Sho Toku

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Shô Toku was the seventh king of Ryûkyû, and the last of the First Shô Dynasty. According to traditional accounts, he was the third son of King Shô Taikyû, who he succeeded in 1461.

The reign of Shô Toku is known primarily for the king's military adventures, chiefly the conquest in 1466 of Kikaigashima, a nearby island which served no economic, political, or strategic purpose. This campaign saw the adoption of the mitsu-domoe banner of Hachiman, commonly used by wakô at the time, as the royal crest. This and a number of other historical or legendary incidents, including Shô Toku's establishment of the Hachiman Shrine in the village of Asato (today part of Naha City), have led a number of historians to suggest that Shô Toku was himself a wakô lord.[1] Toku made various attempts to shore up his legitimacy, especially through the construction of a Buddhist temple, Jintoku-ji, and the acquisition of a collection of the complete Buddhist canon, the Tripitaka, from Korea.[2]

The kingdom's coffers being already depleted by his father's campaigns of temple building, lavish entertainments, and ritual and ceremony, this would come to be seen in later generations as an extravagance, and an unnecessary drain on resources.

Shô Toku died in 1469, with no obvious successor. He was succeeded by the royal treasurer, Kanamaru, who after being chosen by a council of the top court elders took the throne as King Shô En, marking the beginning of the Second Shô Dynasty. Histories such as the Chûzan Seikan and other accounts created under the latter dynasty describe Shô Toku as an evil and depraved ruler, lacking the Mandate of Heaven, a man filled with violence and cruelty. Other tales tell of his infatuation with a priestess of Kudaka Island, and that his dalliance with her provided the opportunity for Kanamaru's rebellion. It is these same sources, written by officials in service to Shô En's descendants, which also emphasize Shô En's virtue and legitimacy. According to some of these sources, Toku's line was considered so tainted by his wickedness that officials sought out his 7-8 year old heir, who had been in hiding at Madanmui gusuku[3] along with his mother (the queen), wet nurse, and others, and slaughtered them all, asking a supposedly "greatly surprised" Kanamaru if he would take the throne instead.[4]


  • "Shô Toku." Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Dictionary"). Ryukyu Shimpo. 1 March 2003. Accessed 19 December 2009.
  • Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Revised Edition. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. pp100-101.
  • Smits, Gregory. Visions of Ryukyu. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. p60.
  1. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 118.
  2. Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, 130-131.
  3. also known as Madanmui utaki 真玉森御嶽 and Kunda gusuku, a sacred space within the Kyô-no-uchi at Shuri castle. Their bodies were then buried there, within the Kyô-no-uchi - that is, within the castle complex, just outside the innermost enclosures. Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, 122-124.
  4. Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, 122-123.
Preceded by:
Shô Taikyû
Reign as King of Chûzan and Ryûkyû
Succeeded by:
Shô En