Table of Contents
Sugiyama Hiroshi, Nippon no Rekishi 11 : Sengoku Daimyō, Chuō Kōronsha, Tokyo, 1965 (Hiroshi Sugiyama, Japanese History Volume 11 : Daimyō of the warring states era, Chuō Kōronsha, Tokyo, 1965)


Sugiyama Hiroshi, Nippon no Rekishi 11 : Sengoku Daimyō, Chuō Kōronsha, Tokyo, 1965 (Hiroshi Sugiyama, Japanese History Volume 11 : Daimyō of the warring states era, Chuō Kōronsha, Tokyo, 1965)

(This particular book gives a good summary of events that occurred in Kyushu before the birth of Ōtomo Yoshishige, and thus can be looked on as a general guide to direction political and military events in Kyushu during the late fifteenth – early sixteenth centuries).

Two aspects of rule in Kyushu came to a halt in the aftermath of the Ōnin and Bunmei wars. The first was the authoritative power of the Kyushu Tandai, first dispatched by the Muromachi Bakufu in response to moves by the Seisei (征西) Shōgun Miya of the southern court (personified in the Kikuchi family). The second was the rule of the Shōni (少弐) family over the affairs of Dazaifu, a role that this family had carried out since the Kamakura era, and whose title the family (who were also known as the Mutō 武藤) still possessed. The Kyushu Tandai (a title belonging to the Shōni) had received military aid from the Ōuchi of the Chūgoku region and thus had found a means to survive for the time being, however they were Tandai in name only. During the Eikyō (永享) years, the Shōni were expelled Dazaifu by the Ōuchi, and spent many years wandering from province to province seeking support, first from the Sō (宗) family of Tsushima (対馬) and then other Dogō families of Hizen.(346)

In the interim years, no major power arose to stabilize the political situation within Kyushu, which meant that northern Kyushu became the focus of attention for the expanding power of the Ōuchi family. One of the goals of the Ōuchi in branching out into Chikuzen was a strong desire to secure the port of Hakata in order to reap the rewards of trade with the Chōsen peninsula and Ming China. Ōuchi Masahiro, the daimyō responsible for casting out the Shōni and placing Hakata under his rule, chose to reside in Hakata and endeavoured to conduct his administration in the port town. In the 12th month of Bunmei 10 (1478), Masahiro, having transferred himself from Yamaguchi in Suo, sent a prize horse by the name of Mikkatsuki to the shōgun Yoshihisa (義尚), a horse that he had captured from the Shōni. He did this in order to demonstrate to the shōgun that it was he who now controlled Dazaifu instead of the Shōni, and was a strategy designed to win for Masahiro the title of 大宰大弐. (Dazai Daito (ni) (346-347)

Yet how was all of this political intrigue perceived by the commoner? While Masahiro was recovering from the activity involved in gaining control of northern Kyushu, a certain person paid a visit to his territory. This was the Renga poet Sōgi (宗祇), who had wandered the provinces in order to avoid the violence that had stained the capital. Masahiro believed that Sōgi`s visit would allow him a respite from all of the intrigue and fighting that he had recently been engaged in and thus welcomed the poet to his lands, hoping that the edition of such an illustrious man of letters would in the long term aid in his desire to have both Dazaifu and Hakata become centres of entertainment and learning. It may be that Masahiro also hoped that Sōgi would be able to construct verse to act as a form of propaganda for his rule.(347-348)

Yet what did Sōgi think of the entertainments of Hakata and the lands of the Ōuchi? Sōgi visited Dazaifu, heard the bell dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane within Kanzeon (観世音) temple, and also gazed upon the large foundation stone of Tofurō (都府楼) that lay within the precinct of Dazaifu. He passed through the border gate of Karukaya (刈萱) and saw the `water fortress` (水城, mizuki) built by the Tenchi (天智) emperor for the defense of Shiragi (新羅). He then penned the following verse…
In sum, Sōgi made it clear that all of these disputes and conflicts were for the sake of vanity and one`s own glory, hence to those who caused the people to suffer, Sōgi voiced his strong opposition. For those Sengoku daimyō who lived within a world beset by violence, Sōgi`s complaints regarding their actions would have little resonance.(348)

The Shōni family, having been expelled from Dazaifu by the Ōuchi, did not by themselves possess an organization capable to contending with the Ōuchi in order to recover their position. However, what the Shōni did possess was a remarkable ability for survival and intrigue, and managed to continue as a Dogō in the same manner as the Ashikaga shōgun – by relying of sympathetic Sengoku daimyō. Though the Shōni would time and again be defeated by the Ōuchi, they always found a means of continuing their struggle. In the 1st year of Ōnin (1467), Shōni Masasuke (政資), the son of the slain Noriyori (教頼, who was killed by Ōuchi Masahiro), raised troops against the Ōuchi in Hizen in the 10th month of Bunmei 15 (1483). In the 3rd year of Entoku (1491), Shōni formed an alliance with Ōtomo Masachika (政親) and attacked the castle of Inuzuka (犬塚) in Chikugo province which housed the current Kyushu Tandai Shibugawa Toneōmaru (渋川刀禰王丸, awarded the position by the Ōuchi), thus forcing the Shibugawa to flee and recovered Dazaifu for the Shōni. As far as the Shōni and Ōtomo were concerned (both of which families had served as the Tōsai Chinsai Bugyō 東西鎮西奉行), the expansion of the Ōuchi into northern Kyushu was a threat that required a dramatic response. Ōtomo Masachika then decided to give his daughter in marriage to the son of Masasuke, Takatsune (高経), thus cementing the relationship between the two houses. Both the Shōni and the Ōtomo would now face the Ōuchi together. This alliance threatened the Ōuchi control over northern Kyushu, and was a matter that the Ōuchi could not treat lightly.(349)

