Ashina clan (蘆名氏)

The Ashina clan was descended from the Taira clan through the Miura clan with the name Ashina (蘆名) derived from the name of the area known as Ashina (present Ashina (芦名) in Yokosuka City). Some Ashina families in the clan were written as 芦名 and 葦名.

The Ashina clan had two lines: the Sagami Ashina and the Aizu Ashina. The Chinese character "為" (pronounced "tame" in Japanese) was used in all the names of the members of the Ashina clan, while the character "盛" ("mori") was used in all the names of the members of the Aizu Ashina clan.

Sagami Ashina
Sagami Ashina originated from Tamekiyo ASHINA, the third son of Yoshitsugu MIURA, who first bore the name of Ashina. Tamehisa ISHIDA, a grandson of Yoshitsugu MIURA, was granted Ishida-mura village in Omi Province in reward for having slain MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, and moved to the village with his clan. Thereafter, his family members entered into matrimony with the members of the Ishida family to be hikan (low-level bureaucrat) of the Kyogoku clan, from which Mitsunari ISHIDA was descended in the Warring States period (Japan) (Mitsunari ISHIDA may have announced himself a descendant of the distinguished Ashina clan). In the mid Kamakura period, Tsunemitsu ASHINA became Shugo (military governor) of Hoki Province.

Aizu Ashina

Career

While Yoshitsuna SAHARA, the seventh son of Yoshiaki MIURA, was the founder, the family only began to bear the name Ashina starting from the Yoshiaki's grandson Mitsumori's (there are different opinions.) generation.

During the Muromachi period, the Aizu Ashina clan had a direct lord-vassal relationship with the Muromachi shogunate and the members of the clan called themselves Governors of Aizu (Aizu Shugo in Japanese).

During the Warring States period (Japan), the wise lord Moriuji ASHINA brought the family to the height of its prosperity. Then, the family rose to a status rivaling that of an influential feudal lord representing Oshu (Northern Honshu, the region encompassing Mutsu and Dewa provinces) who was almost as powerful as the Date clan.

On the other hand, the Ashina clan had a hard time controlling its retainers including the Inawashiro clan, a branch of the Ashina clan. Additionally, during Moriuji's reign, they faced issues concerning succession. For these reasons, the Ashina clan began their decline after Moriuji passed away in 1580.

After the death of Moriuji, the son of Moriyoshi NIKAIDO, a hostage from the NIKAIDO clan, succeeded Moriuji as Moriuji's adopted son-in-law. He was Moritaka ASHINA. Moritaka hammered out positive policies including trying to cope with the Date clan by maintaining friendly relations with adjacent clans and sending an envoy to Nobunaga ODA. However, he still faced difficulties in controlling Ashina clan's retainers. In 1584, Moritaka was assassinated by his attendant Sanzaemon OBA, and in 1586, Kamewakamaru (Kameomaru ASHINA), Moritaka's orphaned son who succeeded Moritaka, died at the young age of three. After these problems, the vassals received Yoshihiro ASHINA, a son of Yoshishige SATAKE (the eighteenth head of the clan) as the head of the Ashina clan. The decline of the Ashina clan was symbolized by a change in the leadership of the clan which occurred three times in less than ten years from the death of Moriuji.

In 1589, Yoshihiro ASHINA was soundly defeated in the Battle of Sekigahara by Masamune DATA, who strived to unify the Oshu region, and fled to Hitachi Province, bringing an end to the Ashina clan. Yoshihiro returned to his parents' family, renamed himself Morishige ASHINA and became the lord of Edosaki-jo Castle (in the Edosaki Domain), but he was deprived of his territory because he acted in concert with his elder brother, Yoshinobu SATAKE (also known as Ukyo Daibu), without taking a clear stand during the Battle of Sekigahara. Morishige was granted Kakunodate Castle in Dewa and 16 thousand koku as a retainer of the Satake clan; though, after his death, his sons died one after another and the last head of the clan Sentsurumaru ASHINA died in an accident at the age of three, who was the last of the line, leaving the Ashina clan in ruin.

Incidentally, after the extinction of the Ashina clan, the Hariu family which was a branch of the Ashina family served the Date clan, and in 1676, had their family name changed to Ashina under orders of Tsunamura DATE, the lord of Sendai Domain.