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Yamada Nagamasa, Okya Senaphimuk Lordship
Yamada Nagamasa, Okya Senaphimuk Lordship

Image           The story of Yamada Nagamasa became well known and researched in Thailand only about 40-50 years ago. In Japan, however, there has been extensive publication about him for a long time. One of the most popular is one written by Tenjiku Tokubei in 1707. The Japanese have been interested in his biography. His name appeared in a Thai chronicle with only brief and unclear statement. His biography written by Japanese and Westerners still lacks some important details. His birthplace is not yet confirmed. The time of his entry into Thailand is still unknown. It is estimated that he had been a government official in Thailand since King Ekatosarot's reign.

           Before his time, Japan had unofficially been trading with Thailand. Then, once Iyeyasu was appointed as a shogun, the first written message from Japan dated October 22, 1606 was presented to King Songtham. It requested a canon and fragrant wood from Thailand. After that the Emperor of Japan permitted Thai ships to enter Japan for trading.

           It is evidenced that during the reign of King Songtham, Yamada was promoted to a rank of senior nobility and he was in charge of sending the first group of diplomats from Thailand to Japan in 1603. Khun Pichitsombat and Khun Prasert were diplomats brining a message from the King of Ayutthaya to initiate good relations between the two countries. Yamada himself wrote a letter to Doi Toshikatsu stating,

           The Thai diplomats have brought with them a royal message from the King of Ayutthaya for the Emperor of Japan to initiate relations between the two nations. Please assist them as well as possible. The group consists of two Thai diplomats and one Japanese interpreter whose name is Ito Kindeyu.

           The letter is dated May 13, 1603. It is conclusive that the group of diplomats departed Thailand in that month.

Okya Senaphimuk Lordship Yamada Nagamasa

           Yamada was a bearer of a noblemans palanquin in Japan. After immigrating to Thailand, he served Siam militarily (It was believed that he had helped the kingdom in warfare). His first rank was Khun Chaijasun. Then he was promoted to Okya Senaphimuk, the chief of Japanese settlers. He was very well respected by Thai noblemen according to Wanwalits archives. The Defense Minister seized power from Somdet Pra Chettathirat and appointed Pra Atitawong who was only 10 years old to be the king. This was done to prevent scandals temporarily. The Defense Minister consulted Okya Senaphimuk about appointing the future king. This story was recorded in Chapter 20 of annals. The excerpt indicates:

           On a new moon night, Okya Senaphimuk and Okya Praklang went to the Defense Ministers residence by boat without any servant following. The Minister argued that the Royal Kingdom could not be left unprotected without the king. The recently deceased king only had young brothers. He was afraid that they would not be able to keep the throne and nation safe. It was unfortunate that this powerful country would only be ruled by younger kings. The Minister asked if Okya Senaphimuk considered selecting one of the noblemen to rule Siam. Once the prince reached his maturity, the throne would be given back to him.

           Okya Senaphimuk responded to the Defense Minister that when it became necessary to appoint a senior nobleman to be the interim ruler, the Defense Minister would certainly be chosen as he belonged to the royal family and was the highest rank nobleman. No one would be more appropriate. However, the public might find the appointment of the Defense Minister scandalous and considered it abuse of authority. People might feel insecure about the nations stability and peace. If another nobleman was appointed, it could be difficult for him to give up the power once the heir reached his maturity and would be ready for coronation. This could result in an end to the power of the Ayutthaya royal family. Two kings of Ayutthaya were executed at times that were not far apart, and there had been bloodshed. The nation, therefore, should be stabilized. Then the brother of the deceased king should be enthroned. The Defense Minister should be the protector because he was capable of advising the king and structuring the government.

Samurai costume
           Okya Senaphimuk suggested further that, If there was any royal family member entitled to the throne, I would protect him to the best of my ability against others who would like to seize that power.

           From the history cited, it was obvious that Okya Senaphimuk was one of the influential noblemen that even the Minister of Defense felt obligated to consult. Eventually, the Minister had to follow his advice. He, however, always looked for ways to diminish Okya Senaphimuk. There were only two people that the Defense Minister was afraid that they would stop him, Okya Chakri and Okya Senaphimuk. Okya Chakri was, for him, easy to get rid of. He simply told Pra Atitawong that Okya Chakri was the reason that the Kings brother was assassinated, and the Okya was imprisoned. The Minister, then, looked for an opportunity to execute him. Okya Senaphimuk, who was an old friend of Okya Chakri was furious.

           The Defense Minister never gave up finding ways to get Okya Senaphimuk out of his way. Although, he could not do it openly due to Okya Senaphimuks strong networking, he found the way to do it indirectly. He reported fabricated information to the king and advised him to summon the Nakhon Srithammarat governor to Ayutthaya. At the time Nakhon Srithammarat was battling with Holland. The Defense Minister had already known that it would be impossible for the governor to come. Once the governor did not show up, the Minister advised the King that the governor had become rebellious. He requested that the King appoint Okya Senaphimuk and his Japanese force to govern the city.

Japanese volunteer soldiers marching
           Once Okya Senaphimuk and his people were in Nakhon Srithammarat they conquered several important local leaders. They kept the governor to be their advisor. Once the city was peaceful again, Okya Senaphimuk reported to Ayutthaya. He was not aware that the Defense Minitster had become the king named Prachao Prasattong. The king pretended that he was happy about the good news. He presented Okya Senaphimuk, or now called Chaopraya Nakhon, a pretty woman named Chantra to be his wife. Okya Senaphimuk, unfortunately, died before even having a chance to live with her.

           Wanwalit explained the cause of death of Okya Senaphimuks. He was commanding his troop to conquer Patani rebels, and his leg was seriously wounded by a weapon. Okpramarit, King Prasattongs brother gave him medicine claimed to be an analgesic drug that would accelerate the healing process. Sadly, the medicine was actually a poison. Okya Senaphimuk died in 2-3 hours.

           Okya Senaphimuks cause of death was not conclusive. Some said Chantra poisoned him. Some said he died of natural cause. Some said he died because his food had been poisoned. Some believed someone mixed a poison in his medication. There are many different hypotheses.

           The biography of Okya Senaphimuk indicated that he had a daughter. When he passed away his son was 18 years old and appointed himself as the acting governor of Nakhon Srithammarat. His rank was Okkhun Senaphimuk. His actual name, however, could not be found in any archives. In the play script The Death of Yamada Nagamasa by Shusuku Teruho, his name was mentioned as Nagatoshi. He was married to the previous governors daughter called Manee. It was said that Okya Senaphimuk passed away when he was only 40 years old. According to Summary Biographies of Important People he died in 1633 AD (2176 B.E.).