Sagara Yoshiharu; Historical Political Figure and Pop Culture Inspiration

Throughout history, many historical figures made a name for themselves by standing by what they believed in, fighting wars for certain causes, having inherited crucial roles and positions that have the power to change lives in an instant, and so much more. Japan had its fair share of heroes and historical figures throughout history, many of whom made a name for themselves during the nation’s bloodiest era; the Sengoku period.

It was during this period that feudal warlords, or “daimyo” (大名) would fight over power and properties, no holds barred. Eras before this saw more structure, as there was a shogun to listen to, but when there was no successor to the shogun, it made way for a bloody free-for-all among the power-hungry daimyo.

By Fraxinus2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Clan Versus Clan

For a war to be waged, the daimyo would need to have some sort of army or backup, and he would only be able to acquire that if he was able to influence (or force) a large number of people to fight for his cause. This is where the clan comes in, which has influence over their own dominion. There were many clans that held their own territories all over Japan, and the race to the throne for who had the most power ensued.

These conflicts and general distress caused the 10-year long Onin War, which began in 1467. Two clans; the Hosokawa clan from the east and the Yamana clan from the west went head-to-head. In the end, three warlords were cunning and charismatic enough to come together to unify Japan. Those three warlords were Tokugawa Ieyasu, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Oda Nobunaga. 

While all of this was going on, there were other clans who fought their own battles and had to defend themselves from their own enemies. One of those clans was the Sagara clan. Within the clan was many men – one of them was called Sagara Yoshiharu. 

See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Who Was Sagara Yoshiharu?

Though not much is said about him outside of Japanese history, Sagara Yoshiharu was daimyo who lived during the Sengoku period, which is an era that occurred between the years 1467 and 1603 A.D. During the time of his ruling, he oversaw the affairs of the southern Higo Province, Totomi, which would be called the Hitoyoshi Domain, or “Hitoyoshi-han” (人吉藩). 

He was presumably born on the 1st of March in 1544 and died on December 27, 1581. He had many names, from Manchimaru when he was young, to Besso, to Yosshinobu, and Yiyang. He also had an alias, which was “Taro Shiro”. His lord name was Yoshihisa Shimazu.

By 不詳 (人吉市相良神社所蔵) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Relationships of Sagara Yoshiharu 

Hailing from the Sagara clan, he was born to Haruhiro Sagara, his father, and Ueda Oribe, his mother. He was considered a bastard, as his parents had not officially married. 

He had many siblings, Yoshiyo, Yoriyuki Sada, and Kametoku. As for any romantic relationship – he had two of them. He married Chiyomi, and the daughter of Toyonaga Nagae; Yoshinobu. He had many children, the eldest of which was a girl named Tigerumi, followed by another girl named Senba, and then Chiyo, who was given her mother’s name. His other children (from his other wife) include Sagara Tadanobu, who was his eldest son, another boy named Sagara Yorifusa, and lastly, Sagara Cho-Makoto. 

The Circumstances of Sagara Yoshiharu’s Death

Sagara Yoshiharu died during a siege in the Battle of Hibinohara. An enemy soldier sent by another clan murdered him. It was rumored that he had a vassal who warned him against this attack and insisted they vacate the premises, but he refused to acknowledge this insider information. Sagara Yoshiharu was supposedly seated on the floor when the intruder sent him to his death. He died at the age of 37. 

Many of Sagara Yoshiharu’s children would continue to carry the legacy of Sagara Yoshiharu, as his descendants held powerful political positions when it came to the Hitoyoshi Domain. The Sagara clan ruled this domain from as early as the 1200’s, up until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

More About the Sagara Clan

Though the Sagara clan existed before the Sengoku period, it was within that specific period that they rose to eminent power. By the Edo period, this clan is considered a “tozama daimyo” (外様大名) clan. Unlike the “fudai daimyo” (譜代大名), who earned their daimyo status through inheritance directly from the Tokugawa administration (they had ranks within government), tozama daimyo were those who were opposed to the Tokugawa shogunate, and only submitted after the Tokugawa clan won. Despite the presence of their prevailing power over their plots of land, the ultimate rulers of Japan (aka the Tokugawa shogunate) considered them outsiders. 

Expensive Land

As for Kokudaka (a system that calculated how valuable a certain area was depending on the economic yield of the area – holding figurative links to the amount of rice harvested), the Sagara clan had 22,000 “koku”, or “石” (a special unit of volume particular only to the Japanese). This was a large amount, giving great value to the terrain, and more power to the clan.

A History of Aristocracy

The Sagara clan formed ties with the Shimazu clan for tactical reasons. By themselves, they already garner a reputation, as they descended from the prestigious Fujiwara clan. They had many properties, and rumor has it, they were fond of a “shoen” or manor that belonged to them, located in the Haibara district of Sagara. in Totomi.

Choosing Sides 

Back in the year 1198, the land of Hitoyoshi was granted by Minamoto no Yoritomo to the Sagra clan, only a year before he passed away. The strategic location of Hitoyoshi proved to be an advantage for the clan, as enemies had a hard time infiltrating them because of the surrounding mountains. With Sengoku being a period of upheaval and wars, the factor of defensible territory proved to be a large help in preserving their titles of command. 

