The Inbe Clan (忌部氏)

The Inbe clan (also called Imibe clan) was a vocation-based group having characteristics of a clan, which existed from the Yamato period through the Nara period.


They shunned defilement and devoted themselves to such matters as divine service. From ancient times, they were engaged in the manufacture of ritual implements and the construction of shrines and palaces in relation to the religious rites in the Court. Tamatsukuri (jewel making), one of the ritual implements manufacturing businesses, had gone downhill after the Kofun period (tumulus period), which led to the decline of the Inbe clan. Amenofutodama no mikoto is their ancestor. Their posterity later used 斎部 (also read as Inbe) as the Kanji characters to express their family name. Having been involved in a battle for power with the Nakatomi clan, and failed in gaining predominance over them, the Inbe clan gradually declined.
There are cases where 'Inbe' is written as '諱部,' '鋳部' or '伊部.'

There were many people in the clan, who spread across Japan. They were influential in such areas as Kyushu, the Kii Peninsula, Shikoku and the Boso Peninsula.

The Inbe clan group included the Awa-Inbe clan of Awa Province (Tokushima Prefecture) who had Amenohiwashi (Amenohiwashi no mikoto) as their ancestor, the Sanuki-Inbe clan of Sanuki Province (Kagawa Prefecture) whose ancestor was Taokihooi (Taokihoohi no mikoto), the Kii-Inbe clan whose ancestor was Hikosashiri (Hikosashiri no mikoto), the Tamatsukuri clan of Izumo Province (Shimane Prefecture), whose ancestor was Kushiakarutama (Kushiakarutama no mikoto) and the Inbe clan of Tsukushi Province (Kyushu) and Ise Province (Mie Prefecture).

Incidentally, it is said that Awa Province of Shikoku region and Awa Province of the Boso Peninsula (Chiba Prefecture) have phonetically the same name because the latter province was named as such by the Inbe clan people of Shikoku region when they migrated to it. The Inbe clan spread in such regions as Hokuriku (Echizen Province; the eastern part of Fukui Prefecture), Sanin (Izumo Province, Oki Province; Oki Island of Shimane Prefecture) and Sanyo (Bizen Province; the south-eastern part of Okayama Prefecture).

In a popular edition of Taketori Monogatari (Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), the godfather of Kaguyahime (the Shining Princess) is 'Mimuroto no Inbe no Akita' and the name of the old bamboo cutter is 'Sanuki no Miyatsuko.'
Based on these descriptions, some insist that the author of the tale was a person belonging to the Inbe clan, and others point out the relation between the author and the Sanuki-Inbe clan.

The Oda clan is a branch lineage of the Echizen-Inbe clan, a Shinto priest family of Tsurugi-jinja Shrine, (or of Echizen-Fujiwara clan according to another opinion), but they later misrepresented their lineage as having been descended from the Kanmu-Heisi (the Taira clan). A reference is made to INBE no Moritada in the section of April 25, 998 of 'Gonki,' a diary of FUJIWARA no Yukinari, as a Shinto priest belonging to Echizen Tsurugi-daijingu Shrine.

Not only "Awa" of Shikoku region or the Boso Peninsula, number of places that were named after Inbe in various Chinese characters deriving from the clan's name exist in such prefectures as Mie and Nara.

Their clan title was initially Obito but they were awarded a title of Muraji on January 8, the 9th year of Emperor Tenmu's rein (in 680). Then they were awarded Sukune on December 2 of the 13th year of Emperor Tenmu's rein (in 684) together with other 50 Murajis.

According to "Nihon Isshi" (Supplemental History of Japan), the Inbe clan changed its kanji expression from '忌部' to '斎部.'
It is said to have been based on the request made by Shorokuinojo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade) INBE no Sukune Hamanari. Although no biography of Hamanari has been handed down, some insist that he is the very same person with INBE no Hironari who wrote "Kogo shui" (Gleanings of Old Words).


INBE no Kuromaro: One of the poets of Manyoshu (the oldest anthology of tanka)
INBE no Hironari: Author of Kogo shui
Mochimitsu OE
Nobunaga ODA: Various opinions exist.
Masazumi GOTODA
Masaharu GOTODA

[Original Japanese]