The Otani Family (大谷家)

Otanike (Otani family) is the yago (literally, the "house name") of the descendants of Kakue, a son of Hirotsuna HINO and Kakushin-ni. Hirotsuna HINO was a low-ranking court noble in Kyoto and Kakushin-ni was the daughter of Shinran, the hereditary monshu (head of a Buddhist sect) and honshu (chief priest) of the Hongan-ji Temple (the largest school of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism). Subsequent to the establishment of the Myojihissho system (which required people to adopt surnames) in the Meiji period, the kancho of the Honganji school of the Jodo Shinshu sect (Nishi Hongan-ji Temple) and the kancho of the Otani school of the Shinshu sect (Shunshu-honbyo Mausoleum), which was established when the Hongan-ji was split in two in 1602, both adopted Otani as their surname.

Yago before Meiji

The Otani surname comes from the fact that the Byodo Mausoleum of Shinran (as mentioned below) was settled on the land of Otani of Kitamon, the north gate of Chionin in Higashiyama, Kyoto. As for the Chinese character used to refer to Otani, "大谷," a different character "豅" was once used, and later Hongan-ji Temple used the Chinese character "豅山 (Otanizan) as "Sango." The current Nishi Hongan-ji Temple is named Ryukokuzan Hongan-ji Temple (龍谷山本願寺), where the Chinese character "豅" is divided into two characters.

Interestingly, Hongan-ji Temple is counted among the warlords because it gained power equivalent to that of a warlord with the expansion of Ikko-ikki during the Sengoku period (Japan), and sometimes "Kennyo HONGANJI" or "Kosa HONGANJI" is used for Homyo (the Jodo Shinshu sect) of the monshu (chief priest) or for Imina with "Honganji" being prefixed; however, it is used simply for the convenience of naming, as the family line of the monshu, the chief priest of Hongan-ji Temple, never used Honganji as a last name or surname and there was no clan called Honganji.


Kakushin-ni was by Shinran's bedside when he died in 1262; and in 1272 he built Do, a temple building, to house his remains in Otani near Shinran's house in Higashiyama, Kyoto. The Do temple building became Otani-byodo Mausoleum, a site respected and worshiped by followers of the Jodo Shinshu sect as the Mausoleum of Shinran, which led to its administration as a position of caretaker by Kakue, the eldest son of Kakushin-ni. However, because Otani-byodo Mausoleum drew pilgrimages and donations from various provinces, Kakue's child Kakunyo and Kakue's younger brother by a different father, Yuizen, started to fight for the position of caretaker; resulting in the narrow victory of Kakunyo, and therefore Kakunyo established the hereditary position of caretaker based on Kakunyo's family blood. In 1312 Kakunyo made the mausoleum a temple, whereby Otani Honganji Temple was born. Thereafter, Hongan-ji Temple, inherited by the descendants of Kakunyo, proceeded to the formation of the Honganji Buddhist sect, the influence of which expanded to the Hokuriku region via the fifth generation (Shakunyo) and the seventh generation (Zonnyo); the Honganji Buddhist sect was formed in Kaga-no-kuni, Noto-no-kuni, Echizen-no-kuni, Omi-no-kuni, and so on. However, the Honganji Buddhist sect was founded much later than the Buddhist sects founded by other schools of the Jodo Shinshu sect following Shinran's death, and Hongan-ji Temple was still considered a branch temple of Shorenin at the beginning of the Muromachi period; it is said that because of their ties with the Hino family (Shinran's family), the Otani Family performed similar management duties to those performed by the Kujo Family.

Early in the latter half of the fifteenth century, the Honganji Buddhist sect expanded across Japan through the activities of Rennyo, who became the eighth-generation monshu (chief priest); however, in 1465 the monshu was expelled from Otani Honganji Temple and moved to Yoshizaki, in Echizen, then to the Yamashina ward in the suburbs of Kyoto. In Kaga, against the backdrop of the power expansion of the Honganji Buddhist sect in the generation of Rennyo, Kaga Ikko-ikki occurred in 1488 and the Honganji Buddhist sect in Kaga expelled the Shugo Togashi clan, with the result that Kaga was called "a country ruled by peasants." For about 100 years up to 1580, Kaga had been a country where the Ikkoshu sect ruled.

