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Introduction & Guide to the Documentation & Critical Study of Ascetic, Non-Dualistic Shakuhachi Culture, East & West:
Historical Chronology, Philology, Etymology, Vocabulary, Terminology, Concepts, Ideology, Iconology & Practices

By Torsten Mukuteki Olafsson • トーステン 無穴笛 オーラフソンデンマーク • Denmark


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1628?: A 'Komusō'-related Assault or Murder Case
     in the Province of Tosa on the Island of Shikoku?

May this really be the earliest credible evidence of 'komusō', 虚無僧, in Japan?

In his book published in 2016, on page 145 explains the author, ethnomusicologist Gerald Groemer, as follows regarding an alleged komusō murder case in 1628,

"Komusō were incorporated into the Edo-period religious and mibun*) hierarchy in a political tug-of-war that found the bakufu and domanial administrations pulling on one side and the komusō organization yanking on the other.

Sometimes random events led to momentous determinations. In 1628, for example, the assassination of a warrior functionary in Tosa province (Kōchi prefecture) by a disgruntled komusō resulted in an edict requiring all suspicious travelers entering the domain to be checked. Wanderers in the province were ordered to cease wearing low-brimmed hats or facecloths and were barred from entering a village to beg or to receive lodging. [note] 136"

*) 'mibun', 身分: social position, social status.


Gerald Groemer: Street Performers and Society in Urban Japan, 1600-1900:
     The Beggar's Gift.
     Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia, 2016, p. 145.

     Link: Google Books: Selected pages from Gerald Groemer's 2016 book

Note 136 refers to pages 199-201 in this article dated 1994:

Hosaka Hiro'oki: 'Jūshichi seiki ni okeru komusō no seisei: boroboro,
     komosō to no idō to 'kou' kōi no arikata.'
     Printed in: Mibunteki shūen, Buraku mondai kenkyō shuppan-bu, 1994.

The 1628 Tosa "Murder" Evidence Explained by Hosaka Hiro'oki in 1994

1628 Hosaka ch-5, intro

Hosaka Hiro'oki's 1994 introduction to the 1628 Tosa anti-basket hat 'sadame' prohibition law.
In Hosaka, 1994, Chapter 5, pp. 199.

The 1628-8-28 'sadame', , regulation banning the wearing
of low-brimmed basket hats - and begging - in all of the Tosa Province

In the year 1600, after Tokugawa Ieyasu's victory at Sekigahara, as a token of gratitude for faithful support during the military campaigns, the new shōgun granted the Yamauchi (alt. Yama no Uchi) Clan the rule over the large province of Tosa, present day Kōchi Prefecture, that faces the Pacific Ocean along the entire Southern coast of the island Shikoku.

Throughout the entire Tokugawa Period, the clan's administrative bodies preserved what should grow into a very impressive amount of historical documents that are now partly being stored at The Tosa Yamauchi Family Treasury and Archive in Kōchi City, partly being kept in the protective care of the library of Tōkyō University.

You may read about the Tosa Yamauchi Family Treasury and Archives here

The provinces of Western Japan during the early 17th century, from Tokugawa Ieyasu, 1600 ...

The provinces of Western Japan during the early 17th century, from Tokugawa Ieyasu, 1600 ...
Source: Wikipedia: Provinces of Japan

You see the Province of Tosa on the Southern coast of Shikoku,
ruled by the Yamauchi Clan since 1600, in the center of the map.

Map of Akishi in Kōchi Prefecture, Shikoku

Map showing the coastal town Akishi Ichi no Miya in Kōchi Prefecture, Shikoku. Source: Google

Among the numerous preserved historical sources, reprinted in a four volume source collection published in 1980-1981**), while researching his 1994 article, in Volume 2 pp. 183-184, Prof. Hosaka discovered an extremely significant, yet still somewhat mysterious legal document, a so called 'sadame', , a "regulation", or "minor "law", dated the 28th day in the 8th month of the 5th year of the Kan'ei Period, Western equivalent: Monday September 25th, 1628.

**) The 'Yamauchi-ke shiryō Dainidai Tadayoshi kō ki' Yamauchi Clan historical document collection, 4 volumes

Hosaka Hiro'oki's introduction to the 1628 'sadame' edict

Explained Prof. Hosaka in his 1994 article: In the year Kan'ei 5 (1628), on the 17th day of the 8th month (Thursday September 14, 1628, acc. to Zöllner/Tsuchihashi) the Tosa Province Daimyō [Yamauchi] Tadayoshi's, 藩主忠義, Chief of Police (?) named Shigeomi Fukao, 重臣深尾, suffered a "nightly surprise attack" by a komusō in the small coastal village of Anki Ichi no Miya no Mura, 安喜一宮村, present day Akishi, 安芸市一宮, in the modern prefecture of Kōchi on Southern Shikoku - cf. the map above.

Acc. to Hosaka, apparently the komusō, the actual, original samurai name of whom is not informed, had been fired from a position with the police forces.
Even though he had been granted a financial compensation of "150 koku"***) on his dismissal, he was seeking revenge because he had recently become a 'rōnin', 浪人, a "wave man", that is a masterless, unemployed samurai, and had apparently joined the brotherhood of shakuhachi playing beggars known as komosō, 薦僧/菰僧, or komusō, 虚無僧, to sustain himself, thus experiencing a terribly embarrassing loss of social status.

