The Bomon Family (坊門家)

The Bomon family was an aristocratic family that lived from the Kamakura period into the Muromachi period. While there are several different family lineages that adopted the name "Bomon," perhaps the most well-known is that of the descendants of the Kanpaku (Chief Advisor) FUJIWARA no Michitaka of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan.

Two of Michitaka's sons, FUJIWARA no Korechika and FUJIWARA no Takaie, fell into conflict with their uncle FUJIWARA no Michinaga, and were demoted in disgrace (in what is known as the Chotoku Incident) for the crime of shooting an arrow at Emperor Kazan. Their crime was later pardoned, and Takaie's son FUJIWARA no Tsunesuke rose as far as Shonii (Senior Second Rank) at court, holding the position of Dainagon (Chief Counselor), but the lineage of Michitaka's younger brother Michinaga became the principal heir's lineage in the Northern House of Fujiwara clan, securing hereditary control over the positions of Sessho (Regent) and Kanpaku (Chief Advisor) and thus sending Michitaka's descendants into a long age of eclipse and misfortune.

But in the latter days of the Heian period, FUJIWARA no Jisshi, the wife of Tsunesuke's grandson FUJIWARA no Tsunetada, was wetnurse to Emperor Toba, which led to Tsunetada serving both Emperor Shirakawa and Cloistered Emperor Toba as an In no kinshin (vassal to the retired emperor), reaching Junii (Junior Second Rank) and holding the position of Chunagon (Middle Counselor). Tsunetada's grandson FUJIWARA no Nobutaka was only able to rise during his lifetime as far as Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) and was not assigned a court position, but after Emperor Antoku fled the capital along with the Ise-Heishi (Taira clan), the throne passed to Emperor Gotoba--who had been born of FUJIWARA no Shokushi (whose religious name was Shichijoin), Nobutaka's daughter and a onetime lady-in-waiting to Emperor Takakura--whereupon Nobutaka, Emperor Gotoba's maternal grandfather, was posthumously promoted to Juichii (Junior First Rank) and given the position of Sadaijin (Minister of the Left). It is thought to be in the time of Nobukiyo BOMON and Takakiyo BOMON, Nobutaka's sons, that "Bomon" was first used as a family name, but in any case, the substance of the matter is that Nobutaka can be called the founder of the Bomon family.

Nobukiyo, Nobutaka's son, was the Emperor Gotoba's uncle, and Nobukiyo's daughter became the legal wife of MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, Shogun of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun); as a result, the Bomon family came to hold enormous influence over both the imperial house and the bakufu. However, following Nobukiyo's death in 1216, the Shogun MINAMOTO no Sanetomo was assassinated in 1219, and in the Jokyu War of 1221, Nobukiyo's son Tadanobu BOMON sided with the Retired Emperor Gotoba and lent his military strength to the effort to strike down the shogunate, leading to his exile. At that point in time Tadanobu held the position of Dainagon (Major Counselor), making him the man of the highest official rank of all the noblemen who participated in the plan to strike down the shogunate. Most of the noblemen who were involved in the plot to strike down the shogunate were executed, and by all rights Tadanobu could hardly have hoped to escape execution either, but because he was the brother-in-law of the slain Shogun Sanetomo, his crime was reduced from the highest and worst degree and his punishment downgraded to banishment. But from that point onwards, for the entire remainder of the Kamakura period the Bomon family never again produced anyone who reached the court nobility.

Once the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) began, however, Nobuyuki BOMON, Nobukiyo's descendant, was ranked among the nobility at the Northern Court, while Takakiyo's descendant, Kiyotada BOMON, became a trusted retainer to the Emperor Godaigo and was ranked among the nobility of the Southern Court. Yet both of these family lines died out, leaving no chance for the Bomon family name to be passed down to later generations.

Yet Tadanobu BOMON did adopt Nobunari MINASE of the Minase branch of the Bomon family; Nobunari's descendants split into five different Tosho (high nobility) families, the Minase, the Shichijo, the Machijiri, the Sakurai, and the Yamai, all of which became Kazoku (peers) in the Meiji period, while the head of each family was then given the rank of Viscount.