Samurai Gaiden: Inatomi Sukenao

 

In the year 1542 Portuguese matchlock firearms made their way, via shipwreck, to Tanegashima island. Many warlords and their samurai retainers gained renown for their way of using these new firearms, such as the Saiga and Oda clans.

But few samurai could claim to have founded their own gunnery dojo. Today we’ll talk about just one such individual – the arguable founder of the Inatomi-ryu school of gunnery, Inatomi Sukenao.

Inatomi Sukenao (1552-1611)

Sukenao was born near the capital city of Kyoto in 1552 and would have matured into adulthood in the late 1560s, which was about the time when Oda Nobunaga made his way into that region. Sukenao was the son of a no-name samurai named Inatomi Naohide, but that made him the grandson of Inatomi Sukehide.

Sukehide was said to have trained in gunnery arts with Sasaki Yoshikuni and developed a unique style of gunnery tactics. Sukehide also formed a foundry specializing in casting firearms, and particularly large ones that we commonly refer to as…cannon.

The Inatomi were hereditary vassals of the Isshiki clan of Tango province. When the Hosokawa family conquered the Isshiki in 1578, Sukenao would have been 26 years old. With Tango province being handed over to the Hosokawa the Inatomi family became Hosokawa vassals.

Now you see, Sukenao was the third generation cannon-maker. He had trained with his grandfather in what was to become known as the Inatomi-ryu school of Gunnery Martial Arts. Historical records seem to have differing accounts on who founded the school – Sukenao or his grandfather Sukehide – but they all seem to agree that Sukehide laid the framework that Sukenao built upon.

Sukenao was a bit of a strange fellow in his own right, it seems. He supposedly had a habit of wearing two suits of armor, one on top of the other, earning him the nickname Ni-ryo Gusoku or Two Collar Armor. Which is weird, but not the first time I’ve heard of that. You might remember when we were talking about the aftermath of the first Battle of Uji there was a giant of a warrior monk who wore two suits of armor as well.

Sukenao started his service, like his father and grandfather, as a samurai of the Isshiki clan of Tango province. However in 1578 the Oda clan came a-knocking on the Isshiki door. Hosokawa Fujitaka, with his son whom we’ve mentioned before – good ‘ol psychopath Tadaoki – were the leaders of the invasion.

The Isshiki were defensively strong, having once been a prominent clan of the realm, they were able to mostly hold the Hosokawa forces at bay. Oda Nobunaga sent Akechi Mitsuhide, back when they were still on good terms, to aid the Hosokawa. After Akechi’s arrival one of the Isshiki’s vassals, the Nuta, betrayed them and defected to the Oda.

Between Akechi’s reinforcements and the Nuta’s betrayal the Isshiki leader, Yoshimichi, was caught up in his castle as Yumiki. When the castle fell, Yoshimichi committed seppuku, leaving what remained of the Isshiki clan to his son, Yoshisada.

By the way I’ve also seen Yumiki Castle as Yumi Castle and Yuminoki Castle. Sukenao participated in the defenses at Yumiki and some accounts suggest he was in charge of the garrison defending the castle and is said to have continued to fight the Oda with a small cadre of gunnery soldiers. Impressed with his determination and courage they offered him the chance to defect as well and he agreed, becoming a samurai of the Hosokawa clan – serving our favorite nutjob, Tadaoki.

It was during this time under the Hosokawa that the Inatomi-ryu school of gunnery really started to pick up. With a wealthy, influential patron who had connections to the capital and Oda Nobunaga’s favor a gun school was a pretty solid investment.

One story posits Sukenao as sitting in a teahouse and being annoyed by the squawking of birds on the roof. He acquired his gun, aimed at the rooftop, and fired, hitting a bird without damaing the roof. The rest of the birds, presumably, were awed by his marksmanship and departed the roof.

Now, it was most likely under Tadoaki then, that he participated in the Korean invasions during the Imjin War. He was apparently a participant at Kato Kiyomasa’s Ulsan Castle defenses – well probably the capture of Ulsan before that, too.

Sukenao was one of the men tasked with guarding Tadaoki’s wife, Garasha, who was a political prisoner of the Toyotomi in Osaka castle. We’ve spoken before about what happened in 1600 when Ishida Mitsunari attempted to gather political hostages from amongst those within Osaka castle. But long story short, Garasha, bid one of her guardians to kill her to prevent Ishida from taking her captive to use against Tadaoki. Or, as we mentioned in that same story, the guards may have been under Tadaoki’s orders to kill Garasha if she was in danger of being captured.

Sukenao was part of the group of guards that were holding Ishida’s men at bay long enough for Garasha’s death to take place. Once she was dead, he and a few of his cronies decided…no point in sticking around, and like Sir Robin before them, they bravely ran away – they did.

Because of his abandonment of his post, Tadaoki came to distrust and resent Sukenao. There may be some indication he wanted Sukenao dead – which is actually kind of likely given the stories I’ve read about Tadaoki.

Sukenao, thus, was made a ronin after either fleeing Tadaoki’s wrath or being fired by Tadaoki. In all likelihood he probably never returned to the Hosokawa after abandoning his post. Tokugawa Ieyasu vouched for him though, because he wanted to ensure the Inatomi school of gunnery continued and he probably wanted to make sure that the Toyotomi rebels didn’t get that kind of information and training on their side. So Ieyasu arranged for Sukeano to serve his fourth son, Matsuidaira Tadayoshi. Tadayoshi was given control over the Owari domain of Kiyosu, worth some 520 thousand koku.

Unfortunately for Sukenao, Tadayoshi was wounded during the fighting at Sekigahara. He died in the year 1608 at the age of 28. His younger brother, Tokugawa Yoshinao, was given control of his lands and Sukenao was permitted to remain within the domain and transfer his employment to Yoshinao.

I’m not totally sure on the specifics but at some point within the Owari domain he adopted his elder sister’s son, Inatomi Hideaki, because he had no children of his own. Around this time he is said to have had a dream that led him to take the tonsure, become a Buddhist monk, and travel to Rikuji temple.

Sukenao died in the year 1611, passing the Inatomi clan onto his nephew whom he had adopted. And apparently that trend continued as Hideaki died without heir and passed the clan onto his younger brother, Hidetaka somewhere between 1645 and 1648.

Some places in Japan still celebrate the Inatomi-ryu’s Gun Corps and school of marksmanship with displays of marksmanship and re-enactments to this day.

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