Otomo Yoshishige (大友義鎮)

Yoshishige OTOMO (also known as Sorin OTOMO) was a busho (Japanese military commander) in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States). He was a daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku period and Christian daimyo (Christian feudal lord) in Bungo Province. He was the twenty-first family head of the Otomo clan. He was known for his hogo (posthumous Buddhist name), Sorin.

Brief personal history

The Otomo clan exercised authority as an organizer of gokenin shu (group of immediate vassals of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) in the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) from the Kamakura period to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) together with the Shoni clan and the Shimazu clan. The clan conflicted against the prominence of the Ouchi clan along with the Shoni clan after the Muromachi period.

It was Sorin OTOMO that calmed down the situation in the eastern Kitakyushu region where the powers of the Ouchi clan and the Mori clan competed in addition to the local clan and shugo daimyo (shugo (Japanese provincial military governors) that became daimyo (Japanese feudal lords)) in the Sengoku period. His father was Toshiaki OTOMO who was the twentieth family head of the Otomo family. His mother was said to be the paternal half-sister of Yoshinaga OUCHI who succeeded to the family estate of the Ouchi clan in Suo Province; she was also said to be the daughter of Yoshioki OUCHI. Another story is that his mother might have been the daughter of a court noble or the daughter of a vassal. One story is that his real mother was the daughter of Korenori ASO. His younger brothers included Yoshinaga OUCHI, Shioichimaru OTOMO and Chikasada OTOMO (Chikasada is also said to be his nephew). His children included Yoshimune OTOMO, Chikaie OTOMO and Chikamori OTOMO.

He expanded his territory with the economic power gained through overseas trade, strong busho and clever diplomacy.

Though he was originally devoted to Zen sect, he developed a keen interest in Christianity later and was finally christened. He was famous as a Christian daimyo, and was the strongest daimyo in the Kyushu region, temporarily suppressing six provinces in Kyushu region. However, his power declined barely enough to maintain only Bungo Province as a daimyo led by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI in his later years after being defeated by Yoshihisa SHIMAZU when the 'Christian Kingdom' was about to be built.

Succession to family headship

He was born in the provincial capital of Bungo Province as the legitimate son of Toshiaki OTOMO, the twentieth family head of the Otomo family, on February 10, 1530. Chikazane IRITA, a senior vassal served as his Moriyaku (guardian).

His father, Toshiaki, planned to cede the family estate to Shioichimaru, the paternal half-brother of Yoshishige, and had a scheme to disinherit Yoshishige together with Chikazane, his Moriyaku (guardian). He planned to purge the Yoshishige group while forcing Yoshishige to go to toji (hot spring recuperation) in February 1550. However, the senior vassal of the Yoshishige group got hold of this and raised a rebellion. A coup then (Nikaikuzure no hen) broke out, which resulted in the killings of Shioichimaru and his mother along with the injuring of Toshiaki on March 8 and subsequent death on March 10. Yoshishige therefore succeeded to the family estate of the Otomo clan and became the twenty-first family head based on Toshiaki's will.
At the same time, members of anti-Yoshishige groups including Chikazane IRITA were purged as ringleaders of 'the assassination of Toshiaki.'

Expansion of power

After Yoshitaka OUCHI in Suo Province killed himself because of the rebellion of his vassal, Takafusa SUE (Harukata SUE), in 1551, Yoshishige accepted the proposal of Takafusa to have his brother, Haruhide OTOMO (Yoshinaga OUCHI) become the new family head of the Ouchi family. This caused a cessation of conflict with the Ouchi clan from the Muromachi period, and local lords subject to the Ouchi family in the Kitakyushu region became subject to the Otomo family as well, by which he ensured a power of influence in Suo and Nagato Provinces. Particularly, having Hakata in his hand brought great advantage to the Otomo family.

He also defeated the rebellion of his uncle, Yoshitake KIKUCHI, who planned for reinstatement and destroyed the Kikuchi clan in 1554, to ensure power in Higo Province. In addition to his father's accidental death, however, Yoshishige developed an interest in Christianity and admitted missionaries including Francis XAVIER and the belief of Christianity into the territory of the Otomo family. This led to a religious conflict between the vassals of the Otomo family. Yoshishige had many difficulties in ruling from the beginning, with rebellions by Akisuke ICHIMADA in 1553 and Akimoto OBARA in 1556 (Seishi Tairitsu Jiken).

