Abe Clan (阿倍氏)

The Abe clan (the original kanji used for the Abe clan was 阿部氏, later 安倍氏) was one of the nobles derived from Gozoku (local ruling family) of ancient Japan. The Abe clan's status was demoted from being a member of the Imperial Family to that of its subject, and was a descendant of Obiko no Mikoto, the son of the Emperor Kogen. Many of the family members became minister-level officials in Asuka and Nara periods. From the Heian period the Abe clan was referred to as '安倍氏,' and came to be known as a family of Onmyoji (oracle) after ABE no Seimei.

The Abe Clan (from Ancient Period through Nara Period)
The father of Takatahime, one of the wives of Emperor Keiko, was said to be ABE no Kogoto; also one of the wives of Emperor Keitai was said to be ABE no Haehime. However, ABE no Omaro (or Himaro) who was the daibu (master) for Emperor Senka was the first to be known in history. Omaro is considered to have been a senior vassal whose position was fourth highest after OTOMO no Kanamura, MONONOBE no Arakahi, and SOGA no Iname. During the time of Empress Suiko, ABE no Maro acted as a close aide of SOGA no Umako.

ABE no Kurahashimaro (also known as ABE no Uchimaro) became Sadaijin (minister of the left) in the new administration after the Taika Reforms. Probably Kurahashimaro was invited to join the new administration due to his considerable wisdom rather than just for his family lineage, because many members of the Abe clan were sent to foreign countries as emissaries according to "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan). Otarashihime, one of Kurahashimaro's daughters, became Emperor Kotoku's wife and gave birth to Prince Arima, and Tachibanahime, another daughter of his, and became Emperor Tenchi's wife; these facts suggest Abe clan's power at that time.

After that time, the family branched out to several families such as FUSE no omi and HIKITA no omi (both families later received a surname of Asomi (second highest of the eight hereditary titles). Nevertheless, ABE no Hirafu who led HIKITA no omi served as Shogun for Empress Saimei, and ABE no Miushi (635-703), the son of Kurahashimaro who led FUSE no omi, was assigned to become the first Udaijin (minister of the right) under the Taiho Code. Afterward, FUSE no Miushi received the surname of ABE no Asomi, followed by Hirafu's sons receiving the surname of HIKITA no Asomi. ABE no Nakamaro, who became a Japanese envoy to Tang Dynasty China and went to Tang as a student, was said to be the grandson of Hirafu and the son of ABE no Funamori. After that time, the descendants of Miushi and Hirafu were called the Abe clan. After ABE no Hironiwa (659-732), the son of Miushi who died with the title of Chunagon (vice-councilor of state), died, the Abe clan fell from power due to the emerging clans such as the Fujiwara clan. However, some of the Abe clan members became the wives of influential persons including the wife of FUJIWARA no Muchimaro (she gave birth to FUJIWARA no Toyonari and FUJIWARA no Nakamaro), as well as ABE no Komina, the wife of FUJIWARA no Yoshitsugu.

