Table of Contents

Chapter Fourteen Sōrin`s Family



Chapter Fourteen Sōrin`s Family

The author would now like to draw the reader`s attention to Sōrin`s family. Sōrin had a total of three wives. The first of these was a daughter of Isshiki Yoshikiyo (一色義清). The record `Saikoku Seisuiki` (西国盛衰記) disputes this, stating that she was the daughter of Isshiki Yoshiyuki (一色義幸).  However all of the other records dating from the time (such as the Ōtomo Monjo) record her as having been the daughter of Isshiki Yoshikiyo. Unless Yoshiyuki was an alternative name for Yoshikiyo (which seems unlikely), the author has no choice but to search for the origins of Yoshikiyo in order to lay this discrepancy to rest. As is commonly known, the Isshiki family were one of the principal branches of the Ashikaga clan whose origins lay in Kira shōen (吉良庄), Isshiki in Mikawa province. We do not know when the wedding between Sōrin and the Isshiki bride took place, or what the circumstances were that brought them together. What we do know is that Sōrin, after turning 21 and assuming the position of head of the Ōtomo clan, divorced his wife. As none of the daughters born during this period were ever acknowledged by Sōrin, it appears the marriage itself did not last long and that the ties between both houses were not very close. Sōrin`s succession accompanied the banishment of his father in the wake of the `Rebellion of the Second Floor`. If he divorced his first wife soon after this, then one may conject that the marriage itself had been brought about as a result of one of Yoshiaki`s schemes. Professor Kataoka Chizuko claims that the marriage was part of Yoshiaki`s containment strategy against the Ōuchi (Kataoka Chizuko, Ōtomo Sōrin no Konin Mondai - 大友宗麟の婚姻問題, Kirishitan Bunka Kenkyū Kai Kaihō – キリシタン文化研究会会報, 11-1), yet this is merely one hypothesis amongst many.(173)

Sōrin`s next wife was the daughter of Ōmiya no Tsukasa Nata Akimoto (大宮司奈多鑑基) of the shrine of Nata Hachimangū (奈多八幡宮). Her father`s personal name of Aki had been granted by Sōrin`s father, Yoshiaki, as Akimoto was one of his retainers. The reason Akimoto was appointed to the position of overseer of shrines under Sōrin was because he was Sōrin`s father-in-law. Sōrin`s wife`s elder brother also came from the same household, and he would succeed to the head of the Musashi Tahara (武蔵田原) family as Tahara Chikakata Nyūdō Shōnin (田原親賢入道紹忍). As for the period of marriage itself, in Tenshō 5 (1577) Luis Frois mentioned that Sōrin had been married for 30 years (record for the 19th day of the 5th month of Tenshō 5). As such, the marriage must have taken place shortly after Sōrin`s divorce from his first wife. However, in the following year (Tenshō 6, or 1578), this marriage too ended in divorce. As for the reasons given for the sudden divorce, Sōrin`s wife was a member of the Hachiman Ōmiya no Tsukasa family and had a particular loathing for Christianity which served to deepen the gap between herself and Sōrin. The circumstances surrounding the decision to divorce will be examined in detail further on. For now, it suffices to say that amongst all of Sōrin`s marriages, this was the one that lasted the longest and produced 6 or 7 children, one of whom was the heir to the clan, Yoshimune. (174)

The next wife to follow on from this divorce was in the service of the Nata family (the family of Sōrin`s previous wife) and was the mother of the wife of Sōrin`s second son, Chikaie. Since Luis Frois referred to her as `aristocracy`, we can presume that she was a woman of some social status. Yet the only details that we know for certain about her is that her Christian name was Julia, and that at the time (Tenshō 6) she was already aged over forty and quite sickly (according to the records of Luis Frois dated for the 16th day of the 9th month of Tenshō 6). She had been married before, and on the occasion of her marriage to Sōrin was accompanied by her daughter (whose Christian name was Quinta). The marriage apparently produced a daughter (according to a letter from Lourenço Messina, dated for the 12th day of the 9th month of Tenshō 8). Sōrin would spend the last remaining ten years of his life married to this woman.(175)

Interestingly enough, the `Chinzai Yōryaku` states that in the 1st month of Tenbun 4 (1535), a daughter of Yoshitaka was betrothed to Yoshishige in order to cement a peace treaty between Ōtomo Yoshiaki and Ōuchi Yoshitaka. However no other evidence backs this claim up, hence we will be content to merely point this out. Moreover, many of the records detailing the life of Sōrin state that he had a great number of concubines, yet as this is all heresay the truth is that we do not know what the real situation was.(175)

