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Naoshige proved himself in battle as he led forces of Ryūzōji Takanobu. In 1570, Naoshige assisted Takanobu while at Saga Castle when it was surrounded by a 60,000-man Ōtomo clan army. However, Naoshige had only 5,000 troops, so he suggested a night raid on the enemies camp which successfully routed them. In 1575, he attacked Suko Castle in western Hizen and forced its commander, Hirai Tsuneharu, to commit suicide.
A Sengoku era warlord, Nabeshima distinguished himself in battle by killing hundreds of men. He was later sent on Hideyoshi's Korean campaigns where he struck up a friendship with Kato Kiyomasa and upon his return to Hizen, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Naoshige also assisted Takanobu during the Battle of Okitanawate but was unable to prevent their rout which later ended in Takanobu's death. Naoshige took this chance of having a weak heir to leave the Ryūzōji and to support Toyotomi Hideyoshi while during his battle against Kyūshū in 1587. Afterwards much of the Ryūzōji territory which also included the Saga Castle. Naoshige followed in leading over 12,000 men to Korea in the First Korean Campaign.
At Sekigahara, Lord Nabeshima's son, Katsushige, was convinced to take sides against Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nabeshima wisely recalled him to attack Tokugawa's enemies in Kyūshū, thus saving the clan from disaster. Historians describe Nabeshima as "a survivor and a man of quick intelligence" who saved his domain from invasion several times. His actions and sayings are immortalized in the third chapter of the Hagakure by writer Tsunetomo Yamamoto, a close attendant of Nabeshima Naoshige's grandson, Mitsushige.
Following the Battle of Sekigahara during the year of 1600 Naoshige sent his son, Nabeshima Katsushige to assist Tokugawa Ieyasu. Following the victory of the Tokugawa clan, their 357,000-koku fief went untouched by Ieyasu. Following Naoshige's death his family became very well known.
Naoshige is known for re-settling potters from Korea in Hizen.
- Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Nabeshima Naoshige" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 680.
- Papinot, Jacques Edmond Joseph. (1906). Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie du Japon; Papinot, (2003). "Ryūzōji," Nobiliare du Japon, p. 50 [PDF 54 of 80]; retrieved 2013-5-2.
- Nussbaum, "Ryūzōji" at p. 802.