The Yanagiwara Family (柳原家)

The Yanagiwara family (conventionally, Yanagihara) were kuge (court nobles) that held the status of meika (kuge of lower rank). It was one of the 13 meika families of Kyoto. It was a branch family of the Hino family, which belonged to the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan. The family specialized in writing. The hereditary stipend during the Edo period was 202 koku. The family's kamon (crest) was a crane within a circle. After the Meiji Restoration, the family was awarded the title of count.


The family was founded at the end of the Kamakura period with Sukeakira YANAGIWARA, the fourth son of Toshimitsu HINO, as the patriarch. During Japan's Sengoku (Warring States) period, some of the family's territories in various locations were confiscated by samurai families; in order to maintain a financial base, therefore, the family moved to Inaba Province, where it had held territory over three generations, from Suketsuna YANAGIWARA to Kazumitsu YANAGIWARA and Sukesada YANAGIWARA. As Sukesada had no sons, he adopted Atsumitsu YANAGIWARA and appointed him successor to the position of head of the family; Atsumitsu was a son of Sukemasa MACHI of the Machi family, a branch family of the Yanagiwara family who were kuge (court nobles). A cousin of Emperor Reigen, Sukekado YANAGIWARA was a buke tenso (liaison officer between the Imperial Court and the military government) who lived during the early Edo period and successfully served in negotiations with the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun); Mitsutsuna YANAGIWARA, who lived during the mid-Edo period, not only served as a buke tenso, but also as a giso (one who conveys to the Emperor the decisions of the congress).
Furthermore, the Yanagiwara family members traditionally studied literature or became writers; Mitsutsuna's son, Norimitsu YANAGIWARA, authored a history book entitled 'Zokushi gusho.'

Notable persons came from the Yanagiwara family during the end of the Edo period and into the Meiji Restoration. Mitsunaru YANAGIWARA became a chunagon (vice-councilor of state) and a giso, and he was active in affairs of state.

Mitsunaru's son, Sakimitsu YANAGIWARA, and Kinmochi SAIONJI were both described as rare talents among the young kuge, and during the Boshin War, Sakimitsu served as lieutenant governor of the force deployed to subdue the Tokaido; after the Meiji Restoration, Sakimitsu joined the Foreign Ministry. He successively served as Gaimu taijo (Senior Secretary of the Foreign Ministry), Envoy Extraordinary to the Qing Dynasty, minister-counselor to the Russian Empire, chairman of Japan's Genroin (Chamber of Elders), a member of Japan's Privy Council, and Imperial Court Councilor; subsequently, he was awarded the rank of count. Sakimitsu's wife, Hatsuko, was the second daughter of Munenari DATE, the lord of the Uwajima domain. Naruko YANAGIWARA, Mitsunaru's second daughter and a younger sister of Sakimitsu, served as a naishi no suke (court lady of the first rank) to Emperor Meiji and later gave birth to the child who would become Emperor Taisho. The Yanagiwara family relocated to Tokyo during the Meiji period; eventually, the uninhabited mansion that remained in Kyoto became the campus of Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts.

Yoshimitsu YANAGIWARA, who became a count by succeeding Sakimitsu, was an ambitious man, but his ambitions were thwarted by a series of scandals: the divorce of his younger sister, Akiko YANAGIWARA; an incident in which his daughter, Tokuko YOSHII, engaged in conduct that was unbecoming for someone of her station; and the emergence of suspicions that he was homosexual. Moreover, the family were heavily criticized by society for tainting the Imperial Family, to whom they were closely related, with these scandals. Akiko is better known as a kajin (waka poet) who wrote under the name of Byakuren YANAGIWARA.

Rumiko was a daughter of Ukemitsu (承光) YANAGIWARA, who married into the family through a granddaughter of Yoshimitsu; Rumiko was a candidate to become the wife of Imperial Prince Naruhito.

[Original Japanese]