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Mōri Motonari
Mōri Motonari
Born (1497-04-16)April 16, 1497
Died July 6, 1571(1571-07-06) (aged 74)
Place of birth Suzuo Castle, Aki Province
Place of death Yoshida-Kōriyama Castle, Aki Province

Mōri Motonari (毛利 元就?, April 16, 1497 – July 6, 1571) was a prominent daimyō in the west Chūgoku region of Japan during the Sengoku period of the 16th century.

Early years

Mōri Motonari was born under the name Shōjumaru in a small domain of Aki province in 1497. He is said to have been born at Suzuo Castle, his mother's homeland. His father, Mōri Hiromoto retired as the head of the clan in 1500, and moved to Tajihi-Sarugake Castle along with his son Shōjumaru. As titular head of the clan, Hiromoto was succeeded by his elder son Mōri Okimoto.

In 1506, Hiromoto died of alcohol abuse. Shōjumaru remained at Sarugake, but was troubled by another clan member of the Inoue family, who was aggressively seizing land.

In 1511, Shōjumaru officially became an adult, or genpuku, and was renamed Motonari.

Succeeding the clan

In 1516, Okimoto died. Okimoto's son Kōmatsumaru succeeded to the leadership of the clan, and Motonari became his overseer. Kōmatsumaru died eight years later in 1523, and Motonari succeeded him.

Expanding Territory

Sandwiched between the powerful Amago and Ōuchi clans, Motonari led the clan by carefully balancing actions and diplomacy. Eventually, Motonari succeeded in defeating both and controlled the entire Chūgoku area. In his late years, he crushed the Ōtomo clan of Bungo province.

He had three sons, Mōri Takamoto, Kikkawa Motoharu, and Kobayakawa Takakage, whom he encouraged to work together for the benefit of the Mōri clan. In one instance, he is said to have handed each of his sons an arrow and asked each snap it. After each snapped his arrow, Motonari produced three arrows and asked his sons to snap all three at once. When they were unable to do so (according to a legend still taught today), Motonari explained that one arrow could be broken easily, but three arrows held together could not. It is not known for certain if this actually happened or if it is apocryphal legend.

His eldest son, Mōri Takamoto, while en route to attack the Amago clan, died of a sudden disease, though assassination by poison was suspected. Saddened and angered by his death, Motonari ordered all those responsible to be punished.


In all, Motonari had nine sons and two daughters; four children (including Takamoto, Motoharu, and Takakage) were by his wife, three by a consort from the Nomi clan, and four by a consort from the Miyoshi clan.

Cultural references

See People of the Sengoku period in popular culture.

The parable regarding Motonari, his three sons, and the lesson of the three arrows is believed have been a source of inspiration for Akira Kurosawa when he was writing his epic film Ran. The name of the local J League soccer team, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, was also inspired by this story. "San" means three in Japanese, and "frecce" means arrows.

The main television broadcasting company of Japan, NHK, aired a TV drama called Mōri Motonari.

He is represented as a character in both the Sengoku Basara and Samurai Warriors series. He is represented as a character in Pokemon Conquest as the warlord of the Greenleaf Kingdom, with his partner Pokémon being Servine and Serperior.


See also

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