The Utsunomiya clan (宇都宮氏)

The Utsunomiya clan is one of the Japanese clans. It was a major clan that called itself the descendant of FUJIWARA no Michikane of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan of the Sekke (family line of regents and advisors). It is also said to have been descended from the Shimotsukenu clan and the Nakahara clan.

Place of origin

In recognition of his military service for the subjugation of the Oshu-Abe clan (the subjugation of Oshu) (the Zen Kunen no Eki [the Early Nine Years' War]) by MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi and MINAMOTO no Yoshiie, FUJIWARA no Soen who called himself a great-grandchild of FUJIWARA no Michikane of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan was appointed to the Bettoshiki (office of head administrator) of the Utsunomiya (another name of the present Utsunomiya Futaarayama-jinja Shrine in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture), and since the era of his grandson, Tomotsuna UTSUNOMIYA, the family had taken the surname of Utsunomiya. According to "Utsunomiya Shishi" (The history of Utsunomiya City) and "Seishi Kakei Daijiten" (a large dictionary of Japanese surnames), however, the fact that Soen was a descendant of FUJIWARA no Michikane was made up by his descendants and it is assumed that the Utsunomiya clan was descended from the Nakahara clan or a descendant of the ancient Kenu clan.

The main branch of the Utsunomiya clan (Shimotsuke Province)

Since the birthplace of the Utsunomiya clan was Shimotsuke Province, it is often called the Shimotsuke-Utsunomiya clan to distinguish it from its branch families in other provinces. Serving as the head priest of the Utsunomiya Futaarayama-jinja Shrine which was ranked as Ichinomiya and Myojin-taisha Shrine in Shimotsuke Province and Nikko Betto shoku (head administrator of a temple in Nikko), the Utsunomiya clan was an important family that led both the Ki clan and the Kiyohara clan and maintained security in Shimotsuke Province as well as Japan for 22 consecutive generations for 500 years. It held the posts of Kokushi (provincial governor) and Shugo (provincial military governor), and is now recognized as a daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku period.

Tomotsuna UTSUNOMIYA praised as 'the best archer in the Kanto region' by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was the third head of the Utsunomiya clan. The fifth family head, Yoritsuna UTSUNOMIYA (FUJIWARA no Yoritsuna) was a warrior who had a great achievement in the subjugation of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, but he was suspected of rebellion by the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Taking this opportunity, he entered the priesthood under Honen. Taking the name of Jisshin-bo Rensho, he went into seclusion in Kyoto and then established an Utsunomiya poetry circle. He lived in a hermitage at the foot of Mt. Ogura in Sagano, Kyoto, and poems selected by his friend FUJIWARA no Teika were written in square papers on the fusuma (Japanese sliding doors) in the hermitage. Those poems were passed down as the origin of Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (the Ogura Anthology of One Hundred Tank-poems by One Hundred Poets) in the traditional culture. Yoritsuna, a believer of Pure Land Sect (of Buddhism), built Nenbutsu-do Halls (a hall for ascetic practice of praying to Amida Buddha in a temple) in Tokiwa, Kyoto City, Kiryu City and Utsunomiya City, which are now inherited by the Nyuozan (入逢山) Saiho-ji Temple (Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City), the Umedasan Saiho-ji Temple (Kiryu City) and the Hokyusan (芳宮山) Seigan-ji Temple, respectively. In 1215, after Yoritsuna was forgiven by the bakufu, he worked to rebuild the Onjo-ji Temple (the present Mii-dera Temple) and then was appointed to Iyo no kuni Shugo (provincial military governor of Iyo Province) in recognition of his efforts (around from 1220 to 1235).

In the mid Kamakura period, the eighth family head, Sadatsuna UTSUNOMIYA went to the Kyushu region as the supreme commander of the Kamakura bakufu forces when Mongol invaded Japan and after the victory over Mongol, he was appointed to Hikitsukeshu (Coadjustor of the High Court) of the Kamakura bakufu. It is said that Sadatsuna presented the Seigan-ji Temple a big nationally-rare iron sotoba (a tall, narrow tablet set up behind a grave for the repose of the dead) (possessed by the Segan-ji Temple in Utsunomiya City and designated as national important cultural property) to commemorate the 13th anniversary of his mother's death.

