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Chapter Ten The Establishment of Provincial Laws



Chapter Ten The Establishment of Provincial Laws
`The nineteen articles on the way of government` (Seidō Jūkyūjō) document is a forgery

According to the Ōtomo Kōhai Ki, three years after Sōrin took over leadership of the Ōtomo household, nineteen articles known as the `articles on the government of the Ōtomo family` were released in Bungo province. These nineteen articles `on the way of government` are as outlined below…


天文十一年三月朔日                   義鎮 (原漢文)(98-99)

Many years ago Umeki Toshitsugu declared that these articles were established by Yoshishige (大友宗麟考 国学院雑誌 三一―四). However, the author is of a different opinion. He is supported in this view by the work of Dr Kutaragi Giichirō (久多羅木儀一郎, 大友宗麟伝雑考、大分県地方史 一三~ 一六合併号).

First, one must look at the date set for the articles. In the Ōtomo Kōhai Ki, the date of issue is revealed by the following sentence…


According to Ōtomo Kōhai Ki, the period in which the articles were established occurred three years or so after the death of Ōtomo Yoshiaki. Yoshiaki died in the 2nd month of Tenbun 19 (1550). If we went by the date given in the Ōtomo Kōhai Ki, then the articles would have been adopted around Tenbun 22 (1553). Yet at the end of the articles of government, the date given is the 1st day of 3rd month of Tenbun 11 (1543), which contradicts the date given in the Ōtomo Kōhai Ki. Ōtomo Yoshiaki was still in power in Tenbun 11. Thus we can start to doubt the legitimacy of the document. If we presume that the author meant to write the date for Tenbun 21, it`s possible he mistakenly left out the extra character for `2`. Yet even assuming that this was so, by looking at the articles` content, the author seriously doubts whether Yoshishige was their author.(100)

First of all, the second and third articles emphasize practicing both literature and the martial arts, with the martial arts given particular attention. What this suggests is that the practice of honing one`s martial skills had fallen into disuse. However, in the world in which Sōrin lived, retainers would practice the martial arts as a matter of course, hence there would be no need to draw special attention to such training. The thinking behind these articles derives from the `restoration of peace and laying down of weapons`. The second article, which calls upon retainers to `prepare themselves in the ways of literature and arms` was, as Dr Kutaragi points out, very similar to the phrase often included within the household laws of warrior families during the Edo period, with its mention of `the primary need to practice the way of literature and of arms`. Furthermore, words such as `samurai` (article seven) and peasant farmers (article four) are included, as is an instruction prohibiting those other than samurai within Funai from wearing either long zōri (grass sandles) or gikutsu (wooden shoes, or geta), thus indicating that these articles were drawn up in a period in which social classes were fixed. The document is therefore a forgery, and a fairly poor forgery at that. It cannot possibly have been written by Yoshishige.(101)

The limits of `the articles of Ōtomo Yoshinaga` (Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō)

Thus were any codified provincial laws enacted during the reign of Sōrin? In order to answer this question, we must backtrack a bit. Sōrin`s grandfather, Ōtomo Yoshinaga, whose strong presence laid the foundations for the transformation of the Ōtomo household into that of a Sengoku daimyō, established a set of codified laws known as the Articles of Ōtomo Yoshinaga on the 23rd day of the 12th month of Eishō 12 (1515). These articles, together with those issued by Sōrin`s father Yoshiaki just before his death on the 12th day of the 2nd month of Tenbun 19 (1550), are the two best known examples of such work. The articles of Yoshiaki consist of eleven parts, and seem to have been written in haste. As they do not thoroughly touch upon all aspects of rule within the Ōtomo`s territory, the document itself is no more than a simple testament. It is hard to imagine Sōrin behaving in strict adherence to its message, especially considering the relationship he had with his father. (102)

On the other hand, the Articles of Ōtomo Yoshinaga contain seventeen original articles, with an added eight articles thus giving a total of twenty five articles altogether. The content of the articles themselves cover a broad area. They bring together a number of almost complete provincial laws, thus making the Articles of Ōtomo Yoshinaga the standard under which the Ōtomo exercised their rule. Furthermore, underneath the articles there is a short sentence which reads `from Yoshiaki and Yoshishige to Yoshimune`, which suggests that the articles were not confined to the era of Yoshinaga, but continued to be practiced throughout the years from the reign of Yoshiaki to Yoshimune. We can therefore speculate on just how binding these articles actually were. When examining the articles closely, there are two to three irrational points that draw our attention. In order to avoid becoming verbose, we will avoid looking at each of them in too great a detail, yet the articles did contain conditions which were truly out of the ordinary. (102-103)