As for Sōrin`s children, Luis Frois mentions them, stating that…”One need only know that the King of Bungo has three sons and four daughters” (record for the 19th day of the 5th month of Tenshō 5). However, for the era in which this comment was made, it appears that it only refers to those children produced through the marriage of Sōrin to his Nata wife, and does not include the child that accompanied Sōrin`s marriage to his third wife Julia (about whom more will be said later). If this latter union is also included, then Sōrin had, in total, three sons and six daughters. Sōrin`s heir, his eldest son Yoshimune, was born in Funai on the 16th day of the intercalculary 6th month in the 1st year of Eiroku (1558). Yoshimune`s infant name was Nagazumaru (長寿丸), and upon his coming-of-age he took the name Shintarō. Eventually he would be granted a character stemming from the name of the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiaki, and would become known as Yoshimune. In his later years he would again change the character in his personal name from 義 to 吉, after being granted this character by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. As a ruler, Yoshimune was not blessed with the same qualities as his father, and had a weak character. This resulted in him being caught between his mother and father over questions of Christianity. More will be said about him later.(175-176)

Next we turn to Sōrin`s second son, Chikaie. He was born in Funai in the 4th year of Eiroku (1561). Records such as the Ōtomo Shi Keizu (in possession of Jōrakuji temple) state that he had a different mother to Yoshimune, yet considering that 6 to 7 children were born between Sōrin and his wife from the Nata family, it seems most likely that he stemmed from this union. His adolescent name was Hayashi Shinkurō, and would go on to become the adopted son of Kuragake Tahara Chikahiro (鞍掛田原親宏), Tahara Chikakata. It appears that he was adopted into a family that already harboured a degree of resistance to the Ōtomo, hence Sōrin employed a device long favoured by rulers of the Ōtomo of sending in one of their own to take over a rival and pacify them. However Chikakata betrayed the Ōtomo, and maintained the Tahara family lineage after the main branch of the Tahara were eliminated by Yoshimune. Chikakata was to betray the Ōtomo again by maintaining secret correspondence with the Shimazu in the wake of their invasion of Bungo, a fact that made Yoshimune furious.(176)

Sōrin`s third son, Chikamori (親盛), was born in Usuki in the 10th year of Eiroku (1567). The Ōtomo Shi Keizu states that he was born to a different mother to Yoshimune, although it is difficult to say whether this is true or not. According to one theory set out in the Ōtomo Shi Keizu, Chikamori was originally known by the priestly name of Genzan Kurokawa (彦山黒川). However he returned to the secular world, was adopted into the Takita family, and took the name Takita Yajurō (弥十郎). After the death of Takita Jōtetsu, he became the adopted son of Tahara Shōnin and joined the Tahara family. Records of the Jesuit society back up the claim of Chikamori`s adoption by the Tahara family, but no evidence can be found that substantiates the claim in the Ōtomo Shi Keizu that Chikamori had been Genzan Kurokawa or that he had been adopted by the Takita family. Supposing that these to claims were true, then after Chikamori had been made a Buddhist priest, he was put to use (in a manner similar to his elder brother) as part of a meticulous plan launched by Sōrin aimed at pacifying the notorious schemer Takita Jōtetsu. Yet another claim put forward by the Ōtomo Shi Keizu mentions a figure described as the elder brother of Chikaie…`the priest San I Ku (三位公) Genzan`. However we know that Chikaie was born the second son of Sōrin as Jesuit records at the time confirm this. Hence the author of the Keizu probably mistook Chikamori for Genzan, who in all probability never existed.(177)   

Sōrin also possessed a number of daughters in addition to his sons. The records of family lineage differ as to how many daughters Sōrin actually had, with some saying six, others seven, while others put the number at eight. What we do know is that the eldest daughter became the bride of Ichijō Kanesada (一条兼定), an aristocrat from Tosa province in exile. She would later re-marry Kiyoda Yoshitada (清田鎮忠). The next daughter became the bride of Kuga Chūnōgon (久我中納言), while the daughter after that became the bride of `Nata Daizen Daifu Akimoto` (奈多大膳大夫鑑元). It is unclear whether this Akimoto was the same as the Akimoto whose personal name read as 鑑基. The mother of these three girls was probably the same descendant of the Nata family who gave birth to Yoshimune. Later we will see how the daughter given as a bride to the Kuga family also possessed a hatred of Christianity as strong as her mother`s.(177-178)

