The Kobayakawa Clan (小早川氏)

The Kobayakawa clan is a shizoku (clan) in Japan. The origin of this famous family was in Dohigo, Sagami Province and they were a samurai family from the medieval to the early modern period. The head family ended in the early Edo period but in the Meiji period, Shiro, the fourth son of Motonori MORI restored the Kobayakawa clan.

The Origin

The clan branched off from the Heishi-Dohi clan and it is said to have started when Tohira KOBAYAKAWA, the son of Sanehira DOI, who was serving Yoritomo MINAMOTO, named himself as Kobayakawa from Kobayakawa of the north of the Dohi-go village (around Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture). Tohira was given the position of Jitoshiki (manager and lord of a private estate) when he received the Nutanosho estate in Aki Province (current Mihara City, Hiroshima Prefecture), the former territory of the Nuta clan who were the housemen of the Taira clan, as a reward; and the adopted child Kagehira KOBAYAKAWA (whose biological father was believed to be Yoshinobu HIRAGA) moved to the Aki Province. In 1206, Kagehira gave the Nuta Honjo to his eldest son Shigehira KOBAYAKAWA and Nuta Shinjo to his second son Suehira KOBAYAKAWA. After that, Shigehira KOBAYAKAWA played a great role in the Jokyu War and was given another position of Jitoshiki at estates of Tsuunosho and Takeharanosho in the same province (around Takehara City, Hiroshima Prefecture).

The Nuta-Kobayakawa Clan

The clan started when Masahira KOBAYAKAWA, the third son of Shigehira KOBAYAKAWA, settled in the Takayama-jo Castle (Aki Province) after receiving the estate of Nuta Honjo, etc. This clan is the family of the main branch of the Kobayakawa clan and the lineage of the head family. At the Genko War, Tomohira KOBAYAKAWA was on the side of the Rokuhara Tandai (the office of shogunal deputy in Kyoto placed by the Kamakura shogunate) and fought for them, so the Kenmu Government took the Nuta Honjo but with the mediation of the Takehara-Kobayakawa clan, the estate was guaranteed by the government. Through three generations of Nobuhira KOBAYAKAWA, Sadahira KOBAYAKAWA and Haruhira KOBAYAKAWA, the clan advanced to the Geiyo Islands and formed the basis for the Kobayakawa Navy.

The Takehara-Kobayakawa Clan

The clan started when Shigehira KOBAYAKAWA gave his fourth son Masakage KOBAYAKAWA a part of the estates of the Tsuunosho and Takeharanosho which he received after the Jokyu War and Nutanosho Nashi-go village, and Masakage settled in the Kimura-jo Castle. This Takehara-Kobayakawa clan was a branch of the Kobayakawa clan but since the Genko War, they fought under Takauji ASHIKAGA and contributed to the establishment of the Muromachi Bakufu (Shogunate); they gradually increased their power and by the mid-Muromachi period, they were competing against the Nuta-Kobayakawa clan, the head family.

Decline of power and Integration of the Nuta and Takehara Kobayakawa Clans

During the Sengoku Period (period of warring states), the clan became Kokujin Ryoshu (local samurai lord) under the Ouchi clan. In both Takehara and Nuta families, the heads died young one after another. In 1543, Okikage KOBAYAKAWA of the Takehara family died without producing children, Takakage KOBAYAKAWA (the third son of Motonari MORI), a cousin of Okigage's wife who was originally from the Mori clan, was adopted into the family.

On the other hand, the Nuta family were living under the influence of the Ouchi and Amago clans but when they were planning to hold secret communication with the Amago clan, their residence of the Takayama-jo Castle (Aki Province) ended up with being occupied by the Ouchi clan and a guard was placed over them. The family head Masahira KOBAYAKAWA was put under loose house arrest but was released later on.

In 1543, Masahira KOBAYAKAWA served in the expedition to Izumo by Yoshitaka OUCHI but was killed at the young age of 21 and his legitimate son Shigehira KOBAYAKAWA took over but Shigehira became blind at a young age. Because of the wishes of the senior vassals who were after power and backed up by the Ouchi and Mori families, Zenkei TASAKA and other guardian vassals were killed and Shigehira was sent away to be a priest.

Takakage of the Takehara family married Shigehira's sister and inherited the Nuta family and both Kobayakawa families were joined together again but at the same time, the genealogy of the head family of the Kanmu-Heishi-Kobayakawa came to an end. After that, the clan was integrated with the Mori family and many vassals of the Mori family were sent to the Kobayakawa family.

The Rise of the Great Commander Takakage KOBAYAKAWA

Takakage supported the Mori family with his brother Motoharu KIKKAWA and he was called 'Ryosen' (Mori-Ryosen system) and was in charge of the conquest of mainly the Sanyo region. After the Honnoji Incident, when Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI established his status as the successor of Nobunaga ODA at the Battle of Shizugatake, Takakage willingly got the Mori family in on Hideyoshi HASHIBA's task of unification of the whole country; in 1585, he was given a whole Iyo Province after the Conquest of Shikoku and became an independent daimyo (Japanese feudal lord). n 1587, he received Najima, Chikuzen Province after the Conquest of Kyushu and his land became 350,000 koku; he became a Gotairo (Council of Five Elders) under the Toyotomi government but retired in 1595 and died in 1597.

The Kobayakawa Clan under the Toyotomi & Tokugawa Government

Because Takakage had no children, the family estate was inherited by an adopted son Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA, who was a nephew of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and Hidekane MORI, Takakage's brother, who was also adopted, was cut off and started a branch family (later on changed his family name to Mori). At this point, the Kobayakawa clan was moved from the Oe-Mori clan to the Toyotomi clan. After Takakage's death, most of the vassals who were sent from the Mori family, clansmen of the Kobayakawa family and heredity vassals moved to the Mori family, so the head family of Kobayakawa after that was not a Mori family but a Toyotomi family.

Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA changed the territory to the Bizen Province of 510,000 koku with additional properties but died from an illness in 1602 without an heir, so it is believed that the Kobayakawa clan ended both in name and reality. However, in October 2007, ancestral records was found together with a statue of Takakage from a house of his descendant samurai of the domain of Ashimori; and according to the records, Hideaki had a son called Hideyuki DOI with a concubine and Hideyuki's descendants were serving for Ashimori-Kinoshita clan. If this family line was not recreated by the heirs of Hideaki's brothers but Hideaki's own blood line, the Toyotomi-Kobayakawa clan should still be remaining.

After the Meiji Period

In the Meiji period, the son of Prince Motonori MORI, Shiro restored the Kobayakawa family and was in the peerage to become a Baron.

(After the early-modern times)


Hideaki KOBAYAKAWA (a nephew of Kodaiin, the lawful wife of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI)

Extinction (from the early Edo period to the Meiji period)

Saburo KOBAYAKAWA (son of Motonori MORI)

Shiro KOBAYAKAWA (son of Motonori MORI)

Motoharu KOBAYAKAWA (a grandson of Motonori MORI and son of Motoakira MORI)