The Date clan (伊達氏)

The Date clan (or the Idate clan) was a samurai family which designated itself as the Fujiwara no Yamakage line of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan and prospered in the southern Tohoku region from the Kamakura Period through the Edo Period. Its branch families were found in Iyo Province, Tajima Province and Suruga Province. The toshiji (or toriji: a specific kanji in names handed down from an ancestor to its descendants) of the clan was '宗' (shu).


The family name, DATE, was derived from the county name "'Date" in Mutsu Province (present-day, the northern area of Nakadori, Fukushima Prefecture [specifically, the area covers Date City of Date County plus a part of Fukushima City]), but the county was originally called "Idate" or "Idachi" in ancient times and changed to "Idate" in the Medieval Period. In a similar fashion, the Date clan was called the "Idate" clan at the beginning; the name, "IDATE no Kamonnosuke Tamekage" appears in the article of 1339 written during the Muromachi Period, and Masamune DATE introduced himself as "Masamune IDATE" in a letter presented by Tsunenaga HASEKURA to Pope of the Catholic Church in 1613. In the 15th century, a reading of "Date" was first introduced in the Kinai region, and since then, both "Idate" and 'Date' were used to refer to the same kanji characters throughout the Edo Period.

From the Kamakura Period through the Muromachi Period
It is said that the Date clan originated either in Isa County, Hitachi Province or in Shimotsuke Province (the Nakamura Castle). The clan had FUJIWARA no Yamakage of FUJIWARA no Uona line as its early ancestor. During the Kamakura Period, Hitachi-nyudo Nensai, who joined the army of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo in the Battle of Oshu, was granted Date County from Yoritomo for his distinguished war service in the Battle of Ishinazaka, and later changed his name from Tomomune NAKAMURA to Tomomune DATE.

However, some specialists argue that although the Date clan claimed to be a descendant of the FUJIWARA clan, no solid evidence was found to support the claim. Also, others suggest that Hitachi-nyudo Nensai is in fact Tomomune DATE based on the time period in which they both lived and their family trees. There is no clear record that Hitachi-nyudo Nensai and Tomomune DATE are the same person, however, and some people believe the two are completely different people.

During the Kamakura Period, the Date clan was appointed as jitoshiki (manager and lord of manor) not only in Mutsu Province, Shimotsuke Province and Hitachi Province, but also in other provinces including Izumo Province, Tajima Province, Ise Province, Suruga Province, Bicchu Province, Kozuke Province, Dewa Province and Echigo Province, which helped its branch families spread in those areas.

During the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), Yukimune DATE (former Yukitomo DATE) became a retainer of Akiie KITABATAKE, who entered the Oshu region to govern the region under Imperial Prince Norinaga, and was appointed as a member of Shiki-hyojoshu (the council of the Mutsu Province) along with Munehiro YUKI. In the War of Nakasendai started by the remnants of the Hojo clan, Yukimune beat the main party of the Hojo clan arisen in conjunction with the War. In 1335, when Akiie went up to the capital to suppress Takauji ASHIKAGA, Yukimune followed him to fight against the Ashikaga clan. In the Kokoku era, after taking the side of the Southern Court (Japan) (headed by Emperor Godaigo), Yukimune placed his military base in the Isa Castle of Isa County (Hitachi Province), a main castle of his relative Ise clan, and fought against KO no Morofuyu of the Northern Court (Japan) (headed by the Ashikaga clan). However, the Southern Court lost the battle, with the Isa Castle surrendered and Yukimune having fled the Castle.

In the Shochu Disturbance and the Genko War, DATE no Yuga (Yuga Hoshi Buddhist priest), a member of a DATE branch family (the 雲但 Date clan line), was punished for his complicity. According to historical records written in this period, the 雲但 Date clan and the Suruga Date clan were taking the side of the Ashikaga clan.

