The emblem (mon) of the Ōtomo clan
They also played an important role in the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate, in the 1330s. Ōtomo warriors fought alongside those of Ashikaga Takauji and enabled him to win a number of key battles, including the battle of Sanoyama; this helped to ensure them powerful government positions in the new shogunate.
A powerful clan throughout the Sengoku period (1467–1573), the Ōtomo are especially notable as one of the first clans to make contact with Europeans, and to establish a trade relationship with them. In or around 1542, three Portuguese ships were carried by a typhoon to the island of Tanegashima, just off the coast of Kyūshū. Within ten years, trade with the Portuguese was fairly regular and common in Kyūshū. The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Japan in 1549, and soon afterwards met with Ōtomo Sōrin, shugo of Bungo and Buzen provinces, who would later be described by Xavier as a "king" and convert to Roman Catholicism in 1578. Ōtomo was eager to secure for his clan further trade and contact with the Portuguese, seeing the technological and, more importantly perhaps, economic benefits that could be derived. In 1552, emissaries from the Ōtomo clan traveled to Goa with Xavier, to meet with the Portuguese Governor of India. Xavier and other Jesuit missionaries would return to Kyūshū, traveling and proselytizing; the Ōtomo were always well-disposed towards them, and they saw some success in Bungo as a result, converting many Japanese to Christianity.
Towards the end of the 16th century, the Ōtomo fought both the Shimazu and Mōri clans, of whom the latter were expert sailors. Though they did not play a major role in the campaigns of Tokugawa Ieyasu which ended the Sengoku period, they did retain their domains into the Edo period.
- Ōtomo Yoshinao (大友能直, 1172–1223)
- Ōtomo Chikahide (大友親秀, 1195–1248)
- Ōtomo Yoriyasu (大友頼泰, 1222–1300)
- Ōtomo Chikatoki (大友親時, 1236–1295)
- Ōtomo Sadachika (大友貞親, 1246–1311)
- Ōtomo Sadamune (大友貞宗, ? –1334)
- Ōtomo Ujiyasu (大友氏泰, 1321–1362)
- Ōtomo Ujitoki (大友氏時, ? –1368)
- Ōtomo Ujitsugu (大友氏継, ? –1401)
- Ōtomo Chikayo (大友親世, ? –1418)
- Ōtomo Chikaaki (大友親著, ? –1426), also called "Chikatsugu".
- Ōtomo Mochinao (大友持直, ? –1445)
- Ōtomo Chikatsuna (大友親綱, ? –1459)
- Ōtomo Chikataka (大友親隆, ? –1470)
- Ōtomo Chikashige (大友親繁, 1411–1493)
- Ōtomo Masachika (大友政親, 1444–1496)
- Ōtomo Yoshisuke (大友義右, 1459–1496)
- Ōtomo Chikaharu (大友親治, 1461–1524)
- Ōtomo Yoshinaga (大友義長, 1478–1518)
- Ōtomo Yoshiaki (大友義鑑, 1502–1550)
- Ōtomo Sōrin (大友宗麟, 1530–1587), originally Ōtomo Yoshishige (大友義鎮)
- Ōtomo Yoshimune (大友義統, 1558–1610)
- Ōtomo Yoshinori (大友義乗, 1577–1612)
- Ōtomo Yoshichika (大友義親, 1597–1619)
- Ōtomo no Kuronushi – classical poet
- Ōtomo-Nata Jezebel (d.1587) – High priestess of Usa Jingū, wife of Ōtomo Sōrin and mother of Ōtomo Yoshimune.
- Myorin - Lady of Tsurusaki Castle.
- Ōtomo Sōrin (1530–1587), Constable of Bungo and Buzen Provinces
- Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. London: Cassell & Co.
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