For example, one of the conditions states that `one shall not behave in a rough manner towards one`s mother` (article five) and that `one shall protect and nurture one`s younger sister` (article seven). It is possible to state that these articles were in common usage and were separate to the will (or intentions) of Yoshinaga himself. However the fact that one article, article eight, states that `one shall not act in a rough manner against either Lord Kita no Ōkata or against one`s aunt in Higo province` and that 大内高弘・小笠原光清不慮に在国す、外聞実儀候の間、別して丁寧たるべき事 (article four of the addendum) suggests that these articles were not designed to be adopted by later generations. In all likelihood, those generations that came after Yoshinaga searched the articles for what was deemed necessary and discarded (or ignored) any articles they could not (or would not) adopt. One is forced to conclude that the absence of a true set of provincial laws meant that the articles were by no means comprehensive.(103)

The character of `the new Articles of Ōtomo Yoshinaga`

Even if Sōrin practiced the `Articles of Ōtomo Yoshinaga` to the letter, one can`t help feeling a sense of irritation in commentary regarding their limitations. In the collection of Ōtomo documents stored within the former residence of the Tachibana family in Yanagigawa city, occasionally voices of dissatisfaction with the original articles of Yoshinaga emerge. The Tachibana family itself was descended from Ōtomo Sadatoshi (貞載), an offspring of the fourth head of the Ōtomo family, Sadamune, and took their name from the area in which they lived – Chikuzen Tachibana. They were also known as the Western Ōtomo. Following the revolt of Tachibana Akitoshi (鑑載) against Sōrin, the surname of Tachibana was granted to Betsugi Akitsura. Akitsura`s son, Munetora (統虎, later Muneshige 宗茂) would go on to become a daimyō charged with overseeing the territory of Chikugo Yanagigawa. While the main Ōtomo branch of the family declined, the Tachibana thrived and prospered.(103-105)

The Ōtomo family, having been reduced to the rank of kōke (or illustrious house 高家) by the Edo period, and facing economic hardship, borrowed money from the Tachibana. Documents pertaining to the Ōtomo household were given as collateral to the Tachibana. When it became impossible for the Ōtomo to repay their debts, the documents went into the safekeeping of the Tachibana family, and have remained with them ever since (although another theory states that they were given to the Tachibana upon the downfall of the Ōtomo family). The author was given the great priviledge by the current head of the Tachibana family, Tachibana Kazuo, of reviewing the enormous `Tachibana Shozō Ōtomo Monjo` (records pertaining to the Ōtomo in the Tachibana catalogue). What the author discovered is that the first part of the articles bear a very close resemblance to those in the Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō, whilst the latter articles are completely new, the so-called `New Articles of Ōtomo Yoshinaga`. The author has already touched upon the this subject in an academic journal (外山 新大友義長条々の発見 「日本歴史」二六三), yet does mention that those articles devoid of a more `general` nature in the Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō were altered to be more universally applicable, and it is to these that we now turn.(105)




The first twenty two articles are virtually identical to those found in the Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō, whereas those after number twenty two are more original. As the first half of the document bears such a close resemblance to the Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō, we shall leave these aside as they have already been looked at in depth. There are 39 articles in total, and at the very end of the document comes the date - `the 6th day of the 12th month of the 3rd year of Kyōroku` indicating the day on which the articles were drawn up.(110)

Ōtomo Yoshiaki was the functional head of the Ōtomo household at the time, but his name is not recorded anywhere within the articles. It is clear, however, that the articles were based on the Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō, with some parts added and others revised. The articles of the `Shin (or New) Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō` were created in the 3rd year of Kyōroku, and thus were probably the work of Ōtomo Yoshiaki.(110) The 3rd year of Kyōroku was the birthyear of Yoshishige (Sōrin), hence this may have served as the reason Yoshiaki used the occasion to create the document. At the risk of repeatition, the content of the original Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō lacked general appeal, with the document certainly found wanting as a group of regulations. The new articles were an attempt to redress this imbalance.(110)

