Kanbei Kuroda and his son Nagamasa founded the Fukuoka Domain, but they encountered many difficulties along the road to daimyohood. All the while, the Kurodas, who were originally high-ranking samurai in Himeji, Harima Province (now Hyogo Prefecture), were served by a group of loyal vassals known as the Twenty-four Horsemen of Kuroda (Kuroda Nijūyonki). This elite group was renowned for acts of bravery in war.
The eight vassals with the most impressive achievements were dubbed the Eight Tigers of Kuroda (Kuroda Hakko). The most famous of these loyal retainers was Tahei (aka Tomonobu) Mori, who is sung about in the Kuroda-bushi folk song. He was renowned for his adept spearmanship and high tolerance for alcohol. As the story goes, Tahei won the famed Nihon-go spear after drinking down a large cup of sake on a challenge from Masanori Fukushima, one of Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s retainers.
One of Kanbei’s closest vassals was Toshiyasu Kuriyama, who later became the chief retainer of the Kuroda Clan. Kuriyama had served Kanbei ever since their days in Harima and even rescued him from a rival clan’s castle dungeon. He was also the brother-in-law of—and quiet, level-headed counterpart to—the quick-tempered Tahei.
Another famous retainer was Yukifusa Inoue, who served four generations of Kuroda’s starting with Kanbei’s father Mototaka. After coming o Fukuoka, he was tasked with protecting the border with Buzen Province (which was ruled by the Hosokawa clan) as the lord of Kurosaki Castle. Mototsugu (aka Matabei) Goto, who was raised by Kanbei, was another one of the Kuroda’s heroic warriors. With spear skills on par with Tahei’s, he earned the nickname “Matabei of the Spear”.
The Fukuoka City Museum has more than 20 scrolls depicting the Twenty-four Horsemen of Kuroda, all of which give a strong impression of the group’s solidarity.
Originally published by Fukuoka Now Magazine (Aug. 2014)