The next two daughters were married off to Ōtomo retainers Usuki Munehisa (臼杵統尚) and Kobayakawa Hidekane (小早川秀包). Only those daughters named above are those about which the sources are in agreement. A record of the Jesuits states that one daughter was married off to the important retainer Shiga Chikanori (Chikataka) (志賀親教, 親孝). Other daughters are mentioned as having been married into the families of Bungo retainers such as the Ichimada and Ōtsuru, while another daughter is mentioned to have been sent as a bride to the Higo Aso Ōmiya no Tsukasa family. However it is impossible to verify whether any of these latter claims are true. At any rate, in the 5th year of Tenshō (or possibly Tenbun) (1557), Sōrin`s son Yoshimune had a son by the daughter of Yoshihiro Akinao, whom was named as Yoshimune`s heir (the child Shiohōshimaru, 塩法師丸, later known as Yoshinori, or 義乗). Sōrin had now been blessed with a legitimate grandson.(178)

By looking at the relationships that went on within the Ōtomo family, it is clear that they were normal by the standards of Sengoku era daimyō, and in many ways resembled the complex inter-weaving of alliances that had been the hallmark of the household of Ōtomo Yoshiaki. When the element of Christianity is added to this mix, then we see the household begin to segregate into two different camps. At the outset of the Tenshō era, Sōrin took one further step towards an acceptance of Christianity. In the 3rd year of Tenshō (1575), Shiga Chikanori, together with his wife (the daughter of Sōrin) and younger sister, paid a visit to the meeting hall of the Jesuits in order to hear a sermon. Both Yoshimune and Chikaie also visited the meeting hall, and expressed a desire to receive baptism (according to a document written by Francisco Cabral and dated for the 8th day of the 8th month of Tenshō 3).(178-179)

Just before this, Ichijō Kanesada of Tosa, who was both a nephew of Sōrin`s and his daughter`s husband, fled to Bungo with his wife in the wake of a revolt against him in Tosa. For three months, Kanesada listened to sermons given by the missionaries, and engaged them in debate and catechisms when opportunities presented themselves. As a result of this activity, Kanesada resolved to become a Christian, and so received the sacrament in the 3rd year of Tenshō (according to a letter written by Francisco Cabral and dated for the 17th day of the 8th month of Tenshō 4). Padre Cabral, who was residing in Ōmura in Hizen province, received a letter from Sōrin urging him to come with all haste to Usuki in order to discuss an important matter. This involved the conversion to Christianity of Sōrin`s second son Chikaie and a number of his subordinates. Cabral was overjoyed at this news. For all of their missionary efforts, the past 20 years had only seen a trickle of conversions by warriors to Christianity, while a majority of those converted were the same sort of person that the missionaries encountered when they first began their activities – namely, the poor and the sick.(179)

As to why Sōrin allowed Chikaie to convert to Christianity, the following appears the most plausible explanation. At the time, the ruler of Bungo had two sons, one of whom would succeed him as ruler. In order to prevent any uprising by the second son, the theory of the day stated that it was necessary for the second son to enter the priesthood and remove himself from secular affairs. Sōrin followed this custom and planned to have Chikaie become a monk. However Chikaie objected to the plan and refused to cooperate. If Chikaie were made a Christian, he would be dependent on his elder brother for protection, which would in turn prevent him from revolting. This is probably why Sōrin wanted his second son and his son`s retainers to receive baptism. Of course, the Ōtomo Shi Keizu states that Chikaie was initially made an acolyte of the temple of Jūrinji in Usuki, and later returned to secular life. It`s possible that Sōrin hid this fact from Cabral. Nevertheless Sōrin had his reasons for approving his son`s baptism, although he went about it in a rather underhand way. Sōrin wanted to avoid any in-fighting among heirs over who would succeed to rule the Ōtomo household, in-fighting that Sōrin had personally witnessed during the `Rebellion of the Second Floor` incident.(180)

Nevertheless, Cabral was pleased that Sōrin wanted to baptize his son. In contrast to his father`s scheming, Chikaie himself had expressed a genuine desire to convert to Christianity. And so in the 11th month of Tenshō 3, Chikaie took the same name as the king of Portugal, Don Sebastião, while his retainers also received the sacrament. Both Sōrin and the resident missionaries were very satisfied with this state of affairs.(180)