After the death of Ōuchi Masahiro, his son Yoshioki inherited the mantle of the family, and in the 1st month of Meiō 6 (1497), Yoshioki led a large army into northern Kyushu, once again expelling Shōni Masasuke from Dazaifu. Yoshioki continued the attack, eventually surrounding both Masasuke and Takatsune in the castle of Haruke (春気) in Ogi gun (小城) within Hizen province in the 4th month of the same year. Father and son, knowing that they could not escape, took their own lives rather than be captured. While still alive, Shōni Masasuke took respite in Waka and Renga poetry, and at one poetry recital he penned the following words…
He was thereafter known as `Asatori no Shōni Masasuke`, and mourned by the people.(349)

As a result of the loss of Masasuke and his son, the Shōni family were again scattered, with Masasuke`s third son Sukemoto (資元) seeking refuge with Ōtomo Masachika. Those remnants of the Shōni army would occasionally rise up against the Ōuchi, yet for the time being the rule of the Ōuchi over northern Kyushu was secure. However, in the 1st year of Bunki (1501), Shōni Sukemoto, who had grown up under the protection of Ōtomo Masachika and married another of the daughters of Masachika, launched an attack within the eastern region of Hizen province with aid provided by the Ōtomo. In the following year (1502), the Kyushu Tandai Shibugawa Tadashige (尹繁) was attacked at Ayabe castle (綾部) in Hizen and forced to flee to Chikugo. In the 3rd month of the 3rd year of Eishō (1506), a combined army of Shōni Sukemoto and Ōtomo Chikaharu (親治) invaded both Buzen and Chikuzen and fought with Ōuchi Yoshioki, capturing Dazaifu for the Shōni family.(350-351)

At the same time, the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshitada (Yoshitane 義尹, 義稙), who had been ousted from Kyoto by the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshizumi (義澄), sought assistance from Ōuchi Yoshioki and thus made his way to Yamaguchi. He harboured the intention of being able to return to the capital, and thus began to search for allies to provide aid. Hence in the 4th year of Eishō (1507), Yoshitada ordered the various daimyō of Kyushu – i.e., the Ōuchi, the Shōni, the Ōtomo, the Shibugawa, the Kikuchi, the Shimazu, and the Itō (伊東) – to cease fighting and drew up a plan for distribution of territories amongst the various families, hence the Ōuchi would be named shugo of Buzen and Chikuzen, the Shōni would be shugo of Hizen, the Ōtomo would be shugo of Bungo, and the Kikuchi would be shugo of Higo.(351)

As a result of negotiations, fighting temporarily stopped between the Ōuchi and the Shōni・Ōtomo. However, the fact that the Ōuchi had been recognized as shugo over Chikuzen meant that, for the Ōtomo and Shōni, their attempts to expel the Ōuchi had come to nought. For the Ōuchi, who had been repeatedly attacked and harassed by the Shōni and Ōtomo, the usage of the authority of the shōgun Yoshitada in a peace plan had yielded favourable results.(351)

At the time of the War of the Two Courts (Nanbokuchō), the Kikuchi family had served as the Seisei Shōgun Miya, and despite the tumultuous turn of events that had seen this Dogō family both rise and fall, the Kikuchi had remained loyal to the southern court. With the union of the two courts and the stabilization of the political scene, the Kikuchi had lost what gains they had made while allied to the southern court, and were slowly fading into obscurity.(351)

However the fifth generation descendant of Kikuchi Taketomo, Kikuchi Shigetomo (重朝), met up with the scholar Keian Genju (桂庵玄樹) who had left Kyoto to escape the violence of the Ōnin War. Through the assistance of Keian, Shigetomo spread learning throughout his territory, and established a school of Confucian thought in the Kikuchi castle town of Waifu (隈府). However learning and culture were always a hairs breadth away from being extinguished during the Sengoku era, and there are many instances of former glories coming to an end during this period. The Kikuchi were no exception. What finally brought down the family was an internal dispute, a factor that led to the ruin of many Sengoku daimyō.(351-352).

In the 5th month of the 16th year of Bunmei (1484), Shigetomo`s uncle, Uto Tamemitsu (宇土為光) launched a rebellion against the Kikuchi with the aid of the Sagara (相良) family. The revolt was soon crushed, yet after Shigetomo`s death, his son Yoshiyuki (能運) became involved in a dispute with an acolyte of Keian Genju (and councilor to the Kikuchi) by the name of Kumabe Tadanao (隈部忠直). In the 5th month of the 1st year of Bunki (1501), Yoshiyuki fought against Tadanao, was defeated, was sought refuge with the Arima (有馬) family of Hizen. Tadanao then pronounced Uto Tamemitsu as shugo of Higo, yet in the following year (1502), Tamemitsu was attacked and killed by former retainers of the Kikuchi, hence once again Tadanao took up the position of shugo of Higo province. However, the various councilors within Higo began to voice their dissent with Tadanao`s rule, which escalated as time passed. Upon Tadanao`s death in the 1st year of Eishō (1504), his nephew and acolyte Masataka (政隆) was named shugo of Higo.(352)

