Table of Contents

Chapter Twenty Collapse of Provincial Control



Chapter Twenty Collapse of Provincial Control
Defeat at the battle of Hyuga Mimigawa

Towards the end of the 5th year of Tenshō (1577), the Shimazu family, who had previously been confined to southern Kyushu, finally established firm control over their home territories and began to look towards expanding into other provinces. The first of the outside territories to be attacked was Hyuga province. They attacked and defeated Itō Yoshisuke (伊藤義祐), lord of Nojiri castle (野尻城) and Takahara castle (高原城) in Hyuga, forcing him to flee to Bungo and the sanctuary of the Ōtomo family together with his son Itō Yoshimasu (伊藤義益). At the time one of Ichijō Kanesada`s daughters was married to Itō Yoshimasu (Kanesada was both a nephew of Sōrin as well as his son-in-law). The Ōtomo family had, in the past, formed a pact of friendship with the Itō as a means of keeping the Shimazu in check. The forced expulsion of the Itō family from Hyuga meant that the Ōtomo`s policy of containment no longer had any merit. As such, the newly elected head of the Ōtomo family, Ōtomo Yoshimune, gathered together some sixty thousand troops and set off for Hyuga in the Spring of Tenshō 6 (1578). In the face of such an overwhelming force, 17 castle lords in Hyuga capitulated to the Ōtomo. The lord of Nobeoka castle (延岡城), Tsuchimochi Chikashige (土持親成) was killed by the invading Ōtomo forces after betraying the Ōtomo and siding with the Shimazu. While in Hyuga, Yoshimune ordered that all shrines and temples were to be destroyed, an order that was duly carried out.(253)

When news of the victories in Hyuga reached Usuki, Sōrin, who by this time was in retirement following his baptism ten months before, quickly gathered together a retinue including his wife, Chikatora, the missionaries Cabral and Luis de Almeida plus two acolytes, as well as a force consisting of 300 troops, and set off via ship for Hyuga and the territory of the Tsuchimochi. The force accompanying Sōrin was tantamount to a `crusader` army, with a battle flag adorned with a cross. All of the retainers on board each had their own rosary beads and held holy images to their chests (according to Luis Frois in a record for the 16th day of the 9th month of Tenshō 6). They were the very epitomy of a Christian daimyō`s army. They converted all of the Hyuga warriors they met to Christianity, and set about creating plans for an idealized city unlike any other seen in Japan, a city ruled by Portuguese law and institutions. Sōrin`s force set up camp in the vicinity of the town of Mushika (無鹿, also written as 務志賀, a town whose origins apparently lay in the Portuguese word for music), and marked out a piece of land within the confines of one of the castles of Hyuga for construction of a meeting hall and Semanario, which they duly then handed over to the missionaries (in a letter by Francisco Galien, dated for the 22nd day of the 11th month of Tenshō 7).(253)

Sōrin then named Tahara Chikakata as overall leader of the Ōtomo forces, and ordered him to encircle Taka castle (高城), a castle whose position by the Omarugawa river (小丸川) in Goyu gun (児湯郡) made it strategically important. The castle at the time was in the hands of the Shimazu general, Yamada Shinsuke (山田新介). However, before Chikakata could complete his encirclement, a relief force under Shimazu Yoshihisa appeared with the intention of driving off the Ōtomo. Slightly further north of this position, Yoshihisa`s younger brother Iehisa brought an army down to Taka castle, thereby trapping the unsuspecting Ōtomo army between Iehisa`s forces, those of his elder brother, and Taka castle. The Ōtomo army, whose negligence was brought on by continuous victories over outlying Shimazu forces, was systematically broken up by well-executed attacks launched by the Shimazu, resulting in an overwhelming defeat. In just one battle, the Ōtomo lost a large number of their most prominent generals. This battle, which was ostensibly a defensive battle surrounding Taka castle, was renamed the battle of Mimigawa, and is recorded as having taken place during the 11th month of Tenshō 6 (1578).  A letter written by Lourenço Messina later stated that the number of those killed in the battle exceeded 20,000 (letter written by Lourenço Messina dated for the 12th day of the 9th month of Tenshō 8). Sōrin, who had always been blessed with good fortune since he inherited his title, had suffered the first and most comprehensive defeat of his life, and so had no other option but to give the order to retreat.(254) 

