Tachibana Ginchiyo


Kanji: 立花 誾千代
Date(s): September 23, 1569-November 30, 1602
Other Known Names: N/A


Tachibana clan mon

Tachibana Ginchiyo was head of the Tachibana clan and onna-bugeisha from the Sengoku Jidai. She was the only surviving child of Tachibana Dōsetsu, the “Lightning God”. She was an unconventional leader, and one of the few that had an entourage of trained and armed women and is well-known for her solo stance against the Eastern Army during the Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign in 1600.

When Ginchiyo was born in 1569, her father was the one to personally name her. Ginchiyo’s name roughly means “one who would not listen idly to others”, which became an extremely fitting name as she got older. She rejected much of her mother’s teachings to be a lady, focusing more on martial arts. It is said that Ginchiyo was a stern and strict woman who excelled in communication.

Ginchiyo took over the clan in 1575 at the age of six, inheriting her father’s territory and belongings, namely the sword known as Raikiri (“Lightning Cutter”). Her other siblings died extremely young and because she was the only remaining child, Dōsetsu asked that his retainers made her his heir after his death. She married Tachibana Muneshige, who was Dōsetsu’s adopted son and who would continue the Tachibana line following Ginchiyo’s death or retirement. Her father was killed in battle while leading an attack on Neko’o Castle at the age of seventy-two.

Following her father’s death in 1585, the Shimazu clan attacked the Tachibana’s lord, the Ōtomo clan in Bungo Province and the Tachibana’s castle. According to the Ōtomo Family Document that records the events in 1586, when the Shimazu army arrived at the castle, Ginchiyo gave the women firearms and they defended the castle gates.

Not long after, Toyotomi Hideyoshi began his conquest into Kyūshū, leading an army of 200,000 men. The Shimazu army retreated back to Higo Province, and the Tachibana were eventually forced to flee as a result of Hideyoshi’s campaign. Their clan’s castle fell and was given to Kobayakawa Takakage. Eventually, the husband and wife duo allied with Hideyoshi to help him defeat the Shimazu clan.

In 1587, Muneshige split the Tachibana clan from the Ōtomo and became and independent clan and becoming a daimyo in his own right. The Tachibana settled at Yanagawa Castle in Chikugo Province, but the couple did not see eye to eye on how to run the clan. They already did not like each other, and this was fueled even more for Ginchiyo when she opposed the change of domain and other policies. Despite the fact the Muneshige was the daimyo, Ginchiyo still carried much of the political and military influence within the clan.

When Hideyoshi’s campaign finally came to an end, Hideyoshi returned Tachibana Castle to Ginchiyo who left to live in her clan’s castle while her husband lived at Yanagawa. She managed the clan if Muneshige was absent and was present at the Siege of Odawara Castle in 1590, the battle that unified Japan for the time being.

In 1592, Ttachibana Muneshige was sent to Korea for Hideyoshi’s invasion and served under the command of Kobayakawa Takakage. Hideyoshi’s command center for the invasion was a Nagoya Castle near Ginchiyo’s Hizen Province. Apparently, Hideyoshi invited Ginchiyo to come to Nagoya Castle several times while Muneshige was away. When she finally accepted, she brought her entourage of armed women, leaving Hideyoshi fearing the onna-bugeisha. Sadly, when the failed Korean Campaign came to an end, Ginchiyo, who never gave birth, divorced Muneshige and became a Buddhist nun.

The chaos that befell the country after Hideyoshi’s death even affected Kyūshū. The Tachibana clan allied itself with Ishida Mitsunari, a move that Ginchiyo originally opposed. When the Eastern Army commanders, Kuroda Kanbei and Katō Kiyomasa, arrived in Kyūshū in 1600 Ginchiyo defended the Ōtomo clan from the invaders. When they began to lay siege to Yanagawa, she organized her fellow nuns and fought against the advancing army. Whether or not if it was her standing alone in her armor, or actually fighting off the enemy serving as the rearguard for Muneshige, she was able to help her ex-husband escape the battle. The two generals knew Muneshige from their days in Korea and asked the two to surrender and join them in taking down Shimazu Yoshihiro who was heading back to Kyūshū after fleeing Sekigahara. While Muneshige agreed, Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered the campaign to stop, not wanting to go any further into Kyūshū than they already had. Despite the fact that Ginchiyo and Munsehige were pardoned, the Tachibana clan lost their domains for siding with the Western Army. Muneshige did thank Ginchiyo for her help and the two parted ways.

Tachibana Ginchiyo spent the rest of her life living with Ichizō, the local famer of Tamana in Higo Province. The protection of her clan went to Katō Kiyomasa and the remainder of the clan stayed at Tachibana Castle. It is suggested from a letter he sent to her with provisions that he respected her as a noble woman. Tachibana Ginchiyo died of illness on November 30, 1602 at the age of thirty-four. She was laid to rest at a temple in Yanagawa.