Shimotsuma Rairen

下間頼廉

Shimotsuma Clan

Bushō

Lifespan:  Tenbun 6 (1537) to 6/20 of Kanei 3 (1626)

Other Names:  Toratoshi (childhood), Genjūrō, Uemon-no-jō (common), Gyōbukyō (monk’s name)

Rank:  bushō, monk

Title:  High Priest

Clan:  Shimotsuma

Father:  Shimotsuma Raian

Mother:  Daughter of Shimotsuma Raiji

Children:  Rairyō, Munekiyo, Nakaharu, daughter (wife of Shimotsuma Nakatoshi), daughter (wife of Maki Nagakatsu), daughter (wife of Hashinobō Akikatsu), daughter (wife of Kawanabe Shūsuke)

Shimotsuma Rairen served as a bushō and monk from the Sengoku to early Edo periods.  Rairen was a priest at the Ishiyama-Hongan Temple.

Rairen served Kennyo, the eleventh high priest of the Hongan Temple.  During the Ishiyama War against Oda Nobunaga, Rairen served along with Suzuki Shigehide (Saika Magoichi) as bushō in the army of the Hongan Temple, imposing harm on the Oda army.  This led to him being called the Dominant General of Ōsaka.  In addition to serving as a military commander, when, in 1576, Shichiri Yorichika attempted to create a rogue state in Kaga Province, he sent a letter for him to change course, evidencing his additional contributions in political affairs.

In 1580, when the army of the Hongan Temple confronted the prospect of defeat to the Oda army, these forces withdrew following an Imperial order from Emperor Ōgimachi for a settlement.  Rairen, along with Shimotsuma Rairyū and Shimotsuma Nakataka from the same family signed the peace agreement.  Afterwards, he followed Kennyo and departed to the Hongan Temple.  He was then assigned to persuade adherents of the Ikkō sect to end their resistance toward the Oda army.

On 6/2 of Tenshō 10 (1582), Nobunaga unexpectedly died in a coup d’état orchestrated by a senior retainer, Akechi Mitsuhide.  This is known as the Honnō Temple Incident.  In the wake of his demise, Kennyo, together with Rairen (also a central figure in the Hongan Temple), turned down requests from Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu to loan the Ikkō monks as an army to them.  While the Toyotomi and Tokugawa were opposed to one another, Rairen kept the Hongan Temple in a neutral position.  In 1589, just prior to unification of the country, Rairen was appointed by Hideyoshi to serve as a magistrate for the town of Honganji after having been granted residential land in Nanajō-Inokuma.  In 1593, when Kyōnyo (the twelfth high priest of the Higashi-Hongan Temple, left the temple and was succeeded by Junnyo (the twelfth high priest of the Hongan Temple), Rairen momentarily upset Hideyoshi after voicing opposition to the decision of Hideyoshi.  Later, he was forgiven and, during that same year, submitted a written pledge to Junnyo to obey him.  After the ensuing split between the eastern and western branches of the Hongan Temple in 1602, he continued to loyally support Junnyo.

In 1626, after a long life, Rairen died at the age of ninety.  He was succeeded by his third son, Shimotsuma Nakaharu.  His descendants were referred to as the Gyōbukyō family (after his monk’s name) and supported the Nishi-Hongan Temple for generations.