Ōtomo Clan

Ōtomo Clan

The Ōtomo clan (jap. 大友氏, Ōtomo-shi) was a Japanese clan traced back to Fujiwara no Nagaie (1005-1064).

The clan played an important role in Kyūshū, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, from the Kamakura period to the Sengoku period.

Ōtomo Clan History

Kamakura period

  • Yoshinao (能直) descendant of Fujiwara no Hidesato, was adopted by Nakahara Chikayoshi; he was the first to take the name Ōtomo. He served Minamoto Yoritomo in the latter's 1189 campaign against Fujiwara no Yasuhira in Mutsu, and in 1193 he was appointed provincial overseer (shugo) over Bungo Province and Buzen Province in Kyūshū and military governor (鎮西奉行, chinzei bugyō) of the entire island. This laid the foundation for the clan's great influence in Kyūshū.

As one of the three major clans of Kyūshū, the Ōtomo, along with the Shōni and the Shimazu, had to make the greatest sacrifices in defense against the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281.

They also played an important role in the establishment of the Ashikaga Shōgunate in 1336. Bushi of the Ōtomo clan fought side by side with Ashikaga Takauji and enabled him to win some decisive battles, for example the Battle of Sanoyama, which in turn secured the clan influential positions in the new shogunate.

Sengoku period

  • Yoshinori (義鑑; † 1550) fought for a long time against Hoshino Chikatada, who wanted to become independent in Chikuzen province. When he learned in 1542 that Europeans had landed in Tanegashima, he invited them to join him. Pinto came to Funai and caused a great sensation with the demonstration of his firearms. Yoshinori was assassinated by a retainer in a dispute over his succession.
  • Yoshishige (義鎭; 1530-1587), usually called Sōrin (宗麟), invited Francis Xavier for two months in 1551 and was deeply impressed by him. But Xavier was also impressed and later called Sōrin a "king." Sōrin was very receptive to the Portuguese because he saw the technical and, possibly more important, economic advantage it gave him. In 1552, envoys from the Ōtomo clan traveled with Xavier to Goa to meet with the governor of Portuguese India. Xavier and other Jesuit priests came back to Kyūshū, proselytizing and traveling around; the Ōtomo were always sympathetic to them. And as a result, many Japanese in Bungo converted to Christianity. - In 1551, Sōrin Kikuchi defeated Yoshimune, who had rebelled in Higo province. In 1556 he quelled the unrest, the priests of the great shrine of Usa Hachiman-gū (Buzen). The next year he defeated Akizuki Kiyotane in Chikuzen province and took possession of it. In 1562 he left Funai to his still very young son Yoshimune and built himself a residence Niyūshima, shaved his hair, and took the name Sambisai Shōrin. Yoshishige, however, remained active, invading Buzen Province and preparing to invade Suō Province, where Mōri Takamoto was preparing to meet him. But Shōgun Yoshiteru intervened and made peace. One of Sōrin's daughters was married to Terumoto, son of Takamoto. Two years later he defeated Akizuki Tanezawa at Chikugo. In 1578, he was baptized by Francesco Cabral with the name Francisco. He spent the rest of his life fighting the Shimazu, but got into trouble with his neighbors and lost much of his property.
  • Yoshimune (義続; 1558-1605) had taken charge of his father's large estate in 1579. He also got into various disputes with his neighbors and especially with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, entrenched himself in his Ishitate (Bungo) castle, but it was captured by Kuroda Yoshitaka. As a result, he was exiled to Hitachi.

This was the end of the Ōtomo clan.

  • Yoshinobu (義続; † 1639), Yoshimune's son, was baptized as an infant and given the name Fulgentius. He served the Tokugawa as an ordinary samurai and made his mark in the siege of Ōsaka.
  • Yoshitaka (義続), grandson of Yoshimune, became a member of the "high families" (Kōke) in 1689 at the request of Nannaji no Miya,[1] as did his descendants until the Meiji Restoration.

The Eight Vassals (大友将, Ōtomo no Hasshō)

  • Tawara (田原)
  • Takita
  • Tsurusaki (鶴崎)
  • Yoshioka (吉岡)
  • Ibi (揖斐)
  • Yoshihiro
  • Kawakubo
  • Shiroi


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