The Shirakawa-hakuo Family (白川伯王家)

The Shirakawa-hakuo family, or the Shirakawa family was the court noble that had been originated from 'Prince Nobuzane' (the prince of Imperial Prince Kiyohito), who was the imperial grandson of Emperor Kazan, and the family inherited the ancient tradition handed over through Jingikan (officer of the institution for dedicating to religious ceremony). The family conducted the court rituals of the Imperial Family as 'iemoto' (the head family of a school) of 'Hakke Shinto' (Shirakawa school of Shinto).

Incidentally, it was only this Shirakawa-hakuo family that fell under Kazan Genji (the Minamoto clan of Emperor Kazan's descendants), so the Shirakawa-hakuo family and Kazan Genji were practically the same.

Kazan Genji and Shirakawa family
The Shirakawa family was "Tosho-ke" (the hereditary lineage of court nobles occupying relatively high ranks), and had origins in Kazan Genji. Nobuzane-o, the imperial grandson of Emperor Kazan, was granted the family name of Minamoto when he became a subject of the state. In later years he was appointed to Jingi haku, head of Jingikan.
Thereafter, Jingi haku was hereditarily handed down to the descendants of Nobuzane-o, so the Shirakawa family began to be called 'Hakke.'
The family was also called "Shirakawa oke" (the Shirakawa prince family) because the person who assumed Jingi haku conventionally got back the family name of "O" (the title of "prince").

During the Muromachi period, Kanetomo YOSHIDA of the Urabe clan, who inherited the title of Jingi taifu (Senior Assistant Head of the Department of Shinto), established Yoshida Shinto and began to call himself "Jingi kanrei chojo" (Shinto-in-Chief). As the Yoshida family exerted influence over most shrines in Japan, the authority of the Shirakawa family declined. In the Edo period, the Shirakawa family called itself "Hakke Shinto" and competed with the Yoshida family, but after Jisha Hatto (Act governing temples and shrines) was enacted, the superiority of the Yoshida family could not be offset.

The Kakaku (family status) of the Shirakawa family was hanke (the lowest rank for Tosho-ke court nobles), and every head of the family worked in the Division of Inner Palace Guards before becoming Jingi haku.

"Karoku" (the hereditary stipend) of the family in the Edo period was 200 koku. Besides this, the family was given 100 koku as "jingiryo" (the land owned by Jingikan) & "shinjiryo" (the fee for Shinto rituals). The family was forced to stop using the title of prince in the Meiji period, and the then head of the family (Sukekuni-o) received the investiture of Count instead. Sukenaga SHIRAKAWA, who succeeded Sukekuni, was childless, so Sukenaga adopted Hisao UENO, the son of Count Masao UENO (the illegitimate child of Imperial Prince Kitashirakawa no Miya Yoshihisa). However, the adoption was broken off afterward, and the Shirakawa family was ended.

Establishment of the Shirakawa family

The characteristics of the Shirakawa family were that Jingi haku was hereditary and that the family descendants could use the title of 'prince' (a member of the Imperial Family) on becoming Jingi haku.
Whether the title of 'prince' could be given or not was decided by the blood relationship with the emperor, and so a certain post was not essentially accompanied by the title (for details refer to the article of "Imperial Family.")
It was a phenomenon peculiar to the Shirakawa family that the title of prince could be hereditarily handed down to the descendants despite not being the Imperial Family. With this point taken into account, how the establishment of the Shirakawa family is explained below.

In 1025, Nobuzane-o, the imperial grandson of Emperor Kazan, was granted the family name of Minamoto when he became a subject of the state, and in 1046 he was appointed to Jingi haku. The Shirakawa family is said to have originated from this Nobuzane-o. At that time, however, they were called by the family name "Minamoto" or "O", and it was in a later era that they began to be called "Shirakawa-ke", "Hakke" or "Shirakawa oke." After Nobuzane-o, the following members of the Shirakawa family were appointed to the position of Jingi haku: Yasusuke-o, Akiyasu-o, and then Akihiro-o. Some believe, however, that there is no hard evidence that Akiyasu-o became Jingi haku. At this time, however, the post of Jingi haku was not yet regarded as hereditary but as open to the O clan, the Minamoto clan and the Onakatomi clan to be appointed to it. In fact, a member of the Onakatomi clan was appointed to the post of Jingi haku in between the assignments of the aforementioned four members.

Akihiro-o's family name was originally Minamoto, and he was the first person to get back the family name of O on becoming Jingi haku and then take back the family name of Minamoto after retirement.
(However, one theory suggests that Akihiro-o may have belonged to the O clan before his accession to the position of Jingi haku.)
Akihiro-o's return to the O clan is considered to be both the uniqueness of the Minamoto clan and Jingi haku, and his relationship with other families by marriage. Jingi, meaning to worship deities, was the most important ritual for the Imperial Court because the Emperor assumed the responsibility for it. Jingi haku, the head of Jingikan, not only held the highest rank of the official posts but also played an important function as Hoheishi (an imperial messenger to a Shinto shrine). The Akihiro-o's return to the O clan was attributed to various factors: in addition to the above mentioned importance of Jingi haku and the paramount nobility of the lineage of the Minamoto clan, the Akihiro-o's wife, who was also the mother of Nakasuke-o, had come from the Onakatomi clan, and his father Akiyasu-o was an adopted child of MINAMOTO no Akifusa, who belonged to the influential Murakami-Genji (Minamoto clan).

Nakasuke-o (MINAMOTO no Nakasuke) succeeded his father Akihiro-o as Jingi haku, and after the retirement of Nakasuke-o, his son Narisuke-o (MINAMOTO no Narisuke) was appointed to Jingi haku. Because of Narisuke-o's unexpected death at a later time, his younger brother Sukemune-o (MINAMOTO no Sukemune) changed his family name from Minamoto to O as a necessary process to be appointed to Jingi haku. These cases set a precedent for both the hereditary succession of Jingi haku by the Shirakawa family and their being given the name "O" on their appointment as Jingi haku. Due to the process above, the generally accepted theory says the Shirakawa family was formed when Akihiro-o returned his family name to "O"; another theory says it was formed by Sukemune-o in the early thirteenth century.

Incidentally, the name of 'Shirakawa' can be identified to have been used only from the middle of the thirteenth century.

Summary of Shinto written in 'Jingi hakke gakusoku' (Regulations of Jingi hakke)
It says as follows :
Shinto provides not only the basic principles of the universe that are everlasting throughout ancient and modern times, but also the moral principles that apply to every country. Shinto and the Japanese martial arts, including sumo, cannot be separated. The essentials in controlling oneself, managing a household and governing the country can be acquired through diligent study of the Shinto literatures, such as Kojiki (The Records of Ancient Matters), Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) and Kogo-shui (History of the Inbe clan).

[Original Japanese]