Sea Lords: Documents (komonjo) of the Ōuchi and the Kōno

An Ōuchi Yoshioki letter (1527) and document of praise (1511).

Princeton possesses two documents monogrammed by Ōuchi Yoshioki. One, a document of praise, dating from 1511, recounts the battle at Funaoka, located in northwestern Kyoto, where Yoshioki won a resounding victory. Although the recipient of this letter is unknown, it is one of many documents that survive, revealing that Yoshioki commanded an extensive force which include, among others, the Murakami. A comparison of Yoshioki’s monogram in both documents reveals how his “signature” changed slightly over time.

The letter, written by Ōuchi Yoshioki, is addressed to Murakami Takakatsu, the chief of the Murakami “pirate” bands. As this is an original letter in Yoshioki’s hand, the monogram, it can be ascertained that this letter was written 1527 .Ōuchi Yoshioki praises Murakami Takakatsu for his battle service at Kokubuyama, the site of a castle located currently in Imaharu city, Ehime prefecture, on the island of Shikoku.  Yoshioki asks Takakatsu in his position as chief of the Murakami to coordinate his relatives in battle, and fight on his behalf.

According to the Sonpi bunmyaku genealogy, the Murakami, who lived on various islands in the Inland Sea, were a branch family of the Kōno, and often they fought against the Kōno. In the early decades of the sixteenth century, Takakatsu fought for Ōuchi Yoshioki and Hosokawa Takakuni, who was mostly allied with Ōuchi Yoshioki, but they also received documents from Kōno Michinao. The Takakuni record, based on the signature, most likely dates from approximately 1531, and so this represents the oldest document of praise surviving for the Murakami.

Currently most of the original Murakami documents are housed at the Yamaguchi ken monjokan. One scroll, entitled “documents of praise from various houses” contains records from Ōtomo Sōrin, Hosokawa Takakuni and Oda Nobunaga. The Yoshioki letter would normally belong with this scroll, but at some time it was removed and mounted as if to be viewed in a tea ceremony. Most likely this is because Ōuchi Yoshioki’s prestige was great, and also this record, in his hand, explicitly shows that Takakatsu’s branch of the Murakami (the Noshima (能島) were superior to the other branches, the Kurushima (来島) and the Innoshima (因島).