Kyan was a Buddhist monk and tea master, advisor to King Shô Nei of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû, and the author of Kyan nikki, one of the only extant primary source documents relating the events of the 1609 invasion of Ryûkyû from the Ryukyuan side of the conflict.
Though known primarily today by the Ryukyuan name "Kyan," he was originally from Sakai in Izumi province near Osaka, where he studied tea under Kôin, a direct disciple of Sen no Rikyû. In 1600, at the age of 35, Kyan traveled to Ryûkyû, and entered the service of King Shô Nei. During the 1609 invasion, on account of his Japanese education and background, he led several attempts at negotiation efforts, though all ultimately failed. He remained on the main island of Okinawa throughout the invasion, and so his diary is most detailed beginning with the Shimazu landing at Unten Harbor on 1609/3/25.
After a failed attempt at negotiations at Nakijin, where he and his team were simply rebuffed and did not meet with General Kabayama Hisataka at all, Kyan tried again to negotiate with the invaders at Yomitan and was rebuffed again. He then sought to return to Shuri by ship, but storms forced his boat to make port at Makiminato. Kyan returned to Shuri on foot, witnessing the burning of villages by the invading forces as he made his way back through torrential rain. Once Shuri castle itself was under attack, further attempts at negotiation were considered but ultimately not undertaken, as it was decided it was too late.
After the fall of Shuri and the capture of King Shô Nei, Kyan was one of a number of officials who were taken, along with the king, to Satsuma, Sunpu, and Edo. His Kyan nikki ("Diary of Kyan"), written sometime in the 1620s-1630s, covers in detail roughly two and half years, from 1609/3 to 1611/10, including extensive treatment of the invasion through the king's later return to Ryûkyû. The original copy of this diary is now held at the University of the Ryukyus; no manuscript copies of the text seem to have circulated in early modern Japan, and the diary is not mentioned in other literature.
Following their return, Kyan was made head of tea ceremony (sadô gashira), and was eventually granted the rank & title of ueekata.
- "Kian." Okinawa rekishi jinmei jiten (沖縄歴史人名事典, "Encyclopedia of People of Okinawan History"). Naha: Okinawa Bunka-sha, 1996. p24.
- Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 54.
- "Kian." Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Encylclopedia"). Ryukyu Shimpo.1 March 2003. Accessed 24 November 2009.
- Uezato Takashi. "The Formation of the Port City of Naha in Ryukyu and the World of Maritime Asia: From the Perspective of a Japanese Network." Acta Asiatica 95 (2008). p67.
- Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Capture a King: Okinawa 1609. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2009. pp37-38.
- Turnbull. p44.
- Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 225.
- Yokoyama, 57.
- Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 208.