Ekei in Ankoku-ji Temple (Temple for National Pacification) (安国寺) (安国寺恵瓊)

Ekei, of Ankoku-ji Temple, was a Zen priest and a Japanese feudal lord from the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) (Japan) to the Azuchi Momoyama period. Ankoku-ji' is the name of the temple (Aki Province Ankoku-ji Temple Rishoto (Fudo-in)) of which he was the chief priest. He was a diplomat priest of the Mori clan (a Zen priest who was in charge of negotiations for the warrior caste) and finally became a Japanese feudal lord while retaining his status as a priest.

Biography

There are various views on the year of his birth, so that some believe it was 1539 and others believe it was 1537. There are also various views on his father, such as Nobushige TAKEDA of the Aki Takeda clan and Shigekiyo BAN, the husband of Motoshige TAKEDA's daughter of the same clan.

In 1541, when the Aki Takeda clan was subverted by the attack of Motonari MORI, he was led to safety by his followers and became a priest at the Ankoku-ji Temple (Fudo-in) in Aki Province. Subsequently, he entered Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto and became a disciple of Jikuun Eshin. As a priest he became the chief priest of Ankoku-ji Temple in Aki Province in 1574, and he also became the chief priest of Tofuku-ji Temple and Nanzen-ji Zen Temple, assuming the highest status among the central Zen temples. In 1599 he made efforts to rebuild Kennin-ji Temple.

On the other hand, he became a diplomat priest of the Mori clan relatively early in life because the Mori clan had embraced Eshin, and succeeded in making peace with the Otomo clan in Bungo Province in 1570.

In 1582, while the Mori clan was encamped opposite Hideyoshi HASHIBA (Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI) at Takamatsu-jo Castle in Bichu Province (the Battle of Bichu Takamatsu-jo Castle), the Honno-ji Incident occurred and Nobunaga ODA was killed at Honno-ji Temple (the Honno-ji Incident). At this time, Hideyoshi HASHIBA brought up the peace plan with respect to the Mori clan, but hid the fact, and Ekei, a diplomat priest, made up the peace plan. He was regarded as having forecast Hideyoshi's future success and having willingly devised the peace plan, so that he gained the confidence of Hideyoshi.

He was praised by Hideyoshi because he was in charge of negotiations when the Mori clan formally entered service as a vassal of the Hideyoshi in January 1585. For this reason he was given land of 23,000 goku in Iyo Province after the conquest of Shikoku, and was given land of 60,000 goku in Iyo Province after the conquest of Kyushu in 1586, so that he became an unusual Japanese feudal lord of the Toyotomi clan, retaining his status as a priest. Moreover, he served Hideyoshi as an aide at the same time so that he was in charge as the bugyo (administrator) of land surveys and so on, as implemented at the order of Hideyoshi. At the time of the Bunroku-Keicho War, he crossed the sea as a kenshi (inspector).

Among the Mori clan, Ekei was familiar to Takakage KOBAYAKAWA, who was the key figure in the pro-Hideyoshi group; however, after Takakage's death he was opposed to Hiroie KIKKAWA, a central figure in the Mori clan, just as the Kobayakawa clan was. At the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, he sided with the Western army through Mitsunari ISHIDA, who was familiar to him, and succeeded in making Terumoto MORI the commander in chief of the Western army.

At the Battle of Sekigahara on September 15 (old lunar calendar), he took up a line at the rear of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's force with Hidemoto MORI and Hiroie KIKKAWA, but he could not join the fight because Hiroie at the front line communicated with Ieyasu secretly and prevented Mori force's from participating in the battle.

After the defeat of the Western army, Ekei escaped but was captured by Nobumasa OKUDAIRA's military unit in Kyoto, and went to the guillotine as one of the leaders of the Western army at Rokujokawara (there is a view that the reason for his execution was that he brought the Mori clan into the Western army, though the Mori clan had not initially made clear its position as anti-Tokugawa). He died at the age of 62. He might also have been 64.

His kubizuka (a grave of his head) (首塚) lies in the garden of Kennin-ji Temple, and there is also a grave at Fudo-in Temple, in Hiroshima.

Personal Profile

In the letter to Yamagata Echizen-no-kami (Lord of Echizen province) Harutada INOUE as of December 12, 1573, he wrote that 'Nobunaga's government will not continue for five or three years. He seems to become a court noble around next year. I think he will be subverted after that. Tokichiro (Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI) is really something.'
This letter has often been quoted as an anecdote to show Ekei's insight because he forecasted the downfall of Nobunaga ODA and the strong showing of his follower, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and as a result his expectations were proved to be correct.