The Madarajima scroll, which belongs to the Kyoto University Museum, consists of fourteen documents. The oldest dates from 1325, while the most recent dates from the period 1546-1551. Chronologically, nine of the documents are from the fourteenth century, two are from the early fifteenth century, and three are from the first half of the sixteenth century.

These documents are of varied provenance, but were collected and made into a single scroll. Sometime during the Tokugawa era (1600-1868), glosses (oshigami) were attached to the upper right corner of documents 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 while a notation, called a hashiuragaki, was added to the reverse of document 13. These transcriptions can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted numbers above. They are not included with the translations of transcriptions of each individual because they are not always accurate, with the most egregious example being the explanation for document 13.

Kyoto University purchased this scroll from the Sasaki Sōshirō Used Bookstore in November 1916. At that time the documents had already been made into a scroll by a previous, unknown collector. The Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo has a calligraphic copy (eisha bon) of them as a part of Komonjoshū (古文書集) held by Kyoto Imperial University (京都帝国大学所蔵) (present-day Kyoto University).

This scroll is known as the Madarajima collection because the largest grouping is linked to the Madarajima, a warrior family that was part of the “Matsura-band,” which hailed from islands off the coast of northwestern Kyushu. They are named in three documents (nos. 1, 6 and 7), while another (no. 11), is linked to the Haiki, a distinct northwestern Kyushu family with some links to the Madarajima. Two other documents (nos. 2 and 14) originally belonged to the Ōkusa, warriors from Mikawa (modern Aichi prefecture) who owned a landholding in Suruga (modern Shizuoka prefecture). The final document coming from warriors (no. 13) was owned by the Tamura of Echigo (modern Niigata prefecture). The provenance of the oldest document (no. 3) is unknown.

According to Kaitei Matsuratō Ariura monjo, p. 339, the three documents currently held by Kyoto University were not included in Ariura monjo utsushi, which is thought to have been written sometime after 1740. This means these three Madarajima documents (nos. 1, 6, and 7) were already scattered by 1740 at the latest.

Most of the documents in this scroll were issued by prominent members of the Ashikaga shogunate, most notably Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358), the founder of the regime, one of his sons, Ashikaga Tadafuyu (1327-1400), and Takauji’s great-grandson, the fourth shogun Yoshimochi (1386-1428). Three shogunal chancellors (kanrei), Hosokawa Yoriyuki (1329-1392), Hatakeyama Motokuni (1352-1406), and Hosokawa Takakuni (1484-1531) signed documents as well. In addition, two documents were monogrammed by the prominent Kyushu leader Shōni Yorihisa (1294-1372). The most recent document is a letter presumably written by the famous warlord Ōuchi Yoshitaka (1507-1551).

Some documents are connected to court nobles. The recipient of a Hosokawa Takakuni letter (Document 5) was an important individual, most likely a courtier or monk. Document 10 was also addressed to someone of high rank. Document 9 has links to the Hayami, who were retainers of the Asukai courtiers.

It would seem that four documents had been originally part of temple archives that had been scattered. Document 8 came from Seikanji, a temple located in southeastern Kyoto, while Document 12 came from the Kyoto Rinzai Zen temple of Tōfukuji, located three kilometers to its south. Document 10 was at one time likely housed at the western Kyoto temple of Shōbōji, where the most prominent monk mentioned in the document resided. Finally, the temple of Kankiji, located on Shōdo Island in the Inland Sea, is the source for Document 4. Nevertheless it is not understood how these disparate documents became part of this collection.

Document 1 recounts the battles that led to the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate. Ashikaga Takauji rebelled late in 1335 (for more on this see Document 6), and, after suffering a defeat, retreated to the west where he met with Shōni Yorihisa, an important supporter, and won a decisive battle at Tatarahama on 3.2.1336.1 The following day, he issued this document ordering the Madarajima to attack the defeated Kikuchi forces.

Document 2 was originally part of the Ōkusa warrior family collection. They served as personal guards (hōkōshū) for the Ashikaga shoguns, and were also cooking specialists. This document protects Ōkusa holdings from the incursions of local warriors. Ōkusa records were scattered, but Document 14 also belonged to their collection.

Document 3, the oldest document in the set, is a quitclaim (saribumi). Its story is complex. Previously, a certain Tameshige had given approximately a tenth of an acre of land to Shinano Saburō novice, who later died. Tameshige then promised that he and his biological heirs would not make further claims to these lands. The most remarkable, and frankly mysterious aspect of this document is an added confirmation of Tameshige’s quitclaim. The added line is written with a distinct steel blue grey ink that vaguely resembles Hōjō Takatoki’s monogram.2 Herein lies the mystery. Did Takatoki, the Hōjō chieftain (tokusō) actually confirm such a small transfer of land? If so how to account for the unorthodox monogram and the distinct and rare steel-blue color? Or was Takatoki’s monogram forged after the 1330s by someone who was aware of the fact the famous general Ashikaga Takauji added monograms to documents in this special steel-grey ink (see, and mistakenly assumed that Hōjō Takatoki had done the same? More research is required to understand this document.