Muneto DATE, a son of Yukimune, invaded Okitama District of Dewa Province and succeeded in possessing the land by beating the feudal lord of the District, the Nagai clan. The clan surrendered to the bakufu in the generation of either Yukimune or Muneto. Masamune DATE, Daizen no daibu (Master of the Palace Table) and a son of Muneto, opposed to the territorial cession demand by Mitsukane ASHIKAGA, Kamakura kubo (Governor-general of the Kanto region), and fought against both Mitsukane and Mitsumori ASHINA of the Aizu region. Masamune led a rebellion against the Kamakura-fu Government (a government office of the Muromachi bakufu to rein in the Kanto region) three times between 1399 and 1402 (Rebellion of Masamune DATE).

Even though the Date clan was no more than a kokujin ryoshu (local samurai lord), it rose as an influential samurai family of Mutsu Province, one of the major provinces of Japan. Originally, the Ou region (Mutsu Province and Dewa Province) was placed under the direct control of Kamakura-fu, but the Date clan became a member of Kyoto fuchishu, a direct retainer of Muromachi bakufu, amid a deepening confrontation between Muromachi bakufu and Kamakura-fu, and strategically maneuvered Kamakura-fu in the Oei War of 1413 (also called a Rebellion of Mochimune DATE). After becoming a direct retainer of shogun as Kyoto fuchishu, the Date clan enhanced its social status and power by establishing a closer relationship with bakufu, as exemplified in the order from bakufu in the Eikyo War of 1438 to subjugate the Kamakura kubo which the Date clan had supported in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts.

In 1483, Shigemune DATE visited the capital to present gold dust, swords and horses to then-shogun, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, and his lawful wife, Tomiko HINO. It is believed that the amount of the gift Shigemune presented to Yoshimasa was the largest in size at the time. Some suggest that he was appointed as Oshu Tandai (supervisors for the civil government and military affairs in Mutsu Province) in return, but it has not been verified yet.

From the Muromachi-Sengoku Period to the Azuchi-Momoyama Period

After appointed as Mutsu shugoshiki (provincial constables of Mutsu Province), Tanemune DATE drastically increased its influence by adopting Yoshinobu OSAKI in return for solving an internal conflict of the Osaki clan (then-Oshu Tandai), and putting the Osaki clan and later the Mogami clan of Dewa Province under control.

In 1536, Tanemune enacted Jinkaishu, one of bunkokuho (a law established by a sengoku-daimyo in its own domain). The son of Tanemune, Harumune DATE, was first appointed as Oshu Tandai, the post successively held by the Osaki clan, a branch family of the Shiba clan (a powerful family of the Ashikaga Shogun Family), while a dictatorship by retired Tanemune caused anti-Tanemune feeling to build up among the vassals. This internal discord and a move by Tanemune to offer Sanemoto DATE, his son and the younger brother of Harumune, to the Uesugi clan of Echigo Province for adoption triggered the Tenbun War, in which the Tanemune party that promoted the adoption and the Harumune party that opposed to it confronted each other. Involving other daimyos (territorial lords) with matrimonial relations to the Date clan, the confrontation turned out to be a huge war in the region, breaking up the Ou region into two, and after the War, the waned Date clan relocated its base to Yonezawa City. After the War, daimyos which were under the control of the Date clan regained their independence.

The Sengoku Period (the period of civil war) started by the power struggle among daimyos in the central political world. Old authorities such as bakufu and Kamakura kubo were still wielding great power not only in the Kanto region but also in the Ou region.

However, the geographical merit for the Date clan of being located far from the central authority helped the clan to retain a strong autonomy in the region and gave it a lot of opportunity to gain power.

The Date clan exploited its geographic location to increase its power and better its social status over successive generations. Nevertheless, what a mere local lord, the Date clan, had done at that time, such as establishing a close relationship with a central government after appointed as Kyoto fuchishu, holding the posts of Mutsu shugoshiki and even Oshu Tandai which was reserved for the Ashikaga clan and also putting the Osaki clan, a family line of the Shiba clan (the most powerful Ashikaga family) under its control by sending its illegitimate child to the Osaki clan, were not what other local lords could easily achieve. These achievements of the Date clan were a more than enough evidence to foresee the declining power of the old authorities in the Ou region and the establishment of the hegemony by the Date clan in the same region during the Muromachi Period.

