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Chapter Three The `Rebellion of the Second Floor` and the death of Yoshiaki



Chapter Three The `Rebellion of the Second Floor` and the death of Yoshiaki

Yoshishige, as the eldest son of the illustrious family of Ōtomo Yoshiaki, succeeded his father to become the twenty first head of the family. Yet the position did not fall easily into his hands. What brought Yoshishige to power was an incident known as the `Rebellion of the Second Floor` (二階崩の変) that took place in the 2nd month of the 15th year of Tenbun (1550). It was to prove the first major challenge of Yoshishige`s life. Most of the incident itself is outlined in the Kyushu Chiranki (九州治乱記), which is the source the author quotes from in his explanation of events, as outlined below.(19)

Yoshiaki appears to have regarded Yoshishige with something of a disdainful air, yet held deep affection for the mother of his youngest son, Shioichimaru. Gradually Yoshiaki began to consider having Shioichimaru declared his legitimate successor. At the same time, Shioichimaru`s mother entered into conversations with one of the councilors of the Ōtomo household, Nyūta Tango no Kami (入田丹後守), and asked him to requisition land for Shioichimaru. Nyūta Tango no Kami then laid this proposal before Yoshiaki, yet also spoke highly of Shioichimaru, emphasizing his talents, and stated that no other son of Yoshiaki was so blessed with intelligence. This conversation appears to have convinced Yoshiaki of Shioichimaru`s suitability as heir, and thus preparations began to have Shioichimaru succeed as head of the Ōtomo family.(19)

In the Autumn of Tenbun 19 (1550), Yoshiaki invited four of his senior councilors to a meeting – those councilors being Saitō (斎藤) Harima no Kami, Kosai (小佐井) Yamato no Kami, Tsukumi (津久見) Mimasaka no Kami, and Taguchi Genhan-in (田口玄蕃允, who was in actuality Shinkurōdo 新蔵人). Yoshiaki proceeded to tell them that he had decided to make Shioichimaru his heir. All four councilors were unable to conceal their surprise at this announcement, and warned that such a move could lead to disorder. Yoshiaki, infuriated by their response and refusal to accept his will, left the room at once. Shortly afterwards, Yoshiaki again invited the four councilors into his presence. Both Tsukumi and Taguchi, sensing that this might be a trap, feigned illness and excused themselves, however both Saitō and Kosai were arrested and executed under secret orders by persons sympathetic to Yoshiaki.(19-20)

Both Tsukumi and Taguchi, knowing that they too might eventually be killed, decided to act rather than wait. Both of them launched an attack on Yoshiaki`s residence. Tsukumi killed both Shioichimaru and his mother, while Taguchi killed Yoshiaki (in reality Yoshiaki escaped but was seriously wounded). Both Taguchi and Tsukumi would in turn be captured by retainers of Yoshiaki and executed. (20)

Other records, such as the Ōtomo Kōhai Ki (大友興廃記), the Ōtomo Ki (大友記), and the Hōchiku Ranki (豊筑乱記) mention this particular incident. When put together, apart from the error within the Kyushu Chiranki which states that the incident took place in the 2nd month of the 19th year of Tenbun during Autumn (when in reality it was Spring), the other records agree with most of the content of the Kyushu Chiranki and differ only on small matters of detail. The Ōtomo Ki claims that Yoshiaki, after advocating that Yoshishige be sent to take the waters at Beppu, revealed his plan to councilors who were visiting his residence, and demanded that they agree to have Yoshishige removed as heir and his third son, Shioichimaru, declared heir-apparent. (21)

In truth, it is not entirely clear why Yoshiaki, after having first declared Yoshishige to be his heir, then decided to remove Yoshishige and have Shioichimaru replace him. It may be worthwhile to examine a passage from the Hōchiku Ranki, which reveals a little about Yoshishige`s character….

“Yoshishige, the heir apparent, was certainly blessed with knowledge and intelligence. Yet he would do as he pleased, and would not countenance words of caution and remonstrations from councilors. As such, councilors found it difficult to read the intentions (of Yoshishige) which caused them great consternation. Rumours arose about the difficulties of how to act if Yoshishige should rise to prominence. Is it not reasonable to suggest that Yoshishige`s behaviour caused Yoshiaki to begin to doubt his son?”(21)

The Hōchiku Ranki states that the `do-as-one pleases` attitude of Yoshishige forced Yoshiaki into making a drastic decision. Whether there was any truth to this description is hard to say, although a gap certainly existed between father and son. In a later record written by Luis Frois based on a conversation that he had with Yoshishige (Sōrin) after his conversion, Yoshishige said the following …

