Genji Chakuryu (direct descendant of the Minamoto clan) (源氏嫡流)

Genji Chakuryu means the direct descendant of Genji (the Minamoto clan). That is, it is the bloodline of the head family (or a family that is recognized as such). However, aside from the so-called chief of the Minamoto clan, while one can treat this concept as something that was created intentionally out of political reasons, it is not clear if the status of or justification for the concept of the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan actually existed. It can also be said that in terms of parent-and-child relationship, a concept such as 'the heir' existed for a successor who inherited his father's home ground. However, whether that necessarily became the concept of the direct descendant in terms of genealogy is questionable.

If there exists a genuine direct descendant of the Minamoto clan, then the Koga family, the kuge Genji (court noble family of the Minamoto clan) that inherited the status as the chief of the Minamoto clan, should be justified for it. It should be added, obviously, that the family status within the clan was the qualification that determined who became the clan chief, instead of who the direct descendant was, and therefore, being the clan chief was not synonymous with being a direct descendant.

The Minamoto clan can be divided into the kuge Genji that gave rise to the kugyo (court nobles), and the samurai Genji whose members were successful leader samurai families. The Minamoto family lineages that arose from successive emperors such as Saga Genji, Daigo Genji, Seiwa Genji, Uda Genji, Murakami Genji and so on, can be greatly divided according to their distant ancestral emperors. Hence the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan often refers to a specific lineage within a specific Minamoto family, rather than to the direct descendant among all of the Genji families.

In particular, Seiwa Genji, which flourished as the Genji shogun of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), is a good example. In the Seiwa Genji genealogy, MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu, the eldest son of the second shogun MINAMOTO no Mitsunaka, was considered as the heir to Mitsunaka (in terms of his succession to Mitsunaka's territories and the home ground). Therefore, one theory suggests that the lineages of Yorimitsu's descendants, Settsu Genji and Tada Genji, are considered as the direct descendants. On the other hand, there are also some views that suggest that Kawachi Genji, known for MINAMOTO no Yoshiie and which began with MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, the third son of MINAMOTO no Mitsunaka, is considered as the direct descendant of Seiwa Genji.

Kawachi Genji is a name that is associated with the territories held by Yorinobu, the younger brother of Yorimitsu, who was the eldest son of Mitsunaka, in Tsuboi, Ishikawa-gun County (Osaka Prefecture), Kawachi Province (present-day Tsuboi, Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture). By its military might it was called the leader samurai family, and it represented the samurai Genji families and was known widely throughout the country.

The famous armor 'Genta ga Ubuginu' (Genta's clothes as a newborn) was sometimes used as a proof of being the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan, and there is a view that suggests that Kawachi Genji that passed it down was the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan. However, even if 'Genta ga Ubuginu' actually existed, it was merely an item that was passed down to the eldest sons from Yoshiie to Yoritomo. Therefore, there was no implication that the owner of this item was the head of 'Kawachi Genji' (such a term did not exist back then), let alone Seiwa Genji.

Regardless of whether the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan (if there actually was such a thing) was Settsu Genji or Kawachi Genji, the main samurai family lineage was Kawachi Genji that began with MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, who was a younger brother of Yorimitsu who based his activities in Kyoto, and who established his forces in Bando (old Kanto region) and became the samurai leader family. Later, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, who was a descendant of Kawachi Genji, established bakufu in Kamakura. However, it can be said that this idea of the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan was created by Yoritomo in order to distinguish his status as well as his family status within the samurai families. Then, tracing back Yoritomo's ancestors, Kawachi Genji that began with MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu's younger brother, MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, and that continued with Yoriyoshi and Yoshiie, came to be viewed as the direct descendants of the Minamoto clan.

In fact, MINAMOTO no Yorimasa, who was the first one to raise an army when Prince Mochihito called upon the members of the Minamoto families in various provinces in order to overthrow the Taira family, had a court rank of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank), which was a first among Seiwa Genji, and he had a status that could have made him the clan chief. However, in reality, the samurai warriors under him were limited to those in the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) starting with his home base of Settsu Province. Instead, Yoritomo, who belonged to the lineage of his ancestor's younger brother, gained an overwhelming unifying power in the eastern provinces. The reason for this was, rather than the fact that Yoritomo was a direct descendant of the Minamoto clan among Seiwa Genji, that he had the legacy of Kawachi Genji whose vassals were warriors of the eastern provinces and that there were political stakes among the warriors of the eastern provinces who were dissatisfied with the Taira family. Therefore, it can be said that Yoritomo succeeded in distinguishing himself from the other Minamoto families and making his own family lineage the direct descendant by using, as a background, this unifying power over the warriors of the eastern provinces as well as the privileges granted by the Imperial Court, such as Juei-ninen Jugatsu no Senji (the imperial decree issued to Minamoto no Yoritomo), Bunji Imperial Sanction and appointment to shogun by the Imperial Court.

Yoritomo condemned the unrestricted appointment of his younger brother MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and his retainers to government posts. He then gave Kamakura dono (lord of Kamakura, the shogun) exclusive rights to confer court ranks to the members of the Minamoto clan families and their gokenin (immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) members and to appoint them to government posts. In addition, he banished Yukitsuna TADA of Tada Genji, which was of a direct lineage even among the families of the Minamoto clan, from the Tada no sho estate, and he incorporated Yukitsuna's retainers as gokenin. Furthermore, regardless of how close or what the blood or maternal family relations were, he allowed only those who made achievements to use the family name of Minamoto in the same manner as himself. He forbid all others, even if they belonged to the Minamoto clan families, from using the family name of Minamoto, unless a gokenin member had a need for it for a court rank conferment ritual. These incidents were precisely nothing other than a demonstration of his character as the leader of the samurai Minamoto clan.

However, when MINAMOTO no Yoritomo's family ended with MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, the privileges Yoritomo monopolized as the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan as well as the ruling power were overtaken by the Hojo family, the maternal relative of the Minamoto family. The justification for the so-called the direct descendant of the Minamoto family began with MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni, the most powerful among the Minamoto clan families, but it was transferred to the Ashikaga clan of Shimotsuke Genji, who had close family ties to the Hojo clan. Takauji ASHIKAGA, who was born into the head family, later established bakufu in Muromachi, Kyoto. He established the Ashikaga shogun family as the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan after the death of Sanetomo, and he managed to revive Genji shogun since Yoritomo. Coupled with the fact that some of the successive shogun members of the Ashikaga shogun family became the chief of the Minamoto clan as well as Junna shogaku ryoin betto (senior bureaucrat for Junna shogaku ryoin school appointed from outside), he reinforced the family characteristics as the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan. This was later succeeded by the Tokugawa shogun family, who used the Minamoto family name and established the Edo bakufu. Today, however, from the historical standpoint, there is doubt as to whether the Tokugawa clan belonged to the Minamoto clan, and it is considered as a deception used by another clan.

In fact, the status as the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan, which was created out of political consideration by Yoritomo who was born into the Minamoto family, and became established, was used politically in the end by the Tokugawa shogun family in order to conquer the country. Also, the role of this concept of the direct descendant of the Minamoto clan disappeared with the demise of the Edo bakufu and through the process of restructuring the concept of family names based on the modern law of the Civil Code.