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Chapter Nineteen Issuing historical documents and other articles in relation to the Ōtomo



Chapter Nineteen Issuing historical documents and other articles in relation to the Ōtomo

Historical documents related to the Ōtomo family were first compiled in 1926 by Takita Manabu, a one-time lecturer at Ōita Industrial High School (now the economics department of Ōita University), in a labour of love that was to continue for the next twenty years. The author was fortunate enough to receive some of Professor Takita`s wisdom, for while Professor Takita was investigating records into the lineage of the Takita family he discovered that he was descended from one of the branch houses of the Ōtomo family. This spurred on his desire to find out all there was to know about the Takita and Ōtomo families, launching him along the path of collecting documents for compilation. The initial result of all his effort was the Ōtomo Shiryō (大友史料, volumes 1 and 2, published in 1938 and 1939), which is predominantly focused on the Sengoku era and the figures of Sōrin and Yoshimune. The Kamakura and Nambokuchō eras were then covered in the Hennen Ōtomo Shiryō (編年大友史料, published in 1942 and 1946). While making preparations for the publishing of a compilation of Muromachi era documents, the publishing company itself was destroyed as a result of allied bombing, thus bringing the project to a halt. Those parts which remained were then compiled into two separate volumes, the Zoku Ōtomo Shiryō (続大友史料, 6 volumes, released from 1956 to 1958) and the Zoku Hennen Ōtomo Shiryō (続編年大友史料, 10 volumes, released from 1957 to 1960).(244-245)

As for Ōita prefecture, Professor Watanabe Sumio of Ōita University formed the Ōita Prefecture Historical Documents Publishing Committee (大分県史料刊行会), which published the Ōita Ken Shiryō (大分県史料, 25 volumes, released between 1952 to 1964). (The Ōita Prefectural Education Board edited the 26th volume in the series, however this was not published until March of 1974 following assistance from the Ōita Prefecture Medieval Documents Research Committee). The Ōita Ken Shiryō features documents related to Usa Hachiman shrine and the early modern (Edo) era in addition to those linked to the Ōtomo family.(245-246) Professor Takita later came across new documents, and from 1962 onwards published the Zōho Teisei Hennen Ōtomo Shiryō (増補訂正編年大友史料). However, in 1967, after 23 volumes of the Zōho Ōtomo Shiryō had been completed, Professor Takita fell ill and passed away. His widow Yuki, in accordance with her husband`s wishes, continued the process of publishing, with the 33rd and final volume (plus indexes) completed some years later.(246)

When comparing the Ōita Ken Shiryō to those works edited by Professor Takita, both sides have their merits and shortcomings. The former gathers together documents from a number of households, thereby dividing resources according to the household they stemmed from, while the latter organizes documents according to the year they were written. Those documents collected and recorded by Professor Takita in years past had apparently been destroyed by the time the Ōita Prefecture Historical Documents Publishing Committee began their work, and are therefore not included in the volumes issued by the committee. On the other hand, Professor Takita included new documents in his work. The Zōho Teisei Hennen Ōtomo Shiryō contain materials uncovered after the Ōita Ken Shiryō was published, which makes the Zōho Shiryō more comprehensive than the committee`s compilation.(246)

There are more than 1,000 documents related to Sōrin within the Zōho Teisei Hennen Ōtomo Shiryō. They, together with those articles related to Yoshimune, constitute the most evidence for any head of the Ōtomo family, and are close to being the most documents released by any daimyō in the Sengoku era. In some instances, ten or more letters were dispatched in a single day. For example, on the 2nd day of the 3rd month of the 1st year of Ganki (1570), following Sōrin`s victory over the forces of the Mōri in both Buzen and Chikuzen, a letter was dispatched to each of the 35 retainers who had led forces on the day, granting them territory as reward for their service. Of course, these letters were written by a scribe, but they do show that even on an average day, Sōrin could be quite busy.(246-247)

Amidst the documents related to Sōrin, the most common are the so-called `letters of correspondence`, which number close to 350 articles, or 1/3 of the entire collection. Next come `letters of thanks` dispatched to retainers who had performed well in the service of the Ōtomo, which number some 200 articles. Finally one finds 150 or so articles related to the conferral of land and territory. In addition, there are various miscellaneous articles related to subjects as diverse as government service, coming of age ceremonies (known as kakan, or 加冠), reception of land, conferral of names, responses to greetings, exemptions, promotions, mid-year greetings (known as hassakuga, or 八朔賀), yearly greetings, and letters from the imperial court. Most of the articles in the Sōrin collection are addressed to retainers, yet some are addressed to the shōgun Ashikaga family and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, as well as other daimyō, and dignitaries outside of Japan, such as the pope, the king of Portugal, and the head of the Society of Jesus. They show just how broad a scale of operations Sōrin operated on. (248)

However, there are very few (if any) articles written by Sōrin himself. As we have seen in the case of the Shin Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō, Sōrin understood that it was better for him not to write documents in his own hand, and so employed a scribe for this purpose. The only contribution he would make to a letter would be to add the date and his personal signature, in accordance with tradition. However there is one article that is thought to have been written by Sōrin, and that was completed on the 7th day of the 11th month of Tenshō 12 (1584) and addressed to the pope in Rome (249). It is as follows…

露(前欠)命の内に是を申叶へ、常住拝顔致に於ては存残(ぞんじ)す事なく、しめあんと共に今ははや、我眼即笑を得奉る上者、無事にさしゆるし給へと言上すへき外、別になき「 」(所)也。
「 」(此)等之旨御披露仰奉候。恐惶謹言。
十一月七日                   普蘭師司怙(花押)
ゝは様  奉上  (250)

Unfortunately the first part of this letter is missing, yet the addressee `はは様` was most likely ぱぱ様, in other words the pope. From the content of the letter one can speculate that it was penned by Sōrin, however this is by no means conclusive. One is therefore forced to conclude that there are no documents still in existence which can definitely be said to have been written by Sōrin.(250)

Following on from the discussion on documents, one more thing remains to be said about Sōrin`s personal seals and signatures. We have already seen Sōrin`s many names, and so it is only to be expected that he also had numerous signatures. Professor Watanabe Sumio revealed that Sōrin used a total number of 10 signatures (as recorded in the Ōita Ken Chihō Shi (大分県地方史) ). The signatures themselves evolved from a single character to two characters, and changed shape after Sōrin took the tonsure. They possess a remarkable degree of originality with particularly eye-catching detail. As for personal seals, one of these contained the character `Hi` (非) taken from the name Sanhisai (三非斎) while another used roman lettering that spelt out FRCO, an abbreviation of Sōrin`s Christian name of Francisco. Although there were other daimyō who used roman lettering for their personal seals (such as Kuroda Yoshitaka (黒田孝高) and Hosokawa Tadaoki (細川忠興) ), Sōrin was probably the first to make this common practice.(251)

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© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in February 2012