Taichû was a Japanese Buddhist monk, originally from Iwaki province, who was the first to bring Jôdo shû (Pure Land) Buddhism to Ryûkyû. He took the tonsure at age 14, taking the monastic name Taichû Ryôtei, and then traveled to a number of temples across the realm, including Zôjô-ji in Edo, for study. He also founded a bodai-in (family temple) within Iwakidaira castle, where many works by him remain today. While Ryûkyû had been mentioned in Japanese documents since the 7th century, Taichû's Ryûkyû shintô ki and Ryûkyû ôrai are perhaps the first Japanese texts to describe Ryûkyû at length.
Taichû journeyed to Mt. Hiei at age 20, and studied there for a time, as well as studying the secrets of Esoteric Buddhism at Raigô-in in Kyoto. At the age of 30, he published a Sanskrit/Chinese text called Bonkan taiei shû. By age 52, however, he wished to continue his study by journeying to Ming Dynasty China, and hoped to also bring back Buddhist texts which might never have been introduced to Japan before. He departed Japan via Nagasaki or Hirado in 1603, but was refused entry into China, and so made his way to Ryûkyû. There, he attempted on several occasions to board European ships to China, but the Ryukyuans refused to allow him to do so, knowing of the Ming bans on intercourse with Japanese. Taichû thus remained in Ryûkyû from 1603 until 1605, and served as the chief priest of the temple Keirin-ji, spreading the teachings of Jôdo-shû and of the nenbutsu. He attracted many followers, including Gima Shinjô, and wrote the Ryûkyû ôrai (completed 1603) and Ryûkyû shintô ki (completed 1605/4, revised 1607).
He eventually departed Ryûkyû in 1605, returning to Japan via the Philippines. He then resided for a time at Dainen-ji in Kyoto, and founded the temple of Dannôhôrin-ji in the same city. Following his return to Japan, King Shô Nei of Ryûkyû sent over 30 items as royal gifts, many of which remain today in the treasure house of Dannôhôrin-ji.
- "Taichû," Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia 沖縄コンパクト事典, Ryukyu Shimpo, 1 March 2003.
- 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), 51.
- Yokoyama, 58n2.
- Yokoyama, 59n2.