In the late Kamakura period, when commanders including Masashige KUSUNOKI raised his army in Kawachi Province, the ninth family head, Kintsuna UTSUNOMIYA joined the bakufu forces to subdue Masashige, but after the fall of the bakufu, he worked for Zasso-Ketsudansho (agency of Kenmu government to file lawsuits) when the Kenmu Restoration (the new government) led by Emperor Godaigo started. Even after Takauji ASHIKAGA seceded from the new government in Kamakura, Kintsuna worked for the Southern Court, but his son, the 10th family head Ujitsuna UTSUNOMIYA was affiliated with the Ashikaga clan. In the Kanno Disturbance developed from the internal conflict of the Ashikaga family, Ujitsuna on the Takauji side rendered distinguished military service. On Takauji's wish, he served as Shugoshoku (Provincial Constable) of Shimotsuke Province, Kazusa Province and Echigo Province and built a solid dominant position in the Northern Kanto region. After Takauji died, however, Motouji ASHIKAGA (Takauji's son), the Kamakura kubo (Governor-general of the Kanto region) forcibly reinstated the former Kozuke and Echizen Shugoshoku, Noriaki UESUGI, who was his trusted retainer but an opponent of Takauji in the Kanno Disturbance, as the Kanto Kanrei (a shogunal deputy for the Kanto region), and Noriaki UESUGI tried to make Ujitsuna return the post of Shugoshoku to him. When Ujitsuna refused to do so, Motouji attacked him for rebellion against the Kanto Kanrei. Although the Utsunomiya clan kept the post of Shimotsuke Shugoshoku, it was dissatisfied with the Kamakura Kubo's unreasonable policy, and therefore it tried to regain its power while continuing resistance against the Kamakura Kubo by joining Kyoto-fuchishu (warriors in the Kanto and the northeastern regions) directly under the Muromachi bakufu's command.

In the late Sengoku period (of Japan), the Utsunomiya clan became daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) and confronted the Gohojo clan emerging in the Kanto region as the shogun family, the Ashikaga clan was weakened. The Gohojo clan was destroyed by the attack on the Odawara-jo Castle by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI in 1590, and the Utsunomiya clan kept the territory of Shimotsuke Province yielding 180,000-koku (unit of volume of rice). Kunitsuna UTSUNOMIYA joined the troops dispatched to Korea in 1592. After his return from Korea, he became a member of the Toyotomi family and was given Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). In 1597, however, he was suddenly dismissed and exiled to Bizen Province. In 1608, he died of illness in hopelessness in Ishihama, Asakusa, Edo. Since then, the Utsunomiya clan, the family of pedigree in the Kanto region prospering for 22 consecutive generations for 500 years, had faded from the front stage of history.

It is said that the reasons for his dismissal were fraudulent crop yield accused by Nagamasa ASANO dispatched for Taiko-kenchi (the cadastral surveys conducted by Hideyoshi) and a trouble on adoption of Nagashige ASANO, the second son of Nagamasa ASANO by the Utsunomiya clan amongst others. Moreover, the restoration of the clan was not allowed even after the Osaka no Eki (the Siege of Osaka) because Kunitsuna refused to join Ieyasu TOKUGAWA in the Battle of Sekigahara.

The collateral line of the Utsunomiya clan includes the Oda clan, Hitachi no kuni Shugo (Provincial Military Governor of Hitachi Province) and the Mumo clan regarded as the ancestor of the Okubo clan, which was from Mikawa Province and governed the Odawara domain as a fudai daimyo (feudal lord and hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) in the Edo period.

Branch families of the Utsunomiya clan (Buzen, Chikugo and Iyo Provinces)

Munefusa Nakahara, the second son of FUJIWARA no Soen left for Kiigo, Nakatsu District, Buzen Province as Jitoshiki (manager and lord of a private estate) and this is said to be the origin of the Kii clan as a branch family of the Utsunomiya clan. Munefusa's son, Nobufusa UTSUNOMIYA was appointed to Buzen no kami (Governor of Buzen Province) and went down to Buzen Province in the Kyushu region. Based in the Honjo-jo Castle in Tsuigi District for a while, he allocated branch families to districts such as Usa, Chikujo, Shimoge, Nakatsu and Tagawa. In recognition of distinguished service rendered by Nobufusa's son, Kagefusa UTSUNOMIYA for the subjugation of Kyushu, Kagefusa's son, Nobukage UTSUNOMIYA was appointed to Bakufu hyoteishu (an organization employing the council system in Bakufu) and Kyushu yon Bugyo (four major magistrates in the Kyushu region) by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and used to govern warriors in the Kyushu region as well. The seventh family head of the Buzen-Utsunomiya clan, Fuyutsuna UTSUNOMIYA (Fuyutsuna SAKAI) became the founder of the Kii clan.

