Samurai name meaning: Akechi Mitsuhide


Akechi Mitsuhide 明智 光秀 is a famous Samurai in Sengoku period who killed his lord Oda Nobunaga 織田 信長 and was killed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣 秀吉. He excelled at literary and military arts and was a renowned lord of Fukuchiyama region (even nowadays a Shinto festival for Mitsuhide by Goryo shrine; 御霊神社). But he had a bad reputation generally in long history because he earned his place as a disloyal and immoral vassal to make a surprise attack to his lord.

Samurai traditionally have several names. (learn more) They change their name to fit different situations and life stages. This was normal within the Samurai rank.

The transition of his names are as follows.


⒈ 彦太郎

Yōmyō 幼名, childhood name
nnnnnn    n彦   太郎
reading:   hiko, taro
meaning: man, thick guy

His childhood is clearly unknown, except the fact that he was a low class Samurai of the Toki family, one of the famous members of the Minamoto clan. His childhood name, Hikotaro, is only found in the document published in the late Edo period but no single theory has been accepted [1].
Hiko 彦 is an eulogistic name of a man. Taro 太郎 is used for a first boy among Samurai, directly translated “a thick guy”.

[1] 芝裕之, 図説 明智光秀

⒉ 明智 十兵衛 光秀

Myōji 名字, family name
nnnnnnn       明   智
reading:      ake, chi
meaning: bright, wise

Kemyō 仮名, pseudonym
nnnnnnn      十 兵衛
reading:      jyu, bei
meaning: 10th, imperial guard

Jitsumyō 実名, true name
nnnnnnn       光      秀
reading:     mitsu, hide
meaning: shining, exceptional

The origin of the “Akechi” family name comes from the land history where they settled. The ancestors drained a swamp of water (茶地; Akechi, tea brown land) in Mino Province, and changed the land into the useful one (開け地;Akechi, opened land). The place was named with same sounds but different auspicious kanji characters 明智, meaning bright and wise, from time unknown.

Jubei is directly translated into “the 10th guy”, but it doesn’t show Mitsuhide was the 10th boy of the then Akechi family. Samurai sometimes used the pseudonym of their ancestors like Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川 家康. So Mitsuhide might call himself with his ancestors’ pseudonym. Another famous Samurai named Jube was Okubo Nagayasu 大久保 長安 and Yagyu Mitsuyoshi 柳生 三厳.

Mitsu of Mitsuhide is thought to be a Tsuji 通字 or a traditional kanji character of the Akechi family. His father Mitsu-tsuna 光綱, his grandfather Mitsu-tsugu 光継 and his son Mitsu-yoshi 光慶.

3. 惟任 日向守 光秀

Myōji 名字, family name
nnnnnnn                惟   任
reading:               kore, to
meaning: think deeply, assign

Kemyō 仮名, pseudonym
nnnnnnn       日向守
reading:   Hyuganokami
meaning: the governor of Hyūga Province

Jitsumyō 実名, true name
nnnnnnn       光      秀
reading:     mitsu, hide
meaning: shining, exceptional

Despite his low class origins, Mitsuhide continued his promotion with his intelligence and ability, and became one of the four distinguished generals in Oda family‘s retainer.

At the investiture in 1575, His lord Oda Nobunaga gave him a new family name and a title. Koreto (惟任) is the name of an old and powerful family in Kyushu. Hyuganokami 日向守 is the governor of Hyuga Province, a southern land in Kyūshū 九州. These shows that Nobunaga prepared for bringing invasion into Kyūshū at full swing. But in 1582, before the kick-start, Mitsuhide raised a rebellion against Nobunaga and killed him (Honnō-ji incident; 本能寺の変). Then Mitsuhide was killed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

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