Masamune DATE, who succeeded the reigns of the family in 1584, promoted a hard-line territorial expansion policy. Because all the local lords in the Oshu region had a close relationship each other through either blood or marriage, a territorial dispute hardly developed into a dead or alive conflict. However, as Masamune did not respect such relationship and old authorities of bakufu, he promoted a territorial expansion of the Date clan by beating the Nihonmatsu clan, a branch family of the Hatakeyama clan (one of the Ashikaga clan), and fighting against the Ashina clan and the Osaki clan, a former Oshu Tandai. In 1589, Masamune designated himself as Aizu shugo (provincial constable) and won a fatal battle against the Ashina clan, a ruler of the southern Oshu region, which made the Date clan to achieve the largest territory in its history.

During the same period, in the central government, Nobunaga ODA overthrew Muromachi bakufu and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI became Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) as a successor of Nobunaga and issued with his authority sobuji rei (Peace edicts) throughout the nation to ban wars in all the provinces. At the beginning, Masamune ignored the edicts and proceeded with his territory expansion policy, but later decided to obey Hideyoshi in 1590 when he saw Hideyoshi attacked the Gohojo clan for ignoring the edicts. Although Hideyoshi questioned Masamune closely about his failure to obey the edicts, Masamune had a narrow escape thanks to the mediation of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA. In 'Oshu-shioki', a reassessment of a territorial ownership in the Oshu region, Masamune was allowed to have 720,000 goku of lands (200,160 cubic meters) and returned to Yonezawa Castle. In 1591, one year after the Kasai-Osaki Ikki (the revolt of the former retainers of the Kasai clan and the Osaki clan), Hideyoshi confiscated an additional land of Masamune including Yonezawa and ordered to change his ruling domain to the former Osaki-Kasai domain of 580,000 goku (161,240 cubic meters), which forced Masamune to relocate to the Iwadeyama Castle (present-day, Iwadeyama, Osaki City) as a domain lord.

Fusazane DATE, a member of the branch Date clan, served the Gohojo clan as an acting lord of the Iwatsuki Castle during the Invasion of Odawara by Hideyoshi, and his descendants were later known as the Date clan of hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu).

After the Edo Period

In the Battle of Sekigahara, Masamune DATE took the side of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and was awarded additional lands to 620,000 goku (172,360 cubic meters) for his war service. He later established the Sendai Castle and moved in from the Iwadeyama Castle, and retained a social status of kokushu (territorial lord) throughout the Edo Period, while his domain, Sendai Domain, prospered as taihan (a large scale domain) of 620,000 goku. The family heads of the grand master of the Date clan was granted the title of shosho (major general) for generations, a special treatment for tozama daimyo (nonhereditary feudal lord), and the family was among the few which were allowed to marry to a princess of the shogun family. Throughout the Edo Period, the clan grew its income by developing new fields and achieved a crop yield of about one million goku (278,000 cubic meters) at the end of the Edo Period. However, many domain lords of the Date clan after the eighth, Narimura DATE, died before thirty, and a child adoption from other Date families continued to avoid the Mushi-kaieki (degrading of a social rank for the extinction of a family line), which led to the weak administration of the domain and finally the fall of the Date clan at the end of the Edo Period.

During the Edo Period, in addition to daimyo and a feudal retainer of Sendai Domain, the Date clan also served as hatamoto (the Suruga-Date clan line), a feudal retainer of Kishu Domain (the Suruga-Date clan line), a feudal retainer of Tsuyama Domain (Suruga-Date clan line) and a feudal retainer of Kubota Domain (descendants of Morishige KOKUBUN).

In 1614, Uwajima Domain was founded by Hidemune, the eldest son of Masamune, in Iyo Province.

In 1657, the fifth son of Hidemune (the Uwajima domain founder), Munezumi DATE, was allowed to have a portion of the Uwajima domain (30,000 goku or 8,340 cubic meters), and established the Iyo-Yoshida Domain of the Uwajima Domain.

In 1660, Tsunamune DATE was punished for his misconduct by bakufu and confined to his house, which triggered Date Sodo (the Date family riot).

