Tsugaru clan

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  • Japanese: 津軽家 (Tsugaru-ke)

The Tsugaru of Mutsu province were at first known as the Ôura and their origins are unclear but they may have been a branch of the Nanbu. They held Ôura castle and were vassals of the Nanbu until they rebelled in the Sengoku Period after a period of worsening relations. Throughout the Edo period, they were lords of Hirosaki han.

According to some sources, the clan began with Tsugaru (Ôura) Tamenobu, who was either the nephew of Ôura Tamenori, or a Nanbu retainer from a minor Nanbu branch house known as the Kuji family, who then betrayed the Nanbu in order to ally with the Ôura. In either case, he married Tamenori's daughter in 1567 and thus became heir to the headship of the Ôura clan. Tamenobu claimed distant descent from the Fujiwara clan, and asserted rights to some ancestral claim to the Tsugaru area, fighting the Nanbu clan for it. He pushed the Nanbu out of a handful of important castles and their surrounding areas in a series of campaigns from 1571 to 1585, by which time he was beginning to see his ranks swell as Nanbu retainers defected to his side.[1]

Tamenobu sided with Toyotomi Hideyoshi beginning in 1589; Hideyoshi confirmed him in his lands, and granted him the name Tsugaru, marking the beginning of the lineage.

In the final years of the Sengoku, Tamenobu defended his lands against the Nanbu and others and was confirmed in his domains after supporting Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Sekigahara Campaign (1600). The Tsugaru resided at Hirosaki castle until the end of the Edo Period, originally being invested with an omotedaka of 47,000 koku. This was raised to 70,000 in 1805 and to 100,000 in 1808, as a reward for the domain's service in defending against Russian incursions.[1]

By 1700, the domain's actual production was closer to 300,000 koku, but this was never reflected in the official omotedaka rankings. Despite the clan's wealth, as a result of these humble and confused beginnings, with a clan name that was only established in the 1590s, and origins that may have involved betrayal (some Nanbu sources even suggest that Tamenobu took a castle by poisoning the lord), the Tsugaru clan was never able to achieve kunimochi status, or to otherwise be regarded as an elite lineage in the Edo period. After 1808, however, the clan was granted a number of the privileges enjoyed by those who did officially possess kunimochi status; for example, from that time forward, the Tsugaru lord was able to sit in the ôhiroma ("Great Audience Hall") at Edo castle with the most top-ranking lords, rather than in the yanagi no ma ("Willow Hall"). Tsugaru Yasuchika was granted the court rank of jijû ("chamberlain") in 1820, the highest rank a tozama daimyô could hold.[1]


  • Initial text from Sengoku Biographical Dictionary (Samurai-Archives.com) FWSeal & CEWest, 2005
  • Mark Ravina, Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan, Stanford University Press, 1999.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ravina, 116-117.