Chikaie`s conversion had a profound effect within Bungo, with many Ōtomo retainers choosing to convert to Christianity. It was the reverse of the early missionary experience, for now the extent of belief stretched to include the warrior class. Chikaie did not hide his contempt for Buddhism, and destroyed a number of temples in the Funai region. This act enraged a number of Buddhist priests within Bungo, who considered Chikaie`s conversion to Christanity the largest possible insult against Buddhism (according to the record of Francisco Cabral).(180) Moreover, Sōrin`s wife and his daughter (who in later years would go on to marry Kuga Chūnōgon) hated Christianity, and tried have all missionaries expelled from Bungo. As Buddhism appeared to be being suppressed as a result of the spread of Christianity, both Sōrin and Yoshimune did their best to distance themselves from the Christian faith. However this was not enough. It was about this time that the missionaries in Bungo began to refer to Sōrin`s wife as `Jezebel`. Jezebel was the wife of the Israeli king Ahab, worshipped the god Báal, and banished the prophet Elijah from the kingdom of Israel. The prejudice that Sōrin`s wife displayed against the missionaries led them to give her this nomeclature.(181)

Meanwhile Yoshimune arranged for a debate to be held between the teachings of Christ and followers of Buddhism, and served as a judge during this debate. Apparently Yoshimune was prepared to defend Christianity, which greatly pleased the missionaries. However soon another argument broke out concerning Christian beliefs. The wife of Kuga Chūnōgon (whom was mentioned earlier) had a page serving as her attendant named Esteban. She ordered Esteban to go to a Buddhist temple and receive a protective talisman, something which he refused to do.(181) Both Sōrin`s daughter and his wife turned this incident into a larger problem. Sōrin`s wife forced many retainers of Sōrin and Yoshimune who had converted to Christianity to rescind their faith and revert back to Buddhism, whilst also making them swear that they would not re-convert to Christianity. She also insisted (as we have seen earlier) that all missionaries be expelled from Bungo, as they attacked the gods and boddhisatvas, destroyed the old traditions, and made retainers defy their lords.(182) All of this effort on the part of his wife did not, however, change Sōrin`s mind.(182)

On the other hand, Yoshimune was swayed by his mother`s words and was on good terms with his younger sister. He ordered Esteban to be put to death and banned his retainers from becoming Christian in order to prevent any defiance of his will.(182) Sōrin`s wife then ordered other Christian retainers to apostatize, and planned to have any who refused put to death. Esteban was fully prepared to be executed, while Cabral, who continued to plead on Esteban`s behalf for leniency, made preparations in the meeting hall for Esteban`s martyrdom. For his part, Sōrin wanted the matter resolved, and said as much to Cabral. In the end Yoshimune, bowing to his father`s wishes, forgave the youth, which brought the matter to a close.(182)

The conversion of Tahara Chikatora and marital discord

Sōrin`s wife, who expressed deep misgivings about the Christian faith, was content with matters spiritual and temporal for a while after the incident with Esteban. However another confrontation soon emerged in which she was directly involved. A person by the name of Chikatora, who stemmed from an aristocratic family in Kyoto, was adopted by the powerful Ōtomo retainer, Tahara Chikakata, who also happened to be the elder brother of Sōrin`s wife. Chikatora was engaged to one of Sōrin`s daughters. However he was an avid student of the teachings of Christianity and was determined to undergo baptism. When this fact was revealed to Sōrin`s wife, she flew into a rage. She invited her elder brother to her residence, where she urged him to prevent Chikatora from converting, adding that if he did not stop his adopted son, then the engagement would be declared null and void.(182-183)

It was widely known that Tahara Chikakata, together with his sister, were the most prominent opponents of Christianity within Bungo province. It can be taken as given that Chikakata agreed to his sister`s demand. However nothing could dissuade Chikatora from receiving the sacrament, even though he knew that by doing so his engagement would be cancelled and he would lose his position as heir to the Tahara family (according to a letter by Francisco Cabral and dated for the 17th day of the 8th month of Tenshō 4). Both Chikakata and Sōrin`s wife then proceeded to weave various plans, such as having Chikatora sent to live in Buzen province so that he could be removed from the influence of Christianity. Yet Chikatora was adamant in his faith, and had already taken the name Simon, although he had not received the appellation of `Don`. He was thereafter baptized together with three of his subordinates. This took place on the 7th day of the 4th month of Tenshō 5 (1577), on the night before the festival day of St Michael. During this period, both Cabral and Sōrin gave support to Chikatora (according to a letter by Luis Frois dated for the 19th day of the 5th month of Tenshō 5).(183-184)