In the same year, the tenth child of Masamune, Munekatsu DATE, was allowed to have a portion of the Sendai Domain (30,000 goku) and founded the Mutsu-Ichinoseki Domain.
(In 1671, the clan was deprived of its position, privileges and properties due to the Date Sodo and its family line was extinguished)

In 1695, the second son of Tsunamura, Murayori DATE, was allowed to have a portion of Sendai Domain (30,000 goku) and founded the Mutsu-Mizusawa Domain.
(In 1699, the clan was deprived of its position, privileges and properties due to the Date Sodo and its family line was extinguished)

In the Boshin War, Sendai Domain took the side of Aizu Domain. Therefore, Sendai Domain was viewed as an Emperor's enemy and its domain was confiscated, but later given the land of 280,000 goku (77,840 cubic meters). This deprived the Date clan of its power to feed its vassals, and was forced to cut hereditary stipends of 10,000 direct retainers and laid off 20,000 indirect vassals. Also, those who lived in the former territory of Sendai Domain, now Morioka Domain, were encouraged to take up farming again. Among vassals were also those who made up a party to immigrate to Hokkaido.

When the Peerage Law was enacted, Munemoto DATE of Sendai Domain and Munee DATE of Uwajima Domain were both conferred a rank of count. Also, Munesada DATE of Iyo-Yoshida Domain was conferred a rank of viscount. In 1891, Munee DATE was promoted to marquis.

Muneatsu DATE, a prefectural governor of Sendai Domain, and Munenori DATE of Uwajima Domain set up a new branch family in 1889 and 1892 respectively, and both were granted a title of baronage.

Also, Kunishige DATE and Masato DATE, grandson of Kuninao DATE, were granted a title of baronage for their achievement in the reclamation of Hokkaido.

Junnosuke DATE, a famous Tairiku-Ronin (those who lived or roamed around China or Korean Peninsula to promote their political activities) or Bazoku (mounted bandit), was the sixth son of Muneatsu DATE.

In 1912, a moving picture titled 'Masamune DATE' was released by M. Pathe Company. It was the first movie featuring the Date clan.

In the early Showa Period, after Okimune DATE died, his widow started to behave in an autocratic manner and sold mountain forests owned by the Date clan without consulting other family members, which led to an internal conflict of the Date family (a 'new Date Sodo') and attracted people's attention.

In 2001, Sendai City held a DATE Summit as one of the projects of a festival which marked the 400th anniversary of the start of Sendai Domain. 23 cities and towns (excluding Sendai City) which were associated with the Date clan joined the Summit.

The Date clan (Fujiwara no Yamakage line of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan/ aka. Date clan)
While there were many branch families of the Date clan in Mutsu Province, Date family lines which held the post of kokujin ryoshu (a local samurai lord) also existed in Suruga Province and Tajima Province.

The Suruga-Date clan
The Suruga-Date clan was founded by Tameie DATE (the second son of Tomomune Date [the founder of the Date clan]), and Sukemune DATE, the seventh family head of the clan, was awarded territories in Irino-sho, Arito County, Suruga Province by Takauji ASHIKAGA in return for his achievements, and later, Sukemune designated Moroi-go, Yamana County, Totomi Province, as his ruling base. Since then, the clan had been served as a low-level bureaucrat of the Imagawa clan, Suruga no kuni Shugo (provincial constable of Suruga Province).

The Date clan of Tajima Province
It originally started when the third family head, Yoshihiro DATE, was appointed as jitoshiki of the Tajima Province during the Kamakura Period, and his descendants remained in the area as a branch family in the Province.

The Date clan of Uwajima Province
It was founded by Hidemune DATE, an illegitimate child of Masamune DATE (the founder and the first lord of Sendai Domain). Many family treasures of the Date clan were brought from Sendai and handed down in Uwajma.

The Date clan of other lineages
The vassals of the Date clan, who were allowed to use the family name, 'DATE'
During the Edo Period, four vassals, including the Rusu clan (the Mizusawa-Date clan), the Shiraishi clan (the Tome-Date clan), the Watari clan (the Wakudani-Date clan) and the Iwaki clan (the Iwayado-Date clan), were allowed to use the family name of DATE. Before then, the Kakeda clan was also allowed to use the family name of DATE.