Ōtomo Yoshinaga, who had been observing the conflict within the Kikuchi family, made an alliance with Aso Ōmiya no Tsukasa Korenaga (阿蘇大宮司惟長) and Sagara Nagatsune (長毎) and entered into the dispute raging within the Kikuchi family. Councilors within the Kikuchi made a secret pact (pledged upon a Kishomon), in which Korenaga was to be named shugo over Higo, thus demonstrating their loyalty to Korenaga. However, Masataka became suspicious of the activities of his councilors, and suspected that the Ōtomo were supporting Korenaga`s ambitions. In the 3rd year of Eishō Masataka raised troops with the intention of marching them into Bungo to chastise the Ōtomo.(352). However, whilst he was in camp, those Kikuchi councilors remaining in Higo made a pledge (Ichimi Dōshin) with one another and raised revolts throughout Higo, all the while maintaining contact with the Ōtomo.(352)

Realising the threat to his rear, Masanaga immediately struck camp and made his way back to Higo in an attempt to quash the revolts. Yet he found that his position as shugo had been taken from him. Ōtomo Yoshinaga then attempted to organize a takeover of the Kikuchi by sending his second son Kiku Hōshimaru (菊法師丸) as heir apparent, yet this invited a strong backlash from the councilors of the Kikuchi family. Hōshimaru was thus withdrawn from the position, which was then handed to Aso Korenaga, who changed his personal name to Taketsune (武経). However, Ōtomo Yoshinaga did not give up his ambition to appropriate the name of Kikuchi for his son. Although he did not use military might to achieve his political aim, he made use of the factional disputes that existed within the Kikuchi family, and send aid to those he believed would best represent his interests. It was a means by which the Ōtomo might take over the operation of the Kikuchi.(353)

On the 23rd day of the 12th month of Eishō 12 (1515), Ōtomo Yoshinaga wrote a particular line within his will (誡状, Isamejō) for his eldest son Yoshiaki (義鑑) in which he stated the following:
Even in his will, Yoshinaga appropriated the name of the Kikuchi, thus showing he was determined to have this family become part of the Ōtomo sphere of influence.(352-353)

With the Ōtomo active behind the scenes, Aso Taketsune, although he had been named as shugo of Higo province, was unable to quell dissent among his councilors. In the end, Taketsune abandoned the use of the surname Kikuchi, and returned to using that of Aso Ōmiya no Shi. The Ōtomo once again tried to appropriate the Kikuchi name by putting forward a successor, a commoner by the name of Takuma Takekane (詫摩武包), yet he was expelled from Higo. In the 17th year of Eishō, the younger brother of Yoshiaki, Shigeharu (重治, who had previously been known by his youthful name of Kiku Hōshimaru, and who would later go on to change his name to Yoshitake 義武), once again took the surname of Kikuchi, and was successful in having this recognized by councilors within Higo province.(353)

By utilizing such methods, and gradually expanding their influence into Higo, the Ōtomo then turned their attentions to the west with the intention of capturing the port of Hakata, the centre of trade in Kyushu, and Dazaifu, the heart of the political organization of Kyushu, for themselves, thus making them overlords of the northern Kyushu region. However, as they, like the Shōni, possessed no formidable military strength, they weren`t able to make much of an impression on the Ōuchi.(354)
However, in the first year of Kyōroku (1528), Shōni Sukemoto, who had spent many years wandering throughout Kyushu in search of supporters, made a resolution whereby he would take back Dazaifu while he still drew breath. He allied himself with the Ōtomo, contacted the office of the Kanrei Hosokawa Takakuni in order to receive his support, made use of the disputes currently affecting central Kyushu, and began maneuvers against the Ōuchi.(354)

Ōuchi Yoshioki, having gotten wind of the Shōni plan, sent correspondence to the shōgun Yoshiharu in order to receive permission to destroy Sukemoto, yet as Sukemoto had taken the precaution of using Hosokawa Takakuni to his advantage, no permission was granted from the Bakufu. Yoshioki died of illness in the 12th month of 1528, and his son Yoshitaka (義隆) inherited the mantle of the Ōuchi family. In the 4th month of Kyōroku 3, Yoshitaka ordered the shugodai of Chikuzen province, Sugi Okitsura (杉興連) to attack Sukemoto within the castle of Seifukuji (勢福寺) of Kamizaki gun in Higo province. Yet as a result of a dispute between the Sugi and two allies of the Shōni, Ryūzōji Iekane (竜造寺家兼) and Nabeshima Kiyohisa (鍋嶋清久), Okitsura was beaten and forced to withdraw from Higo. Sukemoto, taking advantage of his good fortune, sent out a call to Ōtomo Yoshiaki to advance on Chikugo in the 4th year of Kyōroku. This Yoshiaki did, so that Sugi Okitsura was forced to retreat inside Iwaya castle (岩屋) at Dazaifu, which eventually fell to the Shōni and Ōtomo.(354)

Ōuchi Yoshitaka, who had been surprised by the successes of the Shōni and Ōtomo, sent a relief army under Sue Okifusa (陶興房) in the 2nd year of Tenbun (1533) with the intention of rescuing Okitsura. Yet this army was attacked by Sukemoto, who then advanced into Hizen. Okifusa`s army engaged in a number of skirmishes, yet was eventually soundly beaten by Ryūzōji Iekane. In the 10th month of the following year (1534), Yoshitaka himself decided to lead an army against the Shōni, determined to once and for all destroy this threat to Ōuchi rule in northern Kyushu. He thus launched a effort to win the favour of Ryūzōji Iekane, who until this time had been a staunch ally of the Shōni. His efforts were successful. The Ryūzōji family, who had been such a support to the Sukemoto, switched sides and inflicted a defeat on the Shōni. The Ōtomo family, upon learning of this defeat, saw that there was little point in continuing hostilities and thus left Chikugo to the Ōuchi. Yoshitaka had thus been successful in his Kyushu campaign, yet he felt the need to have his position cemented by being granted an official post. What he coveted was the position of 大宰大弐, a courtly position one rank up from the 大宰少弐 held by the Shōni for generations.(354-355)

