Taigen Sessai (太原雪斎)

Sessai TAIGEN or Sufu TAIGEN (1496 - November 23,1555) was a vassal of the Imagawa clan. The posthumous name was Sufu. He was a son of Masamori IHARA (Saemon-no-jo (third-ranked officer of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards)) and his mother was a daughter of Masanobu OKITSU.

The Ihara clan on the paternal side ruled around Ihara of Suruga Province (present Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture). The Okitsu clan on the maternal side grasped marine transport, based on Yokoyama-jo Castle, and also headed the pirates (navy). Both clans were senior vassals of the Imagawa clan.

At first, he identified himself as Shogiku KYUEI and practiced ascetic training at Zentoku-ji Temple in Suruga, and later at Kennin-ji Temple of the Kyoto Gozan (Five Great zen Temples of Kyoto). He was said to be a promising brilliant person at around this time. He was asked to serve the Imagawa clan by his master, Ujichika IMAGAWA, who heard this reputation, and was appointed to educate his fifth son, Hogiku-maru (later Yoshimoto IMAGAWA). According to one estimate, he refused this request twice.

In 1530 Hogiku-maru had a Tokudo ceremony (entering Buddhist priesthood) by Ryusu JOAN, his master at the Kennin-ji Temple and changed his name to Shoho. The two moved to Kennin-ji Temple for more ascetic training from Zentoku-ji Temple, and later moved to Myoshin-ji Temple. Around this time Shoho was given Dogo (a pseudonym as a priest) 'Baigaku' and identified himself as Shogiku BAIGAKU and later changed his name to Sufu TAIGEN (Sessai).

In 1535 he went back to Suruga in order to participate in the sixth anniversary of the death of Shoshun KINKEI who was a chief priest of Zentoku-ji Temple, and entered Zentoku-ji Temple again.

In the following year, 1536, Ujiteru IMAGAWA, who succeeded Ujichika, died. A succession race between Shoho BAIGAKU and his half brother Etan GENKO, among the Imagawa clan, occurred (Hanakura War). Sessai supported Shoho BAIGAKU with Jukei-ni, and achieved his succession to the clan and exclaustration. By that achievement, Yoshimoto IMAGAWA put strong faith in Sessai and gave him the supreme post of politics and military affairs.

While Sessai had religious influence as a chief priest of Sunpu Rinzai-ji Temple (Shizuoka City), he was also called 'administrative ruler' or 'general' of the Imagawa clan and supported Yoshimoto with impressive ability in politics, military affairs and foreign policy.

In 1537 he struck an alliance of marriage with the Takeda clan.

He held talks with the Gohojo clan in Sunto.

In 1547 he captured Tahara-jo Castle in Mikawa Province.

At the Battle of Azuki-zaka slope with the Oda clan in 1548, he had an advantage as a commander in chief.

In 1549 he attacked Ansho-jo Castle and captured Nobuhiro ODA (half brother of Nobunaga ODA) and returned Takechiyo MATSUDAIRA, a hostage of the Oda clan, back to the Imagawa clan side.

In 1553 he established 21 articles of Imagawa Kana Mokuroku Tsuika (expanding on the Imagawa family rules), which is bunkokuho (the law individual sengoku-daimyo enforced in their own domain) of the Imagawa territory.

In 1554 he made efforts for Suruga Province to form a tripartite alliance with the Takeda clan of Kai Province and the Gohojo clan of Sagami Province.

In addition to these, Sessai contributed greatly to the height of prosperity of the Imagawa clan by controlling temples and religions, mainly those of the Rinzai sect, and implementing commercial policy to protect local merchants in the Imagawa territory. Moreover, he was also a well-educated person and wrote "Rekidaijoryaku" (a book about chinese history).

In 1555 he died at Chokei-ji Temple in Suruga Province. He was at the age of 60 years.


It is said that he also acted as guardian of Ujizane IMAGAWA, the legitimate son of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA, and Motoyasu MATSUDAIRA (Ieyasu TOKUGAWA), a hostage of the Imagawa clan at that time, but it was during the same period as Sessai left Suruga (during negotiations with the Takeda and Gohojo clans and expedition to Mikawa Province) so it is unknown whether he in fact influenced both persons or not.

Since he displayed great ability as Yoshimoto IMAGAWA's right-hand man and contributed much to the expansion of the Imagawa clan, much literature recognizes him by such as, 'If Sessai had lived until the Battle of Okehazama in 1560, Yoshimoto would not have been subverted by Nobunaga ODA,' and 'the Imagawa clan started to decline soon after Sessai's death.'

[Original Japanese]