The Mizusawa-Date-Rusu clan (a family of the Sendai Domain)
The Wakudani-Date-Watari clan (a family of the Sendai Domain)
The Tome-Date-Shiraishi clan (a family of the Sendai Domain)
The Iwayado-Date-Iwaki clan (a family of the Sendai Domain)
The Date clan among Omura Domain retainers
Gohei SAITO, the son of Matsugoro SAITO (Shioya), called himself DATE Gohei Masanori and was appointed as an accountant of the Omura Domain, and since then, his descendants had succeeded the family name of DATE.

Family tree

Discrepancy in early family trees
"Date Shoto Seiji-ko", "Kansei Choshu Shokafu", "Eiroku Date Keizu", "Fukushima-ken shi" and "Fukushima-shi shi"
Both the founder of the Date clan and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai are identified as Tomomune DATE, and the second family head is described as Tameshige who is identified as Munemura DATE.

"Kanei Shoke Kakeizu den (Kanei Shokafu)" and "南豫史"
The founder of the Date clan is recorded as Tomomune, and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai is identified as Munemura.

"Isahaya Honkeizu"
Both the founder of the Date clan and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai are identified as Munemura and the second family head is described as Yoshihiro.

"Suruga Date Bunsho" and "Hankanpu"
Both the founder of the Date clan and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai are identified as Munemura, and the second family head is described as Sukemune who is identified as Yoshihiro, and the third family head is described as Tokitsuna.

"雲但 Date Kakeizu"
The founder of the Date clan and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai are identified as Tamemune (although it might be a writing error as the eldest son of Nensai is also identified as Tanemune), and both Tokitsuna and Yoshihiro are described as sons of Nensai.

"Toji Iida Keifu"
The founder of the Date clan and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai are identified as Munemura, and the previous name of Munemura is described as Yorimune. Also, Munemura is identified as 中村常陸二郎.

"当午山 Manshoji Biku Chion no bun"
Hitachi-nyudo Nensai is identified as Tomomune, and it says that Munemura succeeded the reign of the clan as Arimune died young.

"Aizu shi" ('The Date clan' of the third chapter, vol. 2)
Tomomune and Munemura are described as male cousins, and it says that Munemura became the second family head, because the heir of Tomomune, Arimune, died young.

"Records by Nakamura Castle (Shimotsuke Province) and Nakamura-jinja shrine"
The founder of the Date clan and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai are identified as Munemura, and Tomomune and Munemura are described as a father and son, and it says that the Nakamura clan was succeeded by the second son of Tomomune, Tomosada.

"Kobayashi Seiji Sakusei"
The founder of the Date clan and Hitachi-nyudo Nensai are identified as Munemura, and the second family head is described as Tameshige, and the third family head is described as Yoshihiro, son of Tameshige.

The ruling castle
The castle of the grand master of the Date clan
Takako-date (Kamihobara, Hobara Town, Date City, Fukushima Prefecture)
Awano-odate (Yanagawa Town, Date City, Fukushima Prefecture) (Some suggest that Awano-odate is an alias of Yanagawa Castle.)
Yanagawa Castle (Tsurugaoka 1, Yanagawa Town, Date City, Fukushima Prefecture) (alias: Tsuruga Castle)
Takahata Castle (Takahata Town, Higashi-Okitama County, Yamagata Prefecture)
Aka-date (Koori Town, Date County, Fukushima Prefecture)
Fukushima Castle (Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture) (alias: Suginome Castle, later Fukushima Castle)
Koori-Nishiyama Castle (Koori Town, Date County, Fukushima Prefecture)
Yonezawa Castle (Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture)
Wakamatsu Castle (Oute Town, Aizu-Wakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture) (later Wakamatsu castle, alias: Tsuruga Castle, when the castle became called Wakamatsu Castle)
Iwadeyama Castle (Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
Sendai Castle (Aoba Ward Sendai City Miyagi Prefecture)
Isa Castle (Nakadate, Chikusei City, Ibaraki Prefecture)
The Isa Castle was the main castle of the Isa clan, and the Castle is said to have been built by FUJIWARA no Sanemune (a forefather of the Date clan)
During the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), the Castle served as the base of the Southern Court with Yukimune DATE (Yukitomo DATE) residing in the Castle.

