Nanbu clan

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The Nanbu kamon.
  • Japanese: 南部(Nanbu-ke)

The Nanbu of northern Mutsu province were descended from the Takeda of Kai. Much like the Date clan of neighboring Sendai, the Nanbu trace their status as official landholders back to the time of Nanbu Saburô Mitsuyuki and Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo, who granted them territory in Nukanobu (in northern Ôshû) in gratitude for their aid in his campaigns of suppression in the north.

The Nanbu supported the Hatakeyama clan in the wars of the Nanboku-chô Period, and went so far as to march into Kyoto. During the Sengoku Period which followed, they became powerful in northern Mutsu, competing with the Akita, Tozawa, and other clans for territory. Nanbu Yasunobu destroyed the Namioka clan in 1523 and under the leadership of his son Harumasa the family expanded their power greatly. They later submitted to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and were formally confirmed in their territories.

Nanbu Toshinao, head of the clan at the time of Sekigahara, was a staunch supporter of the Tokugawa, aiding the Mogami clan during the Sekigahara Campaign. He was thus confirmed in his territories by Tokugawa Ieyasu, and the clan resided at Morioka castle until the end of the Edo Period.

As lords of Morioka han, for most of the Edo period the Nanbu did not enjoy kuni-mochi status, unlike their more powerful and prominent neighbors, the Date clan of Sendai han. However, in 1808, in recognition of the clan's contributions to the defense of Ezo (Hokkaidô) against Russian encroachment, the domain's kokudaka was increased to 200,000 koku, and the Nanbu clan thus gained kuni-mochi ("province-holder") status, though they did not gain any physical territory at this time, and continued to control only a small portion of Mutsu province.

Prior to their ascent to kuni-mochi status, the clan only referred to its domain with the term kuni (country/state) in internal documents, employing humbler terms such as zaisho (residence) or ryôbun (portion of territory) in exchanges with the Tokugawa shogunate. After 1808, however, the clan began to refer to its domain as a kuni in these external (omote) exchanges, a sign of the clan's increased status.

The clan became embroiled in a succession scandal, known as the Sôma Daisaku Incident, in the 1820s. The 11th lord of Morioka, Nanbu Toshimochi, died at age 14, and was secretly replaced with another young man, who assumed Toshimochi's identity as the 11th lord of the clan. He died quite soon afterward, however, at age 9, and so Nanbu Toshitada succeeded him as the 12th lord of Morioka. The domain administration failed under Toshitada, and he was forced to retire. However, even with his son, Nanbu Toshiyoshi, having officially succeeded him as daimyô, Toshitada continued to wield significant influence despite his nominal retirement. It is said that his retirement a year and three months later, in favor of his younger brother Nanbu Toshihisa, was at his father's suggestion.

Under Toshihisa, the clan joined the Ôetsu Reppan Dômei and fought in support of the shogunate in the Boshin War of 1868, in which the shogunate and its supporters were ultimately defeated by the supporters of a new regime under Emperor Meiji.

Lords of the Nanbu clan


  • Edo daimyô hyakke 江戸大名百家. Bessatsu Taiyô 別冊太陽. Spring 1978. pp168, 187-188.
  • Roberts, Luke. Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan. University of Hawaii Press, 2012. pp48-49.