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Saitō Dōsan
Saitō Dōsan
Born 1494
Died May 28, 1556(1556-05-28) (aged 62)
Place of death Battle of Nagaragawa, Mino Province

Saitō Dōsan (斎藤 道三?, 1494 – May 28, 1556), also known as Saitō Toshimasa, was a Japanese samurai during the Sengoku period.[1]

He was also known as the Serpent of Mino (美濃の蝮 Mino no Mamushi?) for his ruthless tactics.[citation needed]

Early life[]

Originally a wealthy merchant from Yamashiro Province (modern-day Kyoto Prefecture), he entered the service of Nagai Nagahiro of Mino Province (southern half of modern-day Gifu Prefecture), assuming the name Nishimura Kankurô.[citation needed]


Dosan became a retainer of the daimyo of Mino, Toki Yorinari.[2]

He married Ômi no kata, a daughter of Akechi Mitsutsugu.[1]

He eventually succeeded in becoming the magistrate of Mino Province and settled in Inabayama Castle.[3] Using his power and wealth, he drove Toki Yorinari out of Mino Province in a coup d'état in 1542, and claimed the region as his own, becoming a daimyo in his own right. Afterwards, Toki Yorinari allied with Oda Nobuhide of Owari Province, which was on the southern border of Mino Province, but their defeat at the Battle of Kanōguchi, in 1547, solidified Dōsan's domination of Mino.[citation needed] Dōsan became the father-in-law of Oda Nobunaga.[1]

Inabayama Castle (later renamed Gifu Castle), used as headquarters by Dōsan

In 1556, Saitō Dōsan fell in battle against forces led by his own son, Saitō Yoshitatsu.[1]

Around 1555, rumors began to circulate that Saitō Yoshitatsu was not in fact Dōsan's son; it was said that he was Yorinari's. It does not appear that Yoshitatsu had been aware of that possibility himself until he heard the rumors.[citation needed]

The circumstances surrounding this are unclear, however. One belief is that Dōsan, having had a number of sons after Yoshitatsu, had decided to name one of them heir (despite having officially retired by this point in favor of Yoshitatsu). Another theory holds that Yoshitatsu simply assumed that he would be disinherited, and decided to move first.[citation needed] A further idea is that Saitō Yoshitatsu just elected to usurp his father's power.

Relations at any rate quickly soured between Yoshitatsu and Dōsan, leading up to the Battle of Nagaragawa, where Dōsan was heavily outnumbered.[citation needed]

In desperation, Dosan is alleged to have named Nobunaga as lord of Mino in his will and sent this document to Nobunaga. Nobunaga, however, was unable to provide help.[citation needed]

Dōsan was defeated and his head was taken by a certain Komaki Genta, a retainer of Yoshitatsu's son Tatsuoki. His remains were originally interred in Sōfuku-ji, but they were later moved to Jōzai-ji because the Nagara River kept overflowing and covering his burial mound.[4] Both temples are located in Gifu.


Saitō Dōsan is known for having a large number of pseudonyms and for frequently changing his name. Some believe that this is because there were two Saitō Dōsan, father and son, and the son adopted his father's name after his death. Other names of Saitō Dōsan are Minemaru (峰丸), Hōrenbō (法蓮坊), Matsunami Shogorō (松浪庄五郎), Nishimura Kankurō Masatoshi (西村勘九郎正利), Shinkurō (新九郎), Nagai Norihide (長井規秀), and Saitō Sakondayu Toshimasa (斎藤左近大夫利政). The name Saitō was adopted from the former shugodai of Mino who had been overcome by the Nagai clan in the 1520s.[citation needed]

See also[]

  • Saitō clan


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Saitō Dōsan" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 809.
  2. Sengoku Bushō Retsuden 12: Saitō Dōsan. Accessed September 20, 2007.
  3. Buke Kaden - Mino Saitō-shi. Harimaya. Accessed September 20, 2007.
  4. Gifu City Walking Map. Gifu Lively City Public Corporation, 2007.

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