The Migita were a family of “honorable housemen” (gokenin) of the Kamakura regime. They resided in Izumi province. Under the authority of their chief, Migita Sukeie, they were mobilized by Kamakura to quell a a rebellion by Kusunoki Masashige and Prince Moriyoshi. Migita Sukeie, was in a bind, however, for both Kamakura and the rebel forces of Prince Moriyoshi asked him to fight on their behalf. Sukeie feigned illness with Moriyoshi, and dispatched several sons to fight on his behalf (Migita Sukeyasu and others), while he fought for Kamakura with another son, Migita Sukehide. His discretion proved wise, for Kamakura suddenly collapsed, but he nevertheless managed to curry favor with Moriyoshi’s allies, and survive the turmoil of the 1330s.
Permission has been granted thanks to the efforts of the Kyōto Furitsu Kyōdo Shiryōkan. Currently these documents are housed in the Sakai City Museum (Sakai-shi hakubutsukan).
This document was issued by Kamakura to its warriors, or gokenin, ordering them to quell a rebellion late in 1332. Kamakura mobilized warriors according to their house, and in this case Migita Sukeie was ordered to lead his relatives and dependent followers, or retainers, into battle against Prince Moriyoshi and Kusunoki Masashige, who were leading a rebellion against Kamakura. Hōjō Moritoki was the shikken, or chief administrator of Kamakura, while his co-signer (or rensho) was Hōjō Shigetoki. The calligraphy is excellent, and surviving documents reveal that the same scribe penned numerous documents to local warriors. Both Moritoki and Shigetoki perished in the fifth month of 1333 when their regime collapsed.
Migita Sukeie fought with his son Sukehide for Kamakura. This first document recounts of Sukehide besieged Kusunoki Masashige’s Chihaya castle. One of the Migita retainers (wakatō) named Hachirō was had his helmet destroyed and was shot through the jaw, with an arrow lodging in his chest. After Hachirō was wounded, Migita Sukehide had a document drawn up recounting the wounds. Slight distinctions in the color of the ink reveal that Sukekiyo, a battle administator for Aso Harutoki, the general of this force, added the notation shallow and described the piercing of the jaw, while his compatriot Sadakane recorded that the arrow was lodged in his chest.
Migita Sukeie submitted a second document six days after the first, recounting the seige of Chihaya on 4.20.1333. Kamakura’s attackers attempted to undermine the defenses of Chihaya castle. A Migita retainer (wakatō) named Akimune was shot by an arrow slightly to the right of his hip bone, and the administrators added the notation “medium” to describe this wound. Although these documents were submitted within six days of each other, slight distinctions exist in their handwriting. “Chihaya” castle, for example, was written with different characters than the previous document. Of the two battle administrators who affixed their monogram to the previous document, one, Sadakane, added his signature here, but he was joined by a certain Kagekiyo.
Aso Harutoki dispatched with this “document of praise” (kanjō)
to Migita Sukehide for taking an enemy head while skirmishing (nobushi kassen
) at the hills to the north of Chihaya. Aso Harutoki personally signed this document praising Sukeyasu, and because of the status disparity, as Sukeyasu was not even the primary Migita heir. Harutoki folded this document in half, in a style known as origami,
which was reserved for people of a higher status transmitting letters to those of significantly lower status and had it sent to Sukeyasu.
This represents the oldest surviving document of praise. Harutoki managed to keep his army together after an uprising led to the complete destruction of Kamakura, and these documents of praise may have contributed to the cohesion of his army. Harutoki and his forces surrendered after Kamakura was destroyed.
Prince Moriyoshi here praises another Migita son Sukeyasu, for joining his cause on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month. This documents is of a format reserved for imperial princes, which were transmitted by the noble Shijō Takasada, who added his monogram. Moriyoshi is praising Sukeyasu for joining his cause and fighting in battle, and holds out the promise for rewards. The document is addressed to the ‘residence’ of the Migita, showing that Moriyoshi also mobilized warriors according to their house.
This petition for military rewards, or gunchūjō was submitted by Sukeie, who took credit for the actions of his son Sukeyasu. From this document, it becomes clear that the Migita, fought for both for and against Prince Moriyoshi. Sukeie and his son Sukehide fought for Kamakura, and attacked Kusunoki Masashige’s Chihaya castle in the fourth month of 1333. At the same time, Sukeyasu fought for Moriyoshi in the vicinity of the castle. Sukeie thus dispatched two sons to fight for two armies, and although he sided with Kamakura, he left his allegiances vague, and notified Prince Moriyoshi that he was ill. Sukeie nevertheless received credit for Sukeyasu’s actions. At the same time, Sukeie kept the Kamakura documents in case that the bakufu would somehow make a comback. Warrior loyalty did not exist to lords, but rather their house. By fighting for both sides, Sukeie ensured that his house would continue. Shijō Takasada monogrammed this document.