Nitta clan (新田氏)

Nitta clan is a Gozoku (local ruling family) originated in Kozuke Province. The main name is Genji (Minamoto clan). The family line is a generic name of Kozuke-Genji (Minamoto clan) which is descended from Yoshishige NITTA, the first son of MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni, the third son of the Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North), MINAMOTO no Yoshiie who is the toryo (head of the clan) of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) which a line of Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan). The clan is the same family as the Ashikaga clan descended from Yoshikuni. The clan was based in Kozuke Province (Gunma Prefecture). The family crest is Onakaguro.


The originator is MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni, the third son of the MINAMOTO no Yoshiie (Hachimantaro) who was the head of Kawachi-Genji (there are various theories). Yoshikuni was based in Ashikaga no sho, Shimotsuke Province (Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture), however, the next child of Yoshikuni, MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu succeeded to Ashikaga no sho and called himself the Ashikaga clan. Thereafter, Yoshikuni and his eldest child, Yoshishige NITTA developed Nitta County, Kozuke Province (Ota City, Gunma Prefecture, former Nitta-machi, Nitta-gun, etc.) on the other side of the Watarase-gawa River which had been devastated by the eruption of Mt. Asama, and donated the developed land to FUJIWARA no Tadamasa in the Taira family side in 1157, which established Nitta no sho estate. The head family became the family of Kongoshin-in Temple, the Gogan-ji Temple (a temple for Imperial family) of the Emperor Gotoba, and the ryoke (a lord of the manor) became the Kazanin family of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan. Yoshishige who was appointed to a shokan (an officer governing shoen [manor]) called himself the Nitta clan, and established a ruling system by deploying his sons centered in Nitta no sho estate and Yawata no sho estate.

Yoshishige confronted the Ashikaga clan (Fujiwara clan), Chichibu clan and MINAMOTO no Yoshikata surrounding him, however, he resisted them in cooperation with his nephew, Yoshikane ASHIKAGA and MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo. Particularly, he voluntarily strengthened the relationship by marring his daughter off to MINAMOTO no Yoshihira, the eldest child of Yoshitomo, etc. Nevertheless, after Yoshitomo fell the Heiji War, he approached the Taira family. By comparison, the ryoke of Nitta no sho estate, FUJIWARA no Tadamasa is a Kugyo (top court official) who also approached TAIRA no Kiyomori and was promoted as high as the Daijo-daijin (grand minister of state).

In 1180, Yoshitomo's child, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo who had been exiled in Izu Province, and Yoshikata's child, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, etc. in Kiso raised armies against the Taira clan government in Kyoto, which led to the Jisho-Juei War. Yoshishige NITTA, who had belonged to the Taira family and been staying in Kyoto, was ordered a punitive expedition for Yoritomo, and went down to Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region). Yoshishige entered Terao-jo Castle, Yawata no sho estate, Kozuke Province, however, while collecting soldiers, he calmly watched the circumstances and did not join in the punitive expedition for Yoritomo. Thereafter, the Kiso force advanced into Kozuke Province, and confronted Toshitsuna ASHIKAGA of the Ashikaga clan having the family name of Fujiwara (Fujiwara clan) in the Taira family side who was based in Ashikaga no sho, Shimotsuke Province, however, Yoshishige maintained neutrality. In the family, his nephew, Yoshikane ASHIKAGA, his child, Yoshinori YAMANA and his grandchild, Yoshinari SATOMI, etc. called on Yoritomo and joined in the army, however, Yoshishige himself ignored the request to join in the camp and kept watching the circumstances. When Yoritomo's force subdued Kanto region, Yoshishige called at Kamakura in December. It is said that Yoshishige was scolded by Yoritomo for his slowness in joining in the camp. There is no record to the effect that Yoshishige would have joined in the camp at the battles with the Taira family and the Battle of Oshu thereafter, and at the Jokyu War in 1221, the soryo (heir) did not join in the camp, so a branch family, Serada clan joined in the camp as a local governor. What is more, when Yoritomo requested Yoshishige's daughter who had been Yoshihira's widow to be his concubine, Yoshishige refused the request, therefore, reportedly he drew a rebuke from Yoritomo ("Azuma Kagami" [The Mirror of the East]).