To achieve this aim, Yoshitaka sent many gifts to the court, and thus was successfully named as Dazai Daini in Tenbun 4 (1535). Yet the day after the document confirming Yoshitaka in his position was signed, a `Nyōbō Hōsho` (女房奉書) was sent to Yoshitaka, stating that he was to serve as an aid to the Dazai Daini, and that his former position was null and void. The reason for this change was probably because of the intervention of the Bakufu. Undeterred in his plan to win an official post, Yoshitaka now concentrated on sending bribes to the court and the Bakufu. On the 16th day of the 5th month of Tenbun 5 (1536), Yoshitaka was finally awarded the rank of Dazai Daini, and in the 6th month, an imperial messenger by the name of Chūnagon Fujiwara Kanehide (兼秀) was sent as an aid to the Dazai Daini in Yamaguchi. This is yet another example of regional daimyō coveting imperial positions during the age of conflict that was the Sengoku era. Such positions had not lost their importance in the minds of warriors, who sought them as a means to an end – namely, the legitimization of their rule.(355)

Shōni Sukemoto, having lost the support of the Ryūzōji, was thus doomed to failure. Ōuchi Yoshitaka, having been appointed the post of Dazai Daini, set about attacking Sukemoto in the 9th month of 1536. Sukemoto was eventually to take his own life in the castle of Taku (多久) located in Higo province. However (and this seems to be a continuing theme in the history of Sengoku Kyushu), Sukemoto`s son Fuyuhisa (冬尚) bore a grudge against the Ryūzōji family, knowing that the betrayal by Ryūzōji Iekane had led to the death of his father. With many former retainers, Fuyuhisa attacked Iekane at the castle of Mizugae (水ガ江), yet was unsuccessful in laying siege to the castle and was forced to retreat. With this defeat, actual power in Hizen passed from the Shōni to the Ryūzōji.(356)

Ōuchi Yoshitaka, who had caused the downfall of Sukemoto, made peace with Ōtomo Yoshiaki in the 3rd month of Tenbun 7 (1538), and returned a number of lands taken within Chikuzen province to the Ōtomo. This act appears, at first glance, to demonstrate that Yoshitaka had indeed solidified his control over Kyushu. However, in Tenbun 8, Shōni Fuyuhisa once again appeared in Hizen in an attempt to win back the province. The Ōuchi could only mark their astonishment at such a tenacious foe.(356)

In Tenbun 12, Ōtomo Yoshiaki launched a legal deposition with the Bakufu against the Ōuchi, stating that when the Ōuchi had returned lands within Chikuzen, they had left out the territory of Oki no Hamaguchi (興浜口) in Hakata. The Bakufu made enquiries with the Ōuchi about their refusal to hand back this land, yet when one considers the importance of Hakata as a trading port, the Ōuchi could not easily acquiesce with the demands of the Ōtomo and return Hakata to Yoshiaki. This refusal to return Hakata to the Ōtomo would be the spark of yet another conflict between these two houses. Yoshiaki decided to oppose the position of Dazai Daini held by the Ōuchi by gaining hold of the position of Chinzei Tandai (鎮西探題) in the 5th month of Tenbun 12. If the position of Dazai Daini represented rule over Kyushu according to the precepts of the Ritsuryo system of government, the position of Chinzei Tandai represented the leader of all warrior houses within Kyushu. Relations between the two houses gradually grew worse, and once again it seemed like war would break out in northern Kyushu. However a turn of events was to prove of benefit to the Ōtomo and almost catastrophic to the Ōuchi.(356-357)

On the 1st day of the 9th month of Tenbun 12 (1551), Ōuchi Yoshitaka was forced to commit suicide in the temple of Daineiji (大寧寺) in Nagato following a revolt led by the Ōuchi retainer Sue Takafusa (陶隆房, or Harukata 晴賢). This death shook the foundations of Ōuchi rule within Kyushu to its core, for Sugi Okitsura, who had inherited the position of Dazai Gon no Shōni (大宰権少弐) and who also served as shugodai for the province of Chikuzen, thus stabilizing the rule of the Ōuchi over Kyushu, was forced to commit suicide on the 9th day of the 9th month of Tenbun 12 on a beach in Kasuya (糟屋) gun in Chikuzen province. These two deaths brought Ōuchi rule over northern Kyushu to an abrupt halt, and also signaled an opportunity for expansion for those Kyushu Dogō ready to take advantage of the situation.(357)

The Ryūzōji and the growing ambitions of the Ōtomo

In the 3rd month of the 17th year of Tenbun (1548), Ryūzōji Tanehide (胤栄) died of illness (Tanehide having been responsible for subduing Shōni Fuyuhisa, and was a staunch ally of Ōuchi Yoshitaka). In the aftermath of his death, councilors within the Ryūzōji family attempted to have Tanehide`s widow marry Iekane`s grandson Tanenobu (胤信), however this set off a dispute within the household. Ōtomo Yoshiaki, watching events from afar in Funai, decided to take advantage of the discord within the Ryūzōji and used the same techniques that had born fruit in the takeover of the name of Kikuchi (namely, entering the dispute and backing certain factions). Through the use of the Ryūzōji councilor Dobashi Hidemasu (土橋栄益), Yoshiaki swung his support behind another of Iekane`s grandsons, Akikane (鑑兼). In order to face off against the Ōtomo, Tanenobu chose to align himself with the Ōuchi, and took one of the characters, Taka, from Ōuchi Yoshitaka, and re-named himself Takanobu (隆信). However, with the death of Ōuchi Yoshitaka in the 9th month of Tenbun 20, the Ōuchi withdrew from Kyushu, which left Takanobu in a precarious position.(360-361)

