Otomo Nata Jezebel

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The first wife of Christian daimyô Ôtomo Sôrin was a daughter of Nata Akimoto, high priest of Usa Hachiman Shrine. Actively resisting Jesuit influence and the spread of Christianity in her husband's lands, she has been described as "the ‘defender and martyr’ of the traditional religions that had given Bungo its coherence and peace until the Jesuits arrived."[1] Jesuit records regularly name her as among the reasons for the slow and difficult spread of Christianity in Bungo in the 1570s-1580s, and dub her "Jezebel," after the idol-worshipping queen of King Ahab from the Book of Kings, a figure associated with seduction, desire for usurpation of the office of the king, and protection of the prophets of Baal who fought against God's prophet Elijah.

She married Sôrin around 1545, when he was around 15 years old. Despite her husband's kind treatment of the Jesuits, "Jezebel" remained affiliated with her parents' Hachiman Shrine, and associated regularly with shrine maidens (miko), mountain ascetics (yamabushi), and wandering Buddhist nuns (Kumano bikuni). The Jesuits readily identified her as "a sorcerer, magician, and a witch," "a pagan, idol-worshipping enemy of the church." Her brothers included Tawara Chikakata,[2] and Nata Shizumoto (a Hachiman priest), and she gathered around herself numerous powerful supporters at court, who helped oppose Sôrin's destruction of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, abandonment of Shinto and Buddhism, and embrace of Christianity.

The Nata family controlled a large portion of the Kunisaki peninsula in northern Bungo, and "Jezebel" held significant tracts of land herself.

She had several children with Sôrin, including their first son, Ôtomo Yoshimune, who succeeded Sôrin as head of the Ôtomo clan; their second son Ôtomo Chikaie (who was later adopted by Tawara Chikakata); third son Ôtomo Chikamori (who was also adopted by Chikakata); and a daughter who was engaged for a time to Chikakata's adopted son Tawara Chikatsura.

Sôrin turned against the Nata family and Usa Hachiman Shrine, attacking and burning the shrine repeatedly in the 1560s-1580s, and seizing its territories and armies to be placed under his direct supervision. He divorced "Jezebel" in 1578 and formally converted to Christianity. After "Jezebel's" death in 1587, the Nata family declined further; however, her religious influence is said to have lasted throughout the Edo period.


  • Haruko Nawata Ward, Women Religious Leaders in Japan's Christian Century, Ashgate (2009), 109-.
  1. Ward, 111.
  2. Chikakata was also from the Nata family, and was adopted into the Tawara family. Tawara Chikahiro, another prominent opponent of Christianity, was also a relative of "Jezebel's."
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