The Kusunoki clan (楠木氏)

The Kusunoki clan was Gozoku, a local ruling family of the Kawachi Province, and a samurai family of the Southern Court of Japan.
Sometimes it is written 'Nanshi (楠氏).'

History

His real name was Tachibana no Toyasu and he lived in the Iyo Province of the Iyotachibana clan (a branch family of the Ochi clan) that descended from Kumanokuni no miyatsuko. However, genealogies of the Kusunoki clan found in different families do not match before the the time of Masashige KUSUNOKI and are thought to have been made up by later generations.
One thing that is certain is that they were the head of Akuto (a villain in the medieval times) in Kawachi (or some view that they were descended from the Hata clan)

After the World War II, there were several theories as to the family origins such as the Kusunoki being the chief of an armed group of merchants who possessed the rights and skills of cinnabar exploitation, for example, like Nagatoshi NAWA, or billionares in sanjo (manor's area where people of the sanjo provided special skills to the imperial authority instead of rice tax); to date, none of these theories have been proven. It is also viewed that they were the local powerful clan in the territories of the Kanshin-ji Temple of Kongo-san Mountain in Kawachi Province; however, place names that trace back their origins to the family name 'Kusuniki' has not been found in the Kawachi Province or its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Recently, it has been noted that the record on "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East) states that originally they were one of the powerful samurai groups in the eastern part of Japan, Togoku Samurai, who were based in the area of Tonegawa River and also gokenin (an immediate vasal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods)who belonged to an upper class like Tamai clan, Okabe clan, Nin clan and Takise clan from the Musashi-shichito Parties such as Yokoyama Party or Inomata Party (seven parties of samurai in Musashi Province).

It has been recorded that as the hikan (a low-level bureaucrat) of the Tokuso Family of the Hojo clan, Togoku Samurai in fact moved to their Shugo's territory, such as Harima, Minamikawachi, and Izumi, it is thought that they may have settled down in these areas.

What is clear from the historical records is that Masashige KUSUNOKI fought together with the court during the Genko War when Emperor Godaigo raised an army against the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), joined the Kenmu Government established after the fall of the bakufu, and played an active role on the side of the Southern Court, or Yoshino Court, during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts.

After that, Masashige's sons, Masatsura KUSUNOKI and Masatoki KUSUNOKI, and younger brother, Masasue KUSUNOKI, died in battle with Takauji ASHIKAGA of the Northern court; however, another son of Masashige, Masanori KUSUNOKI, survived even after the Southern Court's fall into straitened circumstances and served actively as a powerful military commander and served as a mediator of the reconciliation with the Northern Court. It is also said that the descendants of Masanori later used 'Hiraki' as their clan name in the Harima Province.

According to the kamijima-ke bunsho (documents of the Kamijima family; it was the manuscript from the end of Edo Period) found in 1962 from an old house in Ueno city (present day Iga city) in Mie Prefecture, the third son of Gensei UESHIMA is Kanami, the master of sarugaku (form of theatre popular in Japan during the 11th to 14th centuries) or Noh and his mother is a sister of Masashige. The credibility of this document has been a controversial issue in the society of Japanese history that majority of them viewed as false; however, an old document that was found in the house of a wealthy farmer, the Nagatomi family (the birthplace of Morinosuke KAJIMA who was the chairman of Kajima Corporation and the former advisor of the Kusunoki family council) in Shinzaike, Ibokawa-cho in Ibo-gun, Hyogo Prefecture and it was revealed that this geneology recorded in this manuscrit during the late Edo Period was actually copied from an old document.

After the unification of Southern and Northern Courts

Most familes from the Kusunoki clan took sides with the Southern Court. Therefore, when the Southern court fell so did the families. Even after the unification of the Courts, Kusunoki families continued to be active, producing some of the notable figures such as Masahide KUSUNIKI and Mitsumasa KUSUNOKI, who served as military commanders of Gonancho (Second Southern Court).

During the Sengoku period (period of warring states), Masatora KUSUNOKI, who calls himself as the descendant of Masashige KUSUNOKI appeared and made efforts on restoring impaired reputation of the Kusunoki clan, who he thought was treated as gyakuzoku (rebel) by the Imperial court as having done them an ill office during the era of Ashikaga Shogunate that backed up the Northern Court, seeking assistance from Imperial court and Nobunaga ODA.

During the Edo period, Shosetsu YUI, who was the catalyst of Keian Incident, learned military science from Masatatsu (or Fuden) KUSUNOKI and became the husband of his daughter.

From the time when the Southern Court became well recogized as the orthodox Imperial court, Masashige KUSUNOKI and the Kusunoki clan were praised as the representative of loyal subjects and were even rewarded. Although there were many families who were identified as being descendants of the Kusuniki clan, it was not possible to confirm whether they were direct descendants, even when the state power of the Meiji government was used. Therefore, although other loyal families of the Southern Court such as the Kikuchi clan and the Nawa clan were raised to the peerage, there has been no peerage from the Kusuniki clan.

It is said that the song writer Ujo NOGUCHI, who was active between the end of Meiji Period and the early Showa Period, is the descendant of Masaki KUSUNOKI and the younger brother of Masashige KUSUNOKI. It is also said that Ko KUSUNOKI, a geologist and geophysist who served three times as the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) is the descendant of Masashige KUSUNOKI.

Later, the Kusunoki family council was formed in the Minatogawa-jinja Shrine by the those who were finally confirmed as the descendants of the Kusunoki clan during the Dai-Nanko 600 years anniversary held in 1935 and is still active today.