As to the reasons why Sōrin up until this point had never suffered such a dramatic loss, they are two-fold. First, Sōrin was supported by an array of gifted warriors, including the three councilors of Bungo - Usuki, Tachibana, and Yoshihiro. Second, Sōrin possessed a uniquely cerebral form of diplomacy which complimented the military activities of his household. Sōrin himself was certainly no military strategist. Unlike those ferocious generals that risked life and limb in camp, Sōrin was far more comfortable in the role of a `wise` leader. It was his three councilors, as well as generals such as Takahashi Shōun, who made up for their daimyō in terms of ferocity. As a result of the battle of Mimigawa, what should have been a temporary loss followed by a counter-attack ended in sound defeat, no surprise considering Sōrin`s character. The general in charge of the Ōtomo forces at the time, Tahara Chikakata, was in this sense similar to Sōrin. He was the head of the Tahara family, one of the three branches of the Ōtomo, and was the elder brother of Sōrin`s former wife. With Sōrin in the field, Chikakata was limited to merely issuing commands (and could not, presumably, overrule any decision made by Sōrin). The same could be said for Yoshimune.(255-256).

Those persons in the Ōtomo army that survived the battle made their way back to Bungo. Amidst the survivors, voices began to be raised claiming that the missionaries were responsible for the loss, that they had led Sōrin astray and so the army had been divinely punished by the gods and boddhisatva. The missionaries themselves, fully aware that they might be killed by enemy troops or defeated soldiers should they stray too far away from Sōrin, were quite perplexed as to what to do (from a letter written by Francisco Galien and dated for the 22nd day of the 11th month of Tenshō 7). The leader of the Ōtomo forces, Tahara Chikakata, was thought to have died in the battle. However he turned up in Bungo during the 1st month of the following year, blaming the loss of the battle on the missionaries. Those citizens who believed his words stepped up their threats against both the missionaries and Christians. Despite this, Sōrin`s faith in Christianity never waivered. Nevertheless, the defeat suffered in Hyuga was to prove an omen anticipating the eventual collapse of Ōtomo authority.(256-257)

Disintergration of provincial rule

Sōrin`s affinity for Christianity and continued practice of the religion caused arguments and consternation to break out across his realm. In just one battle, the Ōtomo army under Yoshimune had suffered a major defeat and shown its weaknesses. Those land lords residing in the home and neighbouring territories who had risen to power on the back of the Ōtomo, or who had maintained a degree of animosity towards the Ōtomo, now rose up in revolt. The most prominent of the latter lords to do this, owner of half of Hizen province and who, along with Shimazu Yoshihisa, presented the greatest threat to the Ōtomo, was Ryūzōji Takanobu of Saga.  In Chikuzen province the Akizuki family rose in revolt, as did Tsukushi Hirokado of Hizen. Both of them declared their allegiance to Shimazu Yoshihisa, as did the Munakata (宗像), Asō (麻生), and Tahara families. Even Tajiri Akitane, who had previously been loyal to the Ōtomo, rose in revolt, as did half of the lords of Chikugo province, declaring their allegiance to Takanobu. Kamaike Shigenami (蒲池鎮並) of Senryū, after learning of his father Dōsetsu`s death at Mimigawa, received compensation for his loss from Yoshimune, yet he too would betray the Ōtomo for Takanobu.(257-258)

In Chikuzen, Takahashi Akitane once again rose up in revolt, as did the Zasu (or head priest) of Hikosan mountain, Yūshun (彦山座主有舜, also known as Shunyū). In Higo province, Kai Sōun (甲斐宗運), Gōshi Chikatane (合志親為), Jō Chikakata (城親賢), and Kumabe Chikayasu (隈部親泰) all switched their allegiance to Takanobu, followed by the Udo (宇土), Yatsushiro (八代), Sagara (相良), and Kanokogi (鹿子木) families. As a result of all of these defections, Ryūzōji Takanobu sent part of his family, Ryūzōji Ieharu (龍造寺家晴) south to guard the area around Nankan (南関, located in northern Higo province) while also sending Ryūzōji Nobutoki (龍造寺信時) and Dohi Nobutoshi (土肥信遠) to watch over Yatsushiro and prepare for the advance of the Shimazu from the south (as outlined in the Chinzai Yōryaku).(258)