Owing to these circumstances, the rank of the head family of the Nitta clan became a lower one in the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) which was established as the Togoku government in Kamakura. The head family of the Nitta clan was not recognized as a Monyo (blood line, lineage, connected by blood) by Yoritomo, was not allowed to use a family name of Minamoto in public, had a considerably low official court rank, and had not been recommended as a zuryokan. In addition, the Yamana clan and the Satomi clan who had earlier joined in the camp under Yoritomo were recognized as an independent gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) respectively, and came to act independently from the control of the head family of the Nitta clan. The Nitta clan's territory had not been increased thereafter, and the clan was weakened owing to a divided succession along with the establishment of the Serada clan and Iwamatsu clan, etc., and the disposal of the territory. Afterward, the Nitta family was divided into five families, such as Horiguchi, Satomi, Momoi, Odachi and Isshiki families.

The fourth family head, Masayoshi NITTA was deprived of an office of gokenin because of a charge that he became a priest without prior consent of the bakufu during his stay in Kyoto as the Kyoto obanyaku (a job to guard Kyoto). Nitta clan's soryo-shiki (clan leadership rights) was confiscated and awarded to one of its families, Serada clan, which was shared by the Iwamatsu clan, as well as the Serada clan. At that time, the territory of the head family of the Nitta clan was transferred to the Tokuso family (the direct line of the regency Hojo family), and a hikan (low-level bureaucrat) under the power of the Tokuso family advanced into the estate. Thereafter, when Yoriuji was exiled in Sadoga-shima Island, being implicated in the Nigatsu-sodo (February rebellion), a dispute between the Tokuso family of the Hojo clan and anti Tokuso family, the soryo-shiki returned to the head family of the Nitta clan. However, the rank of the head family of the Nitta clan in the bakufu became much lower, and the family was forced to accept no official court rank thereafter.

In the late Kamakura period, the eighth family head, Yoshisada NITTA, following the movement to overthrow the bakufu by the Emperor Godaigo, raised an army and attacked Kamakura, while adding Senjuo (later Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA), the legitimate son of Takauji ASHIKAGA who was the most dominant gokenin coming from the same family descended from Yoshikuni with a matrimonial relation with the Hojo clan for generations, and overthrew the bakufu. At first, owing to the cold treatment by the Kamakura bakufu, the authority of the head family of the Nitta clan at the Kenmu Restoration was regarded as lower than that of the same family, the soryo family of the Ashikaga clan. Afterward, due to a political dispute inside the regime, Yoshisada as the head of the anti Ashikaga clan group and anti samurai family group confronted Takauji. The Nitta family was divided into those who came up to Kyoto with Yoshisada, and those who remained in Kamakura and Nitta no sho estate, and the former mostly followed Yoshisada, while the latter, and Tokiuji YAMANA, the Iwamatsu clan, Odachi clan, Satomi clan, Serada clan and Oshima clan mainly followed Takauji and belonged to the Northern Court. Since then, the Nitta family had played a central role in the Southern Court, but was defeated at the Battle of Minato-gawa River it fought jointly with Masashige KUSUNOKI. After the battle in Mt. Hiei, Yoshisada, jointly with his first son, Yoshiaki NITTA, obeyed Imperial Prince Tsuneyoshi, the Prince of the Emperor Godaigo, and was based in Hokkoku. However, Yoshiaki committed suicide, and Yoshisada himself was defeated at Kanegasaki-jo Castle, Echizen Province by Takatsune SHIBA in the Ashikaga side, and was killed in the battle in Fujishima in the same province.

After the death of Yoshisada in the battle, his third son, Yoshimune NITTA succeeded to the family estate, and fought battles in various places jointly with his older paternal half-brother, Yoshioki NITTA under cover of the Kanno Disturbance, a domestic conflict of the Ashikaga clan. However, Yoshimune was defeated at Muramatsu-go, Echigo Province by the army of the Kanto Kanrei (a shogunal deputy for the Kanto region), Noriaki UESUGI, and was killed in the battle, which resulted in the fall of the head family of the Nitta clan. And also thereafter, Sadakata NITTA who is assumed to be a Yoshimune's child, Sadakuni NITTA, a Sadataka's child and Yoshinori WAKIYA, reportedly a Yoshimune's child, etc. had continued resistance, however, they were defeated by the army of the Kamakura kubo (Governor-general of the Kanto region), and the resistance by the Nitta clan came to be settled.

