Nata family

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The Nata family were hereditary high priests of Usa Hachiman Shrine, and prominent local lords in the Kunisaki peninsula of Bungo province in the medieval period.

Following the establishment of Nata Shrine by Usa Kimimoto in 729 as a branch shrine of Usa Hachiman, the Nata became the designated house of the high priests of Usa Hachiman for the succeeding nearly nine centuries.

In the Sengoku period, the family expanded its shrine lands (shinryô, lit. "kami territories"), maintained a band of warriors known as shinpei ("soldiers of the kami" or "divine soldiers"), and built at least one notable fortification. They further secured their power through strategic marriages with the Ôtomo clan. One such marriage was between the powerful Christian daimyô Ôtomo Sôrin and a daughter of Nata Akimoto, known to us today only as "Jezebel" (d. 1587), an epithet given to her by the Jesuits for her active opposition to the spread of Christianity. Several members of the family at that time (including Akimoto's son Chikakata) were adopted into the Tawara family, another vassal family of the Ôtomo.

In the early-to-mid-16th century, members of both the Nata and Tawara families held high positions in the Ôtomo household government, including as ministers of religion, and generals in the Ôtomo armies. However, by the 1560s, pro-Jesuit daimyô Ôtomo Sôrin began to see the power of the Nata as a threat, and this ultimately led to their fall. Sôrin placed the Nata's lands and armies under his direct supervision, through his brother-in-law Tawara (Nata) Chikakata, and had his own forces attack and burn Usa Hachiman repeatedly between 1561 and 1583. The family declined even further after "Jezebel's" death in 1587.


  • Haruko Nawata Ward, Women Religious Leaders in Japan's Christian Century, Ashgate (2009), 120, 123-124.