After Yoshinaga killed himself in the attack of Motonari MORI in 1557 and the Ouchi clan went to ruins, the Otomo clan lost its power of influence in Suo Province. Yoshishige determined to oppose the Mori clan when Motonari MORI advanced into the Kitakyushu region and was successful in ensuring the former territory of the Ouchi clan in the Kitakyushu region by destroying Fumitane AKIZUKI in Chikuzen Province who had been engaged in secret communication with Motonari. He made an enormous donation to Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, the 13th shogun of the Muromachi bakufu in 1559 and was appointed to Shugo (provincial constable) of Buzen and Chikuzen Provinces in July of that year and Kyushu Tandai (local commissioner) in December of the same year. He was appointed to Saemon no kami (captain of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards) in 1560 (this was a higher rank than "Shuri no daibu") (Master of the Office of Palace Repairs) which was of the traditional family estate of the Otomo clan and was a high officer appointed only to the Hatakeyama clan in ranks other than the court noble.
(This shows that he enormously donated to the Ashikaga shogun family and was trusted to such an extent.)
Thus, Yoshishige established the maximum territory in the Kyushu region in both reality and in name, creating the height of prosperity of the Otomo clan. He entered the priesthood in 1562 and took the second name/alias of Kyuan SORIN. With continuously providing much support to the Ashikaga shogun family, he was appointed to Shobanshu (officials who accompany the Shogun) of Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA in 1563 and held close relationships, such as asking for mediation by the shogun family in reconciliatory negotiations with the Mori clan.

Defeat in the war

The Mori clan attempted to advance into the Kitakyushu region again after destroying the Amago clan in the Sanin (mountain provinces behind the Sanyo or Inland Sea provinces.)
In 1567, Kokujin (local samurai) of the Otomo clan in Buzen and Chikuzen Provinces rose in revolt with secret communication with Motonari MORI and Akitane TAKAHASHI, a senior vassal also joined in but Sorin ordered Dosetsu TACHIBANA and others to calm down this situation. In addition, in the battle with the Mori clan, Sorin requested the missionary to import saltpeter, the raw material of gunpowder used in guns, for he was the person to protect Christianity and the Mori clan was the clan to suppress. To break it down, he wrote a letter to ask for provision of good quality saltpeter to the Otomo clan and to prevent the Mori clan from importing it. He led his army to invade Hizen Province for subjugation of Takanobu RYUZOJI expanding his power there in 1569, but he withdrew immediately due to Motonari's invasion into Chikuzen Province. Due to the proposal of Nagamasu YOSHIOKA, a senior vassal, he forced Teruhiro OUCHI, a remnant (of a defeated party) of the Ouchi clan to move to Suo Province along with suigunshu (a warrior battling in the sea) Shigeoki WAKABAYASHI to threaten the rearguard supporters of the Mori clan and force Motonari to retreat into Aki Province.

He suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Imayama with his younger brother Chikasada being killed by Takanobu RYUZOJI after invading Hizen Province again in 1570 and had to reconcile with Takanobu in unfavorable conditions. He encouraged anti-Ryuzoji power in Chikugo and Hizen Provinces later, but he could not stop the expansion of the power of the Ryuzoji clan.

In 1576, he relinquished the family estate to his first son, Yoshimune OTOMO to retire in Nyushima-jo Castle. He started to conduct affairs of the state with a dualistic structure together with Yoshimune from this time.

When Yoshihisa SHIMAZU in Satsuma Province started to invade Hyuga Province in 1577, Sorin also lead a large force and departed (discussed below). However, he suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Mimi-kawa in 1578 and lost many senior vassals. Various powers in Chikugo Province such as the Kamachi clan, the Kusano clan and the Kuroki clan left from the influence of the Otomo clan after 1579 and the conflict with Yoshimune OTOMO who succeeded to the family estate deepened due to the feud of dualistic politics. Thereafter, the Otomo clan followed a course of decline.
Sorin was christened by a missionary, Francisco CABRAL in August right before the Battle of Mimi-kawa and formally became Christian with the Christian name 'Don Francisco.'
Thereafter, he used 'Furan' for his own signature in his letters to vassals.

Declination to the end of his life

Due to a number of rebellions of local lords in many regions of Otomo clan's territory after the Battle of Mimi-kawa in addition to the invasions by Yoshihisa SHIMAZU, Takanobu RYUZOJI, Tanesada AKIZUKI and others, the territory of the Otomo clan was occupied one after another. After Takanobu was defeated and killed by the army of the Shimazu clan in the Battle of Okitanawate in 1584, Sorin ordered Dosetsu TACHIBANA to invade Chikugo Province and regained the majority of the province. However, Yoshihisa SHIMAZU thought Dosetsu's death of disease in 1585 to be his good opportunity and started to move northward.

