Clan History: Mori
By Terikel Grayhair | Forum thread
“It is impossible to stand on our forested mountains, looking out over the sea in the morning, and not stand in awe at the rising sun.”
Such is the spirit of the Mori. Unlike other clans who claim descent from past emperors or even the gods themselves, we Mori claim our first ancestor to be Oe Hiromoto, a loyal and notable retainer of the august Minamoto clan from whom others claim as their lineage. Like those other clans, we too fought and scrambled to build our empire in the Land of the Rising Sun.
We rose to fame as rulers of Aki Province, a collection of wooded hills near the western tip of the main island of Honshu, looking southwards over the sea towards the Chosokabe holdings on Shikoku. We grew strong in those hills, and reverent. We are among the clans closest to the barbarous land of Korea, and nearest to the refined elegance of the Chinese. Both of these lands would have things we needed to grow strong, though we had no direct contact with those foreign devils. From the Chinese, we learned of Buddha and Sun Tzu, of Confucius and Zen, while from the Koreans we learned of piracy, pirates, and their ways. We assimilated some, and used others. And we grew, playing off one clan against another and devouring both in the end, only to start the game anew.
We reached our height under Mori Motonari, son of our daimyo Mori Hiromoto, and brother to Hiromoto’s heir Okimoto. Motonari was but seventeen summers of age when Okimoto died and the wretched daimyo Takeda Motoshige tried to absorb our clan into his own. Motonari repulsed the Takeda challenge in the Battle of Arita-Nakaide which saw the death of the noted Takeda retainer Kumagai Motonao and of the daimyo Takeda Motoshige himself. This crucial first action of our newest daimyo set him upon a path of rigorous growth and power.
Motonari married a Kikkawa woman named Kunitsune, with whom he fathered three strong sons. This was to be a joyful union, and one which brought the Kikkawa Clan firmly into alliance with the Mori. This allowed him to ally with the Amako against the Ouchi and punish the Ouchi by taking from them Kagamiyama Castle. The Amako failed, but a trick by our Motonari led to the murder of the Castle commander, bringing the castle into friendly hands. This gave our Motonari much prestige, so much so that when the young son of Okimoto died- he for whom our daimyo was acting as regent- the clan decided that Motonari had earned the right t rule our clan directly. Some disagreed- notably his brother Sogo and retainer Katsura Hirozumi- but seppuku is a powerful persuader. Both men completed the act, and Motonari was solidly in command of our clan.
The Amako tried to take advantage of this internal struggle. They besieged our lord, who sallied and fought a series of battles ending with the liquidation of the Amako. Takeda Nobusane made a feeble effort to aid his Amako allies; Motonari drove him from the province and ended the power of the Aki-based Takeda. He went further, and through a combination of battlefield prowess and devious trickery, succeeded in carving a large realm for the Mori.
While Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen had an epic rivalry between them, so did our Mori Motonari and Sue Harukata. Sue was an Ouchi retainer, who rebelled and became an ally of the Mori, who benefitted from the turmoil. But that was not to last.
The two allies broke, and turned against each other for battle. Sue’s forces far outnumbered our Mori warriors, but we had Motonari’s brain and they did not. Motonari fought Sue to a standstill and won a few, but Sue had much more resources with which to raise new forces. So Motonari neutralized him quite effectively by letting his foe seize the strategic Miyajima castle.
Miyajima could serve as a strategic base from which to strike hard all up and down the Aki coast. Many thought Motonari a fool for letting his foe seize it, but Motonari knew better. He waited for Sue to make Miyajima his base, and then he waited for a thunderstorm. And then he struck.
It was mentioned that Motonari married a Kikkawa lass, and that they had three fine sons. Each had served in subordinate clans, binding them closer to the Mori. One of these clans was the Murakami, who specialized in naval warfare. One son-, Takakage- and the Murakami sailed in full view of Sue past the castle, while another snuck in to the east side, disgorged his troops, and departed unseen. Then Takakage sailed back in the morning and struck directly at Sue’s headquarters. Sue, naturally, sent his forces to greet these invaders, and that was when Motonari and his troops struck them from behind. Sue retreated, but he had already lost. He committed seppuku, and the majority of his samurai joined him.
Motonari continued gaining land and power, by force of arms where necessary, or by wiles, trickery, murder, and intrigue where feasible. He retired in 1557 to allow his son Takamoto to rule, while he settled back to enjoy the arts and poetry. He came back to power when Takamoto suddenly died in 1563, and continued where he had left off. Those he deemed responsible for the death of his heir were murdered, and those who came even close to challenging Mori authority were ruthlessly dealt with. Motonari was without a doubt the most powerful daimyo in all of western Honshu by the time he died in 1571.
Lo, what pinnacles we had reached under that great man! Then we were left to his grandson, Terumoto, who lacked all of his grandsire’s wiles and most of his judgment. He made error upon error, backing one falling star after another. He fought against Oda Nobunaga and lost, and against Toyotomi Hideyoshi and lost again. He did nothing while his Kikkawa allies were starved into submission, and his long-time rivals the Amako tried to rise to prominence again. This he did something about, and crushed them bloodily.
He made peace with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who outfoxed him, and served thereafter the Toyotomi warlord faithfully. He was part of an expedition against the Koreans, and was named one of the five regents upon the death of Hideyoshi.
Here began our downfall. The land was split between two warlords- Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari. Ieyasu wanted to rule directly, while Mitsunari wanted to keep the inheritance of Hideyoshis son intact for the boy. It led to bloodshed. Terumoto, our daimyo, was named by Ishida as ‘commander in chief’ of the forces, then sent to garrison Osaka Castle, which made his title moot as he could not command the forces mustering for battle while he was inside a castle far, far away. Thus he sulked, as did his men- who formed the largest contingent in the Ishida army.
Ieyasu displayed Mori wiles. He found out about the Mori displeasure, and promised that inaction would bring its own reward. Terumoto, who heard the same thing from his Kikkawa advisor, obliged. When Ishida lost, as he had to when the largest piece of his army hardly moved, Terumoto was indeed rewarded. “It is the duty of a commander in chief to fight,” Ieyasu decreed, and in saying so indirectly accused Terumoto of cowardice. Terumoto used his own deviousness to avoid the suggested penalty and to retain his life- but he paid a price. The Tokugawa took away most of our provinces- including our ancient home Aki!- and reduced us to near poverty again. Our new capital would be Hiroshima, which would grow to be a huge city in later times, but better known for its most horrific fate on that cruel day, the sixth of August 1945.
Terumoto shaved his head, and devoted his life to that of a monk. He saved our clan from total annihilation, but our day had past with his grandfather. It was time for the Mori to return to their roots, to the mountains and the sea, and ebb away from the spheres of power we had only come to know through Motonari.