Honke-matsuke-ronso (disputes between head family and branch family) (本家末家論争)

A Honke-matsuke-ronso was a dispute between a head family and a branch family of a daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) family (particularly early modern daimyo) concerning social standing during the Edo period. Unlike disputes that would result in actual benefits, such as those over shoryo (territory) between soryo (heir) and other children during the medieval period, or internal squabble over headship rights in a daimyo family in the Edo period, this head-and-branch family dispute was about trivial formality such as superiority or equality in social standing in the same clan. Therefore, this type of dispute was characteristic of the Edo period when samurai placed a high value on social standing of their families.


Early modern daimyo adopted primogeniture without exception, and daimyo during the early modern era would often give part of their shoryo (territory) to children other than the heir and requested the bakufu (feudal government headed by a shogun) recognized their children as official daimyo. In that case, this branch family was officially a direct vassal of the Tokugawa Shogun family and not a retainer of the head family, but the head family tended to disdain its branch family. After an independent Daimyo family had been established, social standing became a sensitive issue to both head and branch families, resulting in disputes over a legal child or their head-and-branch relation. If the head family had submitted "honke-todokegaki" (head family registration), the bakufu acknowledged the head-and-branch family relationship, and the head family was required to submit notifications of general matters or promotions in these families to the bakufu. Disputes between the head and branch families often occurred in the following cases: the head family registration was not submitted because the head-and-branch relationship was not clear; suzerainty was transferred to a branch family after the head family had lost its social standing; or a branch family was established because the eldest child born out of wedlock or the adopted heir was disinherited. In these cases, the points in dispute were whether the bakufu issued a shuinjo (vermilion-seal document of providing authorization for land ownership and guaranteeing feudal tenure) to the branch family separately from the head family; whether the territory of branch families or domains should be included in the Domain Maps; or how the burden of military services should be allocated. The feud of Date clan (between the Sendai and Uwajima Domains) in 1749 is well known.

Daimyo families with the head-and-branch family disputes

Date clan: Sendai Domain - Uwajima Domain
Hidemune DATE, the eldest child born out of wedlock of Masamune DATE, had been named as soryo (heir) by receiving Shiki (bestowing a character from the superior's real name) of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, but after the hegemony of the Tokugawa clan, Tadamune DATE, the eldest legitimate son, became soryo. He established a bekke (branch family) independently in Uwajima which was awarded to his father, Masamune, in recognition of his contribution of joining the Osaka Fuyu no Jin (Winter Siege of Osaka), and he became a kokushu-daimyo (a daimyo with his own domain). It is recognized that the Sendai Domain was the honke, and the Uwajima Domain was bekke.

Matsudaira clan of Echizen Province: Fukui Domain=>Takada Domaint=>Tsuyama Domain-Takada Domain=>Fukui Domain
After Tadanao MATSUDAIRA, the lord of Fukui domain, was banished, his eldest legitimate son Mitsunaga MATSUDAIRA had succeeded. However, the bakufu, with the aim of reducing the strength of the Echizen family, ordered Mitsunaga to relocate by exchanging his territory with that of Tadamasa MATSUDAIRA, the lord of the Takada domain (a younger brother of Tadanao and an adopted child of Eisho-in). Although social standing of Mitsunaga as Jusanmi Chujo (Junior Third Rank, Middle Captain) was higher than that of Tadamasa as Shoshiinoge Saisho (Senior Fourth Rank, Councilor), this in-house strife in the Echigo family forced Mitsunaga to be deprived of his position, privileges and properties, and be banished.

Kishu Tokugawa family/Mito Tokugawa family: Kishu Domain - Mito Domain
Yorifusa TOKUGAWA, lord of the Mito Domain of the Tokugawa gosanke (three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family), had been considered to be a branch family of Yorinobu TOKUGAWA (material half-brother), who had the same mother, Yojuin, until 1636 when he was granted the name of Tokugawa.

Kii Tokugawa clan/Takatsukasa-Matsudaira Family: Kii Domain - Yoshii Domain
Nobuhira MATSUDAIRA married a daughter of Yorinobu TOKUGAWA as his seishitsu (legal wife) and established a family as a relative of Kii family.

Mito Tokugawa clan: Mito Domain - Takamatsu Domain
Although Yorishige MATSUDAIRA, a lord of the Takamatsu Domain, was the eldest child of Yorifusa TOKUGAWA, Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA, his material half-brother, inherited the Mito Domain. Takamatsu Domain was an outstanding gorenshi (a daimyo of Gosanke's branch family) that became a honorable daimyo family with the status of Tamarizume or Shihon (Fourth Rank).

Ikeda clan: Okayama Domain - Tottori Domain
Toshitaka IKEDA, a legitimate son of Terumasa IKEDA; Tadatsugu IKEDA, a legitimate son of Tokuhime (Princess Toku; keishitsu [second wife] of Terumasa and a daughter of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA); and Tadao IKEDA, an adopted younger brother of Tadatsugu were all shihon daimyos with their own domains.

Ikeda clan/Takebe clan: Okayama Domain/Tottori Domain - Amagasaki Domain => Hayashida Domain
Masanaga TAKEBE, a child of Mitsushige TAKEBE who was a 700 koku Amagasaki Gundai (intendant of a region or administrator of a town) under the Toyotomi government, is said to have been a relative of the Ikeda family as his mother was the adopted daughter of Terumasa IKEDA. He served with distinction in the Osaka no Jin (The Siege of Osaka) as a makushita (retainer of the shogun) of the Toshitaka and Tadatsugu IKEDA brothers, and he was promoted to a daimyo of the Amagasaki Domain with 10,000 koku.

Ikeda clan/Shimotsuma clan: Okayama Domain/Tottori Domain - Harima Shingu Domain => yoriai-hatamoto (a high-ranking hatamoto [direct vassal of the shogun])

Yorihiro SHIMOTSUMA, a child of Rairyu SHIMOTSUMA who was a boukan (a priest who served for the Monzeki families) of Hongan-ji Temple, was born from a mother who was a daughter of Tsuneoki IKEDA, and he changed his name to Shigetoshi IKEDA thereafter. He served with distinction in the Osaka no Jin as a makushita of the Toshitaka and Tadatsugu IKEDA brothers, and he was promoted to a daimyo of Kakenokori and Kawabe-gun, Settsu Province (Amagasaki territory) with 10,000 koku.

Mori clan: Choshu Domain - Chofu Domain
Hidenari MORI who was the eldest legitimate son of Terumoto MORI and Hidemoto MORI who had been Terumoto's adopted heir prior to Hidenari's birth were both Shihon daimyos with their own domains.

Mori clan/Kikkawa clan: Hagi Domain - Iwakuni Domain
Under Toyotomi's government: Shihon/Jiju (Imperial Household Agency staff). Since then, the family had been treated by the bakufu as a lord, but Honpan (the original domain) did not allow the family to become independent and treated it as Karo (chief retainer).

Todo clan/Nabari Todo family: Tsu Domain - Naibun (the domain subdivided to establish a branch family) in Nabari, Iga Province
Takayoshi TODO, who was born as the third son of Nagahide NIWA and later adopted by Hidenaga TOYOTOMI, was adopted by Takatora TODO, but he was disinherited after Takatsugu TODO, the biological child of Takatora TODO, was born. Later, he was relocated from Naibun domain of Imabari, Iyo Province to Nabari, Iga Province. Because the bakufu made attempts to enlist the services of Nabari family, confrontation between Nabari-Todo clan and its head family had continued up to the Kyoho period.

[Original Japanese]