Otomo clan

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The Ôtomo kamon.
  • Japanese: 大友(Ootomo-ke)

The Ôtomo of Bungo province represented one of the oldest of Japan's clans. They were founded by the adopted son of Nakahara Chikayoshi, Ôtomo Yoshinao. He was a loyal follower of Minamoto Yoritomo and in 1193 was established on Kyushu and given responsibility for Bungo and Buzen. The height of the Ôtomo's power came during the reign of Ôtomo Yoshishige (Sôrin), who by 1568 had extended the influence of his family over Bungo, Buzen, northern Hyûga, Chikuzen, and Chikugo. Defeats at the hands of the Ryûzôji in 1570 (Imai) and the Shimazu in 1578 (Mimigawa), combined with internal dissension, weakened the Ôtomo and they were on the verge of being destroyed by the Shimazu when Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Kyushu in 1587. Although this preserved the Ôtomo domain for a time, it was lost owing to cowardice on the part of Sôrin's heir in the Korean invasion.

At its peak, the Ôtomo clan claimed some 230 vassal families, including sixty dômonshû families (lit. "people within the same gates") who bore kin relations with the Ôtomo, 37 kunishû families (lit. "people of the land") who were powerholders in Bungo province before the Ôtomo's arrival, and 150 shinshû families (lit. "new people") who joined the Ôtomo at some point later.[1]

Following the decline of the clan under Sôrin's heir Ôtomo Yoshimune, the Tokugawa shogunate demoted the Ôtomo from full daimyô status to being a kôke family, hereditary masters of ceremonies within the shogunate. Meanwhile, a major branch of the family split off and took the name Matsuno, becoming vassals of the Hosokawa clan of Kumamoto.[2]


  1. Haruko Nawata Ward, Women Religious Leaders in Japan's Christian Century, Ashgate (2009), 123.
  2. Nawata Ward, 192.