The Chikugo-Utsunomiya clan establishing its influence in Chikugo Province is known as another branch family of the Utsunomiya clan. Its direct founder was a descendant of a younger brother of Sadatsuna UTSUNOMIYA, Yasumune UTSUNOMIYA who accompanied Sadatsuna (supreme commander of the bakufu forces when Mongol invaded Japan), the eighth head of the Utsunomiya clan (the sixth head if Tomotsuna UTSUNOMIYA was the first head) to the Kyushu region and was based in Oki, Yamato District, Chikugo Province. That is to say, Yasumune's son, Sadayasu UTSUNOMIYA maintained his influence in Iyo Province of the Shikoku region during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (of Japan) and then moved to Nakatsu, Chikuzen Province which was the Kii clan's base, together with Imperial Prince Kaneyoshi of the Southern Court. Whereas the Utsunomiya clan on the Northern Court side moved to Chikuzen Province, Sadahisa UTSUNOMIYA on the Southern Court side, the second son of Sadayasu UTSUNOMIYA moved to Yatsushiro, Higo Province and is believed to be the founder of the Chikugo-Utsunomiya clan. The grandson of Sadahisa, Hisanori UTSUNOMIYA was the founder of the Kamachi clan descended from the Utsunomiya clan of the head of Chikugo 15 castles.

Furthermore, the founder of Iyo-Utsunomiya clan in Iyo Province, Shikoku was Toyofusa UTSUNOMIYA who was appointed to Iyo no kami (Governor of Iyo Province). Toyofusa was a younger brother of Fuyutsuna UTSUNOMIYA (Fuyutsuna SAKAI) who became the seventh head of Chikuzen-Utsunomiya clan. In addition, Fuyutsuna was a younger brother of Kintsuna UTSUNOMIYA, the ninth head of the Utsunomiya clan. Muneyasu UTSUNOMIYA, the fourth son of Sadayasu UTSUNOMIYA succeeded Toyofusa because he had no children.

The Utsunomiya family

The Okubo clan in Mikawa Province, a vassal of the Tokugawa clan is said to be a descendant of the Utsunomiya clan as well, and the genealogy of the Okubo family shows that the clan was descended from Yasufuji UTSUNOMIYA, a son of Tokikage TSUNOMIYA who was a son of Yasumune UTSUNOMIYA (Yasumune TAKESHIGE), a younger brother of Sadatsuna UTSUNOMIYA. His grandson, Doi took the surname of Utsu, and Tadatoshi UTSU, the fifth generation from him is said to be the founder of the Okubo clan. According to Hankanpu (Genealogy of the Protectors of the Shogunate), Yasufuji UTSUNOMIYA belonged to the Southern Court and settled in Okubo, Mikawa Province from Echizen Province when Yoshisada NITTA was subjugated. However, the indigenous Okubo clan in Mikawa Province was descended from the Utsunomiya clan which is different clan with the same pronunciation.

The Utsunomiya was Imperial Prince Iyo, the third son of Emperor Kanmu who lived in Uzu, Kita District, Iyo Province in the Shikoku region. The Utsunomiya clan was a family which claimed descent of Imperial Prince Iyo, and the Ochi clan, Iyo-Tachibana clan and the Kono clan in Iyo are also known as descents of Imperial Prince Iyo.

The collateral line of the Utsunomiya clan is described below. Descendents of Munetsuna Hatta, a son of FUJIWARA no Soen, Hatta families built its sphere of influence which can be said to have been separated from the Utsunomiya clan, the paternal family group founded by Tomotsuna UTSUNOMIYA (Tomotsuna HATTA) who was a legitimate child of Munetsuna HATTA. Therefore, the Hatta clan is described separately. This Hatta family produced the Oda clans in Hitachi Province and Hizen Province and the Shishido clan in Aki Province in particular.

Tomoie HATTA
Branch family: Oda clan
Branch family: Shishido clan