Shoke refers to a family that branched off from the head of a family or the head of a household. Shoke is a family of shoryu (illegitimate family lineage) as opposed to chakuryu (the direct line of descent). Shoke was a blood-relative group which was mainly present during the feudal period in Japan. Shoke was also called Shoshike.
What is Shoke?
The concept of Shoke refers to a blood-relative group or a blood-relative layer present amongst warriors in mainly the feudal period in Japan, especially from Kamakura period to the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) (Japan) and Edo period. The relationship between the head of a family and Shoke is the same as that of the head of a household and a branch family, Shoke differed from an ordinary branch family because a branch family ordinarily had the same family name as that of the head family while many Shoke avoided or were prohibited from using the same family name and instead used another family name. As a result of establishing a relationship between a lord and vassal, many warriors relinquished being treated as the head of the family and positioned themselves as vassals from the same ancestors as those of their employer's house.
A typical example of a Shugo (a constable) linage is the prominent Takeda clan which produced Shingen TAKEDA. The vassal groups of the Takeda clan included shinsekishu (a group of relatives) which mainly included siblings and children, and the husbands of daughters of shugo, and those who were in the shoke lineages whose origin was Kai-Genji (the Minamoto clan) similarly to the Takeda clan, such as the Itagaki and the Amari clans, were positioned as Gofudaishu (hereditary daimyo) and kunishu who mainly acted as chief retainers of the Takeda clan. In the Mori clan which produced Motonari MORI who played an important role as a daimyo, similarly to the Takeda clan, a shoshi family such as the Akisaka and the Fukuhara clans produced from the Mori clan since the Kamakura period were positioned next to ichimonshu which included the siblings and children of the family head of the Mori clan, as shokeshu.
Because it was an age when traditional authority was used as a centripetal force, blood relations and the social standing which were the important elements of traditional authority significantly acted on the psychology of the warriors. This was same during the Sengoku Period when actual power mattered. Therefore, many shokeshu who occupied the core in such Kasei by shugo and kokunin were proud of being in the same family as their employer's household, the head of the family, and were also very loyal to their employer's household. However, this occurred persistently on the premise that shokeshu was independent from the employer's household to some extent. This was because many shoke, similarly to the employer's household, maintained their territories, their castles as residences, and their vassals and kept their independence from their employer's household to some extent, and this relationship was not a strong one between master and vassals, but, in fact, tended to be more of an alliance with the head of the family as the alliance leader. Therefore, when confrontation concerning the interest occurred against the employer's household, some shoke publicly resisted against the employer's household and they sometimes attacked the employer's household or planned to become independent from the employer's household by asking the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) for their independence. When the Sengoku Period started, this movement became more conspicuous, and some shoke were loyal and obedient to the employer's household while some shoke started to overwhelm the employer's household, control the domestic economy of the employer's household, and expel the employer's household and commit Gekokujo (supplanting of a lord by his retainer).
The typical example of shoke who grabbed the real authority of the employer's household was the Hosokawa clan, one of the three kanrei (shogunal deputies) of Muromachi bakufu. Like the Ashikaga family positioned to accede to the shogunate, the Hosokawa clan was related to the linage of the Ashikaga clan and bore the role of kanrei alternately with the Shiba and the Hatakeyama clans in the same family linage of the Ashikaga family like the Hosokawa clan. However, when the shogun's power was lost in the Onin War, the Hosokawa clan overwhelmed the Shiba clan and the Hatakeyama clan, that were the heads of the three kanrei, and started to control the politics of the bakufu. Especially, Masamoto HOSOKAWA expelled Yoshitane ASHIKAGA, seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), backed up Yoshizumi ASHIKAGA who was still too young to become the next shogun, made Yoshizumi a puppet, and controlled the politics of the bakufu, and the Muromachi bakufu, in fact, became the administration of the Hosokawa clan.
An example of shoke that substituted the employer's household, who was the head of the family, was the Amago clan, a sengoku daimyo in Izumo. During the Sengoku Period, in Izumo, the Kyogoku clan helped with the duties of Izumo shugoshoku and the Kyogoku clan was the linage of the fourth post next to the three kanrei in the Muromachi bakufu and also acted as Kitaomi shugoshoku and, therefore, the Kyogoku clan left the Izumo Province to the Amago clan which was shoryu of the Kyogoku clan, as shugodai (deputy of Shugo). However, when the generation of shugo, Masatsune KYOGOKU started, Masatsune gradually deepened confrontation against shugodai (the deputy of shugo), Tsunehisa AMAGO and, when Masatsune expelled Tsunehisa, Tsunehisa AMAGO made a surprise attack on the employer's household the following year, usurped the territory and the authority from his master, and became shugo of Izumo. In this way, when the Sengoku Period started, there emerged even those who usurped the position of the employer's household, by destroying or expelling the employer's household, who resisted and left the employer's household and changed from one employer to another, and who made the employer's household a puppet and controlled the politics of the family.
Although shoke had a very strong influence in the employer's household, when efficient human resources were employed, contributing to the management of the territory and vassal groups who were loyal to the master were organized as the employer became a sengoku daimyo, those who had no blood relations with the employer or who had a short history as master and vassal, were also employed there were many examples seen where the influence of shoke was weakened. In order for shugo daimyo, shugodai, and kokujinryoshu to become a sengoku daimyo, it was necessary to abolish the ties of their loose alliances with shoke and local clans under them that began before the Muromachi period and then to obtain vassal groups with which they were tied based upon a strong relationship of master and vassal.