Sakugen Shuryo (策彦周良)

Shuryo SAKUGEN (April 29, 1501-August 2, 1579) was a Zen monk of the Rinzai sect and a diplomat who lived in the Sengoku period (period of warring states). He used go (byname) such as Kensai, Isai (怡斎) and Iunshi other than Sakugen.

He was born in 1501 as the third son of Munenobu INOUE who was the chief retainer of the Hosokawa clan, kanrei (shogunal deputy) of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), in Tango Province. On February 12, 1510, he became a priest under Toan INO at the Rokuon-ji Temple in Kitayama of Kyoto. He was burned out of the Rokuon-ji Temple in the battle of Mt. Funaoka in 1512, and escaped to the Tamba district with his master. In 1518 when he was 18 years old, he had tonsure at the Tenryu-ji Temple, received gusokukai (taking the full precepts) and decided imina (personal name) as Shuryo. Affected by Gozan Bungaku (Literally, Five Mountain Literature), he learned Chinese classic books and prose and poetry by Toan and brushed up the ability of Chinese classics. In 1522 his master Toan died. He became a chief priest of the Myochi-in Temple which was tatchu (sub-temples in the site of main temple) of the Tenryu-ji Temple.

Two visits to Ming
In 1537 when an authorized tally trade ship (Envoy Ship Dispatched to Ming China) was planned to be dispatched to Ming hosted by Yoshitaka OUCHI who was Sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period) of the Suo Province, he was assigned to the vice-envoy (at this time seishi (senior envoy) was Sekitei KOSHIN). Although the Ouchi clan actually managed the trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China after the Neiha war, it was formally an official envoy of the Muromachi bakufu. He left the Goto Islands on May 17, 1539, which was two years after planning, leading 460 people on three ships. On May 29, he arrived at Wenzhou Prefecture. He stayed there for a while and entered Beijing City on April 18 in the following year and achieved the mission to bring tributes. On July 12 he left Beijing for Neiha and came back to Japan on July 29, 1541 after waiting for a good wind to sail.

In 1547 he was ordered a second visit to Ming and left Naru Island of the Goto Islands the same as the first visit, leading about 630 people on the four ships as seishi on June 17, 1547. Although they were attacked by pirates on the way and 89 people died, he arrived in Ming on June 28. However, he was refused entry because the Ming dynasty in those days determined Japan as 'a country of one tribute in ten years' (a country which could be allowed the tribute trade once in ten years). On April 28, 1548, he was finally allowed to enter Neiha and arrived at Beijing on June 4. He achieved the mission of tribute as seishi again and went back to Yamaguchi which was the base of the Ouchi clan on August 1, 1550 three years after leaving. This was the last Envoy Ship Dispatched to Ming China because Yoshitaka OUCHI committed suicide during the revolt of Harukata SUE and the Ouchi clan was virtually destroyed.

He precisely recorded the details of the two visits of the Envoy Ship Dispatched to Ming China as "Sakugen nyuminki," which is important historical reference material to study and to know about the last days of the trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China.

The exchange with famous people and a secluded life
He went down to the Suruga Province in 1556 and participated in the poetry meeting held by Yoshimoto IMAGAWA on December 28, 1556 with other people who stayed there such as Sanezumi SANJONISHI and Tokitsugu YAMASHINA. From 1556 to 1557 he went to Kai Province invited by Shingen TAKEDA and stayed there as the chief priest of Erin-ji Temple.

He was deeply relied upon by Emperor Ogimachi and wrote the preface of "Keiteki shu" (Collected teachings) which was written by Dosan MANASE in accordance with an Imperial order. In addition, he had exchanges with many kuge (court noble) and samurai such as Nobunaga ODA as a great scholar of gozan (Zen temples highly ranked by the government), but he did not want to come out, so that he had a secluded life as the chief priest of the Myochi-in Temple and tried to defend the Tenryu-ji Temple. In addition, he was good at poetry and left many works such as "Kensai shishu," "Joseireiku" and "Kanwareiku" (漢倭聯句) in the history of Gozan literatures.

On July 1579, he died. Died at the age of 79.