E74 Protectors


Show Notes for episode 74 of our Podcast – Protectors.

Story Notes


Today we finish of Women’s History month. Yes, we know it took us a while.

(But as future Thomas writes here, we were in a very bad place with my mental health, I even used soley wikipedia for my research for this episode which I do not like to do. But I did not have the mental energy to do research with my books and through journals, I hope you all understand).

Regardless of that I have come across three women today I wanted to talk about. Three of them all onna-bugeishi, or female warriors who would fight alongside Samurai. And interestingly they all find themselves with connections to Oda Nobunaga.

Now this term we have used before, but when I searched using this term for my research it appears to have been replaced with Onna-musha (女武者), and I am unsure of the reason why.


Takeda Shingen
Takeda Shingen

So let us dive into the first of our three women today. A woman by the name of Myōki (妙喜) or Myokini (妙喜尼) and she lived during the Sengoku Period. She is the one I have the smallest amount of information on for todays episode.

She was the daughter of Tōyama Naokage and wife to Suwabe Sadakatsu. And Myōki is best known for events surrounding Hio Castle, situated in Musashi Province.

Now her husband was the Lord of Hio Castle at the time it was attacked and put under siege in December 1569 at the direction of the Takeda Clan, led at this time by Takeda Shingen. A year before the Takeda had attacked Hachigata Castle but had been repelled and eventually decided to attack the castle of Hio. And this is where our small history for Myōki comes into play.

The castle was being attacked and usually it would have been her husband, the Lord of the castle, who would have led the charge into protecting their home; but Myōki was the one to do so instead.

Now the reason for this? Her husband was very drunk and unable to lead the charge. Myōki had no choice but to take on the mantle of leader for this unexpected attack. It is said she left with her maids carrying sake, summoned the soldiers, armed herself and headed to the castle door. She led the command on the battle field until her husband eventually woke up.

The connection here to Nobunaga is that he would send his armies to fight Takeda Shingen who would die not many years after attacking Hio Castle, dying of disease in 1573. This being an attack on the Takeda Shingen that Yasuke, the African Samurai, was not allowed to participate in.

Lady Otsuya

Iwamura Castle
Remains of Iwamura Castle

Now our next woman of note was known as Lady Otsuya (おつやの方 Otsuya no Kata), a woman said to have possessed unmatched beauty. Now she was the aunt of Oda Nobunaga married to Tōyama Kagetō. She is best known for having conspired against her nephew and the Oda Clan.

She with her husband, were the rules of Iwamura Castle. This castle was the highest in Japan, atop a 717meter peak and is said to have been known as the Misty Castle as it was often hidden in a blanket of fog.

Now we have talked before how we want to do episodes on battles of our show, so for today we are just looking into the aspects these women played in the battles they lived through.  The year was 1572, and again we see Takeda Shingen here attacking another castle. However, Lady Otsuya and her husband were ready to make a defence.

The attack was led by one of the Twenty Four Generals of Shingen (武田二十四将, Takeda Nijūshi-shō), a man by the name of Akiyama Nobutomo. Mere days after the siege started, Lady Otsuya’s husband fell ill and passed away. But Otsuya continued on. Though her husband had once been a subordinate of the Takeda, Otsuya as the aunt of Nobunaga was hostile to the Takeda Clan. She fought them off for months until March 6th 1573 when an agreement was made.

A peace treaty was made, Otsuya’s aopted son Katsunaga taken as hostage by the Takeda, with Otsuya being made to marry Nobutomo, the man who had led the siege. All of these events led to a decline in the Oda-Takeda relationship.

A few days later Nobubaga would find out the Takeda troops led by his aunt had attacked the Oda Clan he decided his counterattack. This led to the Battle of Mikatagahara where Shingen defeated the Oda Clan, before he later died of disease. This led to Iwamura being a field of battle from 1572 to 1575, and when Shingen’s son, Katusyori, was ultimately defeated (his head sent in an ornate box to Nobunaga as we mentioned in our Yasuke episodes), the castle was attacked by Oda’s forces in 1575. For half a year Lady Otsuya defended the castle, and then left to make respoce to Oda’s plea for peace.

However, it was a lie, he reneged on his words and had her and her new husband crucified as traitors December 23rd 1575. But she didn”t go quietly, cursing her nephew, saying if he killed her family his punishment would be doubled. And of course, he would be killed seven years later during the Honno-ji Incident.

Maeda Matsu

Maeda Matsu

And so we turn to our final person for today, a woman known as Maeda Matsu (前田まつ) or Omatsu no Kata (お松の方) who lived from 1547-1617. The wife of Maeda Toshiie she was known for her intelligence, skilled in both martial arts and literature.

