The Yagyu Clan (柳生氏)

The Yagyu clan was a Japanese clan.


According to "Hankanpu" (Genealogy of the Protectors of the Shogunate) compiled by Hakuseki ARAI and "Kansei Choshu Shokafu" (A record of family trees of samurai warriors of the Tokugawa Shogunate) which was published in later years, the original family name of the Yagyu clan was Sugawara, and it is said that they were descendants of SUGAWARA no Michizane. However, there is no sufficient evidence to prove it, and the remaining genealogies of the Yagyu clan still have to be studied in detail; some historian says that they originated from the Hata clan like the Hattori clan.

The first record that mentions the Yagyu clan is about Nagayoshi YAGYU (Muneyoshi YAGYU) who was believed to be a child of Daizen no suke (person who was in charge of meals in the Imperial Court) Nagaie YAGYU in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan); and according to a genealogy of the Yagyu clan "Gyokuei Shui," Nagayoshi supported the Southern Court and fought against the forces of Nagatoki HOJO and Tokimasu HOJO who had their base at Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto), and for the achievement in the battles, Emperor Godaigo gave him the possession and status of the lord of Koyagyusho district (or Oyagyusho district) in Yamato Province, ever since then, he called himself the Yagyu clan; however, it is said that the articles in "Gyokuei Shui" are nothing but folklore.

The birth place of the Yagyu clan was Yagyu-go village, Sonokami-no-kori County, Yamato Province (today's Yagyu area, Nara City), which was located in the northern part of Yamato Province. Yagyu "柳生" was also written as "楊生," "夜岐布," "夜支布, " and "養父," and they are considered to have been pronounced "yagiu."

Munetoshi YAGYU (Sekishusai), who inherited Shinkage-ryu School of swordsmanship from Nobutsuna KAMIIZUMI in the Sengoku period (Period of Warring States), was a descendant of the 8th generation from Nagayoshi (Muneyoshi).

Career Path to Daimyo

Munetoshi served Hisahide MATSUNAGA in the Sengoku period, however his clan gradually dwindled as his master Hisahide was destroyed by Nobunaga ODA, and he forfeited 2,000 koku (360.78 cubic meters of rice) of his territory on charge of hiding rice fields when Taiko Kenchi (Hideyoshi Toyotomi's nationwide land survey) was held. However, by the arrangement of Nagamasa KURODA, Munetoshi met Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who was the most powerful samurai next to Hideyoshi at that time, and in front of Ieyasu, he performed "Muto-dori" (seizing opponent's sword without his own sword), and as a result, he was offered the position of the instructor of Heiho (art of warfare). Since Munetoshi was already 66 years old, he declined it and recommended his fifth son Munenori YAGYU as the instructor. It was on May 3, 1594 (in old lunar calendar). The details of this episode was recorded in "Gyokuei Shui," the following is the part of that.

"In the Kogo year of the Bunroku era (in 1594), at Juraku Shitiku-mura, Jinkun (Ieyasu TOKUGAWA) saw Munetoshi-ko (Munetoshi)'s swordsmanship for the first time." "Jinkun took up a wooden sword." "And he ordered Munetoshi to take this wooden sword." "Then Ko (Munetoshi) took it in bare hands." "At that moment, Jinkun (Ieyasu) was almost falling flat on his back; after returned to his seat and sat up straight against Ko (Munetoshi), he requested Ko to become his teacher and gave Ko the sword made by Kagenori to exchange promises."
"It was on May 3"
"Jinkun (Ieyasu) gave Ko (Munetoshi) rice stipend 200 koku."

Therefore, the Yagyu clan that declined once in the period of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi resurrected in the world in the period of Ieyasu.

Rise of Munenori

Munenori was the fifth son of Munetoshi. Munetoshi's first son Yoshikatsu YAGYU had served Hisahide and in the battle against Junkei TSUTSUI, he had been shot and badly injured; the second son Kyusai YAGYU and the third son Tokusai YAGYU had become priests; and the fourth son Muneaki YAGYU had served Kazuuji NAKAMURA; so when Ieyasu requested Munetoshi to become an instructor, only Munenori happened to be available for serving the Tokugawa clan.

Munenori made great performance under Ieyasu. In the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, by the order of Ieyasu, he played an important role using especially his brain to suppress local governors of Yamato Province and to disturb the logistic support of the Western Army. In the following year, for the achievements in the battle, he was given additional stipend of 1,000 goku while maintaining the former stipend of 2,000 goku, and he was appointed to the instructor of Heiho for Hidetada TOKUGAWA. It has been said that Hidetada had every confidence in Munenori. In Winter Siege of Osaka of 1614, Munenori served as a guide to lead the large-scale Tokugawa Army in Yamato Province; in Summer Siege of Osaka of the next year, he served as a personal bodyguard for Hidetada and in fact he killed seven soldiers to protect his master.

In 1621, he became the instructor of Heiho for Iemitsu TOKUGAWA; and in 1629, he was appointed to Tajima-no-kuni no kami (Governor of Tajima Province) and given a court rank, Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). In 1632, Munenori was appointed as Sometsuke (chief inspector of shogunate which was later renamed "Ometsuke") together with Masashige INOUE and was given additional stipend 3,000 koku. In 1636, he obtained 4,000 goku additionally, which made him a daimyo with a total goku of 10,000 (1803.9 cubic meters). In 1640, he was further awarded 2,000 goku and 500 goku, respectively, to become a daimyo with his feud of 12,500 goku (2254.875 cubic meters) in total.

Tadaaki ONO (Mikogamitenzen) who served the Tokugawa clan in the same period as Munenori, was an instructor of swordsmanship as well and founded Ono-ha Itto-ryu School, however, he was given rice stipend only 600 koku (108.234 cubic meters). Considering the fact that Munenori served three Tokugawa shoguns, Ieyasu, Hidetada and Iemitsu, and was promoted to the daimyo class, it follows that he had the great confidence of them.

[Original Japanese]