Dobashi Hidemasu did not waste time taking advantage of the situation and had Takanobu surrounded in Saga castle (佐嘉城). However, Takanobu managed to escape from the castle to the lands of Kamachi Akimori (蒲池鑑盛) of Chikugo. Hidemasu then went on to have Ryūzōji Akikane named as heir to the house of Ryūzōji. Ōtomo Yoshishige (who had apparently been behind this move, although the author states that Yoshiaki had initially given his support to Akikane) was aware that the Ryūzōji were on the ascendancy, whilst Shōni Fuyuhide was essentially powerless. Thus in the 1st month of the Tenbun 23 (1554), Yoshishige made a deposition to the Bakufu, asking to be recognized as an `assistant` (or honin) to the position of shugo of Hizen province instead of the Shōni. In the 8th month of the same year, Yoshishige got his wish, and was officially recognized by the Bakufunate as shugo of Hizen province. (360-361)

This move by the Ōtomo, however, set of another dispute within the Ryūzōji household, as it had become blantantly clear that the Ōtomo were intent on securing Hizen for themselves. The Ryūzōji thus decided to split with the Ōtomo. Ryūzōji Takanobu, who had been watching the disturbance among the councilors with interest, invaded Hizen and defeated Akikane at Mizugae castle in the 10th month with aid from the Kamachi family. He had Dobashi Hidemasu killed and won back his position as head of the Ryūzōji household (apparently Takanobu had decided to learn from the mistakes of the Kikuchi, and knew full well that the Ōtomo would take advantage of any internal quarrels, even though geographically they were far removed from Hizen. Yet that distance was what probably allowed Takanobu to regain his position, as the Ōtomo would not be so rapid in its reaction, unlike the case of the Kikuchi in Higo province).(361)

In order to better control the ambitions of the Ōtomo, Ryūzōji Takanobu decided to form a bond with the Mōri, and in the 1st month of Eiroku 2 (1559), Takanobu attacked Shōni Fuyuhisa at Seifukuji castle, thus forcing Fuyuhisa to commit suicide. With Fuyuhisa`s death, the entire Shōni family had been extinguished, and would not rise again. Takanobu would go on to extend his rule over the Dogō of Hizen, and quickly developed as a Sengoku daimyō. (362)

Ōtomo Sōrin

On the night of the 10th day of the 2nd month of Tenbun 19 (1550), Ōtomo Yoshiaki, asleep on the second floor of his residence in the Ōtomo compound within Bungo Funai, along with Ōtomo Yoshishige`s younger brother Shioichimaru (though this child had been born of another woman separate to Yoshishige`s mother), were attacked by faction members loyal to Ōtomo Yoshishige. Both Shioichimaru and his mother were killed, whilst Yoshiaki was gravely wounded, so much so that he died two days later (on the 12th). This was the famous `Rebellion of the Second Floor` (大友二階崩). A dispute that had arisen between councilors loyal to Yoshishige and those who supported Shioichimaru and his mother`s claims to the head of the household is yet another example of the type of internal bickering and quarrels that so threatened many families.(362)

Apparently Ōtomo Yoshiaki did not like his eldest son Yoshishige, yet held deep affection for his youngest Shioichimaru, hence Yoshishige decided to strike against a father who so hated him, or so one theory goes. However the conflict within the Ōtomo household was not a simple case of personal character, but was more related to the political maneuvering of factions. How this works can be seen in the theories that have arisen concerning Yoshishige`s mother. One part of the historical record on the Ōtomo family states that both Yoshishige and his brother Haruhide (who would later go on to become Ōuchi Yoshinaga) were born of the same mother, a member of the aristocratic Bōjō (坊城) family of Kyoto. Another theory of the Ōuchi states that the elder sister of Yoshitaka was the mother of Ōtomo Yoshishige. While one could argue the merits of the theory of the Bōjō origins of Yoshishige`s mother (which is quite a strong theory), if Yoshishige`s mother was indeed the elder sister of Yoshitaka, then is it possible that Yoshiaki tried to remove Yoshishige from his position as heir apparent in order to eliminate any possibility of Ōuchi influence within the Ōtomo household.(362-363) In an era in which a daimyō might have many wives of uncertain heritage, the fact that the origins of Yoshishige`s mother remains unclear should in no way be though of as being unique.(363)

At the time of the Rebellion of the Second Floor, Yoshishige was in Beppu taking the waters, however he was visited by those councilors who had carried out the attack and named as the 21st head of the Ōtomo family. Yoshishige, who was 21 at the time, was destined to go on to conquer much of Kyushu, and take the name Sōrin (by which he is best known), all the while becoming a rarity among warriors at the time – a Christian daimyō.(363)

