Yamada Sohen (山田宗偏)

Born in 1627 and gone on May 21, 1708, Sohen YAMADA was chajin (a master on the art of the tea ceremony) from the first half of the Edo period. In the tea ceremony community, he is famous as a chajin who founded the Sohen school, but in general, he is known as the person who instructed people on the date of the tea ceremony at Kira's residence to Gengo OTAKA during an occasion known as Genroku Ako Incident (the Chusingura incident). His pseudonyms as a chajin were Yoho-an, Fushin-an, and Konnichi-an.


In 1627, he was born in Chotoku-ji Temple as a child of Myokaku (the fourth heir of the Chotoku-ji Temple), who was the chief priest of Chotoku-ji Temple (a branch temple of Higashi Hongan-ji Temple) at the present Nihonmatsu, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City. His mother was the daughter of Kenmotsu YAMADA (the senior vassal of Tadaharu HORIO, the head of the Matsue Clan). His name as a Buddhist priest was Shukaku or Shugaku. He inherited the position of the chief priest from his father, but he aspired to learn the art of tea ceremony, so he returned to the secular life and became a pupil of Enshu KOBORI. Then in 1644, at the age of 18, he became a pupil of SEN no Sotan. In 1652, he was conferred full mastership by Sotan, so he built a teahouse on the premises of Sanpo-ji Temple in Narutaki Village, a suburb of Kyoto. Sotan transferred yoho gama (an iron pot having a square body) handed down from SEN no Rikyu to him. And Buddhist priest Suigen at Daitoku-ji Temple conferred the pseudonym of 'Yoho-an' to him.

In 1655, on a recommendation by SEN no Sotan, he began to serve Tadatomo OGASAWARA, who was a lord of the Yoshida Domain in Mikawa Province (the present Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture), and received a formal stipend of 100 koku (a real stipend of 30 koku, a ration enough for five persons) to carry out the art of tea ceremony.
When he left Chotoku-ji Temple, he was renamed 'Sohen Iesada YAMADA' after his mother's family name 'Yamada.'
His father Myokaku was also renamed Dogen YAMADA. When SEN no Sotan died in 1658, Sohen inherited the traditional art of tea ceremony from Sotan and became the fourth heir of the pseudonym Fushin-an; incidentally, the pseudonym has been used frequently by Omotesenke (the family of Omotesen) and the first Fushin-an was SEN no Rikyu. And the pseudonym Konnichi-an was also transferred to Sohen; incidentally, this pseudonym has been used frequently by Urasenke (the family of Urasen). His premises given in the Yoshida Domain now become a part of Toyohashi-koen Park in Imahashi-cho, Toyohashi City; a stone monument stands there at present. He did sanzentokudo (Zen meditation and attaining salvation) at Rinzai-ji Temple (in the present Azumada-cho, Toyohashi City) and he built Saisho-an Hermitage there. And he built chaya (tea houses) for entertaining daimyo (feudal lords) in Imure (the present Imure-cho, Toyohashi City), Kozakai (the present Kozakai-cho, Hoi-gun, Aichi Prefecture) and other places. Thereafter, he served the Ogasawara clan for more than 40 years.

In 1697, Sohen transferred his job at the Ogasawara family in the Yoshida Domain to the second Soin, and then he left and went down Tokai-do Road for Edo and settled down in Honjo. He founded the Sohen school for the art of the tea ceremony. Before Genroku Ako Incident, Sohen frequently attended the tea ceremony at Kira's residence at the invitation of Kozukenosuke KIRA, who was also the pupil of SEN no Sotan, because the residence of Kozukenosuke was transferred to Honjo. And so, Shinbei WAKIYA, whose real identity was Gengo OTAKA (one of 47 samurai of Ako), became a pupil of Sohen, and Gengo succeeded in obtaining information from Sohen concerning a tea ceremony which was to be held at Kira's residence on January 30, 1703. Being sure that Kozukenosuke would be at home on this date, Kuranosuke OISHI decided to make a raid on Kira's residence on the date. Some say that Sohen YAMADA actually knew Shinbei WAKIYA's real identity and that Sohen intentionally gave the date of the tea ceremony at Kira's residence after taking into consideration the regret held by Ako's loyal vassals.

On May 21, 1708, Sohen passed away in Edo. He died at the age of 82. He was buried on the premises of Ganryu-ji Temple within Asakusa Hongan-ji Temple, but no gravestone was erected according to his will. Instead, only a stone lantern, which later disappeared in the Great Fire of Kyoho, and a plum tree with red blossoms, which later disappeared in the Great Kanto Earthquake, were left. His posthumous Buddhist name is Fushinan shugaku sohen koji. He wrote "Sado Benmosho," "Sado Yoroku" and others.

His Wife and Children

His wife came from the Ikoma clan. Of his three sons, the first son Sorin died young, but the second son Sooku YAMADA and the third son Gonpei Munetoshi IKOMA both served the Ogasawara family as its kinju (attendants).

[Original Japanese]