The Late Hōjō clan (後北条氏 Go-Hōjō-shi) were powerful regional lords at the end of the Muromachi Period (1333-1568) and in the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600) and must not be confused with the warrior family by the same name who were hereditary regents (執権 shikken) of the Kamakura shogunate in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). Founded by Hōjō Sōun, the family was based in Odawara (modern-day Kanagawa Prefecture) and ruled as Sengoku daimyō over the provinces of Sagami and Musashi until they were destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590.

Late Hōjō Geneology

  • Hōjō Sōun (北條早雲, 1432–1519)
  • Hōjō Ujitsuna (北条氏綱, 1487–1541), son of Sōun
  • Hōjō Ujiyasu (北条氏康, 1515–1571), son of Ujitsuna
  • Hōjō Ujimasa (北条氏政, 1538–1590), son of Ujiyasu
  • Hōjō Ujinao (北条氏直, 1562–1591), son of Ujimasa

Hōjō Sōun (北條早雲, 1432-1519)


Sōun, known initially as Ise Moritoki or Ise Shinkurō Nagauji, was the founder of the Go-Hōjō and born into a family that had loyally served the Ashikaga shogunate. His origin is somewhat obscure, and it is said he came from a branch family of the Ise who were of Taira lineage. Shinkurō's sister was married to Imagawa Yoshitada, a powerful daimyō hailing from a cadet branch of the Ashikaga who ruled as shugo (military governors) over Suruga Province (present-day Shizuoka Prefecture). He arrived in Suruga around 1475 and became a retainer of the Imagawa. When Yoshitada died in battle in 1476, Shinkurō mediated in the succession conflict between Yoshitada's son Ujichika and his cousin Oshika Norimitsu. When tensions between the two flared up again, Shinkurō came to Ujichika's defence and killed Norimitsu in combat. He was bestowed Kōkokuji Castle (興国寺城) in modern-day Numazu, from where he observed the proceedings in Horigoe, the residence of the Kantō kubō Ashikaga Masatomo. When Masatomo died in 1491, his son Chachamaru succeeded; Shinkurō took advantage of the situation and used armed clashes as a pretext to invade Izu Province. Owing to this bold act, he is regarded as the "first Sengoku daimyō". Once he had gained control over Izu, he adopted the family name of Hōjō and - after getting ordained as a Buddhist monk - the first name of Sōun. From his new stronghold in Nirayama, he eyed his next strategic target, the post town of Odawara. In 1495, he captured Odawara Castle by deceiving and killing its lord, a young samurai by the name of Ōmori, and his entire entourage. By 1516, he had taken hold of Musashi and Sagami (present-day Saitama, Tōkyō, and Kanagawa). Sōun died in Nirayama in 1519, but his descendants would be in control of the Kantō region for the next seven decades.

Hōjō Ujitsuna (北条氏綱, 1487-1541)


Under Ujitsuna, the Hōjō continued to expand their power base in the Kantō Plain. In 1524, Ujitsuna took Edo Castle from Uesugi Tomooki, triggering a long-lasting rivalry between the two families. Tomooki attacked and burned down Kamakura in 1526 and launched another campaign against the Hōjō in 1535 when Ujitsuna was away fighting the Takeda. Ujitsuna rushed back and defeated Tomooki's forces, seizing the important stronghold of Kawagoe Castle. In 1538/39, he took control over Shimōsa (modern-day Chiba and Ibaraki) and Awa (today Chiba) provinces after defeating and killing Koga kubō Ashikaga Yoshiaki and submitting the Satomi clan in Awa, thereby establishing Hōjō hegemony over Kantō.

Hōjō Ujiyasu (北条氏康, 1515–1571)