When Chikakata heard of Chikatora`s conversion, he too became enraged, and together with Sōrin`s wife made moves to persecute Chikatora. The conflict with Sōrin`s wife over Chikatora`s conversion thus took a turn for the worse. While Chikatora was being persecuted, he managed to send a letter to a missionary. This missionary then passed on the letter to Padre João, who relayed its content to Sōrin, with a proviso asking Sōrin to intervene in order to halt his brother-in-law`s persecution of Chikatora. In response to this, Sōrin didn`t believe that Chikakata himself had taken Chikatora along to hear a sermon delivered at a church, or that a missionary had delayed Chikatora`s conversion by a year and a half in order to test his faith. Faith itself was a free concept, bound to none. Sōrin knew Chikakata`s character well. If Sōrin was to intervene and negotiate between father and son, this could escalate the situation and lead to unrest. Hence it would be better for the time being to pretend not to notice Chikakata`s behaviour, and then when the time was right, to take appropriate measures.(184)

However Chikakata issued threats against Cabral, saying that he would destroy the missionaries` meeting hall and kill any persons residing within. Sōrin was aware of this, and so he ordered the missionaries to immediately inform him should anything untoward occur. Later Cabral, together with a retainer of the Ōtomo clan named Clemente, met with Sōrin and explained to him the danger facing Christians in Bungo. In response, Sōrin stated that he had no choice but to accept Chikakata`s treatment of Chikatora, however in relation to the meeting hall, he would continue to protect it and there was no need to worry. (184-185)

Chikakata, having exhausted various measures against Chikatora, therefore decided to use his most trusted retainers to relay a message from him. In this message, Chikakata again threatened to attack Christian churches and to `dispose` of the missionaries therein. This threat fooled Chikatora, who promised to obey his father`s wishes and apostatize from the Christian faith. When Chikatora later found out that he had been duped by his adoptive father, he apologized to the missionaries. Cabral, for his part, forgave Chikatora, consoled him, and offered him support.(185) Chikakata eventually mobilized his supporters in order to destroy Christian churches and meeting halls, and to massacre any missionaries found nearby. Upon hearing this, many Christian warriors assembled at meeting halls, where they prepared for attacks by Chikakata`s forces. In the meantime the missionaries busied themselves with storing away precious artifacts and prepared for martyrdom. This tense state of affairs lasted 20 days, during which there were two incidents of note.(185)

Sōrin`s wife expended every effort to move Simon`s (i.e, Chikatora`s) heart and make him convert back to Buddhism, whilst also sending messengers to Sōrin and Yoshimune to argue against the missionaries. Conversely, missionaries wrote to Sōrin, urging that Chikatora be protected and stated that they were prepared to be martyred in just such a cause. Sōrin promised the missionaries that he would protect them. He also offered advice to Chikakata, stating that in order to bring about peace between father and son, would it be possible for Chikatora distance himself temporarily from Christianity. Chikatora, however, refused to acquiesce with this plan (according to correspondence written by Francisco Cabral).(186)

Sōrin`s second son Chikaie, who was himself a Christian, objected to Chikakata`s treatment of his adopted son, saying that the persecution of Chikatora was a direct insult against Sōrin. In response to this outburst, Sōrin`s wife declared that Chikaie was no longer her son, refused to meet with him, and continued to urge that the missionaries be expelled from Bungo and all Ōtomo lands. However Sōrin was not swayed by his wife`s demands. The standoff between Sōrin and his wife had reached a climax. Suddenly, however, Sōrin`s wife fell ill and had to be confined to her bed. The elder sister of Sōrin`s wife also started a fire which burned down her residence. Such events were taken as a sign of divine punishment by the missionaries (according to correspondence written by Francisco Cabral).(186)

Chikakata`s fury had not been abated though, for in the 6th year of Tenshō (1578) Chikakata formally severed all ties with Chikatora, and sent him back to his family in Kyoto (according to a letter written by Luis Frois and dated for the 16th day of the 9th month of Tenshō 6). In order to make amends, Sōrin sent his third son Chikamori to Chikakata in order for him to be adopted into the Tahara family (according to a yearly record for Tenshō 11).(186)

