Nakamura family

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The Ôta family house (left) and Chôsôtei (right), in Tomonoura
  • Japanese: 中村家 (Nakamura ke)

The Nakamura family of Tomonoura were prominent Edo period merchants, brewers, and local officials. Known for their homeishu (a type of medicinal liquor), the Nakamura family held a variety of local government posts in the Inland Sea (Fukuyama domain) port-town of Tomonoura, as well as operating the town's honjin (official lodging for shogunal & foreign envoys, daimyô, and other elite guests). The family's records, some 26 volumes collected as the Nakamura-ke nikki ("Diary of the Nakamura Family"), contain much valuable information about travel, trade, and local administration & events in an early modern Inland Sea port-town.

According to a section on the family's own lineage, written by family head Nakamura Toshi'emon Toshimasa (aka Toshi'emon II) in 1701, the Nakamura family claims descent from Tsuji Toshinaga, a retainer of Imagawa Yoshimoto who died at the battle of Okehazama, via Toshinaga's descendant Tsuji Toshiyoshi (aka Kansuke). A later descendant, Wakatarô, took on his mother's surname, Nakamura, becoming Nakamura Jôhei Toshitoki. He was active as a physician in Osaka, but his son Yoshinaga took on commercial activities. In 1653, the family home was destroyed by flood, and two years later, in 1655/11, at the age of 23, Yoshinaga relocated to Tomonoura, with the help of an intellectual named Bankoya Rokurôzaemon who allowed him to rent rooms in his home. A few years later, in 1658/3, Yoshinaga moved out of Bankoya's home, rented a house of his own, and found a wife. The following year, making use of medicinal techniques he learned from his father, he began an enterprise brewing a medicinal liquor; this would later come to be called homeishu.

In 1671/6, at the age of 39, Yoshinaga obtained his own residence facing the sea for the first time. He initially called it the Osaka-ya, a name which remained in use until 1704. At the same time, the home & business was often called simply Homeishu-ya ("Homeishu Shop"). Yoshinaga received a formal authorization (kabu) in 1673 from Fukuyama han designating him a recognized saké brewer & merchant. The family were named goyô shônin (official purveyors of products, in this case liquor, to the domain) in 1685.

Once established in the town, the Nakamura family quickly became quite prominent in local affairs; members of the Nakamura family held a wide variety of local governmental or administrative posts in Tomonoura over the course of the Edo period, including Town Elders (shukurô), operators of the town's official honjin (inn for elite guests, e.g. foreign & shogunal envoys, visiting daimyo), overseer of ships (funaza), and overseer of finances (ginza), among others. The homeishu became quite famous and prized, with not only daimyô (who often passed through Tomo on their way to and from Edo), but also Dutch and Ryukyuan embassies regularly placing orders for significant amounts to purchase and take home with them.

Yoshinaga retired in 1701, passing on headship of the family to his adopted heir (by birth, a son of Yoshinaga's younger sister) Nakamura Toshiemon Toshimasa. In 1709, the family began to face competition from local producers of Araki-shu (another local liquor), and Toshimasa petitioned the domain's Magistrate of Liquor (saké bugyô) to halt the sale of Araki-shu. The following year, in 1710/11, the Magistrate issued an order granting the Nakamura establishment a monopoly on "famous [local] liquors" (meishu); the domain also stopped the import of any products resembling homeishu from outside of the domain.

By 1732, the Nakamura shop is known to have been producing not only homeishu, but also plum wine (umeshu), chrysanthemum wine, nintôshu, and yôkishu (another medicinal product), among several other varieties. Meanwhile, Toshimasa also incrementally expanded the family's property over the course of the 1710s-1720s; significant portions of this property would double as the town's honjin, hosting sizable parties of foreign envoys and other notable elite guests.

In the 1760s, the region saw a roughly ten-year period of terrible rains and floods, which brought crop failures and disease. Villagers rose up in protest, demanding tax relief. Protestors attacked the homeishu brewery as well, and took or were given more than two koku worth of liquor. In the end, though, domain officials suppressed the uprising, and arrested a great many villagers. Incidentally, around that same time, there were ten families in Tomo which held kabu for producing liquor, and six had allowed their licenses to lapse, leaving only the Nakamura and three other households. By 1771, however, the Nakamura family was the only one remaining. In the 1780s to 1800s, the family continued to prosper, incrementally expanding its properties, its brewing operations, and its prominence within the town. In addition to acquiring new buildings and expanding the homes and buildings the family already operated, the Nakamura also built a dock in the harbor exclusively for their use (e.g. for liquor shipping, and for the arrival & departure of elite guests staying at the honjin), and continued to wield a variety of significant political or administrative positions in local government.

In 1800, some two months after Nakamura Yoshibei Takemasa (Seizô) became the sixth family head at the age of 28, the family was granted formal permission to have a surname, and to carry swords.

Successive Family Heads

  • Nakamura Jôhei Toshitoki (中村壌平利時)
  1. Nakamura Yoshinaga (中村吉長, act. ca. 1655-1701)
  2. Nakamura Toshi'emon II Toshimasa (中村利右衛門利政, act. ca. 1701-1732)
  3. Nakamura Yoshibei Toshinobu (中村吉兵衛利延, act. ca. 1760s-1770s)
  4. Nakamura Yoshibei Masakata (中村吉兵衛政方, act. ca. 1760s-1770s)
  5. Nakamura Yoshibei Masayoshi (中村吉兵衛政善, act. ca. 1780s-1800)
  6. Nakamura Yoshibei Takemasa Seizô (中村吉兵衛孟政清蔵, family head 1800-?)
  7. Nakamura Yoshibei Masaaki (中村吉兵衛政顕, act. ca. 1850s)


  • Aono Shunsui 青野春水, "Kaidai" 解題, in Harada Tomohiko 原田伴彦 (ed.), Nihon toshi seikatsu shiryô shûsei 7 (Minato machi hen II) 日本都市生活史料集成7 (港町編II), Tokyo: Gakushû kenkyûsha sha (1976), 25-27.
  • Kobayashi Kôji 小林浩二, "Nakamura ke nikki ni tsuite," Nakamura ke nikki I - Fukuyama shi jûyô bunkazai, Fukuyama Castle Museum Tomo-no-kai (2006), 3.
  • Fujii Kazue 藤井和枝 and Mitsunari Nahoko 光成名保子, "Nakamura ke nikki (III) ni tsuite," Nakamura ke nikki III - Fukuyama shi jûyô bunkazai, Fukuyama Castle Museum Tomo-no-kai (2009), 3.
  • Hirai Kazufumi 平井和文, "Nakamura ke nikki (IV) ni tsuite," Nakamura ke nikki IV - Fukuyama shi jûyô bunkazai, Fukuyama Castle Museum Tomo-no-kai (2013), 3.