The Matsunoki Family (松木家)

The Matsunoki family (also known as the Nakamikado family) was a dojoke (a family whose members were allowed to visit the Imperial Palace) that belonged to the main branch of the Nakamikado line of the Northern House of the Fujiwara family. They held the rank of Urinke (which entitled them to hold military ranks). The family specialized in Japanese Court music and playing the sho (traditional Japanese wind instrument similar to the pan flute). After the Meiji Restoration, the family was awarded the title of count.

At first, the family used the name Nakamikado, but they changed their family name to Matsunoki after the Muromachi period.


FUJIWARA no Yorimune, who was the son of FUJIWARA no Michinaga, and his son, FUJIWARA no Toshiie, both served as Udaijin (Minister of the Right). Their descendants are called the Nakamikado line, whose main family branch is the Matsunoki family. The family was named 'Nakamikado' because Toshiie's heir, FUJIWARA no Munetoshi (who held the position of Dainagon, a chief councilor of state), had a mansion in Nakamikado. This is considered to be the start of this family name. Munetoshi was known as an expert in the sho and the Japanese flute, but he died without ever having been a minister. His son, FUJIWARA no Munetada, became Udaijin. Munetada's younger brother, FUJIWARA no Munesuke, became Daijo Daijin (Grand Minister), and Munetada's heir, FUJIWARA no Muneyoshi, became Naidaijin (Minister of the Palace). Muneyoshi's son, Dainagon FUJIWARA no Muneie, was a member of the Giso kugyo (Noble Council). Munetada wrote a diary called "Chuyuki" (an abbreviation for "Nakamikado Udaijin Nikki," literally meaning the diary of Nakamikado, Minister of the Right), and Munesuke became known as 'Hachikai no Otodo' (the Beekeeper Minister of State) due to his obsession with bees. It is believed, however, that the family adopted Nakamikado as their official family name because Muneie's great-grandsons, Munemasa NAKAMIKADO and Munezane NAKAMIKADO (who were brothers), changed their family name to Nakamikado out of respect for Munetoshi's talent and fame in playing the sho and the Japanese flute.

The Nakamikado family (also known as the Matsunoki family) held the rank of Urinke (which entitled them to hold military ranks). However, the status afforded them was different from that of an ordinary Urinke. The title afforded them a special status in that the family was entitled to promotion both as Urinke and meika (an upper rank of kuge, or court noble), enabling family members to be promoted from the position of Konoe no Jisho (vice-minister of the Palace Guards) to that of benkan (official of the dajokan, or Grand Council of State), and still hold an additional post such as that of sangi (councilor). An extreme example of this was Muneshige NAKAMIKADO (a grandson of Munemasa), who lived during the period of Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). Originally a Shonagon (lesser councilor of state), he became a member of the Konoefu (Division of Inner Palace Guards), and was later promoted from Konoefu to become a benkan. After becoming a tono chujo (first secretary's captain) again, he was made a kugyo (court noble) and ended up becoming a Chunagon (vice-councilor of state). Many of the Matsunoki family heads, however, became priests or died from illness at a young age. In addition, more than a few family heads passed away having reached the position of chunagon or sangi but without having become a kugyo. Furthermore, during the Sengoku period (Period of Warring States) (Japan), lack of funds forced the family to move away from the capital to Ise Province for a while.

During the time of Munekazu (宗量) MATSUNOKI (or Munenobu MATSUNOKI, grandson of Muneshige) in the Muromachi period, the family name was changed to 'Matsunoki.'
His son, Munetsugu MATSUNOKI, assumed the position of Dainagon (chief councilor of state) 260 years after Muneie held it. Munetsugu's son, Munetsuna MATSUNOKI, was promoted to the rank of Juichii (Junior First Rank) and the position of Jun-daijin (Vice Minister) because he had the trust of the seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of that time, Yoshitane ASHIKAGA of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). During the Edo period, Muneko MATSUNOKI (Keihomonin), Emperor Reigen's naishi no suke (a court lady of the first rank), gave birth to a child who would later become Emperor Higashiyama. This led to Munenaga MATSUNOKI and his son, Muneaki MATSUNOKI, who were now maternal relatives of Emperor Higashiyama, being appointed to the position of Naidaijin. Muneaki's second son, Munenaga MATSUNOKI (adopted by Munenaga's older brother, Muneya MATSUNOKI) also became a Jun-daijin (Vice Minister). After that, however, the position of head of the family changed hands often, until eventually the family fell into decline. Despite this, however, the family's hereditary stipend increased from 191 koku to 341 koku throughout the course of the Edo period due to the family having become maternal relatives of the emperor.

The Meiji Restoration took place while Muneari MATSUNOKI was head of the family. When his son, Munetaka MATSUNOKI, was head of the family, the Matsunoki family was given the status of count because of the Peerage Law.

[Original Japanese]