due to Ieyasu's inevitable invasion and suggested a hasty retreat back to Yanagawa. Muneshige agreed but he unexpectedly met one of the men indirectly responsible for his fathers' deaths, Shimazu Yoshihiro, at the docks. Yoshihiro, who had already retreated from Sekigahara and with few men remaining, confronted Muneshige and offered his head by saying, "This is the only chance you'll get to avenge your real father." Contrary to the general's expectations, Muneshige replied, "Slaughtering a defeated army is not an honor for any samurai", and worked together with Yoshihiro to escape safely back to their respective homes. As thanks, a small Shimazu vanguard escorted Muneshige back to Yanagawa.

It wasn't long until his home was attacked by Katō Kiyomasa, Nabeshima Naoshige and Kuroda Josui. Bravely leading an army of 32,000 against 40,000, Muneshige split his army into two factions and gave each of his officers at least 3,000 to fight with. Despite earning a few bouts of early success, supplies depleted quickly and casualties became high. Muneshige, though also wounded during the conflict, was able to spring a final surprise attack to save his men. By the end of the struggle, he lost several of his clansmen and had to be supported to his horse when he retreated to Yanagawa Castle. Though greatly fatigued, he was prepared to resist his home's invaders. Naoshige first led an offensive strike, but eventually Kiyomasa and Josui decided to persuade their foe to surrender. Muneshige relented after several attempts. He was stripped of his lands and became a rōnin.

As a side note, Yoshihiro had returned to his home and, as a sign of gratitude, he sent troops to reinforce Yanagawa. Sadly, by the time they arrived, the Tachibana were already on their third day of surrender.

Edo Period

As a rōnin, Kiyomasa and Maeda Toshinaga regretted to see his talents go to waste and offered him service. He refused all offers but Kiyomasa continued to fight for Muneshige's recognition to Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1603, the shogunate gave Muneshige 5,000 koku and allowed him to become a daimyo once more. By 1610, he received 35,000 koku and was formally introduced to Ieyasu.

Though it was hard to convince him to join the front, Ieyasu ordered Muneshige to assist the Siege of Osaka. He served under Tokugawa Hidetada's troops and clashed with Mori Katsunaga. He was awarded his old territory and 109,200 koku by the shogunate in 1620. With this, he was able to reestablish himself as a feudal lord. He became one of Tokugawa Iemitsu's mentors, educating the future shogun during his youth. Since Muneshige immersed himself in the arts and culture in Edo, he hardly had time to return to his original home. He was able to establish a go-between and worked with the local lords to maintain peace in his absence.

He showed his bravery and battle prowess a final time during the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637. After his service, he passed on clan leadership and properties to his adopted son, Tadashige. He died in his local residence in Edo during 1643. He had three wives but no children. He was 76 years old at the time of his death. Two graves were made for him. One stands in Nerima, Tokyo at Kōtoku-ji and the other is at Komaki, Aichi near Fukugon-ji.

Muneshige in popular culture

See People of the Sengoku period in popular culture.


Preceded by
Tachibana Ginchiyo
Tachibana family head
Succeeded by
Tachibana Tadashige

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