Ouchi Yoshitaka (December 18, 1507 – Committed Seppuku September 30, 1551)
Ouchi Yoshitaka was daimyo of Suo Province (Modern-day eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture) ruling from his castle at Yamaguchi. He was 21 when his father, Ouchi Yoshioki died, and the domain was passed to his hands. Yoshitaka’s father was famous for having restored the overthrown Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshitane to power in 1508, and for building Saijo Castle.
Having already defeated the Amago clan to win Aki Province, Ouchi Yoshitaka continued to expand his territories, taking northern Kyushu and bringing down the ancient Shoni clan. In 1542, Ouchi Yoshitaka lost his adopted son, Haruhisa, and a great many of his samurai during an ill-fated invasion of Izumo (now eastern Shimane Prefecture). Through the bitter defeat, Yoshitaka seems to have lost his nerve, refraining from warfare and all desire to increase his land holdings. He instead devoted his time not to war, but to pursuing the arts and culture. Yoshitaka promoted foreign trade and the arts, and his lands at Yamaguchi flourished. As a close advisor to the Emperor, he was appointed as Acting Governor of Yamashiro (Kyoto) and protector of the Imperial Court. Under this title, he proposed a plan to have the Imperial court, Emperor and all, relocated to Yamaguchi to free them from the overbearing clutches of the Miyoshi clan who had vast political power over the Emperor and the Shogun. By the summer of 1551, most of the court, except for the Emperor and the palace ladies, were in Yamaguchi preparing for the shift.
This led to further tension between his retainers, who split into two factions, those that chose to follow their lord’s peaceful desires and simply maintain what they currently held, and those that believed they should be expanding their territories, and that having the Imperial House moved to Yamaguchi would dilute their privileges.
The expansionist faction was led by Sue Harukata. In 1551, this group pulled off a coup d’état, overtaking Yoshitaka’s authority within days, slaughtering countless Imperial officials and courtiers, and forcing their master, Ouchi Yoshitaka to commit seppuku in the grounds of the Tainei-ji Temple in Nagato, Yamagichi Prefecture. He was two months short of his 44th birthday.