In the face of growing tension with forces surrounding the province, it wasn`t long before defectors began to appear within Bungo province itself. The most powerful of all these was Tahara Chikahiro. He was, as we have seen, head of the Kurakake Tahara family, one of the three main branches of the Ōtomo clan. He was the most capable of all the Ōtomo retainers, and had a latent force at his disposal. Sōrin disliked Chikahiro, and temporarily had him banished from Bungo province while at the same time seizing his lands and granting them to Tahara Chikakata of the Musashino Tahara family. This incident was the reason for the animosity that existed between the two families.(258)

Chikahiro, upon hearing that the Ōtomo had been soundly defeated, decided that the time had come to rebel. In the 12th month of Tenshō 6 (1578), he suddenly left Funai, and headed to his home of Aki castle located in Kunasaki gun. Once safely ensconced in his castle, he issued a letter addressed to Ōtomo Yoshimune, demanding that all lands located in Kunisaki and Aki gun that Sōrin had granted to Chikakata be returned to the Kurakake Tahara family. As if to prove his point, he then sent a woman of his household to serve under the wife of the arch-enemy of the Ōtomo clan, Akizuki Tanemitsu of Chikuzen province. Tanemitsu, who had briefly been allied to Shimazu Yoshihisa, threw away this alliance in favour of making a pact with Ryūzōji Takanobu and rebelled against the Ōtomo. It is clear that Chikahiro had responded to these developments and rebelled himself. It goes without saying that if Chikahiro had chosen this moment to attack Funai, the Ōtomo family would have been destroyed.(259)

Among those retainers who still allied themselves to the Ōtomo, voices of criticism were raised against Sōrin`s conversion to Christianity and the disasters that this had brought upon them. Sōrin, himself prepared to die if necessary, paid visits to his various retainers, granting them gifts, and showed affection for them in an attempt to keep their loyalty. This was not the Sōrin who had shone so brightly when he first took the helm of the Ōtomo family, but a rather humiliated figure, forced to beg for assurances from his retainers. In the end, Yoshimune did return the confiscated lands to Chikahiro. Not long after this, Chikahiro suddenly died, thus giving the Ōtomo a temporary respite from their troubles (according to a letter written by Francisco Galien dated for the 22nd day of the 11th month of Tenshō 7)

Tahara Chikakata, who had seen his lands returned to Chikahiro without any form of compensation, now faced financial ruin. In addition, many retainers of the Ōtomo family had raised their criticism of him, blaming Chikakata for the loss suffered at Mimigawa. The loss of authority suffered by Chikakata was too much for him to bear, plunging him into despair.(259)

Tahara Chikatsura (田原親貫), the adopted heir of Chikahiro, rose up in revolt in the 12th month of Tenshō 7 (1579) in accordance with his late father`s wishes. Apparently Chikatsura had made a secret pact with Takita Shōtetsu, Akizuki Tanemitsu, and Ryūzōji Takanobu to raise troops. This move is said to have been supported by Mōri Terumoto of Aki province. Chikatsura attempted to launch an attack against the sea lanes provisioning Funai, for which he received vessels in support of his move. However violent winds made the task impossible, and so the attack ended in failure.(260) In the 8th year of Tenshō (1580), Takita Shōtetsu, who up until this time had shown nothing but loyalty to the Ōtomo, answered Chikatsura`s call and rose up in rebellion against the Ōtomo from his castle of Kumamure in Ōita gun. However this army was defeated, forcing Shōtetsu to flee towards Akizuki Tanemitsu and Chikuzen province. Upon reaching Hida gun, Shōtetsu and 80 of his retainers were caught in an ambush and killed (from a letter of Lourenço Messina dated for the 12th day of the 9th month of Tenshō 8 (1580) ).(260)

Yoshimune, in response to Chikatsura`s revolt, raised an army from the five gun of Ōita, Kusu, Ōno, Naoiri, and Hida and launched an attack against the rebels. Without Shōtetsu to aid him, Chikatsura found himself alone and vulnerable. When two of his senior retainers, Tsuzaki Hyōgo Suke (津崎兵庫助) and Tsuzaki Bizen no Kami (津崎備前守) defected back to Yoshimune, Chikatsura knew that all was lost, and so committed seppuku (ritual suicide) at the end of the 2nd month of Tenshō 8 (1580). Yoshimune, ripe from his victory over the rebels, then gave those lands and castles that had belonged to the Tahara family to his younger brother, Chikaie.(260)