It is said she was adopted by her future husband father when she was 12 after her mother remarried, and that her love to her husband was genuine and not merely a marriage for political gain or convenience as was the norm at the time.

She had many children, nine daughter and two sons. And she was lifelong friends with Nene (Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s wife) and Ōmandokoro (Hideyoshi’s mother). Together they had a lot of political power.

For Maeda Matsu, her connection to Nobunaga goes as follows. Nobunaga as we have said before was killed by Akechi Mitsuhide, and he in turn was killed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, her friends husband.

At first her clan and Hideyoshi fought in the Battle of Shizugatake (Her clan fighting under the direction of Shibata Katsuie). But as she was close friend with Nene together they advanced the battlefield to ask for mercy for the Maeda Clan. Hideyoshi was happy for her to ask for her husband to be spared. The battle eventually came to a close, Katsuie realising defeat was imminent he committed seppuku after killing his wife (his wife having been the sister of Nobunaga) before setting his house on fire.

Maede Matsu and her husband made it out alive due to their plea to Hideyoshi and her husband would then go on to be one of Hideyoshi’s generals.

She does not appear to have been a women with much fear, in 1584 Suemori Castle was threatened by Sass Marimasa. Yet her husband was hesitant to go and help, not wanting to risk his life in battle and lose his wealth.

Maeda Matsu said in reply “how about bringing your gold and silver along by poking through them with your spear?”

He was outraged at her words, but took her words as a challenge and was reinvigorated to go into battle.

Another tale says she said to him:

“If fortune fails you at Suemori Castle, do not intend on returning home alive. Everyone here, including myself, shall set this castle ablaze and bring our families here to perish.”

Hideyoshi would made her husband part of his Council of Five Elders, a group whose job it was to support his son Toyotomi Hideyori until he was old enough to rule. Matsu was given the role of a nanny and so became a retainer of the Toyotomi Clan.

Later during the Daigo Flower Viewing, she was treated as an honored guest, however Yodo-dono (Nobunaga’s niece) and Kyōgoku Tatsuko were ready to fight over the cushioned seat next to Nene.

Matsu however calmly slid onto it and replied:

“In order of whom is the oldest amongst us, I should be right here,” and so the event proceeded without incident.

In 1598, Hideyoshi died, leaving Hideyori in Toshiie’s care, but again Toshiie died soon after. Following his death Matsu decided to become a Buddhist nun and changed her name to Hōshun-In.

Following the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Toyotomi clan power and war followed. The five regent she had appointed to rule in Hideyori’s place began fighting for power. When Toshiie died, the situation worsened and a war was bound to happen. Nene, went to the Imperial Palace after her husband’s death. Hideyoshi’s son and successor was very young and could not rule in his place, giving Yodo-dono all the political prestige left by Hideyoshi. However, the situation would not be easily controlled, so Ishida Mitsunari under the influence of Hideyori’s mother, Yodo-dono, went to war against Tokugawa Ieyasu.

In 1600, Toshimasa sided with the Western army, supported Ishida Mitsunari during the Sekigahara Campaign and had evidently plotted to assassinate Tokugawa Ieyasu beforehand. Her brother Maeda Toshinaga (Matsu’s first son) sided with Eastern army of Tokugawa Ieyasu after Hosokawa Tadaoki convinced him. Matsu’s seventh daughter, Maeda Chiyo, was the wife of Hosokawa Tadataka (son of Hosokawa Tadaoki) of the Eastern Army, and Matsu’s fourth daughter, Gō, who was adopted by Hideyoshi, was the wife of Ukita Hideie of the Western Army. Matsu’s other daughters and relatives were part of one of the two armies

At the time of the Battle of Sekigahara, Toshinaga role was primarily to contain the forces of Uesugi Kagekatsu and Niwa Nagashige, and at the same time, to keep the forces of his younger brother, Maeda Toshimasa from joining the western army. Because of Toshimasa sided with Mitsunari, the Maeda family was accused of revolt against Tokugawa Ieyasu and being close to the Toyotomi clan, ran the risk of being annihilated by the Tokugawa clan. Matsu was voluntarily taken as a hostage to the capital of Edo, to ensure the survival of the Maeda clan.

Matsu would spend 14 years as a prisoner at in the castle in Edo. She struggled to maintain a friendly relationship with the members of the Tokugawa family, due to her determination, however Ieyasu spared the Maeda clan from being annihilated and offered high social status to Matsu’s children.

After the defeat and extinction of the Toyotomi clan in the Siege of Osaka in 1615, she finally gained her freedom. Matsu eventually died in Kanazawa Castle becoming a figure of great respect for her heroic deeds.

Header Image: Katana from pixabay.


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