By Siwamura (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A member of the clan named Sagara Nagatsune was one of the most famous to date, as he played a part in the victory of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Joining the side of the Western Army at first, and then turning around and letting attackers into the premises of Ogaki castle made him a player in one of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s key victories. He continued to help the Tokugawa clan in the Siege of Osaka, which lasted from November 8, 1614, until January 22, 1615. The victory went to the Tokugawa shogunate, launching Sagara Nagatsune into even more prestige and prominence in the socio-political world.  Their clan is memorialized in a shrine dedicated to them.

What Is Oda Nobuna No Yabou

Known in English as “The Ambition of Oda Nobuna”, Oda Nobuna No Yabou is a light novel that mixes historical facts with fiction, adding a twist of action and romantic comedy. Oda Nobuna No Yabou had 19 volumes, illustrated by Miyama-Zero, and written by Mikage Kasuga. Its first 10 volumes were published by SoftBank Creative, while the 11th and other volumes following that were (and are still being published) by Fujimi Shobo. This series was made mostly for the male demographic.

There is also a Manga of the same series, though it only ran from July of 2011 until June of 2014, with 5 volumes. It was published by Kadokawa Shoten, and illustrated by Shigure Aoba, still written by Mikage Kasuge. It was still made for the seinen (young male) demographic. 

Who Is Sagara Yoshiharu In Oda Nobuna No Yabou?

The plot of the entire series revolves around a boy who just so happens to coincidentally be called Yoshiharu Sagara – just like the actual Japanese historical character himself. He is a normal boy who attends high school when suddenly, he is transported through time back to the Sengoku period.

There, he finds himself in a battlefield, about to be murdered, when a young Hideyoshi Toyotomi comes to save his life. He realizes that history has been changed because of what had happened, and strives to bring things back to normal, and go back to present-day life. Having played a video game called “Nobunaga’s Ambition”, Yoshiharu more or less knows the elements of the history of the Sengoku period and is shocked to find out that Oda Nobunaga – a prominent figure of that time – is nowhere to be found.

He instead meets Nobuna Oda, a female daimyo. She takes him in her stead. He earns the nickname “Saru” from her, which means monkey, and he continues to work to fix history and get things back to how they were, and how they should be, starting off as her retainer.

More About Sagara Yoshiharu, the Anime Character

Being the protagonist of Oda Nobuna no Yabou, Sagara Yoshiharu does not look like a built, buff warrior fit for the job of a daimyo – instead, he is a normal, simple, and slim-looking 17-year-old boy with yellowish-brown eyes. Throughout the series, he gains a bit more muscle as he goes through more adventures.

He carries a uniform that’s colored dark gray with a rounded collar. Under his polo, he wears a yellow shirt. He has a trademark tuft of brown swirled hair on his head, while the rest of his hair falls straight down at medium length. Although he lives during the ancient Sengoku period, his modern apparel does not seem to draw any attention from anyone else.

He begins his job as a foot soldier during the first volume, turns into a vice-captain on the second volume, and finally gets promoted into daimyo during the 8th volume.  He has two affiliations; one with the Asano clan, and one with the Oda fraction. He has an adopted little sister, an adoptive grandfather – and would later marry Nobuna Oda in volume 19. 

The Personality of Sagara Yoshiharu

Always feeling bold and brave, Sagara Yoshiharu is what you would expect of an adventurous and thrill-seeking hero of the show. He would sacrifice himself for the sake of someone else and is not afraid to state his opinion or thoughts on matters. He is a kind and loyal man who knows how to take leadership (and defeats the army of Imagawa Yoshimoto, who beat Ashikaga Yoshiaki). 

His downfall is his tendency to be rude, and disrespectful. Sometimes he does not address people with as much respect as he should, and he badmouths his enemies (like Azai Nagamasa, and in the beginning, Tsuda Nobosumi/Oda Nobukatsu, Oda Nobuna’s brother) to an extent that is undesirable.

He was also known in his school for having the superhuman skill of avoiding dodgeballs, which earned him the nickname “ball avoiding Yoshi”. This would come in handy during his first experiences in the Sengoku period.

A definitive aspect of Sagara Yoshiharu’s character was that he drew many women and found many of them attractive as he would grow weak when they would interact with them – much like how he would feel about the physical appearance of Shibata Katsuie, Juubei Mitsuhide, and even Kuroda Kanbei. 

Is Sagara Yoshiharu Dead?

While the real Sagara Yoshiharu has long been dead, the character of Sagara Yoshiharu in Oda Nobuna No Yabou is not dead. 

Other Characters in The Show

Sagara Yoshiharu had to deal with other personalities, one of them was Hanbei Takenaka, who was one of the most powerful entities in the series. Yoshiharu would always treat her kindly, and same goes for his subordinate, Goemon Hachisuka. There was also Saidou Dousan, who he showed bravery in asking him to give up his land and was unfazed by the intimidating Takeda Shingen. He also is good friends with Zenki, Inuchiyo Maeda, and Saitou Dousan.