Previous to these events, voices were raised among the retainers of the Ōtomo clan calling for the re-instatement of the retired Sōrin to his former position for a period of three years, long enough for the system of regional control to be restored. As we have seen, Yoshimune, while not favourably disposed towards his father, knew that he had no choice but to acquiesce to these demands, and so made his way to Sōrin in Usuki where he submitted the proposal to his father. However Sōrin had lost interest in worldly affairs and had separated himself from the secular in order to pray for the salvation of his soul and to ask forgiveness for his past sins. Hence he did not give his response lightly. The persistence of the calls for his return eventually won him over, although he put in place two conditions which had to be upheld if he was to return to public life. The first was that Yoshimune was to be recognized as commander in chief, while Sōrin himself was to be no more than an advisor. In this way Sōrin could support Yoshimune in secret so that any glory that might be won through restoring Ōtomo authority would be given to Yoshimune. It was, in a sense, a sign of fatherly devotion to his son.(261)

The second condition stated that in order to bring about a revival of Ōtomo rule, all those persons below Yoshimune had to obey Sōrin`s orders to the full. If any were seen to be lacking in obedience, then Sōrin would wash his hands of the whole affair and would have nothing more to do with secular matters. Sōrin thus made himself one of the councillors to Yoshimune, and proferred his advice to his son on matters of state (from a letter written by Francisco Galien and dated for the 22nd of the 11th month of Tenshō 7 (1579) ).(261) While this was occurring, the power of the Ryūzōji continued to grow by the day. In the 1st month of Tenshō 8 (1580), in a celebration to welcome in the new year, Ryūzōji Takanobu was recognised as lord over both Chikuzen and Chikugo, Hizen and Higo, and Iki (壱岐) island, in addition to being the leader of 200,000 troops and the self-styled `goshū taishu` (五州太守, or lord of the five provinces, according to the Chinzai Yōryaku). Kyushu now entered an era divided between the three powerhouses of the Ōtomo, Shimazu, and the Ryūzōji (in place of the Shōni).(261)

The Ryūzōji, like the Shimazu, possessed large forces at their disposal. The disputes that broke out between these two families over territory in Higo and Chikugo were, to the Ōtomo, one way in which they could avoid having to take on the Shimazu directly, and were subtley exploited in order to give the Ōtomo a political and military advantage over their opponents. In Tenshō 9 (1581), however, Takanobu`s forces made strong inroads into Higo. Fearing that his own lands might be in danger, Shimazu Yoshihisa asked for mediation from Oda Nobunaga and agreed to a temporary cease-fire with Yoshimune. Meanwhile, despite having territories far removed from Bungo and facing a growing number of rebels around them, both Tachibana Dōsetsu of Chikuzen Tachibana castle and Takahashi Shōun of Chikuzen Iwaya and Hōman castles never waivered in their loyalty to the Ōtomo. We have already covered the details of these two individuals and so there is no need to go over such information again. What one can say is that Dōsetsu could not sit idly by while Bungo declined, and so he wrote an appeal addressed to the toshiyori councillors in Funai (dated for the 2nd month of Tenshō 8). Taking up the cause of the ill-fortuned Ōtomo, both Dōsetsu and Shōun once again donned their armour and set out for the battlefield, taking the fight to the Ōtomo`s bitterest enemies (such as Akizuki Tanemitsu and Tsukushi Kōmon) in Chikuzen and Chikugo provinces.(262)

Takahashi Shōun placed his son Takahashi Munemasu (高橋統増, later Tachibana Naotsugu, 立花直次) in charge of the defence of Hōman castle while he himself defended Iwaya castle. While this was underway, Akizuki Tanemitsu made secret contact with one of Shōun`s most senior retainers, Kitahara Iga no Kami Shigehisa (北原伊賀守鎮久), and attempted to have him betray Shōun in order to bring about the surrender of Iwaya castle. However the plan came to nought, and in the 11th month of the 9th year of Tenshō (1581), Tanemitsu suffered an overwhelming defeat at the hands of Shōun at the Battle of Chikuzen Dainichiji.(262-263) In Tenshō 12 (1584), Arima Harunobu of Hizen was being severely pressed by the forces of Ryūzōji Takanobu, and so sent a letter requesting aid from Shimazu Yoshihisa. Yoshihisa decided to act upon this appeal, and had his younger brother Iehisa dispatched to reinforce Harunobu together with 3,000 mounted troops. At a battle fought on the Shimabara peninsula in the 3rd month of the same year (1584), Ryūzōji Takanobu was killed and his forces dispersed (according to the Chinzai Yōryaku). In one battle, the tripartiate system that had held sway over Kyushu lost one of its main contenders, thus bringing the control of Kyushu down to just two families – the Ōtomo and the Shimazu. It wasn`t long before the Ōtomo began to grow concerned about the possibility of facing a direct assault from the Shimazu.(263)