Following the dawn of the sixteenth century, amid the turmoil of Sengoku, the Honganji Buddhist sect engaged its activities in various regions in Japan using its power of organization, which was constituted by petty peasants up to samurai hierarchy such as the local samurai, the local ruling families and so on; however, in 1532 Yamashina Honganji Temple suffered damage due to the Tenbun-hokke-no-ran War, and therefore the tenth generation (Shonyo) moved to Ishiyama Gobo, which was opened in Nishinari-gun, Settsu-no-kuni (currently Osaka City) by Rennyo, which became Ishiyama Honganji Temple.

Located at the highest point of the northern end of the Uemachi plateau was the Ishimaya Honganji Temple. The temple overlooked Osaka, a key junction for fluvial traffic at the mouth of the Yoda-gawa River. Shonto promoted closer ties with feudal lords, the shogunate, and the imperial court so as to stabilize the power base of the Hongan-ji Temple. On the other hand, from the end of Shonyo's period the Honganji Buddhist sect in regions like Hokuriku started to become something of a maverick, escaping from the control of Hongan-ji Temple.

At the period of the eleventh generation, Kennyo, who was a child of Shonyo, the Honganji Buddhist sect that became a virtually independent feudal lordship, expanded its influence into Kinai, which led to the confrontation with Nobunaga ODA, who tried to establish unified control by seizing seigniory from the religious power. The conflict between Hongan-ji Temple and the Oda clan, which began in 1570 and lasted over ten years as the so-called Ishiyama War, burdened Nobunaga heavily, since Hongan-ji Temple had gained the upper hand through the coalition between Kennyo and others who had entrenched themselves in the fortified Ishiyama Honganji Temple, and Hongan-ji Temple followers who carried on a resistance movement against the Oda clan in various regions. However, in 1574 Gansho-ji Temple in Nagashima-cho, Ise-no-kuni (Mie Prefecture) was destroyed by the Oda clan and the resistance movements in various regions settled as Ikko-ikki, which recovered Echizen from the Oda clan, were destroyed in 1575; and the navy of the Mori clan, which was allied with Hongan-ji Temple in Kizugawa-no kassen, was defeated by the navy of the Oda clan in 1578, assuming the defeat of Hongan-ji Temple in various places other than the premises of Hongan-ji Temple. Hongan-ji Temple retained its predominance by gaining support from Saikashu, but gradually it was isolated in the midst of enemies, ultimately succumbing to Nobunaga, who withdrew imperial command from the Emperor Ogimachi and left Ishiyama Honganji Temple in 1580, whereby Hongan-ji Temple as seigniory was extinguished.

At that time Kyonyo, who was the eldest child of Kennyo and insisted on continuing the resistance despite the intentions of Kennyo, had a falling out with Kennyo, and when Kennyo died in 1593, the third son Junnyo was welcomed as the successor. This incident was the starting point of the path of schism over the position of the monshu (chief priest) of Hongan-ji Temple, and in 1602 Ieyasu TOKUGAWA split Hongan-ji Temple by giving Kyonyo a temple and land for Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, which was thus separated from Junnyo's Honganji Buddhist Sect. At this point numerous followers moved from Junnyo's Buddhist sect, which became Nishi (West) Hongan-ji Temple, to Kyonyo's Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, whereby Hongan-ji Temple was split into eastern and western factions.

There was a custom developed over generations that both the eastern and western family heads of the Otani Family's having lineage from Shinran, who was a son of the court noble Arinori HINO, and Hirotsuna HINO (Kakunyo's father) were adopted by influential court nobles; consequently, both the Otani families have increasingly been related to court nobles considering the maternal line, since they kept marriages with court nobles over generations. In view of the above-mentioned facts, both of the Otani families were listed as new members of the nobility and entitled to hold the position of Hakushaku (roughly equivalent to a count or countess in English) after the Meiji Restoration.

[Original Japanese]