Yoshishige`s own character is a source of many contradictions within the sources, each of which paints Yoshishige in a different light. On the one hand, he is perceived as intelligent and resourceful, with a strong sense of justice, and particularly interested in religion and religious faith. He is also portrayed as generous and blessed with foresight. On the other hand, he is portrayed as being ruled by his passions, a natural schemer whom his father loathed, very much a lover of fine products and women, yet also with a cruel streak. Whilst he was unswerving in his dedication to the Christian faith (he practiced Christianity for 27 years after his conversion), he could thus be stubborn, and when faced with hardship caused through defeat at the hands of the Shimazu, he ran for support from Hideyoshi, thus revealing the good upbringing yet weak sense of character that Yoshishige was thought to possess.(363)

Yoshishige, having taken the helm of the Ōtomo household in the aftermath of the Rebellion of the Second Floor, set out to quash any lingering supporters of his father and younger brother, and in the 8th month of 1550, Yoshishige led a large army against his uncle, Kikuchi Yoshitake (義武), thus forcing him to flee. In the following year (Tenbun 20, 1551), Yoshishige, with a much smaller army, again invaded Higo, killed Yoshitake, and had himself named as shugo over Higo province. The year after Yoshishige became head of the Ōtomo family, Ōuchi Yoshitaka committed suicide at Daineiji in Nagato, hence a theory has arisen that perhaps there was an agreement between Sue Takafusa and Yoshishige, whereby once Yoshitaka had been removed, Yoshishige`s brother Haruhide (later Ōuchi Yoshinaga) would take over as head of the Ōuchi family. As seen in the past, sending a family member to serve as a councilor within another illustrious family, only to later take over that family, was a particular ploy favoured by the Ōtomo. Yet in this case, the theory of the tie between Yoshishige and Takafusa falls apart when based on Yoshishige`s own assessment of the situation after Ōuchi Yoshitaka`s death.(364)

He stated that he could not trust Takafusa`s word. Takafusa would use his position to elevate himself in ranking, he would kill those who disobeyed him, and he would eventually dispose of Haruhide once he (Takafusa) had achieved his goal. Hence at least Yoshishige knew what kind of tactics a rival might employ in order to elevate himself. However, Haruhide was of a different mind. He said that
“The ultimate goal for those born to warrior households is to become a general at a time when the country is at war. If I withdraw (from becoming heir to the Ōuchi), I will be soundly criticized by other houses, and will profoundly regret it. Although one does not know what will happen tomorrow, at least I shall not regret my decision”.(364-365)

This pronouncement by Haruhide thus contradicted Yoshishige`s earlier assessment, so much so that Haruhide went on to become heir to the Ōuchi, whereupon he changed his name to Yoshinaga. In their dealing with the issue of succession to the Ōuchi, one can perceive a difference in the character of the brothers – Yoshishige, calculating and with a utilitarian (practical) way of looking at things, and Haruhide, passionate yet with a stoic forbearance.(365)

Conquest of Kyushu by the Ōtomo

The power of the Ōuchi went into remission in northern Kyushu with the death of Yoshitaka. The Ōtomo would quickly supplant the Ōuchi as rulers over Chikuzen and Chikugo and would come to administer the trade port of Hakata, taking advantage of its ties with overseas merchants. Ōtomo Yoshishige, whilst he may have been an intelligent general, was certainly not a brave one. He was much better at a more sublime, subdued form of rule which involved taking over families, sending gifts to the court and Bakufu thereby maintaining ties with the central authorities, being appointed to positions of power and then using that power against other families, particularly those with weaker ties to the central government.(365)

Despite the fact that Ōtomo Yoshishige had few victories in battle to his name, his conquest of northern Kyushu came about through his use of diplomacy and excellent strategy. Into his armies, he placed the lord of Dazaifu Hōman (宝満) castle, Takahashi Akitane (高橋鑑種) and Betsugi Akitsura (戸次鑑連, the lord of Tachibana castle in Kasuya (糟屋) gun within Chikuzen province, who would later take the name of Dōsetsu (道雪), and would be the founder of the Tachibana family of Chikugo Yanagawa). Both of these generals were noted for their ferociousness, and their activities played a large part in the spread of Ōtomo rule into Chikuzen and Buzen.(366)

In the meantime, conflict between the Sue family (who had appointed Yoshinaga to the head of the Ōuchi family) and the Mōri was growing more heated in the Chūgoku region. In the 23rd year of Tenbun (1554), civil war broke out in the Chūgoku area, meaning that no forces from that region had the strength to launch any invasion of northern Kyushu. Hence the way was now open for the Ōtomo to extend their authority across the provinces of Chikuzen, Chikugo and Hizen. Some state that Yoshishige made a secret pact with the Mōri, whereby they would overlook his takeover of northern Kyushu in return for his agreeing to ignore any calls for assistance from his brother Yoshinaga.(366)

When one examines Yoshishige`s strategy at the time, it does seem that he welcomed the downfall of the Ōuchi after a long, protracted dispute. It may be that he believed the Mōri would be more open to an alliance with the Ōtomo than the Ōuchi, At any rate, it is difficult to believe that this ambitious individual, clamoring to expand his authority to its limits, was the same individual who worried about his brother`s accession to the seat of the Ōuchi family. At any rate, in the 3rd year of Kōchi (1557), Yoshinaga was forced to commit suicide at Chōfukuin in Chōfu after being attacked by the Mōri. We have no existing record of what Yoshinaga might have felt at the time, or of his thoughts at becoming the head of the Ōuchi family, yet it may have been difficult for him to reconcile his brother`s refusal to send aid despite repeated requests for help against the Mōri.(367)