Divorce and becoming a Christian

For Sōrin, whose relations with his wife had grown steadily worse in the aftermath of Chikatora`s conversion to Christianity, divorce was an option that could no longer be disregarded. In correspondence sent to the missionaries, Sōrin stated that his wife was the cause of the commotion surrounding Chikatora and that he wished to separate from and banish her from his lands. However Sōrin had been married to the woman for close to 30 years and had six or seven children by her. If he were to suddenly divorce his wife, this would create uproar both within his own family and amongst his retainers which might plunge the province into chaos. Hence (for the time being) he decided against such a move. Nonetheless, it was plainly evident that Sōrin and his wife were living in different worlds. What is more, the hatred that Sōrin`s wife displayed towards Christianity was growing by the day. She made attempts to stop people from converting, and encouraged others to apostatize. She even had rosary beads and small statues (presumably of the Virgin Mary) collected and consigned to the flames.(187)

Sōrin, who found it nigh impossible to bear this behavior any longer, resolved to divorce his wife. He built a residence outside of Usuki castle, into which he placed his new wife, a woman who had previously served as a maid-servant to his former wife. He then moved from his castle to this residence in or around the early months of Tenshō 6 (1578). Sōrin did not banish his former wife, instead allowing her to remain in the castle while he himself left the castle to start life with his new bride. Sōrin`s former wife, upon hearing of her former husband`s behavior and out of anger and humiliation, attempted to end her own life (according to correspondence written by Luis Frois and dated for the 16th day of the 9th month of Tenshō 6).(188) Sōrin had a padre visit his new wife, where she listened to a sermon. Sōrin then made administrative arrangements for Yoshimune, creating official documents ordering his retainers to support Yoshimune after Sōrin retired from his position. He then withdrew from a number of official appointments which involved meetings with senior retainers to discuss matters of rule, and listened to sermons which continued until 10 and 11 o`clock at night. The signs were clear that Sōrin`s faith had reached a much deeper level than before. Sōrin`s new wife, and the daughter that accompanied her both underwent baptism, with his wife receiving the name Julia, while her daughter took the name Quinta.(188-189)

In accordance to Sōrin`s own wishes, Padre João daily held an afternoon service, a practice that continued for some five to six months. As a result, Sōrin, who by now had been convinced by the messages he had heard, decided to renounce Zen, ceased going to local temples, and resolved to convert to the Christian faith. Furthermore, in a meal shared between Sōrin and his senior retainers, he announced that those persons who still venerated the gods and bodhisattvas were `fools`, and extolled the virtues of Christianity. This announcement may have been made possible by the fact that Sōrin had, by this stage, retired as head of the Ōtomo household. Nonetheless, it does appear that Sōrin had cast aside some of the astuteness that he displayed as a politician, and committed himself fully to his Christian beliefs.(189)

As a sign of his faith, Sōrin ordered an opulent set of rosary beads, a golden cross, various other ornaments of religious significance, and a statue of Jesus Christ from artisans in Kyoto. Afterwards, on the recommendation of Padre João, and in order to memorize his catechisms, Sōrin had a handbook made in the western fashion, in which Japanese writing was aligned together with the Latin words for the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria, the Credo, the Salve Regina, the Ten Commandments, general confessions, and other prayers. Sōrin endeavoured both day and night to remember the words to such prayers, and occasionally gave himself a headache by doing so. Though Sōrin`s level of comprehension of the teachings of Christianity is difficult to discern, he was an earnest student. He probably reached that level required of a sincere believer. (189)

One day, after listening to a sermon delivered by one of the priests of the mission, Sōrin invited this priest into a separate room and made clear his intention to convert. In the past Sōrin had leaned towards become a Christian, yet he had (until this time) not done so. There were two reasons why this was so, and why he had now chosen to convert (according to the record of Luis Frois). The first reason stemmed from the simple fact that Sōrin had been preoccupied with ruling his territories.  After he withdrew from the political scene he had the time to be able to do as he wished. The second reason stemmed from the realization that in spite of investing a great amount of time and money in studying Buddhist teachings, erecting temples, and inviting Buddhist scholars from Kyoto, Sōrin found this quite shallow behaviour which offered no sense of consolation. That Sōrin was judged by Frois to have been `too busy` to consider conversion was a fairly superficial reason, as Sōrin himself had said when he was responsible for the rule of his territories, any whimsical conversion to Christianity would invite the ire of both his retainers and Buddhist priests in his lands and thus had to be avoided. Another possible reason stemmed from Sōrin`s domestic affairs. Sōrin may have been attempting to avoid any conflict breaking out between his former wife, who strongly opposed Christianity, and those `other women` in his household who had undergone conversion. One further point of interest concerns the fact that polygamy was banned under Christianity.  Sōrin may not have had the amount of faith required to undergo conversion.(190-191)