Nakamura Castle (Shimotsuke Province) (Moka City, Tochigi Prefecture)
The Castle was built by FUJIWARA no Tomomune (Tomomune DATE) and served as the main castle of the Nakamura clan
Ryozen (Fukushima Prefecture) (Ryozen Town, Date City, Fukushima Prefecture)
It was the headquarter of Yukimune DATE (Yukitomo DATE) and also where Mutsu kokufu (the provincial capital of Mutsu province) was placed.
Ishimoda Castle (Kunimi Town, Date County, Fukushima Prefecture)
It was a castle where Tanemune DATE temporary resided.
Oeda Castle (Date City, Fukushima Prefecture) (Some suggest the Castle may be identical to the Isazawa Castle.)
When the Date clan ruled over Date County, the Oe clan, a vassal of the Date clan, resided in the Castle. In the war of 1600 fought between the Date clan and the Uesugi clan, after the rule over the Date County was handed over from Masamune DATE to Kagekatsu UESUGI, Masamune DATE stationed in the Oeda Castle before attacking the Yanagawa Castle.
The Oeda Castle was located on the opposite side of the Yanagawa Castle across Abukuma-gawa River (near the present-day Yanagawa Ohashi bridge)

Kakeda Castle (Ryozen Town, Date City, Fukushima Prefecture)
It was a castle where Tanemune DATE temporary resided.
Marumori Castle (Marumori Town, Igu County, Miyagi Prefecture)
It was a castle where Tanemune DATE resided in his later years.
Omori Castle (Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture)
It was a castle where powerful vassals such as Sanemoto DATE resided. At present, a Joshi park has been established and many excavations of historic sites have been reported.

Tateyama Castle (Tateyama Town, Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture)
It was a castle where Terumune DATE resided in his later years.
Obama Castle (Mutsu Province) (Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture)
It was a castle where Masamune DATE temporary resided.
Wakabayashi Castle (Wakabayashi Ward, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture)
It was a castle where Masamune DATE resided in his later years.
Uwajima Castle (Marunouchi, Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture)
Uwajima Domain
Shiraishi Castle (Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture)
It was a branch castle of the Sendai Domain and also the main castle of the Katakura clan.

Family crest
Tate Mitsuhiki-ryo: in 1189, when Oshu Fujiwara clan was subjugated, the crest was given to Tomomune DATE by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. Although the original crest given by Yoritomo was 'Makumon Nihiki-ryo', the clan changed it to 'Tate Mitsubiki-ryo' later. The crest of Sendai City that was designed on September 5, 1933 was modeled on this crest.

Take ni suzume (bamboo and sparrow): this crest was a modified version of the original one that was given by Sadazane UESUGI as a gift, when the Date clan adopted a child of the Uesugi clan.
(The number of bamboo leaves and joints varies with each family)
Suzume odori (sparrow dance) and Sasa-kamaboko (a bamboo-leaf-shaped fish cake) were named after the crest. Yasumune DATE registered the crest as his trademark.

Yuki ni Usu: it is the original crest of the Date clan, which Terumune and Masamune used.

Kikumon (crest of Chrysanthemum): it was the crest given by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI to Masamune (while some suggest that the crest may be given by the Emperor). Kirimon (crest of paulownia patterns): it was given by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI to Masamune. Kuyo (nine-planet): it had been used by the Date clan since the era of Masamune. Oshidori no Maru: it was given to Masamune by the Konoe family (one of Gosekke [five top Fujiwara families whose members were eligible for the positions of Sessho and Kanpaku]).
Botan (peony): it was given to Tsunamura by the Konoe family (Kanpaku [chief adviser to the Emperor])
Kani-Botan (crab and peony): it was modeled on the Botan crest and modified by Yoshimura DATE.
Nazuna (shepherd's-purse)

[Original Japanese]