Ogasawara-ryu school (小笠原流)

The Ogasawara-ryu is a school of traditional samurai arts, that was originally founded to teach equestrian archery (kisha). The school teaches the Ogasawara style of archery, horsemanship and etiquette, and the Ogasawara Tea Ceremony. For information on the Ogasawara Clan of daimyo, see the relevant section.


The school is so well-known as a school of traditional etiquette that it is said that 'etiquette is Ogasawara' and its history can be traced back to the Kamakura-period high-ranking family involved in teaching samurai etiquette. The school originated when the founder of the Ogasawara Clan, Nagakiyo OGASAWARA, who is said to have received the name from Emperor Takakura, was appointed by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo to teach "kyuho". "Kyuho" was defined as archery and horsemanship, and the 7th head of the clan, Sadamune OGASAWARA, who served Emperor Godaigo during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, was asked by the Emperor 'to improve archery and horsemanship skills and to set new standards for manners, which samurai families should follow'; it was at this time that the Ogasawara school's three arts of 'archery, horsemanship and courtesy' were established as samurai manners. Occasionally, only manners are taught but, taking into account the historical background, the Ogasawara-ryu can only be considered complete with the three arts of 'archery, horsemanship and courtesy'.

The position of 'Soke', or Grand Master, who was in charge of "Kyuho" and the Ogasawara style of etiquette, was passed down in Soryo-ke (the main branch of the family) for generations, but in 1562, to prevent the horseback archery technique from dying out, the 17th head of the family, Nagatoki OGASAWARA, and his son Sadayoshi OGASAWARA, who as daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku period were involved in fierce battles against Shingen TAKEDA, handed the art of "kyuho", the family geneology and records to their cousin, Tsunenaga OGASAWARA, entrusting him with passing on the arts of archery, horsemanship and courtesy.
This formal handing down of the position of the person in charge of the three arts of archery, horsemanship and courtesy of Ogasawara-ryu school is known as Doto, equivalent to 'Soke'
This was the first time that the position of 'Soke' had been separated from the main family. The crests for each family were different, with that of the main family comprising of three diamonds (Sangaibishi). The crest for the Soke family line has a cross superimposed on the Sangaibishi.

The main branch of the family moved to Kokura Domain, becoming Lords of the domain. In the Meiji period, they were granted the rank of earl, and the famous 'Lord Ogasawara's residence', built in Shinjuku, Tokyo by the 30th head of the Soryo-ke family, Nagayoshi OGASAWARA, is still standing. As of 2008, the head of the Soryo-ke family is the 33rd generation Nagamasa OGASAWARA.

Tsunenaga OGASAWARA, who had inherited the Doto, met Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and his descendants served the Tokugawa Shogunate, passing down the position of Soke. At the direction of the 8th Shogun, Yoshimune TOKUGAWA, a new ritual known as yabusame horseback archery was established and performed several times at Takada no Baba riding ground. In the Meiji period, Kyubajyutsu Reihou Ogasawara Kyohjyo Ogasawara Kyojo (school of Japanese archery, horsemanship and courtesy) was opened in Kanda, Tokyo. Currently, the 31st patriarch is Kiyotada OGASAWARA. He is the official successor of the arts of archery, horsemanship and courtesy and holds over 40 public rituals a year at shrines including Meiji-jingu Shrine, Atsuta-jingu Shrine, Ise-jingu Shrine, Yasukuni-jinja Shrine and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

The heir is Kiyomoto OGASAWARA. He is the director of the Ogasawara-ryu Ogasawara Kyohjyo nonprofit corporation. Ogasawara-ryu Reihou is a registered trademark (Registration Number 3076080), and the use of the 'Ogasawara-ryu Reihou' name by other institutions is prohibited.

Ogasawara-ryu Soke (Grand Master)

The Ogasawara-ryu consists of the three arts of 'archery, horsemanship and courtesy', which are officially handed down by the Iemoto (head of the school). This is also known as Doto, and the current official Soke is Kiyotada OGASAWARA, who became the 31st Soke in 1994. The ceremony was performed at Kamakura Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Ogasawara-ryu Sencha Tea Ceremony

The Ogasawara-ryu sencha tea ceremony is believed to have been started by Nagakiyo OGASAWARA's father, Tomitsu KAGAMI. The ceremony uses unground sencha tea, as oppoosed to powdered matcha, and is based on Ogasawara-ryu manners. In 1991, the Ogasawara Sencha Service School was established. The current school head is Shudo OGASAWARA.