The Abe Clan (Heian Period)
There are various theories about when '阿倍氏' was altered to '安倍氏,' but the most credible theory is that it happened during Enryaku era through Konin era, which was the early Heian period. During these years, there were two influential high officers from the Abe clan: ABE no Anio (?-808), who was the great-great-grandson of Miushi and served as Sangi (councilor) for Emperor Heijo; and ABE no Yasuhito (793-859), who was a member of a branch family of HIKITA no omi and served as Dainagon (chief councilor of state) and Konoe no daisho (Major Captain of the Palace Guards) for Emperor Ninmyo. After that, no one was successful in history until ABE no Seimei, who was the sixth generation descendant of Anio, appears in the mid Heian period. Since Seimei, the Abe clan, along with the Kamo clan, ruled tenmon (ancient horoscopy) and Onmyodo (way of Yin and Yang; occult divination system based on the Taoist theory of the five elements), which is a widely known story. However, in terms of the official court rank, Seimei and his son ABE no Yoshihira (954-1027) were at Jushii (Junior Fourth Rank); it is obvious that their ranks were lower than those of their ancestor Anio. The generation after Yoshihira dominated positions related to tenmondo: ABE no Tokichika, the first son of Yoshihira, received an imperial decree for tenmon misso (reporting unusual astronomical phenomena to the emperor); ABE no Akichika, the second son, became tenmon hakase (master of astronomy); and ABE no Norichika, the third son, became tenmon gon no hakase (assistant to tenmon hakase). Since then, the successive generations of the Abe clan had been appointed to tenmon hakase and Onmyoryo (Bureau of Divination). Meanwhile, inter-clan conflicts over their positions and theories escalated. The clan was divided into three branches: the one started by ABE no Tomoyuki (安倍有行), the son of ABE no Tokichika, which was succeeded by the grandson ABE no Yasuchika; the one started by ABE no Tokiyuki, also the son of ABE no Tokichika, which was succeeded by the grandson ABE no Harumichi; the one started by ABE no Norichika, the younger brother of ABE no Tokichika, which was succeeded by the great grandson ABE no Hiroyasu (安倍広賢), and they fought against each other.

The Abe Clan (From The End of Heian Period through Kamakura Period)
It seems like the more unstable the world becomes, the more the Imperial Court expects from Onmyoji; every time a prominent Onmyoji appears from the Abe clan, it is during the turbulent times. During the Genpei War, then-Onmyoryo ABE no Yasuchika (1110-1183) who was the great-great-grandson of ABE no Yoshihira, moved up to Shoshiinojo (Senior Fourth Rank Upper Grade), and his son ABE no Suehiro (1136-1199) also moved up to Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). However, Harumichi, Hiroyasu and their children kept fighting against Yasuchika and his son over theories, and some other branch families sprouted from these three branch families.

The Abe Clan (The Period of The Northern and Southern Courts)
ABE no Ariyo who came in during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (he was the 14th generation from Seimei and 8th from Yasuchika) finally made it to Junii (Junior Second Rank) which was a Kugyo (the top court officials). This never happened to the Abe clan in the past 500 years, and it was a startling event at that time because a person of Onmyoji, which was a position that was sometimes hated or feared by others, became a Kugyo.

Some people say that they could reach such high positions because there were politician supporters: Kanezane KUJO for Yasuchika, and Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA for Ariyo. However, it is also said that Yasuchika predicted the decline and fall of the Taira clan and rise of Prince Mochihito, and that Ariyo predicted Meitoku War and Oei War. Some records exist that show that they had noteworthy talents for astrology and Onmyodo. Kanezane and Yoshimitsu supported the promotion of Yasuchika and Ariyo because of the value of their high performance.

The Tsuchimikado Family (Muromachi Period)
Generally (even in books for specialists), the founder of the Tsuchimikado family is regarded as Ariyo, and Ariyo is often referred to 'Ariyo TSUCHIMIKADO.'
However, even the Tsuchimikado family themselves do not have any record which shows that Ariyo used the surname of 'Tsuchimikado,' and it is thought that the first person who used the 'Tsuchimikado' surname was ABE no Nobuari, the grandson of Ariyo, and the later generations (mid- to late- Muromachi period).

At first, it was supposed to be only Ariyo and no other descendant of his that was allowed to have the position of Kugyo, but in Ariyo's last days, Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA promoted ABE no Arimori, Ariyo's heir, to Kugyo to pay respect to Ariyo's long-time service. Ariyo's direct descendant after Arimori, namely ABE no Arisue and ABE no Arinobu, advanced to Kugyo. In this way, Ariyo's family ended up being qualified to become Tosho-ke (the hereditary lineage of Court nobles occupying relatively high ranks), specifically hanke (a kind of family status of the Court nobles) of lower rank.
In the course of time, since Ariyo and his descendants had their family head's residence in Tsuchimikado, they began to use the name 'Tsuchimikado.'
All the official duties of Onmyoji came to be conducted by the Kamo clan (Kotokui family) and the Abe clan (Tsuchimikado family), apart from other Abe families.