Meanwhile Tachibana Dōsetsu, who established a camp at Chikugo Kōrasan (筑後高良山) in order to make preparations for an assault against the Kuroki family of the same province, suddenly fell ill and died in camp. This happened during the 9th month of the 13th year of Tenshō (1585) when Dōsetsu was 73 years old. The writer of the Chinzai Yōryaku lamented the death of this illustrious warrior by stating that…`The death of Dōsetsu was like the collapse of an iron castle one thousand leagues in length. It in turn led to the Ōtomo`s demise`. In the 7th month of the following year of Tenshō 14 (1586), Takahashi Shōun of Iwaya lost his life in defence of his castle against repeated attacks launched by the Shimazu. Shōun`s second son Munemasu, upon hearing of his father`s death, opened up his castle of Hōman to the Shimazu and promptly surrendered (according to the Uwaika Kakuken Nikki, or 上井覚兼日記). The total collapse of the Ōtomo family and its authority was now a real possibility.(263)

Request for aid from Hideyoshi

Both Sōrin and Yoshimune must have been feeling the pressure exherted against them by the Shimazu. Meanwhile, in the central provinces, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, himself in the process of unifying the nation, looked upon the feud between the Ōtomo and the Shimazu with disdain. In the 10th month of Tenshō 13 (1585), he ordered both sides to conclude a peace treaty. In response, the Shimazu argued that they were fighting a defensive war, a war they had no choice but to wage. For his part, Sōrin showed his astute diplomatic skill by getting in contact with Hideyoshi first and winning his (Hideyoshi`s) favour. In the 12th month of Tenshō 13, Hideyoshi sent the following to Sōrin…

「休庵(宗麟)・義統の事、見放すべきに非ず候間、心安かるべく候」(As for Kyūan (Sōrin) and Yoshimune, we cannot abandon them, and must give them peace of mind).

Hideyoshi guaranteed to provide aid in this time of crisis, and encouraged Sōrin in his endeavours. Yet despite such assurances, they did not resolve the current danger. The Shimazu increased their pressure on the Ōtomo, invading Bungo from three directions (Hyuga, Chikugo, and Higo). At first, all the Ōtomo could do was stand by and watch as events unfolded before their eyes. While this was occurring, Sōrin must have been wondering how far he could trust the word of Hideyoshi, and whether the aid that Hideyoshi had promised would be enough. Finally Sōrin decided that he would travel to meet Hideyoshi and plead his case in person. For Sōrin, who was in the last years of his life, the journey must have been particularly difficult. Nevertheless, Sōrin must have possessed a real affection for his eldest son Yoshimune and for the territory that he ruled to attempt such a journey. Sōrin, aware of how he would be perceived in this mission, changed his name to Tentokuji (天徳寺), and together with two of his most capable retainers, Shibata Kuzō Munekatsu (柴田久三統勝) and Satō Shinkai Nyūdō (佐藤新介入道) departed from Usuki in the 3rd month of Tenshō 14 (1586) by sea in the direction of Osaka.(265)

On the 5th day of the 4th month, Sōrin, together with his companions, made their way to Myōkokuji (妙国寺), located in Sakai, Izumi province, which they made their base. On the 6th day, Sōrin journeyed to Osaka castle by way of Sumiyoshi Tenōji (天王寺), and was granted an audience with Hideyoshi. Sōrin was 56 years old at the time, while Hideyoshi was 50. To summarize the content of this meeting, Sōrin, his eyes full of genuine wonder, relayed in great detail the purpose of his visit to three toshiyori councillors of the Toyotomi household, Furusho Tango Nyūdō (古荘丹後入道), Kuzunishi Suō Nyūdō Sōsen (葛西周防入道宗筌), and Saitō Kii Nyūdō Dōsō (斉藤紀伊入道道璪). At this meeting, even Sōrin, who for a brief time had ruled Kyushu, who possessed friendly relations with persons overseas, and who had an unparalleled, broad knowledge of the arts and artistry, appeared to be, as Yoshimune pointed out, no more than `a country bumpkin` in the presence of Hideyoshi`s majesty.(265)  