Matcha Tea Ceremony

It is known as the Old Ogasawara School or Old Ogasawara Tea Ceremony School. The ceremony began with the tea master, Yoshikazu FURUICHI, who served Tadazane OGASAWARA, the Lord of Kokura Domain, Buzen Province, Kyushu (present-day Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture), and who was the 4th head following Choin FURUICHI, who had been an apprentice of the Muromachi-period tea master, Juko MURATA. This Matcha tea ceremony is not related to the tea ceremonies developed by SEN no Rikyu and SEN no Sotan.

Tadazane's younger brother, the Lord of the Mikawa-Yoshida Domain (present-day Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture), and Tadatomo OGASAWARA (whose descendants were lords of Karatsu Domain, Hizen Province [present-day Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture] at the time of the Meiji Restoration) invited Sohen YAMADA, one of the 'Four Heavenly Kings' (as the closest followers of the founder of the Sansenke tea ceremony, SEN no Sotan, were known), to revive the matcha ceremony, though separately from the Ogasawara-ryu. This is Sohen school of tea ceremony. It is Senke school, so not called Ogasawara school.


The founder of the Ogasawara-ryu was Nagakiyo OGASAWARA, who served Yoritomo MINAMOTO, to teach the ancient practices and customs of samurai family.

The family name Ogasawara is believed to have been given by Emperor Takakura, and starting with Yoritomo MINAMOTO, the clan served for generations as instructors of Kyuho to military commanders. During the rule of Emperor Godaigo, the 7th generation Sadamune OGASAWARA (from the school of manners) and Tsuneoki (常興) OGASAWARA (from the school of horseback archery) authored "Shushinron (moral training theory)" and "Taiyoron (theory about how to deal with our bodies)", respectively, laying the foundations for the modern Ogasawara-ryu. Emperor Godaigo stated that 'Ogasawara should be the standard for Japanese samurai' and awarded a crest representing the character for king. This is the "Sangaibishi" family crest, which has been handed down until today.

In the Muromachi period, at the direction of Takauji ASHIKAGA, the 10th generation of the family, Nagahide OGASAWARA, compiled 'Sangiitto (a book about general knowledge for samurai)' together with the Ise clan and the Imagawa clan. The book is believed to have covered general samurai wisdom. The 18th generation of the family, Sadayoshi, wrote about changes since the 'Sangiitto', compiling them into the 'Seven Volumes of Ogasawara Etiqutte', which covered samurai etiquette.

The main branch of the Ogasawara family provided the Soke (grand master), in charge of "kyuho" and Ogasawara-ryu manners for generations, but the 17th generation of the family, Nagatoki OGASAWARA and his son Sadayoshi OGASAWARA handed over Doto to their cousin, Tsunenaga from Akazawa, Izu, to prevent the horseback archery tradition from dying out in the turbulent Sengoku period. Doto means the formal succession of responsibility for the three arts of archery, horsemanship and courtesy, and is equivalent to the more common 'Soke'.

The Ogasawara school of manners was declared 'Otome-ryu' and was only allowed to teach the shogun's family, and the secrets of the style were passed down to one person only. It is believed that ordinary samurai imitated the shogun family.

In the late Edo period and Meiji period, which saw the introduction of equality for all people, girls' schools started teaching etiquette classes and affluent merchants were able to learn manners, although they were not related to Ogasawara. However, it seems that some of the groups who were teaching manners were using the Ogasawara name due to its prestige. Due to this, an image of 'courtesy and manners = strict and rigid = Ogasawara' developed, although as a rule this was not what the school advocated.

Nowadays, the Ogasawara-ryu is demonstrated at annual events in shrines and temples all over Japan. The current Soke of the Ogasawara school is the 31st generation of the family, Kiyotada OGASAWARA.

Recently, desecendants of the main branch of the family were taken to court for registering Ogasawara-ryu Reiho as a trademark and using the Soke title. However, this was not an argument between the main branch and the Soke, as is generally assumed. The head of the main branch and the Soke still maintain communications with each other, as well as with past heads, and neither family feuds nor battles seem to exist between the families, as is usually believed.
These legal proceedings have been taken against a certain person who made an illegal registration of the trademark and illegally designated him/herself as 'Soke.'

Nowadays, Keishosai OGASAWARA, a niece of the 32nd head of the main family, calls herself Soke and teaches classes at Lord Ogasawara's Residence, but she should be considered a 'self-appointed Soke' due to the following three facts: (1) her school goes against the main idea that the Ogasawara school has historically consisted of the three arts of archery, horsemanship and courtesy; (2) her school has not performed shinji (ritual ceremonies) in temples and shrines throughout Japan; and (3) archery and horsemanship are samurai skills and have historically have been handed down to one son only.

[Original Japanese]