For this reason, in 1586 Sorin had an audience in Osaka-jo Castle with Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI who proceeded the unification policy in the central government to ask for support. However, Yoshihisa SHIMAZU invaded the territory of the Otomo clan later and the army of Iehisa SHIMAZU defeated the Otomo clan in the Battle of Hetsugi-gawa River to occupy the territory of Bungo Province which was the home ground in January 1587. At that time, Sorin who held up in Usuki-jo Castle (Nyushima-jo Castle) used a cannon and Kunikuzushi (literally, destroying a nation) (フランキ砲, named after its power) to defend Usuki-jo Castle and show pride as a daimyo in the Sengoku period.

Hideyoshi led his army for conquest of the Kyushu region in 1587 and defeated Shimazu's army in various places. Sorin fell ill amid the rapidly reversing situation of the war and died of disease in Tsukumi, Bungo Province just before the surrender of Yoshihisa SHIMAZU. He died at the age of 58. The cause of his death was probably typhus.

After the conquest of the Kyushu region, Yoshimune OTOMO was approved ownership of Bungo Province due to the order of Hideyoshi. Though Hideyoshi planned to give the territory of Hyuga Province to Sorin, it was said that he declined it for lack of his motivation for governing it or had very recently died.

His grave is located in Tsukumi City, Oita Prefecture and Zuiho-in Temple which is a minor temple in Mt. Ryuho Daitoku-ji Temple site in Kita Ward, Kyoto City. In addition, his ihai (ancestral tablets) are located in Mt. Kyoryu Chosen-ji Temple in Kamimiyamotomachi, Tsukumi City. His portrait is in the possession of Zuiho-in Temple. Though the Christian-style funeral ceremony was held right before Sorin's death and his grave was placed in his house, his legitimate son, Yoshimune, held the Buddhist funeral ceremony in Daichi-ji Temple in Funai (provincial cities which consist of local governments as the core of the city) later and also changed the grave to a Buddhist grave. His grave was later ruined, but 臼杵城豊 who was the descendant of Sorin's vassal moved it at his own expense during the Kansei era (1789-1801). The current graveyard in Tsukumi City was moved from the previous place as the newly Christian-style grave by Tamotsu UEDA, a mayor of Oita City at that time in 1977.

Personal Profile and anecdotes

Yoshishige who was known as a Christian daimyo encountered Christianity when he visited the missionary of the Society of Jesus, Francis XAVIER visiting Bungo Province for propagation in 1551. He was christened 27 years later, in August 1578 and dispatched his vassal with a letter to King of Portugal. He protected the missionary work in the territory and carried out trade with Spain and Portugal. In addition, he had friendships with Soshitsu SHIMAI, Sotan KAMIYA and others of Hakata merchants and carried out trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China as well as Japan-Korea Trade (however, they actually gained profit by trading with the Ming Dynasty in China and Korea until the late of 15th century and such trade declined after the Sanpo War while actual profit was transferred to local lords on Tsushima Island utilizing the nominal sign of the Otomo clan and wealthy merchants in Hakata). The books written by Mikio TOYAMA and others describes that most of the imported goods were 'luxury goods' with few products influencing economically or militarily such as foods and weapons and that not much actual profit was generated. With a shortage of territory to give to strong vassals as reward grants in the Yoshishige era, economic circumstances were not good, for example, giving the license for using the pattern of gyoyo (a type of crest) (the family crest which the Otomo clan used) instead of confiscating the territory of temples and shrines or giving territories).

Sorin built a hospital for Western medical science introduced by a missionary in his territory where people of the domain were allowed to have checkups for free. This is said to be the first general hospital in Japan.

At first, Sorin protected Christians for the purpose of trade, but he was soon attracted to the doctrine of Christianity, and finally joined and caused the Battle of Mimi-kawa while dreaming about building Mushika (ideal world, represented as 務志賀 in Chinese characters, around present-day Mushikamachi, Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture) in Hyuga Province. Mushika came from 'Mujika' meaning music in Spanish, and Sorin was so impressed after listening to Western music and dreamed of a peaceful ideal world like its melody.

It is said that he had an autocratic personality and didn't care about others' feelings, and the records about his behaviors as the autocratic monarch remained, such as stealing his vassal's wife (the wife of Chikazane ICHIMADA), divorcing her over Christianity, and indulging in drinking, which caused rebellions of his vassals and family. There is a story that Dosetsu TACHIBANA warned Sorin about rejecting government affairs by indulging in frivolity.

In Tensho-keno-shonen-shisetsu (The Mission of Youths to the West in the Tensho Era) where Christian daimyo in the Kyushu region dispatched to Rome in 1582, he dispatched Mancio ITO as a representative.
(However, there is the story that Yoshishige probably didn't know this. Refer to the article of Mancio ITO for details.)