By this time, however, Yoshishige was beginning to feel pressure from Ryūzōji Takanobu, who had just finished off the Shōni and was in the process of expanding his own authority. Yoshishige, in order to formalize his rule over Hizen, sent a request to the Bakufu, whereupon he was appointed to the position of shugo over Hizen province in the 8th month of Tenbun 23 (1554). In the 2nd year of Eiroku (1559), Yoshishige would be named as shugo over Buzen and Chikuzen provinces. In order to show his gratitude, Yoshishige sent 300,000 hiki in finances to the Bakufu, as well as a sword, a horse, and a musket and ammunition from Tanegashima to the shōgun Yoshiteru. To the shōgun`s mother, Keijūin (慶寿院), he sent 30,000 hiki. He would never send such sums to the Bakufu again, but if that is what it cost to buy the positions of shugo over Buzen and Chikuzen, then to Yoshishige they weren`t expensive sums at all.(367)

By this time, Yoshishige, as shugo over Bungo, Chikugo, Higo, Hizen, Buzen, and Chikuzen, ruled six of the nine provinces of Kyushu. In the 11 month of the same year (1559), he was named Kyushu Tandai, whilst at the same time he inherited the name and affairs of the Ōuchi. The shōgun Yoshiteru was loathe to give the name of Ōuchi to a Sengoku daimyō of the likes of Mōri Motonari (who had risen to his position during the age of Gekokujō). Hence Yoshishige took over administration of the Ōuchi, yet at the time of the death of Yoshinaga, Yoshishige had hoped that the Ōuchi would be eliminated as an opponent. Now he was being forced to carry on their name, although at least he could receive a gift in currency from the Bakufu for doing so. When one looks at the situation at the time and Yoshishige`s appointment as Kyushu Tandai and heir to the Ōuchi name, it does appear as though the Bakufu forced the sale of these offices upon Yoshishige. Nonetheless, 1559 marked the pinnacle of Yoshishige`s rule, master of most of the island of Kyushu.(367-8)

Up until this point, all had gone as Yoshishige had planned. All had proceeded smoothly when his strategy had proven right, but just one false move could unravel the entire apparatus. For Yoshishige, who was adept at creating strategy after weighing the odds, when he was suddenly faced with a dilemma, suddenly found himself without his previous vitality.(368) One of his mistakes was to treat the Mōri as an insignificant threat. The Mōri, upon eliminating the Ōuchi, began their plans for invading Kyushu not long after Yoshinaga`s death. With the aid of the Akizuki (秋月) and Tsukushi (筑紫) clans of Chikuzen, the Mōri raised troops for the purpose of contesting the rule of the Ōtomo. Both Chikuzen families were suppressed, yet the Ōtomo were to be repeatedly harried by uprisings by local Dogō in the Chikuzen area. On the other hand, a Mōri army managed to take control of Kadoshi (門司) castle, which an Ōtomo army failed to recapture.(368)

Yoshishige at once sent a protest to the Bakufu, ordering the Mōri to halt their invasion, yet his attempt at using diplomacy proved fruitless. In Eiroku 2 (1559), Ryūzōji Takanobu, having eliminated Shōni Fuyuhisa, made an alliance with the Mōri, thus combining their armies. This development meant that the Ryūzōji were now too powerful to be eliminated as a threat to the Ōtomo. In the midst of their weakening position, the invasions of northern Kyushu by the Mōri were becoming more problematic, and were only stopped by the efforts of Betsuki Akitsura and Takahashi Akitane. Whilst this was occurring, Yoshishige decided to take the tonsure and changed his name to Sōrin.(368)

In spite of an attempt by the shōgun Yoshiteru to broker a peace treaty between the Amako (尼子), Mōri, and Ōtomo families, it all came to naught against the growing power of the Mōri. Gradually the Ōtomo hold over northern Kyushu became more precarious. Sōrin thus decided to move his government from Funai to the newly constructed castle of Usuki Ni Ujima (臼杵丹生嶋) located in Amabe gun (海部) in Bungo province, and there he lived in splendor. This behaviour, however, caused Betsuki Akitsura to worry about the future of the Ōtomo household (according to the sources).(368-9)

Indeed, in the midst of this situation, an incident occurred that Sōrin had not forseen. In the 11th month of the 9th year of Eiroku (1566), Takahashi Akitane, whom Sōrin had trusted, went over to the Mōri. Sōrin, upon hearing this, flew into a rage, and ordered Betsuki Akitsura to attack Hōman castle, yet as Akitane had received reinforcements from the Mōri, the castle did not fall so easily (although it eventually did so in Eiroku 12). This defection seriously damaged Ōtomo rule over northern Kyushu. Why had Akitane, who had been instrumental in aiding the Ōtomo, suddenly decided to combine his forces with the Mōri? (369)

The reason given is as follows. Akitane had an elder brother by the name of Ichimada Chikazane (一万田親実), whose wife was reknowned for her beauty. Sōrin, who had an eye for exquisite goods, would not have failed to have noticed her. Sōrin thus at once made moves to possess her, and thus had Chikazane killed on trumped up charges. Akitane, who could not countenance such behaviour, even from his lord, grew enraged at how his brother had been treated, and thus showed his discontent in the most blatant form possible.(370) He may have received an invitation to defect from the Mōri (who might have had their own agents within Bungo at the time), who promised rewards if he would commit treason against Sōrin. One might then say that Sōrin`s love of finery was what ruined his household, hence Chikazane`s wife was in every sense a 傾城傾国 beauty.(370) (This story appears to be more apocryphal, as Sōrin appears to have been slandered in an attempt to otherwise find cause for Akitane`s defection).

