The Sugawara clan (菅原氏)

The Sugawara clan was a noble family that existed from ancient to early-modern times in Japan.


The Sugawara clan is said to be descended from Ameno Hohino Mikoto and the Haji clan, one of whose ancestors was Nomi no Sukune, famous as the pioneer of Sumo. Another view is that the Haji and the Sugawara clans were toraijin (people from the continent). The name Sugawara comes from Sugawara in Yamato Province where (SUGAWARA no) Furuhito lived in the early Heian period.

The Sugawara clan was a rival to the Fujiwara clan which had enormous power in ancient Japan.

Together with the Oe clan, Sugawara no Furuhito's descendants, including his son, Sugawara no Kiyokimi (770-842) (Junior Third Rank, non-Councilor), and his grandson, Sugawara no Koreyoshi (812-880) (Junior Third Rank, Councilor), served the Court for generations, working in the field of Kidendo (Literature).

Sugawara no Michizane

One of the most famous members of the Sugawara clan was Sugawara no Michizane, Koreyoshi's son. After speaking out against Fujiwara no Mototsune in the Ako Incident, he was favored by the Emperor Uda and reached the position of Minister of the Right, Junior Second Rank, during the reign of the Emperor Daigo, but he was slandered by Fujiwara no Tokihira, demoted to the Dazai-no-Gonnosotsu, Deputy Governor of Dazaifu in 901, and died there in 903.

However, when Sugawara no Michizane's death was followed by a series of tragic accidents and natural disasters, with a number of descendants of Fujiwara no Tokihira who had slandered Michinaga dying suddenly in succession and the Emperor Daigo being killed in the Seiryo-Den lightening strike of 930, Michinaga's descendents were quickly called back to Court.

Sugawara no Takasue's daughter, the original author of the Sarashina-Diary was a descendant of Sugawara no Takami, Sugawara no Michizane's son.

The Middle Ages and beyond

In the mid-to-late Heian period, the Sugawara clan was temporarily displaced from its dominant position in the field of Kidendo by the Oe clan and, as a result, and with the notable exceptions of Sugawara no Fumitoki (899-981) (Junior Third Rank, non-Councilor) and Sugawara no Sukemasa (925-1009) (Court Rank, Councilor, Dazaifu, foreign affairs office in Kyushu), members of the Sugawara clan were not ranked as Court nobles over this time, but at the beginning of the Kamakura period Sugawara no Tamenaga (1158-1246) was promoted to Senior Second Court Rank, Councilor, Treasury Office and his descendants were subsequently ranked as Court nobles, taking all the important Kidendo posts at Court. Between that time and early-modern times, the Sugawara clan produced the six Houses of Tosho (families which were allowed to provide nobles), these being the houses of Takatsuji, Gojo, Higashibojo, Karahashi, Kiyooka, and Kuwabara.

The clans (daimyo) that took the name of Sugawara

The Hisamatsu clan

The Maeda clan (disputed)

The Yagyu clan (disputed)

The Hirate clan (disputed)


Explanatory note: biological sons indicated with heavy lines
(Adopted sons have been deliberately omitted.)

Sugawara no Furuhito

Sugawara no Kiyokimi

Sugawara no Koreyoshi

Sugawara no Michizane

Sugawara no Takami Sugawara no Atsushige Sugawara no Enshi

Sugawara no Fumitoki Sugawara no Arimi

Public figures identified as the descendants of the Sugawara clan

Masahide HIRATE
Toshiie MAEDA
Toshinaga MAEDA
Toshitsune MAEDA
Munetoshi YAGYU (Sekishusai)
Munenori YAGYU
Jubei YAGYU (Mitsuyoshi)
Shigenobu OKUMA
Naoto KAN
Tsusai SUGAWARA (self-proclaimed)

[Original Japanese]