The reason why Sorin was called "unselfish busho" seems to be because Sorin in his later years sought for his longer life and peace rather than territory (as mentioned above, he was active in expanding his territory in the first half of his life.)

Because he was defeated in the Battles of Imayama and Mimi-kawa, he was considered to be minor as a strategist. Regarding politics, however, he showed excellent ability in leading Motonari MORI around by the nose. Utilizing the authority of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) which had already been in name only, he was given the posts of Shugoshiki (military governor) and Kyushu Tandai (local commissioner) by providing an enormous amount of money for presentation and established justification for governing Kyushu region. Particularly, he had a remarkable skill in diplomacy, such as temporarily reconciling with Yoshihisa with the backing of the friendship with Nobunaga ODA who was tenkabito at that time in 1581.

The Battle of Mimi-kawa was often considered to be the reckless war with the dreaming of building the "Christian Kingdom" mainly led by Sorin. However, Sorin didn't issue the documents related to the management of his territories from 1577 to 1578. Judging from the fact that Sorin was retiring and not the family head, Yoshishige took part in dealing with the state after the defeat at the requests from vassals, it is said that the Battle of Mimi-kawa was mainly led by Yoshishige, not Sorin. There is the story that the supreme commander, Chikakata TAWARA who was a relative of Sorin triggered a protest from senior vassals including Akisumi USUKI. There is another story that it was because Chikataka was not supported by Christian believers and missionaries because he hated Christianity.

It was also said that Yoshishige became a Christian to introduce the superior culture of Nanban (Western Europe). However, that Sorin became a Christian led to the conflict of vassals of the Otomo family, which ironically would come to the surface in the form of an uprising of local lords in Sorin's later years. Because of being heavily involved in the faith of Christianity, Sorin thoroughly destroyed shrines and temples, fasted on Friday and Saturday and even destroyed a Daruma doll introduced to his family.

Though it was known that he was committed to Christianity and destroyed shrines and temples in his later years, it was the behavior of Yoshishige who was said to dream of building the "Christian Kingdom" only in Hyuga Province of invading it, and no material was found to prove that Yoshishige destroyed shrines and temples in his home ground, Bungo Province. However, Yoshimune who was the family head in the next term actively destroyed shrines in Chikugo, Bungo and other provinces. It depended on the political reason rather than the religious issue, because of uncooperative power of shrines in the circumstances of the declining power of the Otomo family, the shortage of land provided to vassals as territory and giving temples and shrines accepted by vassals. In the end, it was only when Yoshishige temporarily governed the northern part of Hyuga Province that he actively ordered to destroy temples and shrines.

He was such a lustful person that he went all the way to Kyoto to find beautiful women and indiscriminately repeated a number of acts like stealing marriages once having an eye on them. He divorced his first lawful wife, Isshiki when he succeeded to the position of family head, the reason of which is unknown. His second wife, Nata was from the family line of Daiguji (the supreme priest) of Hachiman-nadagu and divorced Sorin because he started to have faith in Christianity.

It was said to be Sorin that used a cannon (called Kunikuzushi at that time) for the first time in Japan.

He actively worked as a man of culture familiar to calligraphic works and paintings, Japanese tea ceremony, Noh (traditional masked dance-drama), kemari (a game played by aristocrats in the Heian period) and others, and invited cultural figures in the central government from long ago. He seemed to be very good at kemari especially as he had been taught by his grand master, Masatsuna ASUKAI since his childhood as well as making his son Yoshimune take lessons in it. Shogun of the period, Yoshiteru knew that Yoshishige liked kemari and gave him the special clothes worn in kemari. He seemed to be a collectomania with many hobbies and bought and collected many calligraphic works and paintings and chaki (tea utensils) through merchants in Hakata after retiring. There were letters from Yoshimune to warn Yoshishige to refrain from this habit and not to oppress his finances.

He was known for issuing many documents. There are more than 1000 existing documents which proved that Yoshishige was excellent in diplomacy, such as in the leadership of vassals, connection with the central government and communication with foreign countries.

He was also a man of culture holding Nitta-katatsuki which referred to the three major katatsuki together with Narashibakatatsuki and Hatsuhana-katatsuki.

It was said that Sorin was impressed with Western medical technology when seeing the advanced emergency treatment of Western medicine when his younger brother was injured by accidental firing from a teppo (gun) introduced by a southern barbarian in its trial shooting in his early years.

In besieging Usuki-jo Castle, Sorin evacuated Christians and others in the castle and provided them rice balls. The missionary referred to Sorin as 'King' in the records in which the missionary described Sorin's such behaviors.

As he further believed in Christianity, he was said to suffer a mental conflict between Christianity's teaching 'Do not kill' and the reality of inevitable destruction of life in wars of the troubled Sengoku period.