The Ōtomo and Competition in the Ritual Marketplace

This week, Ōuchi to Ōtomo: Chūsei Nishi Nihon no nidai daimyō 大内と大友 中世西日本の二大大名 [The Ōuchi and Ōtomo: Two major lords of western Japan during the Medieval Period] from Bensei Publishing appeared on virtual and physical bookshelves in Japan, and you’ll find my chapter, “The Ōtomo and Competition in the Ritual Marketplace,” inside of it.

forum post

Who Were the Ōuchi and Ōtomo?

The Ōtomo and Ōuchi clans were two of the most powerful military organizations during the civil wars of the sixteenth century, but because they did not fare well in the process of unification that ushered in the seventeenth, they have not received as much attention in English-language scholarship as other warlords. Researchers are finding, though, that the historical and archaeological record they left behind has a lot to tell us about such issues as newly emerging commercial and religious networks that were global in scope.

A Summary of My Chapter

In my chapter, I focused on religion and warfare. Specifically, I examined vows made by leaders and members of the Ōuchi and Ōtomo warrior band during the sixteenth century to show how Usa shrine in northern Kyushu contributed to a late medieval “culture of war” as a cultic site that publicly legitimized and participated in organized violence.

I argued that vows typically required the mediation of warrior families, and the rituals for both prayers and vows needed to be performed by ritual specialists before gods at local sites in contrast to Christian vows that could be performed independent of subordinates in the warrior band, in any location, and only called for the presence of Jesuit priests.

The competition in this case came from the radically different Christian rituals, which offered a potentially more powerful line of communication to divine power, but by circumventing other members of the warrior band, threatened the warrior band’s cohesion.