***) 150 'koku': 一五 O .

You may read about the Japanese unit of volume 'koku' here:

Wikipedia: Koku, and here:
Japanese units of measurement.

Prof. Hosaka concludes his introduction with the information that as a consequence of that komusō surprise attack in the Anki village, the Tosa Domain 'karō', 家老, i.e. "House Elder", the top-ranking samurai official and advisor in service to the daimyō named Nonaka Genba, 野中玄審, issued the Kan'ei 5 month 8 day 28 sadame proclamation that is being discussed here.

In this comprehensive 5 paragraph edict, first of all, in par. 5 all travellers including visitors from other provinces are to be thoroughly on their entry into the domain checked are ordered to cease wearing "deep braided basket hats", referred to as 'fukaki ami-gasa', 深キ編笠.

Well, what particular type of basket hat was the decree possibly referring to, in Tosa Province back then in September 1628?

The September 14, 1628, 'sadame' edict itself:

Some questions and critical remarks.

1628 Tosa prohibition edict-b 1628 Tosa prohibition edict-a

The 1628 Tosa Domain basket hat prohibition 'sadame' decree, reprint.
In Hosaka, 1994, Chapter 5, pp. 199-200.

Very definitely so, four centuries old legal Japanese documents, composed in kanbun, i.e. a kind of "pseudo Chinese", can generally be extremely difficult to decode and interpret meaningfully.

After a preliminary inspection of this sadame, however, one fact is standing out:

Very little of the information given in Prof. Hosaka's introduction to the text can actually be seen in the original itself.
It is not yet clear to me how and where Prof. Hosaka found the various details illuminating the case, and a further and more thorough examination of the sadame wording will hopefully reveal more useful information.

Here are some of the appropriate questions, I think:

1 - What was the actual identity of the so called 'komusō' who committed the alleged crime?

2 - How and where more precisely did he attack his former employer?

3 - Did he actually kill the Tosa Domain police chief Shigetomi Fukao as claimed by Gerald Groemer in the 2016 book of his, or just harm and frighten him?

4 - Was the former samurai attacker carrying at least one of his two swords and made use of it during the surprise assault?

5 - Was the case ever brought to court?

6 - Was the 'komusō' ever convicted?

7 - Was the so called 'komusō' punished for his crime - and how?

And the list continues:

8 - Was the attacker/killer? really a 'komusō', or rather more likely a 'komosō'?
9 - What type and depth of a "deep braided basket hat" was he wearing when commiting the misdeed?

Well, as for the very last question, we do actually know how the head gear of the very early Edo Period flute-playing former samurai wandering beggars would have looked like:

Very early Edo Period Fuke-komosō, the actual source of which is so far unknown Early Edo Period Fuke-komosō painted by Iwasa Matabei not later than 1630. Nezu Art Gallery, Tōkyō

Left: Picture of a very early Edo Period Fuke-komosō, the actual artist
and whereabouts of which is so far unknown.
Right: Two early Edo Period 'Fuke-komosō' painted by Iwasa Matabei, 1578-1650,
not later than 1630.
A treasure of the Nezu Art Gallery, Tōkyō.

The Signatures

In Hosaka Hiro'oki's 1994 reprint of the 1628 sadame decree we see the names of six persons who had signed the document, namely

Nonaka Genba, 野中玄蕃, a "House Elder", a highranking official in the Tosa Fief.

Nonaka Genba, 1587-1636 (Tenshō 15) to December 15, 1636 (Kan'ei 5-11-18) was out of a prestigious family of House Elders in the Tosa Domain during the early Edo Period.
Genba's adoptive son Nonaka Genzan, 野中玄蕃, 1615-1664, appears to have been especially prominent in the Elder office.
Sources: Wikipedia: About Nonaka Genzan and Nonaka Genba
"A Stroll through Tosa History" website: Nonaka Clan genealogy

Yasuda Shirōzaemon, 安田四郎左術門.
Yasuda Clan, Google search results

Fukuoka Tanba, 福岡丹波, 1557-1632.
Fukuoka Clan genealogy

Yamauchi Sanuki, 山内壴岐. Not found.

Yamauchi Kōbi, 山内後備. Not found

Strangely so, neither Yamauchi Sanuki nor Yamauchi Kōbi, members of the ruling clan in Tosa Province, can be seen in the official genealogy of the Yamauchi clan:

The Yamauchi Foundation: Yamauchi Clan genealogy 1
The Yamauchi Foundation: Yamauchi Clan genealogy 2

Fukao Izumi, 深尾和泉.
Fukao Izumi Shigeyoshi?, 深尾和泉重良, 1557-1632.

Fukao Clan genealogy

To be further commented ...

Additional comments by Prof. Hosaka

1628_Hosaka_concluding comments-b 1628_Hosaka_concluding comments-a

Hosaka Hiro'oki's concluding comments to the case.
In Hosaka, 1994, Chapter 5, pp. 200-201.

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