Ouchi Clan (大内氏)

Ouchi clan is one of clans in Japan. It is a shugo daimyo (shugo, which were Japanese provincial military governors, that became daimyo, which were Japanese feudal lords) with its base in Suo Province, and a gamily which grew up to be a daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku period, and the Suo-Ouchi clan is famous. The family crest is 'Ouchi Hanabishi' (crest of Ouchi clan).


In many cases, samurai families in Japan call themselves a descendant of so-called 'genpeitokitsu' (shortened expression of four major families) or other central nobles, however, the Ouchi clan calls itself a descendant of Rinsho taishi, the third prince of Seongmyeong-wang of Paekche. Since Rinsho taishi emigrated to Japan and docked at Tatarahama in Suo Province, he called himself 'Tatara,' and thereafter he moved to Ouchi Village, so he is said to have used a family name of Ouchi. However, because there is no record for Rinsho taishi in ancient times, and because it is said that the Ouchi clan came to call itself a descendant of Rinsho taishi from and after the 14th century, this legend lacks credibility. Nothing has been made clear, except for the fact that it came from Zaichokanjin (the local officials in Heian and Kamakura periods) who had been appointed to Suo no Gon no suke (supernumerary vice governor of Suo Province) by heredity for generations in Suo Province.

Heian and Kamakura periods

Three people in the Tatara clan subscribed their names in a Zaicho kudashibumi (a letter issued by Zaicho) issued in 1152. This was the first appearance of the Tatara clan, and it is supposed that it had already started to have a great power as a Zaichokanjin around those days. A family head in the end of the Heian period, TATARA no Morifusa became the most dominant figure in Suo Province, and was appointed to Suo no Gon no suke. Thereafter, Morifusa called himself Ouchi no Suke, and successive family heads used this name by heredity since then.

In the Kamakura period, the Ouchi family completely subjected the local officials of kokuga zaicho (provincial government offices) in Suo Province to its rule, and became a substantial ruler of Suo Province. Then, the family was appointed to a hyojoshu (a member of Council of State) of Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto) as a gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) of Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

Period of the Northern and Southern Courts

In the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), a succession dispute arose, and the family head, Hiroyuki OUCHI conflicted with his uncle, Nagahiro WASHIZU.

Hiroyuki OUCHI's son, Hiroyo OUCHI fought against Nagato no kuni Shugo (provincial constable of Nagato Province), Koto clan and conquered the base, Shimofuri-jo Castle in 1358, and drove the Koto clan out to Kyushu. This allowed the Ouchi clan to expand its power over the two provinces, Suo and Nagato. Hiroyo transferred his base to Yamaguchi (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and submitted to the shogunate in 1363.

Yoshihiro OUCHI, who succeeded Hiroyo OUCHI, took part in a campaign by Sadayo IMAGAWA (Ryoshun) to subdue Kyushu, also played a reconciliatory role in the unification of Southern and Northern Courts, and took an active part in the Meitoku War, a rebellion by Yamana clan in 1391. As a result, he became a shugo daimyo with the territories of six provinces, such as Izumi Province, Kii Province, Suo Province, Nagato Province, Buzen Province and Iwami Province, and built the height of the Ouchi clan's prosperity, along with the trading with Yi Dynasty Korea on its own accord. However, Yoshihiro was provoked by the third shogun, Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, who regarded Yoshihiro's power as dangerous, to raise an army in conspiracy with the Kamakura Kubo, Mitsukane ASHIKAGA in Sakai in 1399, but he died in the action (the Oei War). After the death of Yoshihiro, a succession dispute arose again, and the Ouchi family's power declined temporarily. However, the shugoshiki (post of provincial constable) of Suo and Nagato Provinces was assured to Yoshihiro's younger brother, Hiroshige OUCHI.

Muromachi and Sengoku periods (period of warring states)

Morimi OUCHI advanced into northern Kyushu district in order to restore the prosperity in Yoshihiro's period. Morimi OUCHI won the confidence of the shogunate, nevertheless, he was defeated in a battle with Shoni clan, Otomo clan, and died in the battle in 1431. However, the successor, Mochiyo OUCHI, who was a person as good as Morimi, received the confidence of Yoshinori ASHIKAGA, and established an Ouchi clan's priority in northern Kyushu, as well as conquering the Shoni clan and Otomo clan.

Mochiyo OUCHI was involved in the Kakitsu War and died a violent death in 1441, however, his adopted son, Norihiro OUCHI succeeded to his power. Norihiro OUCHI's son, Masahiro OUCHI belonged to Sozen YAMANA in the western camp at the Onin War starting from 1467, and won his name as a warrior. After the end of the war, Masahiro brought Shoni clan and Otomo clan, who raised an army with the intention of their reinstatement in Kyushu, into submission again. In addition, he continuously held the post of a shugo daimyo who could make a difference also in the Muromachi bakufu.

