《83》The Dawn of Early Modern Hakata and Hakata Merchants (Part 7)

《83》The Dawn of Early Modern Hakata and Hakata Merchants (Part 7)

《83》The Dawn of Early Modern Hakata and Hakata Merchants (Part 7)... Sotan  was the greatest merchant in Japan

- Kamiya Sotan was an outstandingly wealthy Hakata merchant, and at the time of his meeting with Hideyoshi in 1587, he was probably "the richest man  in Japan", a position not even the merchants of Kyoto and Osaka could match.

- The first reason for this is that Sotan had accumulated a huge amount of silver bullion through the management of Iwami Ginzan (Iwami Silver Mine) by the Kamiya family for generations. Professor Takeno of Fukuoka University, a leading researcher on Kamiya Sotan, states, "Sotan is said to have minted so-called 'Hakata silver' on Hideyoshi's order, and most of the military funds for Hideyoshi's expedition (to Korea) were raised by him. This is surprising.

- The second reason for this is that Sotan, as a young man in Karatsu, was earning huge profits from overseas trade (private trade) in Karatsu, which was most suitable for remote trade. The "Biography of the Three greatest merchants of Hakata"("Hakata Sanketsuden") written in the Meiji period (1868-1912) describes the movements of Sotan during his time in Karatsu as follows: "He traveled to various places in Korea, China (Shina), and Southeast Asia (Nanban) and engaged in prosperous commerce and trade, thus reaping huge profits".

*The bottom row of photos shows the famous Karatsu Kunchi in Karatsu, Saga. /


 - 神屋宗湛は博多商人の中でも傑出した大富豪であり、1587年に秀吉と出会った当時は、おそらく京・大坂の商人も足元に及ばない「天下一の富豪」だったのではないかと考えられます。

 - その根拠の第1は、神屋家代々の石見銀山の経営により、宗湛は莫大な銀地金を蓄積していたことが挙げられます。神屋宗湛研究の第一人者である福岡大学の武野教授は「宗湛は秀吉の命令でいわゆる「博多銀」という銀貨を鋳造したといわれ、秀吉の外征(朝鮮出兵)の軍資金の大半が宗湛によって調達された。」と述べています。これは驚きですね。

 - その根拠の第2は、若き唐津時代の宗湛が、遠隔地貿易にもっとも適した唐津で海外交易(私的貿易)により巨万の利益を得ていたことが指摘できます。明治時代に著された『博多三傑伝』は、唐津時代の宗湛の動静について「朝鮮、支那(中国)、南蛮(東南アジア)の各地へ往来し、盛に通商貿易を営みて、為に巨萬の利を獲たり。」と伝えています。