Trying to take advantage of Ujitsuna's death, two Uesugi branch families, the Ōgigayatsu and Kantō kanrei (関東管領, shogunal governor) Uesugi Norimasa, allied with Ashikaga Haruuji (足利 晴氏), the Koga kubō, attacking Kawagoe Castle. They were routed by the Hōjō in what entered the annals of history as the Night Battle of Kawagoe (1545): Hōjō Tsunanari (北条綱成, 1515-1587), Ujiyasu's adopted brother, defended the castle with only 3,000 men against an army of more than 80,000. Coordinating their defence with Ujiyasu's relief force of 8,000 men the Hōjō attacked the Uesugi and the Ashikaga at night, effectively ending the siege of Kawagoe. With the death of Uesugi Tomosada (上杉朝定) in battle, the Ōgigayatsu family came to an end. Later, Ujiyasu gained ground in Shimōsa by defeating Satomi Yoshihiro in the Second Battle of Konōdai (1564). When Ujiyasu tried to intervene in Takeda Shingen's incursion in Suruga Province, Shingen attacked the Hōjō in Musashi, circumventing the castles of Hachigata and Takiyama, where Ujiyasu's sons, Ujikuni and Ujiteru, repelled the Takeda and attacking the Hōjō capital of Odawara. In the Battle of Mimasetoge (三増峠の戦い, 1569), Ujikuni and Ujiteru ambushed the Takeda but were eventually defeated, allowing Shingen to retreat to his home province of Kai (modern-day Yamanashi Prefecture). In the end, Uijiyasu made peace with both, Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin: he had his seventh son, Hōjō Ujihide (北条氏秀, 1552-1579), adopted by Kenshin (Ujihide was henceforth known as Uesugi Kagetora 上杉景虎) and married two of his daughters to the Takeda and the Imagawa, thus accepting Takeda's control over Suruga. Before his death in 1571 Ujiyasu passed his domain to his eldest son Ujimasa.


Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: Hōjō Ujiyasu (Mirror of the Famous Generals)

Hōjō Ujimasa (北条氏政, 1538–1590)


Ujimasa, the fourth head of the Hōjō, officially acceded to power in 1560 but reigned with father until the latter's death in 1571. He fought in all of Ujiyasu's campaigns and advocated peaceful relations with the Takeda, much to the dismay of Uesugi Kenshin who did not cease his attacks on the northern frontier of the Hōjō-held territories. In 1572, Ujimasa supported Takeda Shingen against Tokugawa Ieyasu and later acted as an intermediary between Shingen's son and successor Katsuyori and Oda Nobunaga. In the wake of Kenshin's death in 1578, a bitter conflict erupted between Uesugi Kagetora, Ujimasa's brother who had been adopted by the childless Kenshin, and Uesugi Kagekatsu, Kenshin's brother-in-law who had also been adopted by the former. Ujimasa rushed to Kagetora's help, but his troops arrived too late to prevent his brother's forced suicide. Moreover, the Takeda had been defeated by Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Battle of Nagashino (1575), leaving the Hōjō to fend for themselves. Things got even worse when the Takeda struck a peace agreement with the Uesugi, and hostilities between Ujimasa and Takeda Katsuyori flared up immediately. When Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu invaded Takeda home turf in Kai and Shinano in 1582, the Hōjō suddenly faced a much more dangerous enemy at their borders. After Ieyasu had occupied the provinces formerly held by the Takeda, he eventually agreed to suspend hostilities with the Hōjō, ceded territory in Kai and married one of his daughters to Ujinao, Ujimasa's son. The Hōjō remained neutral in the Komaki Campaign of 1584 when forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Ieyasu clashed. However, Hideyoshi could not be stopped anymore: when Ujimasa and Ujinao kept ignoring his demands to submit to his power, he ordered his massive army to attack the Hōjō in Kantō in 1590. While the main contingent, Tokugawa Ieyasu's forces among them, marched eastwards through the Hakone mountains, other armies under Uesugi Kagekatsu and Maeda Toshiie approached through Kozuke Province (modern-day Gunma Prefecture). A sea blockade by the Chosokabe and other families eventually closed the ring around the Hōjō stronghold in Odawara in June. Both sides disposed over vast quantities of supplies, and Toyotomi's army prepared for a long siege, setting up a makeshift town around Odawara, along with markets and all sorts of entertainment for his troops. Minimal fighting had occurred in summer, and Ujimasa appeared poised to resist to the bitter end. Ujinao however surrendered in the beginning of August on condition that his men's lives would be spared. Ujimasa and his brother Ujiteru had to commit suicide, while Ujinao, Tokugawa Ieyasu's son-in-law, was exiled to Mount Kōya.