“When I (Yoshishige) was about 16 years old and living together with my father, the ruler of the province, in the city of Funai, a small Chinese junk ship made its way into the bay adjacent to Funai. On board were six or seven Portuguese traders, the leader of which was a particularly wealthy man by the name of George de Faria. The sailors of the junk ship were Chinese and were of a different faith. They spoke to my father, saying that if he so wished, they could easily take the Portuguese captive and have them killed. If they did so, then they would be able to take their (the Portuguese) goods. I heard that my father had been persuaded by this talk and was planning to carry out the scheme hatched by the Chinese. I thus went to him, and told him that he must not be swayed by such a scheme, and that he must not execute without reason these blameless foreigners who had come from afar to trade with us and who were under protection within our lands. I certainly did not agree with all that the Portuguese were asking, but since I had given my word that they were to be protected, this made the malicious plan against them untenable”.(22)

If Frois` record is correct, then it gives a completely different picture of Yoshishige to that depicted within the Hōchiku Ranki. Yoshishige was particularly thoughtful and aware at a young age of the benefits that could be accrued from trade, unlike his father who appears to have been moved by vice and ambition alone. It appears that Yoshiaki could be provoked into action on a whim, especially by anyone with an argument that he himself found convincing. The Kyushu Chiranki says that Shioichimaru`s mother wished for her son to become heir and formed an alliance with Nyūta Tango no Kami. Other records for the time confirm that both of them then hatched a plan to convince Yoshiaki of Shioichimaru`s right to take up the position of heir apparent. As Sugimoto Hiroshi pointed out, Yoshishige`s mother (may) have derived from the family of Ōuchi Yoshioki. Yoshiaki was in the process of trying to remove the influence of the Ōuchi from northern Kyushu, hence the plan to have Shioichimaru named heir may have been tied to these ambitions, and could have stemmed from Yoshiaki himself.(23)

Professor Watanabe Sumio has also pointed out a `letter of thanks` issued by Yoshishige shortly after the incident to the Takita (田北) family, which says the following…


Apparently Yoshishige saw Tsukumi and Taguchi, people whom he should have rewarded, as conspirators against his rule. Hence Professor Watanabe believes that perhaps Yoshishige instigated the rebellion, considering the efficient manner with which it was conducted. What makes the incident all the more intriguing is the fact that in the years afterwards Yoshishige`s position was still not secure. After the rebellion, Yoshishige called upon the services of the Ōtomo retainers Betsugi Hōki (伯耆) no Kami Akitsura (鑑連) and Saitō Uei`mon no Jō Shigezane (斎藤右衛門尉鎮実). With their support, he chased after his gravely wounded father, and named himself heir to the Ōtomo household.(23)

Yet was there any need for both Tsukumi and Taguchi, both of whom bore responsibility for Yoshiaki`s wounds, to be portrayed as `conspirators` in order to remove any doubts surrounding the gap that existed between father and son? We know that Yoshiaki confirmed Yoshishige as heir apparent as Yoshishige`s name appears within one article of an `okibumi` (置文, or testament) signed on the day of Yoshiaki`s death. Nyūta Tango no Kami, who had been a leading advocate of Shioichimaru`s cause, appears to have lost his nerve and fled to Higo to the territory of his father in law, Aso Koretoyo (阿蘇惟豊). Koretoyo, upon hearing of the disgraceful behaviour of his son-in-law, had Tango no Kami executed and sent the head back to Bungo where it was put on display.(23-24)

The tragic end to the relationship between father and son began on the second floor of the Ōtomo residence in Funai, hence the name of the incident. Yoshiaki was 49 years old at the time of his death. Just before he died, he left the following okibumi (testament), quoted below (24)

以上。                (原漢文 大友文書)(24-25)

The relationship between Yoshishige and Yoshiaki was quite cold, hence the okibumi contains only one article directly related to Yoshishige. It primarily focuses on laying out the essentials for maintaining social stability within the Ōtomo territories. Yoshishige inherited the position of head of the Ōtomo not long after the okibumi was completed, and was confirmed as shugo of the provinces of Bungo and Higo by the bakufu. Yet three years later, in the intercalculary 1st month of Tenbun 22 (1553), when a padre of the Jesuit Society, Balthasar Gago, arrived in Funai from Yamaguchi, three councilors of the Ōtomo household, Hattori Ukyō Ryō (右京亮), Ichimada Danshō Chū (弾正忠), and Shūzō Minbu Shō (少輔) plotted to assassinate Yoshishige in an incident that plunged Funai into disarray (according to the `History of Japan` by Luis Frois). It appears that some lingering animosity towards Yoshishige resided in Bungo and that the situation within the province was not stable during the early years of his rule. Despite this, Yoshishige, at the age of 21, was able to bring peace to the province, thereby overcoming the first of many challenges.(26)

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© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in February 2012