Document 4 dates from 1363, and is by Hosokawa Yoriyuki. In 1366, he was appointed as the shogunal chancellor (kanrei), but in 1363 he was involved with the pacification of enemy forces in the western (“Chūgoku”) region of Japan which is the context for this confirmation of the temple lands of Kankiji, located at Shōdo Island. It was standard at times for such documents not to have an addressee.

Document 5 is a letter from Hosokawa Takakuni, the shogunal chancellor (kanrei) from 1508 through 1525. He renounced the world in the fourth month of 1525 (Daiei 4), so this document dates before then. This documents monogram differs from Takakuni’s monogram from 1517 in the Tannowa collection ( The identity of the recipient of this document is not known, nor for that matter, how it became part of this collection.

Document 6. This document is historically significant, as it reveals that Shōni Yorihisa (1294-1372) supported Ashikaga Takauji very early in his rebellion. This document confirms that Takauji’s supporters had decided to wage war against Go-Daigo on 11.2.1335. Other Ashikaga mobilization orders survive from this date although the record addressed to Yorihisa has been lost.3 The Ashikaga armies first advanced from Kamakura on 12.2.1335. Yoshihisa ensured that Northern Kyushu would support the Ashikaga well before they had even occupied the capital. The Ashikaga fled Kyoto midway through the second month of 1336 and then arrived in Kyushu (see Document 1). After rebuilding their forces they returned to Kyoto in the summer of 1336.

Document 7 is a document of praise by Ashikaga Tadafuyu, an illegitimate son of Takauji. Even though the era name changed to Kannō on 2.27.1350, Tadafuyu kept using the old Jōwa era name, which had been used between 1345-50, as a sign of his rebellion against his father. Tadafuyu extravagantly praised his followers, as this document reveals.4 He briefly wielded great power, but his promises held little weight, and he lost all power. For more on Tadafuyu, see Document 11.

Document 8 refers to auspicious prayers performed at Seikanji, a temple associated with the important temple of Daigoji. It was signed by Kō no Shigemochi, who was brother to Ashikaga Takauji’s chief of staff, Moronao. Based Shigemochi’s signature, this record was created in the period between 1336-38. Shigemochi, a superlative administrator, good poet, and mediocre general, was appointed as the protector (shugo) of Musashi province, and played a prominent role in Ashikaga administration from 1336 through 1350. After the Kannō Disturbance (1350-52), Shigemochi renounced the world, becoming a monk Thereafter, Shigemochi descended into obscurity.5 The context of this document unclear, and the identity of the monk who received Shigemochi’s letter is not known. Later, in 1353, Sanbōin Kenshun (1299-1357), a close confidant of Takauji, gained control of the Seikanji cloister.

The end of the document is unusual. It is a composite of two or three distinct pieces of paper. Opinions vary. Possibly the original ending of the document, where the name of the addressee (atedokoro) was written immediately after the signature was cut and replaced with the name of the addressee (raishi-oku uwagaki) written on the left edge of the letter, as this pdf made by Horikawa Yasufumi reveals, or it could be that end of the letter was cut out and replaced with another page containing Moroshige’s signature. If that is true then this might not be a letter by Moroshige at all. Rather it would mean that a sheet with his signature was later added along with a second piece of paper with the Seikanji address.

Document 9, a document of transmission dating from 1517, was from Hayami Chikasuke, an attendant (samurai) of the Asukai family and a poet who belonged to the Asukai school. He transmitted their knowledge of waka poetry to a certain Saemon no jō Nobuyoshi, who is otherwise unknown. Chikasuke was a noted poet in his day, and one of his handwritten poems appears in the Keian tekagami (慶安手鑑), a collection of letters and poems by famous figures.6

Document 10, Ōuchi Yoshitaka’s letter, is perhaps the most mysterious of the Madarajima collection. The gloss (oshigami) states that the letter was written when Yoshitaka was of the third rank, which would place the letter between the twelfth month of 1541 and the twelfth month of 1545.

The letter itself consists of three sheets of paper, which were pasted together. A passage written between the first and second lines of text was excised from the text. It seems that Yoshitaka’s monogram was erased for some reason too. In addition, the name of the addressee, was cut out. More research is required to better understand this record, its provenance, and link to Yoshitaka. The phrase “the particulars will be addressed in direct conversation” (onmonogatari aru beku sōrō) reveals that the letter is addressed to a high-ranking person in Kyoto. As for the monks mentioned in the letter Denyo was the head of the Kyoto temple Shōbōji, which was made an imperial prayer temple by Emperor Go-Nara (1495-1557) in 1546. Go-Nara and Yoshitaka were close. The other monk mentioned, Shōyo, can be documented as residing in Nagato. It is possible, however, based on the Shōbōji link, that the document in fact dates between the years of 1546 and 1551.