Yet despite the introduction of new articles, it appears as though no progress was made in applying them from the period of Yoshiaki`s rule through to that of Yoshimune. We thus come to the problem of what position the Shin Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō had within the Ōtomo system of rule. In short, one wonders whether the articles were ever actually used. An interesting point to make here concerns the fact that on the reverse side of a copy of the article document one section of the articles has been written in a different hand, mimicking that of the original document. It does appear then that the new articles were, to some extent, in general use at the time. Both the new articles and the old articles were put to simultaneous use from the 3rd year of Kyōroku onwards. The implementation of a dual system of articles was not that uncommon, as shown in the example of the laws of Kōshū (Kai province). Yet even if the Ōtomo articles were a simple variation that existed together with the original document, one must conclude that the new articles were included in order to correct the flaws in the original and because they were deemed to be necessary.(110-111)

Let us now take a look at the content of the new articles. One problem that emerges, and which was certainly found within the Ōtomo Yoshinaga Jōjō, was the disorderly way in which admonitions against the head of the household and those against retainers were mixed up with one another. As the division between private and public life was not so clear-cut, one is forced to conclude that both retainers and their lord were expected to obey the same laws.(111) What attitude was a lord expected to display? A lord, or ruler over a stretch of territory, had to be diligent in his administration of shrines and temples, and had to maintain close relations with his parents, his grandparents, and his brothers and sisters. He had to refrain from idle gossip, and he was not to spend his evenings engaged in trifling matters (such as drinking and dance). He was not only to focus on hunting, but had to study and acquire proficiency in all of the arts. Documents in his own hand were not to be written in haste.(112)

As for the retainers in a household, they were to perform all of their duties with utmost sincerity, and were not to tolerate frivolous talk or private feuds among their colleagues. They were to accept all donations (or tithes), whilst private oaths were outlawed. They were not to interfere in the keeping of records. Any who committed illegal acts would be banished and would not receive forgiveness. The articles also admonish the private building of castles or the building of austentatious private residences. Members of the toshiyori shū were to make an appearance on ceremonial days in order to serve as dignitaries. One or two scribes were to be dispatched to Chikugo province in order to conduct its affairs. Any duty that did not have a precedent was not to be conducted, and only toshiyori councillors had the priviledge of writing official documentation. The content of the articles was both diversified and varied, thus giving the Ōtomo an almost complete set of highly valued provincial laws.(112)

Sōrin`s own view

So, did Sōrin ever create his own laws, or did he merely follow the articles laid out in pre-existing documents? He did release a document titled `Kaku` (or `enlightenment`) in the 10th year of Tenshō (1584). The content of this document is as follows:


天正十二年卯月三日              (花押)(宗麟)
親家 (116)

There are one or two factors that prevent one from labeling this a series of provincial laws. The first concerns Sōrin`s position. As we shall see, Sōrin retired from being head of the Ōtomo household in Tenshō 4 (1576), and thus was not a lord over any territory at the time the `enlightenment` was written. However, in the 7th year of Tenshō Sōrin agreed to return to duties as an assistant to Yoshimune after receiving a petition from his retainers to do so. He held this position right up until his death in Tenshō 15 (1587). However Sōrin was not a lord over any territory. The second problem concerns the content of the document itself. It was described as a `form of religious awakening` and appears to have been sent as private correspondence from Sōrin to two important retainers in the Ōtomo family, Shiga Michiteru and Sōrin`s second son, Moji Chikaie. The `enlightenment` therefore appears to have been no more than a possible plan of action. Yet despite this, it did signify an attempt to deal with the largest problem of the day, that of the turbulent nature of the system of regional control. As Sōrin expected the `enlightenment` to be relayed on to Yoshimune, it can be seen as a sort of `provincial law in the making`.(116)

Thereafter, on the 12th day of the 2nd month of Tenshō 20 (1592), Yoshimune handed down twenty-one articles to his son Yoshinori as a series of particularly well crafted provincial laws. However, as this occurred after Sōrin`s death, we shall be content to merely point out its existence.(117)

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© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in February 2012