Nenami Jion (念阿弥慈恩)

Jion NENNAMI (dates of birth and death unknown) was a swordsman and Zen monk in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) and the Muromachi period. He is considered as the founder of Nen-ryu school, one of the origins of swordplay schools. His secular name was Shiro SOMA and his imina (real name) was Yoshimoto. His Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) was Jion Okuyama or Nena Shonin.


He was born in Oshu soma (Minami-soma City, Fukushima Prefecture) as a son of SOMA Saemon no jo Tadashige. His younger brother was Mitsushuza AKAMATSU. His father, Tadashige, served Yoshisada NITTA and rendered distinguished service in the war, but he was killed when Yoshimoto was five years old. He was given a shelter by his nanny and lived in seclusion in Imajuku Bushu (Musashi Province).

When he was seven, he became a disciple of yugyoshonin (a high-ranking monk who travels around for ascetic practices) and he was named Nennami. Nennami practiced swordplay to avenge his father's death. It is said that at the age of ten, he went to Kyoto, where he met a spiritual creature while doing practices in Mt. Kurama and was taught a secret magical swordplay. When he was sixteen, he was given inherited secret swordplay from Eisuke, a monk in Jufuku-ji Temple in Kamakura. Additionally, in May, he learned all the secrets of swordplay while doing practices in Anraku-ji Temple in Chikushi. At that time, he was eighteen. His school was called 'Okuyama Nen-ryu school' ("okuyama" means "the heart of mountains") or 'Hangan-ryu school' because he did practices in Mt. Kurama in Kyoto, and it was also called 'Kamakura Nen-ryu school' because he was given inherited secret swordplay in Kamakura.

He returned to secular life and called himself Shiro SOMA and Yoshimoto. After he went back to his hometown, Oshu Province, and successfully avenged his father's death, he entered Zen Buddhism again and changed his name to Jion. Afterward, he traveled around and taught swordplay, and later, he built Chofuku-ji Temple in Namiai-mura, Shinshu Province (later, Namiai-mura, present-day Achi-mura Namiai), and called himself Nendaiosho. The year of his death is unknown. In the middle of Mt.Marishiten (present-day Mt. Nen-ryu), where Chofuku-ji Temple was located, the stone monument of Nendaiosho was erected by Sadao HIGUCHI (16th of Maniwanen-ryu school, Juro Uemon).

Major disciples

According to "Higuchi ke Bunsho" (the Higuchi family's document) handed down in the Higuchi family, the head family of Maniwanen-ryu school, and "Kenjutsu Keizu" (the histories of swordsmen) written by Mitsunobu HAZAMA, Jion had the total of 14 excellent disciples, 8 of whom were in Bando (present-day the Kanto region), and 6 of whom were in Kyoto. They were called 'Juyontetsu' (the fourteen best disciples). "Nihon kengo hyakusen" (the 100 best swordsmen in Japan) written by Kiyoshi WATATANI shows the major disciples as follows, but some people doubt the list.

Details about Saru no Gozen is unknown. Usually, Hisatada AISU is considered as the founder of Kage-ryu school, but how Saru no Gozen was related to Kage-ryu school has not been discovered. Also, Hoin NUMATA is considered as the founder of Tanseki-ryu school, but "Honcho Bugei Shoden" (a survey of traditional Japanese martial arts) mentions that Tanseki-ryu school was a group of Togun-ryu school. Moreover, the section of 'Nenryu' (pages 683-685) of "Zohodaikaitei Bugeiryuha daijiten" (the enlarged and revised encyclopedia of schools of traditional Japanese martial arts) compiled by Kiyoshi WATATANI and Tadashi YAMADA shows the comparison between the names of disciples written in "Higuchi ke bunsho" and those in "Kenjutsu keizu" written by Mitsunobu HAZAMA. In "Kenjutsu keizu," the names of Saru no Gozen, Hoin NUMATA and Taro Kaneshige HIGUCHI are not written.

Umanosuke NIKAIDO (Nikaido-ryu school)

Mitsushuza AKAMATSU (Nenshuza-ryu school, Shobonen-ryu school)

Hozan TSUTSUMI (Hozan-ryu school)

Hangan CHUJO (Chujo-ryu school)

Kai Chikuzen no kami (governor of Chikuzen in Kai Province) (Chujo-ryu school, Tomita-ryu school)

Saru no gozen (Kage-ryu school)

Hoin NUMATA (Tanseki-ryu school)

Taro Kaneshige HIGUCHI (Higuchinen-ryu school)

[Original Japanese]