Document 11 was signed by Shōni Yorihisa, who also signed Document 6. A comparison between these two records shows how much the same person’s stylized signature could change over time. Yorihisa, an early follower of Takauji in 1335, decided to support Takauji’s rebellious son Tadafuyu in 1349, going so far as to marry his daughter to Tadafuyu.7 Here, he relies on a member of the Sō family of Tsushima as his deputy. Yorihisa renounced the world in 1367, and died in 1371.

Document 12 was originally part of the Kyoto Zen temple Tōfukuji’s collection. Shōkan was the Buddhist name of Kira Sadayoshi (? -1343), an Ashikaga collateral, and respected advisor to Ashikaga Takauji. He was one of the generals who departed with Takauji from Kamakura during the twelfth month of 1335. For more on this episode, see Document 6.

Document 13 dates from 1391, the heyday of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) , the third shogun. It is addressed to Uesugi Fusumasa (1367-1421), who served as the protector (shugo) of Echigo province. Normally such an order would be written by a shogunal chancellor (kanrei) or, but in this case, the Hosokawa Tsuneuji, the head of a far less illustrious, or board of adjudicators (hikitsuke dokoro) transmitted this document. Why Tsuneuji and not the kanrei did this is not clear. Later owners of the document assumed that Tsuneuji was in fact, Yamana Ujikiyo (1344-1392), a rebel against Yoshimitsu who held a similar appointment as the Governor of Mutsu, and wrote an incorrect attribution (hashiuragaki) to this document. This record was originally held by Tamura Noto Hachirō, who was vested with the rights of Ii district (ho). The Tamura records scattered and somehow this became part of the Madarajima collection.

Document 14, like Document 2, originally belonged to the now scattered Ōkusa collection. It was signed by the shogunal chancellor (kanrei) of the time, Hatakeyama Motokuni, who first served as the head of the samurai dokoro in 1376 and 1392-94, before being appointed as kanreiin 1398, a post he would hold until 1405.


These documents were translated by during the Fall of 2023 by Sean Chen, Yumi Kodama, Sarah Sklar, Ingrid Vera, Zhuolun Xie, and Jiawen Zeng in Thomas Conlan’s EAS/HIS 525 seminar. Images and transcriptions were provided thanks to the efforts of Yoshikawa Shinji, Iwasaki Naoko, Kido Hironari and Matsui Naoto. For examination of the documents, I am indebted to Yoshikawa Shinji, Uejima Susumu and Matsui Naoto. Horikawa Yasufumi of the Historiographical Institute was an invaluable resource, who discovered much about the individuals mentioned in the documents, while Wada Shūsaku of Yamaguchi provided great insights as well. Special thanks too to Antonin Ferré for his helpful suggestions. Ben Johnson of Princeton's McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning designed and created this website. Any mistakes, however, are the sole responsibility of Thomas Conlan. For questions or corrections, please contact .


Madarajima collection at Kyoto University Rare Materials Digital Archive (Japanese)
Madarajima collection at Kyoto University Rare Materials Digital Archive (English)


1. See Conlan, Samurai and the Warrior Culture of Japan(Hackett, 2022),p. 134, for an excerpt of Royall Tyler’s translation of the Baishōron. Here Yorihisa is referred to as Yorinao. For a complete version of the Baishōron, see Royall Tyler, trans.Fourteenth-Century Voices II: From Baish ōron to Nantaiheiki. (Blue Tongue Books, 2016).

2. See and the 9.7.1325 (Shōchū 2) Kantō gechijō signed by him as well.

3. For the earliest mobilization orders, by Ashikaga Tadayoshi, see Seno Sei’ichirō, comp., Nanbokuchō ibun Kyūshū hen,vol. 1(Tōkyōdō shuppan, 1985), doc. 332, 11.2.1335 (Kenmu 2) Ashikaga Tadayoshi gunzei saisokujōan , p. 120, and Matsuoka Hisatō, comp.,Nanbokuchō ibun Chūgoku Shikoku hen,vol. 1(Tōkyōdō shuppan, 1987), docs. 183-85, 11.2.1335 (Kenmu 2) Ashikaga Tadayoshi gunzei saisokujō utsushi , pp. 102-3, and doc. 186, 11.2.1335 (Kenmu 2) Ashikaga Tadayoshi gunzei saisokujō , p. 103.

4. See Seno Sei’ichirō, Ashikaga Tadafuyu(Yoshikawa kōbunkan, 2005), p. 29. For his unreliable and extravagant promises, see Conlan, “Largesse and the Limits of Loyalty in the Fourteenth Century,” in Jeffrey P. Mass, ed., The Origins of Japan’s Medieval World: Courtiers, Clerics, Warriors, and Peasants in the Fourteenth Century (Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 56-58.

5. For a good overview of his life, see Kameda Toshitaka, Kō ichizoku to Nanbokuchō nairan (Ebisu kōshō, 2016), pp. 86-97.

6. Maduda Takashi and Hibino Hironobu, eds., Keian tekagami(Kyoto: Shibunkaku, 2017), poem no. 324 “Chidori,” by Hayami Chikasuke, pp. 145, 261, and 305.

7. Seno Sei’ichirō, Ashikaga Tadafuyu,pp. 38-40.