The Tsuchimikado Family (from The Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) through Shokuho Era (Oda-Toyotomi Era))
However, Arinobu, the first family head, left the capital and went down to shoen (manor in medieval Japan) in Oi-cho in the Wakasa Province to avoid the turmoil of the Onin War. Arinobu's son Ariharu also spent his whole life in Wakasa, and since then, the Tsuchimikado family settled in there. Arisue TSUCHIMIKADO (1527-1577), the grandson of Arinobu, in 1565 became the first one to serve as an additional post of reki hakase (master of reki (calendar)), which had been dominated by the Kamo clan. Arisue's son Hisanaga TSUCHIMIKADO (1560-1625) temporarily went back to the capital when the war cooled down, but fell from power because he was involved in the suicide of Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI.

The Tsuchimikado Family (from Edo Period through Meiji Period)
Nevertheless, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, who established a new bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), gave an important position to Hisanaga, and he was allowed to come back to the Imperial Court. He was also rewarded a large house in Umekoji. Hisanaga's son Yasushige TSUCHIMIKADO (1586-1661), as a tenmon hakase, was committed to reviving the family name and advanced to Junii (Junior Second Rank) as a Kugyo. Yasushige also let his younger brother Yasuyoshi KURAHASHI become independent and found the Kurahashi family. Moreover, the long-time conflict between the Abe clan (Tsuchimikado family) and the Kamo clan (the Kotokui family) over the Onmyoryo position, which was the commander of Onmyodo, settled when Tomosuke KOTOKUI from the Kamo clan died at the age of 35 in 1682 and Yasutomi TSUCHIMIKADD (1655-1717) was assigned to Onmyoryo; since then, the Abe clan dominated the Onmyoryo position. Yasutomi successfully took control of all ruling, appointment and dismissal of Onmyoji all over the country under the control of Tsuchimikado family, and later founded the Tsuchimikado Shinto (Shinto of Tsuchimikado school); it was the Tsuchimikado family's heyday. However, when the tenmonkata (astronomer appointed by bakufu) of Edo bakufu led and succeeded in changing the calendar to Jokyo reki (Jokyo calendar), the bakufu (tenmongata) and the Imperial Court (the Tsuchimikado family) came to oppose to each other over the power for kaireki (changing of calendar). Yasukuni TSUCHIMIKADO (1711-1784), the youngest son of Yasutomi, established Horyaku reki (Horyaku calendar) with the cooperation of a professional rekizan (calculation of calendar) who was out of power, and successfully regained the authority for kaireki.

In the midst of confusion from the Meiji Restoration, the then family head Haruo TSUCHIMIKADO (1827-1869) took over the tenmongata of old shogunate, and governed astronomical research and map making surveys. This caused an inversion where modern Western astronomy was, as a matter of practice, eliminated. Furthermore, Haruo smelled a trend to implement the Western Gregorian calendar, and suggested Meiji kaireki (changing of calendar in the Meiji period) in order to maintain the lunar-solar calendar instead of introducing the solar calendar. However, the plan ended up in failure due to the sudden death of Haruo himself.

Then, finally the new Meiji government launched dissolution of Onmyoryo for the fear of it becoming the core of the anti-modern science power. Taking advantage of the fact that Harenaga TSUCHIMIKADO, the heir of Haruo, was a little child, Onmyoryo was abolished and Onmyodo was eliminated from public authority in 1870, followed by the transfer of tenmon and rekizan to navy, universities and astronomical observatory.

After the introduction of peerage system, Harenaga was given the title of viscount. In 1915, astronomical records and family head's diaries possessed by the Tsuchimikado family were presented to the Imperial Household Ministry, and many of them are still stored in the Imperial Household Archives.