Nitta no sho estate, Kozuke Province, and Mitsuzumi IWAMATSU who was an illegitimate child of Yoshimune succeeded to the family estate.

The branch families, such as the Odachi clan, Oida clan, etc. served the Muromachi bakufu, and became high officials of the bakufu. In addition, the Oshima clan was awarded the office of the Mikawa Shugo (military governor). Further, those who remained in Echigo Province had gradually been incorporated in the vassals of the Shugo, Uesugi family.

In the Sengoku period (period of warring states), the Iwamatsu clan who succeeded to the head family of the Nitta clan was defeated by a gekokujo (an inverted social order when the lowly reigned over the elite) by a senior vassal, Yokose clan. The Yokose clan, who changed its family name to the Yura clan, is assumed to be descended from Sadauji YOKOSE, a Yoshimune NITTA's child, which would have little credibility without any specific evidence.

The Iwamatsu clan had retired in Kiryu in the northeastern part of Nitta no sho estate, and had a reception with Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who had entered the domain of Kanto for the first time in the place of the Gohojo clan. The Iwamatsu clan was requested to present its traditional family tree of the Nitta clan, however, it refused the request, and was awarded 120 koku in Tajima-go, Nitta District, Kozuke Province, and survived as a kotaiyoriai (alternate yoriai, a family status of samurai warriors in the Edo period). Further, the Yura clan was awarded a territory of 5400 koku in Ushiku, Hitachi Province, and the main branch family of the Yura clan which had been divided into several lines became an honorable family with a territory of 1000 koku. After the Meiji Restoration, both the Iwamatsu clan and the Yura clan returned to a family name of Nitta, and competed over the main branch of the Nitta clan, then the Iwamatsu clan was recognized its achievement of Nitta kinnoto (loyalist clique of Nitta) by the new government, and was regarded as the main branch and conferred a title of baron.

According to "Banna-ji Nitta Ashikaga Ryoshi Keizu" (the genealogies of the Nitta clan and the Ashikaga clan), Yoshimune is said to have had children named Munechika NITTA and Chikasue MATSUDAIRA, and a descendant of Munechika is said to have left offspring in a line different from the Nitta Iwamatsu clan. Further, Chikasue is said to have become an adopted child of Masayoshi MATSUDAIRA, and his child, Arichika and his grandchild, Chikauji MATSUDAIRA are said to have gone down to Mikawa Province and have become the originator of the Matsudaira clan. In "Chikugo Sada Nitta Keizu" (the genealogy of the Sada Nitta clan in Chikugo Province), Yoshiaki NITTA is said to have had a child named Yoshikazu NITTA.

On the other hand, an illegitimate child of Sadakata, Sadamasa HORIE is said to have fled to Inage, Musashi Province in Southern Kanto region. This line is said to have called itself the Horie clan (Musashi Province) and served the Gohojo clan, and thereafter, have moved to Ashigara district, and be living in Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Further, another illegitimate child of Sadakata, Sadanaga NAKAMURA, who fled to Oshu (Northern Honshu, the region encompassing Mutsu and Dewa Provinces), whose great-grandchild, Yoshitsuna NAKAMURA served Harmune DATE and became the originator of the Nakamura clan, a vassal of the Sendai Domain. The Fujisawa clan and other families were turned out from the Nakamura clan as its branch families. This Nakamura clan is said to be living in Miyagi Prefecture.

In addition, Yoshinori NITTA (WAKIYA), reportedly a Yoshimune's child, is also said to have succeeded to the Serada clan on his maternal side, and his child, Sukeyoshi is said to have fled to Mafune Village. His descendant is said to have called itself the Serada clan, and thereafter called itself the Mafune clan from the Edo period.

[Original Japanese]