The Katsuraki clan (葛城氏)

The Katsuraki clan was a powerful local clan who had their base in the Kazuraki region of the Yamato Province (present day Gose city and Katsuraki city, Nara Prefecture) during the Kofun period (tumulus period). They are thought to be the descendants of TAKENOUCHI no Sukune. Although it is doubtful whether the clan name 'Katsuraki' actually existed before the establishment of the system of clans and hereditary titles, this clan name is employed here for the sake of convenience.

The Katsuraki clan's genealogy

According to "Kojiki (The Records of Ancient Matters)," KATSURAGI no Sotsuhiko, original forefather of Kazuraki clan, was one of the children of TAKEUCHI no Sukune and forefather of Tamaktenoomi and Ikuhanoomi. After the death of Sotsuhiko, records of the notable people from this clan, such as Katsuraki no ashita no sukune, Tamada no sukune, Tsubura no Okimi and Ariomi, enable us to partially recover their genealogy (See the genealogical chart). However, Tamada is recorded as Sotsuhiko's grandson in the Ingyo ki of "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), and in Yuryaku ki, as the son, which shows inconsistency in the relation to Sotsuhiko. Similarly, Tsubura no Okimi is recorded as the son of Tamada no sukune in "Kugyobunin" (directory of court nobles); however, in "Kishi Kacho" (Lineage of the Kishi clan), there is a description that suggests that he was the son of Ashita no sukune which reveals an inconsistency between the two records. All these facts suggest that some doubt remains that some of the genealogy records may have been adjusted to conform to the folklore.

Recently, some prefer to view the Katsuraki clan as two separate lineages: the line of Ashita no sukune (Ashita no sukune - Ariomi) in the north and the line of Tamada no sukune (Tamada no sukune - Tsubura no Okimi) in the south.

The folklore of the earliest ancestor, Sotsuhiko

According to "Kishi Kacho" (Lineage of the Kishi clan), Sotsuhiko lived in "Nagara no sato (present day Nagara, Gose city), the original place of the ancient Japanese Local Bureaucratic System in Katsuragi, Yamato Province"; it is thought that his power was based in Nagara no sato and its surrounding areas.

The folklore of Sotsuhiko is recorded in the three sections of "Nihonshoki": Jingu Kogo sesho ki, Ojin Tenno ki and Nintoku tenno ki. They are all his records when he was sent to Korean peninsula as shogunate and embassador, and the most notable one is the description in Jingu kogo sessho 62 nenjo that records his expedition to Shirai. There is a little description of him in it, but quoting from the "three books of Paekche" (Original Records of Paekche, Records of Paekche, and The New Selection of Paeche), the note introduces a legend of a man named 'Hisachiku' was sent to Shiragi seito (expedition to Shirai) for a battle in the year of Jingo but lost his heart to a beauty and caused Kara to fall. If we assume that there was a time lag of 2 uns (120 years; 1 un is equivalent to 60 years) of kanshi (Chinese calendrical system) in the year recorded in "Nihonshoki" and consider Sotsuhiko as the same person as 'Hisachiku,' there is a possibility that Sotsuhiko was a legendized man who existed in the 4th century and was sent to Korea around 382 and brought some prisoners from the war.

However, there is controversy as to whether the legend of 'Hisachiku' can be thought of a historical fact; if we take this into account, Sotsuhiko described in "Nihonshoki" seems overall to be lacking in personality and articles referring to him do not seem to show coherence in their descriptions. For these reasons, some theories view that he was a fictious hero figure that was symbolized and turned into a legend by the Gozoku (local ruling family) in the Kazuraki region, who were invloved in diplomacy with Korea, and military affiars during the 4th and 5th century.

Diarchy of the Okimi and the Katsuraki clan

One of the features of the Katsuraki clan is their successive marital relations with the Okimi family during the 5th century. According to "the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) and the Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan)," the daughter of Sotshuhiko, Iwa no hime became the empress of Nintoku Emperor and had three children who all became emperors: Emperor Richu, Emperor Hanzei, and Emperor Ingyo and a daughter of Ashita no sukune, Kurome, became the empress of Emperor and gave birth to Prince Ichinobe no Oshihano. Hae hime, empress of Prince Oshihano, and mother of both Emperor Kenzo and Emperor Ninken, is said to be the daughter of Ariomi. Furthermore, a daughter of Tsubura no Okimi, Karahime, is the empress (wife) of Emperor Yuryaku, and had Emperor Seinei as her son; among 9 emperors from Nintoku to Ninken, 8 of them, with the exception of Emperor Anko, had the daughters of Katsuraki clan as empresses or mothers. This close marital relation between the Katsuraki clan and the Okimi family may mean that a political coalition between both families could have been maintained by strategic marriages.