Yoshioki OUCHI, who succeeded to Masahiro OUCHI, established a hegemony in northern Kyushu and Chugoku regions, as well as driving the Shoni clan to a temporary fall, and consolidated the base of his power. Then, he protected the wandering shogun, Yoshitane ASHIKAGA who was exiled from Kyoto. In 1508, he went up to Kyoto in cooperation with Takakuni HOSOKAWA, with Yoshitane ASHIKAGA at the head of Ouchi clan, while leading Chugoku and Kyushu forces. After going up to Kyoto, he executed the Muromachi shogunate government as a kanrei (shogunal deputy), and built a major power seemingly. However, a long term stay in Kyoto became a heavy burden both on the Ouchi clan and on its subsidiary kokujin (local samurai) and Gozoku (local ruling family). Further, Motoshige TAKEDA of the Aki-Takeda clan, a branch family of the Takeda clan, and Tsunehisa AMAGO in Izumo Province, etc., who had returned home earlier, invaded into the territory of Ouchi family, and they came to threaten the foothold of the family. Having worried about coping with it, Yoshioki left Kyoto, returned home and fought against the Amago clan and the Aki-Takeda clan.

When Yoshioki OUCHI died in 1528, a legitimate child, Yoshitaka OUCHI succeeded to the family estate. In this period, the Ouchi family became the greatest daimyo in the Sengoku period in Saigoku (western part of Japan [esp. Kyushu, but ranging as far east as Kinki]) both in name and in reality, along with its territories, such as Suo Province, Nagato Province, Iwami Province, Aki Province, Bingo Province, Buzen Province and Chikuzen Province, and the family reached its height. Further, Yoshitaka also competed with the Hosokawa clan, and monopolized the commerce with Ming. Additionally, because Yoshitaka was enthusiastic about learning and art, and also because he permitted Christian missionary work and voluntarily protected kuge (court noble) and missionaries, a unique culture of Yamaguchi (Ouchi culture) was born in the territory of Ouchi family, which led to a height also in terms of culture.


Yoshitaka OUCHI fought against Tsunehisa AMAGO, Haruhisa AMAGO in Izumo Province, and Sukemoto SHONI, Fuyuhisa SHONI in Chikuzen Province with the support of his excellent vassals, Okifusa SUE, Okimori NAITO, etc. On the other hand, Yoshitaka fought against Toshiaki OTOMO in Bungo Province, Motonari MORI in Aki Province, etc. several times, nevertheless, he finally took pacific plans with them. He also intervened in a succession dispute of the family of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine priest. In 1536, he drove the Shoni clan to a fall again, and obliterated the Amago clan at the Battle of Yoshida Koriyama-jo Castle from 1540 to 1541, however, he was defeated at the Battle of Gassan Toda-jo Castle in the same year, and lost his adopted son, Harumochi OUCHI. Owing to the failure of this expedition, Yoshitaka gave up the government affairs and came to indulge in literature and pleasure. Further, a long smoldering confrontation between the Budan-ha (a political faction that is willing to resort to military means to achieve its aims), including Takafusa SUE, etc. and the Bunchi-ha (a civilian government faction) with Taketo SAGARA at its head became intensified, and the power of the Ouchi clan started to show signs of decline. In 1551, Yoshitaka OUCHI was caught in a rebellion by Takafusa SUE, a senior vassal of the Budan-ha, and committed suicide (the revolt of Dainei-ji Temple). This revolt brought the Ouchi clan on the way to a rapid decline. Meanwhile, there is a popular view that the Ouchi clan would have substantially fallen by this revolt.


After the death of Yoshitaka OUCHI, Takafusa SUE backed up Haruhide OTOMO, who came from the Otomo clan and was previously a Yoshitaka's adopted child, as the family head, and Takafusa changed his name to Harukata, granted to use a portion of the real name of Haruhide OTOMO. Needless to say, Harukata SUE completely grasped the actual power, and the Ouchi clan survived, putting Yoshinaga OUCHI (whose name was changed from Haruhide) at its top as a puppet. Not a few vassals were displeased with this Harukata's high-handed manner, and Masayori YOSHIMI, the husband of Yoshitaka OUCHI's sister, led a rebellion in Sanbonmatsu in Iwami Province. During the suppression of the rebellion, Motonari MORI, who had the greatest power in Aki Province, also led a rebellion, and conquered Sue side's castles in Aki Province. In 1555, Harukata SUE, in the face of a surprise attack by Motonari MORI, committed suicide and passed away (the Battle of Itsukushima).

The death of Harukata SUE, who had ruled the roost of the family, then caused an uncontrollable condition inside the Ouchi family. In 1556, Motonari MORI started to invade into the territory of Ouchi family. Nevertheless, the Sugi clan, Sue clan and Naito clan confronted by an internal conflict around Yamaguchi. Yoshimi clan belonging to the family also submitted itself to the Mori clan. Yoshinaga OUCHI, who had lost decent fighting capability, fled into Katsuyama-jo Castle in Nagato Province which was protected by Takayo NAITO. In 1557, Yoshinaga OUCHI committed suicide. Ouchi clan as a daimyo in the Sengoku period had fallen at this time (a conquest of Bocho).

In 1569, a survivor of the Ouchi clan, Teruhiro OUCHI invaded into Yamaguchi in Suo Province with the support of Yoshishige OTOMO. However, from the viewpoint of Sorin OTOMO, Teruhiro was nothing more than a sacrificed piece for a backward attack on the Mori clan after all. Teruhiro temporarily succeeded in occupying a part of Yamaguchi, however, he was caught in a counterattack by the Mori force turning from northern Kyushu, fled and committed suicide thereafter.

Edo period

The Yamaguchi clan, who was the lord of the Ushiku domain in the Edo period, is a branch family of the Ouchi clan, and is descended from Mochimori OUCHI, the second son of Yoshihiro OUCHI. The clan survived as a fudai daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) until the Meiji Restoration.

[Original Japanese]