Sōrin was astonished when he first laid eyes on the streets of Osaka. Osaka castle itself was still in the process of being built, yet Sōrin could not disguise his awe at the great number of people assembled before the castle gates, the moats as wide as the largest of rivers, and the gates themselves, wrought from iron.(265-266) He was granted permission to enter the castle, and there had his first ever meeting with Hideyoshi. Sōrin was led into a large room some nine ma in width, with a screen sliding door three ma in length intersecting the room. Beyond this sat Hideyoshi, perched up on the highest point in the room. To his side sat his councillors in order of rank, from his younger brother Mino no Kami Hidenaga (美濃守秀長), to Ukita Hideie (宇喜田秀家), Hosokawa Hyōbu Nyūdō Yūsai (細川兵部入道幽斎), Hasegawa Hidekazu (長谷川秀一), and Ukita Tadaie (宇喜田忠家). Sōrin took his seat next to these councillors, and was followed by Maeda Toshiie (前田利家), Ankokuji Ekei (安国寺恵瓊), Kunai Hōin(宮内法印), and Rikyū Kyoshi (or Sen Rikyū, 利休居士).(266)

We are told that Hideyoshi wore a red short-sleeved undershirt, on top of which he wore a white short sleeved shirt in a Chinese twill style. He also wore split pleated trousers (or hakama). We do not know the true colour of the hakama, however it has been described as having been of a purple iridescent hue. His tabi socks were red with an embossed golden brocade.(266) All of the participants removed their wakizashi (`short`) swords from their waistbands, and received hospitality consisting of sake, sweets, and tea. Afterwards Hideyoshi provided a tour of his tea room. The room itself was quite small, only three tatami mats in width, yet the entire interior, from the ceiling, to the walls, down to the edging on the sliding doors, was covered in gold leaf. Even the tea vessels within the room were covered in gold. Hideyoshi saw that this was to Sōrin`s liking, and so asked him…「宗滴ハ茶ニスキカ」(literally, `are you fond of tea?`). When Rikyū replied that Sōrin indeed enjoyed the tea ceremony, Hideyoshi said…「さらば一服たて、休庵へ参せん」`Well then, I must prepare some tea for Kyūan (Sōrin)`. With great skill and dexterity Hideyoshi prepared tea, which he then passed to Sōrin.(266-267) Sōrin drank half of the vessel, and then passed the remaining tea on to the other retainers for them to share amongst themselves.(267)

The atmosphere in the room became quite relaxed as Hideyoshi engaged in idle chit-chat and gossip with his guest. Sensing an affinity with Sōrin, Hideyoshi invited Sōrin to tour the castle keep, with Hideyoshi as his guide. They would be accompanied in this by Hidenaga. The ground floor of the keep was a storage space, with the lower section housing 15 or 16 chests filled with short sleeved garments. The section above this included a cotton and possibly a paper storage area. It`s also possible that fire-arrows and gunpowder was stored on this level. From the third level up one could find large scale fire-arrows, and around six large cannon. The upper floors also had spaces storing the gold and silver of the Toyotomi household. Hideyoshi explained each and every detail of these storage spaces to Sōrin, and lightened the mood from time to time by telling jokes.(267) Once they reached the top of the keep, both parties looked out across the myriad of residences present nearby. It was at this moment that Hideyoshi either took Sōrin by the hand, or else touched his shoulder, and continued their conversation.(267)

When they finally came back down to the ground floor, Hideyoshi appeared quite tired, as did Sōrin himself. Tea was then served as a refreshment. His vitality restored, Hideyoshi proposed to show Sōrin his sleeping quarters. Sōrin was probably accompanied by his retainers for this `viewing`. Hideyoshi`s bedroom housed a single bed (presumably raised off the floor).(268) The quilt of the bed was red in colour, while the pillows were golden and decorated with a variety of designs, of such opulence as to defy description. Hideyoshi also had a golden upright chest in the room, on top of which rested a naginata (pole sword) should it be needed. There did not appear to be any other weapons or armour in the room. A shelf within the room housed a number of particularly fine sculptures.(268) There was yet another bedroom next to this and decorated in a similar fashion. In between both rooms lay a collection of famous tea urns, placed in gold pouches which were then tied off with red brocades.(268)