The Katsuraki clan also had their own military and economic foundation that allowed them to be independent from the control of the Okimi (great king) family. Through the diplomacy that Sotsuhiko had with Korea as described above, it is likely that number of immigrant groups that have been settled in the Katsuraki region contributed in stregthening Katsuraki clan's economic power by being engaged in handycrafts such as smithery (arms and weapons) under the control of the Katsuraki clan. The Katsuraki clan, supported by the high productivity of immigrant workers, was so powerful that it was as strong as the Okimi family; it is thought that the Yamato regime exsited in a delicate balance between the two families. The foundation of sovereignty was still underdeveloped during those days, and the position of the Okimi was nothing more than that of a leader of chiefs, assigned to each region of the coalition government; the Yamato regime during the 5th century can be described as the 'diarchy of Okimi and Katsuraki clan' as the historian Kojiro Naoki has decribed.

Decline and Fall

However, such a diachy possessed the risk of gradual decline in power if there would be a problem with the cooperative relationship between the two families. According to "Nihonshoki," when there was an earthquake in July, 416, Tamada no sukune, who was in charge of Mogarinomiya daibu for the former Emperor Hanzei, was caught neglecting his duty and holding a drinking party. Although once he escaped to Take no uchi's grave, he presented himself with his armor on, according to the order of the emperor. Enraged by his conduct, the emperor sent heisotsu (soldiers), thereby arresting and punishing him with the death penalty (chusatsu). It is thought that by this event, the relationship between the Okimi family and the Katsuraki clan fell apart. At the same time, the military influence over Korea declined, and the policies with Korea ran into difficulties.

After the death of Ingyo Emperor, it is thought that the antagonism between the Richu family and the Ingyo family became more intense. It seems that during this period, Tsubura no Okimi became more closely connected to the Richu family which had members such as Prince Ichinobe no Oshihano, and his relation with the Ingyo family became more antagonistic. Tsubura no Okimi, who was put into an inferior position due to the accession of Emperor Anko, seems to have planned the backing up of Prince Oshihano as the next okimi (great king). However, in August 456, an incident occurred where Tsubura no Okimi sheltered Prince Mayowa when Emperor Anko was assassinated. Having his residence sourrounded by Prince Ohatsuse (later called Yuryaku)'s army, Tsubura no Okimi made a piacular offering of his daughter, Karahime and "seven districts in the Katsuraki residence (recorded as 'five locations under miyake, Imperial-controlled territory' in the Nihonshoki)," but he rejected to hand over Prince Mayowa to them. However, the prince did not allow this and set his residence on fire and both of them burned to death (Conspiracy of Prince Mayowa). The Katsuraki clan, which used to be so virile as to have comparable strength as the Okimi family, finally lost their power with this incident.

The reason Tsubura no Okimi sheltered Emperor Mayowa is still unknown. It has been pointed out that the Katsuraki clan was involved in the assassination of Emperor Anko; however, there is a record that Emperor Anko was planning to hand over his future affairs to Prince Oshihano, which could mean that there was a compromise between the Emperor Anko (the Ingyo family), and Prince Oshihano (the Richu family) and Katsuraki clan, but Pince Ohatsuse was strongly opposed to this plan and decided to wipe out his opponents, including Emperor Anko. If we interpret this incident in the story of Emperor Mayowa as a jussaku (literary work) which conceals the real reason of his assasination, there is a high possibility that the cause of their fall was due to the Katsuraki clan's alliance with Prince Oshihano, who was the rival for Prince Ohatsuse.

Some researchers, who hold the theory that the Katsuraki clan had two family groups, view that it was only Tamada no sukune's family who fell with the serial coup and Ashita no sukune's family survived until the end of the 5th century; however, there is no record that supports this view in the Nihonshoki nor the Kojiki, and it is thought that Ariomi followed the same path as his maternal relative, Prince Oshihano.