Naoe Kanetsugu* (直江 兼続, 1559 – January 23, 1620)was a Japanese samurai of the 16th–17th centuries. The eldest son of Higuchi Kanetoyo, Kanetsugu was famed for his service to two generations of the Uesugi+ daimyōs#. He was also known by his court title, Yamashiro no Kami (山城守) or his childhood name, Higuchi Kanetsugu (樋口 兼続).
* First name Kanetsugu, family name Naoe.
+ The Uesugi clan was a Japanese samurai clan, descended from the Fujiwara clan and particularly notable for their power in the Muromachi and Sengoku periods.
# The daimyō were powerful Japanese feudal lords who, until their decline in the early Meiji period, ruled most of Japan from their vast, hereditary land holdings. In the term, dai (大) means “large”, and myō stands for myōden (名田), meaning private land.
Kanetsugu served first as a koshō (小姓)* to Uesugi Kenshin. After Kenshin had died, he served Kagekatsu, the adopted son of Kenshin. Kanetsugu’s brother, Ōkuni Sanehiro, was also a famous Uesugi retainer.
* A page or page boy is traditionally a young male attendant or servant.
+ Uesugi Kenshin was a daimyō who was born as Nagao Kagetora, and after the adoption into the Uesugi clan, ruled Echigo Province in the Sengoku period of Japan. He was one of the most powerful daimyōs of the Sengoku period. While chiefly remembered for his prowess on the battlefield, Kenshin is also regarded as an extremely skillful administrator who fostered the growth of local industries and trade; his rule saw a marked rise in the standard of living of Echigo.
Both Uesugi Kenshin and Naoe Kanetsugu were educated in the ways of the samurai at Untoan Temple, on the south side of Sakado Mountain in Minamiuonuma.
The 2009 48th NHK Taiga drama Tenchijin was a dramatization of 47 episodes about the life of Kanetsugu. The NHK drama aired across Japan, rekindling the past with famous images of Niigata, as it was known then, as Echigo. The drama is available online at IMDB and youtube.
Kanetsugu was known as a man of extreme loyalty to the Uesugi family. He also made every effort to protect the people of Echigo with a strong sense of justice and genuine sympathy toward commoners. His fabled helmet, was decorated with the kanji character for ‘Love’.
YukiGuni Times is pleased to have permission from the City of Minamiuonuma to display the Kanetsugu logo on our website.