Sōrin made his wishes known to the priest administering his baptism, stating that he planned to receive the sacrament after his return from pacifying Hyuga. However, as events in Hyuga were (at that point) unfolding as expected, Sōrin expressed a desire to be baptized as soon as possible. Padre Cabral, upon hearing that Sōrin had gone `down to the provinces` (those areas outside of Bungo province), urged Sōrin to make all haste in returning to Bungo. For his part, Sōrin stated that he wanted a baptismal name that was easy to pronounce, and that wasn`t used by other converts.(191)

Padre João meant to travel down to Hyuga on the Sunday after the meeting between Sōrin and the priest, however one or two days before his departure, a Christian messenger arrived from Sōrin, relaying the following message. Sōrin (as stated earlier) wanted a baptismal name. As St Francis Xavier was the first missionary he had met, and as Sōrin had first learned of the teachings of Christ from Xavier and heard that he was highly venerated as a saint, as far as Sōrin was concerned, the most appropriate baptismal name for him would be `Francisco`. Padre João respected Sōrin`s wishes, and sent the messenger back, stating that he would recommend that Sōrin be given the name of Francisco.(191)

Every day before his baptism, Sōrin repeated fifty Hail Mary prayers (one for every bead in a rosary chain) and fifty of the Lord`s prayer. He performed this three times a day in the morning, at noon, and at night. When in his private residence, Sōrin wore rosary beads around his neck, or else held them in his hands. When he had an audience with his retainers, he would deliver a sermon to them, which subsequently increased the number of Christian followers among his entourage.(192) Sōrin also had images of Kasyapa (acolyte of Gautama Buddha) and Daruma (or Dhama) removed from his quarters, and after issuing orders to his retainers, had these objects thrown into the sea. An aged Zen priest (most likely Iun) who had acted as Sōrin`s teacher and been installed at the Zen temple in Usuki, discovered what Sōrin had been doing, and knew that his continued presence in Bungo no longer had any meaning. He thus petitioned Sōrin to allow him to return to Kyoto. However at this point Yoshimune intervened, and after much agonizing, the priest agreed to remain in Bungo.(192)

Towards the end of the 12th month of Tenshō 5 (1577), Luis Frois arrived in Bungo. Sōrin visited him at the mission in Usuki, where Sōrin questioned him about the method used for the election of popes, and whether or not any `monsignor` would be travelling to Japan that year. (192)

Two days after Padre Cabral returned from the provinces to Bungo, he received word that Sōrin wished to undergo baptism. The next day, Sōrin, riding in his sedan chair and accompanied by six or seven retainers, made his way to the mission in Usuki. There he heard a sermon delivered by Frois, was anointed by him, and received the baptismal name of `Francisco` from Padre Cabral. The day was the festival of St Augustine, or the 25th day of the 7th month of Tenshō 6 (1578). 27 years had passed since Sōrin`s had first learned of the teachings of Christ from Francis Xavier.(193)

Sōrin`s conversion caused a great stir both within and outside the Ōtomo territories, and people did not initially believe news regarding his decision. A variety of opinions and conclusions then emerged from amongst the conjecture. Some thought that Sōrin, in spite of his great wisdom, had acted foolishly, whilst others regarded Sōrin`s baptism as proof of the efficacy of Christianity. Subsequently many Buddhist followers changed their opinion regarding the missionaries and their work (according to Luis Frois). However, Sōrin`s former wife, together with Tahara Chikakata, increased their invective against Christianity, and prevented Yoshimune from undergoing baptism in the same manner as his father (as written in a letter by Francisco Galien, and dated for the 17th day of the 11th month of Tenshō 7). A few months later, Sōrin, together with his new wife and her daughter, made his way to the meeting hall of the mission in Usuki. It was the first time that Sōrin`s new wife had visited the place, hence the hall itself was decked out in all of its finery. She spent quite a while in prayer, and then, again with Sōrin, engaged in light conversation with the missionaries.(193)

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© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in February 2012