Asakura clan (朝倉氏)

Asakura clan was a local ruling family whose home base was Echizen Province, and the clan later ascended to be a sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku Period). At first, the clan served the Shiba clan, Shugo (military governor) of Echizen Province, as its Shugodai (provisional governor), but later the Asakura clan itself came to be appointed to Shugo. The Toshiji (or toriji, character-in-common, one of two Chinese characters adopted by members of the same family) was '景' (kage).


Its origin was Asakura, Yabu County, Tajima Province (Yabu City, Hyogo Prefecture), and at first the clan used the name of Kusakabe clan as its sei (authentic surname). According to an epic "Esshu gunki" (an epic of the Asakura clan in Echizen Province), the clan was the Emperor Kaika's descendent, while "Asakura Shimatsuki" (History of the Asakura family) states that, the clan was the Emperor Kotoku's descendent.

The clan served the Shiba clan, Shugo (military governor) of Echizen Province. The status of the clan was the second in precedence of the three Shugodai (provisional governors) of the Shiba clan, together with the Kai clan and the Oda clan. Later, the territory of three provinces ruled by the Shiba clan was divided among these three Shugodai families.

During the Muromachi period, Toshikage ASAKURA (Eirin Takakage) came to oppose his lord Yoshitoshi SHIBA with Tsuneharu KAI, and in the Onin War, which broke out from the internal squabble of the Ashikaga Shogun family over the family reign, he switched from the West army lead by Mochitoyo YAMANA (Sozen) to the East army lead by Katsumoto HOSOKAWA, and he expelled the Kai clan from Echizen Province. Takakage ASAKURA was promoted to the Shugo (military governor) in Echizen Province and took the Ichijodani Castle as his headquarters. Takakage established bunkokuho (an autonomous law that individual sengoku daimyo enforced in their own domain of provincial control) called "The seventeen articles of Toshikage ASAKURA."

The former lord of the province, Yoshitoshi SHIBA brought to the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) an objection about the Asakura clan's effective control over Echizen Province, in order to recover the post of Shugo (military governor) of Echizen Province. Takakage, therefore, forced the Kuratani clan to adopt the son of Shugo Yoshiyasu SHIBA and made the adopted son proclaim himself Yoshitoshi ASHIKAGA, and then, to oppose the Shiba clan, which was the Shugo of Echizen Province, Takakage backed up Yoshitoshi as 'the nominal provincial lord of Echizen Province,' overcoming resistance from the bakufu.
(The Kuratani clan's ancestor was Tsugutoshi ASHIKAGA, who was the son of Yoshitsugu ASHIKAGA and younger brother of Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA, and it was highly respected and called Kuratani gosho [Kuratani Palace], as a branch family of the Muromachi Shogunate family in Echizen Province.)
Later, as the Asakura clan itself was appointed to Echizen shugo (military governor of Echizen Province), the Kuratani kubo Ashikaga clan became a guest commander of the Asakura clan, and the Asakura clan became the daimyo (territorial lord) of the province in name and in reality.

During the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), the clan not only established the dominance in Echizen Province, but also extended its territory over the neighboring provinces, Wakasa and Omi, but the confrontation with Nobunaga ODA of Owari Province led the clan to fall in 1573.


In Tosa Province, there was a branch family (Tomokage ASAKURA line) remained, which split earlier.

The Mizoe clan, which is also considered as a branch family split earlier from the Asakura family, served Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI as umamawari (a horse guard), and later recovered its former territory of a 10,000-koku crop yield. In the Battle of Sekigahara, as he belonged to the West squad, he underwent Kaieki sanction (sudden dismissal and deprivation of position, privileges and properties). Afterwards, the clan lived a masterless period for a while, and later it continued as a feudal retainer of the Hikone clan.

The Asakura clan, that was supposed to be the line of Tokikage ASAKURA and was once the Odawara-Hojo clan's vassal, survived as a feudal retainer of the Mito Domain. There was also the Asakura family who became Edo bakufu hatamoto (a direct retainer of Edo bakufu), split from the Asakura who served the Odawara-Hojo clan.

Masamoto ASAKURA, who was the second son of Erin Takakage (Toshikage ASAKURA) and grandson of Hidekage ASAKURA, served the Gohojo clan, Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI, and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA in a consecutive manner, and Motomasa's son Masaaki ASAKURA served Hidetada TOKUGAWA as hatamoto (a direct retainer of the bakufu) with a stipend of 500 koku crop yield.

There was an Asakura clan (Nobumasa ASAKURA line) that continued as this; a vassal of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, then Karo (the chief retainer) to Dainagon (major councilor) of Tadanaga TOKUGAWA of Suruga Province, then a vassal of the Furukawa-Doi clan.
The head of this clan was said to be the nephew of Kageakira ASAKURA, but there are many unclear points about his father's life and so on, and the connection with the Echizen-Asakura clan can not be confirmed (His father could have been a retainer of the Hojo clan, or a member of a certain family line of the Asakura clan of Ise Province or the Asakura clan of Totomi Province.)

There was a legend of Aiomaru ASAKURA, in which he is said to have escaped safely to Echigo Province after the fall of the Echizen-Asakura clan, and there were also legends related to the clan's descendents in Dewa Province, and so on, however the authenticity of any of these legends is not confirmed.

In various places along the Sea of Japan coast, the legend which the Asakura clan connected to the Ikko sect as 'legend of the descendent from the Asakura clan' is widespread in different patterns.

There was Kageyoshi ASAKURA, who tried to resuscitate the Asakura family, and relied on Kenshin UESUGI, but his dream was halted due to Kenshin's death.

There was Miyamasumaru (宮増丸) ASAKURA, who scrambled to restore the Asakura family depending on Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA (in reality depending on the Mori clan) who was stationed at Tomonoura in Bingo Province, as well as Kagetada ASAKURA, who was falsely presumed to be the successor of the family reign, although their attempt was failed due to the deteriorated war situation against China.

[Original Japanese]