From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
  • Other Names: 国大名 (kuni daimyô), 国持衆 (kunimochi shuu)
  • Japanese: 国持 (kunimochi), 国持大名 (kunimochi daimyô)

Kunimochi, literally "province-holding", was the highest of five tiers of status for Edo period daimyô.[1] The eighteen to twenty daimyô who enjoyed this level of status were the tier just below those of the Gosanke, the three branch families of the shogun's own Tokugawa clan. While all daimyô enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy, with the shogunate generally not meddling in domain's internal affairs, the shogunate is said to have been particularly hesitant to interfere in the affairs of the powerful kunimochi daimyô.[2] No kunimochi daimyô ever had his territory reduced, transferred (tenpô), or attaindered (kaieki).[3]

In concept, these were the daimyô who possessed either an entire province, or a contiguous domain of equivalent geographic size; these eighteen to twenty domains, combined, covered roughly 1/3 of the land area of the Japanese archipelago.[2] However, despite the literal meaning of the term kunimochi, very few Edo period daimyô actually controlled an entire province. Those who did were known as honkunimochi, while others who did not explicitly control a whole province but were of equivalent power were known as taishin kunimochi, or "great country holders." Some kunimochi daimyô, furthermore, were granted the title honorarily, and in fact held domains considerably smaller and less wealthy than other kunimochi daimyô. These weaker daimyô were known as jun-kunimochi (準国持), or "quasi-kunimochi, and held a status just slightly below that of other kunimochi daimyô, but within the same tier of status ranking, above those without kunimochi or junkunimochi status. Meanwhile, a number of other domains were of equivalent size, or even kokudaka and court rank, with kunimochi daimyô, but for one reason or another were not formally granted the status. These included the Tsugaru clan of Hirosaki han, whose lineage was not prestigious enough for such status, and the Sakai clan and Matsura clan of Obama han and Hirado han respectively, who each controlled an entire province but were not considered kunimochi.[4]

The term was also employed in the Muromachi period, but in a different fashion. Shugo ("governors") of domains in Muromachi Japan were expected to use kunimochi individuals as their intermediaries when communicating with the Ashikaga shogunate. The kunimochi at this time were much fewer: the Hosokawa clan were the kunimochi for the Kantô region and Shikoku, the Yamana clan were kunimochi for Ise, Kai, and Suruga provinces, and the Hatakeyama clan were the kunimochi for Shinano, Echigo, Etchû, and Kaga provinces, while the Kyushu tandai served the role for the island of Kyushu.[5]

Kunimochi Daimyô


Taishin Kunimochi

Other Kunimochi Daimyô

Junkunimochi Daimyô


  1. Beasley, William. The Meiji Restoration. Stanford University Press, 1972. pp23-24.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mark Ravina, Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan, Stanford University Press (1999), 3.
  3. Ravina, 21.
  4. Ravina, 20.
  5. Brinkley, Frank and Dairoku Kikuchi. A history of the Japanese people from the earliest times to the end of the Meiji era. Encyclopedia Brittanica Co., 1915. p436.
  6. Lists of kunimochi from Ravina, Land and Lordship, 19, citing the mid-18th century Zanshû ryûei hikan by Kikuchi Yamon, and the 1836 Buke kakureishiki, which omits Tsushima and Kôriyama, and includes instead Morioka and Tsuyama.