St Francis Xavier and Christian Daimyō

One cannot talk of the history of Kyushu daimyō without making mention of both Christianity and the trade with the Portuguese. Since the arrival of the first Portuguese ship at the island of Tanegashima in the 12th year of Tenbun (1543), various daimyō throughout Kyushu welcomed the arrival of Portuguese vessels in their harbours. In Tenbun 14, Ōtomo Yoshiaki, when a boatload of Portuguese traders had arrived in Bungo harbour, conspired to have them killed and their vessel and goods seized. Yoshishige pleaded with his father to halt the order. This was not done out of a sense of justice, but out of fear that no Portuguese would ever again visit the harbour of Bungo.
Amidst the many goods that the Portuguese traded, the most sought after items were gunpowder and muskets. However, for those Portuguese who traveled to the East, their reason for embarking on the hazardous journey was for the sake of `pepper and souls`, hence along with an expansion in trade came an expansion in evangelism. The Society of Jesus (耶蘇会, やすかい), formed by Ignatius of Loyola and Francisco Xavier, had been created for just such a purpose.(370)

St Francis Xavier, the first person to preach the doctrine of Christianity to the Japanese, arrived in Kagoshima on the 15th day of the 8th month of Tenbun 18 (1549), accompanied by a Japanese by the name of Angelo, who had sought refuge in Macao after murdering a man in Japan. In a meeting with Shimazu Takahisa (貴久), Xavier asked for and was granted permission to engage in missionary activities. In his first missive penned after arriving in Japan, Xavier wrote down his thoughts regarding the Japanese in the following manner:
Amidst the many people that I have encountered, the Japanese are by far the most enlightened. They are the most superior among the many heathen. (abridged). The Japanese place more value upon honour than wealth, and cannot stand being either insulted nor humiliated.(371)
Xavier thus held high hopes for the acceptance of Christianity among the Japanese.(371)

However Takahisa`s attitude towards Christanity soon began to cool, especially when it became clear that he had only allowed the teaching of Christianity in order to reap the benefits of Portuguese trade. It appears that Buddhist sects within Kagoshima placed pressure on Takahisa. Eventually Takahisa outlawed the teaching of Christianity. For Francis Xavier, who had spent a year in Kagoshima spreading the faith, he had only managed to convert a couple of hundred local inhabitants, far fewer than he had first imagined. Xavier then decided that he would travel to Kyoto to meet the Emperor and shōgun, thus in the 9th month of Tenbun 19 (1550), he set out from Kagoshima on a Portuguese trading vessel, stopping at Hirado (平戸) on the way. The lord of Hirado, Matsura Takanobu (松浦隆信) welcomed Xavier, but it was clear that his true intention in having the Portuguese in his territory was to make use of their trade links.(372)

After only a month, Xavier left Hirado and made his way to Kyoto by way of Hakata and Yamaguchi. However, at the time, both the court and Bakufu were completely powerless, and it appears that Xavier came to realize that there would be no point in trying to win their approval for the spread of the gospel throughout Japan. Xavier, after spending 11 days in Kyoto, returned to Hirado, and knew that the only way to spread the teaching of Christ was to gain permission from the daimyō of each province. He thus headed back to Yamaguchi and the lands of the Ōuchi, and was quite successful in making converts under the protection of the Ōuchi household.(372)

Xavier, who realized that the process of converting the Japanese would be harder than he had first anticipated, returned to India to revise his plans for the spread of the Christian faith among the Japanese. However, just before Xavier left Japan, he met with a young daimyō who had an extraordinary interest in the teachings of Christ. This was Ōtomo Yoshishige. In the middle of the 9th month of Tenbun 12, Xavier traveled from Yamaguchi to Funai. He stayed in Funai for only two months, and then left on a Portuguese vessel that periodically visited the port of Bungo Hiji (日出). Yet he left a strong impression on the young Yoshishige.(372)

As Xavier pointed out, the surname of Ōtomo showed that Yoshishige was a `most affable friend`, and believed that Yoshishige was the first daimyō to accept the Christian faith. After returning to India, Xavier sent a letter to Yoshishige, which said..
After hearing over your conversion to the Christian faith, I am overjoyed and (cannot sleep).
It is true that Yoshishige endeavored to protect Christianity, and encouraged the building of churches in Funai, Usuki, and Hakata. Yet his own private life was in no way in keeping with the tenents of Christianity. He first took the tonsure and adopted the name of Sōrin (in keeping with the teachings of Zen), and did not fully convert to Christianity for another 27 years (in Tenshō 6, 1578). Yet his protection of Christians did reap rewards in terms of trade, and he was far more affected by the teachings of Christ than other daimyō such as Takahisa and Takanobu. However, in keeping with the uncertainty of the first forays of Christianity into Japan, the first fully Christian daimyō in Kyushu was not Yoshishige but Ōmura Sumitada (大村純忠) of Hizen.(373)

Much has been written about the degree of religious `purity` among the Christian daimyō of Japan, and the author is of the opinion that arguing over the purity of thought and belief is a tad prejudiced, yet none know what happens after one dies. In the case of Yoshishige, he was never tested by a `life or death` situation, hence he may have chosen to accept all at face value. On the 19th day of the 6th month of Tenshō 16 (1587), Toyotomi Hideyoshi announced his ban on the Jesuits proselytizing activities. Yoshishige (or Francisco, the Christian name he adopted after his conversion) died one month before this ban was announced, on the 23rd day of the 5th month. Whether through fortune or misfortune, one cannot say if the ban was aimed at daimyō such as Yoshishige. Perhaps Yoshishige`s demise was fortunate, yet for the historian all that is left are questions yet to be answered.(374)

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© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in December 2011