Tomo no Yoshio

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Tomo no Yoshio (伴善男?), or Ban Dainagon (伴大納言?), was a counsellor of the state in pre-feudal Japan. In Japanese mythology, he was the source for Ban no Yoshio, god of pestilence.

Arson[edit]

On the tenth day of the third month of 866, Tomo no Yoshio set fire to the Ōtenmon gate with the intent of placing blame on the minister of the left, the sadajin Minamoto no Makoto. Arson has always been a serious crime in Japan, and the punishment throughout most of history has typically been execution. Yoshio was able to convince the minister on the right, udajin Fujiwara no Yoshimi, that Makoto was behind the arson. As a result, Yoshimi attempted to get the counsellor Fujiwara no Mototsune to arrest Makoto. However, instead of making the arrest, Mototsune informed his father, the Daijō Daijin, Fujiwara no Yoshifusa, of the situation. Yoshifusa was unconvinced that Makoto could do such a heinous crime and called for the emperor in an attempt to vouch for Makoto’s innocence and straighten out the matter at hand. As a result, Makoto was left unpunished and a consolation was sent to him. It wasn’t until the eight month of that year, that the burning of Ōtenmon gate was attributed to Tomo no Yoshio and his allies due to a report made by Ōyake no Takatori. A thorough investigation was carried out and on the twenty-second day of the ninth month, Tomo no Yoshio was exiled to Izu Province. This story appears to have been passed down through story telling for many generations, becoming widely known. The historical account can be found in Sandai Jitsuroku.

Cultural references[edit]

“The story of a cook who saw the ghost of counsellor Tomo” is the eleventh story of the twenty-seventh volume of Konjaku Monogatarishū. In the story, Ban no Yoshio appears in front of a cook after a late night of work and describes himself as a god of pestilence and disease. He goes on to relay his life’s story, admitting that he committed a serious crime. Although the crime is not detailed there, it clearly refers to the burning of Ōtenmon gate and his exile to Izu as punishment. The story portrays Ban no Yoshio’s knowledge of the seriousness of his act and the justice of his punishment. He pronounces his debt, owed to the country for being so well treated during his service at court, and goes on to describe his hand in turning an epidemic that would kill all into a mere cough; which suggests some form of reciprocity.