Hideyoshi motioned to Rikyū to come closer, and ordered him `to show the secretly stored urns to Kyūan (Sōrin)`. Rikyū then pulled an urn known as the 40 koku out of one of the pouches. He was followed in this action by the tea masters Tsuda Sōkyū (津田宗及) and Imai Sōkun (今井宗薫), who between them showed Sōrin a variety of urns such as those in the Sōka (or Songhua) (松花), the Sahohime (佐保姫), Nadeshiko (撫子), as well as the Momoshima (百島) styles. The tea urn known as Shiga that (as we have seen) Sōrin gave as a gift to Hideyoshi, was probably meant to be stored away together with the 40 koku urn. Hideyoshi certainly had expensive tastes, as made glaringly obvious by his collection.(268)

The retinue next passed by a room known as the Ishodokoro (衣裳所). In this room were stored the various short-sleeved garments of Hideyoshi`s wife and her servants, together with Hideyoshi`s clothes. Hideyoshi had his own pair of wakizaki swords, yet he often took those swords that lay in his prized collection (located in the Ishodokoro) and handed them to his retainers, an act unparalleled in significance and honour. There were two or three young girls, of about 12 to 13 years of age, in the Ishodokoro, who were charged with serving refreshments or acted as valets, carrying Hideyoshi`s sword and other personal belongings. In the room next to this sat the head priest of the household, known as the Kōzō-nushi (幸蔵主) together with Hideyoshi`s wife and her servants, collectively known as `Higashi-dono` (東殿). Hideyoshi continued to act as a guide to the aged Sōrin, however he soon remarked that `Kyūan should probably rest`, to which Sōrin answered `as you wish`. After exchanging farewells, Sōrin left Hideyoshi and made his way out of the castle.(269)

Before returning to his lodgings, Sōrin decided to pay a visit to those quarters belonging to Hideyoshi`s younger sibling, Mino no Kami Hidenaga. Hidenaga lived in temporary accommodation within the confines of the castle. Taking Sōrin`s hand, Hidenaga reassured Sōrin, telling him that any secret information would be handled by Sōeki (宗易, in other words Sen Rikyū) while he (Hidenaga) would be responsible for any official acts. It is highly possible that this meeting was where promises were made to deal with the question of providing aid to Bungo. Both Rikyū and Hidenaga were personally close to Hideyoshi, so close in fact that one could say they functioned with the same mind. And so, after saying his final farewells, Sōrin exited the castle.(269) As a sign of his generosity, Hideyoshi had 400 koku of rice, a sword, a horse, and many other items sent to Sōrin`s residence. Sōrin`s party encountered some rain on the return journey to Sakai, yet they finally arrived safely at Myōkokuji in the early hours of the morning.(269)

The descriptive narrative given above, based on observations of Sōrin and similar records, certainly gives one a full picture of events as they transpired. However apart from the section on a conversation with Hidenaga, nowhere in any of the records is there direct mention of a conversation regarding the question of aid for Bungo. Yet as it appears that Sōrin was pleased with the result of his diplomacy, and that he returned to Bungo satisfied that assistance would arrive, then one can only assume that somewhere in the conversations between Sōrin, Hideyoshi, and Hidenaga, consensus was reached on what form aid would be given to Bungo. (270)

However it would be a mistake to think that the danger threatening Bungo was alleviated by a guarantee of assistance from Hideyoshi. When looking at developments over time, the strategy the Ōtomo adopted was not particularly well-orchestrated. Threatened by the Shimazu, instead of displaying strength in resistance, Sōrin sought the easier option of relying on the prowess of Hideyoshi. After Sōrin`s death, this same Hideyoshi, who had extended the hand of friendship towards Sōrin, would set in motion events leading to the dismissal of Yoshimune from his post as a result of negligence during the campaign waged on the Chōsen peninsula. Rather ironically, Hideyoshi`s gesture of friendship would eventually bring about the downfall of the Ōtomo household.(270)

Return to Top

© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in February 2012