The graves of Hōjō Ujimasa, his wife and Ujiteru in Odawara

Hōjō Ujinao (北条氏直, 1562–1591)


Born in 1562 at Odawara Castle and initially given the name Kuniōmaru (国王丸), Ujinao was the fifth and the last head of the Odawara Hōjō. His mother was Takeda Shingen's eldest daughter Ōbai-in (黄梅院, also pronounced Kōbai-in). In his coming-of-age ceremony in 1577, he changed his name to Ujinao. The conflict with the Takeda over Kai Province resulted in a military stalemate until Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu invaded. The relationship between Oda Nobunaga and the Hōjō turned hostile as well, but the murder of Nobunaga by Akechi Mitsuhide in 1582 gave Ujinao and his father Ujimasa a short respite. Eventually, Ieyasu agreed on a truce with the Hōjō and ceded them parts of Kai. In 1584, Ujinao was married to Tokugawa Ieyasu's second daughter Tokuhime (督姫, 1565-1615) to forge a stronger alliance between the two families. When Toyotomi Hideyoshi took over Akechi's role as the unifier of Japan, Ieyasu tried to convince the Hōjō to submit to Hideyoshi. In vain, as described above. Ujinao surrendered to Toyotomi's forces and was spared. He and his wife were exiled to Mount Kōya, but it is said he died of disease in Kawachi Province (the eastern part of modern-day Ōsaka Prefecture) in 1591. In 1594, Hideyoshi arranged for Ujinao's wife Tokuhime, who had given birth to two daughters, one of which died in 1593, to marry Ikeda Tadakatsu, to whom she bore five sons and two daughters. She died at Himeji Castle in 1615.

Hōjō daimyō of Sayama Domain

Hōjō Ujinori (北条氏規, 1545-1600) was a brother of Ujimasa. In 1590, during the Siege of Odawara, both Ujinori and Ujinao were convinced that it would be sensible to surrender to Hideyoshi. Ujinori had become friends with Tokugawa Ieyasu in the days when they were both hostages to the Imagawa family. In light of their friendship, Ieyasu bequeathed Ujinori a stipend of 10,000 koku. In turn, Ujinori granted 4,000 koku to his son Ujimori who was then adopted by Ujinao to continue the Late Hōjō lineage. Ujimori became the first daimyō of Sayama Domain (Kawachi Province).

  • Hōjō Ujimori (北条氏盛, 1577–1608)
  • Hōjō Ujinobu (北条氏信, 1601–1625)
  • Hōjō Ujimune (北条氏宗, 1619–1685)
  • Hōjō Ujiharu (北条氏治, 1639–1696)
  • Hōjō Ujitomo (北条氏朝, 1669–1735)

    Hōjō Ujitomo, an adopted son of Ujiharu, who acted as a magistrate in Kyōto; unfortunately, the domainal expenditure surged during his tenure, leading to steep tax increases.
  • Hōjō Ujisada (北条氏貞, 1703–1758)
  • Hōjō Ujihiko (北条氏彦, 1742–1769)
  • Hōjō Ujiakira (北条氏あきら, 1760–1811)
  • Hōjō Ujitaka (北条氏喬, 1785–1846)
  • Hōjō Ujihisa (北条氏久, 1816–1852)
  • Hōjō Ujiyoshi (北条氏燕, 1830–1891)

    In the 18th and the early 19th century, the financial situation of the Kawachi Sayama Domain had progressively worsened due to mismanagement, corruption and an increased tax burden. Ujiyoshi was the son of the 9th lord Ujitaka and was adopted by the 10th lord Ujihisa. Ujiyoshi served as guard of Osaka Castle. His financial reforms faced stern opposition and failed. Ujiyoshi retired in 1861.
  • Hōjō Ujiyuki (北条氏恭, 1845–1919)

    Ujiyuki was adopted by Ujiyoshi and became head of the domain in 1861. The bakufu burdened him with coast defence operations in Takasago, further worsening the precarious financial state of the domain. Though collaborating with the shogunate until 1867, Ujiyoshi swore allegiance to the new Meiji government and did not participate in the Boshin War. He was appointed the governor of his domain but stepped back in 1869. Until 1912 he served Emperor Meiji as chamberlain and died in 1919 at the age of 75.

  • Mason Richard H.P., Caiger John Godwin, A History of Japan, Revised Edition, Tuttle Publishing 1997
  • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric, Japan Encyclopedia, Harvard University Press 2005
  • Sansom, George, A History of Japan 1334-1615, Stanford University Press 1961
  • Turnbull, Stephen, Samurai Sourcebook, London 1998
  • Turnbull, Stephen, War in Japan: 1467-1615, Oxford 2002
  • Turnbull, Stephen, The Samurai - A Military History, London/New York repr. 2005